Demetrius I (reigned circa 200-180 B.C.) was the son of King Euthydemos. He first gained recognition as a young prince during negations with Seleucid King Antiochus III following their failed three-year siege of Bactra. King Antiochus was so impressed with Demetrius’ demeanor that he offered one of his daughters in marriage. Following his rise to the throne around 200 B.C., Demetrius began a series of military campaigns, expanding his kingdom’s boundaries beyond their stronghold in modern Afghanistan into parts of eastern Iran and Pakistan. However, Demetrius is perhaps best remembered for his conquest of India. Following the collapse the Mauryan Dynasty at the hands of the general Pusyamitra Sunga, and the subsequent establishment of the Sunga Dynasty in 185 B.C., Bactrian forces under the command of Demetrius I invaded northwestern India. Historians speculate whether this invasion was the result of a military alliance with the Mauryans or was launched in order to protect the Greek populations of the region. What is certain is that Bactrian forces advanced deep into the heart of the subcontinent and set the foundation for the so-called Indo-Greek Kingdom that ruled northwest India for the last two centuries before the common era. The coins struck under Demetrius and his predecessors Euthydemus and Antimachus are purely Greek in style, language and weight. After his campaign into India, Demetrius minted coins such as this stellar example showing himself wearing elephant's scalp, a symbol of India and reference to Alexander the Great’s depictions wearing the lion skin headdress associated with Herakles.
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. This stunning hand-struck coin reveals an expertise of craftsmanship and intricate sculptural detail that is often lacking in contemporary machine-made currencies. This coin is a memorial to an ancient king and his kingdom passed from the hands of civilization to, from generation to generation that still appears as vibrant today as the day it was struck. - (LC.045)