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Ruins in the ancient city of Sirkap, Taxila, Pakistan. Source: NG-Spacetime / Adobe Stock

A Rich Fusion of Greek and Indian: The Ancient Ruins of Sirkap


When Alexander the Great invaded the Far East, his armies were awed by the strange cultures, exotic animals, and unknown religions of India. Alexander promoted a fusion of cultures and his successors endeavored to adopt the cultures and blend into their conquered environments. So too did Demetrios I, a young king of Greek origin, establish the wealthy city of Sirkap, (in present-day Pakistan) where excavations reveal a rich fusion of Greek and Indian cultures.

Prelude to the Indo-Greek Empire

By 317 BC, in the aftermath of the death of Alexander the Great, Chandragupta the founder of the Mauryan Empire (present-day north-western India) had conquered the satraps and defeated Seleucus I, a Macedonian general from Alexander's army.

Whilst the Seleucid Empire to the west was conquered, to the north-east of the Mauryan Kingdom lay the Greco-Bactrian Kingdom, (250 – 125 BC) encompassing Bactria and Sogdiana (north of present-day Afghanistan and on the border of Uzbekistan). The King of the Greco-Bactra Empire, Euthydemus, originated from Magnesia, part of the region of Thessaly and he was the son of the Greek General Apollodotus. The Seleucid ruler Antiochus III attacked Euthydemus around 210 BC. Euthydemus lost a battle to Antiochus and retreated to the fortified city of Bactra, where he successfully resisted a siege, until Antiochus finally decided to recognize the new ruler. Euthydemus was succeeded by his son, the young prince Demetrios 1 in 200 BC, and Antiochus sealed a peace treaty with Demetrios, which included offering his daughter to the young prince, as his wife.

By 185 BC Brihadratha, the last King of the Mauryan Empire, was assassinated during a military parade by his commander-in-chief of the guard, Pushyamitra Shunga, who usurped the throne and established the Shunga dynasty. Demetrios, recognizing that the Khyber Pass was unguarded after the fall of the Mauryan Empire, immediately mobilized his troops - and by 180 BC he had conquered present-day southern Afghanistan and north-western India; in so doing he became a Greek king who founded the Indo-Grecian Kingdom.

Demetrios I Founder of the Indo-Greek Empire

Demetrios was known as ‘ Demetrios Kalinikos’ or ‘Demetrios the Glorious Conqueror,’ or ‘ Demetrios Aniketos,’ meaning ‘Invincible.’ He ruled initially from the wealthy city of Taxila, (in present-day Punjab, Pakistan) situated just across the river from Sirkap. He was never defeated in battle, except for by Pushyamitra Shunga, first ruler of the Shunga Empire, who managed to defeat Demetrios in battle once.


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Top Image: Ruins in the ancient city of Sirkap, Taxila, Pakistan. Source: NG-Spacetime / Adobe Stock

By Micki Pistorius

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Dr Micki

Micki Pistorius is a South African psychologist, author and journalist. As a child, Micki’s natural curiosity was cultivated by both her parents and developed into an insatiable interest in history, art and literature. Her passion for history, archaeology and human... Read More

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