In the history of the ancient world, Bactria is
somewhat of an anomaly: a Greek kingdom
located in modern Afghanistan. When Alexander
the Great conquered the Persian Empire, he
acquired all its outlying provinces including
Bactria. Greek forces then established and
maintained control in Bactria. After Alexander’s
death, his kingdom was divided among his
generals and Bactria became part of the eastern
section, ruled by the Seleucid Dynasty. There was
extensive immigration of Greeks who found
several cities based on the Greek model
complete with gymnasiums and amphitheatres.
Later, the Greco-Bactria Kingdom asserted its
independence and quickly expanded its holdings
to the upper reaches of the Indus River Valley.
The Greek Kingdom in Bactria lasted for another
two centuries, until it was finally overwhelmed by
nomadic tribesmen invading from the central
Unfortunately, few traces of the Bactrian
Kingdom remain. Unlike other ancient
civilizations that left behind monumental ruins,
our knowledge of the Bactrian Kingdom is based
upon ancient historical texts reinforced by the
few archaeological artifacts that have survived.
Yet while we cannot stroll down colonnaded
avenues or climb mountainous pyramids and
envision what life might have been like, this
silver vessel gives us a tantalizing taste of the
opulence of this ancient Kingdom.
Holding this delicately hammered bowl, we are
transported back in time to a royal banquet
where a salad or soup might have been served
out of this vessel. The inherent wealth of this
bowl suggests that it was a treasure reserved for
the possession of the ruling elite. This bowl was
likely forged by either a Greek immigrant
silversmith working the region or a local
metalworker who absorbed the stylistic lesson of
Greek examples. While modern day tourists flock
to the ruins of more celebrated ancient cultures,
perhaps no other ancient kingdom is quite so
intriguing and yet so little understood as Bactria.
In this land where kings once ruled over two
thousand years ago, the East and West merged
together, combining the best aspects of both
cultures in luxurious splendor that is Bactria.