Bronze coin of Agathocles

Bactrian, about 190-180 BC
Minted in Begram, Afghanistan

Touch the animation button on the left for a translation of the coin legends.

Agathocles was a king of Bactria, an ancient Greek kingdom in central Asia (about 200-145 BC). From 200 BC the kingdom extended its control south of the Hindu Kush into Gandhara (modern Pakistan). The resulting direct contact with India influenced the design of the kingdom's coinage. On the coins intended for circulation south of the Hindu Kush, Indian deities and typical Indian images such as elephants and humped bulls, were often used. This bronze coin depicts the Indian goddess Subhadra (Krishna's sister) and also imitates the conventional square shape of Indian coins. The reverse has the more traditional Greek image of a panther and a legend in Greek, 'Basileos Agathokleous' ('of King Agathocles').

More significantly, this was the earliest bilingual Indo-Greek coin issue, for the obverse (front) carries an Indian translation of the same legend in Prakrit (the local language): 'Rajane Agathuklayasa'. It is written in Brahmi, one of the earliest Indian scripts, which was first deciphered in the 1830s. The realization that the legends on Indo-Greek coins were bilingual led to the decipherment of another ancient Indian script, Kharoshthi, which was adopted instead of Brahmi for all the issues of Agathocles' successors.

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More information


E. Errington and J. Cribb (eds), The Crossroads of Asia: transf (Cambridge, Ancient India and Iran Trust, 1992)


Height: 24.000 mm
Width: 20.000 mm
Weight: 9.870 g

Museum number



India Office Collection
Charles Masson Collection


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