Bactrian language

Bactrian language

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The Bactrian language is an extinct Eastern Iranian language which was spoken in the Central Asia
Central Asia
Central Asia is a core region of the Asian continent from the Caspian Sea in the west, China in the east, Afghanistan in the south, and Russia in the north...

n region of Bactria
Bactria
Bactria and also appears in the Zend Avesta as Bukhdi. It is the ancient name of a historical region located between south of the Amu Darya and west of the Indus River...

. Linguistically, it is classified as belonging to the middle period
Middle Iranian languages
Middle Iranian may refer to any of a group of the Indo-European Iranian languages spoken between the 4th century BC and the 9th century AD:Western:*Parthian *Middle Persian Eastern:*Bactrian*Aryan*Sogdian*Khwarezmian...

 of the East Iranian
Eastern Iranian languages
The Eastern Iranian languages are a subgroup of the Iranian languages emerging in Middle Iranian times .The Avestan language is often classified as early Eastern Iranian. The largest living Eastern Iranian language is Pashto, with some 50 million speakers between the Hindu Kush mountains in...

 branch. Bactrian is closely related to Pashto
Pashto language
Pashto , known as Afghani in Persian and Pathani in Punjabi , is the native language of the indigenous Pashtun people or Afghan people who are found primarily between an area south of the Amu Darya in Afghanistan and...

, as well as Yidgha and Munji, and the medieval languages Sogdian
Sogdian language
The Sogdian language is a Middle Iranian language that was spoken in Sogdiana , located in modern day Uzbekistan and Tajikistan ....

, Khwarezmian
Khwarezmian language
Khwarezmian, also known as Khwarazmian or Chorasmian, is the name of an extinct East Iranian language closely related to Sogdian. The language was spoken in the area of Khwarezm , centered in the lower Amu Darya south of the Aral Sea .Our knowledge of Khwarezmian is...

 and Parthian
Parthian language
The Parthian language, also known as Arsacid Pahlavi and Pahlavanik, is a now-extinct ancient Northwestern Iranian language spoken in Parthia, a region of northeastern ancient Persia during the rule of the Parthian empire....

.

Because Bactrian was written predominantly with the Greek alphabet
Greek alphabet
The Greek alphabet is the script that has been used to write the Greek language since at least 730 BC . The alphabet in its classical and modern form consists of 24 letters ordered in sequence from alpha to omega...

, Bactrian is sometimes referred to as "Greco-Bactrian", "Kushan" or "Kushano-Bactrian". In medieval times, Bactria was also known as Tocharistan, after the incoming Tokharoi
Yuezhi
The Yuezhi, or Rouzhi , also known as the Da Yuezhi or Da Rouzhi , were an ancient Central Asian people....

 tribes, and until the 1970s Bactrian was sometimes referred to as 'Eteo-Tocharian', but it is now certain that Bactrian is not closely related to the Tocharian languages
Tocharian languages
Tocharian or Tokharian is an extinct branch of the Indo-European language family. The name is taken from the people known to the Greeks as the Tocharians . These are sometimes identified with the Yuezhi and the Kushans. The term Tokharistan usually refers to 1st millennium Bactria, which the...

, which do not belong to the Iranian language group. An older notion that the language of the Avesta
Avestan language
Avestan is an East Iranian language known only from its use as the language of Zoroastrian scripture, i.e. the Avesta, from which it derives its name...

 represented (Old) Bactrian "had rightly fallen into discredit by the end of the 19th century" .

Following the conquest of Bactria by Alexander the Great in 323 BC, for about two centuries Greek
Greek language
Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages. Native to the southern Balkans, it has the longest documented history of any Indo-European language, spanning 34 centuries of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the majority of its history;...

 was the administrative language of his Hellenistic successors, that is, the Seleucid and the Greco-Bactrian kingdom
Greco-Bactrian Kingdom
The Greco-Bactrian Kingdom was the easternmost part of the Hellenistic world, covering Bactria and Sogdiana in Central Asia from 250 to 125 BC...

s. At some time after 124 BC, Bactria was overrun by Yuezhi
Yuezhi
The Yuezhi, or Rouzhi , also known as the Da Yuezhi or Da Rouzhi , were an ancient Central Asian people....

 (Tokharoi) tribes. Subsequently, one of the tribes advanced to found the Kushan dynasty
Kushan Empire
The Kushan Empire originally formed in the early 1st century AD under Kujula Kadphises in the territories of ancient Bactria on either side of the middle course of the Oxus in what is now northern Afghanistan, Pakistan, and southern Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.During the 1st and early 2nd centuries...

 in the 1st century AD.

The Kushans at first retained the Greek language
Greek language
Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages. Native to the southern Balkans, it has the longest documented history of any Indo-European language, spanning 34 centuries of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the majority of its history;...

 for administrative purposes, but soon began to use Bactrian, which however was then written using the Greek alphabet
Greek alphabet
The Greek alphabet is the script that has been used to write the Greek language since at least 730 BC . The alphabet in its classical and modern form consists of 24 letters ordered in sequence from alpha to omega...

. The Bactrian Rabatak inscription
Rabatak inscription
The Rabatak inscription is an inscription written on a rock in the Bactrian language and the Greek script, which was found in 1993 at the site of Rabatak, near Surkh Kotal in Afghanistan...

 (discovered in 1993 and deciphered in 2000) records that the Kushan king Kanishka
Kanishka
Kanishka ) was an emperor of the Kushan Empire, ruling an empire extending from Bactria to large parts of northern India in the 2nd century of the common era, and famous for his military, political, and spiritual achievements...

 (c. 127 AD) discarded Greek and adopted Bactrian as "his speech", and the Greek language accordingly vanishes from official use and only Bactrian is attested. The use of the Greek alphabet however remained.

In the 3rd century, the Kushan territories west of the Indus river
Indus River
The Indus River is a major river which flows through Pakistan. It also has courses through China and India.Originating in the Tibetan plateau of western China in the vicinity of Lake Mansarovar in Tibet Autonomous Region, the river runs a course through the Ladakh district of Jammu and Kashmir and...

 fell to the Sassanids
Sassanid Empire
The Sassanid Empire , known to its inhabitants as Ērānshahr and Ērān in Middle Persian and resulting in the New Persian terms Iranshahr and Iran , was the last pre-Islamic Persian Empire, ruled by the Sasanian Dynasty from 224 to 651...

, and Bactrian began to be superseded by Middle Persian
Middle Persian
Middle Persian , indigenously known as "Pârsig" sometimes referred to as Pahlavi or Pehlevi, is the Middle Iranian language/ethnolect of Southwestern Iran that during Sassanid times became a prestige dialect and so came to be spoken in other regions as well. Middle Persian is classified as a...

 as the language of administration and trade. Next to Pahlavi script and (occasionally) Brahmi script
Brāhmī script
Brāhmī is the modern name given to the oldest members of the Brahmic family of scripts. The best-known Brāhmī inscriptions are the rock-cut edicts of Ashoka in north-central India, dated to the 3rd century BCE. These are traditionally considered to be early known examples of Brāhmī writing...

, some coinage of this period is still in Greco-Bactrian script, but southwest Iranian vocabulary and phrasing supersedes Bactrian. Beginning in the mid-4th century, Bactria and northwestern India yielded to Hunnish tribes, and among these the Hephthalite
Hephthalite
The Hephthalites or Hephthalite is a pre-Islamic Greek term for local Abdali Afghans, who's famous ruler was Nazak Abdali . Hephthalites were a Central Asian nomadic confederation of the AD 5th-6th centuries whose precise origins and composition remain obscure...

s prevailed. The Hunnish period is marked by linguistic diversity and in addition to Bactrian and Middle Persian, North Indic, Turkish and Latin vocabulary is also attested. The Hephthalites ruled their territories until the 7th century when they were overrun by the Arabs, after which the official use of Bactrian ceased. Although Bactrian briefly survived in other usage, that too eventually ceased, and the youngest examples of the language date to about the 9th century.

The territorial expansion of the Kushans helped propagate Bactrian to Northern India
India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

 and parts of Central Asia
Central Asia
Central Asia is a core region of the Asian continent from the Caspian Sea in the west, China in the east, Afghanistan in the south, and Russia in the north...

. Sites at which Bactrian language inscriptions have been found are (in North-South order) Afrasiab
Samarkand
Although a Persian-speaking region, it was not united politically with Iran most of the times between the disintegration of the Seleucid Empire and the Arab conquest . In the 6th century it was within the domain of the Turkic kingdom of the Göktürks.At the start of the 8th century Samarkand came...

 in Uzbekistan
Uzbekistan
Uzbekistan , officially the Republic of Uzbekistan is a doubly landlocked country in Central Asia and one of the six independent Turkic states. It shares borders with Kazakhstan to the west and to the north, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan to the east, and Afghanistan and Turkmenistan to the south....

, Kara-Tepe
Termez
Termez is a city in southern Uzbekistan near the border with Afghanistan.Some link the name of the city to thermos, "hot" in Greek, tracing its name back to Alexander the Great. Others suggest that it came from Sanskrit taramato, meaning "on the river bank". It is the hottest point of Uzbekistan...

, Airtam, Delbarjin, Balkh
Balkh
Balkh , was an ancient city and centre of Zoroastrianism in what is now northern Afghanistan. Today it is a small town in the province of Balkh, about 20 kilometers northwest of the provincial capital, Mazar-e Sharif, and some south of the Amu Darya. It was one of the major cities of Khorasan...

, Kunduz
Kunduz
Kunduz also known as Kundûz, Qonduz, Qondûz, Konduz, Kondûz, Kondoz, or Qhunduz is a city in northern Afghanistan, the capital of Kunduz Province. It is linked by highways with Mazari Sharif to the west, Kabul to the south and Tajikistan's border to the north...

, Baglan
Baghlan
Baghlan is a city in northern Afghanistan, in the eponymous province, Baghlan Province. It is located three miles east of the Kunduz River, 35 miles south of Khanabad, and about 1,700 metres above sea level in the northern Hindu Kush...

, Ratabak/Surkh Kotal
Surkh Kotal
Surkh Kotal, alternate names: Chashma-i Shir or Sar-i Chashma is an ancient archaeological site located in the southern part of the region of Bactria, in today's northern Afghanistan, 18 km north of the city of Puli Khumri, the capital of the province Baghlan.It is the location of monumental...

, Oruzgan, Kabul
Kabul
Kabul , spelt Caubul in some classic literatures, is the capital and largest city of Afghanistan. It is also the capital of the Kabul Province, located in the eastern section of Afghanistan...

, Dasht-e Navur, Ghazni
Ghazni
For the Province of Ghazni see Ghazni ProvinceGhazni is a city in central-east Afghanistan with a population of about 141,000 people...

, Jagatu in Afghanistan
Afghanistan
Afghanistan , officially the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, is a landlocked country located in the centre of Asia, forming South Asia, Central Asia and the Middle East. With a population of about 29 million, it has an area of , making it the 42nd most populous and 41st largest nation in the world...

, as well as Islamabad
Islamabad
Islamabad is the capital of Pakistan and the tenth largest city in the country. Located within the Islamabad Capital Territory , the population of the city has grown from 100,000 in 1951 to 1.7 million in 2011...

, Shatial Bridge and Tochi Valley
Tochi Valley
Tochi Valley, , is one of the main routes into Afghanistan from the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa of Pakistan.The Tochi Valley leads from Bannu District through tribal areas, and is inhabited by the Dawari tribe. The valley is divided into two parts, known as Upper and Lower Dawar, by a narrow pass called the...

 in Pakistan
Pakistan
Pakistan , officially the Islamic Republic of Pakistan is a sovereign state in South Asia. It has a coastline along the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Oman in the south and is bordered by Afghanistan and Iran in the west, India in the east and China in the far northeast. In the north, Tajikistan...

. Of eight known manuscript fragments in Greco-Bactrian script, one is from Lou-lan
Loulan
Loulan or Kroran was an ancient kingdom based around an important oasis city already known in the 2nd century BCE on the north-eastern edge of the Lop Desert. Loulan, known to Russian archaeologists as Krorayina, was an ancient kingdom along the Silk Road. In 108 BCE, the Han Dynasty forces...

 and seven from Toyoq, where they were discovered by the second and third Turpan expeditions under Albert von Le Coq
Albert von Le Coq
Albert von Le Coq was a German archaeologist and explorer of Central Asia. He was heir to a sizable fortune derived from breweries and wineries scattered throughout Central and Eastern Europe, thus allowing him the luxury of travel and study at the - no longer existing - Ethnology Museum in Berlin...

. One of these may be a Buddhist text. One other manuscript, in Manichean script, was found at Qočo
Gaochang
Gaochang is the site of an ancient oasis city built on the northern rim of the inhospitable Taklamakan Desert in Xinjiang, China. A busy trading center, it was a stopping point for merchant traders traveling on the Silk Road...

 by Mary Boyce
Mary Boyce
Nora Elisabeth Mary Boyce was a British scholar of Iranian languages, and an authority on Zoroastrianism...

 in 1958.

Among Iranian languages, the use of the Greek alphabet is unique to Bactrian. The Greek alphabet is however not ideal for representing Iranian languages. Although ambiguities remain, some of the disadvantages were overcome by using heta (Ͱ, ͱ) for /h/ and by introducing sho
Sho (letter)
The letter was a letter added to the Greek alphabet in order to write the Bactrian language. It was similar in appearance to the Anglo-Saxon and Icelandic letter thorn , which is sometimes used to represent it in modern print, although both are historically quite unrelated. It probably...





The Bactrian language is an extinct Eastern Iranian language which was spoken in the Central Asia
Central Asia
Central Asia is a core region of the Asian continent from the Caspian Sea in the west, China in the east, Afghanistan in the south, and Russia in the north...

n region of Bactria
Bactria
Bactria and also appears in the Zend Avesta as Bukhdi. It is the ancient name of a historical region located between south of the Amu Darya and west of the Indus River...

. Linguistically, it is classified as belonging to the middle period
Middle Iranian languages
Middle Iranian may refer to any of a group of the Indo-European Iranian languages spoken between the 4th century BC and the 9th century AD:Western:*Parthian *Middle Persian Eastern:*Bactrian*Aryan*Sogdian*Khwarezmian...

 of the East Iranian
Eastern Iranian languages
The Eastern Iranian languages are a subgroup of the Iranian languages emerging in Middle Iranian times .The Avestan language is often classified as early Eastern Iranian. The largest living Eastern Iranian language is Pashto, with some 50 million speakers between the Hindu Kush mountains in...

 branch. Bactrian is closely related to Pashto
Pashto language
Pashto , known as Afghani in Persian and Pathani in Punjabi , is the native language of the indigenous Pashtun people or Afghan people who are found primarily between an area south of the Amu Darya in Afghanistan and...

, as well as Yidgha and Munji, and the medieval languages Sogdian
Sogdian language
The Sogdian language is a Middle Iranian language that was spoken in Sogdiana , located in modern day Uzbekistan and Tajikistan ....

, Khwarezmian
Khwarezmian language
Khwarezmian, also known as Khwarazmian or Chorasmian, is the name of an extinct East Iranian language closely related to Sogdian. The language was spoken in the area of Khwarezm , centered in the lower Amu Darya south of the Aral Sea .Our knowledge of Khwarezmian is...

 and Parthian
Parthian language
The Parthian language, also known as Arsacid Pahlavi and Pahlavanik, is a now-extinct ancient Northwestern Iranian language spoken in Parthia, a region of northeastern ancient Persia during the rule of the Parthian empire....

.

Because Bactrian was written predominantly with the Greek alphabet
Greek alphabet
The Greek alphabet is the script that has been used to write the Greek language since at least 730 BC . The alphabet in its classical and modern form consists of 24 letters ordered in sequence from alpha to omega...

, Bactrian is sometimes referred to as "Greco-Bactrian", "Kushan" or "Kushano-Bactrian". In medieval times, Bactria was also known as Tocharistan, after the incoming Tokharoi
Yuezhi
The Yuezhi, or Rouzhi , also known as the Da Yuezhi or Da Rouzhi , were an ancient Central Asian people....

 tribes, and until the 1970s Bactrian was sometimes referred to as 'Eteo-Tocharian', but it is now certain that Bactrian is not closely related to the Tocharian languages
Tocharian languages
Tocharian or Tokharian is an extinct branch of the Indo-European language family. The name is taken from the people known to the Greeks as the Tocharians . These are sometimes identified with the Yuezhi and the Kushans. The term Tokharistan usually refers to 1st millennium Bactria, which the...

, which do not belong to the Iranian language group. An older notion that the language of the Avesta
Avestan language
Avestan is an East Iranian language known only from its use as the language of Zoroastrian scripture, i.e. the Avesta, from which it derives its name...

 represented (Old) Bactrian "had rightly fallen into discredit by the end of the 19th century" .

Following the conquest of Bactria by Alexander the Great in 323 BC, for about two centuries Greek
Greek language
Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages. Native to the southern Balkans, it has the longest documented history of any Indo-European language, spanning 34 centuries of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the majority of its history;...

 was the administrative language of his Hellenistic successors, that is, the Seleucid and the Greco-Bactrian kingdom
Greco-Bactrian Kingdom
The Greco-Bactrian Kingdom was the easternmost part of the Hellenistic world, covering Bactria and Sogdiana in Central Asia from 250 to 125 BC...

s. At some time after 124 BC, Bactria was overrun by Yuezhi
Yuezhi
The Yuezhi, or Rouzhi , also known as the Da Yuezhi or Da Rouzhi , were an ancient Central Asian people....

 (Tokharoi) tribes. Subsequently, one of the tribes advanced to found the Kushan dynasty
Kushan Empire
The Kushan Empire originally formed in the early 1st century AD under Kujula Kadphises in the territories of ancient Bactria on either side of the middle course of the Oxus in what is now northern Afghanistan, Pakistan, and southern Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.During the 1st and early 2nd centuries...

 in the 1st century AD.

The Kushans at first retained the Greek language
Greek language
Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages. Native to the southern Balkans, it has the longest documented history of any Indo-European language, spanning 34 centuries of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the majority of its history;...

 for administrative purposes, but soon began to use Bactrian, which however was then written using the Greek alphabet
Greek alphabet
The Greek alphabet is the script that has been used to write the Greek language since at least 730 BC . The alphabet in its classical and modern form consists of 24 letters ordered in sequence from alpha to omega...

. The Bactrian Rabatak inscription
Rabatak inscription
The Rabatak inscription is an inscription written on a rock in the Bactrian language and the Greek script, which was found in 1993 at the site of Rabatak, near Surkh Kotal in Afghanistan...

 (discovered in 1993 and deciphered in 2000) records that the Kushan king Kanishka
Kanishka
Kanishka ) was an emperor of the Kushan Empire, ruling an empire extending from Bactria to large parts of northern India in the 2nd century of the common era, and famous for his military, political, and spiritual achievements...

 (c. 127 AD) discarded Greek and adopted Bactrian as "his speech", and the Greek language accordingly vanishes from official use and only Bactrian is attested. The use of the Greek alphabet however remained.

In the 3rd century, the Kushan territories west of the Indus river
Indus River
The Indus River is a major river which flows through Pakistan. It also has courses through China and India.Originating in the Tibetan plateau of western China in the vicinity of Lake Mansarovar in Tibet Autonomous Region, the river runs a course through the Ladakh district of Jammu and Kashmir and...

 fell to the Sassanids
Sassanid Empire
The Sassanid Empire , known to its inhabitants as Ērānshahr and Ērān in Middle Persian and resulting in the New Persian terms Iranshahr and Iran , was the last pre-Islamic Persian Empire, ruled by the Sasanian Dynasty from 224 to 651...

, and Bactrian began to be superseded by Middle Persian
Middle Persian
Middle Persian , indigenously known as "Pârsig" sometimes referred to as Pahlavi or Pehlevi, is the Middle Iranian language/ethnolect of Southwestern Iran that during Sassanid times became a prestige dialect and so came to be spoken in other regions as well. Middle Persian is classified as a...

 as the language of administration and trade. Next to Pahlavi script and (occasionally) Brahmi script
Brāhmī script
Brāhmī is the modern name given to the oldest members of the Brahmic family of scripts. The best-known Brāhmī inscriptions are the rock-cut edicts of Ashoka in north-central India, dated to the 3rd century BCE. These are traditionally considered to be early known examples of Brāhmī writing...

, some coinage of this period is still in Greco-Bactrian script, but southwest Iranian vocabulary and phrasing supersedes Bactrian. Beginning in the mid-4th century, Bactria and northwestern India yielded to Hunnish tribes, and among these the Hephthalite
Hephthalite
The Hephthalites or Hephthalite is a pre-Islamic Greek term for local Abdali Afghans, who's famous ruler was Nazak Abdali . Hephthalites were a Central Asian nomadic confederation of the AD 5th-6th centuries whose precise origins and composition remain obscure...

s prevailed. The Hunnish period is marked by linguistic diversity and in addition to Bactrian and Middle Persian, North Indic, Turkish and Latin vocabulary is also attested. The Hephthalites ruled their territories until the 7th century when they were overrun by the Arabs, after which the official use of Bactrian ceased. Although Bactrian briefly survived in other usage, that too eventually ceased, and the youngest examples of the language date to about the 9th century.

The territorial expansion of the Kushans helped propagate Bactrian to Northern India
India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

 and parts of Central Asia
Central Asia
Central Asia is a core region of the Asian continent from the Caspian Sea in the west, China in the east, Afghanistan in the south, and Russia in the north...

. Sites at which Bactrian language inscriptions have been found are (in North-South order) Afrasiab
Samarkand
Although a Persian-speaking region, it was not united politically with Iran most of the times between the disintegration of the Seleucid Empire and the Arab conquest . In the 6th century it was within the domain of the Turkic kingdom of the Göktürks.At the start of the 8th century Samarkand came...

 in Uzbekistan
Uzbekistan
Uzbekistan , officially the Republic of Uzbekistan is a doubly landlocked country in Central Asia and one of the six independent Turkic states. It shares borders with Kazakhstan to the west and to the north, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan to the east, and Afghanistan and Turkmenistan to the south....

, Kara-Tepe
Termez
Termez is a city in southern Uzbekistan near the border with Afghanistan.Some link the name of the city to thermos, "hot" in Greek, tracing its name back to Alexander the Great. Others suggest that it came from Sanskrit taramato, meaning "on the river bank". It is the hottest point of Uzbekistan...

, Airtam, Delbarjin, Balkh
Balkh
Balkh , was an ancient city and centre of Zoroastrianism in what is now northern Afghanistan. Today it is a small town in the province of Balkh, about 20 kilometers northwest of the provincial capital, Mazar-e Sharif, and some south of the Amu Darya. It was one of the major cities of Khorasan...

, Kunduz
Kunduz
Kunduz also known as Kundûz, Qonduz, Qondûz, Konduz, Kondûz, Kondoz, or Qhunduz is a city in northern Afghanistan, the capital of Kunduz Province. It is linked by highways with Mazari Sharif to the west, Kabul to the south and Tajikistan's border to the north...

, Baglan
Baghlan
Baghlan is a city in northern Afghanistan, in the eponymous province, Baghlan Province. It is located three miles east of the Kunduz River, 35 miles south of Khanabad, and about 1,700 metres above sea level in the northern Hindu Kush...

, Ratabak/Surkh Kotal
Surkh Kotal
Surkh Kotal, alternate names: Chashma-i Shir or Sar-i Chashma is an ancient archaeological site located in the southern part of the region of Bactria, in today's northern Afghanistan, 18 km north of the city of Puli Khumri, the capital of the province Baghlan.It is the location of monumental...

, Oruzgan, Kabul
Kabul
Kabul , spelt Caubul in some classic literatures, is the capital and largest city of Afghanistan. It is also the capital of the Kabul Province, located in the eastern section of Afghanistan...

, Dasht-e Navur, Ghazni
Ghazni
For the Province of Ghazni see Ghazni ProvinceGhazni is a city in central-east Afghanistan with a population of about 141,000 people...

, Jagatu in Afghanistan
Afghanistan
Afghanistan , officially the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, is a landlocked country located in the centre of Asia, forming South Asia, Central Asia and the Middle East. With a population of about 29 million, it has an area of , making it the 42nd most populous and 41st largest nation in the world...

, as well as Islamabad
Islamabad
Islamabad is the capital of Pakistan and the tenth largest city in the country. Located within the Islamabad Capital Territory , the population of the city has grown from 100,000 in 1951 to 1.7 million in 2011...

, Shatial Bridge and Tochi Valley
Tochi Valley
Tochi Valley, , is one of the main routes into Afghanistan from the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa of Pakistan.The Tochi Valley leads from Bannu District through tribal areas, and is inhabited by the Dawari tribe. The valley is divided into two parts, known as Upper and Lower Dawar, by a narrow pass called the...

 in Pakistan
Pakistan
Pakistan , officially the Islamic Republic of Pakistan is a sovereign state in South Asia. It has a coastline along the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Oman in the south and is bordered by Afghanistan and Iran in the west, India in the east and China in the far northeast. In the north, Tajikistan...

. Of eight known manuscript fragments in Greco-Bactrian script, one is from Lou-lan
Loulan
Loulan or Kroran was an ancient kingdom based around an important oasis city already known in the 2nd century BCE on the north-eastern edge of the Lop Desert. Loulan, known to Russian archaeologists as Krorayina, was an ancient kingdom along the Silk Road. In 108 BCE, the Han Dynasty forces...

 and seven from Toyoq, where they were discovered by the second and third Turpan expeditions under Albert von Le Coq
Albert von Le Coq
Albert von Le Coq was a German archaeologist and explorer of Central Asia. He was heir to a sizable fortune derived from breweries and wineries scattered throughout Central and Eastern Europe, thus allowing him the luxury of travel and study at the - no longer existing - Ethnology Museum in Berlin...

. One of these may be a Buddhist text. One other manuscript, in Manichean script, was found at Qočo
Gaochang
Gaochang is the site of an ancient oasis city built on the northern rim of the inhospitable Taklamakan Desert in Xinjiang, China. A busy trading center, it was a stopping point for merchant traders traveling on the Silk Road...

 by Mary Boyce
Mary Boyce
Nora Elisabeth Mary Boyce was a British scholar of Iranian languages, and an authority on Zoroastrianism...

 in 1958.

Among Iranian languages, the use of the Greek alphabet is unique to Bactrian. The Greek alphabet is however not ideal for representing Iranian languages. Although ambiguities remain, some of the disadvantages were overcome by using heta (Ͱ, ͱ) for /h/ and by introducing sho
Sho (letter)
The letter was a letter added to the Greek alphabet in order to write the Bactrian language. It was similar in appearance to the Anglo-Saxon and Icelandic letter thorn , which is sometimes used to represent it in modern print, although both are historically quite unrelated. It probably...





The Bactrian language is an extinct Eastern Iranian language which was spoken in the Central Asia
Central Asia
Central Asia is a core region of the Asian continent from the Caspian Sea in the west, China in the east, Afghanistan in the south, and Russia in the north...

n region of Bactria
Bactria
Bactria and also appears in the Zend Avesta as Bukhdi. It is the ancient name of a historical region located between south of the Amu Darya and west of the Indus River...

. Linguistically, it is classified as belonging to the middle period
Middle Iranian languages
Middle Iranian may refer to any of a group of the Indo-European Iranian languages spoken between the 4th century BC and the 9th century AD:Western:*Parthian *Middle Persian Eastern:*Bactrian*Aryan*Sogdian*Khwarezmian...

 of the East Iranian
Eastern Iranian languages
The Eastern Iranian languages are a subgroup of the Iranian languages emerging in Middle Iranian times .The Avestan language is often classified as early Eastern Iranian. The largest living Eastern Iranian language is Pashto, with some 50 million speakers between the Hindu Kush mountains in...

 branch. Bactrian is closely related to Pashto
Pashto language
Pashto , known as Afghani in Persian and Pathani in Punjabi , is the native language of the indigenous Pashtun people or Afghan people who are found primarily between an area south of the Amu Darya in Afghanistan and...

, as well as Yidgha and Munji, and the medieval languages Sogdian
Sogdian language
The Sogdian language is a Middle Iranian language that was spoken in Sogdiana , located in modern day Uzbekistan and Tajikistan ....

, Khwarezmian
Khwarezmian language
Khwarezmian, also known as Khwarazmian or Chorasmian, is the name of an extinct East Iranian language closely related to Sogdian. The language was spoken in the area of Khwarezm , centered in the lower Amu Darya south of the Aral Sea .Our knowledge of Khwarezmian is...

 and Parthian
Parthian language
The Parthian language, also known as Arsacid Pahlavi and Pahlavanik, is a now-extinct ancient Northwestern Iranian language spoken in Parthia, a region of northeastern ancient Persia during the rule of the Parthian empire....

.

Because Bactrian was written predominantly with the Greek alphabet
Greek alphabet
The Greek alphabet is the script that has been used to write the Greek language since at least 730 BC . The alphabet in its classical and modern form consists of 24 letters ordered in sequence from alpha to omega...

, Bactrian is sometimes referred to as "Greco-Bactrian", "Kushan" or "Kushano-Bactrian". In medieval times, Bactria was also known as Tocharistan, after the incoming Tokharoi
Yuezhi
The Yuezhi, or Rouzhi , also known as the Da Yuezhi or Da Rouzhi , were an ancient Central Asian people....

 tribes, and until the 1970s Bactrian was sometimes referred to as 'Eteo-Tocharian', but it is now certain that Bactrian is not closely related to the Tocharian languages
Tocharian languages
Tocharian or Tokharian is an extinct branch of the Indo-European language family. The name is taken from the people known to the Greeks as the Tocharians . These are sometimes identified with the Yuezhi and the Kushans. The term Tokharistan usually refers to 1st millennium Bactria, which the...

, which do not belong to the Iranian language group. An older notion that the language of the Avesta
Avestan language
Avestan is an East Iranian language known only from its use as the language of Zoroastrian scripture, i.e. the Avesta, from which it derives its name...

 represented (Old) Bactrian "had rightly fallen into discredit by the end of the 19th century" .

Following the conquest of Bactria by Alexander the Great in 323 BC, for about two centuries Greek
Greek language
Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages. Native to the southern Balkans, it has the longest documented history of any Indo-European language, spanning 34 centuries of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the majority of its history;...

 was the administrative language of his Hellenistic successors, that is, the Seleucid and the Greco-Bactrian kingdom
Greco-Bactrian Kingdom
The Greco-Bactrian Kingdom was the easternmost part of the Hellenistic world, covering Bactria and Sogdiana in Central Asia from 250 to 125 BC...

s. At some time after 124 BC, Bactria was overrun by Yuezhi
Yuezhi
The Yuezhi, or Rouzhi , also known as the Da Yuezhi or Da Rouzhi , were an ancient Central Asian people....

 (Tokharoi) tribes. Subsequently, one of the tribes advanced to found the Kushan dynasty
Kushan Empire
The Kushan Empire originally formed in the early 1st century AD under Kujula Kadphises in the territories of ancient Bactria on either side of the middle course of the Oxus in what is now northern Afghanistan, Pakistan, and southern Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.During the 1st and early 2nd centuries...

 in the 1st century AD.

The Kushans at first retained the Greek language
Greek language
Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages. Native to the southern Balkans, it has the longest documented history of any Indo-European language, spanning 34 centuries of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the majority of its history;...

 for administrative purposes, but soon began to use Bactrian, which however was then written using the Greek alphabet
Greek alphabet
The Greek alphabet is the script that has been used to write the Greek language since at least 730 BC . The alphabet in its classical and modern form consists of 24 letters ordered in sequence from alpha to omega...

. The Bactrian Rabatak inscription
Rabatak inscription
The Rabatak inscription is an inscription written on a rock in the Bactrian language and the Greek script, which was found in 1993 at the site of Rabatak, near Surkh Kotal in Afghanistan...

 (discovered in 1993 and deciphered in 2000) records that the Kushan king Kanishka
Kanishka
Kanishka ) was an emperor of the Kushan Empire, ruling an empire extending from Bactria to large parts of northern India in the 2nd century of the common era, and famous for his military, political, and spiritual achievements...

 (c. 127 AD) discarded Greek and adopted Bactrian as "his speech", and the Greek language accordingly vanishes from official use and only Bactrian is attested. The use of the Greek alphabet however remained.

In the 3rd century, the Kushan territories west of the Indus river
Indus River
The Indus River is a major river which flows through Pakistan. It also has courses through China and India.Originating in the Tibetan plateau of western China in the vicinity of Lake Mansarovar in Tibet Autonomous Region, the river runs a course through the Ladakh district of Jammu and Kashmir and...

 fell to the Sassanids
Sassanid Empire
The Sassanid Empire , known to its inhabitants as Ērānshahr and Ērān in Middle Persian and resulting in the New Persian terms Iranshahr and Iran , was the last pre-Islamic Persian Empire, ruled by the Sasanian Dynasty from 224 to 651...

, and Bactrian began to be superseded by Middle Persian
Middle Persian
Middle Persian , indigenously known as "Pârsig" sometimes referred to as Pahlavi or Pehlevi, is the Middle Iranian language/ethnolect of Southwestern Iran that during Sassanid times became a prestige dialect and so came to be spoken in other regions as well. Middle Persian is classified as a...

 as the language of administration and trade. Next to Pahlavi script and (occasionally) Brahmi script
Brāhmī script
Brāhmī is the modern name given to the oldest members of the Brahmic family of scripts. The best-known Brāhmī inscriptions are the rock-cut edicts of Ashoka in north-central India, dated to the 3rd century BCE. These are traditionally considered to be early known examples of Brāhmī writing...

, some coinage of this period is still in Greco-Bactrian script, but southwest Iranian vocabulary and phrasing supersedes Bactrian. Beginning in the mid-4th century, Bactria and northwestern India yielded to Hunnish tribes, and among these the Hephthalite
Hephthalite
The Hephthalites or Hephthalite is a pre-Islamic Greek term for local Abdali Afghans, who's famous ruler was Nazak Abdali . Hephthalites were a Central Asian nomadic confederation of the AD 5th-6th centuries whose precise origins and composition remain obscure...

s prevailed. The Hunnish period is marked by linguistic diversity and in addition to Bactrian and Middle Persian, North Indic, Turkish and Latin vocabulary is also attested. The Hephthalites ruled their territories until the 7th century when they were overrun by the Arabs, after which the official use of Bactrian ceased. Although Bactrian briefly survived in other usage, that too eventually ceased, and the youngest examples of the language date to about the 9th century.

The territorial expansion of the Kushans helped propagate Bactrian to Northern India
India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

 and parts of Central Asia
Central Asia
Central Asia is a core region of the Asian continent from the Caspian Sea in the west, China in the east, Afghanistan in the south, and Russia in the north...

. Sites at which Bactrian language inscriptions have been found are (in North-South order) Afrasiab
Samarkand
Although a Persian-speaking region, it was not united politically with Iran most of the times between the disintegration of the Seleucid Empire and the Arab conquest . In the 6th century it was within the domain of the Turkic kingdom of the Göktürks.At the start of the 8th century Samarkand came...

 in Uzbekistan
Uzbekistan
Uzbekistan , officially the Republic of Uzbekistan is a doubly landlocked country in Central Asia and one of the six independent Turkic states. It shares borders with Kazakhstan to the west and to the north, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan to the east, and Afghanistan and Turkmenistan to the south....

, Kara-Tepe
Termez
Termez is a city in southern Uzbekistan near the border with Afghanistan.Some link the name of the city to thermos, "hot" in Greek, tracing its name back to Alexander the Great. Others suggest that it came from Sanskrit taramato, meaning "on the river bank". It is the hottest point of Uzbekistan...

, Airtam, Delbarjin, Balkh
Balkh
Balkh , was an ancient city and centre of Zoroastrianism in what is now northern Afghanistan. Today it is a small town in the province of Balkh, about 20 kilometers northwest of the provincial capital, Mazar-e Sharif, and some south of the Amu Darya. It was one of the major cities of Khorasan...

, Kunduz
Kunduz
Kunduz also known as Kundûz, Qonduz, Qondûz, Konduz, Kondûz, Kondoz, or Qhunduz is a city in northern Afghanistan, the capital of Kunduz Province. It is linked by highways with Mazari Sharif to the west, Kabul to the south and Tajikistan's border to the north...

, Baglan
Baghlan
Baghlan is a city in northern Afghanistan, in the eponymous province, Baghlan Province. It is located three miles east of the Kunduz River, 35 miles south of Khanabad, and about 1,700 metres above sea level in the northern Hindu Kush...

, Ratabak/Surkh Kotal
Surkh Kotal
Surkh Kotal, alternate names: Chashma-i Shir or Sar-i Chashma is an ancient archaeological site located in the southern part of the region of Bactria, in today's northern Afghanistan, 18 km north of the city of Puli Khumri, the capital of the province Baghlan.It is the location of monumental...

, Oruzgan, Kabul
Kabul
Kabul , spelt Caubul in some classic literatures, is the capital and largest city of Afghanistan. It is also the capital of the Kabul Province, located in the eastern section of Afghanistan...

, Dasht-e Navur, Ghazni
Ghazni
For the Province of Ghazni see Ghazni ProvinceGhazni is a city in central-east Afghanistan with a population of about 141,000 people...

, Jagatu in Afghanistan
Afghanistan
Afghanistan , officially the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, is a landlocked country located in the centre of Asia, forming South Asia, Central Asia and the Middle East. With a population of about 29 million, it has an area of , making it the 42nd most populous and 41st largest nation in the world...

, as well as Islamabad
Islamabad
Islamabad is the capital of Pakistan and the tenth largest city in the country. Located within the Islamabad Capital Territory , the population of the city has grown from 100,000 in 1951 to 1.7 million in 2011...

, Shatial Bridge and Tochi Valley
Tochi Valley
Tochi Valley, , is one of the main routes into Afghanistan from the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa of Pakistan.The Tochi Valley leads from Bannu District through tribal areas, and is inhabited by the Dawari tribe. The valley is divided into two parts, known as Upper and Lower Dawar, by a narrow pass called the...

 in Pakistan
Pakistan
Pakistan , officially the Islamic Republic of Pakistan is a sovereign state in South Asia. It has a coastline along the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Oman in the south and is bordered by Afghanistan and Iran in the west, India in the east and China in the far northeast. In the north, Tajikistan...

. Of eight known manuscript fragments in Greco-Bactrian script, one is from Lou-lan
Loulan
Loulan or Kroran was an ancient kingdom based around an important oasis city already known in the 2nd century BCE on the north-eastern edge of the Lop Desert. Loulan, known to Russian archaeologists as Krorayina, was an ancient kingdom along the Silk Road. In 108 BCE, the Han Dynasty forces...

 and seven from Toyoq, where they were discovered by the second and third Turpan expeditions under Albert von Le Coq
Albert von Le Coq
Albert von Le Coq was a German archaeologist and explorer of Central Asia. He was heir to a sizable fortune derived from breweries and wineries scattered throughout Central and Eastern Europe, thus allowing him the luxury of travel and study at the - no longer existing - Ethnology Museum in Berlin...

. One of these may be a Buddhist text. One other manuscript, in Manichean script, was found at Qočo
Gaochang
Gaochang is the site of an ancient oasis city built on the northern rim of the inhospitable Taklamakan Desert in Xinjiang, China. A busy trading center, it was a stopping point for merchant traders traveling on the Silk Road...

 by Mary Boyce
Mary Boyce
Nora Elisabeth Mary Boyce was a British scholar of Iranian languages, and an authority on Zoroastrianism...

 in 1958.

Among Iranian languages, the use of the Greek alphabet is unique to Bactrian. The Greek alphabet is however not ideal for representing Iranian languages. Although ambiguities remain, some of the disadvantages were overcome by using heta (Ͱ, ͱ) for /h/ and by introducing sho
Sho (letter)
The letter was a letter added to the Greek alphabet in order to write the Bactrian language. It was similar in appearance to the Anglo-Saxon and Icelandic letter thorn , which is sometimes used to represent it in modern print, although both are historically quite unrelated. It probably...





The Bactrian language is an extinct Eastern Iranian language which was spoken in the Central Asia
Central Asia
Central Asia is a core region of the Asian continent from the Caspian Sea in the west, China in the east, Afghanistan in the south, and Russia in the north...

n region of Bactria
Bactria
Bactria and also appears in the Zend Avesta as Bukhdi. It is the ancient name of a historical region located between south of the Amu Darya and west of the Indus River...

. Linguistically, it is classified as belonging to the middle period
Middle Iranian languages
Middle Iranian may refer to any of a group of the Indo-European Iranian languages spoken between the 4th century BC and the 9th century AD:Western:*Parthian *Middle Persian Eastern:*Bactrian*Aryan*Sogdian*Khwarezmian...

 of the East Iranian
Eastern Iranian languages
The Eastern Iranian languages are a subgroup of the Iranian languages emerging in Middle Iranian times .The Avestan language is often classified as early Eastern Iranian. The largest living Eastern Iranian language is Pashto, with some 50 million speakers between the Hindu Kush mountains in...

 branch. Bactrian is closely related to Pashto
Pashto language
Pashto , known as Afghani in Persian and Pathani in Punjabi , is the native language of the indigenous Pashtun people or Afghan people who are found primarily between an area south of the Amu Darya in Afghanistan and...

, as well as Yidgha and Munji, and the medieval languages Sogdian
Sogdian language
The Sogdian language is a Middle Iranian language that was spoken in Sogdiana , located in modern day Uzbekistan and Tajikistan ....

, Khwarezmian
Khwarezmian language
Khwarezmian, also known as Khwarazmian or Chorasmian, is the name of an extinct East Iranian language closely related to Sogdian. The language was spoken in the area of Khwarezm , centered in the lower Amu Darya south of the Aral Sea .Our knowledge of Khwarezmian is...

 and Parthian
Parthian language
The Parthian language, also known as Arsacid Pahlavi and Pahlavanik, is a now-extinct ancient Northwestern Iranian language spoken in Parthia, a region of northeastern ancient Persia during the rule of the Parthian empire....

.

Because Bactrian was written predominantly with the Greek alphabet
Greek alphabet
The Greek alphabet is the script that has been used to write the Greek language since at least 730 BC . The alphabet in its classical and modern form consists of 24 letters ordered in sequence from alpha to omega...

, Bactrian is sometimes referred to as "Greco-Bactrian", "Kushan" or "Kushano-Bactrian". In medieval times, Bactria was also known as Tocharistan, after the incoming Tokharoi
Yuezhi
The Yuezhi, or Rouzhi , also known as the Da Yuezhi or Da Rouzhi , were an ancient Central Asian people....

 tribes, and until the 1970s Bactrian was sometimes referred to as 'Eteo-Tocharian', but it is now certain that Bactrian is not closely related to the Tocharian languages
Tocharian languages
Tocharian or Tokharian is an extinct branch of the Indo-European language family. The name is taken from the people known to the Greeks as the Tocharians . These are sometimes identified with the Yuezhi and the Kushans. The term Tokharistan usually refers to 1st millennium Bactria, which the...

, which do not belong to the Iranian language group. An older notion that the language of the Avesta
Avestan language
Avestan is an East Iranian language known only from its use as the language of Zoroastrian scripture, i.e. the Avesta, from which it derives its name...

 represented (Old) Bactrian "had rightly fallen into discredit by the end of the 19th century" .

Following the conquest of Bactria by Alexander the Great in 323 BC, for about two centuries Greek
Greek language
Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages. Native to the southern Balkans, it has the longest documented history of any Indo-European language, spanning 34 centuries of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the majority of its history;...

 was the administrative language of his Hellenistic successors, that is, the Seleucid and the Greco-Bactrian kingdom
Greco-Bactrian Kingdom
The Greco-Bactrian Kingdom was the easternmost part of the Hellenistic world, covering Bactria and Sogdiana in Central Asia from 250 to 125 BC...

s. At some time after 124 BC, Bactria was overrun by Yuezhi
Yuezhi
The Yuezhi, or Rouzhi , also known as the Da Yuezhi or Da Rouzhi , were an ancient Central Asian people....

 (Tokharoi) tribes. Subsequently, one of the tribes advanced to found the Kushan dynasty
Kushan Empire
The Kushan Empire originally formed in the early 1st century AD under Kujula Kadphises in the territories of ancient Bactria on either side of the middle course of the Oxus in what is now northern Afghanistan, Pakistan, and southern Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.During the 1st and early 2nd centuries...

 in the 1st century AD.

The Kushans at first retained the Greek language
Greek language
Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages. Native to the southern Balkans, it has the longest documented history of any Indo-European language, spanning 34 centuries of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the majority of its history;...

 for administrative purposes, but soon began to use Bactrian, which however was then written using the Greek alphabet
Greek alphabet
The Greek alphabet is the script that has been used to write the Greek language since at least 730 BC . The alphabet in its classical and modern form consists of 24 letters ordered in sequence from alpha to omega...

. The Bactrian Rabatak inscription
Rabatak inscription
The Rabatak inscription is an inscription written on a rock in the Bactrian language and the Greek script, which was found in 1993 at the site of Rabatak, near Surkh Kotal in Afghanistan...

 (discovered in 1993 and deciphered in 2000) records that the Kushan king Kanishka
Kanishka
Kanishka ) was an emperor of the Kushan Empire, ruling an empire extending from Bactria to large parts of northern India in the 2nd century of the common era, and famous for his military, political, and spiritual achievements...

 (c. 127 AD) discarded Greek and adopted Bactrian as "his speech", and the Greek language accordingly vanishes from official use and only Bactrian is attested. The use of the Greek alphabet however remained.

In the 3rd century, the Kushan territories west of the Indus river
Indus River
The Indus River is a major river which flows through Pakistan. It also has courses through China and India.Originating in the Tibetan plateau of western China in the vicinity of Lake Mansarovar in Tibet Autonomous Region, the river runs a course through the Ladakh district of Jammu and Kashmir and...

 fell to the Sassanids
Sassanid Empire
The Sassanid Empire , known to its inhabitants as Ērānshahr and Ērān in Middle Persian and resulting in the New Persian terms Iranshahr and Iran , was the last pre-Islamic Persian Empire, ruled by the Sasanian Dynasty from 224 to 651...

, and Bactrian began to be superseded by Middle Persian
Middle Persian
Middle Persian , indigenously known as "Pârsig" sometimes referred to as Pahlavi or Pehlevi, is the Middle Iranian language/ethnolect of Southwestern Iran that during Sassanid times became a prestige dialect and so came to be spoken in other regions as well. Middle Persian is classified as a...

 as the language of administration and trade. Next to Pahlavi script and (occasionally) Brahmi script
Brāhmī script
Brāhmī is the modern name given to the oldest members of the Brahmic family of scripts. The best-known Brāhmī inscriptions are the rock-cut edicts of Ashoka in north-central India, dated to the 3rd century BCE. These are traditionally considered to be early known examples of Brāhmī writing...

, some coinage of this period is still in Greco-Bactrian script, but southwest Iranian vocabulary and phrasing supersedes Bactrian. Beginning in the mid-4th century, Bactria and northwestern India yielded to Hunnish tribes, and among these the Hephthalite
Hephthalite
The Hephthalites or Hephthalite is a pre-Islamic Greek term for local Abdali Afghans, who's famous ruler was Nazak Abdali . Hephthalites were a Central Asian nomadic confederation of the AD 5th-6th centuries whose precise origins and composition remain obscure...

s prevailed. The Hunnish period is marked by linguistic diversity and in addition to Bactrian and Middle Persian, North Indic, Turkish and Latin vocabulary is also attested. The Hephthalites ruled their territories until the 7th century when they were overrun by the Arabs, after which the official use of Bactrian ceased. Although Bactrian briefly survived in other usage, that too eventually ceased, and the youngest examples of the language date to about the 9th century.

The territorial expansion of the Kushans helped propagate Bactrian to Northern India
India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

 and parts of Central Asia
Central Asia
Central Asia is a core region of the Asian continent from the Caspian Sea in the west, China in the east, Afghanistan in the south, and Russia in the north...

. Sites at which Bactrian language inscriptions have been found are (in North-South order) Afrasiab
Samarkand
Although a Persian-speaking region, it was not united politically with Iran most of the times between the disintegration of the Seleucid Empire and the Arab conquest . In the 6th century it was within the domain of the Turkic kingdom of the Göktürks.At the start of the 8th century Samarkand came...

 in Uzbekistan
Uzbekistan
Uzbekistan , officially the Republic of Uzbekistan is a doubly landlocked country in Central Asia and one of the six independent Turkic states. It shares borders with Kazakhstan to the west and to the north, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan to the east, and Afghanistan and Turkmenistan to the south....

, Kara-Tepe
Termez
Termez is a city in southern Uzbekistan near the border with Afghanistan.Some link the name of the city to thermos, "hot" in Greek, tracing its name back to Alexander the Great. Others suggest that it came from Sanskrit taramato, meaning "on the river bank". It is the hottest point of Uzbekistan...

, Airtam, Delbarjin, Balkh
Balkh
Balkh , was an ancient city and centre of Zoroastrianism in what is now northern Afghanistan. Today it is a small town in the province of Balkh, about 20 kilometers northwest of the provincial capital, Mazar-e Sharif, and some south of the Amu Darya. It was one of the major cities of Khorasan...

, Kunduz
Kunduz
Kunduz also known as Kundûz, Qonduz, Qondûz, Konduz, Kondûz, Kondoz, or Qhunduz is a city in northern Afghanistan, the capital of Kunduz Province. It is linked by highways with Mazari Sharif to the west, Kabul to the south and Tajikistan's border to the north...

, Baglan
Baghlan
Baghlan is a city in northern Afghanistan, in the eponymous province, Baghlan Province. It is located three miles east of the Kunduz River, 35 miles south of Khanabad, and about 1,700 metres above sea level in the northern Hindu Kush...

, Ratabak/Surkh Kotal
Surkh Kotal
Surkh Kotal, alternate names: Chashma-i Shir or Sar-i Chashma is an ancient archaeological site located in the southern part of the region of Bactria, in today's northern Afghanistan, 18 km north of the city of Puli Khumri, the capital of the province Baghlan.It is the location of monumental...

, Oruzgan, Kabul
Kabul
Kabul , spelt Caubul in some classic literatures, is the capital and largest city of Afghanistan. It is also the capital of the Kabul Province, located in the eastern section of Afghanistan...

, Dasht-e Navur, Ghazni
Ghazni
For the Province of Ghazni see Ghazni ProvinceGhazni is a city in central-east Afghanistan with a population of about 141,000 people...

, Jagatu in Afghanistan
Afghanistan
Afghanistan , officially the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, is a landlocked country located in the centre of Asia, forming South Asia, Central Asia and the Middle East. With a population of about 29 million, it has an area of , making it the 42nd most populous and 41st largest nation in the world...

, as well as Islamabad
Islamabad
Islamabad is the capital of Pakistan and the tenth largest city in the country. Located within the Islamabad Capital Territory , the population of the city has grown from 100,000 in 1951 to 1.7 million in 2011...

, Shatial Bridge and Tochi Valley
Tochi Valley
Tochi Valley, , is one of the main routes into Afghanistan from the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa of Pakistan.The Tochi Valley leads from Bannu District through tribal areas, and is inhabited by the Dawari tribe. The valley is divided into two parts, known as Upper and Lower Dawar, by a narrow pass called the...

 in Pakistan
Pakistan
Pakistan , officially the Islamic Republic of Pakistan is a sovereign state in South Asia. It has a coastline along the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Oman in the south and is bordered by Afghanistan and Iran in the west, India in the east and China in the far northeast. In the north, Tajikistan...

. Of eight known manuscript fragments in Greco-Bactrian script, one is from Lou-lan
Loulan
Loulan or Kroran was an ancient kingdom based around an important oasis city already known in the 2nd century BCE on the north-eastern edge of the Lop Desert. Loulan, known to Russian archaeologists as Krorayina, was an ancient kingdom along the Silk Road. In 108 BCE, the Han Dynasty forces...

 and seven from Toyoq, where they were discovered by the second and third Turpan expeditions under Albert von Le Coq
Albert von Le Coq
Albert von Le Coq was a German archaeologist and explorer of Central Asia. He was heir to a sizable fortune derived from breweries and wineries scattered throughout Central and Eastern Europe, thus allowing him the luxury of travel and study at the - no longer existing - Ethnology Museum in Berlin...

. One of these may be a Buddhist text. One other manuscript, in Manichean script, was found at Qočo
Gaochang
Gaochang is the site of an ancient oasis city built on the northern rim of the inhospitable Taklamakan Desert in Xinjiang, China. A busy trading center, it was a stopping point for merchant traders traveling on the Silk Road...

 by Mary Boyce
Mary Boyce
Nora Elisabeth Mary Boyce was a British scholar of Iranian languages, and an authority on Zoroastrianism...

 in 1958.

Among Iranian languages, the use of the Greek alphabet is unique to Bactrian. The Greek alphabet is however not ideal for representing Iranian languages. Although ambiguities remain, some of the disadvantages were overcome by using heta (Ͱ, ͱ) for /h/ and by introducing sho
Sho (letter)
The letter was a letter added to the Greek alphabet in order to write the Bactrian language. It was similar in appearance to the Anglo-Saxon and Icelandic letter thorn , which is sometimes used to represent it in modern print, although both are historically quite unrelated. It probably...





The Bactrian language is an extinct Eastern Iranian language which was spoken in the Central Asia
Central Asia
Central Asia is a core region of the Asian continent from the Caspian Sea in the west, China in the east, Afghanistan in the south, and Russia in the north...

n region of Bactria
Bactria
Bactria and also appears in the Zend Avesta as Bukhdi. It is the ancient name of a historical region located between south of the Amu Darya and west of the Indus River...

. Linguistically, it is classified as belonging to the middle period
Middle Iranian languages
Middle Iranian may refer to any of a group of the Indo-European Iranian languages spoken between the 4th century BC and the 9th century AD:Western:*Parthian *Middle Persian Eastern:*Bactrian*Aryan*Sogdian*Khwarezmian...

 of the East Iranian
Eastern Iranian languages
The Eastern Iranian languages are a subgroup of the Iranian languages emerging in Middle Iranian times .The Avestan language is often classified as early Eastern Iranian. The largest living Eastern Iranian language is Pashto, with some 50 million speakers between the Hindu Kush mountains in...

 branch. Bactrian is closely related to Pashto
Pashto language
Pashto , known as Afghani in Persian and Pathani in Punjabi , is the native language of the indigenous Pashtun people or Afghan people who are found primarily between an area south of the Amu Darya in Afghanistan and...

, as well as Yidgha and Munji, and the medieval languages Sogdian
Sogdian language
The Sogdian language is a Middle Iranian language that was spoken in Sogdiana , located in modern day Uzbekistan and Tajikistan ....

, Khwarezmian
Khwarezmian language
Khwarezmian, also known as Khwarazmian or Chorasmian, is the name of an extinct East Iranian language closely related to Sogdian. The language was spoken in the area of Khwarezm , centered in the lower Amu Darya south of the Aral Sea .Our knowledge of Khwarezmian is...

 and Parthian
Parthian language
The Parthian language, also known as Arsacid Pahlavi and Pahlavanik, is a now-extinct ancient Northwestern Iranian language spoken in Parthia, a region of northeastern ancient Persia during the rule of the Parthian empire....

.

Because Bactrian was written predominantly with the Greek alphabet
Greek alphabet
The Greek alphabet is the script that has been used to write the Greek language since at least 730 BC . The alphabet in its classical and modern form consists of 24 letters ordered in sequence from alpha to omega...

, Bactrian is sometimes referred to as "Greco-Bactrian", "Kushan" or "Kushano-Bactrian". In medieval times, Bactria was also known as Tocharistan, after the incoming Tokharoi
Yuezhi
The Yuezhi, or Rouzhi , also known as the Da Yuezhi or Da Rouzhi , were an ancient Central Asian people....

 tribes, and until the 1970s Bactrian was sometimes referred to as 'Eteo-Tocharian', but it is now certain that Bactrian is not closely related to the Tocharian languages
Tocharian languages
Tocharian or Tokharian is an extinct branch of the Indo-European language family. The name is taken from the people known to the Greeks as the Tocharians . These are sometimes identified with the Yuezhi and the Kushans. The term Tokharistan usually refers to 1st millennium Bactria, which the...

, which do not belong to the Iranian language group. An older notion that the language of the Avesta
Avestan language
Avestan is an East Iranian language known only from its use as the language of Zoroastrian scripture, i.e. the Avesta, from which it derives its name...

 represented (Old) Bactrian "had rightly fallen into discredit by the end of the 19th century" .

Following the conquest of Bactria by Alexander the Great in 323 BC, for about two centuries Greek
Greek language
Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages. Native to the southern Balkans, it has the longest documented history of any Indo-European language, spanning 34 centuries of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the majority of its history;...

 was the administrative language of his Hellenistic successors, that is, the Seleucid and the Greco-Bactrian kingdom
Greco-Bactrian Kingdom
The Greco-Bactrian Kingdom was the easternmost part of the Hellenistic world, covering Bactria and Sogdiana in Central Asia from 250 to 125 BC...

s. At some time after 124 BC, Bactria was overrun by Yuezhi
Yuezhi
The Yuezhi, or Rouzhi , also known as the Da Yuezhi or Da Rouzhi , were an ancient Central Asian people....

 (Tokharoi) tribes. Subsequently, one of the tribes advanced to found the Kushan dynasty
Kushan Empire
The Kushan Empire originally formed in the early 1st century AD under Kujula Kadphises in the territories of ancient Bactria on either side of the middle course of the Oxus in what is now northern Afghanistan, Pakistan, and southern Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.During the 1st and early 2nd centuries...

 in the 1st century AD.

The Kushans at first retained the Greek language
Greek language
Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages. Native to the southern Balkans, it has the longest documented history of any Indo-European language, spanning 34 centuries of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the majority of its history;...

 for administrative purposes, but soon began to use Bactrian, which however was then written using the Greek alphabet
Greek alphabet
The Greek alphabet is the script that has been used to write the Greek language since at least 730 BC . The alphabet in its classical and modern form consists of 24 letters ordered in sequence from alpha to omega...

. The Bactrian Rabatak inscription
Rabatak inscription
The Rabatak inscription is an inscription written on a rock in the Bactrian language and the Greek script, which was found in 1993 at the site of Rabatak, near Surkh Kotal in Afghanistan...

 (discovered in 1993 and deciphered in 2000) records that the Kushan king Kanishka
Kanishka
Kanishka ) was an emperor of the Kushan Empire, ruling an empire extending from Bactria to large parts of northern India in the 2nd century of the common era, and famous for his military, political, and spiritual achievements...

 (c. 127 AD) discarded Greek and adopted Bactrian as "his speech", and the Greek language accordingly vanishes from official use and only Bactrian is attested. The use of the Greek alphabet however remained.

In the 3rd century, the Kushan territories west of the Indus river
Indus River
The Indus River is a major river which flows through Pakistan. It also has courses through China and India.Originating in the Tibetan plateau of western China in the vicinity of Lake Mansarovar in Tibet Autonomous Region, the river runs a course through the Ladakh district of Jammu and Kashmir and...

 fell to the Sassanids
Sassanid Empire
The Sassanid Empire , known to its inhabitants as Ērānshahr and Ērān in Middle Persian and resulting in the New Persian terms Iranshahr and Iran , was the last pre-Islamic Persian Empire, ruled by the Sasanian Dynasty from 224 to 651...

, and Bactrian began to be superseded by Middle Persian
Middle Persian
Middle Persian , indigenously known as "Pârsig" sometimes referred to as Pahlavi or Pehlevi, is the Middle Iranian language/ethnolect of Southwestern Iran that during Sassanid times became a prestige dialect and so came to be spoken in other regions as well. Middle Persian is classified as a...

 as the language of administration and trade. Next to Pahlavi script and (occasionally) Brahmi script
Brāhmī script
Brāhmī is the modern name given to the oldest members of the Brahmic family of scripts. The best-known Brāhmī inscriptions are the rock-cut edicts of Ashoka in north-central India, dated to the 3rd century BCE. These are traditionally considered to be early known examples of Brāhmī writing...

, some coinage of this period is still in Greco-Bactrian script, but southwest Iranian vocabulary and phrasing supersedes Bactrian. Beginning in the mid-4th century, Bactria and northwestern India yielded to Hunnish tribes, and among these the Hephthalite
Hephthalite
The Hephthalites or Hephthalite is a pre-Islamic Greek term for local Abdali Afghans, who's famous ruler was Nazak Abdali . Hephthalites were a Central Asian nomadic confederation of the AD 5th-6th centuries whose precise origins and composition remain obscure...

s prevailed. The Hunnish period is marked by linguistic diversity and in addition to Bactrian and Middle Persian, North Indic, Turkish and Latin vocabulary is also attested. The Hephthalites ruled their territories until the 7th century when they were overrun by the Arabs, after which the official use of Bactrian ceased. Although Bactrian briefly survived in other usage, that too eventually ceased, and the youngest examples of the language date to about the 9th century.

The territorial expansion of the Kushans helped propagate Bactrian to Northern India
India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

 and parts of Central Asia
Central Asia
Central Asia is a core region of the Asian continent from the Caspian Sea in the west, China in the east, Afghanistan in the south, and Russia in the north...

. Sites at which Bactrian language inscriptions have been found are (in North-South order) Afrasiab
Samarkand
Although a Persian-speaking region, it was not united politically with Iran most of the times between the disintegration of the Seleucid Empire and the Arab conquest . In the 6th century it was within the domain of the Turkic kingdom of the Göktürks.At the start of the 8th century Samarkand came...

 in Uzbekistan
Uzbekistan
Uzbekistan , officially the Republic of Uzbekistan is a doubly landlocked country in Central Asia and one of the six independent Turkic states. It shares borders with Kazakhstan to the west and to the north, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan to the east, and Afghanistan and Turkmenistan to the south....

, Kara-Tepe
Termez
Termez is a city in southern Uzbekistan near the border with Afghanistan.Some link the name of the city to thermos, "hot" in Greek, tracing its name back to Alexander the Great. Others suggest that it came from Sanskrit taramato, meaning "on the river bank". It is the hottest point of Uzbekistan...

, Airtam, Delbarjin, Balkh
Balkh
Balkh , was an ancient city and centre of Zoroastrianism in what is now northern Afghanistan. Today it is a small town in the province of Balkh, about 20 kilometers northwest of the provincial capital, Mazar-e Sharif, and some south of the Amu Darya. It was one of the major cities of Khorasan...

, Kunduz
Kunduz
Kunduz also known as Kundûz, Qonduz, Qondûz, Konduz, Kondûz, Kondoz, or Qhunduz is a city in northern Afghanistan, the capital of Kunduz Province. It is linked by highways with Mazari Sharif to the west, Kabul to the south and Tajikistan's border to the north...

, Baglan
Baghlan
Baghlan is a city in northern Afghanistan, in the eponymous province, Baghlan Province. It is located three miles east of the Kunduz River, 35 miles south of Khanabad, and about 1,700 metres above sea level in the northern Hindu Kush...

, Ratabak/Surkh Kotal
Surkh Kotal
Surkh Kotal, alternate names: Chashma-i Shir or Sar-i Chashma is an ancient archaeological site located in the southern part of the region of Bactria, in today's northern Afghanistan, 18 km north of the city of Puli Khumri, the capital of the province Baghlan.It is the location of monumental...

, Oruzgan, Kabul
Kabul
Kabul , spelt Caubul in some classic literatures, is the capital and largest city of Afghanistan. It is also the capital of the Kabul Province, located in the eastern section of Afghanistan...

, Dasht-e Navur, Ghazni
Ghazni
For the Province of Ghazni see Ghazni ProvinceGhazni is a city in central-east Afghanistan with a population of about 141,000 people...

, Jagatu in Afghanistan
Afghanistan
Afghanistan , officially the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, is a landlocked country located in the centre of Asia, forming South Asia, Central Asia and the Middle East. With a population of about 29 million, it has an area of , making it the 42nd most populous and 41st largest nation in the world...

, as well as Islamabad
Islamabad
Islamabad is the capital of Pakistan and the tenth largest city in the country. Located within the Islamabad Capital Territory , the population of the city has grown from 100,000 in 1951 to 1.7 million in 2011...

, Shatial Bridge and Tochi Valley
Tochi Valley
Tochi Valley, , is one of the main routes into Afghanistan from the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa of Pakistan.The Tochi Valley leads from Bannu District through tribal areas, and is inhabited by the Dawari tribe. The valley is divided into two parts, known as Upper and Lower Dawar, by a narrow pass called the...

 in Pakistan
Pakistan
Pakistan , officially the Islamic Republic of Pakistan is a sovereign state in South Asia. It has a coastline along the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Oman in the south and is bordered by Afghanistan and Iran in the west, India in the east and China in the far northeast. In the north, Tajikistan...

. Of eight known manuscript fragments in Greco-Bactrian script, one is from Lou-lan
Loulan
Loulan or Kroran was an ancient kingdom based around an important oasis city already known in the 2nd century BCE on the north-eastern edge of the Lop Desert. Loulan, known to Russian archaeologists as Krorayina, was an ancient kingdom along the Silk Road. In 108 BCE, the Han Dynasty forces...

 and seven from Toyoq, where they were discovered by the second and third Turpan expeditions under Albert von Le Coq
Albert von Le Coq
Albert von Le Coq was a German archaeologist and explorer of Central Asia. He was heir to a sizable fortune derived from breweries and wineries scattered throughout Central and Eastern Europe, thus allowing him the luxury of travel and study at the - no longer existing - Ethnology Museum in Berlin...

. One of these may be a Buddhist text. One other manuscript, in Manichean script, was found at Qočo
Gaochang
Gaochang is the site of an ancient oasis city built on the northern rim of the inhospitable Taklamakan Desert in Xinjiang, China. A busy trading center, it was a stopping point for merchant traders traveling on the Silk Road...

 by Mary Boyce
Mary Boyce
Nora Elisabeth Mary Boyce was a British scholar of Iranian languages, and an authority on Zoroastrianism...

 in 1958.

Among Iranian languages, the use of the Greek alphabet is unique to Bactrian. The Greek alphabet is however not ideal for representing Iranian languages. Although ambiguities remain, some of the disadvantages were overcome by using heta (Ͱ, ͱ) for /h/ and by introducing sho
Sho (letter)
The letter was a letter added to the Greek alphabet in order to write the Bactrian language. It was similar in appearance to the Anglo-Saxon and Icelandic letter thorn , which is sometimes used to represent it in modern print, although both are historically quite unrelated. It probably...





The Bactrian language is an extinct Eastern Iranian language which was spoken in the Central Asia
Central Asia
Central Asia is a core region of the Asian continent from the Caspian Sea in the west, China in the east, Afghanistan in the south, and Russia in the north...

n region of Bactria
Bactria
Bactria and also appears in the Zend Avesta as Bukhdi. It is the ancient name of a historical region located between south of the Amu Darya and west of the Indus River...

. Linguistically, it is classified as belonging to the middle period
Middle Iranian languages
Middle Iranian may refer to any of a group of the Indo-European Iranian languages spoken between the 4th century BC and the 9th century AD:Western:*Parthian *Middle Persian Eastern:*Bactrian*Aryan*Sogdian*Khwarezmian...

 of the East Iranian
Eastern Iranian languages
The Eastern Iranian languages are a subgroup of the Iranian languages emerging in Middle Iranian times .The Avestan language is often classified as early Eastern Iranian. The largest living Eastern Iranian language is Pashto, with some 50 million speakers between the Hindu Kush mountains in...

 branch. Bactrian is closely related to Pashto
Pashto language
Pashto , known as Afghani in Persian and Pathani in Punjabi , is the native language of the indigenous Pashtun people or Afghan people who are found primarily between an area south of the Amu Darya in Afghanistan and...

, as well as Yidgha and Munji, and the medieval languages Sogdian
Sogdian language
The Sogdian language is a Middle Iranian language that was spoken in Sogdiana , located in modern day Uzbekistan and Tajikistan ....

, Khwarezmian
Khwarezmian language
Khwarezmian, also known as Khwarazmian or Chorasmian, is the name of an extinct East Iranian language closely related to Sogdian. The language was spoken in the area of Khwarezm , centered in the lower Amu Darya south of the Aral Sea .Our knowledge of Khwarezmian is...

 and Parthian
Parthian language
The Parthian language, also known as Arsacid Pahlavi and Pahlavanik, is a now-extinct ancient Northwestern Iranian language spoken in Parthia, a region of northeastern ancient Persia during the rule of the Parthian empire....

.

Because Bactrian was written predominantly with the Greek alphabet
Greek alphabet
The Greek alphabet is the script that has been used to write the Greek language since at least 730 BC . The alphabet in its classical and modern form consists of 24 letters ordered in sequence from alpha to omega...

, Bactrian is sometimes referred to as "Greco-Bactrian", "Kushan" or "Kushano-Bactrian". In medieval times, Bactria was also known as Tocharistan, after the incoming Tokharoi
Yuezhi
The Yuezhi, or Rouzhi , also known as the Da Yuezhi or Da Rouzhi , were an ancient Central Asian people....

 tribes, and until the 1970s Bactrian was sometimes referred to as 'Eteo-Tocharian', but it is now certain that Bactrian is not closely related to the Tocharian languages
Tocharian languages
Tocharian or Tokharian is an extinct branch of the Indo-European language family. The name is taken from the people known to the Greeks as the Tocharians . These are sometimes identified with the Yuezhi and the Kushans. The term Tokharistan usually refers to 1st millennium Bactria, which the...

, which do not belong to the Iranian language group. An older notion that the language of the Avesta
Avestan language
Avestan is an East Iranian language known only from its use as the language of Zoroastrian scripture, i.e. the Avesta, from which it derives its name...

 represented (Old) Bactrian "had rightly fallen into discredit by the end of the 19th century" .

Following the conquest of Bactria by Alexander the Great in 323 BC, for about two centuries Greek
Greek language
Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages. Native to the southern Balkans, it has the longest documented history of any Indo-European language, spanning 34 centuries of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the majority of its history;...

 was the administrative language of his Hellenistic successors, that is, the Seleucid and the Greco-Bactrian kingdom
Greco-Bactrian Kingdom
The Greco-Bactrian Kingdom was the easternmost part of the Hellenistic world, covering Bactria and Sogdiana in Central Asia from 250 to 125 BC...

s. At some time after 124 BC, Bactria was overrun by Yuezhi
Yuezhi
The Yuezhi, or Rouzhi , also known as the Da Yuezhi or Da Rouzhi , were an ancient Central Asian people....

 (Tokharoi) tribes. Subsequently, one of the tribes advanced to found the Kushan dynasty
Kushan Empire
The Kushan Empire originally formed in the early 1st century AD under Kujula Kadphises in the territories of ancient Bactria on either side of the middle course of the Oxus in what is now northern Afghanistan, Pakistan, and southern Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.During the 1st and early 2nd centuries...

 in the 1st century AD.

The Kushans at first retained the Greek language
Greek language
Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages. Native to the southern Balkans, it has the longest documented history of any Indo-European language, spanning 34 centuries of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the majority of its history;...

 for administrative purposes, but soon began to use Bactrian, which however was then written using the Greek alphabet
Greek alphabet
The Greek alphabet is the script that has been used to write the Greek language since at least 730 BC . The alphabet in its classical and modern form consists of 24 letters ordered in sequence from alpha to omega...

. The Bactrian Rabatak inscription
Rabatak inscription
The Rabatak inscription is an inscription written on a rock in the Bactrian language and the Greek script, which was found in 1993 at the site of Rabatak, near Surkh Kotal in Afghanistan...

 (discovered in 1993 and deciphered in 2000) records that the Kushan king Kanishka
Kanishka
Kanishka ) was an emperor of the Kushan Empire, ruling an empire extending from Bactria to large parts of northern India in the 2nd century of the common era, and famous for his military, political, and spiritual achievements...

 (c. 127 AD) discarded Greek and adopted Bactrian as "his speech", and the Greek language accordingly vanishes from official use and only Bactrian is attested. The use of the Greek alphabet however remained.

In the 3rd century, the Kushan territories west of the Indus river
Indus River
The Indus River is a major river which flows through Pakistan. It also has courses through China and India.Originating in the Tibetan plateau of western China in the vicinity of Lake Mansarovar in Tibet Autonomous Region, the river runs a course through the Ladakh district of Jammu and Kashmir and...

 fell to the Sassanids
Sassanid Empire
The Sassanid Empire , known to its inhabitants as Ērānshahr and Ērān in Middle Persian and resulting in the New Persian terms Iranshahr and Iran , was the last pre-Islamic Persian Empire, ruled by the Sasanian Dynasty from 224 to 651...

, and Bactrian began to be superseded by Middle Persian
Middle Persian
Middle Persian , indigenously known as "Pârsig" sometimes referred to as Pahlavi or Pehlevi, is the Middle Iranian language/ethnolect of Southwestern Iran that during Sassanid times became a prestige dialect and so came to be spoken in other regions as well. Middle Persian is classified as a...

 as the language of administration and trade. Next to Pahlavi script and (occasionally) Brahmi script
Brāhmī script
Brāhmī is the modern name given to the oldest members of the Brahmic family of scripts. The best-known Brāhmī inscriptions are the rock-cut edicts of Ashoka in north-central India, dated to the 3rd century BCE. These are traditionally considered to be early known examples of Brāhmī writing...

, some coinage of this period is still in Greco-Bactrian script, but southwest Iranian vocabulary and phrasing supersedes Bactrian. Beginning in the mid-4th century, Bactria and northwestern India yielded to Hunnish tribes, and among these the Hephthalite
Hephthalite
The Hephthalites or Hephthalite is a pre-Islamic Greek term for local Abdali Afghans, who's famous ruler was Nazak Abdali . Hephthalites were a Central Asian nomadic confederation of the AD 5th-6th centuries whose precise origins and composition remain obscure...

s prevailed. The Hunnish period is marked by linguistic diversity and in addition to Bactrian and Middle Persian, North Indic, Turkish and Latin vocabulary is also attested. The Hephthalites ruled their territories until the 7th century when they were overrun by the Arabs, after which the official use of Bactrian ceased. Although Bactrian briefly survived in other usage, that too eventually ceased, and the youngest examples of the language date to about the 9th century.

The territorial expansion of the Kushans helped propagate Bactrian to Northern India
India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

 and parts of Central Asia
Central Asia
Central Asia is a core region of the Asian continent from the Caspian Sea in the west, China in the east, Afghanistan in the south, and Russia in the north...

. Sites at which Bactrian language inscriptions have been found are (in North-South order) Afrasiab
Samarkand
Although a Persian-speaking region, it was not united politically with Iran most of the times between the disintegration of the Seleucid Empire and the Arab conquest . In the 6th century it was within the domain of the Turkic kingdom of the Göktürks.At the start of the 8th century Samarkand came...

 in Uzbekistan
Uzbekistan
Uzbekistan , officially the Republic of Uzbekistan is a doubly landlocked country in Central Asia and one of the six independent Turkic states. It shares borders with Kazakhstan to the west and to the north, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan to the east, and Afghanistan and Turkmenistan to the south....

, Kara-Tepe
Termez
Termez is a city in southern Uzbekistan near the border with Afghanistan.Some link the name of the city to thermos, "hot" in Greek, tracing its name back to Alexander the Great. Others suggest that it came from Sanskrit taramato, meaning "on the river bank". It is the hottest point of Uzbekistan...

, Airtam, Delbarjin, Balkh
Balkh
Balkh , was an ancient city and centre of Zoroastrianism in what is now northern Afghanistan. Today it is a small town in the province of Balkh, about 20 kilometers northwest of the provincial capital, Mazar-e Sharif, and some south of the Amu Darya. It was one of the major cities of Khorasan...

, Kunduz
Kunduz
Kunduz also known as Kundûz, Qonduz, Qondûz, Konduz, Kondûz, Kondoz, or Qhunduz is a city in northern Afghanistan, the capital of Kunduz Province. It is linked by highways with Mazari Sharif to the west, Kabul to the south and Tajikistan's border to the north...

, Baglan
Baghlan
Baghlan is a city in northern Afghanistan, in the eponymous province, Baghlan Province. It is located three miles east of the Kunduz River, 35 miles south of Khanabad, and about 1,700 metres above sea level in the northern Hindu Kush...

, Ratabak/Surkh Kotal
Surkh Kotal
Surkh Kotal, alternate names: Chashma-i Shir or Sar-i Chashma is an ancient archaeological site located in the southern part of the region of Bactria, in today's northern Afghanistan, 18 km north of the city of Puli Khumri, the capital of the province Baghlan.It is the location of monumental...

, Oruzgan, Kabul
Kabul
Kabul , spelt Caubul in some classic literatures, is the capital and largest city of Afghanistan. It is also the capital of the Kabul Province, located in the eastern section of Afghanistan...

, Dasht-e Navur, Ghazni
Ghazni
For the Province of Ghazni see Ghazni ProvinceGhazni is a city in central-east Afghanistan with a population of about 141,000 people...

, Jagatu in Afghanistan
Afghanistan
Afghanistan , officially the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, is a landlocked country located in the centre of Asia, forming South Asia, Central Asia and the Middle East. With a population of about 29 million, it has an area of , making it the 42nd most populous and 41st largest nation in the world...

, as well as Islamabad
Islamabad
Islamabad is the capital of Pakistan and the tenth largest city in the country. Located within the Islamabad Capital Territory , the population of the city has grown from 100,000 in 1951 to 1.7 million in 2011...

, Shatial Bridge and Tochi Valley
Tochi Valley
Tochi Valley, , is one of the main routes into Afghanistan from the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa of Pakistan.The Tochi Valley leads from Bannu District through tribal areas, and is inhabited by the Dawari tribe. The valley is divided into two parts, known as Upper and Lower Dawar, by a narrow pass called the...

 in Pakistan
Pakistan
Pakistan , officially the Islamic Republic of Pakistan is a sovereign state in South Asia. It has a coastline along the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Oman in the south and is bordered by Afghanistan and Iran in the west, India in the east and China in the far northeast. In the north, Tajikistan...

. Of eight known manuscript fragments in Greco-Bactrian script, one is from Lou-lan
Loulan
Loulan or Kroran was an ancient kingdom based around an important oasis city already known in the 2nd century BCE on the north-eastern edge of the Lop Desert. Loulan, known to Russian archaeologists as Krorayina, was an ancient kingdom along the Silk Road. In 108 BCE, the Han Dynasty forces...

 and seven from Toyoq, where they were discovered by the second and third Turpan expeditions under Albert von Le Coq
Albert von Le Coq
Albert von Le Coq was a German archaeologist and explorer of Central Asia. He was heir to a sizable fortune derived from breweries and wineries scattered throughout Central and Eastern Europe, thus allowing him the luxury of travel and study at the - no longer existing - Ethnology Museum in Berlin...

. One of these may be a Buddhist text. One other manuscript, in Manichean script, was found at Qočo
Gaochang
Gaochang is the site of an ancient oasis city built on the northern rim of the inhospitable Taklamakan Desert in Xinjiang, China. A busy trading center, it was a stopping point for merchant traders traveling on the Silk Road...

 by Mary Boyce
Mary Boyce
Nora Elisabeth Mary Boyce was a British scholar of Iranian languages, and an authority on Zoroastrianism...

 in 1958.

Among Iranian languages, the use of the Greek alphabet is unique to Bactrian. The Greek alphabet is however not ideal for representing Iranian languages. Although ambiguities remain, some of the disadvantages were overcome by using heta (Ͱ, ͱ) for /h/ and by introducing sho
Sho (letter)
The letter was a letter added to the Greek alphabet in order to write the Bactrian language. It was similar in appearance to the Anglo-Saxon and Icelandic letter thorn , which is sometimes used to represent it in modern print, although both are historically quite unrelated. It probably...





The Bactrian language is an extinct Eastern Iranian language which was spoken in the Central Asia
Central Asia
Central Asia is a core region of the Asian continent from the Caspian Sea in the west, China in the east, Afghanistan in the south, and Russia in the north...

n region of Bactria
Bactria
Bactria and also appears in the Zend Avesta as Bukhdi. It is the ancient name of a historical region located between south of the Amu Darya and west of the Indus River...

. Linguistically, it is classified as belonging to the middle period
Middle Iranian languages
Middle Iranian may refer to any of a group of the Indo-European Iranian languages spoken between the 4th century BC and the 9th century AD:Western:*Parthian *Middle Persian Eastern:*Bactrian*Aryan*Sogdian*Khwarezmian...

 of the East Iranian
Eastern Iranian languages
The Eastern Iranian languages are a subgroup of the Iranian languages emerging in Middle Iranian times .The Avestan language is often classified as early Eastern Iranian. The largest living Eastern Iranian language is Pashto, with some 50 million speakers between the Hindu Kush mountains in...

 branch. Bactrian is closely related to Pashto
Pashto language
Pashto , known as Afghani in Persian and Pathani in Punjabi , is the native language of the indigenous Pashtun people or Afghan people who are found primarily between an area south of the Amu Darya in Afghanistan and...

, as well as Yidgha and Munji, and the medieval languages Sogdian
Sogdian language
The Sogdian language is a Middle Iranian language that was spoken in Sogdiana , located in modern day Uzbekistan and Tajikistan ....

, Khwarezmian
Khwarezmian language
Khwarezmian, also known as Khwarazmian or Chorasmian, is the name of an extinct East Iranian language closely related to Sogdian. The language was spoken in the area of Khwarezm , centered in the lower Amu Darya south of the Aral Sea .Our knowledge of Khwarezmian is...

 and Parthian
Parthian language
The Parthian language, also known as Arsacid Pahlavi and Pahlavanik, is a now-extinct ancient Northwestern Iranian language spoken in Parthia, a region of northeastern ancient Persia during the rule of the Parthian empire....

.

Because Bactrian was written predominantly with the Greek alphabet
Greek alphabet
The Greek alphabet is the script that has been used to write the Greek language since at least 730 BC . The alphabet in its classical and modern form consists of 24 letters ordered in sequence from alpha to omega...

, Bactrian is sometimes referred to as "Greco-Bactrian", "Kushan" or "Kushano-Bactrian". In medieval times, Bactria was also known as Tocharistan, after the incoming Tokharoi
Yuezhi
The Yuezhi, or Rouzhi , also known as the Da Yuezhi or Da Rouzhi , were an ancient Central Asian people....

 tribes, and until the 1970s Bactrian was sometimes referred to as 'Eteo-Tocharian', but it is now certain that Bactrian is not closely related to the Tocharian languages
Tocharian languages
Tocharian or Tokharian is an extinct branch of the Indo-European language family. The name is taken from the people known to the Greeks as the Tocharians . These are sometimes identified with the Yuezhi and the Kushans. The term Tokharistan usually refers to 1st millennium Bactria, which the...

, which do not belong to the Iranian language group. An older notion that the language of the Avesta
Avestan language
Avestan is an East Iranian language known only from its use as the language of Zoroastrian scripture, i.e. the Avesta, from which it derives its name...

 represented (Old) Bactrian "had rightly fallen into discredit by the end of the 19th century" .

Following the conquest of Bactria by Alexander the Great in 323 BC, for about two centuries Greek
Greek language
Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages. Native to the southern Balkans, it has the longest documented history of any Indo-European language, spanning 34 centuries of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the majority of its history;...

 was the administrative language of his Hellenistic successors, that is, the Seleucid and the Greco-Bactrian kingdom
Greco-Bactrian Kingdom
The Greco-Bactrian Kingdom was the easternmost part of the Hellenistic world, covering Bactria and Sogdiana in Central Asia from 250 to 125 BC...

s. At some time after 124 BC, Bactria was overrun by Yuezhi
Yuezhi
The Yuezhi, or Rouzhi , also known as the Da Yuezhi or Da Rouzhi , were an ancient Central Asian people....

 (Tokharoi) tribes. Subsequently, one of the tribes advanced to found the Kushan dynasty
Kushan Empire
The Kushan Empire originally formed in the early 1st century AD under Kujula Kadphises in the territories of ancient Bactria on either side of the middle course of the Oxus in what is now northern Afghanistan, Pakistan, and southern Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.During the 1st and early 2nd centuries...

 in the 1st century AD.

The Kushans at first retained the Greek language
Greek language
Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages. Native to the southern Balkans, it has the longest documented history of any Indo-European language, spanning 34 centuries of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the majority of its history;...

 for administrative purposes, but soon began to use Bactrian, which however was then written using the Greek alphabet
Greek alphabet
The Greek alphabet is the script that has been used to write the Greek language since at least 730 BC . The alphabet in its classical and modern form consists of 24 letters ordered in sequence from alpha to omega...

. The Bactrian Rabatak inscription
Rabatak inscription
The Rabatak inscription is an inscription written on a rock in the Bactrian language and the Greek script, which was found in 1993 at the site of Rabatak, near Surkh Kotal in Afghanistan...

 (discovered in 1993 and deciphered in 2000) records that the Kushan king Kanishka
Kanishka
Kanishka ) was an emperor of the Kushan Empire, ruling an empire extending from Bactria to large parts of northern India in the 2nd century of the common era, and famous for his military, political, and spiritual achievements...

 (c. 127 AD) discarded Greek and adopted Bactrian as "his speech", and the Greek language accordingly vanishes from official use and only Bactrian is attested. The use of the Greek alphabet however remained.

In the 3rd century, the Kushan territories west of the Indus river
Indus River
The Indus River is a major river which flows through Pakistan. It also has courses through China and India.Originating in the Tibetan plateau of western China in the vicinity of Lake Mansarovar in Tibet Autonomous Region, the river runs a course through the Ladakh district of Jammu and Kashmir and...

 fell to the Sassanids
Sassanid Empire
The Sassanid Empire , known to its inhabitants as Ērānshahr and Ērān in Middle Persian and resulting in the New Persian terms Iranshahr and Iran , was the last pre-Islamic Persian Empire, ruled by the Sasanian Dynasty from 224 to 651...

, and Bactrian began to be superseded by Middle Persian
Middle Persian
Middle Persian , indigenously known as "Pârsig" sometimes referred to as Pahlavi or Pehlevi, is the Middle Iranian language/ethnolect of Southwestern Iran that during Sassanid times became a prestige dialect and so came to be spoken in other regions as well. Middle Persian is classified as a...

 as the language of administration and trade. Next to Pahlavi script and (occasionally) Brahmi script
Brāhmī script
Brāhmī is the modern name given to the oldest members of the Brahmic family of scripts. The best-known Brāhmī inscriptions are the rock-cut edicts of Ashoka in north-central India, dated to the 3rd century BCE. These are traditionally considered to be early known examples of Brāhmī writing...

, some coinage of this period is still in Greco-Bactrian script, but southwest Iranian vocabulary and phrasing supersedes Bactrian. Beginning in the mid-4th century, Bactria and northwestern India yielded to Hunnish tribes, and among these the Hephthalite
Hephthalite
The Hephthalites or Hephthalite is a pre-Islamic Greek term for local Abdali Afghans, who's famous ruler was Nazak Abdali . Hephthalites were a Central Asian nomadic confederation of the AD 5th-6th centuries whose precise origins and composition remain obscure...

s prevailed. The Hunnish period is marked by linguistic diversity and in addition to Bactrian and Middle Persian, North Indic, Turkish and Latin vocabulary is also attested. The Hephthalites ruled their territories until the 7th century when they were overrun by the Arabs, after which the official use of Bactrian ceased. Although Bactrian briefly survived in other usage, that too eventually ceased, and the youngest examples of the language date to about the 9th century.

The territorial expansion of the Kushans helped propagate Bactrian to Northern India
India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

 and parts of Central Asia
Central Asia
Central Asia is a core region of the Asian continent from the Caspian Sea in the west, China in the east, Afghanistan in the south, and Russia in the north...

. Sites at which Bactrian language inscriptions have been found are (in North-South order) Afrasiab
Samarkand
Although a Persian-speaking region, it was not united politically with Iran most of the times between the disintegration of the Seleucid Empire and the Arab conquest . In the 6th century it was within the domain of the Turkic kingdom of the Göktürks.At the start of the 8th century Samarkand came...

 in Uzbekistan
Uzbekistan
Uzbekistan , officially the Republic of Uzbekistan is a doubly landlocked country in Central Asia and one of the six independent Turkic states. It shares borders with Kazakhstan to the west and to the north, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan to the east, and Afghanistan and Turkmenistan to the south....

, Kara-Tepe
Termez
Termez is a city in southern Uzbekistan near the border with Afghanistan.Some link the name of the city to thermos, "hot" in Greek, tracing its name back to Alexander the Great. Others suggest that it came from Sanskrit taramato, meaning "on the river bank". It is the hottest point of Uzbekistan...

, Airtam, Delbarjin, Balkh
Balkh
Balkh , was an ancient city and centre of Zoroastrianism in what is now northern Afghanistan. Today it is a small town in the province of Balkh, about 20 kilometers northwest of the provincial capital, Mazar-e Sharif, and some south of the Amu Darya. It was one of the major cities of Khorasan...

, Kunduz
Kunduz
Kunduz also known as Kundûz, Qonduz, Qondûz, Konduz, Kondûz, Kondoz, or Qhunduz is a city in northern Afghanistan, the capital of Kunduz Province. It is linked by highways with Mazari Sharif to the west, Kabul to the south and Tajikistan's border to the north...

, Baglan
Baghlan
Baghlan is a city in northern Afghanistan, in the eponymous province, Baghlan Province. It is located three miles east of the Kunduz River, 35 miles south of Khanabad, and about 1,700 metres above sea level in the northern Hindu Kush...

, Ratabak/Surkh Kotal
Surkh Kotal
Surkh Kotal, alternate names: Chashma-i Shir or Sar-i Chashma is an ancient archaeological site located in the southern part of the region of Bactria, in today's northern Afghanistan, 18 km north of the city of Puli Khumri, the capital of the province Baghlan.It is the location of monumental...

, Oruzgan, Kabul
Kabul
Kabul , spelt Caubul in some classic literatures, is the capital and largest city of Afghanistan. It is also the capital of the Kabul Province, located in the eastern section of Afghanistan...

, Dasht-e Navur, Ghazni
Ghazni
For the Province of Ghazni see Ghazni ProvinceGhazni is a city in central-east Afghanistan with a population of about 141,000 people...

, Jagatu in Afghanistan
Afghanistan
Afghanistan , officially the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, is a landlocked country located in the centre of Asia, forming South Asia, Central Asia and the Middle East. With a population of about 29 million, it has an area of , making it the 42nd most populous and 41st largest nation in the world...

, as well as Islamabad
Islamabad
Islamabad is the capital of Pakistan and the tenth largest city in the country. Located within the Islamabad Capital Territory , the population of the city has grown from 100,000 in 1951 to 1.7 million in 2011...

, Shatial Bridge and Tochi Valley
Tochi Valley
Tochi Valley, , is one of the main routes into Afghanistan from the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa of Pakistan.The Tochi Valley leads from Bannu District through tribal areas, and is inhabited by the Dawari tribe. The valley is divided into two parts, known as Upper and Lower Dawar, by a narrow pass called the...

 in Pakistan
Pakistan
Pakistan , officially the Islamic Republic of Pakistan is a sovereign state in South Asia. It has a coastline along the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Oman in the south and is bordered by Afghanistan and Iran in the west, India in the east and China in the far northeast. In the north, Tajikistan...

. Of eight known manuscript fragments in Greco-Bactrian script, one is from Lou-lan
Loulan
Loulan or Kroran was an ancient kingdom based around an important oasis city already known in the 2nd century BCE on the north-eastern edge of the Lop Desert. Loulan, known to Russian archaeologists as Krorayina, was an ancient kingdom along the Silk Road. In 108 BCE, the Han Dynasty forces...

 and seven from Toyoq, where they were discovered by the second and third Turpan expeditions under Albert von Le Coq
Albert von Le Coq
Albert von Le Coq was a German archaeologist and explorer of Central Asia. He was heir to a sizable fortune derived from breweries and wineries scattered throughout Central and Eastern Europe, thus allowing him the luxury of travel and study at the - no longer existing - Ethnology Museum in Berlin...

. One of these may be a Buddhist text. One other manuscript, in Manichean script, was found at Qočo
Gaochang
Gaochang is the site of an ancient oasis city built on the northern rim of the inhospitable Taklamakan Desert in Xinjiang, China. A busy trading center, it was a stopping point for merchant traders traveling on the Silk Road...

 by Mary Boyce
Mary Boyce
Nora Elisabeth Mary Boyce was a British scholar of Iranian languages, and an authority on Zoroastrianism...

 in 1958.

Among Iranian languages, the use of the Greek alphabet is unique to Bactrian. The Greek alphabet is however not ideal for representing Iranian languages. Although ambiguities remain, some of the disadvantages were overcome by using heta (Ͱ, ͱ) for /h/ and by introducing sho
Sho (letter)
The letter was a letter added to the Greek alphabet in order to write the Bactrian language. It was similar in appearance to the Anglo-Saxon and Icelandic letter thorn , which is sometimes used to represent it in modern print, although both are historically quite unrelated. It probably...





The Bactrian language is an extinct Eastern Iranian language which was spoken in the Central Asia
Central Asia
Central Asia is a core region of the Asian continent from the Caspian Sea in the west, China in the east, Afghanistan in the south, and Russia in the north...

n region of Bactria
Bactria
Bactria and also appears in the Zend Avesta as Bukhdi. It is the ancient name of a historical region located between south of the Amu Darya and west of the Indus River...

. Linguistically, it is classified as belonging to the middle period
Middle Iranian languages
Middle Iranian may refer to any of a group of the Indo-European Iranian languages spoken between the 4th century BC and the 9th century AD:Western:*Parthian *Middle Persian Eastern:*Bactrian*Aryan*Sogdian*Khwarezmian...

 of the East Iranian
Eastern Iranian languages
The Eastern Iranian languages are a subgroup of the Iranian languages emerging in Middle Iranian times .The Avestan language is often classified as early Eastern Iranian. The largest living Eastern Iranian language is Pashto, with some 50 million speakers between the Hindu Kush mountains in...

 branch. Bactrian is closely related to Pashto
Pashto language
Pashto , known as Afghani in Persian and Pathani in Punjabi , is the native language of the indigenous Pashtun people or Afghan people who are found primarily between an area south of the Amu Darya in Afghanistan and...

, as well as Yidgha and Munji, and the medieval languages Sogdian
Sogdian language
The Sogdian language is a Middle Iranian language that was spoken in Sogdiana , located in modern day Uzbekistan and Tajikistan ....

, Khwarezmian
Khwarezmian language
Khwarezmian, also known as Khwarazmian or Chorasmian, is the name of an extinct East Iranian language closely related to Sogdian. The language was spoken in the area of Khwarezm , centered in the lower Amu Darya south of the Aral Sea .Our knowledge of Khwarezmian is...

 and Parthian
Parthian language
The Parthian language, also known as Arsacid Pahlavi and Pahlavanik, is a now-extinct ancient Northwestern Iranian language spoken in Parthia, a region of northeastern ancient Persia during the rule of the Parthian empire....

.

Because Bactrian was written predominantly with the Greek alphabet
Greek alphabet
The Greek alphabet is the script that has been used to write the Greek language since at least 730 BC . The alphabet in its classical and modern form consists of 24 letters ordered in sequence from alpha to omega...

, Bactrian is sometimes referred to as "Greco-Bactrian", "Kushan" or "Kushano-Bactrian". In medieval times, Bactria was also known as Tocharistan, after the incoming Tokharoi
Yuezhi
The Yuezhi, or Rouzhi , also known as the Da Yuezhi or Da Rouzhi , were an ancient Central Asian people....

 tribes, and until the 1970s Bactrian was sometimes referred to as 'Eteo-Tocharian', but it is now certain that Bactrian is not closely related to the Tocharian languages
Tocharian languages
Tocharian or Tokharian is an extinct branch of the Indo-European language family. The name is taken from the people known to the Greeks as the Tocharians . These are sometimes identified with the Yuezhi and the Kushans. The term Tokharistan usually refers to 1st millennium Bactria, which the...

, which do not belong to the Iranian language group. An older notion that the language of the Avesta
Avestan language
Avestan is an East Iranian language known only from its use as the language of Zoroastrian scripture, i.e. the Avesta, from which it derives its name...

 represented (Old) Bactrian "had rightly fallen into discredit by the end of the 19th century" .

Following the conquest of Bactria by Alexander the Great in 323 BC, for about two centuries Greek
Greek language
Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages. Native to the southern Balkans, it has the longest documented history of any Indo-European language, spanning 34 centuries of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the majority of its history;...

 was the administrative language of his Hellenistic successors, that is, the Seleucid and the Greco-Bactrian kingdom
Greco-Bactrian Kingdom
The Greco-Bactrian Kingdom was the easternmost part of the Hellenistic world, covering Bactria and Sogdiana in Central Asia from 250 to 125 BC...

s. At some time after 124 BC, Bactria was overrun by Yuezhi
Yuezhi
The Yuezhi, or Rouzhi , also known as the Da Yuezhi or Da Rouzhi , were an ancient Central Asian people....

 (Tokharoi) tribes. Subsequently, one of the tribes advanced to found the Kushan dynasty
Kushan Empire
The Kushan Empire originally formed in the early 1st century AD under Kujula Kadphises in the territories of ancient Bactria on either side of the middle course of the Oxus in what is now northern Afghanistan, Pakistan, and southern Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.During the 1st and early 2nd centuries...

 in the 1st century AD.

The Kushans at first retained the Greek language
Greek language
Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages. Native to the southern Balkans, it has the longest documented history of any Indo-European language, spanning 34 centuries of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the majority of its history;...

 for administrative purposes, but soon began to use Bactrian, which however was then written using the Greek alphabet
Greek alphabet
The Greek alphabet is the script that has been used to write the Greek language since at least 730 BC . The alphabet in its classical and modern form consists of 24 letters ordered in sequence from alpha to omega...

. The Bactrian Rabatak inscription
Rabatak inscription
The Rabatak inscription is an inscription written on a rock in the Bactrian language and the Greek script, which was found in 1993 at the site of Rabatak, near Surkh Kotal in Afghanistan...

 (discovered in 1993 and deciphered in 2000) records that the Kushan king Kanishka
Kanishka
Kanishka ) was an emperor of the Kushan Empire, ruling an empire extending from Bactria to large parts of northern India in the 2nd century of the common era, and famous for his military, political, and spiritual achievements...

 (c. 127 AD) discarded Greek and adopted Bactrian as "his speech", and the Greek language accordingly vanishes from official use and only Bactrian is attested. The use of the Greek alphabet however remained.

In the 3rd century, the Kushan territories west of the Indus river
Indus River
The Indus River is a major river which flows through Pakistan. It also has courses through China and India.Originating in the Tibetan plateau of western China in the vicinity of Lake Mansarovar in Tibet Autonomous Region, the river runs a course through the Ladakh district of Jammu and Kashmir and...

 fell to the Sassanids
Sassanid Empire
The Sassanid Empire , known to its inhabitants as Ērānshahr and Ērān in Middle Persian and resulting in the New Persian terms Iranshahr and Iran , was the last pre-Islamic Persian Empire, ruled by the Sasanian Dynasty from 224 to 651...

, and Bactrian began to be superseded by Middle Persian
Middle Persian
Middle Persian , indigenously known as "Pârsig" sometimes referred to as Pahlavi or Pehlevi, is the Middle Iranian language/ethnolect of Southwestern Iran that during Sassanid times became a prestige dialect and so came to be spoken in other regions as well. Middle Persian is classified as a...

 as the language of administration and trade. Next to Pahlavi script and (occasionally) Brahmi script
Brāhmī script
Brāhmī is the modern name given to the oldest members of the Brahmic family of scripts. The best-known Brāhmī inscriptions are the rock-cut edicts of Ashoka in north-central India, dated to the 3rd century BCE. These are traditionally considered to be early known examples of Brāhmī writing...

, some coinage of this period is still in Greco-Bactrian script, but southwest Iranian vocabulary and phrasing supersedes Bactrian. Beginning in the mid-4th century, Bactria and northwestern India yielded to Hunnish tribes, and among these the Hephthalite
Hephthalite
The Hephthalites or Hephthalite is a pre-Islamic Greek term for local Abdali Afghans, who's famous ruler was Nazak Abdali . Hephthalites were a Central Asian nomadic confederation of the AD 5th-6th centuries whose precise origins and composition remain obscure...

s prevailed. The Hunnish period is marked by linguistic diversity and in addition to Bactrian and Middle Persian, North Indic, Turkish and Latin vocabulary is also attested. The Hephthalites ruled their territories until the 7th century when they were overrun by the Arabs, after which the official use of Bactrian ceased. Although Bactrian briefly survived in other usage, that too eventually ceased, and the youngest examples of the language date to about the 9th century.

The territorial expansion of the Kushans helped propagate Bactrian to Northern India
India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

 and parts of Central Asia
Central Asia
Central Asia is a core region of the Asian continent from the Caspian Sea in the west, China in the east, Afghanistan in the south, and Russia in the north...

. Sites at which Bactrian language inscriptions have been found are (in North-South order) Afrasiab
Samarkand
Although a Persian-speaking region, it was not united politically with Iran most of the times between the disintegration of the Seleucid Empire and the Arab conquest . In the 6th century it was within the domain of the Turkic kingdom of the Göktürks.At the start of the 8th century Samarkand came...

 in Uzbekistan
Uzbekistan
Uzbekistan , officially the Republic of Uzbekistan is a doubly landlocked country in Central Asia and one of the six independent Turkic states. It shares borders with Kazakhstan to the west and to the north, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan to the east, and Afghanistan and Turkmenistan to the south....

, Kara-Tepe
Termez
Termez is a city in southern Uzbekistan near the border with Afghanistan.Some link the name of the city to thermos, "hot" in Greek, tracing its name back to Alexander the Great. Others suggest that it came from Sanskrit taramato, meaning "on the river bank". It is the hottest point of Uzbekistan...

, Airtam, Delbarjin, Balkh
Balkh
Balkh , was an ancient city and centre of Zoroastrianism in what is now northern Afghanistan. Today it is a small town in the province of Balkh, about 20 kilometers northwest of the provincial capital, Mazar-e Sharif, and some south of the Amu Darya. It was one of the major cities of Khorasan...

, Kunduz
Kunduz
Kunduz also known as Kundûz, Qonduz, Qondûz, Konduz, Kondûz, Kondoz, or Qhunduz is a city in northern Afghanistan, the capital of Kunduz Province. It is linked by highways with Mazari Sharif to the west, Kabul to the south and Tajikistan's border to the north...

, Baglan
Baghlan
Baghlan is a city in northern Afghanistan, in the eponymous province, Baghlan Province. It is located three miles east of the Kunduz River, 35 miles south of Khanabad, and about 1,700 metres above sea level in the northern Hindu Kush...

, Ratabak/Surkh Kotal
Surkh Kotal
Surkh Kotal, alternate names: Chashma-i Shir or Sar-i Chashma is an ancient archaeological site located in the southern part of the region of Bactria, in today's northern Afghanistan, 18 km north of the city of Puli Khumri, the capital of the province Baghlan.It is the location of monumental...

, Oruzgan, Kabul
Kabul
Kabul , spelt Caubul in some classic literatures, is the capital and largest city of Afghanistan. It is also the capital of the Kabul Province, located in the eastern section of Afghanistan...

, Dasht-e Navur, Ghazni
Ghazni
For the Province of Ghazni see Ghazni ProvinceGhazni is a city in central-east Afghanistan with a population of about 141,000 people...

, Jagatu in Afghanistan
Afghanistan
Afghanistan , officially the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, is a landlocked country located in the centre of Asia, forming South Asia, Central Asia and the Middle East. With a population of about 29 million, it has an area of , making it the 42nd most populous and 41st largest nation in the world...

, as well as Islamabad
Islamabad
Islamabad is the capital of Pakistan and the tenth largest city in the country. Located within the Islamabad Capital Territory , the population of the city has grown from 100,000 in 1951 to 1.7 million in 2011...

, Shatial Bridge and Tochi Valley
Tochi Valley
Tochi Valley, , is one of the main routes into Afghanistan from the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa of Pakistan.The Tochi Valley leads from Bannu District through tribal areas, and is inhabited by the Dawari tribe. The valley is divided into two parts, known as Upper and Lower Dawar, by a narrow pass called the...

 in Pakistan
Pakistan
Pakistan , officially the Islamic Republic of Pakistan is a sovereign state in South Asia. It has a coastline along the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Oman in the south and is bordered by Afghanistan and Iran in the west, India in the east and China in the far northeast. In the north, Tajikistan...

. Of eight known manuscript fragments in Greco-Bactrian script, one is from Lou-lan
Loulan
Loulan or Kroran was an ancient kingdom based around an important oasis city already known in the 2nd century BCE on the north-eastern edge of the Lop Desert. Loulan, known to Russian archaeologists as Krorayina, was an ancient kingdom along the Silk Road. In 108 BCE, the Han Dynasty forces...

 and seven from Toyoq, where they were discovered by the second and third Turpan expeditions under Albert von Le Coq
Albert von Le Coq
Albert von Le Coq was a German archaeologist and explorer of Central Asia. He was heir to a sizable fortune derived from breweries and wineries scattered throughout Central and Eastern Europe, thus allowing him the luxury of travel and study at the - no longer existing - Ethnology Museum in Berlin...

. One of these may be a Buddhist text. One other manuscript, in Manichean script, was found at Qočo
Gaochang
Gaochang is the site of an ancient oasis city built on the northern rim of the inhospitable Taklamakan Desert in Xinjiang, China. A busy trading center, it was a stopping point for merchant traders traveling on the Silk Road...

 by Mary Boyce
Mary Boyce
Nora Elisabeth Mary Boyce was a British scholar of Iranian languages, and an authority on Zoroastrianism...

 in 1958.

Among Iranian languages, the use of the Greek alphabet is unique to Bactrian. The Greek alphabet is however not ideal for representing Iranian languages. Although ambiguities remain, some of the disadvantages were overcome by using heta (Ͱ, ͱ) for /h/ and by introducing sho
Sho (letter)
The letter was a letter added to the Greek alphabet in order to write the Bactrian language. It was similar in appearance to the Anglo-Saxon and Icelandic letter thorn , which is sometimes used to represent it in modern print, although both are historically quite unrelated. It probably...





The Bactrian language is an extinct Eastern Iranian language which was spoken in the Central Asia
Central Asia
Central Asia is a core region of the Asian continent from the Caspian Sea in the west, China in the east, Afghanistan in the south, and Russia in the north...

n region of Bactria
Bactria
Bactria and also appears in the Zend Avesta as Bukhdi. It is the ancient name of a historical region located between south of the Amu Darya and west of the Indus River...

. Linguistically, it is classified as belonging to the middle period
Middle Iranian languages
Middle Iranian may refer to any of a group of the Indo-European Iranian languages spoken between the 4th century BC and the 9th century AD:Western:*Parthian *Middle Persian Eastern:*Bactrian*Aryan*Sogdian*Khwarezmian...

 of the East Iranian
Eastern Iranian languages
The Eastern Iranian languages are a subgroup of the Iranian languages emerging in Middle Iranian times .The Avestan language is often classified as early Eastern Iranian. The largest living Eastern Iranian language is Pashto, with some 50 million speakers between the Hindu Kush mountains in...

 branch. Bactrian is closely related to Pashto
Pashto language
Pashto , known as Afghani in Persian and Pathani in Punjabi , is the native language of the indigenous Pashtun people or Afghan people who are found primarily between an area south of the Amu Darya in Afghanistan and...

, as well as Yidgha and Munji, and the medieval languages Sogdian
Sogdian language
The Sogdian language is a Middle Iranian language that was spoken in Sogdiana , located in modern day Uzbekistan and Tajikistan ....

, Khwarezmian
Khwarezmian language
Khwarezmian, also known as Khwarazmian or Chorasmian, is the name of an extinct East Iranian language closely related to Sogdian. The language was spoken in the area of Khwarezm , centered in the lower Amu Darya south of the Aral Sea .Our knowledge of Khwarezmian is...

 and Parthian
Parthian language
The Parthian language, also known as Arsacid Pahlavi and Pahlavanik, is a now-extinct ancient Northwestern Iranian language spoken in Parthia, a region of northeastern ancient Persia during the rule of the Parthian empire....

.

Because Bactrian was written predominantly with the Greek alphabet
Greek alphabet
The Greek alphabet is the script that has been used to write the Greek language since at least 730 BC . The alphabet in its classical and modern form consists of 24 letters ordered in sequence from alpha to omega...

, Bactrian is sometimes referred to as "Greco-Bactrian", "Kushan" or "Kushano-Bactrian". In medieval times, Bactria was also known as Tocharistan, after the incoming Tokharoi
Yuezhi
The Yuezhi, or Rouzhi , also known as the Da Yuezhi or Da Rouzhi , were an ancient Central Asian people....

 tribes, and until the 1970s Bactrian was sometimes referred to as 'Eteo-Tocharian', but it is now certain that Bactrian is not closely related to the Tocharian languages
Tocharian languages
Tocharian or Tokharian is an extinct branch of the Indo-European language family. The name is taken from the people known to the Greeks as the Tocharians . These are sometimes identified with the Yuezhi and the Kushans. The term Tokharistan usually refers to 1st millennium Bactria, which the...

, which do not belong to the Iranian language group. An older notion that the language of the Avesta
Avestan language
Avestan is an East Iranian language known only from its use as the language of Zoroastrian scripture, i.e. the Avesta, from which it derives its name...

 represented (Old) Bactrian "had rightly fallen into discredit by the end of the 19th century" .

Following the conquest of Bactria by Alexander the Great in 323 BC, for about two centuries Greek
Greek language
Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages. Native to the southern Balkans, it has the longest documented history of any Indo-European language, spanning 34 centuries of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the majority of its history;...

 was the administrative language of his Hellenistic successors, that is, the Seleucid and the Greco-Bactrian kingdom
Greco-Bactrian Kingdom
The Greco-Bactrian Kingdom was the easternmost part of the Hellenistic world, covering Bactria and Sogdiana in Central Asia from 250 to 125 BC...

s. At some time after 124 BC, Bactria was overrun by Yuezhi
Yuezhi
The Yuezhi, or Rouzhi , also known as the Da Yuezhi or Da Rouzhi , were an ancient Central Asian people....

 (Tokharoi) tribes. Subsequently, one of the tribes advanced to found the Kushan dynasty
Kushan Empire
The Kushan Empire originally formed in the early 1st century AD under Kujula Kadphises in the territories of ancient Bactria on either side of the middle course of the Oxus in what is now northern Afghanistan, Pakistan, and southern Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.During the 1st and early 2nd centuries...

 in the 1st century AD.

The Kushans at first retained the Greek language
Greek language
Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages. Native to the southern Balkans, it has the longest documented history of any Indo-European language, spanning 34 centuries of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the majority of its history;...

 for administrative purposes, but soon began to use Bactrian, which however was then written using the Greek alphabet
Greek alphabet
The Greek alphabet is the script that has been used to write the Greek language since at least 730 BC . The alphabet in its classical and modern form consists of 24 letters ordered in sequence from alpha to omega...

. The Bactrian Rabatak inscription
Rabatak inscription
The Rabatak inscription is an inscription written on a rock in the Bactrian language and the Greek script, which was found in 1993 at the site of Rabatak, near Surkh Kotal in Afghanistan...

 (discovered in 1993 and deciphered in 2000) records that the Kushan king Kanishka
Kanishka
Kanishka ) was an emperor of the Kushan Empire, ruling an empire extending from Bactria to large parts of northern India in the 2nd century of the common era, and famous for his military, political, and spiritual achievements...

 (c. 127 AD) discarded Greek and adopted Bactrian as "his speech", and the Greek language accordingly vanishes from official use and only Bactrian is attested. The use of the Greek alphabet however remained.

In the 3rd century, the Kushan territories west of the Indus river
Indus River
The Indus River is a major river which flows through Pakistan. It also has courses through China and India.Originating in the Tibetan plateau of western China in the vicinity of Lake Mansarovar in Tibet Autonomous Region, the river runs a course through the Ladakh district of Jammu and Kashmir and...

 fell to the Sassanids
Sassanid Empire
The Sassanid Empire , known to its inhabitants as Ērānshahr and Ērān in Middle Persian and resulting in the New Persian terms Iranshahr and Iran , was the last pre-Islamic Persian Empire, ruled by the Sasanian Dynasty from 224 to 651...

, and Bactrian began to be superseded by Middle Persian
Middle Persian
Middle Persian , indigenously known as "Pârsig" sometimes referred to as Pahlavi or Pehlevi, is the Middle Iranian language/ethnolect of Southwestern Iran that during Sassanid times became a prestige dialect and so came to be spoken in other regions as well. Middle Persian is classified as a...

 as the language of administration and trade. Next to Pahlavi script and (occasionally) Brahmi script
Brāhmī script
Brāhmī is the modern name given to the oldest members of the Brahmic family of scripts. The best-known Brāhmī inscriptions are the rock-cut edicts of Ashoka in north-central India, dated to the 3rd century BCE. These are traditionally considered to be early known examples of Brāhmī writing...

, some coinage of this period is still in Greco-Bactrian script, but southwest Iranian vocabulary and phrasing supersedes Bactrian. Beginning in the mid-4th century, Bactria and northwestern India yielded to Hunnish tribes, and among these the Hephthalite
Hephthalite
The Hephthalites or Hephthalite is a pre-Islamic Greek term for local Abdali Afghans, who's famous ruler was Nazak Abdali . Hephthalites were a Central Asian nomadic confederation of the AD 5th-6th centuries whose precise origins and composition remain obscure...

s prevailed. The Hunnish period is marked by linguistic diversity and in addition to Bactrian and Middle Persian, North Indic, Turkish and Latin vocabulary is also attested. The Hephthalites ruled their territories until the 7th century when they were overrun by the Arabs, after which the official use of Bactrian ceased. Although Bactrian briefly survived in other usage, that too eventually ceased, and the youngest examples of the language date to about the 9th century.

The territorial expansion of the Kushans helped propagate Bactrian to Northern India
India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

 and parts of Central Asia
Central Asia
Central Asia is a core region of the Asian continent from the Caspian Sea in the west, China in the east, Afghanistan in the south, and Russia in the north...

. Sites at which Bactrian language inscriptions have been found are (in North-South order) Afrasiab
Samarkand
Although a Persian-speaking region, it was not united politically with Iran most of the times between the disintegration of the Seleucid Empire and the Arab conquest . In the 6th century it was within the domain of the Turkic kingdom of the Göktürks.At the start of the 8th century Samarkand came...

 in Uzbekistan
Uzbekistan
Uzbekistan , officially the Republic of Uzbekistan is a doubly landlocked country in Central Asia and one of the six independent Turkic states. It shares borders with Kazakhstan to the west and to the north, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan to the east, and Afghanistan and Turkmenistan to the south....

, Kara-Tepe
Termez
Termez is a city in southern Uzbekistan near the border with Afghanistan.Some link the name of the city to thermos, "hot" in Greek, tracing its name back to Alexander the Great. Others suggest that it came from Sanskrit taramato, meaning "on the river bank". It is the hottest point of Uzbekistan...

, Airtam, Delbarjin, Balkh
Balkh
Balkh , was an ancient city and centre of Zoroastrianism in what is now northern Afghanistan. Today it is a small town in the province of Balkh, about 20 kilometers northwest of the provincial capital, Mazar-e Sharif, and some south of the Amu Darya. It was one of the major cities of Khorasan...

, Kunduz
Kunduz
Kunduz also known as Kundûz, Qonduz, Qondûz, Konduz, Kondûz, Kondoz, or Qhunduz is a city in northern Afghanistan, the capital of Kunduz Province. It is linked by highways with Mazari Sharif to the west, Kabul to the south and Tajikistan's border to the north...

, Baglan
Baghlan
Baghlan is a city in northern Afghanistan, in the eponymous province, Baghlan Province. It is located three miles east of the Kunduz River, 35 miles south of Khanabad, and about 1,700 metres above sea level in the northern Hindu Kush...

, Ratabak/Surkh Kotal
Surkh Kotal
Surkh Kotal, alternate names: Chashma-i Shir or Sar-i Chashma is an ancient archaeological site located in the southern part of the region of Bactria, in today's northern Afghanistan, 18 km north of the city of Puli Khumri, the capital of the province Baghlan.It is the location of monumental...

, Oruzgan, Kabul
Kabul
Kabul , spelt Caubul in some classic literatures, is the capital and largest city of Afghanistan. It is also the capital of the Kabul Province, located in the eastern section of Afghanistan...

, Dasht-e Navur, Ghazni
Ghazni
For the Province of Ghazni see Ghazni ProvinceGhazni is a city in central-east Afghanistan with a population of about 141,000 people...

, Jagatu in Afghanistan
Afghanistan
Afghanistan , officially the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, is a landlocked country located in the centre of Asia, forming South Asia, Central Asia and the Middle East. With a population of about 29 million, it has an area of , making it the 42nd most populous and 41st largest nation in the world...

, as well as Islamabad
Islamabad
Islamabad is the capital of Pakistan and the tenth largest city in the country. Located within the Islamabad Capital Territory , the population of the city has grown from 100,000 in 1951 to 1.7 million in 2011...

, Shatial Bridge and Tochi Valley
Tochi Valley
Tochi Valley, , is one of the main routes into Afghanistan from the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa of Pakistan.The Tochi Valley leads from Bannu District through tribal areas, and is inhabited by the Dawari tribe. The valley is divided into two parts, known as Upper and Lower Dawar, by a narrow pass called the...

 in Pakistan
Pakistan
Pakistan , officially the Islamic Republic of Pakistan is a sovereign state in South Asia. It has a coastline along the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Oman in the south and is bordered by Afghanistan and Iran in the west, India in the east and China in the far northeast. In the north, Tajikistan...

. Of eight known manuscript fragments in Greco-Bactrian script, one is from Lou-lan
Loulan
Loulan or Kroran was an ancient kingdom based around an important oasis city already known in the 2nd century BCE on the north-eastern edge of the Lop Desert. Loulan, known to Russian archaeologists as Krorayina, was an ancient kingdom along the Silk Road. In 108 BCE, the Han Dynasty forces...

 and seven from Toyoq, where they were discovered by the second and third Turpan expeditions under Albert von Le Coq
Albert von Le Coq
Albert von Le Coq was a German archaeologist and explorer of Central Asia. He was heir to a sizable fortune derived from breweries and wineries scattered throughout Central and Eastern Europe, thus allowing him the luxury of travel and study at the - no longer existing - Ethnology Museum in Berlin...

. One of these may be a Buddhist text. One other manuscript, in Manichean script, was found at Qočo
Gaochang
Gaochang is the site of an ancient oasis city built on the northern rim of the inhospitable Taklamakan Desert in Xinjiang, China. A busy trading center, it was a stopping point for merchant traders traveling on the Silk Road...

 by Mary Boyce
Mary Boyce
Nora Elisabeth Mary Boyce was a British scholar of Iranian languages, and an authority on Zoroastrianism...

 in 1958.

Among Iranian languages, the use of the Greek alphabet is unique to Bactrian. The Greek alphabet is however not ideal for representing Iranian languages. Although ambiguities remain, some of the disadvantages were overcome by using heta (Ͱ, ͱ) for /h/ and by introducing sho
Sho (letter)
The letter was a letter added to the Greek alphabet in order to write the Bactrian language. It was similar in appearance to the Anglo-Saxon and Icelandic letter thorn , which is sometimes used to represent it in modern print, although both are historically quite unrelated. It probably...

(Ϸ, ϸ) to represent /ʃ/. Xi (Ξ, ξ) and psi
Psi (letter)
Psi is the 23rd letter of the Greek alphabet and has a numeric value of 700. In both Classical and Modern Greek, the letter indicates the combination /ps/ . The letter was adopted into the Old Italic alphabet, and its shape is continued into the Algiz rune of the Elder Futhark...

(Ψ, ψ) were not used for writing Bactrian as the ks and ps sequences do not occur in Bactrian. They were however probably used to represent numbers (just as other Greek letters were).

Further reading




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