Dionysus and Indian Cities

Yes, the run of Greek texts on India continues. Today, the establishment of cities. (Since we have already read some about cotton.) Note: Arrian is a Greek author of the Roman imperial period. I don’t assume he is saying anything incontrovertibly ‘true’ about India. But he does say interesting things about Roman and Greek ideas about India…

Arrian, Historia India, Chapter 7

“Megasthenes claims that there are 128 Indian tribes. There are certainly many tribes in India; on this I agree with Megasthenes. But I cannot figure out precisely how he learned and then recorded this number when he did not visit the greater part of the Indian lands, and when there isn’t much engagement among many of the peoples with one another. In ancient times, the Indians were nomads who did not farm like the Skythians. They wandered from one place to another on wagons exchanging places with the Skythians, neither founding cities nor consecrating temples to the gods. So in India, there were no cities nor temples built, but they girt themselves in the skins of the beasts they killed and ate the bark of trees. In their own language they called those trees tala—on these trees grow just as on the tops of palm trees something like a tuft of wool.

They also ate the animals they killed raw until Dionysus arrived in their land. When Dionysus arrive, that he might grow stronger in India, he founded many cities and established their laws and he gave the Indians wine must as he did the Greeks and he also taught them to plow the earth once he gave them seeds himself. For this reason, either Triptolemos did not come to this part of the earth when he was sent by Demeter to distribute grain to the world or Dionysus came before Triptolemos and gave them the seeds of civilized grains. Dionysus first taught them to yoke bulls and many of them to be farmers instead of nomads. He also armed them with weapons for war. He taught them to worship the gods, especially himself by beating on drums and sounding cymbals. He taught them the satyr dance which the Greeks call the kordax and he taught them to grow long hair to honor the gods, how to wear turbans, and apply oils. Even when Alexander arrived, Indians went into battle to the sound of cymbals and drums.”



ἔθνεα δὲ ᾿Ινδικὰ εἴκοσι καὶ ἑκατὸν τὰ ἅπαντα λέγει Μεγασθένης, δυοῖν δέοντα. καὶ πολλὰ μὲν εἶναι ἔθνεα ᾿Ινδικὰ καὶ αὐτὸς συμφέρομαι Μεγασθένει, τὸ δὲ ἀτρεκὲς οὐκ ἔχω εἰκάσαι ὅπως ἐκμαθὼν ἀνέγραψεν, οὐδὲ πολλοστὸν μέρος τῆς ᾿Ινδῶν γῆς ἐπελθών, οὐδὲ ἐπιμιξίης πᾶσι τοῖς γένεσιν ἐούσης ἐς ἀλλήλους. πάλαι μὲν δὴ νομάδας εἶναι ᾿Ινδούς, καθάπερ Σκυθέων τοὺς οὐκ ἀροτῆρας, οἳ ἐπὶ τῇσιν ἁμάξῃσι πλανώμενοι ἄλλοτε ἄλλην τῆς Σκυθίης ἀμείβουσιν, οὔτε πόληας οἰκέοντες οὔτε ἱερὰ θεῶν σέβοντες. οὕτω μηδὲ ᾿Ινδοῖσι πόληας εἶναι μηδὲ ἱερὰ θεῶν δεδομημένα, ἀλλ’ ἀμπίσχεσθαι μὲν δορὰς θηρίων ὅσων κατακάνοιεν, σιτέεσθαι δὲ τῶν δενδρέων τὸν φλοιόν. καλέεσθαι δὲ τὰ δένδρεα ταῦτα τῇ ᾿Ινδῶν φωνῆ τάλα, καὶ φύεσθαι ἐπ’ αὐτῶν, κατάπερ τῶν φοινίκων ἐπὶ τῇσι κορυφῇσιν, οἷά περ τολύπας. σιτέεσθαι δὲ καὶ τῶν θηρίων ὅσα ἕλοιεν ὠμοφαγέοντας, πρίν γε δὴ Διόνυσον ἐλθεῖν ἐς τὴν χώρην τῶν ᾿Ινδῶν. Διόνυσον δὲ ἐλθόντα, ὡς καρτερὸς ἐγένετο ᾿Ινδῶν, πόληάς τε οἰκίσαι καὶ νόμους θέσθαι τῇσι πόλεσιν, οἴνου τε δοτῆρα ᾿Ινδοῖς γενέσθαι κατάπερ ῞Ελλησι, καὶ σπείρειν διδάξαι τὴν γῆν διδόντα αὐτὸν σπέρματα, ἢ οὐκ ἐλάσαντος ταύτῃ Τριπτολέμου, ὅτε περ ἐκ Δήμητρος ἐστάλη σπείρειν τὴν γῆν πᾶσαν, ἢ πρὸ Τριπτολέμου τις οὗτος Δινυσος ἐπελθὼν τὴν ᾿Ινδῶν γῆν σπέρματά σφισιν ἔδωκε καρποῦ τοῦ ἡμέρου. βόας τε ὑπ’ ἄροτρον ζεῦξαι Διόνυσον πρῶτον καὶ ἀροτῆρας ἀντὶ νομάδων ποιῆσαι ᾿Ινδῶν τοὺς πολλοὺς καὶ ὁπλίσαι ὅπλοισι τοῖσιν ἀρηίοισι. καὶ θεοὺς σέβειν ὅτι ἐδίδαξε Διόνυσος ἄλλους τε καὶ μάλιστα δὴ ἑωυτὸν κυμβαλίζοντας καὶ τυμπανίζοντας καὶ ὄρχησιν δὲ ἐκδιδάξαι τὴν σατυρικήν, τὸν κόρδακα παρ’ ῞Ελλησι καλούμενον, καὶ κομᾶν [᾿Ινδοὺς] τῷ θεῷ  μιτρηφορέειν τε ἀναδεῖξαι καὶ μύρων ἀλοιφὰς ἐκδιδάξαι, ὥστε καὶ εἰς ᾿Αλέξανδρον ἔτι ὑπὸ κυμβάλων τε καὶ τυμπάνων ἐς τὰς μάχας ᾿Ινδοὶ καθίσταντο.

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