The significance of Eukratides I’s rule is in part suggested by the great amount of coinage bearing his image, implying that his reign was both long and economically prosperous. It is believed that he came to power around 171 B.C. after overthrowing the Euthydemid Dynasty that had previously controlled Bactria. Having secured the throne, Eukratides launched an invasion of northwest India, a territory under the authority of the so-called Indo-Greek Kingdoms. After advancing as far as the Indus River, Eukratides’ army was eventually repelled. Meanwhile, as his forces were tied up in the east, Bactria was assaulted from the west by the Parthians under King Mithradates I. This campaign ended with the Parthians seizing two neighboring provinces. History records that Eukratides was murdered around 145 B.C. by his own son while en route back from India. Following his death, civil war broke out among various rival factions of the dynasty competing for power. This instability in turn led to numerous ethnic uprisings throughout the kingdom, eventually leading to the collapse of the Bactrian Kingdom and effectively making Eukratides the last great Greco-Bactrian king.
How many hands have touched a coin in your pocket or your purse? What eras and lands have the coin traversed on its journey into our possession? As we reach into our pockets to pull out some change, we rarely hesitate to think of who touched the coin before us, or where the coin will venture to after us. More than money, coins are a symbol of the state that struck them, of a specific time and place, whether contemporary currencies or artifacts of long forgotten empires. Bactrian coins were made to the Greek Standard, and this is one of the most beautiful coins of the late Hellenistic period. Known for their strongly realistic portraits, this tetradrachm of Eukratides is no exception. He is depicted as a formidable warrior, wearing a cuirass and a bronze helmet over his diadem. His features are individualized, his expression stern. On the reverse, his parents, Heliocles and Laodice, have been memorialized. - (C.2026)