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Arche Seleukeia









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"Of all the frontiers of the ancient world, none has endured so long in the poetic imagination as the kingdom of Baktria. In those distant haunts of the Hindu Kush, nearly three thousand miles east of Athens, the Hellenes imagined a never-never land untouched by civilization. Rivers of honey oozed on the Baktrian frontier; fierce griffins guarded the precious gold mined by giant ants; people had ears the size of an elephant's, ate their parents, and lived for centuries." According to tradition, the god Dionysos was the first to tame this land, then Herakles, and finally Alexandros. The realities of the kingdom of Baktria are more difficult to come by however, and the influence of the Iranian peoples played a larger role than the legends reveal. While the history and culture of the kingdom of Baktria is obscured in the mists at its home near the top of the world, it is known that at its largest extent it encompassed an area consisting of all of Turkmenistan, Tadzhikistan, Uzbekistan, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, up to the Indus."

The Baktrian Kingdom was founded around 250 BC by the Seleukid King Antiochos II's satrap Diodotos in the region, when he secured his satrapy's independence from the seemingly irresponsible Seleukids. Though Diodotos' reign was relatively free of major emergencies, it was exceedingly brief, and was ended by one of the first internal feuds that characterized Baktrian politics for almost all of it's history.
In 230 BC, his son, Diodotos II, was overthrown and killed by Euthydemos, who managed to secure the kingdom's possessions in the North around Ferghana and Sogdiane. During the first decade of his reign, Euthydemos fought frequently and inconclusively with the Parthians in the West, but reportedly secured some minor new Western territories, though these minor operations received no follow-up. Only ten years after his reign began, an expedition out of Alexandreia Eschate, resulted in the first Hellenic contact with China. Though the two peoples did maintain a profitable trade agreement, it led to a great mixing of cultures between both. The Baktrian Hellenes were mostly unaffected (though Chinese goods would eventually grace the shelves of Baktrian markets more frequently), but the contact supposedly inspired a great many principles within Chinese art that had been previously unseen in the mainstream. One particular notable instance suggested by Chinese records is the first Emperor Qin's terracota army, which might have been inspired by Hellenic figure design. This first expedition also led to the contacts that would eventually develop the Silk Road. With a comfortable frontier in the North and East, Euthydemos eventually met the Seleukid army under the direct command of King Antiochos III, approaching his South-Western border after successful campaigning in the area. During the ensuing conflict, Euthydemos managed to first repel an attack by the full Seleukid force, and to resist a two year siege; eventually managing to convince Antiochos of the value of an independent Hellenic kingdom in the far East. Recognizing the potential danger of the warlike nomads in the East, Antiochos decided to grant Euthydemos' kingdom it's independence so that they might serve as a buffer against further Eastern incursions in to the empire, and sealed the agreement by marrying one of his daughters to Euthydemos' son Demetrios.

With the Seleukid threat to his kingdom neutralized, the Baktrians began focusing on conquest and the assimilation of several Western territories. Only a few years after Antiochos' departure, Euthydemos managed to absorb some of the old Northern provinces of Persia, and finally managed to subdue much of Parthia, thanks to their state of weakness after Antiochos' victories against them. Having secured much of Parthia, Euthydemos ruled for about a decade more before his death, of seemingly natural causes. During this time and the early years of his son's rule, the Baktrian borders remained static, save for a few varying losses and acquisitions in the West. His most significant undertaking, however, was an invasion of the Sungan kingdom in Northern India. This invasion was incredibly successful, with Demetrios securing almost all of the Sungan possessions, up to their capital - bringing the Hellenic rulers for the first time into power over lands heavily populated by an Indian majority. The influx of Hellenes into these possessions brought about a culture mingling between the Buddhists of India and the Hellenes, that would continue for five centuries after the rule of Hellenes ended in the region, influencing modern Buddhism in a variety of ways - and creating the Gandhara culture that would last a millenia. Examples of this Hellenic influence are more apparent then most would imagine, as the first statues of the Buddha himself were very likely executed by Hellenic artisans or commissioned by Hellenes. Before the Hellenes' arrival, most Buddhists in Northern India represented the Buddha with a small plethora of symbols; almost never giving him his human form in their design. It was also the Hellenes who first depicted him as standing or walking in their statuary design.
By 175 BC, the conquest of India was completed, and most of Northern and North-Western India wasin Hellenic hands. Hellenic rule here was so successful, that it would outlast the actual Baktrian kingdom itself in the North, where even at this time internal feuding was once again disrupting the kingdom's growth. In Baktria itself, Antiochos III's cousin Eukratides had managed to secure the loyalty of all Demetrios' possessions before the path he followed to India. At the beginning of his rule, the Parthians reconquored the Baktrian's Western possessions, and Demetrios' brother Anthimachos I led an unsuccessful resistance to his rebellion, weakening him against the eventual reprisals of Demetrios, who was approaching once again from India. The two confronted each other, when Demetrios marched an army of 60,000 men, composed of Hellenes, Indians, and even some of his levies from inside Baktria itself. Despite numerical superiority, Eukratides managed to defeat Demetrios, forcing him to retreat into India - where his successors would rule for almost two centuries, promoting a further melding of cultures that would nearly complete the development of the Gandhara culture, and the creation of a Greaco-Hindu Buddhist pantheon focused around Apollo and the Buddha. Though Demetrius had been defeated by the Greaco-Baktrian army, his future successor Menandros I took his revenge for him, by recapturing most of Southern Baktria from Eukratides' successor, Eukratides II. After only a few years on the throne, Eukratides was also replaced through the political maneuvering of Platon Epiphanes around 166 BC, who ruled for twenty years of territorial loss and internal feuding. Upon Eukratides' death, Heliokles came into power, and ruled over the finally collapsing Graeco-Baktrian kingdom. The kingdom's final downfall came in 125 when he abandoned Baktria to the Yuezhi who had been eating up his territory for most of his rule, and moved his capital into the Hellenic territory of Northern India.