Indo-Greek Rule [NCERT Ancient Indian History For UPSC]

The Bactrian Greeks moved into the south of the Hindu Kush area by the early 2nd century BCE. Indo-Greeks are these groups of these Bactrian Greeks that ruled over north-western India between the 2nd century BCE and early 1st century CE. NCERT notes on Indo-Greek rule are important for the IAS Exam. These notes will also be useful for other competitive exams like banking PO, SSC, state civil service exam, and so on. This article talks about the Indo-Greek Rule.

Aspirants can read the important articles similar to Indo-Greek rule from the links provided below:

The Sakas Kushana Empire
The Satavahanas Sunga Dynasty

Indo-Greek Rule (UPSC Notes):- Download PDF Here

Indo-Greek Rule

After the decline of the Mauryas, northern India was split into several kingdoms. In the Magadha region, the Sungas came to power in about 185 BC. After that, the Kanvas came to power who were defeated by the Satavahanas originally from the Deccan. Northwest India was constantly under attack from powers in Central Asia and northwest. The Indo-Greek or the Graeco-Indian Kingdom has established around 180 BC when the Graeco-Bactrian king Demetrius invaded the Indian subcontinent.

Read about Chandragupta Maurya and Mauryan Empire in the linked article.

Indo-Greeks – Initial presence of Greeks in India

  • After Alexander invaded the northwest part of the subcontinent, one of his generals, Seleucus Nicator, founded the Seleucid Empire.
  • In Seleucus’s conflict with the mighty Chandragupta Maurya, he ceded large parts to the west of the Indus, including the Hindu Kush, present-day Afghanistan and Balochistan to the Mauryan king.
  • After this, Megasthenes was sent to reside at Chandragupta Maurya’s court. Other Greek residents at Mauryan courts were Deimachus and Dionysius.
  • Greek populations lived in the north-western part of the Mauryan Empire as evident from Ashoka’s edicts.
  • Mauryas also had departments to take care of foreigners like Yavanas (Greeks) and Persians.
  • In ancient Indian sources, Greeks were called Yavanas (Sanskrit) and Yonas (Pali).

Read about Persian and Greek Invasions of Ancient India in the linked article.

Indo-Greek Kingdom

  • The Indo-Greek kingdom was ruled by over 30 Hellenistic (Greek) kings in the northwest and north India from the 2nd century BC to the beginning of the first century AD.
  • The kingdom started when Graeco-Bactrian king Demetrius (son of Euthydemus I) invaded India around 180 BC. He conquered southern Afghanistan and parts of Punjab.
  • The Indo-Greek kings imbibed Indian culture and became political entities with a mix of Greek and Indian culture.
  • For about 25 years, the Indo-Greek kingdoms were under the Euthydemid rule.
  • Many coins have been unearthed of these kings and most of the information we get about them is from these coins. Coins have been found with Indian and Greek inscriptions. Many coins have been found with images of Indian deities also. The Indo-Greek kings did this to perhaps placate the population most of whom were not Greeks.
  • The civil wars among the many Bactrian kings after the death of Demetrius facilitated the independent kingdom of Apollodotus I who, in this way, can be regarded as the first proper Indo-Greek king (whose rule was not from Bactria).
  • His kingdom included Gandhara and western Punjab.
  • Most of the Indo-Greek kings were Buddhists and Buddhism flourished under their rule.
  • Greek influence is mostly seen in art and sculpture, particularly the Gandhara School of art.

Also, learn the difference between the Gandhara School of Art and Mathura School of Art from the linked article.

Indo-Greek Rulers – Menander I (165 BCE- 145 BCE)

  • Menander I Soter was also known as Minedra, Minadra, or Milinda (in Pali).
  • He was initially a king of Bactria. His empire extended from Kabul river valley in the west to the Ravi River in the east, and from Swat valley in the north to Arachosia (Helmand in Afghanistan).
  • According to some Indian sources, he went as far as Rajasthan and Pataliputra.
  • He converted to Buddhism and patronised the faith.
  • He died in 130 BC and was succeeded by his son Strato I.
  • The Milinda Panha (composed around 100 BC) records a dialogue between Milinda and the Buddhist sage Nagasena. Originally written in Sanskrit, only the Pali version is available now. In the work, Milinda is described as a wise, learned, and able king. At the end of it, Milinda accepts Buddhism and converts.

Coins of Indo-Greeks

The following points are important to remember for UPSC Prelims:

Coins circulated to the north of Hindu Kush region during the rule of Indo-Greeks

  1. There were gold, silver, copper and nickel coins
  2. The coins had greek legends
  3. The Indo-Greek coins had royal portraits on the obverse and greek deities (Zeus, Apollo, and Athena) on the reverse.

Coins circulated to the south of Hindu Kush region during the rule of Indo-Greeks

  1. There were silver and copper coins (mostly in square shape)
  2. Indian weight standards were followed in the making of these coins.
  3. They had bilingual inscriptions – Greek and Kharoshthi
  4. On the obverse of the coin, royal portraits were present and on the reverse, religious symbols (mostly Indian in inspiration) were present

Decline of the Indo-Greek Kingdom

  • The last Indo-Greek king was Strato II. He ruled the Punjab region until 55 BC, some say until 10 AD.
  • Their rule ended with the invasions of the Indo-Scythians (Sakas).
  • It is believed that Greek people lived for several centuries more in India under the Indo-Parthians and the Kushans.

Indo-Greek Rule (UPSC Notes):- Download PDF Here

Also, download UPSC Prelims 2020 Question Papers PDF to practise questions related to ancient Indian history subject.

Aspirants can check the NCERT Ancient History Notes for UPSC page to get important articles for UPSC preparation.

Frequently Asked Questions on Indo-Greek Rule


Q 1. What was the Indo-Greek kingdom?

Ans. The Indo-Greek kingdom was ruled by over 30 Hellenistic (Greek) kings in northwest and north India from the 2nd century BC to the beginning of the first century AD. Graeco-Bactrian king Demetrius invaded India around 180 BC and conquered parts of Afghanistan and Punjab.

Q 2. How did the Indo-Greek Kingdom decline in India?

Ans. The last Indo-Greek king was Strato II. Their rule in India ended with the invasions of the Indo-Scythians (Sakas).
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