Herakles in India: Discovering and Hoarding Pearls

More on India from a Roman Greek:

Arrian, Historia Indica 8

“When Dionysus was leaving India because he had put everything in good order, he set up Spatembas as king of the land, one of his companions who was the most Bacchic. When he died, he left the kingdom to his son Bouduas—the first ruled the Indians for 52 years, the second for 20. His son Kraduas inherited the kingship. For the most part thereafter the rule passed from father to son. If a blood-heir was absent, the Indians selected kings according to who was best. Then Herakles—as the story goes he came to India and the Indians claim he was born from the earth. This Heracles is especially worshiped by the Sourasênians, an Indian people who have two great cities, Methora and Kleisobora. The passable river Iômanês flows through their land. Megasthenes claims that this Herakles wore a similar apparel to the Theban Herakles, as the Indian themselves claim. This Herakles had many male children born to him in India (for he took many wives, this Herakles) but he only had one daughter. This child’s name was Pandaia and the land in which she was born and over which Herakles gave her authority was named after her. From her father she received five hundred elephants, 4000 cavalry, and 132,000 infantrymen.

A rather select group of Indians tell this story about Herakles, that once he had crossed the whole earth and the sea destroying whatever was evil, he uncovered in the sea a new kind of female jewelry, the type which even today those merchants who come here buying and selling goods acquire eagerly, which Romans and Greeks who were very wealthy bought with even greater excitement, which they call the ocean pearl in the Indian tongue. Herakles, because he thought it was a great possession, gathered pearls from every sea and brought them to India to be jewelry for his own daughter.

Megasthenes also says that the mussel-shell is caught in nets, that they often find many shells together in the sea in the same place, just like bees. And that pearl-mussels have a king or queen just like bees. Whoever is lucky enough to catch the king, gathers together the rest of the swarm easily. If the king gets away, then it is not possible to catch the rest. Fishermen allow the flesh of the mussel to rot, but they use the shells for decoration. Among the Indians, the pearl is worth three times its weight in gold, which is also mined in India.”

Heracles Bahram
Bahram as Herakles, 2nd Century BCE, Iran

ἀπιόντα δὲ ἐκ τῆς ᾿Ινδῶν γῆς, ὥς οἱ ταῦτα κεκοσμέατο, καταστῆσαι βασιλέα τῆς χώρης Σπατέμβαν, τῶν ἑταίρων ἕνα τὸν βακχωδέστατον· τελευτήσαντος δὲ Σπατέμβα τὴν βασιληίην ἐκδέξασθαι Βουδύαν τὸν τούτου παῖδα. καὶ τὸν μὲν πεντήκοντα καὶ δύο ἔτεα βασιλεῦσαι ᾿Ινδῶν, τὸν πατέρα, τὸν δὲ παῖδα εἴκοσιν ἔτεα. καὶ τούτου παῖδα ἐκδέξασθαι τὴν βασιληίην Κραδεύαν, καὶ τὸ ἀπὸ τοῦδε τὸ πολὺ μὲν κατὰ γένος ἀμείβειν τὴν βασιληίην, παῖδα παρὰ πατρὸς ἐκδεχόμενον· εἰ δὲ ἐκλείποι τὸ γένος, οὕτω δὴ ἀριστίνδην καθίστασθαι ᾿Ινδοῖσι βασιλέας. ῾Ηρακλέα δέ, ὅντινα ἐς ᾿Ινδοὺς ἀφικέσθαι λόγος κατέχει, παρ’ αὐτοῖσιν ᾿Ινδοῖσι γηγενέα λέγεσθαι. τοῦτον τὸν ῾Ηρακλέα μάλιστα πρὸς Σουρασηνῶν γεραίρεσθαι, ᾿Ινδικοῦ ἔθνεος, ἵνα δύο πόληες μεγάλαι, Μέθορά τε καὶ Κλεισόβορα· καὶ ποταμὸς ᾿Ιωμάνης πλωτὸς διαρρεῖ τὴν  χώρην αὐτῶν· τὴν σκευὴν δὲ οὗτος ὁ ῾Ηρακλέης ἥντινα ἐφόρεε Μεγασθένης λέγει ὅτι ὁμοίην τῷ Θηβαίῳ ῾Ηρακλεῖ, ὡς αὐτοὶ ᾿Ινδοὶ ἀπηγέονται. καὶ τούτῳ ἄρσενας μὲν παῖδας πολλοὺς κάρτα γενέσθαι ἐν τῇ ᾿Ινδῶν γῇ—πολλῇσι γὰρ δὴ γυναιξὶν ἐς γάμον ἐλθεῖν καὶ τοῦτον τὸν ῾Ηρακλέα—, θυγατέρα δὲ μουνογενέην. οὔνομα δὲ εἶναι τῇ παιδὶ Πανδαίην, καὶ τὴν χώρην,ἵνα τε ἐγένετο καὶ ἧστινος ἐπέτρεψεν αὐτῇ ἄρχειν ῾Ηρακλέης, Πανδαίην <καλεῖσθαι> τῆς παιδὸς ἐπώνυμον. καὶ ταύτῃ ἐλέφαντας μὲν γενέσθαι ἐκ τοῦ πατρὸς ἐς πεντακοσίους, ἵππον δὲ ἐς τετρακισχιλίην, πεζῶν δὲ ἐς τὰς τρεῖς καὶ δέκα μυριάδας. καὶ τάδε μετεξέτεροι ᾿Ινδῶν περὶ ῾Ηρακλέους λέγουσιν, ἐπελθόντα αὐτὸν πᾶσαν γῆν καὶ θάλασσαν καὶ καθήραντα ὅ τι περ κακόν, καινὸν εἶδος ἐξευρεῖν ἐν τῇ θαλάσσῃ κόσμου γυναικηίου, ὅντινα καὶ εἰς τοῦτο ἔτι οἵ τε ἐξ ᾿Ινδῶν τῆς χώρης τὰ ἀγώγιμα παρ’ ἡμέας ἀγινέοντες σπουδῇ ὠνεόμενοι ἐκκομίζουσι, καὶ ῾Ελλήνων δὲ πάλαι καὶ ῾Ρωμαίων νῦν ὅσοι πολυκτέανοι καὶ εὐδαίμονες μέζονι ἔτι σπουδῆ ὠνέονται, τὸν μαργαρίτην δὴ τὸν θαλάσσιον οὕτω τῇ ᾿Ινδῶν γλώσσῃ καλεόμενον. τὸν γὰρ ῾Ηρακλέα, ὡς καλόν οἱ ἐφάνη τὸ φόρημα, ἐκ πάσης τῆς θαλάσσης ἐς τὴν ᾿Ινδῶν γῆν συναγινέειν τὸν μαργαρίτην δὴ τοῦτον, τῇ θυγατρὶ τῇ ἑωυτοῦ εἶναι κόσμον.

καὶ λέγει Μεγασθένης, θηρεύεσθαι τὴν κόγχην αὐτοῦ δικτύοισι, νέμεσθαι δ’ ἐν τῇ θαλάσσῃ κατὰ ταὐτὸ πολλὰς κόγχας, κατάπερ τὰς μελίσσας. καὶ εἶναι γὰρ καὶ τοῖσι μαργαρίτῃσι βασιλέα ἢ βασίλισσαν, ὡς τῇσι μελίσσῃσι. καὶ ὅστις μὲν ἐκεῖνον κατ’ ἐπιτυχίην συλλάβοι, τοῦτον δὲ εὐπετέως περιβάλλειν καὶ τὸ ἄλλο σμῆνος τῶν μαργαριτῶν· εἰ δὲ διαφύγοι σφᾶς ὁ βασιλεύς, τούτῳ δὲ οὐκέτι θηρατοὺς εἶναι τοὺς ἄλλους. τοὺς ἑλόντας δὲ περιορᾶν κατασαπῆναί σφισι τὴν σάρκα, τῷ δὲ ὀστέῳ ἐς κόσμον χρῆσθαι. καὶ εἶναι γὰρ καὶ παρ’ ᾿Ινδοῖσι τὸν μαργαρίτην τριστάσιον κατὰ τιμὴν πρὸς χρυσίον τὸ ἄπεφθον, καὶ τοῦτο ἐν τῇ ᾿Ινδῶν γῇ ὀρυσσόμενον.



One thought on “Herakles in India: Discovering and Hoarding Pearls

Leave a Reply