This volume examines the legacy of Alexander, the Macedonian, as it survived and transformed itself in literature, the arts and archaeology in Asia. The tendency to idealise Alexander began in antiquity and by the Roman period, a body of romance and grown around him, which continued to expand in almost every language from Scotland to Mongolia. The portrait of Alexander as the universal conqueror who was also the civiliser and benefactor of mankind owes its origin to Plutarch who wrote in the early centuries AD and has been extraordinarily potent in shaping modern views of Alexander.
The legacy itself has been surprisingly tenacious and continued well into the present, as it became the guiding star of nineteenth and twentieth century British archaeologists in the Indian subcontinent, such as Alexander Cunningham, John Marshal, etc. in their search for cities established by Alexander and of the entire development of Gandharan art, which was considered Buddhist in nature, but Greek in form. The larger question that this book addresses in the creation of cultural memory and its persistence or appropriation through time as it establishes an almost parallel perspective on the past.
The book will be of interest to historians, archaeologists, art historians and all those interested in Alexander's journey through Asia.
About the Author
Himanshu Prabha Ray teachers at the Center for Historical Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University and her present research interests include the history of archaeology in India and the archaeology of religion, while her earlier work has been on Maritime History and Archaeology of the Indian Ocean. Amongst others, her books include Colonial Archaeology in South Asia: The Legacy of Sir Mortimer Wheeler, (Oxford University Press, New Delhi, forthcoming 2007); Archaeology as History in Early South Asia co-edited with Carla Sinopoli (ICHR and Aryan Books International, 2004); The Archaeology of Seafaring in Ancient South Asia (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2003).
Daniel T. Potts is Edwin Cuthbert Hall Professor of Middle Eastern Archaeology, University of Sydney since 1991 and is the founding editor-in-chief of Arabian Archaeology and Epigraphy. In 1994 he was elected Fellow of the Australian Academy of the Humanities and the Society of Antiquaries (London). He is the author of numerous books including The Arabian Gulf in Antiquity (Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1990); Mesopotamian Civilization: The Material Foundations (Athlone Press, Londown, 1997); The Archaeology of Elam (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1999).
The concept of this volume emerged during the first editor's visit to the University of Sydney as JNU Inaugural Fellow in June 2005 and it is indeed satisfying that the idea has finally taken form. The editors appreciate the support that they have received from Prof. Stephen Garton, Dean, Faculty of Arts, University of Sydney, as well as from the faculty members of the Center for Historical Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, especially Professors Dilbagh Singh, Bhagwan Josh, Aditya Mukherjee, Rajat Datta, Najaf Haider, Ms. Jyoti Atwal, Professor Anil Bhatti, then Dean, School of Arts and Aesthetics, JNU and Professor Madhavan Palat, formerly of JNU.
As a follow-up of the visit, an international conference was organized in February-March 2006 in New Delhi. Dr. Kapila Vatsyayan, Chairperson, IIC Asia Project, India International Center was as always a source of encouragement and Ms. Premola Ghosh and Mr. P.C. Sen of IIC supported the proposal and co-sponsored the meeting.
Dr. Jean-Marie Lafont, Delhi University and Mr. Petros Mavroidis of the Embassy of Greece heard of the initiative and were convinced of its value. We are thankful to His Excellency John Economides, the Ambassador of Greece for his unfailing espousal of our views. We would also like to put on record our gratitude to the Embassy of Greece in New Delhi and the Greek Ministry of Macedonia and Thrace for their generous support in the publication of this volume.
This volume would not have been possible without the active participation of students and scholars and we particularly thank Dr. O.P. Kejariwal, Commissioner, Central Information Commission, Dr. Suresh Sharma, Director, centre for the Study of Developing Societies, Dr. R.C. Agrawal, Joint Director General, Archaeological Survey of India, Dr. Barbara Schmitz, independent scholar, Professor K.M. Shrimali, Delhi University and Professor U.P. Arora, School of Languages, JNU.
We seek the indulgence of participants at the conference for not being able to include several of the papers that were presented and the thankful to colleagues who responded to our invitation to contribute to the volume. We have benefited from the advice of Professors Shawkat Toorawa, Department of Near Eastern Studies at Cornell University and Devin Stewart, Winship Distinguished Research Professor of Arabic and Islamic Studies, Emory University, USA.
Mr. Vikas Arya of Aryan Books International responded favorably to our request and has efficiently converted the manuscript into an elegantly produced book. Last but not the least, we would like to thank Debdutta Ray for the image of the marble head of Alexander in the British Museum and to Lance Dane for the photograph of the coin that appears on the back cover.
List of Contributors
NASIM AKHTAR is Keeper, Manuscripts Section of the National Museum, New Delhi and a reputed scholar of Persian. The National Museum, New Delhi, has a rich and varied collection of eighteenth and nineteenth century illustrated manuscripts many of which he has researched on and published in prominent journals, including Marg.
MARK ALLON is Lecturer in the Department of Indian Subcontinental Studies at the University of Sydney. His publications include Style and Function: A Study of the Dominant Stylistic Features of the Prose Portions of Pali Canonical Sutta Texts and their Mnemonic Function, International Institute for Buddhist Studies, Tokyo, 1997 and Three Gandhari Ekottarikagama Type Sutras: British Library Kharosthi Fragments 12 and 14 (Gandharan Buddhist Texts vol. 2), University of Washington Press, Seattle, 2001.
SHAILENDRA BHANDARE is Assistant Keeper, Heberden Coin Room, Ashmolean Museum, Oxford. His publications include 'Numismatics and History: The Maurya-Gupta interlude in the Gangetic Plains' New York, 2006; 'Money on the Move: The Rupee and the Indian Ocean Region', in Himanshu Prabha Ray and Edward A. Alpers edited, Cross Currents and Community Networks: History of the Indian Ocean World, Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 2007; 'Bombay Billys: The British Coinage for Malabar Coast', supplement of Oriental Numismatic Society Newsletter 174, Autumn 2003; 'Coinage of the Habshi rulers of Janjira', Oriental Numismatic Society Newsletter 178, winter 2003-2004.
KEVIN VAN BLADEL is Assistant Professor of Classics at the University of Southern California, specializing in the eastern legacy of classical Greek and Roman civilization in Arabic, Syriac, Persian and other languages. His research interests include the interaction of Near Eastern and Mediterranean cultures from Antiquity through the Middle Ages, translation between the Greek, Syriac, Middle Persian, Arabic and Latin language and the scientific book traditions in these languages, the history of Sasanian Iran and the formation of Arabic literature our of earlier traditions. Lately he is finishing a book on medieval Arabic texts attributed to Hermes.
ALASTAIR J.L. BLANSHARD is a Greek Cultural Historian who teaches at the University of Sydney and has published Hercules: Scenes from Heroic Life, Granta Books, London, 2005.
MARIE FRANCOISE BOUSSAC is Professor of Greek History at Charles de Gaulle University, Lille, France. She is Deputy Director of the French Mission at Mahasthangarh in Bangladesh and In-charge of excavations at Taposiris - a Graeco-Roman site in Egypt, near Alexandria. She is the Editor of Topoi devoted to the Mediterranean world and its linkages with Asia.
ROBERT BRACEY is an Independent Researcher based in England and edits the website www.kushan.org
ANDY T. FEAR is Lecturer in Ancient History at the University of Manchester, U.K. His publications include Rome and Baetica: Urbanization in Southern Spain, c. 50 BC-AD 150, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1996; Lives of the Visigothic Fathers, Liverpool University Press, 1998.
STEPHEN GARTON, Challis Professor of History and Dean, Faculty of Arts, University of Sydney is the author of four books and over sixty articles. Although much of his research focuses on Australia he has researched and published work i relation to British and American history. This research concentrates on the nineteenth and twentieth centuries although on occasion it has ranged more widely. His latest publication is titled Histories of Sexuality: Antiquity to Sexual Revolution, Routledge, New York, 2004.
GRANT PARKER is Assistant Professor at the Department of Classics, Stanford University where he teaches Latin, as well as topics related to the exotic and geographic elements of Roman imperial culture. His publications include The Agony of Asar: A Thesis on Slavery by the Former Slave, J.E.J. Capitein, M. Wiener, Princeton, 2001; The Making of Roman India, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, forthcoming 2007.
HIMANSHU PRABHA RAY teaches at the Center for Historical Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University. Her publications include Colonial Archaeology in South Asia: The Legacy of Sir Mortimer Wheeler, Oxford University Press, New Delhi (forthcoming 2007); The Archaeology of Seafaring in Ancient South Asia, Cambridge World Archaeology Series, Cambridge University Press, 2003; The Winds of Change: Buddhism and the Maritime Links of Early South Asia, Oxford India Paperbacks, 1998; and Monastery & Guild: Commerce under the Satavahanas, Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 1986.
DANIEL T. POTTS is Edwin Cuthbert Hall Professor of Middle Eastern Archaeology, University of Sydney and is the founding editor-in-chief of Arabian Archaeology and Epigraphy. His publications include The Arabian Gulf in Antiquity, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1990; Mesopotamian Civilization: The Material Foundations, Athlone Press, London, 1997; and The Archaeology of Elam, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1999.
JEAN- FRANCOIS SALLES is Director of the French Institute for the Near East (IFPO) in Jordan. He has jointly edited several books, such as, Athens, Aden, Arikamedu, (with Marie-Francoise Boussac) Manohar, New Delhi, 1995; Tradition and Archaeology: Early Maritime Contacts in the Indian Ocean, (jointly edited with Himanshu Prabha Ray) Manohar, New Delhi, 1996; A Gateway from the Eastern Mediterranean to India, (jointly edited with Marie-Francoise Boussac) Manohar, New Delhi, 2005.
PHIROZE VASUNIA is at the Department of Classics, University of Reading, U.K. His publications include The Gift of the Nile: Hellenizing Egypt from Aeschylus to Alexander, University of California Press, Berkeley, 2001; Zarathushtra and the Religion of Ancient Iran: Greek and Latin Sources in Translation, K.R. Cama Oriental Institute, Mumabi, 2007.
IOANNIS XYDOPOULOS teaches at the Department of History and Archaeology, Aristotles University of Thessaloniki, Greece. His doctoral thesis Social and Cultural Relations between Macedonians and the Rest of the Greeks was based on a study of the literary and epigraphical tradition of ancient Macedonia.
In 1791 William Robertson, Principal of Edinburgh University and 'Historiographer to his Majesty for Scotland', reflecting on 'the knowledge which the Ancients had of India', concluded that few had grasped the 'grandeur and extent' of the plans of Alexander the Great. For Robertson 'the wild follies' of Alexander's passion, 'the indecent excesses of intemperance and the ostentatious displays of vanity too frequent in the conduct of this extraordinary man' had 'so degraded his character that the pre-eminence of his merit, either as a conqueror, a politician, or a legislator, has seldom been justly estimated' (Robertson, 1799: 15).
Like his fellow eighteenth-century orient list admirers of India, such as Sir William jones, Robertson relied heavily on classical texts - Arrian, Strabo, Pliny, Ptolemy, Megasthenes, among others - to understand the 'manners' customs, religion and the 'many valuable productions of nature and of art' (Rebortson, 1799: 19) that characterized contemporary Indian culture (see Mukherjee, 1968; Kopf, 1969; Marshall, 1970; Kejariwal, 1988; Sugirtharajah, 2003). Numerous modern scholars, however, have questioned the reliability of these is a rich historiography on how late eighteenth and early nineteenth century British orientalist and utilitarian writers, while often in sharp disagreement with each other on matters of detail and emphasis, crafted pervasive discourses about Indian culture and character that sanctioned and shaped British rule in India (for example, Bearce, 1961; Stokes, 1959; Brown, 1997).
The importance of ancient texts on India in constituting British discourse and practices has provided one of the contexts for a wider debate about the legacy of the Greeks in India. The now classic dispute between W.W. Tarn and A.K. Narain over the nature, extent and influence of Greek culture in the millennium after Alexander raises important questions about the lasting impact of Alexander's campaigns and the ancient Greek settlements that arose thereafter in Bactria and surrounding regions on the development of Indian culture and economy. Here there is genuine dispute over the interpretation of the surviving material, numismatic and textual evidence (Tarn, 1938; Narain, 1957). Many of the papers in this volume take up the vital question of assessing the actual impact of these settlements on Indian culture but there are other dimensions to this debate worth exploring.
A second line of inquiry, also evident in this volume, is the way stories of Alexander became part of European and Asian cultures in the first millennium AD, providing a seedbed for later understandings of early modern and modern European colonization. In Europe Alexander's conquests filtered into a larger popular culture relatively early, from Roman times, flourishing in Medieval Europe through the 'Alexander Romance' and related vernacular texts. Here Alexander stands as the bearer of Western virtues confronting and overcoming barbarian and, in Christian contexts, pagan 'others' (Bunt, 1994: Cary, 1987; Mosse, 2004; Stoneman, 1991). But stories of Alexander could also be a point of resistance to European culture, a metaphor for the illegitimacy of modern Western attributes and virtues. Within Asia scholars have explored the complex ways in which Alexander has been configured in Persian, Syriac, Ethiopic and Arabic texts. The origins of various forms of an Arabic Alexander romance and references to Alexander in the Qur'an and other major texts have been the focus of considerable scholarly investigation and debate (van Bladel, in this volume). Some scholars have argued that the prophet Dhul-Qarnayn, mentioned in the Qur'an may have been Alexander the Great. More directly there is widespread textual evidence that the legend of Sikander, sometimes Iskandar (Alexander the Great), and a whole complex of Alexander tradition were evident in Arabic literature from the seventh century AD and through Arabic and related languages dependent on Arabic, notably Persian, Ottoman, Chagatay and Malay these Asian Alexander legends spread with the advance of Arabic and Persian culture throughout South Asia (Bacher 1873). Later these legends spread to South-East Asia. In these Asian traditions Alexander could be represented as a heroic warrior, bringing Arabic and Persian civilization to India.
The evident spread and influence of Alexander myths in European, Middle Eastern and Asian cultures raises important questions about how stories, legends and myths develop, spread, perpetuate and translate across different times and cultural contexts. One way of conceptualizing the spread and perpetuation of Alexander legends is to see them as a form of collective memory. This paper takes up this question, exploring the utility of the concept of collective memory for understanding some of these processes of cultural transmission and invention. It raises questions about whether we can see a continuing tradition open to elaboration, extension and transformation over time. It also takes up the question of discontinuities in these traditions, pointing firstly to breaks in the collective record and secondly to ways in which different contexts, notably late eighteenth century British India, led to fundamental reinterpretations of texts to craft new meanings for the Alexander legend. The aim here is to highlight some of the potential strengths and weaknesses in using concepts such as collective memory for understanding the legacy of Alexander in Asia.
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