A series of Greek rulers attempted to maintain the Hellenizing goals of Alexander the Great in Bactria (modern Afghanistan), long after his death in 323 BCE. The most famous ruler in this line was Menander I (ca. 160–130 BCE), who achieved immortality in Buddhist literature by engaging in a debate with the Buddhist sage Nagasena. Their talks, set out as a series of dilemmas to be posed and (if possible) resolved, became an important exposition of Buddhist ideas and supposedly led to the conversion of Menander (“King Milinda”) to Buddhism. In any event, the Milindapanha reflects the fusion of Greek and Indian traditions of philosophy, in the fascinating cauldron of world contact that existed in Central and South Asia.
The Questions of King Milinda, trans. T. W. Rhys Davids, vol. 2 (Oxford: Clarendon, 1894), 4–7 and 20–22.
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Thrown to the lions in 275 CE by the Romans for refusing to recant his Christian beliefs, St. Mamai is an important martyr in the iconography of Georgia, a Caucasian kingdom that embraced Christianity early in the fourth century. This gilded silver medallion (“tondo”) depicts the saint astride a lion while he bears a cross in one hand, symbolizing his triumphant victory over death and ignorance.