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Encyclopedia > Alexandria on the Oxus

Ai-Khanoum (lit. “Moon Lady” in Uzbaki, probably the historical Alexandria on the Oxus), was founded in the 4th century BC, following the conquests of Alexander the Great. The city is located in the Kunduz area in northern Afghanistan, at the confluence of the Oxus river (today's Amu Darya) and the Kokcha river.


A Greek city in Bactria

Coins of the Greco-Bactrian king Eucratides (171_145 BC) were excavated at Ai_Khanoum.

Archaelogical searches by French and Russian scientists have unearthed a palace, a gymnasium, temples and two_miles long ramparts, very rich finds of human figurines in Bactrian style, sherds inscribed with Greek characters, plates with central ornamental medallions in relief . Overall, A_Khanoum was extremely important Greek city (1.5 sq kilometer), characteristic of the Seleucid Empire and then the Greco-Bactrian Kingdom. It seems the city was destroyed once, and then rebuilt at the time of the Greco-Bactrian king Eucratides around 150 BC.

Strategic interest

The choice of this site for the foundation of a city was probably guided by several factors. The region, irrigated by the Oxus, had a rich agricultural potential. Mineral resources were abundant in the back country towards the Hindu Kush. Lastly, its location at the junction between Bactrian territory and nomad territories to the north, ultimately allowed access to commerce with the Chinese empire.

Nomadic invasions

The invading Indo_European nomads from the north (the Scythians and then the Yuezhi) crossed the Oxus and submerged Bactria about 135 B.C. It seems the city was totally abandoned between 130-120 BC following the Yuezhi invasion. The last Greco-Bactrian king Heliocles moved his capital from Balkh around 125 BC and resettled in the Kabul valley. The Greeks were to go on controlling various parts of northern India under the Indo-Greek Kingdom until around 1 BC, until the Yuezhi further expanded in northern India themselves, to form the Kushan Empire.

As for other archaeological sites such as Begram or Hadda, the Ai_Khanoum site has been pillaged during the long phase of war in Afghanistan since the fall of the Communist government.

See also:

Seleucid Empire
Greco-Bactrian Kingdom
Indo-Greek Kingdom
Kushan Empire

External Links:

Ai Khanoum archaelogical site photographs (http://www.utexas.edu/courses/citylife/ai_khanoum.html)
Ai-Khanoum and vandalization during the Afghan war (http://www.flonnet.com/fl1906/19060660.htm)
Ai-Khanoum site history (http://www.afghanan.net/afghanistan/sites/mauryans.htm)
The Hellenistic Age (http://faculty.maxwell.syr.edu/gaddis/HST210/Oct21/Default.htm)

  Results from FactBites:
Top Literature - Alexandria Eschate (399 words)
Alexandria Eschate (Greek Ἀλεξάνδρεια Εσχάτη, “Alexandria the Furthest”) was founded by Alexander the Great in 329 BCE as his most advanced base in Central Asia.
Alexandria Eschate is located to the north of Bactria, at the entrance to the Ferghana Valley.
Alexandria Eschate was located around 300km north of Alexandria on the Oxus in Bactria, and being in Sogdian territory had to sustain numerous conflicts with the local population.
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