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Greek Sources on India: Alelaxnder to Megasthenes

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About the Book "Anyone who is surprised that with so many historians already in the field on Alexander it should have occurred to me to compose this history, should express his surprise only after perusing all their works and then reading mine", remarked Arrian in the second century AD. Today after 1900 years the trend on Alexander is the same. Books on Alexander continue to appear, all written mainly by the Western scholars. No dearth of works has resulted in giving birth to ma...
About the Book

"Anyone who is surprised that with so many historians already in the field on Alexander it should have occurred to me to compose this history, should express his surprise only after perusing all their works and then reading mine", remarked Arrian in the second century AD. Today after 1900 years the trend on Alexander is the same. Books on Alexander continue to appear, all written mainly by the Western scholars. No dearth of works has resulted in giving birth to many faces of Alexander. The justification furnished by each of them for their Alexander is not much different from Arrian's time.

It was Alexander's conquests in India which remained the most fascinating Subject in the writings of the historians. A.K. Narain has pointed out that "what remains of Alexander would be shorn of all its romance and glory if his campaigns in Sogdiana and the Punjab were deleted and there were no Spitamenes and Poros, Scythians and Malloi”.

The narrative of Alexander and the stories developed around the Romance, which have been repeated quite often, do occur in this work too, but the main focus here is not on Alexander's exploits but on the critical commentary of the accounts of India, penned by the emperor's companions and the Hellenistic ambassador, who was deputed to the Magadhan court at Pataliputra. These included mainly Onesikritos, Nearchos, Aristoboulos, Ptolemy, Chares, Kallisthenes and Megasthenes.

The present work is divided into three main sections. The first section is devoted to a discourse on Alexander and interaction of India with the Hellenistic world. The veracity of the Greek fragments of India as furnished mainly by Nearchos, Onesikritos, Chares and Megasthenes have been examined in the second section. In the last section the English translation of all the survived fragments of Alexander's companions and of Megasthenes have been made available to scholars at one place for ready reference. This is a publication which Sir John Boardman, the leading savant of Classical Studies, finds as 'the inauguration of a new generation of Greco-Indian Studies'.

Udai Prakash Arora is well known for his pioneering works in the field of Graeco-Indian Studies. He started his teaching career at Allahabad University (1965-1985). Thereafter he was Professor and Founder Head, Department of Ancient History and Culture, MJP Rohilkhand University, Bareilly (1985-2006), where he also acted as Pro-Vice-Chancellor (1995) and twice as Acting Vice-Chancellor. In 2006 he was invited by Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), New Delhi to occupy the position of Professor of its prestigious Greek Chair. After his retirement he was reappointed Visiting Professor. Of Greek Studies in JNU from 2009 to 2014.

Professor Arora has 4 books and 13 edited volumes to his credit. Among his important publications include Motifs in Indian Mythology, Their Greek and Other Parallels (1981), Graeco-Indica (1991), Greeks on India (1996) and Yunan Itihas our Samskriti (in Hindi, 2010). He has contributed nearly 120 articles in various journals. He is founder General Secretary of IndiariSociety for Greek and Roman Studies and edits its annual journal Yavanika. He was General President, UP History Congress (1996-97) and Sectional President (Ancient India), Indian History Congress (2002). As a visiting fellow he has travelled to U.S., Canada, and several countries in Europe, Asia and Africa. He is a recipient of the most prestigious Greek civil honour 'Golden Cross-Order of Honour' from the President of Greece (1996). In his honour was published the felicitation volume, Udayana: New Horizons in History, Classics and Inter-cultural Studies (2006).

 

About the Author

Udai Prakash Arora is well known for his pioneering works in the field of Graeco-Indian Studies. He started his teaching career at Allahabad University (1965-1985). Thereafter he was Professor and Founder Head, Department of Ancient History and Culture, MJP Rohilkhand University, Bareilly (1985-2006), where he also acted as Pro-Vice-Chancellor (1995) and twice as Acting Vice-Chancellor. In 2006 he was invited by Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), New Delhi to occupy the position of Professor of its prestigious Greek Chair. After his retirement he was reappointed Visiting Professor. of Greek Studies in JNU from 2009 to 2014.

Professor Arora has 4 books and 13 edited volumes to his credit. Among his important publications include Motifs in Indian Mythology, Their Greek and Other Parallels (1981), Graeco-Indic (1991), Greeks on India (1996) and Yunan Itihas our Samskriti (in Hindi, 2010). He has contributed nearly 120 articles in various journals. He is founder General Secretary of India Society for Greek and Roman Studies and edits its annual journal Yavanika. He was General President, UP History Congress (1996-97) and Sectional President (Ancient India), Indian History Congress (2002). As a visiting fellow he has travelled to U.S., Canada, and several countries in Europe, Asia and Africa. He is a recipient of the most prestigious Greek civil honour 'Golden Cross-Order of Honour' from the President of Greece (1996). In his honour was published the felicitation volume, Udayana: New Horizons in History, Classics and Inter-cultural Studies (2006).

 

Foreword

There is no shortage of books about Alexander the Great's conquests in the east, but this is quite exceptional, by a historian familiar both with the texts and with the real and reported history and myth-history of the eastern world, as viewed by western eyes. The Greek and Latin sources for early India are naturally fed by accounts of what Alexander did, where he went, what he saw, and what it was thought he might have seen, spiced with a liberal amount of imagination, and giving rise to a flood of Romances about Alexander in the east which have been and are still being written by western authors. The original literary sources tend to be used piecemeal, and only rarely has there been any critical assessment of what they say and what of historical or myth-historical interest they may contain. None are as complete as this presentation of all the surviving original texts, and foremost amongst them the accounts written by authors who either travelled with Alexander or reflected on what he found in the east soon after his death, and before the power of romance and sheer invention had taken over.

Professor Arora here presents translations and commentary on all the relevant Greek and Roman texts. He explores how much originality they offer, and how they interact with each other, with historical reality; and with the myth-history devised for antiquity by Greek, Roman and Indian sources. By focusing on the sources as much as the subjects the reader is given an opportunity better to judge their validity, or at least discover what truth or invention went into their construction. His work will prove a major resource now for historians, eastern as well as western, and for scholars of the many and imaginative stories of the east which appeared in Greek and Roman literature from Herodotus on, and in later European and eastern literature to the present day. Megasthenes becomes for us here an historical figure, not just a name. We are introduced also to an imaginary world where the Indus may be connected to the Nile, and 'ants' dig for gold, but where the realities of geography, race and religion can equally well be discerned, and where we can follow in true geographical detail events such as Nearchos' epic voyage from India to Mesopotamia, as well as the fortunes of early Indian kings.

This is a publication which should mark the inauguration of a new generation of Greco-Indian studies.

 

Introduction

India representing the eastern consciousness, and Greece representing the western, had been in close contacts since the remote antiquity. Their contribution in the domain of science, philosophy, art and literature are well-known. There are many phases and levels of interaction between the two, but whereas numerous Greek and Roman authors have written on India and its people, the Indian savants are silent on their Greek counterparts. Indian literature contains only some brief notes on the Yavanas. Outside literary texts, such disciplines as archaeology, numismatic and epigraphy too help us to some extent in the elucidation of the Graeco-Indian contacts.

The Greek knowledge of India may be divided into four main stages. With the emergence of the Achaemenian empire of which the Greeks living in Asia Minor and the Indians living in the region of Indus were integral parts, we have the first definite evidence of interaction between the Indians and the Greeks. The first Greek authors writing on India were from Ionia in the Asia Minor. There are four main authors of this period: Skylax, Hekataios, Herodotos and Ktesias.

With Alexander begins the second stage of the Greek knowledge of India. The knowledge of Ionian authors was confined till the region of Indus only. Alexander's arrival changed the notion of the country and added Punjab also in the Greek knowledge of India. The notable among Alexander's companions who wrote about India and the Indians, include Onesikritos, Nearchos, Aristoboulos and Ptolemy.

The third stage of Greek knowledge of India was the period of Hellenistic monarchies. Several ambassadors were deputed to India by the Hellenistic kings. The well-known amongst them was Megasthenes. Whereas knowledge of Alexander and his companions terminated at the Beas, Megasthenes was right into the heart of India, in the court of Chandragupta Maurya at Pataliputra.

The last phase belongs to the authors who differ from their predecessors in this respect that with only one doubtful exception (Periplus of the Erythraean Sea) all wrote without personal knowledge of the country. Their works are mainly the compilation of their predecessors. The prominent among them include Diodoros, Strabo, Arrian, Plutarch, Pliny, Justin and Curtius. Dealing with the first stage of the Greek knowledge of India, my ,book entitled Greeks on India: Skylax to Aristoteles appeared in the year 1996. In the continuation of the same, the second and the third stage of the Greek knowledge of India falls in the purview of the present work. Among the various facets of the Greeks in ancient Indian history, it was Alexander and India that was the most fascinating subject in the writings of early Europeans. It has been rightly pointed out that "what remains of Alexander story would be shorn of all its romance and glory if his campaigns in Sogdiana and the Punjab were deleted and if there were no Spitamenes and Poros, Scythians and the Malloi."

"Anyone who is surprised that with so many historians already in the field (on Alexander) it should have occurred to me too to compose this history, should express his surprise only after perusing all their works and then reading mine" remarked Arrian in second century AD. Today after 1900 years the trend on Alexander is still the same. Books on Alexander continue to appear, all written mainly by the Westerners. There are many Alexanders. Each one has his own Alexander. The explanation given for the justification by each for his own Alexander, is not much different as was of Arrian at that time.

Alexander has been represented as a man of two opposite poles, down the ages—both as the prime example of one corrupted by power and ambition and also as the ideal leader of men in war and peace. 'Two Faces of Alexander' (pp. 85-117) have been a well contested debate among the historians and philosophers since the ancient days. We have here the description of both negative and positive phases of Alexander by the ancient as well as modern authors.

There is no theorization. The facts brought forth in the present work have been left to speak for themselves. The reader may form his opinion on the basis of those available facts. The issues concerning democracy, autocracy, oriental despotism, oriental continuum, colonial bias etc. have also been taken up in chapters on Alexander.

In the chapter entitled 'Ionia, Alexandria and Baktria' (pp. 118-144) it is shown that India's contacts were with Greek cultures flourishing in Asia and North Africa and not with the Classical age of the mainland which the West eulogizes. The Greek intellectualism was born in Ionia, not in Athens. The first Greek thinkers who revolutionized the Greek thought by rejecting myths and developing scientific outlook, were all from Ionia. The Ionians were also the first authors to write on India. The view that the centre of Greek achievements was Athens may be well contested. We cannot imagine the Parthenon without the stylistic influence of the 6th century BC Ionic temples; Greek tragedies without Homer; Sokrates and Plato without Anaximander, Herakleitos or Anaxagoras and history without Herodotos and Ionian geographers. In the period following Alexander, it was Alexandria in Egypt, an international port which had become the torch bearer of Hellenism. With its great Library and Museum, Alexandria was a city where Hellenism was in continuous dialogues with then known civilizations of ancient world. India received the knowledge of horoscopy and astronomy from the Greek savants of Alexandria. It was Alexandria in Egypt where scientific studies in ancient period were on their culmination. The well-known great scientists like Archimedes, Euclid, Theophrastos, Heron, Hierophilos, Erasistratos, and the geographer Ptolemy, worked in Alexandria. The famous text Periplus of the Erythraean Sea, a sea guide, was written by an unknown author of Alexandria. It was probably as a result of interaction with Indian philosophers that famous philosophical school of Neo-Platonism developed in Alexandria. Touching Afghanistan and Central Asia, Baktria now known as Afghan Turkistan was once the 'birth place', 'craddle', 'interaction sphere' of a number of civilizations. The discovery of a Greek type of city at Ai-Khanum presents an evidence of the easternmost limit of Hellenism. The material found here makes the reality of Graeco-Baktrian civilization tangible.

Many of the Greek myths and legends including popular Hindu deities like Balram, Kartikeya, Gopal Krishna, were introduced in epic and Puranic texts only after the settlement of the Greeks from Baktria on the Indian soil. The Greeks from Baktria were probably also responsible for introducing the image worship in India.

The most interesting narrative on India among Alexander's companions is certainly of Onesikritos. He was the only person in emperor's troop, interested in literature and philosophy. His interest in India was very keen, for in Jacoby's text, out of the thirty-eight fragments that survive of Onesikritos, twenty one deal with Indian affairs. In the chapter on Onesikritos (pp. 157-220), the image of India has been constructed here on the basis of his fragments. His account may be well compared with the other companions of Alexander.

Onesikritos and other companions of Alexander had established the tradition of viewing the Indian affairs with the yardstick of Egypt. The Indian hot weather, rivers, plants, birds, animals, etc., all contributed to remind them of the land of the Nile and comparisons were made between their climatic, topographical and hydrographical conditions. Infect the comparison with Egypt was made with all sorts of Indian affairs.

The attitude as shown by Onesikritos towards the life and institutions of Indians, places him in the development of the romance literature of the Greeks. His account of India is although romanticized, it furnishes many valuable information also on geographical knowledge, flora and fauna, metallic wealth, philosophers, people and customs, and legal system of the country. His account of the Sati custom appears to be the first literary evidence. Alexander and his companions were also the first foreigners to come into contact with the Indian philosophers. The opportunity of his discussion with the Indian philosophers was used by Onesikritos to expound his own Cynic ideals, using Indian philosopher as his mouthpiece. Whereas the pre-Alexander Greek authors on India had established the tradition of describing marvels and idealization of the land and the people, Onesikritos had begun the tradition of revering Indian philosophers and their wisdom. The popular image of India in the eye of

 

Contents
  Foreword-Sir John Boardman vii
  An Appericiation-Frank L. Holt ix
  Acknowledgements xiii
  Abberviations xvii
  Part I xix
  India, Alexander and The Hellenistic World  
1 Ancient Greek Historians on Alexander 3
2 Unification: Macedoina and Greek States 24
3 Destruction of the Achaemenian Empire 30
4 Alexender in India 44
5 Policy of Fusion, Defication and the Last Days 68
6 The Impact of Alexander 75
7 Two Faces of Alexander 85
8 Ionia, Alexander and Baktria 118
  Part II  
  Appraisal of the Fragments on India: Alexender's Companions & Megathenes  
9 The Account of Nearchos' Voyage 147
10 The Fragments of Onesikritos on India: An Appraisal 157
11 Chares' Fragments on India 221
12 The Veracity of the Indika of Megasthenes 227
13 Dichotomy in Greek and Indian Sources: Baktria vis-à-vis Gangetic Valley 251
14 Greek Accounts till Alexander on Urban Traits in Northwest India 266
15 Classical Accounts on India: Some Observations 288
  Part III  
  Texts  
  Baiton, Chares of Mytilene, Polykleitos of Larissa, Nearchos, Onesikritos, Kletarchos, Ptolemy, Aristoboulos, Magasthenes  
  Plates 429
  Bibliography 449
  Index 473

 

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Item Code: NAO675 Author: Udai Prakash Arora Cover: Hardcover Edition: 2018 Publisher: Aryan Books International ISBN: 9788173056017 Language: English Size: 10.0 inch X 7.0 inch Pages: 532 Other Details: Weight of the Book: 1.0 Kg
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