Featured Apollodotos: Apollo and Tripod

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by Curtisimo, Sep 28, 2019.

  1. Curtisimo

    Curtisimo the Great(ish) Supporter

    One of the interesting things about trying to research Indo-Greek history to gain some context for the coinage is that you can’t simply go to Wikipedia and expect to find a satisfactory outline. The information there is often garbled, contradictory and outdated. Few experts seem to agree on many key points of Indo-Greek history and references become quickly outdated with even the slightest new bit of information. In fact, most of the information we have is based on a careful study of the coins themselves. As such this coin has been a fun one to study.

    Indo-Greek Kingdoms
    Apollodotus I
    AE Hemiobol, mint in northwest India, struck ca. 180-160 BC
    Dim.: 22x22 mm
    Wt.: 9.27 g
    Obv.: BAΣIΛEΩΣ AΠOΛΛOΔOTOY ΣΩTHPOΣ; Apollo standing facing holding arrow in right hand and bow in left.
    Rev.: Karoshthi legend; tripod and monogram surrounded by square of dots.
    Ref.: BMC 17, SG 7594

    Ex @Deacon Ray , Ex Agean Numismatics

    Background on the Greeks in the Far East
    When Alexander extended his conquests into the eastern reaches of the Persian Empire he established many Greek communities in what is now northern Afghanistan, Pakistan and northwest India. These communities flourished and in the mid-3rd century BC broke away from the Seleucid Empire to form the Bactrian Kingdom. One of the best known kings of Bactria was Demetrios I Aniketos (the Invincible) who extended the Greek controlled territory into India around the same time as the collapse of the Mauryan Empire. When he died in unknown circumstances (and at an unknown date) the Bactrian Kingdom appears to have been rocked by a period of instability and internal violence. Three rulers appear in rapid succession near the beginning of the 2nd century BC: Euthydemos II, Pantaleon and Agathocles.

    Apollodotos the Savior
    Everything that is known for certain about Apollodotos I can be summed up in one sentence: He was a self-styled king with a Greek name who issued a substantial amount of coins that circulated in ancient northwest India. Everything else that can be said about him is educated conjecture based on indirect evidence. Below I attempt to put together a semi-coherent narrative of details that seem reasonable based on my research. Believe any of what you are about to read at your own risk.

    Apollodotos may have been a general or a governor of Greek India under Agathocles. The end of Agathocles reign was a violent period of internal conflict as suggested by hoard evidence [7]. During the period of upheaval Apollodotos appears to have declared himself the king of a new independent Indo-Greek Kingdom sometime between 186-174 BC.

    He set up his capital in the city of Sirkap (modern Taxila) which had been founded by Demetrios I near the site of an older Indian settlement. The ruins of this city contain one of the very rare surviving instances of Greek architecture from the Indo-Greek period. The remains of this Ionic order temple can still be seen today on the road north of the ancient city at a place known as Jandial.

    Ruins of Sirkap (Wikipedia Commons)

    Plan of Sirkap showing Jandial (temple) to the north and the older city (Bhir Mound) to the southwest. (Wikipedia Commons)

    View of the Ionic order temple at Jandial. One of the few buildings ever found that show the influence of Greek architecture in ancient India. (Wikipedia)

    Apollodotos may have secured his position by forming a successful alliance with Antimachos I Theos against Agathocles. Antimachos and Apollodotos were almost certainly contemporaries and it appears likely that they agreed to partition the Greek controlled lands between them: Antimachos I ruling from Bactria and Apollodotos I ruling the areas already under his control south of the Hindu Kush. In fact, the most recent scientific analysis on a damaged portion of a rare document from the time could show that Antimachos I listed Apollodotos I as a vassal king in the 4th year of his reign [5]. This would make sense as Apollodotos I would probably still have been reliant on colonist from Bactria to shore up his support in newly conquered Indian territory at the time.

    Apollodotos may have later extended his protection to Antimachos I’s son after the latter’s defeat (and death?) at the hands of the usurper Eucradites I. The above mentioned Bactrian document shows that Antimachos I Theos reigned jointly with a king also called Antimachos who was probably his son, later styled Antimachos II [4]. The progression of coin issues in Greek controlled India (i.e. Indo-Greek) almost certainly went: Apollodotos I ---> Antimachos II ---> Menander I [1][2][3].

    It has been suggested based on types and titles that Menander I may have been related to, or even the son of, Apollodotos I. This leaves us with a strange situation where the son of an allied king succeeds to the throne before a blood relative? It could be that Antimachos II was set up as a vassal king in some kind of buffer or Bactrian rump state supported by Apollodotos (and using his mints) and that the coin issues of the three kings overlapped to a certain extent. Or is it possible that Menander was actually the son of Antimachos II? It is also possible that Antimachos II is not the same person mentioned as reigning alongside Antimachos I Theos… isn’t Indo-Greek history fascinatingly confusing?

    The dates of Bactrian and Indo-Greek history are almost never definite. Even experts are prone to revise, and then re-revise their own estimates every few years. Below are the two most common set of dates given for Apollodotos's reign.
    • 180-160 BC [1][6]
    • 174-165 BC [2]
    Some notes on the coin
    Apollodotos I issued most of his coins (such as this one) on an Indian standard weight with bi-lingual legends (Greek/Kharosthi). Unlike some of his other issues that show Hindu and Buddhist iconography these square bronze coins show Greek themes exclusively.

    The name Apollodotos means “granted by Apollo” (ΑΠΟΛΛΟ = Apollo, ΔΟΤΟΣ meaning given/granted) so it is not a surprise that Apollo appears on the obverse. The tripod, as shown on the reverse, was an important part of Greek cultural practices going all the way back to the Mycenaean period.

    The fact that so many of the Indo-Greek coins have bi-lingual legends was actually a big part of what allowed scholars to decipher the Kharosthi script in the early 19th century. See below for a diagram of how to read the script on this reverse.
    Below is a table of notes related to the coin issues of Apollodotos that I know about and how my OP fits in with the series.

    [1] Bopearachchi, O., Monnaies Gréco-Bactriennes et Indo-Grecques (BNBact), Bibliothèque nationale de France, Paris, 1991

    [2] Bopearachchi, O., Sylloge Nummorum Graecorum. Greaco-Bactrian and Indo-Greek Coins. The Collection of the American Numismatics Society, Part 9, New York, 1998

    [3] Bopearachchi, O., Recent Discoveries of Coin Hoards from Central Asia and Pakistan; New Numismatic Evidence on the Pre-Kushan History of the Silk Road, C.N.R.S., Paris,

    [4] Rea, J., Senior, R.C., Hollis, A.S., A Tax Receipt from Hellenistic Bactria, Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik, Bd. 104 (1994)

    [5] Jakobsson, J., New Research on the Bactrian Tax Receipt, Ancient History Bulletin Vol. 32 (2018)

    [6] Jakobsson, J., Who Founded the Indo-Greek Era of 186/5 B.C.E?, Classical Quarterly (2009)

    [7] Widemann, F., Civil Wars and Alliances in Bactria and North-Western India after the Usurpation of King Eucratides, East and West Vol. 57, No. 1/4 (December 2007)

    [8] Gardner, P., The Coins of the Greek and Scythic Kings of Bactria and India in the British Museum, London, 1886

    Please post anything you want.
    eparch, Chris B, Plumbata and 13 others like this.
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  3. THCoins

    THCoins Well-Known Member

    Nice write-up !
    To add, one of the more Indian themed types:

    (In your Kharosthi transcription, the TraDaTaSa, should that not be TraDaRaSa ?)
    Last edited: Sep 28, 2019
  4. Curtisimo

    Curtisimo the Great(ish) Supporter

    Thanks and great Apollodotos silver coin!

    I was using Percy Gardner's tables from BMC to understand the translation. He lists 3 variants for the "Ta" symbol and one of them is identical to the "Ra" symbol as far as I can tell. I am not sure how he was able to determine between them for the pronunciation to be honest. Possibly one of the other variants of the symbol exist on other examples or else it is a known word using context???
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  5. THCoins

    THCoins Well-Known Member

    I have some problems with your table. Not only does it imply that a "Ta" is sometimes written the same as a "Ra". But also the "Da" is sometimes written as a "Ra", and sometimes as a "Ta". This construction seems to become neccessary if you want the "Soteros" word to be transcribed as "TraDaTaSa".

    There are some counterarguments:
    - On your "MaHaRaJaSa", the green dot with "Ra" is not part of "Ra", but of the preceeding "Ha". With this, the "Ra"symbol is identical to the third syllable in "TraDaXSa".
    - The "Da" shape in TraDa(Ta/Ra)Sa on some Apollodotus coins is actually the exception to the rule. In general, also on other Apollodotus coins, this second character is usually written as a "Ta". Look for example at my coin above and this Menander specimen:
    - The second and third character of the word are never the same.
    - So, it it a much easier solution to assume that the general transcription should be "TraTaRaSa", where on some Apollodotus coins this may be "TraDaRaSa".
    V. Smith (Catalog of the coins in the India museum) seems to follow a similar course of reasoning and dismisses a reading of "TraDaTaSa" as a "non-word".
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