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King Hermaeus

King Hermaeus

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Hermaeus Soter "the Saviour" was a Western Indo-Greek king of the Eucratid Dynasty, who ruled the territory of Paropamisade in the Hindu-Kush region, with his capital in Alexandria of the Caucasus
Alexandria of the Caucasus
Alexandria on the Caucasus was a colony of Alexander the Great...

 (near today's 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...

, 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...

). Bopearachchi dates Hermaeus to circa 90 - 70 BCE and R C Senior to circa 95 - 80 BCE but concedes that Bopearachchi's later date could be correct.

Hermaeus seems to have been successor of Philoxenus or Diomedes, and his wife Kalliope may have been a daughter of Philoxenus according to Senior. Judging from his coins, Hermaeus' rule was long and prosperous, but came to an end when the Yuezhi
Yuezhi
The Yuezhi, or Rouzhi , also known as the Da Yuezhi or Da Rouzhi , were an ancient Central Asian people....

, coming from neighbouring 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...

 overtook most of his Greek kingdom in the Paropamisade around 70 BCE. According to Bopearachchi, these nomads were the Yuezhi
Yuezhi
The Yuezhi, or Rouzhi , also known as the Da Yuezhi or Da Rouzhi , were an ancient Central Asian people....

, the ancestors of the Kushans, whereas Senior considers them Sakas.

Following his reign, it is generally considered that Greek communities remained under the rule of these Hellenized nomads, continuing rich cultural interraction (See Greco-Buddhism
Greco-Buddhism
Greco-Buddhism, sometimes spelled Graeco-Buddhism, refers to the cultural syncretism between Hellenistic culture and Buddhism, which developed between the 4th century BCE and the 5th century CE in the area covered by the Indian sub-continent, and modern Afghanistan, Pakistan and north-western...

). Some parts of his kingdom may have been taken over by later kings, such as Amyntas Nikator.

The coinage of Hermaeus was copied widely (posthumous issues), in increasingly barbarized form by the new nomad rulers down to around 40 CE (see Yuezhi
Yuezhi
The Yuezhi, or Rouzhi , also known as the Da Yuezhi or Da Rouzhi , were an ancient Central Asian people....

 article). At that time Kushan ruler Kujula Kadphises
Kujula Kadphises
Kujula Kadphises, reigned was a Kushan prince who united the Yuezhi confederation during the 1st century CE, and became the first Kushan emperor...

 emphatically associated himself to Hermaeus on his coins, suggesting he was either a descendant by alliance of the Greek king, or that at least he wanted to claim his legacy. In any case, the Yuezhi-Kushan preserved a close cultural interraction with the Greeks as late as the 3rd century CE.

Given the importance of Hermaeus to the nomad rulers, it is possible that Hermaeus himself was partially of nomad origin.

Coins of Hermaeus


Hermaeus issued Indian silver coins of three types. The first type has diademed or sometimes helmeted portrait, with reverse of sitting Zeus making benediction gesture. Hermaeus also issued a rare series of Attic silver tetradrachms of this type, which were issued for export to Bactria.

The second type was a joint series of Hermaeus with his queen Kalliope. The reverse departs from the traditional Hermaeus format, in that it shows the king on a prancing horse. The "king on a pracing horse" is characteristic of the contemporary Greek kings in the eastern Punjab such as Hippostratos
Hippostratos
Hippostratos was an Indo-Greek king who ruled central and north-western Punjab and Pushkalavati. Bopearachchi dates Hippostratos to 65 to 55 BCE whereas R.C...

, and it has been suggested that the coin represented a marital alliance between the two dynastic lines. The horseman on Hermaeus' version is however portrayed somewhat different, being equipped with a typic Scythian longbow.

The third series combined the reverses of the first series, without portrait.

Hermaeus also issued bronze coins with head of Zeus
Zeus
In the ancient Greek religion, Zeus was the "Father of Gods and men" who ruled the Olympians of Mount Olympus as a father ruled the family. He was the god of sky and thunder in Greek mythology. His Roman counterpart is Jupiter and his Etruscan counterpart is Tinia.Zeus was the child of Cronus...

-Mithras and a prancing horse on the reverse.

Contacts with China


A Chinese historical record from the Hanshu Chap. 96A could possible be related to Hermaeus, even though this is very speculative and the record more likely refers to later Saka kings. The chronicle tells how a king who may possibly be identified as Hermaeus received the support of the Chinese against Indo-Scythian occupants, and may explain why his kingdom was suddenly so prosperous despite the general decline of the Indo-Greeks during the period. The Chinese records would put Hermaeus's dates later, with his reign ending around 40 BCE.

According to the Hanshu, Chap. 96A, Wutoulao (Spalirises
Spalirises
Spalirises was an Indo-Scythian "Great king" of the 1st century BCE. He was the brother of Vonones , and probably identical with Spalahores....

?), king of Jibin (Kophen, upper 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...

 Valley), killed some Chinese envoys. After the death of the king, his son (Spaladagames) sent an envoy to China with gifts. The Chinese general Wen Zhong, commander of the border area in western Gansu
Gansu
' is a province located in the northwest of the People's Republic of China.It lies between the Tibetan and Huangtu plateaus, and borders Mongolia, Inner Mongolia, and Ningxia to the north, Xinjiang and Qinghai to the west, Sichuan to the south, and Shaanxi to the east...

, accompanied the escort back. Wutoulao's son plotted to kill Wen Zhong. When Wen Zhong discovered the plot, he allied himself with Yinmofu (Hermaeus?), "son of the king of Rongqu" (Yonaka, the Greeks). They attacked Jibin (possibly with the support of the Yuezhi
Yuezhi
The Yuezhi, or Rouzhi , also known as the Da Yuezhi or Da Rouzhi , were an ancient Central Asian people....

, themselves allies of the Chinese since around 100 BCE according to the Hanshu) and killed Wutoulao's son. Yinmofu (Hermaeus?) was then installed as king of Jibin, as a vassal of the Chinese Empire, and receiving the Chinese seal and ribbon of investiture.

Later Yinmofu (Hermaeus?) himself is recorded to have killed Chinese envoys in the reign of Emperor Yuandi
Emperor Yuan of Han
Emperor Yuan of Han was an emperor of the Chinese Han Dynasty. He reigned from 48 BC to 33 BC. Emperor Yuan was remembered for the promotion of Confucianism as the official creed of Chinese government. He appointed Confucius adherents to important government posts...

 (48-33 BCE), then sent envoys to apologize to the Chinese court, but he was disregarded. During the reign of Emperor Chengdi
Emperor Cheng of Han
Emperor Cheng of Han was an emperor of the Chinese Han Dynasty ruling from 33 BC until 7 BC.Under Emperor Cheng, the Han dynasty continued its slide into disintegration while the Wang clan continued its slow grip on power and on governmental affairs as promoted by the previous emperor...

 (51-7 BCE) other envoys were sent, but they were rejected as simple traders.

These events may have initiated an alliance between the Greeks and the Yuezhi (even possibly a dynastic alliance), explaining why the Yuezhi gained pre-eminence after the reign of Hermaeus, why their rulers such as Heraios
Heraios
Heraios was a clan chief of the Kushans , one of the five constituent tribes of the Yuezhi confederacy in Bactria in the early 1st century CE, roughly at the time when the Kushans were starting their invasion of India.Silver coins were made in the Hellenistic style and used the Greek writing...

 then minted coins in a way very faithful to the Greek type, and why the first Kushan emperor Kujula Kadphises
Kujula Kadphises
Kujula Kadphises, reigned was a Kushan prince who united the Yuezhi confederation during the 1st century CE, and became the first Kushan emperor...

 associated himself with Hermaeus on his coins, in a way characteristic of a ruler asserting his pedigree.

Biblical connection


Although very unlikely, some Christian Biblical scholars have suggested that Hermaeus may have been one of the three Kings
Biblical Magi
The Magi Greek: μάγοι, magoi), also referred to as the Wise Men, Kings, Astrologers, or Kings from the East, were a group of distinguished foreigners who were said to have visited Jesus after his birth, bearing gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh...

(actually identified as being Magi
Magi
Magi is a term, used since at least the 4th century BC, to denote a follower of Zoroaster, or rather, a follower of what the Hellenistic world associated Zoroaster with, which...

 by the bible, and unnumbered) from the east who are related to have visited Jesus at the time of his birth:

"After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, 'Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him" .

Gallery


Preceded by:
Niciuas
Indo-Greek Ruler
(Paropamisade)
(90-70 BCE).
Succeeded by:
Yuezhi rulers
Yuezhi
The Yuezhi, or Rouzhi , also known as the Da Yuezhi or Da Rouzhi , were an ancient Central Asian people....



See also

  • 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...

  • Seleucid Empire
    Seleucid Empire
    The Seleucid Empire was a Greek-Macedonian state that was created out of the eastern conquests of Alexander the Great. At the height of its power, it included central Anatolia, the Levant, Mesopotamia, Persia, today's Turkmenistan, Pamir and parts of Pakistan.The Seleucid Empire was a major centre...

  • Greco-Buddhism
    Greco-Buddhism
    Greco-Buddhism, sometimes spelled Graeco-Buddhism, refers to the cultural syncretism between Hellenistic culture and Buddhism, which developed between the 4th century BCE and the 5th century CE in the area covered by the Indian sub-continent, and modern Afghanistan, Pakistan and north-western...

  • Indo-Scythians
    Indo-Scythians
    Indo-Scythians is a term used to refer to Sakas , who migrated into Bactria, Sogdiana, Arachosia, Gandhara, Kashmir, Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Maharashtra and Rajasthan, from the middle of the 2nd century BCE to the 4th century CE....

  • Indo-Parthian Kingdom
    Indo-Parthian Kingdom
    The Gondopharid dynasty, and other so-called Indo-Parthian rulers, were a group of ancient kings from present day eastern Afghanistan and Pakistan who ruled India, during or slightly before the 1st century AD...

  • Kushan Empire
    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...


Sources

  • The Greeks in Bactria and India, W.W. Tarn, Cambridge University Press.
  • The Coin types of the Indo-Greek Kings 256-54 BCE, A.K. Narain
  • China in Central Asia: The Early Stage 125 BC – AD 23: an annotated translation of chapters 61 and 96 of the History of the Former Han Dynasty. A. F. P. Hulsewé, and M. A. N. Loewe, 1979. Leiden: E. J. Brill.

External links