Drawing on ancient historical writings, the vast array of information gleaned in recent years from the study of Hellenistic coins, and startling archaeological evidence newly unearthed in Afghanistan, Frank L. Holt sets out to rediscover the ancient civilization of Bactria. In a gripping narrative informed by the author’s deep knowledge of his subject, this book covers two centuries of Bactria’s history, from its colonization by remnants of Alexander the Great’s army to the kingdom’s collapse at the time of a devastating series of nomadic invasions. Beginning with the few tantalizing traces left behind when the ‘empire of a thousand cities’ vanished, Holt takes up that trail and follows the remarkable and sometimes perilous journey of rediscovery.
Lost World of the Ancient King describes how a single bit of evidence—a Greek coin—launched a search that drew explorers to the region occupied by the tumultuous warring tribes of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Afghanistan. Coin by coin, king by king, the history of Bactria was reconstructed using the emerging methodologies of numismatics. In the twentieth century, extraordinary ancient texts added to the evidence. Finally, one of the ‘thousand cities’ was discovered and excavated, revealing an opulent palace, treasury, temple, and other buildings. Though these great discoveries soon fell victim to the Afghan political crisis that continues today, this book provides a thrilling chronicle of the search for one of the world’s most enigmatic empires.
Lost World of the Golden King In Search of Ancient Afghanistan
- by Frank L. Holt (Author)
- October 2012
- First Edition
$39.95, £34.00 eBook
SeriesHellenistic Culture and Society
EndowmentsJoan Palevsky Imprint in Classical Literature
Rights: Available worldwide
Illustrations: 11 color plates, 32 black-and-white illustrations, and 3 maps.
The Adventure Begins
Jean Foy Vaillant (1632-1706) could not endure another four months of slavery in the hands of Algerian pirates, so he took matters into his own mouth. The desperate Vaillant was in the midst of a dangerous numismatic journey when, about to be captured again, he swallowed his cargo of ancient gold coins. This gallant French physician had developed an insatiable interest in old Greek and Roman medals soon after he was shown a hoard freshly dug from a farm near Beauvais. Vaillant quickly became famous as one of the first savants to demonstrate the value of coins for the illumination of history. His erudition attracted the attention of Jean-Baptiste Colbert, Louis XIV's finance minister, who commissioned Vaillant to expand the king's collection by searching abroad for rare specimens. In 1674, while on the second of his several Mediterranean voyages, this intrepid numismatist and his fellow shipmates fell into the clutches of an Algerian corsair. The French government negotiated Vaillant's release, and the return of the twenty gold and two hundred silver coins he had painstakingly gathered for the royal collection. It was on his way back to the port of Marseilles that Vaillant, his ship laboring to outrun yet another pirate attack, gobbled down his twenty gold treasures to keep them safe. The French vessel ran aground, and the numismatist escaped, though he suffered miserably from the gold still lodged in his gut. Well-meaning acquaintances suggested various purgatifs and vomitifs to speed the process of recovery. When an avid collector heard a description of what had been swallowed, he immediately purchased one of the pieces and then patiently waited with Vaillant for the hoard's final passage so that he could claim his prize. Such were the perils and payoffs of numismatics in its heroic age, at a time when-as Vaillant himself said-a collector could not always lounge comfortably in his study far from the dangers of shipwreck and slavery.
Over the course of his career, Vaillant explored Italy, Greece, Sicily, Persia, and Egypt. He also traveled to nearly all the major collections of Europe, where he gathered material for his extensive and often groundbreaking publications on the coinages of ancient Rome, Seleucid Asia, Ptolemaic Egypt, and Arsacid Parthia. Vaillant's work answered the strong antiquarian impulses of his age. Men and women of means-kings, queens, nobles, ministers, merchants-collected and studied artifacts as a matter of personal pleasure, enlightenment, and profit. Private cabinets of curiosities, the nuclei of future museums, could be found all over Europe. These were fed by feverish methods of acquisition, sometimes destructive, since there were as yet no professional standards of education or ethics for would-be archaeologists and numismatists; the material remains of the ancient world lay at the mercy of these well-meaning amateurs. In those times, Vaillant and his contemporaries acted the part of pioneers whose courage, energy, and genius are not to be slighted simply because their methods do not exactly square with practices not yet invented. To borrow a remark of Sir Mortimer Wheeler's: "One may as well condemn Napoleon for not using nuclear submarines at the Battle of Trafalgar."
Vaillant pursued a kind of numismatics that we might now describe, but not disparage, as checklist numismatics. This approach to coins, still popular today, tends to satisfy the concerns of collectors and art connoisseurs; it treats coins as individual objects, using them to validate or illustrate some list derived from other sources. In the early stages of studying any ancient topic, this straightforward methodology can be productive even if quite rudimentary. Vaillant and his patrons aimed first and foremost to match the rulers of ancient empires to the coins they minted, checking off each member of a given dynasty as his or her money came to hand. In Vaillant's last great opus, his Arsacidarum Imperium, which appeared posthumously in 1725, he devoted two seminal volumes to the Parthian empire. He set forth a detailed chronology of the dynasty, followed by a reign-by-reign history, all supported by quotations from ancient texts. Pulling together these scattered Greek and Latin sources was itself a task of commendable erudition, marking Vaillant as an historian and philologist as well as a numismatist. For each Parthian ruler, Vaillant tried to provide drawings of a portrait coin taken either from his own collection or from that of another antiquarian such as the French king. This simple checklist approach illustrated the line of Parthian dynasts, without elaborate commentary on the coins themselves, much as some collectors still endeavor to own one coin representing each of the Twelve Caesars or to fill every slot in a notebook of U.S. state quarters. This proved to be an important beginning, even though it relegated coins to a secondary role subservient to the texts. Money did not write the story; it merely put faces to the names found in dynastic lists derived independently from ancient literature.
Among the kings discussed by Vaillant were a few from Bactria whose histories touched in some way upon his treatment of neighboring Parthia. Vaillant worked these shadowy figures into his narrative, although he naturally did not illustrate any of them since no coins from Bactria were yet known. From ancient writers, Vaillant deduced the existence of kings named Diodotus I and II, Euthydemus, Menander, Demetrius, Eucratides the Great, and Eucratides II. The posthumous publication of Vaillant's book in 1725 returned these monarchs to the realm of scholarly inquiry for the first time in centuries.
Ten years later, on May 1, 1735, another numismatist posthumously gave new life to the lost world of the Bactrian kings. The deceased was Comes Iakov Vilimovich Brius (Count Jacob Daniel Bruce; see fig. 1). Born in Moscow the son of a Scottish mercenary, Bruce (1670-1735) rose to fame as a military and scientific adviser to Peter the Great. An expert in all manner of practical pursuits, Bruce associated with Sir Isaac Newton and Edmund Halley; he assembled a vast personal library to support his overlapping careers as a soldier, collector, scholar, and diplomat. No foreigner anywhere in the Russian empire outranked him until he quietly retired in order to spend his remaining hours in uninterrupted study. Count Bruce died on the last day of April 1735, with one remaining good deed to perform.
By prior arrangement, on the day after his death the count's considerable accumulation of antiquities passed into the collections of the Imperial Museum, in St. Petersburg. Bruce had made preparations for this bequest only a few days earlier, while meeting with a brilliant scholar named Theophilus Siegfried Bayer (1694-1738). One small item in this benefaction profoundly impressed Bayer, and from it he derived at once the bold plan to find what he could of the vanished Bactrians. Bayer published the results of this research in 1738, the year of his own premature death, in a long Latin treatise with a title to match: Historia Regni Graecorum Bactriani in qua simul Graecarum in India Coloniarum Vetus Memoria ("History of the Bactrian Kingdom of the Greeks, Together with the Ancient Tradition of Greek Colonies in India"). This work was perhaps the most important of Bayer's career, and it would not have been undertaken but for the fortuitous bequest of Bruce.
The catalytic discovery in the dead count's collection was a unique silver coin that set Bayer on his mission (fig. 2). Bruce had acquired the tetradrachm some years earlier in either Astrakhan or Kasan, and Bayer had no doubts about its authenticity. The coin showed in profile the bust of a king wearing a diadem and a plumed helmet adorned with a bull's horn and ear. The monarch also wore a Greek cavalry cloak. On the other side (the reverse), Bayer identified two cavalrymen on galloping horses, each soldier armed with a long Macedonian lance called a sarissa; Bayer failed to recognize in these figures the mythological heroes Castor and Pollux, twin sons of Zeus who were savior gods among the Greeks. What most excited Bayer were the three words stamped into the coin's design: ΒΑΣΙΛΕΩΣΜΕΓΑΛΟΥΕΥΚΡΑΤΙΔΟΥ, "[a coin] of King Eucratides the Great." This tangible evidence of a long-lost king on Vaillant's list sent Bayer rummaging for clues about the man on the coin.
Theophilus Bayer consulted the work of Vaillant to guide him toward the scattered ancient sources for the history of Bactria. Building on the basic king list and chronology compiled by Vaillant, Bayer expanded the topic into a richly documented treatise that reached back to the legendary travels of the god Dionysus and included considerable detail on geography and languages. For the period following Alexander's death, the so-called Hellenistic Age (a term not yet invented in Bayer's lifetime), Bayer found evidence of eight Greek kings who ruled in Bactria and neighboring India from about 255 to 142 B.C.E. Like Vaillant, Bayer argued that Bactria gained its independence from Alexander's successors through the agency of a rebellious regional governor named Theodotus (Diodotus) I, who was succeeded by his son, Theodotus (Diodotus) II. In about 221 B.C.E., a usurper named Euthydemus ascended the Bactrian throne and later foiled an attempt by Antiochus the Great to repatriate Central Asia as part of the Seleucid empire. During the war between Euthydemus and Antiochus, Euthydemus's son Demetrius impressed the invading king and was promised a Seleucid princess as his bride. This Demetrius, it was believed, never ruled Bactria. Instead, he governed in India for many years. Meanwhile, the Bactrian throne allegedly passed directly to Euthydemus's supposed brother Menander in 196 B.C.E. About fifteen years later, the warlike Eucratides took power in both Bactria and India, but he was eventually assassinated in 146 B.C.E. by his own son, presumably a Eucratides II-the sixth and last of these Greek kings of Bactria; two other Greeks (Demetrius and an Apollodotus) ruled only in India. Bayer put Eucratides II's death in about 142 B.C.E.
Bayer's numismatic contribution lay in checking off a coin issued by one of these kings from Vaillant's list. In his zeal to mark off another, Bayer illustrated a second specimen, which he erroneously attributed to Diodotus (fig. 3). This overpowering compulsion is one of the inherent dangers of checklist numismatics. The small bronze coin in question showed a bearded figure of Hercules (Hēraklēsin Greek) on the obverse and the hero's club on the reverse. The legend read ΔΙΟΔΙΟΥ (Dio Diou) rather than the expected ΔΙΟΔΟΤΟΥ(Diodotou, "of Diodotus"). As a result, the association of this coin with King Diodotus has rarely been accepted by other numismatists. One scholar writing more than a century after Bayer's death dared briefly to place this specimen alongside the name of Menander on the Bactrian king list but soon thought better of it.
King Eucratides, on the other hand, at last had a portrait to accompany his name, in spite of the many unfortunate factors that had conspired against the survival of either. Living as we do in a world drowning in documents and computer data, we too often forget how easily history loses track of things. In the premodern world, essential written sources could not be mass-produced or instantly replicated; every copy of every volume had to be penned by hand, often at great expense. Papyrus, the paper of the day, was furthermore a frail custodian of the written word, because it was constantly threatened by fire, flood, decay, and-because of its rarity-relentless recycling. Thus, only a sampling of ancient literature was ever handwritten in sufficient copies to escape total eradication over time. For example, only seven of the 120 plays crafted by the wildly popular Sophocles of Athens managed to survive this winnowing effect. Weighty historical works, some of them longer than a hundred volumes (i.e., rolled papyrus scrolls), faced even greater odds. Compounding these risks was the tendency over time to abridge long works to make them cheaper and more palatable for less dedicated readers. The success of this strategy often doomed the original versions, which were essentially replaced by an abbreviated product. This practice created an inevitable historical shrinkage, with less and less useful information trickling down to later generations.
The history of a king like Eucratides had to endure these caprices of man and nature, plus another major obstacle specific to his realm: the obvious remoteness of Bactria from the main centers of classical civilization. Even the pettiest of princes living close to Greece and Rome stood a better chance of being noticed by historians working there than did a great king reigning thousands of miles away in Central Asia. Thus, even now Eucratides the Great makes no appearance in the index of one standard history of the Hellenistic Age, whereas every Ptolemy in Egypt (down to the nonentity brothers of Cleopatra VII) rates attention. We might call this survival by association: persons entangled in any way with a Cleopatra or Caesar are more likely to be mentioned than the mightiest who were detached from the main dramas of the Mediterranean world. Whatever may or may not have been written about the Bactrian kings for their own sake, their continued literary existence depended largely on their connections to neighboring Parthia and India. In fact, if not for Eucratides' association with Mithridates and the Parthians, who in turn were important to Roman history, Vaillant and Bayer might never have found the name Eucratides surviving anywhere in ancient literature.
In the first century B.C.E., for example, a writer named Apollodorus of Artemita composed in Greek a magisterial multivolume history called Parthica ("On the Parthians"). Sadly, this work no longer exists, but it was occasionally quoted in other ancient works for the relevance of its subject matter. The geographer Strabo (64 B.C.E.-21 C.E.) therefore cites Apollodorus's Parthica when describing the eastern edges of Greek civilization. Strabo complains:
Not many who have written about India in recent times, or who sail there now, report anything that is accurate. In fact, Apollodorus who wrote the Parthica, when referring to the Greeks who broke Bactria free from the Syrian kings descended from Seleucus Nicator, does say on the one hand that they grew in power and attacked India as well; but, on the other hand, Apollodorus discloses nothing new, and even contradicts what is known by reporting that these Greeks conquered more of India than the Macedonians [under Alexander]. He actually says that Eucratides ruled a thousand cities.
In another passage, the same geographer mentions the growth of Parthian power:
They also annexed part of Bactria, having overpowered the Scythians and, still earlier, those around Eucratides. At present, the Parthians rule so much territory and so many peoples that they have become, so to speak, rivals of the Romans.
Strabo adds that the earlier independence of Parthia coincided with the rebellion of Diodotus against the Seleucids, and that Bactria soon prospered:
Because of the excellence of the land, the Greeks who rebelled in Bactria grew so powerful that they conquered both Ariana and India as well, according to Apollodorus of Artemita. And so they subdued more peoples than Alexander had done, especially Menander if indeed he crossed the Hypanis River toward the east and advanced as far as the Imaus; for some were subdued by Menander himself, and some by Demetrius son of Euthydemus, the king of Bactria. They took over not only Patalene but also the rest of the coast, which is called Saraostus and the kingdom of Sigerdis. In sum, Apollodorus says that Bactria is the jewel of all Ariana, and moreover its authority stretched all the way to the Seres and Phryni.
Among the "thousand cities" of this rich and powerful land, Strabo mentions:
Bactra, which they also call Zariaspa and through which flows a river of the same name that empties into the Oxus, plus the city of Darapsa, and others more. Among these was a city called Eucratidia, named after its ruler. The Greeks who took possession of the region divided it into satrapies [provinces], of which the Parthians took away from Eucratides both Turiva and Aspionus.
The linkage of Bactria with Parthia is obvious in the works of Strabo and his now-lost source Apollodorus. The same may be said of the world history published in Greek by Strabo's contemporary Pompeius Trogus, which survives only in a Latin abridgment (epitoma) made centuries later by Marcus Junianus Justinus (Justin). Pompeius Trogus was a Romanized Gaul who apparently relied upon the Parthica of Apollodorus of Artemita when, in volume 41 of his history, Trogus recounted the conjoined affairs of Parthia and Bactria. For his part, Justin later condensed that narrative even further into a bare-bones recitation of selected parallel events in Parthia and Bactria, namely those that would interest a Roman audience in the third century C.E. Justin therefore summarized the origins of the Bactrian kingdom under Theodotus (Diodotus), linked to the foundation of the Parthian kingdom under Arsaces, and then the decline of the Bactrians under Eucratides, linked to the simultaneous aggrandizement of Parthia under Mithridates. About Eucratides, Justin wrote:
At about the same time that Mithridates began his reign in Parthia, Eucratides rose to power in Bactria. Both men became great, but the Parthians were more fortunate and succeeded brilliantly under their leader, whereas the Bactrians were troubled by endless wars and lost not only their lands but also their liberty. Exhausted by conflicts with the Sogdians, Arachosians, Drangians, Arians, and Indians, the Bactrians bled themselves dry and succumbed at last to the weaker Parthians. Eucratides nevertheless waged many wars with great valor. Although weakened by so much fighting and besieged by Demetrius, king of the Indians, who commanded sixty thousand troops, Eucratides with only three hundred soldiers triumphed by continual sallies. And so, after five months he freed himself from the siege and conquered India. But when Eucratides was returning to Bactria, he was killed along the way by his own son, with whom he had shared the throne. The murderer made no effort to conceal the patricide, acting instead as though he had slain an enemy rather than his father. He drove a chariot through his victim's blood and ordered the corpse to be cast aside unburied.
This summary of Eucratides' reign accounts for most of what we know about the king, depending on what we can trust in it. Is the chronology reliable, or has it been distorted to synchronize Bactrian and Parthian history? Did Eucratides usurp his position or inherit it? Can we reasonably assume that he defeated sixty thousand troops with only three hundred of his own? Was his enemy the same Demetrius who was the son of Euthydemus? Where did this extraordinary siege take place? Was Demetrius killed in the battle? Who was the son of Eucratides who so vilely desecrated his father, and why did he do it? Pompeius Trogus, or his source Apollodorus, may well have answered all such questions, but in the end we are left only with the scattered details that Justin chose to preserve. We cannot know whether the Roman abridger carefully extracted the most important information or whether he just preferred sensational tidbits such as the siege and assassination. Justin may have included the story of Eucratides' horrible demise only because it would remind Roman readers of a similar legend in their own past-the death of King Servius Tullius, whose daughter, Tullia, killed him and then insolently drove her chariot through his blood.
Ancient references to Bactria survived because of its close associations with Parthia, an empire that long impinged on Mediterranean history. Likewise, Bactria sometimes drifted into classical accounts by way of its eastern neighbor India, which maintained active commercial contacts by sea to Egypt and the Mediterranean. We have already seen some signs of this above, where Strabo speaks of India and the kings Eucratides, Demetrius, and Menander. In a Roman treatise titled On the Nature of Animals, the writer Aelian (ca. 165-230 C.E.) draws in the apparently famous Eucratides as a chronological reference:
There is a city called Perimula in India that was ruled by a man of royal blood named Soras at the time when Eucratides ruled in Bactria.
A first-century-C.E. anonymous sailing guide for merchants known as the ΠΕΡΙΠΛΟΥΣΤΗΣΕΡΥΘΡΑΣΘΑΛΑΣΣΗΣ ("On the Circumnavigation of the Red Sea," chap. 47) reports the spread of Bactrian coins deep into India:
Beyond Barygaza [modern Broach or Bharuch], there are many inland peoples,... and above these to the north are the very warlike Bactrians, who have their own kingdom.... Even now in Barygaza old drachms [silver coins] stamped with inscriptions in Greek lettering come to hand, the coins of Apollodotus and Menander, who were kings after Alexander.
The prolific biographer and moralist Plutarch (ca. 45-125 C.E.) notes the fame in India of King Menander:
When a man named Menander died in camp after reigning well as king in Bactria, the cities [in India] observed the other usual funeral rites, but they quarreled over his actual remains and with difficulty agreed to divide up his ashes into equal shares and to set up monuments [Buddhist stupas?] in his honor.
So, from the shadow lands between Parthia and India, hints of Hellenistic Bactria survived-though just barely. Before Vaillant and Bayer, these references were too scattered and fragmented to arouse much interest. The memory of men such as Eucratides and Demetrius stirred more among the poets than the historians. In his sometimes fanciful Chronica Polonorum ("Polish Chronicles"), Vincenzo Kadlubeck (ca. 1150-1223) played up the pathos of Eucratides' death by adding an exotic episode involving a swallowed snake. Generations later, Giovanni Boccaccio (1313-75) included Eucratides and Demetrius in his popular compendium titled De Casibus Illustrium Virorum ("On the Misfortunes of Famous Men," 6.6). According to Boccaccio,
Eucratides, king of the Bactrians, was besieged by Demetrius, king of the Indians; he was at last killed by his son and left to be torn asunder by wild beasts. He was lamented after the time of Mithridates.
Boccaccio's remarks in De Casibus were reworked by later writers such as Laurent de Premierfait (in French, ca. 1409) and John Lydgate (in English, ca. 1435). In the Canterbury Tales of Geoffrey Chaucer (ca. 1340-1400), the poet describes an Indian king named Emetreus, who appears to be a romanticized version of Eucratides' rival Demetrius:
Alongside Arcite, in stories as men find,
Rode the Great Emetreus, King of India,
Looking like the war-god Mars.
His bay-colored steed wore trappings of steel
Covered in gold cloth with fine trimmings.
His tunic was made of silk cloth from Turkestan,
Adorned with great pearls, round and white.
His saddle gleamed with newly-wrought gold.
A mantle draped from his shoulder
Brimming with red rubies that sparkled like fire.
The curly rings of his yellow hair glittered like the sun,
And he had a high nose, bright lemony eyes,
Round lips, ruddy complexion, and a few freckles
Sprinkled on his face that varied from yellow to black.
As he looked about with a lion's mien,
I judged his age at 25 years, with a beard beginning to grow.
His voice thundered like a trumpet.
He wore on his head a green laurel garland
That was delightful to see,
And on his hand he sported a tame eagle,
As white as a lily, for his amusement.
With him rode a hundred lords, all fully armed
With richly detailed splendor, except for their heads.
For you may be sure that gathered in this company
Were dukes, earls, and kings devoted to chivalry.
All around this King Emetreus of India
Many a tame lion and leopard ran.
Emetreus's obvious Greek name and European features (curly blond hair, light-colored eyes, ruddy complexion, freckled face) make him an unlikely Indian king in any context other than a fanciful evocation of ancient Bactrian history.
Against this background of remembering Bactria solely as an exotic mise-en-scène, Jean Foy Vaillant and Theophilus Bayer patched the surviving sources into a narrative account for the first time in over a thousand years. This achievement in many ways overshadows their numismatic contributions. Bayer did manage to check off the silver coin of Eucratides the Great preserved in Bruce's collection, using it primarily to confirm Eucratides' existence and to give some idea of the king's personal appearance and regalia. His treatment of the coin is more descriptive than analytical, although he did hazard a date for its manufacture. Bayer noticed a Greek monogram on the tetradrachm's reverse, just ahead of the horses' legs; this he took to be the precise date of mintage. Since the ancient Greek alphabet served also as a numerical system, Bayer resolved the monogram into the letters H and P (eta and rho). Reading this as the number 108, Bayer suggested that the coin had been struck in the 108th year of some fixed era. He imagined that this Bactrian Epoch began in 255 B.C.E., when Diodotus I inaugurated the independent kingdom, thus putting the manufacture of Eucratides' coin in the year 148 B.C.E. He turned out to be fairly accurate in his guess, although for all the wrong reasons.
More than a quarter-century after Bruce's bequest, a second Eucratides coin appeared among the savants of Europe (fig. 4). In 1762, Joseph Pellerin (1684-1782) published this discovery in Paris. Like Bruce, Pellerin distinguished himself as both a military expert and a scholar. A gifted linguist, Pellerin craved the classics and developed an incurable interest in ancient Greek coins. He is said to have asked the sailors of the French fleet to buy whatever such coins they could find, with assurances that their commander would in turn pay double for each one. In this way, Pellerin amassed a collection of over thirty-three thousand coins. One of them resembled the Bruce coin published by Bayer. Comparing the two tetradrachms, Pellerin drew attention to three key observations. First, Pellerin correctly identified the twin horsemen on both specimens as the Dioscuri of Greek mythology, based on their distinctive bonnets surmounted by stars. (See below, chap. 3). Next, Pellerin noted that his coin showed a different monogram than the one discussed by Bayer. The new monogram could not be made into a number corresponding to any possible era, so Pellerin correctly dismissed Bayer's so-called year 108 of a Bactrian Epoch. The monograms on these two coins were declared to be neither numbers nor dates. Finally, Pellerin believed the portrait on the second coin to be a younger king. This allowed the antiquarian to identify the monarch on his specimen as Eucratides II and thus to check off another king-coin combination from the Vaillant-Bayer list, even though no second king of that name actually appears in the written record. This attribution turned out to be an error that would burden Bactrian studies for the next century.
Joseph Pellerin had actually found a second silver tetradrachm belonging to Eucratides I. He then announced sixteen years later that he had in hand another Bactrian coin, this time a gold stater bearing the name of King Euthydemus (fig. 5). Pellerin called this artifact one of the most precious and interesting he had ever seen, featuring it prominently below his portrait on the frontispiece of one of his books. This small treasure prompted Pellerin to pen a short narrative of his own for Bactrian history. He considered ancient Bactria to have been a realm distinguished above all others in the East, peopled by Greeks who were exceptionally brave and cultured. Like Vaillant and Bayer, Pellerin credited Bactrian independence to the kings Diodotus I and II. Pellerin then related the few known details of the war between Bactria's third king, Euthydemus, and the Seleucid emperor Antiochus the Great. This included the remark from Polybius (11.34) regarding a promised marriage alliance uniting an unnamed daughter of Antiochus with Euthydemus' son Demetrius. To celebrate these successes, King Euthydemus allegedly minted the very gold coin owned by Pellerin. Beautifully crafted "by the hand of a Greek" (an artist perhaps lent to Euthydemus by Antiochus, according to Pellerin), this stater he considered the very first royal issue of Bactria-hence explaining the nondiscovery of any coins bearing the name of Diodotus I or II. In this fashion, Pellerin considerably tightened the checklist, so that only one Bactrian combination was still missing. Bayer had found Eucratides I; Pellerin himself checked off Euthydemus and Eucratides II; the Diodotids presumably issued no coins; Demetrius and Apollodotus allegedly never ruled in Bactria-leaving only a coin of Menander yet to be discovered.
In 1825, Major James Tod informed a meeting of the Royal Asiatic Society that he had managed at last to "fill up a chasm in the Numismatic series of the Greek Kings of Bactria." His success capped a dozen years of concerted effort while he was residing in India. Living "amongst Mahrattas and Rajputs," Tod had hired the locals to gather all the old coins washed up by rain or unearthed by diggers. From the twenty thousand thus recovered, this British officer and self-professed antiquary eventually laid hands on a coin of Menander, plus another struck in the name of Apollodotus. Both specimens had Greek letters on the obverse and "Zend" (actually Kharoshthi) characters on the reverse. They surely represented, Tod announced, the monarchs mentioned in the writings of Plutarch and Strabo, and in the anonymous tract On the Circumnavigation of the Red Sea that referenced coins of this very type. Tod thus ticked off one king from Bayer's catalogue of princes who ruled in Bactria and one from those who governed in India. The other reported prince of India, Demetrius, had already come to light. The Russian ambassador Baron Georges de Meyendorff had acquired this remarkable discovery in Bukhara, as reported by the academician Heinrich K. E. Köhler. In his publication of the coin, Köhler maintained the view of Bayer, his predecessor at the Imperial Academy in St. Petersburg, that Euthydemus's famous son founded a collateral kingdom in India-hence explaining the scalp of an Indian elephant on the obverse of the coin procured by Meyendorff. Demetrius therefore reigned solely in India until (at the supposed age of 87) he was vanquished by Eucratides the Great.
By 1825, exactly one century after the publication of Vaillant's Arsacidarum Imperium, antiquaries had found coins associated with the kings Euthydemus, Menander, Eucratides I and II, Demetrius, and Apollodotus; only the earliest of the recorded Bactrian rulers, Diodotus I and II, were missing and presumed not to have issued money. As it happened, the elusive Diodotids did indeed strike coinage, but their mintages were not recovered and recognized until 1840. It had by then taken generations of effort to locate at least one coin each for the recorded kings of Hellenistic Bactria and India. By the time checklist numismatics completed its pioneering mission, expanding interests and novel circumstances had invigorated the rise of a more sophisticated approach that we might label framework numismatics. The interests were historical and numismatic; the circumstances, historic and nefarious: The Great Game was afoot.