BACTRIA and MENANDER
Bactria was an ancient country in Central Asia; a satrapy (province) under the Achaemenids and later one of the Hellenistic states founded by the successors of Alexander the Great. It was situated between the Hindu Kush Mountains and the Oxus River (now Amu Darya) in what is now part of Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan. A branch of the Hindu Kush Mountains separated it from the territories of the Sakas (Sacae), a tribe of Scythians. Its capital was Bactra, present-day Wazirabad (formerly Balkh), in north Afghanistan. Before the Greek conquest, Bactria was an eastern province of the Persian Empire.
Iranian peoples probably inhabited Bactria as early as the 8th century BC, and Bactra may have been the cradle of the Zoroastrianism. Bactria was subjugated in the 6th century BC by Cyrus the Great of Persia, and became part of the Persian Empire. Alexander the Great conquered Bactria in 328 BC.
After the death of Alexander in 323 BC, his general, Seleukos Nictator proclaimed himself King of Persia, Bactria and Syria and founded a dynasty, known as the Seleukid dynasty. In 281 BC Seleukos was assassinated and Diodotos, who was a Seleucid governor of Bactria, declared himself king of Bactria. He is considered to be the first ruler of the Indo-Greek dynasty, the kings of which ruled for more than a century in Bactria and Punjab. Disintegration of the Mauryan Empire had provided a tremendous opportunity for Indo-Greek kings for a south-eastern expansion of their kingdoms. Demetrios, king of Bactria (190-171 BC), was the first Indo-Greek ruler who successfully brought most of the Afghanistan, Punjab and Sindh under his control. He took the title "King of Indians", when he occupied the Kabul valley. Following the "conquest of India", Demetrios minted coins showing himself wearing an elephant's scalp.
Demetrios was followed by two of his generals, Apollodotus I and Menander, who proclaimed themselves kings and ruled in different regions of northwestern India.
Menander (160-145 BC) is the only Greek king who has been celebrated in ancient Indian literature. He was known as "Milinda" and his capital was at Sakala, the modern Sialkot city in Pakistan (Euthymedia in Greek). He was one of the two leading characters of a Pali (an ancient language of India) treatise of Milindpanha (Questions of Milinda). This book describes the fundamental principles of Buddhist philosophy, which were narrated in the form of a dialogue between King Milinda and the Buddhist scholar Nagasena.
Hermaeus was the last Indo-Greek king. His kingdom was invaded successively by the Shakas (Scythians), Pahalavas (Parthians), and by Kushans. Coins bearing the last Indo-Greek King Hermaeus and the first Kushan ruler Kujula Kadphises are known, indicating the eventual accession of Kabul valley and the whole of north-western India by Kushan dynasty, the next suzerain power in ancient India.