This book relates to the history of the ideological presence of the Greeks in India. Unlike the previous works, which have been focused on particular historical periods, the present study aims to present the literary and religio-philosophic character of the Greek in India as they interact with the Indians and the Indian culture from the earliest times to the present. It includes prehistoric, mythical and the first historically attested accounts of contact, a critical review of the Oriental Origin theory and travels of the Greek philosophers who are commonly thought to have visited to have been influenced by India, the meeting of Alexander with the Indian Gymnosophists, the inter-religious contacts that took place between the two peoples during the reign of the Indo-Greek kingdoms in Bactria and the Medieval Ages, and a critical study of the identity of the Yavanas as they occur in Indian texts and inscriptions. The book provides further information on the life and work of the first and foremost Greek Indologist studies in Greece, and reviews on the works made by contemporary Greek scholars and diplomatic representatives in India.
Dr. Demetrios Theodossios Vassiliades was born in the North Aegean Island of Thassos (Greece). He began his studies in Indian Philosophy while a student at the Athens School of Economics and the Business Science (ASOEE). After his graduation he came to India where he decided two decades in the study of Indian languages and philosophies. Initially he studied for five years at the Bihar School of Yoga, Munger and later at the Banaras Hindu University. He has been awarded first class diplomas in Hindi, Sanskrit and Yoga, a gold medal distinction for his M.A. in Indian Philosophy and Religion and a Ph.D degree for his dissertation, "A Critical and Comparative Study of the Prehistoric Greek and Ancient Indian Philosophies."
Demetrios Galanos, oil painting by Spyros Prosalentis.
Courtesy: University of Athens.
The present monograph, entitled The Greeks in India: A Survey in Philosophical Understanding, is the natural outcome of Dr.Demetrios Th. Vassiliades' long and sincere endeavour in Indian and Indo-Greek studies through which he succeeded in developing a competency in Indian histories, philosophies, and languages, qualifications absolutely necessary for the masterly of the complexity of the subject. The author has, in this informative treatise, systematically critically document Greek and Indian sources and brought to light many new perspectives and insights which enrich our understanding in regard to the history of the ideological presence of the Greeks in India as well as the interconnection between Hellenic, Indian, and Christian thought.
After reading Vassiliades' work, I am convinced that the Greeks in India, whose significance has been rather neglected in the past by both Western and Indian scholars, shall be recognized in the future as pioneers in the formative stages of the global family's advancement.
The West is understandably proud of Alexander's success in bridging the geographical distances that divided the East and the West for millennia. India has, however, to a greater extent focused its attention upon the contribution of the great scholars, such as Ctesias, Megasthenes, Apollonios of Tyana, Galanos, and numerous others less known and as yet unknown ancient and contemporary Greeks. India recognized them for bridging cultural differences and for their valuable contribution to the history of its ideas and culture.
Although I disagree with my Greek student on certain points, especially in his interpretation of the connection between Christian and Indian thought, yet I have no hesitation in recommending this book as most beneficial to scholars who are working in Indo-Greek Studies and to all those who are interested in the history of philosophy and religion in general.
While working on the completion of my Ph.D.thesis,"A Critical and Comparative Study of the Presocratic Greek and Ancient Indian Philosophies," at the Banaras Hindu University (B.H.U.) I planned to include an appendix on the ideological contacts between the Hellenic and Indian worlds in pre-Alexandrian times. Working on such a fascinating subject one is easily caught up in the zeal of research, and I found myself with a collection of important material beyond the scope of the limited chronological area of my work. I therefore decided to prepare a concise survey of the history of the ideological presence of the Greeks in India, which, along with some plates and maps, are presented here for the benefit of anyone interested in Journeying into this subject.
The book consists of the research papers and four appendices, which cover the entire area from the earliest times to the present. The first paper deals with the pre-Alexandrian era and includes prehistoric, mythical and the first historically attested account of contact. The second begins with the arrival of Alexander to India and ends with the interreligious contacts that took places between the two nations during the Medieval Ages. The third paper is a critical study of the identity of the Yavanas (supposed Greeks) as they occur in Indian texts and inscriptions from the Vedic king Turvasu up to the Turks. The fourth is short descriptions of the life and work of the first and foremost Greek Indologist Demetrios Galanos, who spent forty years of his life in Varanasi and contributed enormously to the promotion of Sanskrit literature and lexicography. The final paper includes a brief record of Indological studies in Greece and reviews of the works made by contemporary Greek scholars and diplomatic representatives, who researched and / or published book in India.
The first appendix incorporates information on the travels of the Greek philosophers who are commonly thought to have visited or to have been influenced by India, their philosophical doctrines and counterparts in Indian philosophy. The second is a review of the Oriental Origin theory. Third is a critical study of the views about the Brahmanas and Sramanas which appear in early Greek and Indian literature. Lastly, the fourth appendix incorporates reviews of the Ph.D. theses submitted by Greek scholars to Indian universities. A detailed comparative chronological chart, at the end of the book, lists the most important dates in the Greek and Indian histories.
As the topic is extremely vast, I was obliged to omit detailed accounts of historical and anthropological interest and to purse mainly topics of philosophical and religious significance. Some general social problems, and attitudes have also been briefly mentioned. A broader study would have also included research in scientific fields, especially in mathematics, music astronomy, medicine, and biology, but to the lack of time and evidence the present work had to be limited.
All facts are taken from Greek and Indian texts as well as from the fields of linguistics, archaeology and numismatics. In the footnotes are listed bibliographical details of books that I have consulted and my acknowledgement to their authors. The transliteration from Sanskrit is in accordance with internationally accepted characters, except for those terms and names for which there is a commonly accepted and simplified spelling. Though the English spelling of Greek names is often incorrect (e.g., Basileus instead of Vasileus, Boeotia instead of Voitia, Homer instead of Homeros Aristotle instead of Aristoteles, etc.), I was obliged to maintain it, because most readers are familiar with it. However, I tried to avoid manipulation of this problem and modern or less known Greek names are written with their Greek pronunciation. Also Greek names ending in -os maintain the Greek pronunciation (e.g., Olympus instead of Olympus, Demetrius instead of Demetrius, etc.).A few other terms such as Far-East, East and West, Orient, theologian, etc., as well as the use of the Christian calendar are based on relative points of view, but as they have been accepted by most scholars, I made conventional use of them.
The Pre-Alexandrian Age
The Post-Alexandrian Age
Who Were the Yavanas?
Demetrios Galanos (1760-1833)
Contemporary Greeks in India
Greek Philosophers and India
The Oriental Origin Theory
Sramanas and Brahmanas in Greek and Indian Literature
A Comparative Chronological Chart
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