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Basilissa, not mahārāni: The Indo-Greek queen Agathokleia

Gunnar Dumke

Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg

The Indo-Greek queen Agathokleia (her reign can approximately be dated to the last quarter of the second century BCE) appears on coins both in jugate busts together with king Strato and all on her own. Yet in the coin legends she only gets mentioned on the Greek side, the Indian legend always has Strato only. Besides her coins nothing is known about queen Agathokleia and no other sources exist that can shed light on her life and regency. A die-study of all the available conducted by the author enables us for the first time to analyze the material comprehensively, i.e. numismatically and iconographically, thereby superseding the meagre literature produced so far on the subject (Rapson 1908; Tarn 1938; Narain 1957; Widemann 2009).

The Baktrian and ‘Indo-Greek’ kingdoms emerged after the conquests of Alexander III of Macedon in the areas of nowadays Afghanistan and Pakistan. The only sources we have from these kingdoms are coins minted by various kings. These coins are special in that they carry two legends: a Greek one on the obverse, a second in Indian Prakrit written in Kharoṣṭhī on the reverse. In four instances women appear on these coins, mostly with jugate busts, but in one case also completely on their own.

My paper examines the situation of the queens as far as it can be reconstructed from the coins by taking queen Agathokleia as an example. This analysis is a result of a die-study of ‘Indo- Greek’ coinages I have conducted during the last three years. Because of this die-study it will now be possible for the first time to analyze the development of portraits, titles etc. in detail.

During this study Agathokleia has proved to be the most promising and prominent example due to the different types of representation she receives on her coins. She gets depicted on silver coins (drachms and tetradrachms) together with a king Strato as well as completely on her own. Besides this she has her own bronze coinage. In the Greek legend on all her coins she is called basilissa Agathokleia, but in the majority of exemplesshe does not get mentioned in the Indian reverse legend. There it is always mahārāja Strata (=king Strato) who claims authorship for the coins. This dichotomy has never been explored properly, but it seems that the gender roles varied considerably between the two cultures with a Greek basilissa being utterly acceptable but an Indian mahārāni (female form of mahārāja) not. Therefore, the Greek and Indian sides (not only of the coins) will be scrutinized against the background of the role of female queens as it is presented on coins.

Session/Panel Title

Sisters Doin' it for Themselves: Women in Power in the Ancient World and the Ancient Imaginary

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