Cultural links between India and the Greco-Roman world

8/6/21 | 0 | 0 | 150 εμφανίσεις
There was a succession of more than thirty Hellenistic kings, often in conflict with each other, from 180 BC to around AD 10. This era is known as the Indo-Greek kingdom in the pages of history. The kingdom was founded when the Greco-Bactrian King Demetrius invaded India in 180 BC, ultimately creating an entity which seceded from the powerful Greco-Bactrian kingdom centred in Bactria (today’s northern Afghanistan). Since the term “Indo-Greek Kingdom” loosely described a number of various dynastic polities, it had several capitals, but the city of Taxila in modern Pakistan was probably among the earliest seats of local Hellenic rulers, though cities like Pushkalavati and Sagala (apparently the largest of such residences) would house a number of dynasties in their times.
During the two centuries of their rule, the Indo-Greek kings combined the Greek and Indian languages and symbols, as seen on their coins, and blended ancient Greek, Hindu and Buddhist religious practices, as seen in the archaeological remains of their cities and in the indications of their support of Buddhism. The Indo-Greek kings seem to have achieved a level of cultural syncretism with no equivalent in history, the consequences of which are still felt today, particularly through the diffusion and influence of Greco-Buddhist art.
According to Indian sources, Greek (“Yavana“) troops seem to have assisted Chandragupta Maurya in toppling the Nanda Dynasty and founding the Mauryan Empire. By around 312 BC Chandragupta had established his rule in large parts of the north-western Indian territories as well.
In 303 BC, Seleucus I led an army to the Indus, where he encountered Chandragupta. Chandragupta and Seleucus finally concluded an alliance. Seleucus gave him his daughter in marriage, ceded the territories of Arachosia (modern Kandahar), Herat, Kabul and Makran. He in turn received from Chandragupta 500 war elephant which he used decisively at the Battle of Ipsus.
The peace treaty, and “an intermarriage agreement” (Epigamia, Greek: Επιγαμια), meaning either a dynastic marriage or an agreement for intermarriage between Indians and Greeks was a remarkable first feat in this campaign.
Megasthenes, first Greek ambassador
Megasthenes (350 – 290 BC) was a Greek ethnographer in the Hellenistic period, author of the work Indica. He was born in Asia Minor (modern day Turkey) and became an ambassador of Seleucus I to the court of Sandrocottus, who possibly was Chandragupta Maurya in Pataliputra (modern Patna in Bihar state), India. However the exact date of his embassy is uncertain. Scholars place it before 288 BC, the date of Chandragupta’s death.
At the start of the Indica, Megasthenes talks about the older Indians who knew about the prehistoric arrival of Dionysus and Hercules in India. This story was quite popular amongst the Greeks during the Alexandrian period. He describes geographical features of India, such as the Himalayas and the island of Sri Lanka.
Especially important are his comments on the religions of the Indians. He mentions the devotees of Hercules (Shiva) and Dionysus (Krishna or Indra), but he does not write a word on Buddhists, something that gives ground to the theory that Buddhism was not widely spread in India before the reign of Asoka (269 BC to 232 BC).
Indica served as an important source to many later writers such as Strabo and Arrian. The 1st century BC Greek historian Apollodorus, quoted by Strabo, affirms that the Bactrian Greeks, led by Demetrius I and Menander, conquered India and occupied a larger territory than the Macedonians under Alexander the Great, going beyond the Hyphasis (modern Beas River) towards the Himalayas.
Indo-Greek Campaigns
The Roman historian Justin also cited the Indo-Greek conquests, describing Demetrius as “King of the Indians” (“Regis Indorum”), and explaining that Eucratides in turn “put India under his rule” (“Indiam in potestatem redegit“). “India” only meant the upper Indus for Alexnder the Great. Since the appearance of Megasthenes, “India” meant to the Greeks most of the northern half of the Indian subcontinent. Greek and Indian sources tend to indicate that the Greeks campaigned as far as Pataliputra until they were forced to retreat following a coup in Bactria in 170 BC.
Appearance of coins as the first landmark
It is really difficult to know today where the idea of coinage first evolved. Based on available evidences, it appears that the notion of money (as coins, which by definition here would be a piece of metal of defined weight stamped with symbol of authority for financial transaction), was conceived by three different civilizations independently and almost simultaneously. Coins were introduced as a means to trade things of daily usage in Asia Minor, India and China in 6th century BC. Most historians agree that the first coins of world were issued by Greeks living in Lydiaand Ionia (located on the western coast of modern Turkey). These first coins were globules of Electrum, a naturally occurring alloy of gold and silver. These were crude coins of definite weight stamped with punches issued by the local authorities in about 650 BC.
Both, literary and archaeological evidence confirm that the Indians invented coinage somewhere between the 5th and 6th centuries BC. A hoard of coins discovered at Chaman Huzuri in AD 1933 contained 43 silver punch-marked coins (the earliest coins of India) mixed with Athenian (coins minted by Athens city of Greece) and Achaemenid (Persian) coins. The Bhir (Taxila in modern Pakistan) hoard discovered in AD 1924 contained 1055 punch-marked coins in very worn-out condition and two coins of Alexander in mint condition. This archaeological evidence clearly indicates that the coins were minted in India long before the 4th century BC — i.e. before Greeks advanced towards India. Pānini wrote his Ashtadhyayi in the 4th or 5th  century BC in which he mentionedSatamanaNishkasSanaVimastikaKarshapana and its various sub-divisions to be used in financial transactions. Thus, coins were known in ancient Indian literature from 500 BC. There is also a strong belief that silver as a metal which was not available in Vedic India (pre 600 BC). It became abundantly available by 500-600 BC. Most of the silver came from Afghanistan and Persia as a result of international trade.
The first Greek coins to be minted in India, those of Menander I and Appolodotus I bear the mention “Saviour king” (BASILEOS SOTHROS), a title with high value in the Greek world. For instance, Ptolemy I had been Soter(saviour) because he had helped save Rhodes from Demetrius the Besieger, and Antiochus I because he had saved Asia Minor from the Gauls. The title was also inscribed in Pali (the Kharoṣṭhī script) as Tratarasa on the reverse of their coins. Menander and Apollodotus may indeed have been saviours to the Greek populations residing in India.
Most of the coins of the Greek kings in India were bilingual, written in Greek on the front and in Pali on the back, a superb concession to another culture never before made in the Hellenic world. From the reign of Apollodotus II, around 80 BC, Kharoshthi letters started to be used as mintmarks on coins in combination with Greek monograms and mintmarks. It suggested the participation of local technicians to the minting process. Incidentally, these bilingual coins of the Indo-Greeks were the key in the decipherment of the Kharoṣṭhī script by James Prinsep (AD 1799 –1840).
The Kharoṣṭhī script, is an ancient abugida (or “alphasyllabary”) used by the Gandhara culture, nestled in the historic northwest South Asia to write the Gāndhārī and Sanskrit languages. It was in use from the middle of the 3rd century BC until it died out in its homeland around the 3rd century AD. It was also in use in Kushan, Sogdianaand along the Silk Road where there is some evidence it may have survived until the 7th century in the remote way stations of Khotan and Niya.
The coinage of the Indo-Greeks remained in fact influential for several centuries throughout the Indian subcontinent:
  • The Indo-Greek weight and size standard for silver drachms was adopted by the contemporary Buddhist kingdom of the Kunindas in Punjab, the first attempt by an Indian kingdom to produce coins that could compare with those of the Indo-Greeks.
  • In central India, the Satavahanas (2nd century BC- 2nd century AD) adopted the practice of representing their kings in profile, within circular legends.
  • The direct successors of the Indo-Greeks in the northwest, the Indo-Scythians and Indo-Parthians continued displaying their kings within a legend in Greek, and on the obverse, Greek deities.
  • To the south, the Western Kshatrapas (1st-4th century AD) represented their kings in profile with circular legends in corrupted Greek.
  • The Kushans (1st-4th century AD) used the Greek language on their coinage until the first few years of the reign of Kanishka, whence they adopted the Bactrian language, written with the Greek script.
  • The Guptas (4th-6th century AD), in turn imitating the Western Kshatrapas, also showed their rulers in profile, within a legend in corrupted Greek, in the coinage of their western territories.
The latest use of the Greek script on coins corresponds to the rule of the Turkish Shahi of Kabul, around AD 850…………………

Category: International

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    22/6/21 | (0 σχόλια)
    του Παντελή Οικονόμου Ο νόμος για τα εργασιακά που ψηφίστηκε στην Βουλή, πέρα και πάνω από επί μέρους διατάξεις, έχει ένα και μόνον ένα κύριο θέμα: την διαιώνιση του 8ωρου. Και αιτιολογική βάση δυο γνωστά επιχειρήματα. Πρώτο η, erga ...

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