Bactrian (Αριαο) Bactrian

Bactrian is an Eastern Iranian language that was spoken from about 300 BC to 1000 AD in Bactria, an ancient Iranian civilisation in Central Asia to the south of the Oxus River (Amu Darya) and north of the Hindu Kush mountains. This area is now part of northern Afghanistan. It was also used as an official language in the Kushan Empire, which covered an area including Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Eastern Iran and Northern India, and the Hephthalite Empire, which covered southern Uzbekistan and northern Afghanistan.

After Bactria was conquered by Alexander the Greet in 323 BC, Greek became the language of administration for two centuries. During the 2nd century BC, Bactria was invaded by various Scythian and Yuezhi tribes. One of those trubes, the Kushana, founded the Kushan Empire in the 1st century AD. They used the Greek language in administration at first, but switched to Bactrian in about 127 AD, although they continued to use the Greek alphabet.

Written Bactrian

Bactrian is the only Indo-Iranian language written with a version of the Greek script. It is known from inscriptions, coins, seals, manuscripts and other documents which have been found in Uzbekistan, Afghanistan and Pakistan. The phonology of the language is not known for certain.

Notable features

Bactrian alphabet

Bactrian script

Sample text

Surkh Kotal inscription, 2nd century CE
Surkh Kotal inscription, 2nd century AD


Information about Bactrian

Iranian languages

Avestan, Bactrian Baluchi, Bartangi, Dari, Gilaki, Hazaragi, Ishkashimi, Judeo-Persian, Juhuri, Khufi, Kumzari, Kurdish, Luri, Mazandarani, Munji, Ossetian, Ormuri, Oroshor, Persian, Parthian, Pashto, Rushani, Sanglechi, Sarikoli, Shabaki, Shughni, Tajik, Talysh, Tat, Wakhi, Wanetsi, Yaghnobi, Yazghulami, Yidgha, Zazaki

Languages written with the Greek alphabet

Arvanitic, Bactrian, Cypriot Arabic, Greek, Griko, Karamanli Turkish, Tsakonian


A-chik Tokbirim, Adinkra, ADLaM, Armenian, Avestan, Avoiuli, Bactrian, Bassa (Vah), Beitha Kukju, Beria (Zaghawa), Borama / Gadabuursi, Carian, Carpathian Basin Rovas, Chinuk pipa, Chisoi, Coorgi-Cox, Coptic, Cyrillic, Dalecarlian runes, Elbasan, Etruscan, Faliscan, Fox, Galik, Georgian (Asomtavruli), Georgian (Nuskhuri), Georgian (Mkhedruli), Glagolitic, Global Alphabet, Gothic, Greek, Irish (Uncial), Kaddare, Kayah Li, Khatt-i-Badí’, Khazarian Rovas, Koch, Korean, Latin, Lepontic, Luo Lakeside Script, Lycian, Lydian, Manchu, Mandaic, Mandombe, Marsiliana, Medefaidrin, Messapic, Mongolian, Mro, Mundari Bani, Naasioi Otomaung, N'Ko, North Picene, Nyiakeng Puachue Hmong, Odùduwà, Ogham, Old Church Slavonic, Oirat Clear Script, Ol Chiki (Ol Cemet' / Santali), Old Italic, Old Nubian, Old Permic, Ol Onal, Orkhon, Osage, Oscan, Osmanya (Somali), Pau Cin Hau, Phrygian, Pollard script, Runic, Székely-Hungarian Rovás (Hungarian Runes), South Picene, Sutton SignWriting, Sunuwar, Tai Viet, Tangsa, Todhri, Toto, Umbrian, (Old) Uyghur, Wancho, Yezidi, Zoulai

Other writing systems

Page created: 10.06.24. Last modified: 10.06.24


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