ABDAGASES (Pkt. Avadagaṣa), “great king” of the Pahlava dynasty in Drangiana, Arachosia, Gandhāra, and perhaps loosely over the Indus region. He was a “nephew of Gondophares” (Pkt. gadaphara-bhrataputra), whom he succeeded, ruling ca. 50-60 A.D. Abdagases’ existence is attested solely by his coinage in copper and billon; it imitates Gondophares’ principal coin types and also bears that king’s tamga (perhaps a clan device). Part of his coinage bearing the obverse image of the king on horseback describes him as “ruling over kings” (Gr. basileuontos basileōn), perhaps implying some loosening of the central authority held by Gondophares. Abdagases was not able to hold Gandhāra, which was conquered by the Kushan Soter Megas; the latter was in the process of unifying the Vüeh-chih territories. The conqueror maintained, however, the standard of the Pahlava tetradrachm in his newly acquired province.

The influence of Arsacid coinage on the Pahlavas appears in Abdagases’ placing the initial letters of his name, in Aramaic script, next to his bust on certain drahm obverses. He thus imitated the distinctive practice of Walgaši (Vologeses) I (ca. 51-78 A.D.). The possible relationship of his clan to the Partian Sūrēn family, however, remains uncertain. He might conceivably have been a grandson or other relation to Tacitus’ Abdagaeses (Annals 6.36, etc.). The latter’s son, Sinnaces, plotted to install Tiridates III on the Parthian throne (35-36 A.D.). This Abdagaeses (possibly the very Sūrēn who had crowned the pretender) subsequently advised the unsuccessful Tiridates to leave Seleucia.

The Pahlava Abdagases was succeeded either by Pakores or Orthagnes. These and the following dynasts oriented their coin portraits to the left, in Arsacid fashion, and assumed the inflated title “great king of kings.” Their actual rule, however, became increasingly restricted within Sagastān.


A. Cunningham, “Coins of the Sakas, Part II,” Numismatic Chronicle, 3rd ser., 10, pp. 164-65.

P. Gardner, Catalogue of Indian Coins in the British Museum: the Greek and Scythic Kings of Bactria and India, London, 1886, pp. 107-08.

V. A. Smith, Catalogue of the Coins in the Indian Museum, Calcutta I, Oxford, 1906, p. 57.

R. B. Whitehead, Catalogue of Coins in the Panjab Museum, Lahore I, Oxford, 1914, pp. 61-71.

E. Herzfeld, “Sakastan,” AMI 4, 1932, pp. 70-80, 101-16.

S. Konow, Corpus Inscriptionum Indicarum II, Part I: Kharoshṭhi Inscriptions, Calcutta, 1929, pp. xlv-xlviii.

D. W. MacDowell, “The Dynasty of the Later Indo-Parthians,” Numismatic Chronicle, 7th ser., 5, 1965, pp. 137-48.

Idem, “Soter Megas, the King of Kings, the Kushāṇa” JNSI 30, 1968, pp. 46-47.

A. M. Simonetta, “An Essay on the So-called " Indo-Greek" Coinage,” East and West 8, 1957, pp. 49-51.

Idem, “A New Essay on the Indo-Greeks, the Sakas, and the Pahlavas,” East and West 9, 1958, pp. 171f.

(C. J. Brunner)

Originally Published: December 15, 1982

Last Updated: July 15, 2011

This article is available in print.
Vol. I, Fasc. 2, p. 172

Cite this entry:

C. J. Brunner, “,” Encyclopædia Iranica, I/2, p. 172; an updated version is available online at http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/abdagases-great-king-of-the-pahlava-dynasty-in-drangiana-arachosia-gandhara (accessed on 17 January 2014).