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Bactria

Bactria (băkˈtrēə) [key], ancient Greek kingdom in central Asia. Its capital was Bactra, present-day Balkh in N Afghanistan. Before the Greek conquest, the region was an eastern province of the Persian Empire. It prospered as the area for transmitting Siberian and Indian metals and goods to the Persians. When Alexander the Great invaded the Persian Empire, the Bactrians, under Bessus, resisted stoutly, but they were subdued in 328. Bactria took on Greek culture, became quasi-independent, and theoretically remained part of the Seleucid empire. In 256 B.C., Diodotus I was made satrap, and a little later he assumed complete independence. His successor, Euthydemus, successfully resisted attempts (208–206 B.C.) to bring Bactria back into the empire. Euthydemus' son Demetrius made Bactria a powerful state. The Seleucid ruler, Antiochus IV, sent Eucratidas into Bactria, and Eucratidas in 167 B.C. brought about the death of Demetrius but was himself slain in 159 B.C. Menander, Demetrius' general, continued to exercise power until his death in 145 B.C. Bactria later (c.130 B.C.) became part of the Kushan empire. It was subjugated by the Ephthalites in the 5th cent. and partially by the Turks in the 6th cent.

See H. G. Rawlinson, Bactria: The History of a Forgotten Empire (1912, repr. 1969); W. W. Tarn, The Greeks in Bactria and India (2d ed. 1951); A. K. Narain, The Indo-Greeks (1957, repr. 1962).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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