domenica, Giugno 13, 2021
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India in Greece


Among the strongest peculiarities of the so called heroic period of Greece, appear the perfection of the Arts and the abundance of gold; the profusion of golden vessels; their varied yet elegant workmanship; the beauty of embroidered shawls; the tasteful, the ample produce of the loom; the numerous ornaments of ivory; the staining and working of that material; the gift of necklaces as a valuable present — sometimes, too, from the Gods; the brazen tripods and the cauldrons; the social refinement and comfort; the magnificent palaces of Alcinous and Menelaus; and, finally, in the great contest of Troy, the constant use of the war-chariot both by Greeks and Asiatics. “But the most magnificent example of the art of metallurgy,”observes Mr. Ottley[1], “was the famous shield of Achilles. In the centre were the waves of ocean, rolling round the extremities; then followed, in a beautiful series, scenes of pastoral life, tillage, the harvest, and the vintage; there, too, was the siege, the ambuscade, and the battle; judicial inquiry, and political deliberation; the musical festivities of a marriage, and the evolutions of a national dance. The grouping of these scenes, respectively, — their number, variety, and contrast, attest the skill of the artist, or of the poet, or of both. How the difference of colour was produced is uncertain; it might have been by paint, since ivory was stained to adorn the bits of horses; or, perhaps, by the effect of fire, for the art of fusing metals was known. Indeed, casting, gilding, and carving, both in wood and metal, were practised at a much earlier time by those who are described in Exodus, as ‘devising cunning works’ to work in gold, and in silver, and in brass, and in cutting of stones to set them, and in carving timber, to work in all manner of workmanship. That temple, which the piety of Solomon dedicated, and which his opulence enriched, owed the beauty and the delicacy of the sculptured decorations to the skill of a Tyrian artificer. The descriptions of it, recorded in the national archives of Judea, may vindicate Homer from unduly exaggerating either the abundance of the precious metals, or the progress of the ornamental arts. Nor was the warrior altogether unindebted to the labours of the needle and the loom; wild animals were embroidered on his belt — the trophies of his dexterity in the chase, and the decoration of his person in the fight. More ample robes were either received as the pledge of courteous hospitality, or won as the prize of valour. Such occupations suited the secluded life and intellectual habits of Oriental females; they are mentioned early, with an emphasis of description, which seems to mark their costliness and value. Have they not sped? Have they not divided the prey? — to Sisera a prey of divers colours; a prey of divers colours of needlework on both sides, meet for the necks of them that take the spoil.^ Such garments were stored in the treasury of Priam. Sidonian artists were most expert in their fabrication: but the high-born ladies of the court were, apparently, no mean proficients. Helen weaves a representation of a battle between the Greeks and the Trojans; Andromache copies flowers in a veil; the web of Penelope is proverbially known — that funeral offering for Laertes from the hand of filial affection; while another, which she presents to an unknown guest, is thus beautifully described: —

In ample mode,
A robe of military purple flow’d
O’er all his frame: illustrious on his breast,
The double-clasping gold the king confest.
In the rich woof a hound, mosaic drawn,
Bore on full stretch, and seiz’d a dappled fawn;
Deep in the neck his fangs indent their hold;
They pant and struggle in the moving gold:
Fine as a filmy web beneath it shone
A vest, that dazzled like a cloudless sun:
The female train, who round him throng’d to gaze.
In silent wonder sigh’d unwilling praise.

(Pope’s Horn., Od. xix. 261)

“It was natural that the goldsmith and the jeweler should be put in requisition, when the materials of their trade were abundant. We trace them in female dress, and in the implements of the toilet; in both there is, together with the magnificence of real wealth, much of the simplicity of real taste. There were necklaces of gold and of amber; there were earrings, whose pendant drops imitated either the form or the brilliancy of the human eye; the hair was curled or braided, and covered with a veil; the robe was fastened over the bosom with golden clasps; a fringe surrounded the waist, and completed the full-dress costume of a lady of the Homeric age. The appointments of her palace were as costly as the decorations of her person; its walls glittered with silver, tin, ivory, brass, and amber; her tripod has four handles, graced by eight golden doves; her lyre has a silver frame, her basket is silver[2] and her distaff gold; the ewers and basins which are served at the banquet, and even the bath which alleviates fatigue, are of the like precious materials.” But what, I would ask, has become in the historical times of these arts, of these luxuries, and more particularly of the equestrian hero, his faithful equerry, and his car? The warcar, after a long banishment from Greece, once more makes a prominent figure on the distant field of Cunaxa; but for Greece, it has been for ages a neglected arm of her military service. Now, the whole of this state of society, civil and military, must strike every one as being eminently Asiatic; much of it specifically Indian. Such it undoubtedly is; and I shall demonstrate that these evidences were but the attendant tokens of an Indian colonization, with its corresponding religion and language. I shall exhibit dynasties disappearing from Western India, to appear again in Greece: clans, whose martial fame is still recorded in the faithful chronicles of North- Western India, as the gallant bands who fought upon the plains of Troy; and, in fact, the whole of Greece, from the era of the supposed god-ships of Poseidon and Zeus, down to the close of the Trojan war, as being Indian in language, sentiment, and religion, and in the arts of peace and war. Much I shall, I doubt not, incontestably establish; much must be left to a future period. Yet that which is granted to be fairly wrought out, may stand as an earnest of the correctness of the principle by which these results have been produced.
It was no futile imagination that led Evemerus[3] to assert that men, once existing as the conquerors, kings and benefactors of mankind, subsequently re-appeared as deified beings. If I do not establish this throughout the whole range of the so-called Greek Mythology, it is not for want of ample proof, but for lack of time sufficient to remove the disguise from the host of masqueraders that figure in the band of grotesque Greece. I have, however, unmasked not a few of the most intractable of these beings, such as the Centaurs, the Athenian grasshoppers, the Autochthons, &c., &c., who now, stripped of their disguise, at length assume the appearance of the ordinary representatives of Eastern society. Let it be observed, that this is not a process similar to the rationalism of modern German theologians, nor is it the exegetical system of Palsephatus. It does not treat of what might have been; it speaks of what was; a result obtained from the superiority of translation over plausible conjecture, applied to the solution of knotty difficulties. The learned Jacob Bryant exercised his vast erudition on a theory rendered impracticable solely by the medium of its adaptation. Seeking in multifarious dialects for that information which was to be found in one alone, he left out of sight the grand principle of the origin of the nation whose history he was investigating. Guided by the manifest light of a mighty emigration, I have been led as much as possible by the language of that emigration. I have examined that early society, and the phases of that society^ on the same broad principle that directs the researches of the modern historian when he treats of European colonies; and though many blemishes may obscure, many imperfections mar, the unity of the picture, I trust that sufficient will have been accomplished not only to prove the correctness of the principle on which this investigation proceeds, but likewise to subserve the cause of truth. The student of early Indian history will be pleased to find established by this record of primitive Greece, the fact of the wonderfully early existence of the Jaina doctrines, — a matter of keen dispute among some of the most distinguished Orientalists, but one which I doubt not will now take its place among historical facts.
I would here make a few observations upon the work of Palsephatus, who was, according to Suidas, an Egyptian or Athenian, supposed to have lived subsequently to the time of Alexander the Great. Of this author, Mr. Grote observes,’ “Another author who seems to have conceived clearly and applied consistently the semi-historical theory of the Grecian myths, is Palsephatus. In the short preface of his treatise concerning incredible tales, he remarks, that ‘some men, from want of instruction, believe all the current narratives, while others, more searching and cautious, disbelieve them altogether.’ Each of these extremes he is anxious to avoid. On the one hand, he thinks that no narrative could ever have acquired credence unless it had been founded on truth; on the other, it is impossible for him to accept so much of the existing narratives as conflicts with the analogies of present natural phenomena. If such things ever had been, they would still continue to be, — but they never have so occurred; and the extra analogical features of the stories are to be ascribed to the license of the poets. Again — “Palaspbatus handles the myths consistently, according to the semi-historical theory, and his results exhibit the maximum which that theory can ever present. By aid of conjecture, we get out of the impossible and arrive at matter intrinsically plausible, but totally uncertified. Beyond this point we cannot penetrate, without the light of extrinsic evidence, since there is no intrinsic mark to distinguish truth from plausible fiction.”
“With the concluding remarks of Mr. Grote, I entirely agree. The system of Palsephatus is essentially semi- historical, inasmuch as it is by the aid of conjecture, and conjecture alone, that he arrives at matters intrinsically plausible, yet totally uncertified. But with the certainty that Sanscrit was the language of Pelasgic and Hellenic Greece, we have exactly that “intrinsic mark “which is the test of truth and fiction; and, what is scarcely less valuable, that which will enable us to divide historical fact from etymological fiction. Both logographers and poets, from the most ancient date, not excepting Homer and Hesiod, manifest a profound ignorance, or a profound contempt, for the primitive state of their native land. The divinities of Homer totally misled subsequent poets and logographers; while the autochthonous parentage of the people of Erectheus, as sung by Hesiod, and the Attic symbol of the grasshopper, will demonstrate how very early both the old language and the old religious duties of Greece were merged in a new order of things. The mysteries of Hellas, once the public and undisputed worship of the whole land, were henceforward the only asylum for a religion whose adherents, the Helots, were crushed by foreign conquest. We shall, therefore, be cautious in taking for our guide, in matters of Pelasgic, or mythologic, or heroic history, either Homer or Hesiod, logographer or poet, save when their accounts are conformable to Sanscrit sources. While Hesiod has taken for Greek, or adopted as Greek, the Harpies, the Cyclopes, Poseidon, Here, Erectheus, the Centaurs, the Gorgons, Typhoeus, and a host of agencies, who at once become monsters under his transforming hand, it will be the business of the historical student, whenever such terms have been misunderstood, or mistranslated by that author, to restore them to their original and consequently correct signification. A positive and clear history will thus be found to arise simultaneously with the true nomenclature. The same effect will be produced by the same process with the logographers. In many cases these authorities have so metamorphosed the original names of men, cities, and religious rites, that nothing but a specific course of study, founded on the principles here laid down, and wrought out by the light of persevering sagacity, brought to bear at once upon the twofold literature of the East and West, can restore these corrupt or mistaken travesties to their true form. This, then, (and let us not be ashamed to confess it) is a branch of study of which we have been hitherto entirely ignorant. But our prejudices and our taste equally revolt against a scrutiny that tends to destroy that atmosphere of poetic vitality with which our heroes were invested; the idea of which is so strongly intertwined with our very nature, so interwoven with all that is graceful in art and beautiful in poetry, that the strongest thirst for truth can scarcely persuade us to abandon the enchanting spot, where the united glories of mind and art detain us in a dazzling trance.


[1] “Social Condition of the Greeks/’ By the Eev. J. B. Ottley, M.A., late Fellow of Oriel College, Oxford. See Hist, of Greece, p. 368. “Encyclopaedia Metropolitana,” vol. xv., 1851.
[2] Od. iv. 131. Some ancient jewellery found in Ithaca in a tomb amidst ruins which tradition designates as the residence of Odysseus, are as exquisite in tlieir workmanship as any of those ornaments which Homer describes. Their date is unknown. See Hughes’s Greece, vol, i, p, 160.
[3] Evemerus or Euhemerus a Sicilian author at the time of Alexander the Great and his immediate successors. Most writers call him a native of Messene, in Sicily. His mind was trained in the philosophical school of the Cyrenaics, who had before his time become notorious for their scepticism in matters connected with the popular religion; and one of whom, Theodosius, is frequently called an atheist by the ancients. Evemerus is said to have sailed down the Red Sea, and round the southern coasts of Asia, to a very great distance, until he came to an island called Panchaea. After his return from this voyage, he wrote a work, entitled Iep, which consisted of at least nine books. The work contained accounts of the several gods, whom Evemerus represented as having originally been men who had distinguished themselves, either as warriors, kings, inventors, or benefactors of man, and who, after their death, were worshipped as gods by the grateful people.”—Smith’s Greec and Roman Biog., vol. ii., p. 83.

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