Demetrius III Aniketos

Demetrios III Aniketos ("The Invincible")
Indo-Greek king

Copper coins of Demetrius Aniketos.
Obv: Bust of king, wearing an elephant's scalp, with Greek legend: BASILEOS ANIKETOU DEMETRIOU "Of Invincible King Demetrius".
Rev: Winged thunderbolt. Kharoshthi legend: MAHARAJASA APARAJITASA DIMETRIA (Invincible king Demetrius).
Reign c. 100 BCE

Demetrius III Aniketos (Greek: Δημήτριος Γ΄ ὁ Ἀνίκητος; epithet means "the Invincible") is here identified with an Indo-Greek king who reigned in the area of Gandhara and Punjab.

Controversy about time of reign

The coins of Demetrius III are few and rather crude. He copies some of his imagery from the renowned Bactrian king Demetrius I (c. 200–180 BCE). The two namesakes share the war-like epithet "The Invincible" and wear elephant-crowns, the symbol that Alexander the Great used to celebrate his conquest of the Indus Valley.

The historical sources of the Indo-Greek kingdom are very few, and the separation of kings with the same name is not an easy process. Numismatician Osmund Bopearachchi identifies three kings named Demetrius, placing the third around 100 BCE due to mintmarks and style of the coins. (See discussion under Demetrius II). R C Senior agrees with this reconstruction, even though their dates are somewhat different: according to Bopearachchi he ruled around 100 BCE, whereas R. C. Senior places him circa 70 BCE, in both cases as successor of Heliokles II.

However, Demetrius III is the only Demetrius to strike bilingual Greek/Indian (Kharoshti) coins, and is therefore a likely candidate to be identified with the "Demetrius, king of the Indians" mentioned by Roman historian Justin.[1] This Demetrius is said to have fought with the Bactrian king Eucratides (c. 170–145 BCE) during the latter part of Eucratides' rule. Bopearachchi nevertheless identifies Justin's Demetrius with the king Demetrius II even though he only struck Greek coins and reigned c. 175–170 BCE, even before Eucratides. In addition, Bopearachchi's early dating of Demetrius II has been challenged (see discussion under Demetrius II.

Yet other authors have identified Justin's Demetrius with Demetrius I of Bactria, ignoring both Bopearachchi's chronology as well as modifying Justin's text.[2]

Earlier authors such as Tarn and Narain thought that the Demetrius who struck the coins now identified with Demetrius III [3] was the king who fought Eucratides, and saw him as a son of Demetrius I.

The absence of absolute proofs of dating Demetrius III (such as counter-marked coins), and the remaining problems of all current reconstructions, means the problem is not definitely solved, and the alternative chronology would be to place Demetrius III around 150 BCE in compliance with Tarn's and Narain's ideas about his identity as a Euthydemid prince who fought against Eucratides.[4]

Possible dynastic context

If Demetrius III ruled around 100 or 70 BCE, he seems to have been a relative of Heliokles II, though his title and use of the elephant-crown of Demetrius I also associates him with the king Lysias.

If he ruled around 150 BCE, he was very likely a surviving Euthydemid prince like Tarn and Narain assumed. The symbols of his coin connect him with several Euthydemid kings: the kausia hat on one of his portrait with Antimachus I, the elephant-crown and the title Aniketos as mentioned with Demetrius I, and the standing Zeus on his silver reverses with Agathocles.

Coins of Demetrius III

The actual coins of Demetrius III are very few and struck with a single, unique monogram. This suggests a short and insignificant reign. On his silver, Demetrius III appears in the kausia hat (on the unique known tetradrachm) or diademed, with a reverse of Zeus holding thunderbolt. His bronzes feature a king in elephant's crown, either Demetrius III or Demetrius I, with thunderbolt on the reverse.

Greco-Bactrian and Indo-Greek kings, territories and chronology
Based on Bopearachchi (1991)[5]
Greco-Bactrian kings Indo-Greek kings
West Bactria East Bactria Paropamisade
Arachosia Gandhara Western Punjab Eastern Punjab
326-325 BCE Campaigns of Alexander the Great in India
312 BCE Creation of the Seleucid Empire
305 BCE Seleucid Empire after Mauryan war
280 BCE Foundation of Ai-Khanoum
255–239 BCE Independence of the
Greco-Bactrian kingdom
Diodotus I
239–223 BCE Diodotus II
230–200 BCE Euthydemus I
200–190 BCE Demetrius I
190-185 BCE Euthydemus II
190–180 BCE Agathocles Pantaleon
185–170 BCE Antimachus I
180–160 BCE Apollodotus I
175–170 BCE Demetrius II
160–155 BCE Antimachus II
170–145 BCE Eucratides I
155–130 BCE Yuezhi occupation,
loss of Ai-Khanoum
Eucratides II
Heliocles I
Menander I
130–120 BCE Yuezhi occupation Zoilos I Agathokleia
120–110 BCE Lysias Strato I
110–100 BCE Antialcidas Heliokles II
100 BCE Polyxenos Demetrius III
100–95 BCE Philoxenus
95–90 BCE Diomedes Amyntas Epander
90 BCE Theophilos Peukolaos Thraso
90–85 BCE Nicias Menander II Artemidoros
90–70 BCE Hermaeus Archebius
Yuezhi occupation Maues (Indo-Scythian)
75–70 BCE Telephos Apollodotus II
65–55 BCE Hippostratos Dionysios
55–35 BCE Azes I (Indo-Scythian) Zoilos II
55–35 BCE Apollophanes
25 BCE – 10 CE Strato II and Strato III
Rajuvula (Indo-Scythian)
Bhadayasa (Indo-Scythian)

See also


  1. Justin, Epitome of Pompeius Trogus, XLI:6
  2. L.M. Wilson, and G.R.F. Assar, Re-dating Eukratides I relative to Mithradates I, ONS Journal 191 (2007). They suggest that Justin's reference that Eucratides "carried on many wars" before his campaign against Demetrius refers to wars fought before Eucratides became king, so that the war took place during the early stages of Eucratides' rule. Against this interpretation must be said that Justin continues to state that these "many wars" seriously weakened Eucratides, whereas in Wilson's and Assar's reading, the wars in question lead to Eucratides becoming an important king.
  3. Tarn and Narain usually refer to this king as Demetrius II, since they did not separate him from Demetrius II of Bactria
  4. The actual datings suggested by Tarn and Narain differ from 150 BCE, but a number of circumstances has made their general chronology outdated.
  5. O. Bopearachchi, "Monnaies gréco-bactriennes et indo-grecques, Catalogue raisonné", Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris, 1991, p.453
Preceded by:
Heliokles II
Indo-Greek Ruler
(Gandhara and Punjab)
(c.100 BCE)
Succeeded by:
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