Buddha from Gandhara, first-second century, Tokyo National Museum
In the field of visual art, Hellenism’s greatest conquest was the Northern School of Buddhism (the Mahayana). In pre-Hellenic Buddhist art the Buddha had been represented by a blank, an appropriate symbol for a being who had achieved self-extinction by making his exit into Nirvana. The Hellenic style of art reached Gandhara [northern Pakistan] (probably from Alexandria) in the early centuries of the Christian Era, when Northern Buddhism was in its formative stage, and when Gandhara was its geographical focus. Consequently the Buddha came to be represented at Gandhara anthropomorphically in the likeness of the Hellenic god Apollo, and it was in this Hellenic form that the Buddha’s form was carried by the Mahayana on its long journey over the Hindu Kush and along the steppes to Eastern Asia. Thus, through the medium of its art, Hellenism captivated almost the whole of the Old World, from Japan to Britain inclusive, except for Africa to the south of the Sahara.
The Greeks and Their Heritages, OUP, 1981, posthumous