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The Greeks in Ancient Pakistan

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Publisher:  Indus Publications ISBN-10:  9695290019 Type: 


Copyright:  May 6 2002


The book presents features of Greek or Hellenic Dynasties' rule in Pakistan from Alexander's invasion in 326 BC till Kushan period 3rd century C.E.


Alexander the Great in Ancient Pakistan: Campaigns in Bajaur, Swat, Punjab, Sindh & Makran; Intellectual environment at the time of Alexander’s invasion; Cities & Cantonments built by Alexander the Great; Encounters with Eastern Religions.

Indus Greek Period: Socio-political environment; Demetrius the Founder; Apollodotus the Conqueror; Menander the Consolidator; Menander’s Q&A with Nagasena (Milandapanha); Indus Greek cities at Taxila & Shaikhan Dheri; Classical Greek Temple at Jandial; Coinage.

Philhellenic Dynasties: Hellenic credentials of Indo-Scythians, Indo-Parthians and Kushans; Scythian-Parthian Rule, Kushan Rule; Philhellenic artifacts.

Patronage of Buddhist institutions:  Menander’s and Kanishka’s active espousal of the Buddhist Cause; construction of Buddhist Sangharamas on a large scale.

Gandhara Art: Greek & Persian influences in Gandhara Art.

Trade & Commerce: Overland & Maritime trade; Contribution’s of Skylax and Nearchus in opening up of Maritime routes for trade between East and West.

The Indus Greeks, like their ancestors th Bactrian Greeks, were inspired by the Greeks of Asia Minor in the fields of Architecture and town planning. In Asia Minor the expatriate Greeks built a number of new cities. Over a period of time they developed their own styles in architecture and town planning..........The Hippodamian concept of town planning found application in the layouts of Indus greek cities at Taxila and Peuceloitus.

Professional Reviews

The new synthesis
The Greeks in Ancient Pakistan
By Rafi-us Samad
Reviewed by Pamela Taylor

Alexander the Great of Macedonia established a vast empire in the 330s and 320s BC by storming across the globe from his northern Greek homeland as far as today’s Pakistan, where he spent three years before dying in Babylon in 323 on his return march to Greece at the age of 32. His premature death meant that his empire instantly fell apart, but also guaranteed Alexander’s own enduring unique fame, whether as Alexander or Sikander. After Alexander the Mauryans from Northern India dominated the area for a while, only to be replaced by descendants of Alexander’s soldiers who remained in the Bactrian region north of the Hindu Kush.
It was during the centuries that followed that what we now think of as Indus Greek culture flourished. It was of course a culture that brought together many different elements into a new synthesis, most exquisitely expressed in the masterpieces of Gandharan sculpture, which increasingly focused on Buddhist themes. It also produced work of the highest quality in coinage, in jewelry and in other fields, for example, town planning.
Alexander had chroniclers with him, so that in contrast to most earlier and many later empire builders, precise and reasonably reliable details of his life and campaigns survive, and for the later period there are works by Greek writers such as Megasthenes. These written sources add a whole new dimension to the silent evidence of numismatics, architecture and art.
Rafi Samad, an engineer by training, has carefully assembled all the available evidence, together with the work of specialist research scholars, to provide this straightforward account of the Greeks in the Indus region, for which he coins the term Indusland. After a general introduction, he proceeds chronologically from Alexander’s campaigns of 3274-324 BC to the philhellenic Scythian, Parthian and Kushan dynasties from about 85 BC to 490 AD. Further chapters discuss intellectual and religious interaction, the Greek influence on both architecture and Gandhara art, and finally trade and commerce.
The author has performed a valuable service in bringing together such scattered information. Some of the most useful parts of the book are effectively catalogued, for instance, of the Greek cities; the statues which show the development of Gandhara art; coins and some of the other finds from Taxila, the pre-eminent locus of Greek interaction with local cultures.
In the sections of the book devoted to Alexander, the focus is inevitably on his military campaigns and victories. This emphasis on the military aspects of the subject reflects the primary sources, since the contemporary writers focused almost entirely on the campaigns and the regions through which they and the army passed. Samad is cool-headed about the identification of various uncertain locations, a topic which has sometimes roused pathological levels of scholarly passion.
Nevertheless the concentration on Alexander is excessive, and reflects a more general problem. Samad fails to distinguish sufficiently between the impact and importance of overlordship on the one hand, and the longer term quotidian dynamic of different communities, many of them initially traders rather than soldiers, living and interacting together. The book is therefore rather less than the sum of its several excellent parts, since solid detail in the specific chapters is sometimes contradicted is facile general statements elsewhere. The author knows but forgets that there were already Greek traders in the area before Alexander arrived. Trade and commerce, which ought to be central, only appear as a short final chapter.
A similar reluctance to look at previous or wider contexts is apparent in chapters 8 and 10, which deal with interaction in philosophy and religion. Many of the archaeologists and historians whom Samad acknowledges are western, and he is certainly right in perceiving an earlier imperial bias which claimed the flow of enlightenment to have been entirely a one-way process.
But his own efforts are weakened by unconscious acceptance of the old imperial belief, wrong on all counts, that the Greeks were the forerunners of the Roman and British empires, and therefore entirely in an anachronistic western camp. Thus he opens chapter 10 by claiming that they had been isolated and unaware of higher religious concepts until Alexander’s eastward campaigns, but then admits that contact with the Achaemenid empire had started the process three centuries earlier. As today, processes of cultural contact and exchange took place through many different channels.
The book is copiously illustrated, although many of the pictures and all of the maps are smudgy. It is also let down by poor copy-editing. Greek and Latin endings for personal names are used indiscriminately, as are upper and lower case for terms such as Silk Route. Such flaws are not only irritating but undermine the credibility of what is in fact a useful book.

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