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Graeco-Bactrian Rule -Part 7

Since Alexander’s invasion, a number of Greek families had settled down in various parts of Pakistan and had made sizeable contribution to art and architecture, science and medicine during Mauryan period. “That during this period there were several foreign communities living in northwestern sub-continent can be established from India’s own literary records. Asoka refers to his Yavana (Greek) subjects. He seems to have employed Greek nobles in the service of the state” (Studies in Indian history, By K.M. Pannikar). With the establishment of Greek rule, arts and sciences received fresh and vigorous impetus and Taxila, their capital, became one of the greatest centres of learning. Scholars from all over the world flocked here to acquire knowledge. “From now on the Yavanas are mentioned from time to time in Southasian literature. Through the Graeco-Bactrian kingdom western theories of astrology and medicine began to enter Southasia and perhaps the development of the Sanskrit drama was in part inspired from this source. One of the Greek kings of the Punjab is specially remembered by Buddhism as the patron of the philosopher- monk Nagasena; this was Milinda (Menander) whose long discussions with the sage are recorded in a well-known Pali text, the Questions of Milinda. Menander is said to have become a Buddhist” (The wonder that was India, By K.M. Bhasham). “In this area (Pakistan) which came to be known in Buddhist books as Uddiyana, Asoka’s missionary activities seem to have borne fruit and soon it became one of the classic centres of Buddhism” (Studies in Indian history, by K.M. Pannikar). Sind was also under the jurisdiction of the Bactrian rulers. “It is probable that both Apollodidus and his successor Menander ruled over Sind for a hundred years” (The Imperial Gaztteer of India, Vol XXII). In the ancient and early Indian sources we find reference to cities built by the rulers of the Graeco-Bactrian states in the basin of the Indus Delta.

“The expansive policy of Bactria’s Hellenistic rulers, who had conquered more peoples than Alexander himself, resulted in the establishment in the north-western part of the sub-continent, of the so-called Indo-Greek Kingdom stretching from Kashmir to the coast of the Arabian Sea. According to Strabon’s testimony, the Indo-Greek kings in the south possessed the lower reaches of the Indus and the Saurashtra. The most powerful of them was Menander (mid-second century B.C.) a master of sea ports, mines, cities and custom-houses” (The Peoples of Pakistan, By Yu. V. Gankovsky).

“It is Hellenism that became the ideological form and justification of this process under the concrete historical conditions existing in the northwestern part of the subcontinent in the middle of the later half of the first millennium B.C. This was largely due to the age-old political as well as economic ties between the territories of the Indus Basin and the countries of Western Asia. These ties became especially strong after Alexander the Great’s campaign and reached their climax (in the antiquity) at the turn of our era. The local aristocracy, as G.F. Ilian points out, “seems to have been gravitating more to the countries west and north west of Taxila than to the countries to the south of it, both economically and, by tradition, politically. This is attested, among other things by the numerous rebellion raised here against Mauryan rule.

“At the same time the Milindapanha (1,2) describes the West Punjab as “the country of the Yonana,” because in the time of Menander the Hellenized members of the local aristocracy and the descendants of the Graeco-Macedonian invaders constituted here the ruling substratum of slave owning society.

“The top of society harboured the Greek language: by the testimony of Philostratus Fraotes, King of Taxila (the latter half of the first century A.D.) spoke Greek fluently. It is in Greek, as Strabon states, that the message of the Indus (Pakistan) King Por to the Roman Emperor Augustus (27 B.C. to A.D. 14) was composed. Some scholars hold that Greek was fostered as a living tongue at the court of the Saka rulers in North-West sub-continent (i.e. Pakistan).

“The northern Southasian contingents supplied by Alexander the Great and his successors into their armies seem to have become hellenized much earlier than other sections of the population. Indigenous troops were armed with Macedonian weapons and trained by Macedonian methods. Hellenization worked on the offspring of intermarriages between Macedonian soldiers and Asiatic women, as well as on the population of numerous cities founded or re-built by the Graeco-Macedonian invaders. These cities were populated with Graeco-Macedonian soldiers unable for further service and with local dwellers. Thus according to Diodorus, Alexander recruited 10,000 peoples to inhabit a city he had founded in the Lower Indus. Seleucus Nicator carried on town construction too; he built many towns all over his vast kingdom, including “Alexandropolis in the land of the Indus” (The Peoples of Pakistan, By Yu. V. Gankovsky).

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