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The Hellenistic Far East

The Hellenistic Far East: Archaeology, Language, and Identity in Greek Central Asia

Rachel Mairs
Copyright Date: 2014
Edition: 1
Pages: 256
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  • Book Info
    The Hellenistic Far East
    Book Description:

    In the aftermath of Alexander the Great's conquests in the late fourth century B.C., Greek garrisons and settlements were established across Central Asia, through Bactria (modern-day Afghanistan) and into India. Over the next three hundred years, these settlements evolved into multiethnic, multilingual communities as much Greek as they were indigenous. To explore the lives and identities of the inhabitants of the Graeco-Bactrian and Indo-Greek kingdoms, Rachel Mairs marshals a variety of evidence, from archaeology, to coins, to documentary and historical texts. Looking particularly at the great city of Ai Khanoum, the only extensively excavated Hellenistic period urban site in Central Asia, Mairs explores how these ancient people lived, communicated, and understood themselves. Significant and original,The Hellenistic Far Eastwill highlight Bactrian studies as an important part of our understanding of the ancient world.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-95954-5
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. xi-xii)
    (pp. xiii-xiii)
  6. MAPS
    (pp. xiv-xvi)
  7. Introduction
    (pp. 1-26)

    In 1966, excavators at an ancient city on the river Oxus in northern Afghanistan discovered two short Greek inscriptions.¹ In one, from a gymnasium, two brothers named Straton and Triballos dedicate to Hermes and Herakles. In the second, the more famous inscription, a man named Klearchos states that he has copied down a series of ethical maxims at Delphi and brought them here to be set up in the “sanctuary of Kineas.” On the same stone, the surviving portion of a much longer inscription, we find the last of these precepts, which contain instructions for those at different stages in...

  8. 1 Administering Bactria: From Achaemenid Satrapy to Graeco-Bactrian State
    (pp. 27-56)

    Part of Bactria lies beside Aria toward the north, but most of it lies above and to the east of Aria. It is large and all-productive except for oil. Because of the excellence of the land, the Greeks who rebelled there 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—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 Demetrios the son of Euthydemos,...

  9. 2 Ai Khanoum
    (pp. 57-101)

    Ai Khanoum occupies a special place in the historiography of the Hellenistic Far East, as the first major archaeological site to offer the opportunity to look at the architecture, material culture, and wider urban landscape of an actual Graeco-Bactrian community. (See the introduction.) Its supposed Greekness has given it a certain celebrity, but this celebrity—as an anomaly, a remarkable and exotic “out-post of Hellenism”—has not necessarily led to wider, deeper discussions of the site in the classical or archaeological literature. Part of the aim of the previous chapter has been to situate Ai Khanoum in its geographical and...

  10. 3 Self-Representation in the Inscriptions of Sōphytos (Arachosia) and Heliodoros (India)
    (pp. 102-145)

    In the archaeological and textual evidence that I have discussed in the preceding chapters, it is difficult to pick out individual histories. Although we know the names of a small number of the inhabitants of Ai Khanoum, we know little about their personal, social identities. At a community level, I have argued that categories of Greek and non-Greek are not necessarily helpful. A building’s architectural form and the motifs with which it is decorated may visibly derive from the traditions of a particular culture or geographical region, but we can presuppose from this nothing of the personal, self-ascribed identities of...

  11. 4 Waiting for the Barbarians: The Fall of Greek Bactria
    (pp. 146-176)

    The Graeco-Bactrian expansion into northwestern India was followed within a few decades by the loss of the kingdom’s Bactrian heartland. The world of Heliodoros and his king was that of the Indian subcontinent, and whatever diplomatic, commercial, or cultural contacts the Greeks of Bactria had maintained with the other Hellenistic states were now effectively impeded by the intervening Parthian empire and various nomad confederacies. In the first century c.e., the author of thePeriplus of the Erythraean Sea, a practical manual to the ports and trade routes of the Red Sea and Indian Ocean, noted that “to the present day...

  12. Conclusion
    (pp. 177-188)

    The Hellenistic Far East, as I argued in the introduction, demands to be considered as part of a wider Hellenistic world. I make no cultural assumptions here. By “Hellenistic” I do not mean Greek, and it is precisely the encounter of ethnic identities, languages, and cultures in the Hellenistic world that I think provides the best context for the material from the Hellenistic Far East. Politically, too, the Graeco-Bactrian and Indo-Greek kingdoms were very much part of the Hellenistic world. The periodic attempts of Seleucid monarchs to assert control over the region may have been rebuffed (chapter 4), but political...

    (pp. 189-194)
    (pp. 195-226)
  15. INDEX
    (pp. 227-232)