< Back  |   Home  |   Next >
The Coin Galleries: Bactria: Heliocles I

Heliocles I (also spelled Heliokles) was the third of the three kings (Plato and Eucratides II being the others) who seemed to succeed Eucratides I in quick succession in Bactria, north of the Hindu Kush mountains. Heliocles appears to have been the last of the three, since his coinage was imitated extensively by the Scythian nomads who undoubtedly overthrew the Greeks in Bactria (a sample of these coins is seen below). Heliocles ruled only in Bactria, as all his known coins conform to the Attic weight standard that was used only north of the Hindu Kush.

Heliocles I

Bactria: Heliocles I, Silver tetradrachm, c. 145-130 BCE
Weight: 16.89 gm., Diam: 32 mm., Die axis: 12 h
Diademed bust of king facing right, bead and reel border around /
Zeus standing facing, holding thunderbolt in right hand, spear in left,
     Greek legend: BAΣIΛEΩΣ / ΔIKAIOY / HΛIOKΛEOYΣ
     (of King Heliocles, the Just)

Bactria: Heliocles I, Silver tetradrachm, c. 145-130 BCE
Weight: 14.15 gm., Diam: 32 mm., Die axis: 12 h
Diademed bust of king facing right, bead and reel border around /
Zeus standing facing, holding thunderbolt in right hand, spear in left,
     Greek legend: BAΣIΛEΩΣ / ΔIKAIOY / HΛIOKΛEOYΣ
     (of King Heliocles, the Just)

Bactria: Heliocles I, Silver drachm, c. 145-130 BCE
Weight: 2.01 gm., Diam: 20 mm., Die axis: 12 h
Diademed bust of king facing right, bead and reel border around /
Zeus standing facing, holding thunderbolt in right hand, spear in left,
     Greek legend: BAΣIΛEΩΣ / ΔIKAIOY / HΛIOKΛEOYΣ
     (of King Heliocles, the Just)

Bactria: Heliocles I, Silver drachm, c. 145-130 BCE
Weight: 3.73 gm., Diam: 17 mm., Die axis: 12 h
Diademed bust of king facing right, bead and reel border around /
Zeus standing facing, holding thunderbolt in right hand, spear in left,
     Greek legend: BAΣIΛEΩΣ / ΔIKAIOY / HΛIOKΛEOYΣ
     (of King Heliocles, the Just)

Bactria: Heliocles I, Silver drachm, c. 145-130 BCE
Weight: 3.04 gm., Diam: 19 mm., Die axis: 12 h
Diademed bust of king facing right, bead and reel border around /
Zeus standing facing, holding thunderbolt in right hand, spear in left,
     Greek legend: BAΣIΛEΩΣ / ΔIKAIOY / HΛIOKΛEOYΣ
     (of King Heliocles, the Just)
This coin has the same ΠΓ monogram in the exergue of the reverse as does the second tetradrachm shown above, indicating it is from the same mint. In fact, the bold style on the two coins is exactly the same, indicating that the dies are the work of the same hand.

Bactria: Heliocles I, Silver tetradrachm, c. 145-130 BCE
Weight: 9.44 gm., Diam: 31 mm., Die axis: 12 h
Diademed and Helmeted bust of king facing right, bead and reel border around /
Zeus enthroned left, holding winged Nike in right hand, spear in left,
     Greek legend: BAΣIΛEΩΣ / ΔIKAIOY / HΛIOKΛEOYΣ
     (of King Heliocles, the Just)
This coin has a very low weight and the silver appears to be quite base. Perhaps this indicates that the economy was in decline, possibly as a consequence of incessant raids by the nomads who had sacked and burned Ai-Khanoum to end Eucratides I's rule there and were to dethrone Heliocles in Bactria.

Bactria: Heliocles I, Silver tetradrachm, c. 145-130 BCE
Weight: 2.13 gm., Diam: 17 mm., Die axis: 12:30 h
Diademed and Helmeted bust of king facing right, bead and reel border around /
Zeus enthroned left, holding winged Nike in right hand, spear in left,
     Greek legend: BAΣIΛEΩΣ / ΔIKAIOY / HΛIOKΛEOYΣ
     (of King Heliocles, the Just)
Scythian Imitations

Scythian: Heliocles imitation, Billon tetradrachm, c. after 130 BCE
Weight: 14.77 gm., Diam: 32 mm., Die axis: 11 h
Diademed bust of king facing right, bead and reel border around /
Zeus standing facing, radiate, holding thunderbolt in right hand, spear in left,
     blundered Greek legend: BAΣIΛEΩΣ / ΔIKAIOY / HΛIOKΛEOYΣ
     (of King Heliocles, the Just)
After Heliocles, no Greek king issued coins north of the Hindu Kush mountains. However, it appears that for a considerable length of time after the end of the reign of Heliocles coins imitating the Heliocles types were issued in the area, albeit in somewhat crude style and with blundered Greek legends. Presumably, these were issued by the Scythian nomads who had displaced the Greeks, perhaps the forerunners of the tribes that coalesced into the Kushans.

Scythian: Heliocles imitation, AE tetradrachm, c. after 130 BCE
Weight: 13.65 gm., Diam: 34 mm., Die axis: 1 h
Diademed bust of king facing right, bead and reel border around /
Zeus standing facing, radiate, holding thunderbolt in right hand, spear in left,
     blundered Greek legend: BAΣIΛEΩΣ / ΔIKAIOY / HΛIOKΛEOYΣ
     (of King Heliocles, the Just)
The imitation coins became steadily cruder in style.

Scythian: Heliocles imitation, AE tetradrachm, c. after 130 BCE
Weight: 16.32 gm., Diam: 27 mm., Die axis: 12 h
Diademed bust of king facing right, bead and reel border around /
Horse standing left, foreleg raised,
     blundered Greek legend: BAΣIΛEΩΣ / ΔIKAIOY / HΛIOKΛEOYΣ
     (of King Heliocles, the Just)
At some point, while continuing to place a Heliocles-style bust on the obverse and the blundered Heliocles legend on the reverse, the issuers of these coins replaced Zeus on the reverse with a horse. Zeus, after all, was a foreign god and hence could not have been very meaningful to the nomadic tribes for whom the horse must have been so indispensible.

Scythian: Heliocles imitation, AE tetradrachm, c. after 130 BCE
Weight: 15.73 gm., Diam: 28 mm., Die axis: 12 h
Diademed bust of king facing right, bead and reel border around /
Horse standing left, foreleg raised, tamgha on horse's rump
     blundered Greek legend: BAΣIΛEΩΣ / ΔIKAIOY / HΛIOKΛEOYΣ
     (of King Heliocles, the Just)

Some of the horse reverse Heliocles imitations have an extremely interesting aspect: a tamgha on the horse's rump (see detail at left). This tamgha closely resembles the tamgha on the coins of the nameless king "Soter Megas" who issued coins after the Kushan king Kujula Kadphises and is now thought by many to be the grandfather of Kanishka, Vima Takha (see his coins here, the tamgha is clearly visible on all but the first coin). This has led some to speculate that these Heliocles imitations were issued by the same king. I feel this is unlikely, as these coins were probably issued some time late in the 2nd or perhaps the 1st century BCE, while the Soter Megas coins were issued in the late 1st century CE. Nevertheless, the tamgha does create a link between these coins and those of Soter Megas, suggesting that the issuers of this coin belonged to the same tribe as Soter Megas.

Scythian: Heliocles imitation, AE drachm, c. after 130 BCE
Weight: 4.41 gm., Diam: 19 mm., Die axis: 11 h
Diademed bust of king facing right, bead and reel border around /
Horse standing left, foreleg raised, tamgha on horse's rump
     blundered Greek legend: BAΣIΛEΩΣ / ΔIKAIOY / HΛIOKΛEOYΣ
     (of King Heliocles, the Just)

The tamgha on the horse's rump is also seen on these base metal drachms (see detail at left).

Scythian: Heliocles imitation, AE drachm, c. after 130 BCE
Weight: 3.55 gm., Diam: 20 mm., Die axis: 12 h
Diademed bust of king facing right, bead and reel border around /
Horse standing left, foreleg raised, tamgha on horse's rump
     blundered Greek legend: BAΣIΛEΩΣ / ΔIKAIOY / HΛIOKΛEOYΣ
     (of King Heliocles, the Just)

Scythian: Heliocles imitation, AE drachm, c. after 130 BCE
Weight: 2.68 gm., Diam: 16 mm., Die axis: 12 h
Diademed bust of king facing right, bead and reel border around /
Horse standing left, foreleg raised, tamgha on horse's rump
     blundered Greek legend: BAΣIΛEΩΣ / ΔIKAIOY / HΛIOKΛEOYΣ
     (of King Heliocles, the Just)
This coin seems to have a little silver in it. An interesting aspect of these imitation coins is that, despite the crudeness of their execution, they adhered pretty closely to a 12 o'clock die axis orientation.

Scythian: Heliocles imitation, AE drachm, c. after 130 BCE
Weight: 1.88 gm., Diam: 16 mm., Die axis: 12 h
Diademed bust of king facing right, bead and reel border around /
Horse standing left, foreleg raised, tamgha on horse's rump
     blundered Greek legend: BAΣIΛEΩΣ / ΔIKAIOY / HΛIOKΛEOYΣ
     (of King Heliocles, the Just)

Scythian: Heliocles imitation, AE drachm, c. after 130 BCE
Weight: 2.49 gm., Diam: 15 mm., Die axis: 1 h
Diademed bust of king facing right, bead and reel border around /
Horse standing left, foreleg raised, tamgha on horse's rump
     blundered Greek legend: BAΣIΛEΩΣ / ΔIKAIOY / HΛIOKΛEOYΣ
     (of King Heliocles, the Just)
A remarkably crude coin!
© CoinIndia
All Rights Reserved Copyright Policy
< Back  |   Home  |   Next >