Covering roughly modern Afganistan, Pakistan and northern India, the isolated Indo-Greek kingdoms survived for more than two centuries. Starting with the renegade Seleucid satrap Diodotus in 256 B.C., Alexander's successors in India became increasingly isolated, eventually becoming an island of Hellenic people, completely cut off from their western kinsmen. Surrounded on all sides, more than 40 Greek kings ruled this area until they succumbed to the superior numbers of local people and subsequently disappeared from history. By around 130 B.C., the Bactrian dynasties were overrun by Scythian invaders while the Indian kingdoms lasted about another century until they were conquered by the Kushans.
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. The portraits on Indo-Greeks coins are very realistic distinctly expressing the most powerful features and minutest personal details. These master engravers were no doubt very familiar with Hellinstic art. Perhaps no detail better reveals merging of cultures that is the foundation of the Indo-Greek Kingdoms than the bilingual legends on the coin. The obverse legend is in Greek while a legend in Kharosti encircles Herakles on the reverse. This legend reads: Maharajasa tratarasa Zailasa and can be translated as, “of the king, savior, Zoilos.” Historically, the coins of India have been highly influenced by Indo-Greek examples such as this coin. Given the stunning beauty and striking realism, who would not aspire to imitate this coin? - (C.2288)