EUTHYDEMUS, name of two Greek kings of Bactria.

Euthydemus I (ca. 230-200 B.C.E.), considered the real founder of the Greco-Bactrian kingdom, was of a family originally from Magnesia-on-the-Meander (apparently not Magnesia-under-Sipylus; Polybius 11.39.1). When Antiochus III (q.v.) invaded Bactria in 208 B.C.E. as part of his attempt to reconquer the eastern satrapies, Euthydemus was defeated in a cavalry engagement on the Harīrūd (Polybius 10.49; cf. Strabo 11.514 and 516) and was beseiged in Zariaspa-Bactra (Balḵ) until 206. In negotiations, he denied that he was a rebel against the Seleucids, saying he “had eliminated the descendants of rebels” (that is, the younger Diodotus). Then, threatening to withdraw his defences on the Jaxartes (Syr Daryā) and admit Scythian invaders, he obtained recognition from Antiochus after surrendering his elephants.

Euthydemus’ portrait coinage, both in gold, which includes a unique gold octadrachm in Paris, and the impressive and copious silver, has on the reverse a seated Heracles. It is chronologically divided by the change of die-axis from opposed to upright. The previous identification as his of a marble bust in the Torlonia Museum, Rome, is rejected by Bernard.



P. Bernard, Fouilles d’Aï Khanoum IV: Les monnaies hors trésors. Questions d’histoire gréco-bactrienne, MDAFA 28, Paris, 1985, pp. 131-33.

O. Bopearachchi, Monnaies gréco-bactriennes et indo-grecques: Catalogue raisonné du Cabinet des Médailles, Paris, 1991, pp. 47-49, 154-63.

W. W. Tarn, The Greeks in Bactria and India, 2nd ed., Cambridge, 1951, pp. 74-75.


Euthydemus II (ca. 190-185 B.C.E.), presumably (from the nomenclature) the second son of Euthydemus I, or less probably (cf. Tarn, p. 76) eldest son of Demetrius I, is known only by his coinage, which is closely linked with that of his presumed successors Agathocles and Pantaleon. The reverse type of his silver is a standing Heracles, who wears one wreath and holds out a second. These three rulers also struck coins of nickel-bronze (80 percent copper, 17 percent nickel) corresponding in value to bronze denominations. The use of nickel was otherwise unknown in antiquity. This unusual metallurgy should perhaps now be compared with recent evidence of zinc production under the Mauryas and Indo-Greeks in Rajasthan. The old theory that the nickel for coinage was imported from China has now been refuted; probably it was a natural admixture in copper ore mined in the Hindu Kush region, though such lodes are still unlocated.

The successors of the Euthydemid dynasty long struggled with the heirs of Eucratides for control of the Indo-Bactrian kingdom.



J.-N. Barrandon and H. Nicolet-Pierre, “Analyses de monnaies royales gréco-bactriennes et indo-grecques des IIe et Ier siècles avant J.-C.,” Schweizer Münzblätter, August 1989, pp. 57-66.

O. Bopearachchi, Monnaies gréco-bactriennes et indo-grecques: Catalogue raisonné du Cabinet des Médailles, Paris, 1991, pp. 55-56.

E. R. Caley, “The Earliest Use of Nickel Alloys in Coinage,” Numismatic Review 1, 1943, pp. 102-3, 117.

S. V. R. Cammann, “Archaeological Evidence for Chinese Contacts with India during the Han Dynasty,” Sinologica (Basel) 5, 1956, pp. 1-19, esp. pp. 2-8.

Idem, “The Bactrian Nickel Theory,” AJA 62, 1958, pp. 409-14.

Idem, “On the Renewed Attempt to Revive the “Bactrian Nickel Theory,” AJA 66, 1962, pp. 92-94.

C. F. Cheng and C. M. Schwitter, “Bactrian Nickel and Chinese Bamboo,” AJA 66, 1962, pp. 87-92 (for bibliography).

M. R. Cowell, “Analyses of the Cupro-nickel Alloy Used for Greek Bactrian Coins,” in Y. Maniatis, ed., International Symposium on Archaeometry, Athens, May 19-23, 1986: Abstracts, p. 40.

W. Flight, “On the Chemical Composition of a Bactrian Coin,” NC, 1868, pp. 305-8.

A. A. Moss, “The Origin of the Nickel Alloy used for Bactrian Coins,” NC, 1950, pp. 317-18.

(A. D. H. Bivar)

Originally Published: December 15, 1998

Last Updated: January 20, 2012

This article is available in print.
Vol. IX, Fasc. 1, pp. 76-77