Arrian on Indian Rivers and Cities

Arrian, Historia Indica, 10

“The story also circulates that the Indians do not make memorials for their dead but instead believe the virtues of the men as sufficient markers for those who have passed and sing odes in their honor. It is not possible to write an accurate count of their cities because of the number of Indians. Cities alongside rivers or the sea are made of wood, since if they were made from brick they would not persist for much time because the water from the sky and the rivers overflowing their banks would fill them with water. The cities, however, which were built in powerful positions and in high places and above the rest of the land, are all made from brick and mud. The Indians’ greatest city is *Palimbothra in the land of the Prasians where the river Erannoboas meets the Ganges, the greatest of the rivers. The Erannoboas could be the third of the Indian rivers, and it is greater than them in some places, but it yields to the Ganges and adds its water to it. Megasthenes claims that on the side where the city is longest it is eighty stades in length and its breadth is 15 stades. It has a ditch built around it the full circumference of the city, about thirty cubits deep. The city has 570 towers on its ways and 64 gates. Every Indian is free, no Indian is a slave. In this, the Spartans are similar to the Indians, although the helots are enslaved by the Spartans and do the work of slaves. There are no slaves among the Indians, or at least no Indian is a slave.”

*Probably Pataliputra

Triumph of Dionysos in India

λέγεται δὲ καὶ τάδε, μνημεῖα ὅτι ᾿Ινδοὶ τοῖς τελευτήσασιν οὐ ποιέουσιν, ἀλλὰ τὰς ἀρετὰς γὰρ τῶν ἀνδρῶν ἱκανὰς ἐς μνήμην τίθενται τοῖσιν ἀποθανοῦσι καὶ τὰς ᾠδὰς αἳ αὐτοῖσιν ἐπᾴδονται. πόλεων δὲ καὶ ἀριθμὸν οὐκ εἶναι ἂν ἀτρεκὲς ἀναγράψαι τῶν ᾿Ινδικῶν ὑπὸ πλήθεος· ἀλλὰ γὰρ ὅσαι παραποτάμιαι αὐτέων ἢ παραθαλάσσιαι, ταύτας μὲν ξυλίνας ποιέεσθαι· οὐ γὰρ ἂν ἐκ πλίνθου ποιεομένας διαρκέσαι ἐπὶ χρόνον τοῦ τε ὕδατος ἕνεκα τοῦ ἐξ οὐρανοῦ καὶ ὅτι οἱ ποταμοὶ αὐτοῖσιν ὑπερβάλλοντες ὑπὲρ τὰς ὄχθας ἐμπιμπλᾶσι τοῦ ὕδατος τὰ πεδία. ὅσαι δὲ ἐν ὑπερδεξίοις τε καὶ μετεώροις τόποισι καὶ τούτοισι ψιλοῖσιν ᾠκισμέναι εἰσί, ταύτας δὲ ἐκ πλίνθου τε καὶ πηλοῦ ποιέεσθαι. μεγίστην δὲ πόλιν ᾿Ινδοῖσιν εἶναι <τὴν> Παλίμβοθρα καλεομένην, ἐν τῇ Πρασίων γῇ, ἵνα αἱ συμβολαί εἰσι τοῦ τε ᾿Εραννοβόα ποταμοῦ καὶ  τοῦ Γάγγεω· τοῦ μὲν Γάγγεω, τοῦ μεγίστου ποταμῶν· ὁ δὲ ᾿Εραννοβόας τρίτος μὲν ἂν εἴη τῶν ᾿Ινδῶν ποταμῶν, μέζων δὲ τῶν ἄλλῃ καὶ οὗτος, ἀλλὰ ξυγχωρέει αὐτὸς τῷ Γάγγῃ, ἐπειδὰν ἐμβάλῃ ἐς αὐτὸν τὸ ὕδωρ. καὶ λέγει Μεγασθένης μῆκος μὲν ἐπέχειν τὴν πόλιν καθ’ ἑκατέρην τὴν πλευρήν, ἵναπερ μακροτάτη αὐτὴ ἑωυτῆς ᾤκισται, ἐς ὀγδοήκοντα σταδίους, τὸ δὲ πλάτος ἐς πεντεκαίδεκα. τάφρον δὲ περιβεβλῆσθαι τῇ πόλει τὸ εὖρος ἑξάπλεθρον, τὸ δὲ βάθος τριήκοντα πήχεων· πύργους δὲ ἑβδομήκοντα καὶ πεντακοσίους ἔχειν τὸ τεῖχος καὶ πύλας τέσσαρας καὶ ἑξήκοντα. εἶναι δὲ καὶ τόδε μέγα ἐν τῇ ᾿Ινδῶν γῇ, πάντας ᾿Ινδοὺς εἶναι ἐλευθέρους, οὐδέ τινα δοῦλον εἶναι ᾿Ινδόν. τοῦτο μὲν Λακεδαιμονίοισιν ἐς ταὐτὸ συμβαίνει καὶ ᾿Ινδοῖσι. Λακεδαιμονίοις μέν  γε οἱ εἵλωτες δοῦλοί εἰσιν καὶ τὰ δούλων ἐργάζονται, ᾿Ινδοῖσι δὲ οὐδὲ ἄλλος δοῦλός ἐστι, μήτι γε ᾿Ινδῶν τις.

Herakles and Indian Marriage Practices

Note: This may be the worst story I have ever read about Herakles

Arrian, Historia Indica, 9

“In this land, where Herakles’ daughter ruled, women come to the age of marriage when they are six years old, while the men live to be forty years at the most. There is also a story circulated about this among the Indians. They say that Herakles, who had this daughter when he was late in years, learned that his own death was near. Because he could not find any man near he considered worthy to marry his daughter, he had sex with her himself when she was seven so that he would leave a race of Indian kings descended through her. And he made this the age of marriage for those descended from her. And from that time Pandaia ruled over this whole race, which took this right from her through Herakles.

It seems to me that since Herakles did many amazing things he would have been able to make himself lover-lived so that he might have sex with his child at a more appropriate time. But if these details about the age of marriage for women there are true, then it seems that they accord in some way with the age of men who die at the oldest in their forties. For old age comes more quickly to them and death follows old age. Therefore, I guess, the peak of life blooms more rapidly, by this logic.  So, a month them, men of thirty would, I guess, be like old men; twenty-somethings would be like men in their prime, and the peak of youth would come around age 15. By this logic, the age of marriage for women would appropriately come around age 7—since Megasthenes says that in this land fruit ripens more quickly than in other places and turns rotten quickly as well.”

 

ἐν δὲ τῇ χώρῃ ταύτῃ, ἵνα ἐβασίλευσεν ἡ θυγάτηρ τοῦ ῾Ηρακλέος, τὰς μὲν γυναῖκας ἑπταέτεις ἐούσας ἐς ὥρην γάμου ἰέναι, τοὺς δὲ ἄνδρας τεσσαράκοντα ἔτεα τὰ πλεῖστα βιώσκεσθαι. καὶ ὑπὲρ τούτου λεγόμενον λόγον εἶναι παρὰ ᾿Ινδοῖσιν. ῾Ηρακλέα, ὀψιγόνου οἱ γενομένης τῆς παιδός, ἐπεί τε δὴ ἐγγὺς ἔμαθεν ἑαυτῷ ἐοῦσαν τὴν τελευτήν, οὐκ ἔχοντα ὅτῳ ἀνδρὶ ἐκδῷ τὴν παῖδα ἑωυτοῦ ἐπαξίῳ, αὐτὸν μιγῆναι τῇ παιδὶ ἑπταέτεϊ ἐούσῃ, ὡς γένος ἐξ οὗ τε κἀκείνης ὑπολείπεσθαι ᾿Ινδῶν βασιλέας. ποιῆσαι ὦν αὐτὴν ῾Ηρακλέα ὡραίην γάμου· καὶ ἐκ τοῦδε ἅπαν τὸ γένος τοῦτο ὅτου ἡ Πανδαίη ἐπῆρξε, ταὐτὸν τοῦτο γέρας ἔχειν παρὰ ῾Ηρακλέος. ἐμοὶ δὲ δοκεῖ, εἴπερ ὦν τὰ ἐς τοσόνδε ἄτοπα ῾Ηρακλέης οἷός τε ἦν ἐξεργάζεσθαι, κἂν αὑτὸν ἀποφῆναι μακροβιώτερον, ὡς ὡραίῃ μιγῆναι τῇ παιδί. ἀλλὰ γὰρ εἰ ταῦτα ὑπὲρ τῆς ὥρης τῶν ταύτῃ παίδων ἀτρεκέα ἐστίν, ἐς ταὐτὸν φέρειν δοκεῖ ἔμοιγε ἐς ὅ τι περ καὶ <τὰ> ὑπὲρ τῶν ἀνδρῶν τῆς ἡλικίης ὅτι τεσσαρακοντούτεες ἀποθνήσκουσιν οἱ πρεσβύτατοι αὐτῶν. οἷς γὰρ τό τε γῆρας τοσῷδε ταχύτερον

ἐπέρχεται καὶ ὁ θάνατος ὁμοῦ τῷ γήρᾳ, πάντως που καὶ ἡ ἀκμὴ πρὸς λόγον τοῦ τέλεος ταχυτέρη ἐπανθέει. ὥστε τριακοντούτεες μὲν ὠμογέροντες ἄν που εἶεν αὐτοῖσιν οἱ ἄνδρες, εἴκοσι δὲ ἔτεα γεγονότες οἱ ἔξω ἥβης νεηνίσκοι, ἡ δὲ ἀκροτάτη ἥβη ἀμφὶ τὰ πεντεκαίδεκα ἔτεα· καὶ τῇσι γυναιξὶν ὥρη τοῦ γάμου κατὰ λόγον ἂν οὕτω ἐς τὰ ἑπτὰ ἔτεα συμβαίνοι. καὶ γὰρ τοὺς καρποὺς ἐν ταύτῃ τῇ χώρῃ πεπαίνεσθαί τε ταχύτερον [μὲν] τῆς ἄλλης αὐτὸς οὗτος Μεγασθένης ἀνέγραψεν καὶ φθίνειν ταχύτερον.

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.

 

 

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.”

dionysus-mosaic

 

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.

Adventures in Clothing: Ancient Greeks Try to Describe Indian Cotton

Herodotus, 3.106

“The most distant parts of the inhabited world have in some way received the finest things, just as Greece has drawn the lot of the best seasons by far. As I mentioned a bit before, India is at the easternmost part of the inhabited world: in India living creatures, both four-footed and flying, are much greater than in other lands, except for the horses—these are smaller than the Median horses (which are called Nêsaian). In addition, the gold there, both that excavated and that washed up by rivers or acquired as I have described, is abundant. The wild trees there produce as a fruit a beautiful and exceptional wool, better than that of sheep. The Indians use the material from these trees for clothing.”

αἱ δ᾽ ἐσχατιαί κως τῆς οἰκεομένης τὰ κάλλιστα ἔλαχον, κατά περ ἡ Ἑλλὰς τὰς ὥρας πολλόν τι κάλλιστα κεκρημένας ἔλαχε. [2] τοῦτο μὲν γὰρ πρὸς τὴν ἠῶ ἐσχάτη τῶν οἰκεομενέων ἡ Ἰνδική ἐστι, ὥσπερ ὀλίγῳ πρότερον εἴρηκα: ἐν ταύτῃ τοῦτο μὲν τὰ ἔμψυχα, τετράποδά τε καὶ τὰ πετεινά, πολλῷ μέζω ἢ ἐν τοῖσι ἄλλοισι χωρίοισι ἐστί, πάρεξ τῶν ἵππων (οὗτοι δὲ ἑσσοῦνται ὑπὸ τῶν Μηδικῶν, Νησαίων δὲ καλευμένων ἵππων), τοῦτο δὲ χρυσὸς ἄπλετος αὐτόθι ἐστί, ὃ μὲν ὀρυσσόμενος, ὁ δὲ καταφορεύμενος ὑπὸ ποταμῶν, ὁ δὲ ὥσπερ ἐσήμηνα ἁρπαζόμενος. [3] τὰ δὲ δένδρεα τὰ ἄγρια αὐτόθι φέρει καρπὸν εἴρια καλλονῇ τε προφέροντα καὶ ἀρετῇ τῶν ἀπὸ τῶν ὀίων: καὶ ἐσθῆτι Ἰνδοὶ ἀπὸ τούτων τῶν δενδρέων χρέωνται.

tree vasetree vase

Arrian, Historia Indica, 16

“For clothing the Indians use a flax, just as Nearchus describes, a flax from trees about which I have already discussed. This linen is either brighter than any other linen or the dark skin that they have makes it appear brighter. They wear a robe of this fabric down to the middle of their shin and the have a garment which is partly thrown around their shoulders and partly furled around their heads.”

ἐσθῆτι δὲ ᾿Ινδοὶ λινέῃ χρέονται, κατάπερ λέγει Νέαρχος, λίνου τοῦ ἀπὸ τῶν δενδρέων, ὑπὲρ ὅτων μοι ἤδη λέλεκται. τὸ δὲ λίνον τοῦτο ἢ λαμπρότερον τὴν χροιήν ἐστιν ἄλλου λίνου παντός, ἢ μέλανες αὐτοὶ ἐόντες λαμπρότερον τὸ λίνον φαίνεσθαι ποιέουσιν. ἔστι δὲ κιθὼν λίνεος αὐτοῖς ἔστε ἐπὶ μέσην τὴν κνήμην, εἷμα δὲ τὸ μὲν περὶ τοῖσιν ὤμοισι περιβεβλημένον, τὸ δὲ περὶ τῇσι κεφαλῇσιν εἰλιγμένον.

Alexander in India: Talking Trees Prophesy Death

For previous translations from the Alexander Romance (attributed to Pseudo-Callisthenes but available in many different versions and languages), including Alexander’s visit with the naked-philosophers, go here.

Alexander’s Letter to Aristotle about India (Alexander Romance 3.17)

“Once we had organized everything, we went by the road that naturally leads to the Prasiakan land. And when I was ready to go, around the sixth hour, a wonder appeared in the sky in the third month, named Dios. First, a wind arose suddenly with a force that knocked the tents to the ground along with those of us who were standing around [the Armenian version goes on to describe a great deal of snow that killed many men]. After thirty days the road was passable and we departed. After five days we conquered Prasaikê along with Poros and all this stuff. His city overflowed with goods which I have already described to you.

When this happened and I was setting everything in perfectly good order, many of the Indians came to me willingly and were saying, “King Alexander, you will take cities, and palaces, mountains, and tribes, place where no living man or king has ever gone…” And then some very smart men came out and were saying to me “King, we have something beyond belief to show you. For we will show you plants that talk like men….” Then they led us to some preserve, a guard [for them]…and a temple of the sun and the moon. There are two trees there that talked. They were close in size to the cypress. The trees were in a circle, similar to the Egyptian chestnut tree and with similar fruit. They claimed that one was male with male offspring and one was female with female offspring—and that the name of one was the sun and the name of the female was the moon.

The trees had been draped with the skins of all sorts of animals (female skins on the female tree; male skins on the male tree). Near them there was neither iron, nor bronze, nor tin, nor clay for pottery. When I asked them what these hides seemed to be, they said they were from lions and leopards It is not possible to conduct a burial here without the priest of the sun and the moon. They use the skins of the beasts for ceremonial purposes.

I set out to learn about the origin of the trees. They said “When it is the first part of dawn and the sun is rising, a voice issues from the tree. And when the sun is at the middle of the sky and then again when it is about to set, a third time. The same thing occurs with the moon.” Men who appeared to be priests approached me saying “Enter cleansed and fall to your knees.” I took with me my friends Parmenion, Krateros, Iollas, Makhêtês, Thrasuleon, Theodektês, Diiphilos, Neokles, altogether ten. And the priest was saying “King, it is not permitted for iron to enter the shrine.” I ordered my men to put aside their swords. Unarmed men came from my army and I ordered them all to observe the place in a circle. Then I selected some men from the Indians to accompany us so they might interpret for me. I prayed to the Olympian Ammon, Athena the bringer of victory, and the other gods.

Just as the sun went down an Indian voice issued from the tree. It was interpreted by the Indians who were present with us. Because of fear, they were unwilling to translate it. I became agitated and berated them one by one. Eventually the Indians said this: “You will die soon at the hands of your friends.” Even though I and those with me were thunderstruck, I desired to get another oracle from the moon as it rose into sight. Now armed with knowledge of the future I entered and asked if I should embrace my mother Olympias and my relatives. Again then as my friends stood around the tree issued a voice to me, but this time in Greek, “King Alexander, you must die in Babylon. You will be slain by your own people and you will not return to your mother Olympias.”

“Even as my friends and I were distraught by this, I desired to bestow the finest garlands upon the gods. Then the priest was saying “It is not possible to do this. But if you will force it, do what you want. For there is no law written for a king.”

As I was laying in deep grief and disturbed, Parmenion and Philip encouraged me to go to sleep. But I was not able to sleep, I got up and left near dawn with my ten friends, the priest and the Indians and again when to the shrine giving out orders. I went to the shrine with the priest and once I placed my hand on the tree I questioned it asking “if the years of my life are done, I wish to learn this from you, whether I will return to Macedonia and greet my mother and my wife and die after.” Again, at the breaking of dawn when a ray of light it the top of the tree, a voice issued from it saying, “The years of your life are at end. You will not return to your mother Olympias, but you will die in Babylon. After a short time, your mother and wife will died badly at the hands of your friends. Your brother too, killed by those around you. Do not ask about these things any longer: you will not hear anything more about what you ask.”

Alexander india

Ταῦτα δὲ πάντα διοικονομήσαντες ἤλθομεν εἰς τὴν κατὰ φύσιν ὁδὸν τὴν φέρουσαν εἰς τὴν Πρασιακὴν γῆν. καὶ ἑτοίμως μου ἔχοντος ἀναζεῦξαι περὶ ἕκτην ὥραν γίνεται περὶ τὸν ἀέρα τοιαύτη θεωρία μηνὶ Δίῳ ἡμέρᾳ τρίτῃ· πρῶτον μὲν ἐξαίφνης πνοή, ὥστε τὰ σκηνώματα καταρριφῆναι καὶ ἡμᾶς ἑστῶτας εἰς τὸ ἔδαφος καταπεσεῖν . . . Μετὰ δὲ ἡμέρας λʹ τῆς ὁδοῦ εὐβάτου γενομένης ἀνεζεύξαμεν καὶ μεθ´ ἡμέρας εʹ ἐκυριεύσαμεν τῆς Πρασιακῆς πόλεως σὺν Πώρῳ καὶ τοῖς σὺν αὐτῷ [καὶ τοὺς ἐκείνῳ πᾶσιν]. παμπληθὴς δὲ ἦν ἀγαθοῖς, περὶ ὧν ἡμῖν γέγραπται. γενομένου δὲ 〈τούτου〉 καί μου τὰ πέριξ κατὰ φύσιν οἰκονομήσαντος καὶ τῶν Ἰνδῶν προθύμως συνελθόντων ἔλεγόν μοι· ‘Βασιλεῦ Ἀλέξανδρε, λήψῃ πόλεις καὶ βασιλείας καὶ ὄρη καὶ ἔθνη, εἰς ἃ οὐδεὶς τῶν ζώντων ἐπέβη 〈ποτὲ βασιλεύς〉.’ . . . τινὲς δὲ ἐκ τῶν πολυϊδρίων ἐλθόντες ἔλεγον· ‘Βασιλεῦ, ἔχομέν σοι δεῖξαί τι παράδοξον ἄξιόν σου· δείξομεν γάρ σοι 〈φυτὰ〉 ἀνθρωπιστὶ λαλοῦντα.’ . . . καὶ εἰσήνεγκαν ἡμᾶς εἴς τινα παράδεισον, ἔνθα . . . ἥλιος καὶ [ἡ] σελήνη ἐν μέσῳ τοῦ παραδείσου· † κατὰ δὲ αὐτοὺς φρουρὰ . . . ἱερὸν ἡλίου καὶ σελήνης. δύο δὲ ἦν δένδρα τὰ προειρημένα, ἃ ἦν παραπλήσια κυπαρίσσοις . . . κύκλῳ δὲ ἦν δένδρα [τὰ προειρημένα] παρόμοια τῇ ἐν Αἰγύπτῳ μυροβαλάνῳ, καὶ ὁ καρπὸς ὅμοιος. προσηγόρευον δὲ τὸ μὲν ἀρρενικὸν ἀρρένων λογισμόν, τὸ δὲ θηλυκὸν θηλειῶν· ὄνομα δὲ ἦν τοῦ ἑνὸς ἥλιος, τῆς δὲ θηλείας σελήνη, 〈ἃ〉 ἔλεγον τῇ ἰδίᾳ φωνῇ μουθοῦ ἐμαοῦσαι. ταῦτα δὲ περιεβέβλητο δορὰς παντοίων 〈θηρίων〉, τὸ μὲν ἄρρεν ἀρρένων τὸ δὲ θῆλυ θηλειῶν. παρ´ αὐτοῖς δὲ σίδηρος οὐχ ὑπῆρχεν οὔτε χαλκὸς οὔτε κασσίτερος οὔτε πηλὸς 〈εἰς〉 πλάσιν. ἐμοῦ δὲ ἐρωτῶντος τίνες αἱ δοραὶ δοκοῦσιν εἶναι, ἔφησαν λεόντων καὶ παρδάλεων. οὐκ ἔξεστι δὲ ὧδε τάφον ἔχειν εἰ μὴ τὸν τοῦ ἡλίου καὶ τῆς σελήνης 〈ἱερέα〉. περιβολαῖς δὲ ἐχρῶντο τῶν θηρίων ταῖς δοραῖς.

Περὶ δὲ τῶν δένδρων τὴν αἰτίαν ἐζήτουν μαθεῖν· οἱ δὲ ἔφησαν· ‘Πρωίας γενομένης, ὅταν ὁ ἥλιος ἀνατείλῃ, φωνὴ ἐκ τοῦ δένδρου φέρεται, καὶ ὅταν κατὰ μέσον τοῦ οὐρανοῦ γένηται, καὶ ὅταν μέλλῃ δύνειν, τοῦτο τρίτον· τὸ δ´ αὐτὸ καὶ ἐπὶ τῆς σελήνης.’ καὶ οἱ δοκοῦντες ἱερεῖς εἶναι προσῆλθόν μοι λέγοντες· ‘Εἴσελθε καθαρὸς καὶ προσκύνησον.’ συνεισῆγον δὲ τοὺς φίλους Παρμενίωνα Κρατερὸν 〈Φίλιππον〉 Ἰόλλαν Μαχήτην Θρασυλέοντα 〈Μαχάονα〉 Θεοδέκτην Διίφιλον Νεοκλῆν, ἄνδρας ιʹ. ὁ δὲ ἱερεὺς ἔλεγεν· ‘Βασιλεῦ, σίδηρον οὐ καθήκει εἰς τὸ ἱερὸν εἰσελθεῖν.’ Προστάσσω οὖν τοῖς φίλοις τὰ ξίφη ἀποθέσθαι ἔξω τοῦ περιβόλου· συνεισῆλθον δέ μοι ἐκ τῆς δυνάμεως ἄνδρες τʹ ἀμάχαιροι. ἐκέλευσα οὖν τοὺς σὺν ἐμοὶ πάντας κατοπτεῦσαι κύκλῳ τὸν τόπον. καὶ προσκαλοῦμαι ἐκ τῶν συνακολουθησάντων μοι Ἰνδῶν, ἵνα ἑρμηνείας τύχω παρ´ αὐτῶν. ὄμνυμι δὲ Ὀλύμπιον Ἄμμωνα Ἀθηνᾶν νικηφόρον θεοὺς ἅπαντας . . . ἅμα τῷ δῦναι τὸν ἥλιον φωνὴ ἠνέχθη Ἰνδικὴ ἐκ τοῦ δένδρου, ἣ ἑρμηνεύθη μοι ὑπὸ τῶν Ἰνδῶν τῶν ὄντων σὺν ἡμῖν. καὶ φοβούμενοι οὐκ ἤθελον μεθερμηνεῦσαι· σύννους ἐγενάμην καὶ εἵλκυσα αὐτοὺς κατὰ μόνας, καὶ εἶπον τοῦτο οἱ Ἰνδοί· ‘Ταχὺ ἀπολέσθαι ἔχεις ὑπὸ τῶν ἰδίων.’ ἐμοῦ δὲ καὶ τῶν παρεστηκότων μοι ἀποτερατωθέντων ἀπὸ τῆς σελήνης ἠβουλήθην πρὸς τὴν ἀνατολὴν ὀψίας πάλιν χρηματισθῆναι. εἰκάσας δὲ τὸ μέλλον εἰσῆλθον καὶ ἠξίωσα, εἰ ἀσπάσομαι τὴν μητέρα μου Ὀλυμπιάδα καὶ τοὺς γνησίους μου φίλους. πάλιν δέ μοι τῶν φίλων παρεστώτων ἅμα τῷ τὴν σελήνην ἀνατεῖλαι φωνὴν τὸ δένδρον τὴν αὐτὴν ἐξήνεγκεν Ἑλληνικῇ διαλέκτῳ· ‘Βασιλεῦ Ἀλέξανδρε, ἐν Βαβυλῶνι δεῖ σε ἀποθανεῖν· ὑπὸ τῶν ἰδίων ἀναιρῇ καὶ οὐ δύνασαι ἀνακομισθῆναι πρὸς τὴν μητέρα σου Ὀλυμπιάδα.’

Ἐμοῦ δὲ λίαν καὶ τῶν φίλων μου θαυμαζόντων ἐβουλόμην στεφάνους καλλίστους περιθεῖναι τοῖς θεοῖς. τοῦ δὲ ἱερέως λέγοντος· ‘Οὐκ ἐξὸν τοῦτο γενέσθαι· εἰ δὲ βιάζει, πρᾶξον ὃ θέλεις· βασιλεῖ γὰρ νόμος ἄγραφος’ . . . περιλύπου δέ μου διακειμένου καὶ λίαν δυσφοροῦντος ὅ τε Παρμενίων καὶ ὁ Φίλιππος παρεκάλουν με περὶ τὸν ὕπνον γενέσθαι· μὴ βουληθέντος δέ μου ἀναστὰς ὤρθρισα 〈καὶ〉 περὶ τὴν ἀνατολὴν σὺν τοῖς ιʹ φίλοις καὶ τῷ ἱερεῖ καὶ τοῖς Ἰνδοῖς πάλιν εἰς τὸ ἱερὸν ἀπελθὼν καὶ διαστολὰς δοὺς προσελθών τε εἰς τὸ ἱερὸν σὺν τῷ ἱερεῖ καὶ ἐπιθεὶς τὴν χεῖρα πρὸς τὸ δένδρον ἐπηρώτησα λέγων· ‘Εἰ πεπλήρωταί μοι τὰ τῆς ζωῆς ἔτη, τοῦτο βούλομαι παρ´ ὑμῶν μαθεῖν, εἰ ἀνακομισθήσομαι εἰς Μακεδονίαν καὶ ἀσπάσομαι τὴν μητέρα μου καὶ τὴν γυναῖκα, καὶ τότε † ἀπαναλῦσαι.’ Ἅμα δὲ τῷ γενέσθαι τὴν ἀνατολὴν τοῦ ἡλίου καὶ βαλεῖν τὴν αὐγὴν εἰς τὴν κορυφὴν τοῦ δένδρου φωνὴ ἐξαυδᾷ διαρρήδην λέγουσα· ‘Πεπλήρωταί σου τὰ τῆς ζωῆς ἔτη καὶ ἀνακομισθῆναι οὐκ ἔχεις πρὸς Ὀλυμπιάδα τὴν μητέρα σου, ἀλλ´ ἐν Βαβυλῶνι ἔχεις ἀπολέσθαι. μετὰ δὲ ὀλίγον χρόνον καὶ ἡ μήτηρ σου καὶ ἡ γυνή σου κακὴν κακῶς ἀπολοῦνται ὑπὸ τῶν ἰδίων καὶ αἱ ἀδελφαί σου ὑπὸ τῶν περὶ σέ. καὶ περὶ τούτων μηκέτι ἀξίου· οὐ γὰρ ἀκούσῃ ἔτι πρὸς ἃ ἀξιοῖς.’

Alexander The Great, Philosopher

Pseudo-Callisthenes, Alexander Romance 3.6-7 (Go here for collated Greek texts and a translation)

Alexander continues his conversation with the gymnosophists in India and ends it with an epic mic-drop.

 

“He asked again, “What is greater, land or the sea.?” And one responded, “Land, for the sea rests upon the earth.” Then he asked “Which of all the beasts is the most capable?” And another answered, “man…” Then he said to another, “Whom can we not deceive but must always present with the truth?” And he answered, “God: for we cannot deceive one who knows everything?” And then he said to them, “What do you want to ask of me?” And he said “Immortality.” Alexander said, “I do not have this wealth—for I too am merely mortal.” And they said, “Since you are mortal, why do you make so much war? Is it so that you may seize everything and carry it off somewhere? You will leave them to others in turn.”

And Alexander said to them, “These things depend on the will of those above—and we are but servants of their assignment. The sea will not move unless the wind blows. The trees will not dance unless the air strikes them. Man accomplishes nothing without the will of those above. Even though I wish to stop warring, the tyrant of my mind does not allow it.   If we were all in agreement; the universe would be sluggish, the sea would not fill; the land would not be farmed; marriages would not be completed, and there would be no child-bearing.  How many met misfortune in the wars I waged by losing all their possessions? Well, how many profited from their losses? For all who steal from others eventually leave their possessions to others still. Nothing belongs to anyone.” After he said this, Alexander walked away…”

Gymnosophists

εἶπε πάλιν· ‘τί πλεῖον, ἡ γῆ ἢ ἡ θάλασσα;’ εἶπεν· ‘ἡ γῆ· καὶ γὰρ αὐτὴ ἡ θάλασσα ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς ἵδρυται.’ ὁ δὲ εἶπε· ‘τί πάντων τῶν θηρίων πανουργότερον;’ καὶ εἶπεν· ‘ὁ ἄνθρωπος.’ . . . ἑτέρῳ ἔφη· ‘τίνα οὐ δυνάμεθα ψεύσασθαι, ἀλλὰ τὸν ἀληθινὸν λόγον αὐτῷ προσφέρομεν;’ — ‘θεόν· οὐ γὰρ δυνάμεθα ψεύσασθαι τὸν πάντα εἰδότα.’ . . . Εἶπεν αὐτοῖς· ‘τί θέλετε ἐξαιτήσασθαί με;’ οἱ δὲ εἶπον· ‘ἀθανασίαν.’ ὁ δὲ Ἀλέξανδρος εἶπεν· ‘ταύτην ἐγὼ οὐκ ἔχω τὴν ἐξουσίαν· καὶ γὰρ ἐγὼ θνητὸς ὑπάρχω.’ οἱ δὲ εἶπον· ‘τί τοίνυν θνητὸς ὑπάρχων τοσαῦτα πολεμεῖς; ἵνα πάντα ἄρας που ἀπενέγκῃς; σὺ πάλιν αὐτὰ ἑτέροις καταλείψεις.’ καὶ εἶπεν αὐτοῖς ὁ Ἀλέξανδρος· ‘ταῦτα ἐκ τῆς ἄνωθεν προνοίας διοικοῦνται, ἵνα ἡμεῖς [ὑμῖν] διάκονοι γενώμεθα τῆς ἐκείνων ἐπιταγῆς. οὐ γὰρ κινεῖται θάλασσα, εἰ μὴ πνεύσῃ ἄνεμος, οὐδὲ σαλεύεται δένδρα, εἰ μὴ ῥιπίζῃ πνεῦμα, οὐκ ἐνεργεῖται ἄνθρωπος εἰ μὴ ἐκ τῆς ἄνωθεν προνοίας. κἀγὼ δὲ παύσασθαι θέλω τοῦ πολεμεῖν, ἀλλ´ οὐκ ἐᾷ με ὁ τῆς γνώμης μου δεσπότης. εἰ γὰρ πάντες ὁμογνώμονες ἦμεν, ἀργὸς ἐτύγχανεν ὁ κόσμος, θάλασσα οὐκ ἐπλέετο, γῆ οὐκ ἐγεωργεῖτο, γάμοι οὐκ ἐπετελοῦντο, παιδοποιίαι οὐκ ἦσαν. πόσοι γὰρ ἐν τοῖς ὑπ´ ἐμοῦ γενομένοις πολέμοις ἐδυστύχησαν ἀπολέσαντες τὰ ἴδια, ἄλλοι δὲ ηὐτύχησαν ἐκ τῶν ἀλλοτρίων; πάντες γὰρ τὰ πάντων λαμβάνοντες ἑτέροις παραχωροῦμεν καὶ οὐδενὶ οὐδὲν ὑπάρχει.’ Οὕτως εἰπὼν ὁ Ἀλέξανδρος ἀπεχώρει . . .

Anecdotes from Aelian: Homer in Argos, Troezen and India

9.14

“They say that the Argives granted Homer the first prize of all poetic art and put all other poets second to him. When they made a sacrifice, they used to call Apollo and Homer to their table. It is said in addition that because he had no money to give his daughter in marriage, that he gave her the epic the Kypria as a dowry. Pindar agrees with this.”

῞Οτι ποιητικῆς ἁπάσης ᾿Αργεῖοι τὰ πρῶτα ῾Ομήρῳ ἔδωκαν, δευτέρους δὲ αὐτοῦ ἔταττον πάντας. ποιοῦντες δὲ θυσίαν, ἐπὶ ξένια ἐκάλουν τὸν ᾿Απόλλωνα καὶ ῞Ομηρον. λέγεται δὲ κἀκεῖνο πρὸς τούτοις, ὅτι ἄρα ἀπορῶν ἐκδοῦναι τὴν θυγατέρα, ἔδωκεν αὐτῇ προῖκα ἔχειν τὰ ἔπη τὰ Κύπρια. καὶ ὁμολογεῖ τοῦτο Πίνδαρος.

11.2

“The traditions of Troezen report that the epics of Oroebantius of Troezen are earlier than Homer’s. They also say that Dares the Phrygian, whose Phrygian Iliad survives even to today, I think, was earlier than Homer. Melêsander of Miletus wrote about the battle of the Lapiths and Centaurs.”

῞Οτι ἦν ᾿Οροιβαντίου Τροιζηνίου ἔπη πρὸ ῾Ομήρου, ὥς φασιν οἱ Τροιζήνιοι λόγοι. καὶ τὸν Φρύγα δὲ Δάρητα, οὗ Φρυγίαν ᾿Ιλιάδα ἔτι καὶ νῦν ἀποσωζομένην οἶδα, πρὸ ῾Ομήρου καὶ τοῦτον γενέσθαι λέγουσι. Μελήσανδρος ὁ Μιλήσιος Λαπιθῶν καὶ Κενταύρων μάχην ἔγραψεν.

12.48

“[Men say] that the Indians have translated the words of Homer into their own native language and they sing them; and they aren’t the only ones: the Persian kings do too, if we can trust those who write about these things.”

῞Οτι ᾿Ινδοὶ τῇ παρά σφισιν ἐπιχωρίῳ φωνῇ τὰ ῾Ομήρου μεταγράψαντες ᾄδουσιν οὐ μόνοι ἀλλὰ καὶ οἱ Περσῶν βασιλεῖς, εἴ τι χρὴ πιστεύειν τοῖς ὑπὲρ τούτων ἱστοροῦσιν.

Gold-Digging Ants! Herodotus on India, Part 2

(Herodotus’ account of India starts a bit earlier)

Herodotus, 3. 102-105

“Other Indians live near the city Kaspatyrus and the Paktyic country, north of the rest of Indian, and these Indians live most like the Bactrians and are most bellicose. These are the Indians sent for gold in the area made desolate by the sands.

In that desert there are ants who are not quite as large as dogs but are larger than foxes. There are even some of these who have been caught and taken to the Persian king. These ants make their home underground, digging sand the way ants do in Greece—and they are similar in shape—but the sand they carry up is mostly gold.

Indians are sent into the desert for this sand. They yoke three camels together each, tying a female in between two males—the rider sits atop her, and she was harnessed as soon as possible after giving birth. Their camels are no less speedy than horses, but they are better at carrying burdens. I won’t describe what a camel looks like, because the Greeks know these things; but they don’t know this: the rear-legs of a camel have four thighbones and four knees; their genitals are turned back near the tail between their rear-legs.

The Indians use these camel teams and drive toward collecting the gold when the weather is hottest, because this is when the ants are out of sight under the ground. In this part of India, the sun is hottest in the morning and near noon like other places, but right from sunrise until dusk. During this time it burns hotter than in Greece at noon,  so the story is that men drip water on themselves during this time. At noon, the sun’s heat is almost the same for the Indians as it is for other people. After noon, the sun has the power it has in the morning in other lands. It cools as it sets, making it very cold at sunset.

When the Indians come to this land with their sacks, they fill them with sand as fast as possible and drive back again. For as soon as the ants smell them, as the Persians report, they chase them. They claim that there is nothing equal to their speed with the result that if the Indians do not start well ahead, none of them will escape. They cut the male camels out because they are slower once they begin to hold back. The females never get tired, because they remember the offspring they have let behind. This is the story. The Persians claim that the Indians gather most of their gold this way. The do get some from their own lands, but rather less.”

Them
Herodotus’ Ants Make B-Movie Gold (from Them!, 1954)

. ῎Αλλοι δὲ τῶν ᾿Ινδῶν Κασπατύρῳ τε πόλι καὶ τῇ Πακτυϊκῇ χώρῃ εἰσὶ πρόσοικοι, πρὸς ἄρκτου τε καὶ βορέω ἀνέμου κατοικημένοι τῶν ἄλλων ᾿Ινδῶν, οἳ Βακτρίοισι παραπλησίην ἔχουσι δίαιταν. Οὗτοι καὶ μαχιμώτατοί εἰσι ᾿Ινδῶν καὶ οἱ ἐπὶ τὸν χρυσὸν στελλόμενοί εἰσι οὗτοι· κατὰ γὰρ τοῦτό ἐστιἐρημίη διὰ τὴν ψάμμον.

᾿Εν δὴ ὦν τῇ ἐρημίῃ ταύτῃ καὶ τῇ ψάμμῳ γίνονται μύρμηκες μεγάθεα ἔχοντες κυνῶν μὲν ἐλάσσω, ἀλωπέκων δὲ μέζω· εἰσὶ γὰρ αὐτῶν καὶ παρὰ βασιλέϊ τῷ Περσέων ἐνθεῦτεν θηρευθέντες. Οὗτοι ὦν οἱ μύρμηκες ποιεύμενοι οἴκησιν ὑπὸ γῆν ἀναφέρουσι [τὴν] ψάμμον κατά περ οἱ ἐν τοῖσι ῞Ελλησι μύρμηκες κατὰ τὸν αὐτὸν τρόπον, εἰσὶ δὲ καὶ τὸ εἶδος ὁμοιότατοι· ἡ δὲ ψάμμος ἡ ἀναφερομένη ἐστὶ χρυσῖτις. ᾿Επὶ δὴ ταύτην τὴν ψάμμον στέλλονται ἐς τὴν ἔρημον οἱ ᾿Ινδοί, ζευξάμενος ἕκαστος καμήλους τρεῖς, σειρηφόρον μὲν ἑκατέρωθεν ἔρσενα παρέλκειν, θήλεαν δὲ ἐς μέσον· ἐπὶ ταύτην δὴ αὐτὸς ἀναβαίνει, ἐπιτηδεύσας ὅκως ἀπὸ τέκνων ὡς νεωτάτων ἀποσπάσας ζεύξει· αἱ γάρ σφι κάμηλοι ἵππων οὐκ ἥσσονες ἐς ταχυτῆτά εἰσι· χωρὶς δὲ ἄχθεα δυνατώτεραι πολλὸν φέρειν. Τὸ μὲν δὴ εἶδος ὁκοῖόν τι ἔχει ἡ κάμηλος, ἐπισταμένοισι τοῖσι ῞Ελλησι οὐ συγγράφω· τὸ δὲ μὴ ἐπιστέαται αὐτῆς, τοῦτο φράσω· κάμηλος ἐν τοῖσι ὀπισθίοισι σκέλεσι ἔχει τέσσερας μηροὺς καὶ γού-νατα τέσσερα, τά τε αἰδοῖα διὰ τῶν ὀπισθίων σκελέων πρὸς τὴν οὐρὴν τετραμμένα. Οἱ δὲ δὴ ᾿Ινδοὶ τρόπῳ τοιούτῳ καὶ ζεύξι τοιαύτῃ χρεώμενοι ἐλαύνουσι ἐπὶ τὸν χρυσὸν λελογισμένως ὅκως [ἂν] καυμάτων τῶν θερμοτάτων ἐόντων ἔσον-ται ἐν τῇ ἁρπαγῇ· ὑπὸ γὰρ τοῦ καύματος οἱ μύρμηκες ἀφανέες γίνονται ὑπὸ γῆν. Θερμότατος δέ ἐστι ὁ ἥλιος τούτοισι τοῖσι ἀνθρώποισι τὸ ἑωθινόν, οὐ κατά περ τοῖσι ἄλλοισι μεσαμβρίης, ἀλλ’ ὑπερτείλας μέχρις οὗ ἀγορῆς δια-λύσιος· τοῦτον δὲ τὸν χρόνον καίει πολλῷ μᾶλλον ἢ τῇ μεσαμβρίῃ τὴν ῾Ελλάδα, οὕτω ὥστε ἐν ὕδατι λόγος αὐτούς ἐστι βρέχεσθαι τηνικαῦτα· μεσοῦσα δὲ ἡ ἡμέρη σχεδὸν παραπλησίως καίει τούς <τε> ἄλλους ἀνθρώπους καὶ τοὺς ᾿Ινδούς· ἀποκλινομένης δὲ τῆς μεσαμβρίης γίνεταί σφι ὁ  ἥλιος κατά περ τοῖσι ἄλλοισι ὁ ἑωθινός· καὶ τὸ ἀπὸ τούτου ἀπιὼν ἐπὶ μᾶλλον ψύχει, ἐς ὃ ἐπὶ δυσμῇσι ἐὼν καὶ τὸ κάρτα ψύχει. ᾿Επεὰν δὲ ἔλθωσι ἐς τὸν χῶρον οἱ ᾿Ινδοὶ ἔχοντες θυλάκια, ἐμπλήσαντες ταῦτα τῆς ψάμμου τὴν ταχίστην ἐλαύνουσι ὀπίσω· αὐτίκα γὰρ οἱ μύρμηκες ὀδμῇ, ὡς δὴ λέγεται ὑπὸ Περσέων, μαθόντες διώκουσι. Εἶναι δὲ ταχυτῆτα οὐδενὶ ἑτέρῳ ὅμοιον, οὕτω ὥστε, εἰ μὴ προλαμβάνειν τοὺς ᾿Ινδοὺς τῆς ὁδοῦ ἐν ᾧ τοὺς μύρμηκας συλλέγεσθαι, οὐδένα ἄν σφεων ἀποσῴζεσθαι. Τοὺς μέν νυν ἔρσενας τῶν καμήλων, εἶναι γὰρ ἥσσονας θέειν τῶν θηλέων, παρα-λύεσθαι ἐπελκομένους, οὐκ ὁμοῦ ἀμφοτέρους· τὰς δὲ θηλέας ἀναμιμνησκομένας τῶν ἔλιπον τέκνων ἐνδιδόναι μαλακὸν οὐδέν. Τὸν μὲν δὴ πλέω τοῦ χρυσοῦ οὕτω οἱ ᾿Ινδοὶ κτῶνται, ὡς Πέρσαι φασί· ἄλλος δὲ σπανιώτερός ἐστι ἐν τῇ χώρῃ ὀρυσσόμενος.

Many Different People and Languages: Herodotus on India (Part 1)

Herodotus 3.98-102

“The great amount of gold which the Indians are said gather from dust for the Great King they gather in the following way. There is sand to the east of India where the sun rises. Of all those people we know of, even those of whom something certain may be said, they Indians well nearest the sun and its rays of the people in Asia. The part of India near the sun is deserted because of the sand.

There are many different peoples in India and they do not share a language. Some are nomads; some are not. Some live in the marches of rivers and eat raw fish which they catch while sailing on reed-boats. Each boat is made of a single piece of reed. These Indians bear clothes made of rush. When they harvest these rushes from the river, they weave them the weave would a mat and don them like breastplates.

Other Indians who live nearer to the sun than these and are nomads, they eat raw flesh and are called Padaei. They are reported as following these customs. Whenever one of their citizens is ill, whether it is a woman or a man, they men who live near him kill him, claiming that he will be ruined for meat by the sickness. Though the man himself denies that he is sick, they ignore him, kill him, and eat him up. When a woman is sick, just as with the men her closest friends kill her. They also sacrifice and eat a man who reaches old age—though few ever make it to this point, since most are killed when they get sick.

Continue reading “Many Different People and Languages: Herodotus on India (Part 1)”