domenica, Giugno 13, 2021
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India in Greece

SOURCES OF GEEEK ERROR

But if tlie very basis of our geographical knowledge” as derived from the Greeks, is totally unsound in its nomenclature, not less deceptive is the history in connection with it. Thus, Strabo, one of the most judicious Avriters upon Greek geography, in presenting us with the antiquarian origin of the Abantes, very gravely tells us that, having settled in Phocis, and built the city of Abse, they afterwards removed thence to Euboea, and in consequence were called “Abantes[1].” “The geographer, however, does not state whence they derived the original appellation “Abae.”’ Yet these are the clans that distinguished themselves pre-eminently on the plains of Troy, as daring and hardy warriors. Justice shall be done to their birth-place. Homer has nobly sung their fame, and I feel proud, as the historical exponent of a bard[2]” too often gratuitously set down as non-historical, to declare the lineage of these magnificent chieftains of an ancient race. The Abantes, were the splendid Rajpoot tribes of Abanti[3]” or Ougein, in the province of Malwa. Again: Asius, one of the early poets of Greece” about B.C. 700, makes King Pelasgus, the ancestor of the Pelasgi, spring from the black earth.
Now here is a statement in perfect keeping with what, first tradition, and next, the splendid heresy of the Greek language, made perfectly consistent with the national vaunt of an autochthonous origin. But how stands the plain historical fact in connection with this? Do we desire truth, and not theory? Then, it will be understood that it was Gaya, a sacred city of Pelasa, that brought forth King Pelasgus, and not Gaia the earth. This is history in Sanscrit; but fable in Greek. Again: “schylus makes King Pelasgus the son of Palsecthon;” and this he undoubtedly was; yet was he not the son of Palaecthon[4], or “Old Land[5]” of the Greeks. Pelasgus was a son of the Pali-cthon, or “the land of Pali; “so called from Pali, the language of Palasa, Magadha, or Behar[6]. It is not a little ludicrous to mark the Hellenic explanation of names, even the most historical, of which the Greeks have made a mythology as ridiculous as that to whose origin, mythopoeic propensities and invention are attributed. And yet, while the genealogies of the gods and the tale of the Centaurs are received as fabulous and legendary, the Greek tales of the origin of their tribes are read as historical truth. Still, neither are the former inventions, nor the latter facts, but both equally rest upon a disguised historical basis; a truth to be amply demonstrated in the course of this work. Thus, we are told ‘ that the Locrians derived the name “Ozoloe,”“ from the fetid springs [Ozo, to smell), near the hill of Taphius on the coast, beneath which it was reported that the Centaur Nessus had been entombed. A different version of this term was given to the Ozoloe who inhabited the eastern part of (Etolia. They were so named from the ill-odour [ozee) of their bodies and clothing, the latter, the raw hides of wild beasts. Another effort was made to amend this ethnological title. The inhabitants of this country, it appears, were not called Ozoloe from Ozo, but from a certain Ozos (branch or sprout,) which was miraculously produced, miraculously planted, and miraculously grew up into an immense vine. As, however, there was an indelicacy connected with the origin of this vine-stock, the inhabitants became highly displeased with the appellation, and changed their names to (Etolians! When the reader distinctly sees, as he will, in the geographical division of this work, that these
Oz-OLOE were Ooksh-walce, or “Oxus people,” he will understand the amount of credit to which Greek antiquarians are entitled. And this process of endeavouring to account for difficulties found in Greek authors, — them- selves the mistaken interpreters of Sanscrit words by homogeneous Greek sounds, — this very process, introduced by the Greeks, do the literati of Europe still continue! What marvel that the darkness is of such a nature as to tempt the flight of the mythopoeic theory. I would here introduce the sound observations of a writer/ who has shown himself to be possessed of just views relative to the philology of the Greeks, and their application of that science to practical purposes. “The study of foreign tongues, he observes,” never, either as an object of curiosity, or as an aid to historical investigation, formed with them a distinct class of pursuit. This is a peculiarity of Greek literary history, which will be required to be noticed more in detail hereafter. The Pelasgians were considered by the ancients as standing to the Hellenes somewhat in the same relation as the Anglo-Saxons to ourselves. The Anglo-Saxon is a dead language, and aknowledge of it, consequently, is of little practical utility” in the present day. Yet its study continues to be zealously prosecuted as well on account of its philological as its antiquarian interest. With the Greeks, the case was different. The allusions in the extant classics to the Pelasgian dialects, spoken or extinct, are so scanty or so vague, as to prove that their affinities had never suggested matter for serious scrutiny. Now, bearing in mind the analogy of the Anglo-Saxon and the Pelasgian, — the English and the Greek, — an exact analogy, — what would be thought of the sanity or competence of that Englishman who should gravely derive, from the English language, the Anglo-Saxon names of rivers, towns, and mountains in this island? I name these things, with a feeling of regret that etymological trifling should be a substitute for historical truth, and with an earnest hope that a brighter dawn is yet in store for the earliest history of Hellas.
The same ignorance of primitive Grecian society, which marked Greek writers, from Homer downwards, is shown in the treatment and etymological manufacture of the Cyclops; a being for whom the flexible language and lively genius of the Greeks soon had a fitting tale prepared. How satisfactorily did the “circular-eye” of this strange being take its place in the middle of his huge forehead! The amplification of the monster, and his wondrous story, then became easy. In Homer, indeed, the Cyclopean race is spoken of in a more natural and simple manner than in subsequent writers, yet still in such a way as to demonstrate at once the total loss of the old signification of the term, and to give to the actual era of the Homeric writings the most recent date that can be attributed to them. But if it be entertaining to view the process by which the Greeks first misunderstood a Pelasgic term, then fitted out a tale upon their own translation of what they imagined to be Greek, it may not be less instructive to contemplate the results of the rationalizing process of the modern school; results, however, far more acceptable to the inquiring mind, than a total negation of any historical foundation for what is termed mythology and legend. In the one instance, valuable results are often obtained; in the other, a total hibernation of the intellect is fostered. A celebrated German writer informs us that the Cyclopes have reference to the circular buildings of the Pelasgi, which terminated in a point like a bee-hive, where there was a circular aperture; from the circular form of these buildings [kvkXos), and the round opening at the top resembling an eye, this race of men may be considered to have derived their names.” By another ingenious author,” we are told that the early Greek pictured to himself the Olympian god in the act of hurling his bolts; that the image thus presented to his mind was that of the god closing one of his eyes for the purpose of taking a more effectual aim; and hence the fable. On the same principle”, was the name given to the Scythian nation” the Arimaspi — “one-eyed” excellent archers, who obtained this epithet from closing one eye in directing their arrows. From a third/ we learn that the Cyclopes were a caste of miners; that when they entered the bowels of the earth, the lamp which they carried with them to light them on their way, was regarded as their only eye; and hence the single eye of the Cyclopes. This is further supported by a passage of Agatharchides, preserved in Photius, descriptive of the manner in which blocks of marble were obtained from the quarries of Egypt, where the workmen carried a lamp on their foreheads, to light them in their mining operations.” Now these, and other accounts of this strange race, are sufficiently plausible, though here we have, unfortunately, three different results. First, they are Builders; secondly, they are Archers; thirdly, they are Miners. What then is to be said of a system by which various results, in an indefinite series, may be produced? We cannot but suspect that the formula for calculation is incorrect. And such it proves to be not only so, it is still further an impossible one. Let us examine this. Homer knows the Cyclopes only as a race of shepherds — lawless, stern, and gigantic. Agriculture they neglect; they have no political institutions; but, living with their families in mountain caves, they exercise a savage sway over their dependants; they scruple not even to gorge their ferocious appetites with human flesh.” Polyphemus is, with Homer, the only representative of the genuine one-eyed Cyclopic race.” Apollodorus, and others subsequently, vary this account. They describe them as skilful architects — as a Thracian tribe. From Thrace, they repair to Crete; they build the mighty walls of Argos, Mycense, and Tiryns. “Such walls” Dr. Schmitz has judiciously observed, “commonly known by the name of Cyclopean walls, still exist in various parts of ancient Greece and Italy, and consist of unhewn polygons, which are sometimes twenty or thirty feet in breadth. The story of the Cyclopes having built them, seems to be a mere invention, and admits neither of an historical nor of a geographical explanation. Homer, for instance, knows nothing of Cyclopean walls, and he calls Tiryns. The Cyclopean walls were probably constructed by an ancient race of men, — perhaps the Pelasgians, — who occupied the countries in which they occur before the nations of whom we have historical records, and later generations being struck with their grandeur, as much as ourselves, ascribed their building to a fabulous race of Cyclopes. According to the explanation of Plato,” the Cyclopes were beings typical of the original condition of uncivilized men; but this explanation is not satisfactory, and the cosmogonic Cyclopes, at least, must be regarded as personifications of certain powers manifested in nature, which is sufficiently indicated by their names.” The Platonic definition cannot be accepted, for the simple reason, that it is a Greek theory applied to a term which is not Greek. Certain it is, however, that these walls, of which we have been speaking, were built by the Pelasgians, and, for the same reason, it is equally probable that they were built by the Cyclopes; and for this I appeal to the Pelasgian language. I must then, in the first place, beg the reader to observe, that when these walls were built, the Greek of Homer was not in existence, — the language of Pelasa was still the principal medium of oral communication in Greece. In short, the term “Cuclopes” is a corrupt form of Goclopes; the Gocla Chiefs”’ that is, the chiefs who lived in the Gocla country, a district lying along the banks of the Jumna; the “Gocla-pes”“ being so called from their pastoral habits in tending the Goclas or herds of cattle. The Gocla district was the residence of Nanda and of Krishna during his jouth/ and the scene of that princess triumph amongst the Gopis, or Pastoral Nymphs; and so far Homer is correct, in giving to his Cyclops “Polyphemus” the character of a shepherd.
That part of Greece which was colonized by these Guc’la-des of the Jumna, was the Guc’la-des, by the Greeks written Cucla-des, by us CYCLADES ,that is, “the land of the Guc’las” Thus, on simple geographical and Pelasgic evidence, by independent reference to the language and original country of these early Hellenic settlers, the first outlines of their history are at once restored, and rescued from the mythological category; in which category the historical derivation of the Cyclades must now take its place.” Here, then, the Homeric description of the savage Cyclopes of the cave, and the record of the Cyclopic settlement in Greece, are in exact keeping with the real signification of that Pelasgian term which descended to the time of Homer. Thus is the Pelasgian language brought in connection with that people by whom these walls were said to have been built.

NOTES

[1] Strab. 444.
[2] See Col. Tod’s Account of the Eajpoot Bardai, in his “Rajast’han.”
[3] Written “Avanti,” the “v “and “b “are pronounced indifferently in India, according to provincial use.
[4] Supp. V. 248.
[5] Niebuhr has very naturally fallen into this error of Aeschylus. Aeschylus heard and wrote as a Greek, not as a Pelasgian. (See Niebuhr’s Rome, vol. L, p. 29, note.)
[6] In Ceylon, according to Captain Mahony, and in Ava, according to Mr. Buchanan, the appellations of Pali or Bah, and Magadhi, are consideredas synonymous, at least when applied to tlieir sacred language; which I consider from that circumstance, to be the old dialect of Magadha, which is called also, the kingdom of Pali by the Chinese. In India, thename for Magadha is unknown, but its origin may be traced through the Puranas.”—Col. Wilford’s Ind. Geog., As. Res., vol.ix., p. 33. Since the above was written,- most valuable and authentic works connected with the Pali-Budhistic literature, have been brought to light and translated. See particularly the “Mahawanso,” translated by the Hon. G. Turnour.

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