Menander I

Another silver drachm of Menander I, dated circa 160-145 BC. Obverse: ΒΑΣΙΛΕΩΣ ΣΩΤΗΡΟΣ ΜΕΝΑΝΔΡΟΥ ('of King Menander the Saviour'), heroic bust of Menander, viewed from behind, head turned to left; Reverse: Athena standing right, brandishing thunderbolt and holding aegis, Karosthi legend around, monogram in field to left. Reference: Sear 7604.

"Then in the eighth year, (Kharavela) with a large army having sacked Goradhagiri causes pressure on Rajagaha (Rajagriha). On account of the loud report of this act of valour, the Yavana (Greek) King [ta] retreated to Mathura having extricated his demoralized army."

— 
Hathigumpha inscription, lines 7-8, probably in the 1st century BCE-1st century CE.[1] Original text is in Brahmi script.

Menander's empire survived him in a fragmented manner until the last Greek king Strato II disappeared around 10 AD.

Buddhist tradition relates that, following his discussions with Nāgasena, Menander adopted the Buddhist faith:

May the venerable Nâgasena accept me as a supporter of the faith, as a true convert from to-day onwards as long as life shall last!

He then handed over his kingdom to his son and retired from the world:

And afterwards, taking delight in the wisdom of the Elder, he handed over his kingdom to his son, and abandoning the household life for the houseless state, grew great in insight, and himself attained to Arahatship!

His legacy as a Buddhist arhat reached the Greco-Roman world and Plutarch (Moralia 28.6) writes:

But when one Menander, who had reigned graciously over the Bactrians, died afterwards in the camp, the cities indeed by common consent celebrated his funerals; but coming to a contest about his relics, they were difficultly at last brought to this agreement, that his ashes being distributed, everyone should carry away an equal share, and they should all erect monuments to him."

These elements tend to indicate the importance of Buddhism within Greek communities in northwestern India, and the prominent role Greek Buddhist monks played in them, probably under the sponsorship of Menander.

These alterations were possibly an adaption on Menander's part to the Indian coins of the Bactrian Eucratides I, who had conquered the westernmost parts of the Indo-Greek kingdom, and are interpreted by Bopearachchi as an indication that Menander recaptured these western territories after the death of Eucratides.

A king named Menander with the epithet Dikaios, "the Just", ruled in the Punjab after 100 BC. Earlier scholars, such as A. Cunningham and W. W. Tarn, believed there was only one Menander, and assumed that the king had changed his epithet and/or was expelled from his western dominions. A number of coincidences led them to this assumption:

However, modern numismatists as Bopearachchi and R.C. Senior have shown, by difference in coin findings, style and monograms, that there were two distinct rulers. The second Menander could have been a descendant of the first, and his Buddhist symbols a means of alluding to his ancestor's conversion. However, Menander I struck a rare bronze series with a Buddhist wheel (coin 3).

But when one Menander, who had reigned graciously over the Bactrians, died afterwards in the camp, the cities indeed by common consent celebrated his funerals; but coming to a contest about his relics, they were difficultly at last brought to this agreement, that his ashes being distributed, everyone should carry away an equal share, and they should all erect monuments to him.

Despite his many successes, Menander's last years may have been fraught with another civil war, this time against Zoilos I who reigned in Gandhara. This is indicated by the fact that Menander probably overstruck a coin of Zoilos.

The Milinda Panha might give some support to the idea that Menander's position was precarious, since it describes him as being somewhat cornered by numerous enemies into a circumscribed territory:

After their long discussion Nagasaka asked himself "though king Milinda is pleased, he gives no signs of being pleased". Menander says in reply: "As a lion, the king of beasts, when put in a cage, though it were of gold, is still facing outside, even so do I live as master in the house but remain facing outside. But if I were to go forth from home into homelessness I would not live long, so many are my enemies".

Menander was the last Indo-Greek king mentioned by ancient historians, and developments after his death are therefore difficult to trace.

According to this scenario, Agathokleia and Strato I only managed to maintain themselves in the eastern parts of the kingdom, Punjab and at times Gandhara. Paropamisadae and Pushkalavati were taken over by Zoilos I, perhaps because some of Agathokleia's subjects may have been reluctant to accept an infant king with a queen regent.

b) On the other hand, R.C. Senior and other numismatics such as David Bivar have suggested that Strato I ruled several decades after Menander: they point out that Strato's and Agathokleia's monograms are usually different from Menander's, and overstrikes and hoard findings also associates them with later kings.

This would tend to suggest that the first statues were created between 130 BC (death of Menander) and 50 BC, precisely at the time when Buddhist symbolism appeared on Indo-Greek coinage. From that time, Menander and his successors may have been the key propagators of Buddhist ideas and representations: "the spread of Gandhari Buddhism may have been stimulated by Menander's royal patronage, as may have the development and spread of Gandharan sculpture, which seems to have accompanied it" (Mcevilley, "The Shape of Ancient Thought", p. 378).