In the third century B.C., the Yueh-Chihs, a loose confederation of Indo-European people, belonged to the pastoral nomad state of what is now Inner Mongolia. This nomadic hord were the members of the Xiongnu confederacy. They were China's main rivals during the Han period. The earliest Great Wall of China was built to defend the territory the Han had captured from Xiongnu.
After the falling out of Yueh Chihs with the confederacy, they split off and fled to Bactria (northwest Afghanistan and Tajikistan) around 135 B.C. Gradually wresting control of the area from the Scytho-Parthians, the Yueh Chihs moved south into the northwest Indian region traditionally known as Gandhara (now parts of Pakistan and Afghanistan) and established a capital near Kabul. Though China made several attempts to woo them as their natural allies, Yue-Chihs rejected the offer of returning to Xiongnu.
The Yueh-Chih nobles intermarried, creating several powerful clans. They came into contact with the Greek culture, learned to use a form of the Greek alphabet, and lost their nomadic habits. One of those five tribes, the (Kueh Shen) Kushanas overpowered the others and founded the Kushan state.
At the height of the dynasty in the early second century, Kushanas controlled a large territory ranging from the Aral Sea through areas that include present-day Uzbekistan, Afghanistan, and Pakistan into northern India as far east as Benares and as far south as Sanchi. It was also a period of great wealth marked by extensive mercantile activities, both in seagoing trade and in commerce along the Silk Road to China, and a flourishing of urban life, Buddhist thought, and the visual arts.
Although the Kushan Empire was one of the major beneficiaries of the Silk Road, it did not last very long. By the mid-third century C.E. it had shrunk to a small kingdom attached to Persia's rising Sassanian Empire
This extraordinary coin is a genuine ancient bronze tetradrachm minted in the first century A.D. during the reign of the Kushan dynasty king Vima Takto. Note the remarkable state of preservation exhibited by the coin. Its design, featuring portraiture, high relief and superb craftsmanship was heavily influenced by classical Greek coins. It was Vima’s son, Kanishka, who gained notoriety for having conquered Afghanistan and northwest India near the end of the fist century A.D. For more than a millenium, the name of this king and his connection to the coins were lost to antiquity. The cryptic inscription on his coins bore only the words “Soter Megas” (Great King). In 1993, it was scholar’s chance discovery of ancient texts that finally ended the mystery: the “Great King” was in fact Vima Takto.
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