OR AN EPITOME OF MEGASTHENES.
(Diod. II. 35-42.)
(35.) India, which is in shape quadrilateral, has its eastern as well as its western side
bounded by the great sea, but on the northern side it is divided by Mount Hemodos from
that part of Skythia which is inhabited by those Skythians who are called the Sakai, while
the fourth or western side is bounded by the river called the Indus, which is perhaps the
largest of all rivers in the world after the Nile. The extent of the whole country from east
to west is said to be 28,000 stadia, and from north to south 32,000. Being thus of such
vast extent, it seems well-nigh to embrace the whole of the northern tropic zone of the
earth, and in fact at the extreme point of India the gnomon of the sundial may frequently
be observed to cast no shadow, while the constellation of the Bear is by night invisible,
and in the remotest parts even Arcturus disappears from view. Consistently with this, it is also stated that shadows there fall to the southward.
India has many huge mountains which abound in fruit-trees of every kind, and many
vast plains of great fertility–more or less beautiful, but all alike intersected by a
multitude of rivers.
The greater part of the soil, moreover, is under irrigation, and consequently bears
two crops in the course of the year. It teems at the same time with animals of all sorts,–
beasts of the field and fowls of the air,–of all different degrees of strength and size. It is
prolific, besides, in elephants, which are of monstrous bulk, as its soil supplies food in
unsparing profusion, making these animals far to exceed in strength those that are bred in Libya. It results also that, since they are caught in great numbers by the Indians and
trained for war, they are of great moment in turning the scale of victory.
(36.) The inhabitants, in like manner, having abundant means of subsistence, exceed
in consequence the ordinary stature, and are distinguished by their proud bearing. They
are also found to be well skilled in the arts, as might be expected of men who inhale a
pure air and drink the very finest water. And while the soil bears on its surface all kinds
of fruits which are known to cultivation, it has also under ground numerous veins of all
sorts of metals, for it contains much gold and silver, and copper and iron in no small
quantity, and even tin and other metals, which are employed in making articles of use and ornament, as well as the implements and accoutrements of war.
In addition to cereals, there grows throughout India much millet, which is kept well
watered by the profusion of river-streams, and much pulse of different sorts, and rice
also, and what is called bosporum, as well as many other plants useful for food, of which
most grow spontaneously. The soil yields, moreover, not a few other edible products fit
for the subsistence of animals, about which it would be tedious to write. It is accordingly
affirmed that famine has never visited India, and that there has never been a general
scarcity in the supply of nourishing food. For, since there is a double rainfall in the course
of each year,–one in the winter season, when the sowing of wheat takes place as in other
countries, and the second at the time of the summer solstice, which is the proper season
for sowing rice and bosporum, as well as sesamum and millet–the inhabitants of India
almost always gather in two harvests annually; and even should one of the sowings prove
more or less abortive they are always sure of the other crop. The fruits, moreover, of
spontaneous growth, and the esculent roots which grow in marshy places and are of
varied sweetness, afford abundant sustenance for man. The fact is, almost all the plains in the country have a moisture which is alike genial, whether it is derived from the rivers, or
from the rains of the summer season, which are wont to fall every year at a stated period
with surprising regularity; while the great heat which prevails ripens the roots which
grow in the marshes, and especially those of the tall reeds.
But, farther, there are usages observed by the Indians which contribute to prevent
the occurrence of famine among them; for whereas among other nations it is usual, in the contests of war, to ravage the soil, and thus to reduce it to an uncultivated waste, among
the Indians, on the contrary, by whom husbandmen are regarded as a class that is sacred
and inviolable, the tillers of the soil, even when battle is raging in their neighbourhood,
are undisturbed by any sense of danger, for the combatants on either side in waging the
conflict make carnage of each other, but allow those engaged in husbandry to remain
quite unmolested. Besides, they neither ravage an enemy’s land with fire, nor cut down its
(37.) India, again, possesses many rivers both large and navigable, which, having
their sources in the mountains which stretch along the northern frontier, traverse the level
country, and not a few of these, after uniting with each other, fall into the river called the
Ganges. Now this river, which at its source is 30 stadia broad, flows from north to south,
and empties its waters into the ocean forming the eastern boundary of the Gangaridai, a
nation which possesses a vast force of the largest-sized elephants. Owing to this, their
country has never been conquered by any foreign king: for all other nations dread the
overwhelming number and strength of these animals. [Thus Alexander the Macedonian,
after conquering all Asia, did not make war upon the Gangaridai, as be did on all others;
for when he had arrived with all his troops at the river Ganges, and had subdued all the
other Indians, he abandoned as hopeless an invasion of the Gangaridai when he learned
that they possessed four thousand elephants well trained and equipped for war.] Another
river, about the same size as the Ganges, called the Indus, has its sources, like its rival, in
the north, and falling into the ocean forms on its way the boundary of India; in its passage
through the vast stretch of level country it receives not a few tributary streams which are
navigable, the most notable of them being the Hupanis, the Hudaspes, and the Akesines.
Besides these rivers there are a great many others of every description, which permeate
the country, and supply water for the nurture of garden vegetables and crops of all sorts.
Now to account for the rivers being so numerous, and the supply of water so
superabundant, the native philosophers and proficients in natural science advance the
following reasons:–They say that the countries, which surround India–those of the
Skythians and Baktrians and also of the Aryans–are more elevated than India, so that
their waters, agreeably to natural law, flow down together from all sides to the plains
beneath, where they gradually saturate the soil with moisture, and generate a multitude of
A peculiarity is found to exist in one of the rivers of India,–that called the Sillas,
which flows from a fountain bearing the same name. It differs from all other rivers in this
respect,–that nothing cast into it will float, but everything, strange to say, sinks down to
(38.) It is said that India, being of enormous size when taken as a whole, is peopled
by races both numerous and diverse, of which not even one was originally of foreign
descent, but all were evidently indigenous; and moreover that India neither received a
colony from abroad, nor sent out a colony to any other nation. The legends further inform
us that in primitive times the inhabitants subsisted on such fruits as the earth yielded
spontaneously, and were clothed with the skins of the beasts found in the country, as was
the case with the Greeks; and that, in like manner as with them, the arts and other
appliances which improve human life were gradually invented, Necessity herself teaching
them to an animal at once docile and furnished not only with hands ready to second all
his efforts, but also with reason and a keen intelligence.
The men of greatest learning among the Indians tell certain legends, of which it may
be proper to give a brief summary. They relate that in the most primitive times, when the
people of the country were still living in villages, Dionusos made his appearance coming
from the regions lying to the west and at the head of a considerable army. He overran the
whole of India, as there was no great city capable of resisting his arms. The heat,
however, having become excessive, and the soldiers of Dionusos being afflicted with a
pestilence, the leader, who was remarkable for his sagacity, carried his troops away from
the plains up to the hills. There the army, recruited by the cool breezes and the waters that
flowed fresh from the fountains, recovered from sickness. The place among the
mountains where Dionusos restored his troops to health was called Meros; from which
circumstance, no doubt, the Greeks have transmitted to posterity the legend concerning
the god, that Dionusos was bred in his father’s thigh. Having after this turned his
attention to the artificial propagation of useful plants, he communicated the secret to the
Indians, and taught them the way to make wine, as well as other arts conducive to human
well-being. He was, besides, the founder of large cities, which he formed by removing
the villages to convenient sites, while he also showed the people how to worship the
deity, and introduced laws and courts of justice. Having thus achieved altogether many
great and noble works, he was regarded as a deity and. gained immortal honours. It is
related also of him that he led about with his army a great host of women and employed,
in marshalling his troops for battle, drums and cymbals, as the trumpet had not in his days
been invented; and that after reigning over the whole of India for two and fifty years he
died of old age, while his sons, succeeding to the government, transmitted the sceptre in
unbroken succession to their posterity. At last, after many generations had come and.
gone, the sovereignty, it is said, was dissolved, and democratic governments were set up
in the cities.
(39.) Such, then, are the traditions regarding Dionusos and his descendants current
among the Indians who inhabit the hill-country. They further assert that Herakles also
was born among them. They assign to him, like the Greeks, the club and the lion’s skin.
He far surpassed other men in personal strength and prowess, and cleared sea and land of
evil beasts. Marrying many wives he begot many sons, but one daughter only. The sons
having reached man’s estate, he divided all India into equal portions for his children,
whom he made kings in different parts of his dominions. He provided similarly for his
only daughter, whom be reared up and made a queen. He was the founder, also, of no
small number of cities, the most renowned and greatest of which he called Palibothra. He
built therein many sumptuous palaces, and settled within its walls a numerous population.
The city he fortified with trenches of notable dimensions, which were filled with water
introduced from the river. Herakles, accordingly, after his removal from among men,
obtained immortal honour; and his descendants, having reigned for many generations and
signalized themselves by great achievements, neither made any expedition beyond the
confines of India, nor sent out any colony abroad. At last, however, after many years had
gone, most of the cities adopted the democratic form of government, though some
retained the kingly until the invasion of the country by Alexander. Of several remarkable
customs existing among the Indians, there is one prescribed by their ancient philosophers
which one may regard as truly admirable: for the law ordains that no one among them
shall, under any circumstances, be a slave, but that, enjoying freedom, they shall respect
the equal right to it which all possess: for those, they thought, who have learned neither to
domineer over nor to cringe to others will attain the life best adapted for all vicissitudes
of lot: for it is but fair and reasonable to institute laws which bind all equally, but allow
property to be unevenly distributed.
(40.) The whole population of India is divided into seven castes, of which the first is
formed by the collective body of the Philosophers, which in point of number is inferior to
the other classes, but in point of dignity preeminent over all. For the philosophers, being
exempted from all public duties, are neither the masters nor the servants of others. They
are, however, engaged by private persons to offer the sacrifices due in lifetime, and to
celebrate the obsequies of the dead: for they are believed to be most dear to the gods, and
to be the most conversant with matters pertaining to Hades. In requital of such services
they receive valuable gifts and privileges. To the people of India at large they also render
great benefits, when, gathered together at the beginning of the year, they forewarn the
assembled multitudes about droughts and. wet weather, and also about propitious winds,
and diseases, and other topics capable of profiting-the hearers. Thus the people and the
sovereign, learning beforehand what is to happen, always make adequate provision
against a coming deficiency, and never fail to prepare beforehand what will help in a time
of need. The philosopher who errs in his predictions incurs no other penalty than
obloquy, and he then observes silence for the rest of his life.
The second caste consists of the Husbandmen, who appear to be far more numerous
than the others. Being, moreover, exempted from fighting and other public services, they
devote the whole of their time to tillage; nor would an enemy coming upon a
husbandman at work on his land do him any harm, for men of this class, being regarded
as public benefactors, are protected from all injury. The land, thus remaining unravaged,
and producing heavy crops, supplies the inhabitants with all that is requisite to make life
very enjoyable. The husbandmen themselves, with their wives and children, live in the
country, and entirely avoid going into town. They pay a land-tribute to the king, because
all India is the property of the crown, and no private person is permitted to own land.
Besides the land-tribute, they pay into the royal treasury a fourth part of the produce of
The third caste consists of the Neatherds and Shepherds and in general of all
herdsmen who neither settle in towns nor in villages, but live in tents. By hunting and
trapping they clear the country of noxious birds and wild beasts. As they apply
themselves eagerly and assiduously to this pursuit, they free India from the pests with
which it abounds,–all sorts of wild beasts, and birds which devour the seeds sown by the
(41.) The fourth caste consists of the Artizans. Of these some are armourers, while
others make the implements which husbandmen and others find useful in their different
callings. This class is not only exempted from paying taxes, but even receives
maintenance from the royal exchequer.
The fifth caste is the Military. It is well organized and equipped for war, holds the
second place in point of numbers, and gives itself up to idleness and amusement in the
times of peace. The entire force–men-at-arms, war-horses, war-elephants, and all–are
maintained at the king’s expense.
The sixth caste consists of the Overseers. It is their province to inquire into and
superintend all that goes on in India, and make report to the king, or, where there is not a king, to the magistrates.
The seventh caste consists of the Councillors and Assessors,–of those who
deliberate on public affairs. It is the smallest class, looking to number, but the most
respected, on account of the high character and wisdom of its members; for from their
ranks the advisers of the king are taken, and the treasurers, of the state, and the arbiters
who settle disputes. The generals of the army also, and the chief magistrates, usually
belong to this class.
Such, then, are about the parts into which the body politic in India is divided. No
one is allowed to marry out of his own caste, or to exercise any calling or art except his
own: for instance, a soldier cannot become a husbandman, or an artizan a philosopher.
(42.) India possesses a vast number of huge elephants, which far surpass those found
elsewhere both in strength and size. This animal does not cover the female in a peculiar
way, as some affirm, but like horses and other quadrupeds. The period of gestation is at
shortest sixteen months, and at furthest eighteen. Like mares, they generally bring forth
but one young one at a time, and this the dam suckles for six years. Most elephants live to
be as old as an extremely old man, but the most aged live two hundred years.
Among the Indians officers are appointed even for foreigners whose duty is to see
that no foreigner is wronged. Should any of them lose his health, they send physicians to
attend him, and take care of him otherwise, and if he dies they bury him, and deliver over
such property as he leaves to his relatives. The judges also decide cases in which
foreigners are concerned, with the greatest care, and come down sharply on those who
take unfair advantage of them. [What we have now said regarding India and its
antiquities will suffice, for our present purpose.]
I FRAGM. I.B.
Diod. III. 63.
Now some, as I have already said, supposing that there were three individuals of this
name, who lived in different ages, assign to each appropriate achievements. They say,
then, that the most ancient of them was Indos, and that as the country, with its genial
temperature, produced spontaneously the vine-tree in great abundance, he was the first
who crushed grapes and discovered the use of the properties of wine. In like manner he
ascertained what culture was requisite for figs and other fruit trees, and transmitted this
knowledge to after-times; and, in a word, it was he who found out how these fruits should be gathered in, whence also he was called Lenaios. This same Dionusos, however, they call also Katapogon, since it is a custom among the Indians to nourish their beards with
great care to the very end of their life. Dionusos then, at the head of an army, marched to
every part of the world, and taught mankind the planting of the vine, and how to crush
grapes in the winepress, whence he was called Lenaios. Having in like manner imparted
to all a knowledge of his other inventions, he obtained after his departure from among
men immortal honour from those who had benefited by his labours. It is further said that
the place is pointed out in India even to this day where the god had been, and that cities
are called by his name in the vernacular dialects, and that many other important
evidences still exist of his having been born in India, about which it would be tedious to
Arr. Exped. Alex., V. 6. 2-11.
Of the Boundaries of India, its General Character, and its Rivers.
According to Eratosthenes, and Megasthenes who lived with Siburtios the satrap of
Arachosia, and who, as he himself tells us, often visited Sandrakottos the king of the
Indians, India forms the largest of the four parts into which Southern Asia is divided,
while the smallest part is that region which is included between the Euphrates and our
own sea. The two remaining parts, which are separated from the others by the Euphrates
and. the Indus, and lie between these rivers, are scarcely of sufficient size to be compared
with India, even should they be taken both together. The same writers say that India is
bounded on its eastern side, right onwards to the south, by the great ocean; that its
northern frontier is formed by the Kaukasos range as far as the junction of that range with
Tauros; and that the boundary towards the west and the north-west, as far as the great
ocean, is formed by the river Indus. A considerable portion of India consists of a level
plain, and this, as they conjecture, has been formed from the alluvial deposits of the
river,–inferring this from the fact that in other countries plains which are far away from
the sea are generally formations of their respective rivers, so that in old times a country
was even called by the name of its river. As an instance, there is the so-called plain of the
Hermos–a river in Asia (Minor), which, flowing from the Mount of Mother Dindymene,
falls into the sea near the Aeolian city of Smyrna. There is also the Lydian plain of
Kaustros, named after that Lydian river; and another, that of the Kaikos, in Mysia; and
one also in Karia,–that of the Maiandros, which extends even to Miletos, which is an
Ionian city. [As for Egypt, both the historians Herodotus and Hekataios (or at any rate the
author of the work on Egypt if he was other than Hekataios) alike agree in declaring it to
be the gift of the Nile, so that that country was perhaps even called after the river; for in
early times Aigyptos was the name of the river which now-a-days both the Egyptians and
other nations call the Nile, as the words of Homer clearly prove, when he says that
Menelaos stationed his ships at the mouth of the river Aigyptos. If, then, there is but a
single river in each plain, and these rivers, though by no means large, are capable of
forming, as they flow to the sea, much new land, by carrying down silt from the uplands,
where their sources are, it would be unreasonable to reject the belief in the case of India
that a great part of it is a level plain, and that this plain is formed from the silt deposited
by the rivers, seeing that the Hermos, and the Kaüstros, and the Kaïkos, and the
Maiandros, and all the many rivers of Asia which fall into the Mediterranean, even if
united, would not be fit to be compared in volume of water with an ordinary Indian river,
and much less with the greatest of them all, the Ganges, with which neither the Egyptian
Nile, nor the Danube which flows through Europe, can for a moment be compared. Nay,
the whole of these if combined all into one are not equal even to the Indus, which is
already a large river where it rises from its fountains, and which after receiving as
tributaries fifteen rivers all greater than those of Asia, and bearing off from its rival the
honour of giving name to the country, falls at last into the sea.]
Arr. Indica, II. 1. 7.
Of the Boundaries of India
(See translation of Arrian.)
Strabo, XV. i. 11,–p. 689.
Of the Boundaries and Extent of India.
India is bounded on the north by the extremities of Tauros, and from Ariana to the
Eastern Sea by the mountains which are variously called by the natives of these regions
Parapamisos, and Hemodos, and Himaos, and other names, but by the Macedonians
Kaukasos. The boundary on the west is the river Indus, but the southern and eastern sides,
which are both much greater than the others, run out into the Atlantic Ocean. The shape
of the country is thus rhomboïdal, since each of the greater sides exceeds its opposite side
by 3000 Stadia, which is the length, of the promontory common to the south and the east
coast, which projects equally in these two directions. [The length of the western side,
measured from the Kaukasian mountains to the southern sea along the course of the river
Indus to its mouths, is said-to be 13,000 stadia, so that the eastern side opposite, with the
addition of the 3000 stadia of the promontory, will be somewhere about 16,000 stadia.
This is the breadth of India where it is both smallest and greatest.] The length from west
to east, as far as Palibothra can be stated with greater certainty, for the royal road which
leads to that city bas been measured by schoeni, and is in length 10,000 stadia. The extent
of the parts beyond can only be conjectured from the time taken to make voyages from
the sea to Palibothra by the Ganges, and may be about 6000 stadia. The entire length,
computed at the shortest, will be 16,000 stadia. This is the estimate of Eratosthenes, who
says he derived it principally from the authoritative register of the stages on the Royal
Road. Herein Megasthenes agrees with him. [Patrokles, however, makes the length less
by 1000 stadia.] Conf. Arr. Ind. iii. 1-5.
Strabo, II. i. 7,–p. 69.
Of the Size of India.
Again, Hipparchos, in the 2nd volume of his commentary, charges Eratosthenes
himself with throwing discredit on Patrokles for differing from Megasthenes about the
length of India on its northern side, Megasthenes making it 16,000 stadia, and Patrokles
Strabo, XV. i. 12,–pp. 689-690.
Of the Size of India.
[From this, one can readily see, how the accounts of the other writers vary from one
another. Thus Ktesias says that India is not of less size than the rest of Asia; Onesikritos
regards it as the third part of the habitable World; and Nearchos says it takes one four
months to traverse the plain only.] Megasthenes and Deimachos incline to be more
moderate in their estimate, for according to them the distance from the Southern Sea to
Kaukasos is over 20,000 stadia. [Deimachos, however, allows that the distance in some
places exceeds 30,000 stadia. Of these notice has been taken in an earlier part of the
Strabo, II. I. 4,–pp. 68-69.
Of the Size of 1ndia.
Hipparchos controverts this view, urging the futility of the proofs on which it rests.
Patrokles, he says, is unworthy of trust, opposed as he is by two competent authorities,
Deimachos and Megasthenes, who state that in some places the distance from the
southern sea is 20,000 stadia, and in others 30,000. Such, he says, is the account they
give, and it agrees with the ancient charts of the country.
Arr. Indica, III. 7-8.
Of the, Size, of India.
With Megasthenes the breadth of India is its extent from east to west, though this is
called by others its length. His account is that the breadth at shortest is 16,000 stadia, and
its length-by which he means its extent from north to south–is at the narrowest 22,300
Strabo, II. L19,–p. 76.
Of the setting of the Bear, and shadows falling in contrary directions.
Again, he [Eratosthenes] wished to show the ignorance of Deimachos, and his want
of a practical knowledge of such subjects, evidenced as it was by his thinking that India
lay between the autumnal equinox and the winter tropic, and by his contradicting the
assertion of Megasthenes that in the southern parts of India the constellation of the Bear
disappeared from view, and shadows fell in opposite directions,–phenomena which he
assures us are never seen in India, thereby exhibiting the sheerest ignorance. He does not
agree in this opinion, but accuses Deimachos of ignorance for directions, as Megasthenes
Pliny, Hist. Nat. VI. 22.6.
Of the Setting of the Bear.
Next [to the Prassi] in the interior are the Monedes and the Suari, to whom belongs
Mount Maleus, on which shadows fall towards the north in winter, and in summer to the
south, for six months alternately. The Bears, Baeton says, in that part of the country are
only once visible in the course of the year, and not for more than fifteen clays.
Megasthenes says that this takes place in many parts of India.
Conf. Solin, 52.13:–
Beyond Palibrotha is Mount Maleus, on which shadows fall in winter towards the
north, and in summer towards the south, for six months alternately. The North Pole is
visible in that part of the country once in the course of the year, and not for longer than
fifteen days, as Baeton informs us, who allows that this occurs in many parts of India.
Strabo, XV. i. 20,–p. 693.
Of the Fertility of India.
Megasthenes indicates the fertility of India by the fact of the soil producing two
crops every year both of fruits and grain. [Eratosthenes writes to the same effect, for he
speaks of a winter and a summer sowing, which both have rain: for a year, he says, is
never found to be without rain at both those seasons, whence ensues a great abundance,
since the soil is always productive. Much fruit is produced by trees; and the roots of
plants, particularly of tall reeds, are sweet both by nature and by coction, since the
moisture by which they are nourished is heated by the rays of the sun, whether it has
fallen from the clouds or been drawn from the rivers. Eratosthenes uses here a peculiar
expression: for what is called by others the ripening of fruits and the juices of plants is
called among the Indians coction, which is as effective in producing a good flavour as the
coction by fire itself. To the heat of the water the same writer ascribes the wonderful
flexibility of the branches of trees, from which wheels are made, as also the fact of there
being trees on which wool grows.
Conf. Eratosth. ap. Strabo. XV. i. 13,-p. 690:–
From the vapours arising from such vast rivers, and from the Etesian winds, as
Eratosthenes states, India is watered by the summer rains, and the plains are overflowed.
During these rains, accordingly,–flax is sown and millet, also sesamum, rice, and
bosmorum, and in the winter time wheat, barley, pulse, and other esculent fruits unknown
Strabo, XV. i. 37,–p. 703.
Of some Wild Beasts of India.
According to Megasthenes the largest tigers are found among the Prasii, being
nearly twice the size of the lion, and so strong that a tame tiger led by four men having
seized a mule by the hinder leg overpowered it and dragged it to him. The monkeys are
larger than the largest dogs; they are white except in the face, which is black, though the
contrary is observed elsewhere. Their tails are more than two cubits in length. They are
very tame, and not of a malicious disposition: so that they neither attack man nor steal.
Stones are dug up which are of the colour of frankincense, and sweeter than figs or
honey. In some parts of the country there are serpents two cubits long which have
membranous wings like bats. They fly about by night, when they let fall drops of urine or
sweat, which blister the skin of persons not on their guard, with putrid sores. There are
also winged scorpions of an extraordinary size. Ebony grows there. There are also dogs
of great strength and courage, which will not let go their hold till water is poured into
their nostrils: they bite so eagerly that the eyes of some become distorted, and the eyes of
others fall out. Both a lion and a bull were held fast by a dog. The bull was seized by the
muzzle, and died before the dog could be taken off.
Aelian, Hist. Anim. XVII 39. Conf. Fragm. XII. 2.
Of Indian Apes.
In the country of the Praxii, who are an Indian people, Megasthenes says there are
apes not inferior in size to the largest dogs. They have tails five cubits long, hair grows
on their forehead, they have luxuriant beards hanging down their breast. Their face is
entirely white, and all the rest of the body black. They are tame and. attached to man, and
not malicious by nature like the apes of other countries.
Aelian, Hist. Anim. XVI. 41. Conf. Fragm. X11. 4.
Of Winged Scorpions and Serpents.
Megasthenes says there are winged scorpions in India of enormous size, which sting
Europeans and natives alike. There are also serpents which are likewise winged. These do
not go abroad during the day; but by night, when they let fall urine, which if it lights upon
any one’s skin at once raises putrid sores thereon. Such is the statement of Megasthenes.
Strabo, XV. i. 56,–pp. 710-711.
Of the Beasts of India, and the Reed.
He (Megasthenes) says there are monkeys, rollers of rocks, which climb precipices
whence they roll down stones upon their pursuers. Most animals, he says, which are tame
with us are wild in India, and he speaks of horses which are one-horned and have heads
like those of deer; and also of reeds some of which grow straight up to the height of thirty
orguiae, whi1e others grow along the ground to the length of fifty. They vary in thickness
from three to six cubits in diameter.
Aelian, Hist. Anim. XVI. 20.21. Conf. Fragm. XV. 2. 1.
Of some Beasts of India.
(20.) In certain districts of India (I speak of those which are most inland) they say
there are inaccessible mountains infested by wild beasts, and which are also the haunts of
animals like those of our own country except that they are wild; for even sheep, they say,
ran wild there, as well as dogs and goats and oxen, which roam about at their own
pleasure, being independent and free from the dominion of the herdsman. That their
number is beyond calculation is stated not only by writers on India, but also by the
learned men of the country, among whom the Brachmans deserve to be reckoned, whose
testimony is to the same effect. It is also said that there exists in India a one-horned
animal, called by the natives the Kartazon. It is of the size of a full-grown horse, and has
a crest, and yellow hair soft as wool. It is furnished with very good legs and is very fleet.
Its legs are jointless and formed like those of the elephant, and it has a tail like a swine’s.
A horn sprouts out from between its eyebrows, and this is not straight, but carved into the
most natural wreaths, and is of a black colour. It is said to be extremely sharp, this horn.
The animal, as I learn, has a voice beyond all example loud-ringing and dissonant. It
allows other animals to approach it, and is good-natured towards them, though they say
that with its congeners it is rather quarrelsome. The males are reported to have a natural
propensity not, only to fight among themselves, by butting with their horns, but to display
a like animosity against the female, and to be so obstinate in their quarrels that they will
not desist till a worsted rival is killed outright. But, again, not only is every member of
the body of this animal endued with great strength, but such is the potency of its horn that
nothing can withstand it. It loves to feed in secluded pastures, and wanders about alone,
but at the rutting season it seeks the society of the female, and is then gentle towards her,-
-nay, the two even feed in company. The season being over and the female pregnant, the
Indian Kartazon again becomes ferocious and seeks solitude. The foals, it is said, are
taken when quite young to the king of the Prasii, and are set to fight each other at the
great public spectacles. No full-grown specimen is remembered to have ever been caught.
(21.) The traveller who crosses the mountains which skirt that frontier of India
which is most inland meets, they say, with ravines which are clothed with very dense,
jungle, in a district called by the Indians Korouda. These ravines are said to be the haunts
of a peculiar kind of animal shaped like a satyr, covered all over with shaggy hair, and
having a tail like a horse’s, depending from its rump. If these creatures are left
unmolested, they keep within the coppices, living on the wild fruits; but should they hear
the hunter’s halloo and the baying of the hounds they dart up the precipices with
incredible speed, for they are habituated to climbing the mountains. They defend
themselves by rolling down stones on their assailants, which often kill those they hit. The
most difficult to catch are those which roll the stones. Some are said to have been
brought, though with difficulty and after long intervals, to the Prasii, but these were either
suffering from diseases or were females heavy with young, the former being too weak to
escape, and the latter being impeded by the burden of the womb.–Conf. Plin. Hist. Nat.
VII. 2. 17.
Pliny, Hist. Nat. VIII. 14. 1.
Of the Boa-Constrictor.
According to Megasthenes, serpents in India grow to such a size that they swallow
stags and bulls whole.
Solinus, 52. 33.
So huge are the serpents that they swallow stags whole, and other animals of equal
Aelian, Hist. Anim. VIII. 7.
Of the Electric Eel.
I learn from Megasthenes that there is in the Indian Sea a small kind of fish which is
never seen when alive, as it always swims in deep water, and only floats on the surface
after it is dead. Should any one touch it he becomes faint and swoons,–nay, even dies at
Pliny, Hist. Nat. V1. 24. 1.
Megasthenes says that Taprobane is separated from the mainland by a river; that the
inhabitants are called Palaigonoi, and, that their country is more productive of gold and
large pearls than India.
Taprobane is separated from India by a river flowing between: for one part of it
abounds with wild beasts and elephants much larger than India breeds, and man claims
the other part.
Antigon. Caryst. 647.
Of Marine Trees.
Megasthenes, the author of the Indika, mentions that trees grow in the Indian Sea.
Arr. Ind. 4. 2-13.
Of the1ndus and the Ganges.
See translation of Arrian.
Pliny. Hist. Nat. V1. 21.9-22. 1.
The Prinas and the Cainas (a tributary of the Ganges) are both navigable rivers. The,
tribes which dwell by the Ganges are the Calingae, nearest the sea, and higher up the
Mandei, also the Malli, among whom is Mount Mallus, the boundary of all that region
being the Ganges. Some have asserted that this river, like the Nile, rises from unknown
sources, and in a similar way waters the country it flows through, while others trace its
source to the Skythian mountains. Nineteen rivers are said to flow into it, of which,
besides those already mentioned, the Condochates, Erannoboas, Cosoagus, and Sonus are
navigable. According to other accounts, it bursts at once with thundering roar from its
fountain, and tumbling down a steep and rocky channel lodges in a lake as soon as it
reaches the level plain, whence it issues forth with a gentle current, being nowhere less
than eight miles broad, while its mean breadth is a hundred stadia, and its least depth
Solin. 52. 6-7.
In India the largest rivers are the Ganges and the Indus,–the Ganges, as some
maintain, rising from uncertain sources, and, like the Nile, overflowing its banks; while
others think that it rises in the Skythian mountains. In India there is also the Hupanis, a
very noble river, which formed the limit of Alexander’s march, as the altars set up on its
banks testify. The least breadth of the Ganges is eight miles, and the greatest twenty. Its
depth where least is fully one hundred feet.
Conf. Fragm. XXV.1.
Some say that the least breadth is thirty stadia, but others only three; while
Megasthenes says that the mean breadth is a hundred stadia, and its least depth twenty
Arr. Ind. 6. 2-3.
Of the River Silas.
See translation of Arrian.
Boissonade, Anecd. Graec. I. p. 419,
Of the River Silas.
There is in India a river called the Silas, named after the fountain from which it
flows, on which nothing will float that is thrown into it, but everything sinks to the
bottom, contrary, to the usual law.
Strabo, XV. i. 38,–p. 703.
Of the River Silas.
(Megasthenes says) that in the mountainous country is a river, the Silas, on the
waters of which nothing will float. Demokritos, who had travelled over a large part of
Asia, disbelieves this, and so does Aristotle.
Arr. Ind. 5. 2.
Of the Number of Indian Rivers.
See translation of Arrian.
Strab. XV. i. 35-36,–p. 702.
Of the city Pataliputra.
According to Megasthenes the mean breadth (of the Ganges) is 100 stadia, and its
least depth 20 fathoms. At the meeting of this river and another is situated Palibothra, a
city eighty stadia in length and fifteen in breadth. It is of the shape of a parallelogram,
and is girded with a wooden wall, pierced with loopholes for the discharge of arrows. It
has a ditch in front for defence and for receiving the sewage of the city. The people in
whose country this city is situated is the most distinguished in all India, and is called the
Prasii. The king, in addition to his family name, must adopt the surname of Palibothros,
as Sandrakottos, for instance, did, to whom Megasthenes was sent on an embassy. [This
custom also prevails among the Parthians, for all are called Arsakai, though each has his
own peculiar name, as Orodes, Phraates, or some other.]
Then follow these words:–
All the country beyond the Hupanis is allowed to be very fertile, but little is
accurately known regarding it. Partly from ignorance and the remoteness of its situation,
everything about it is exaggerated or represented as marvellous: for instance, there are the
stories of the gold-digging ants, of animals and men of peculiar shapes, and possessing
wonderful faculties; as the Seres, who, they say, are so long-lived that they attain an age
beyond that of two hundred years. They mention also an aristocratical form of
government consisting of five thousand councillors, each of whom furnishes the state
with an elephant.
According to Megasthenes the largest tigers are found in the country of the Prasii,
etc. (Cf. Fragm. XII.)
Arr. Ind. 10.
Of Pataliputra and the Manners of the Indians.
It is farther said that the Indians do not rear monuments to the dead, but consider the
virtues which men have displayed in life, and the songs in which their praises are
celebrated, sufficient to preserve their memory after death. But of their cities it is said
that the number is so great that it cannot be stated with precision, but that such cities as
are situated on the banks of rivers or on the sea-coast are built of wood instead of brick,
being meant to last only for a time,–so destructive are the heavy rains which pour down,
and the rivers also when they overflow their banks and inundate the plains,–while those
cities which stand on commanding situations and lofty eminences are built of brick and
mud; that the greatest city in India is that which is called Palimbothra, in the dominions
of the Prasians, where the streams of the Erannoboas and the Ganges unite,–the Ganges
being the greatest of all rivers, and the Erannoboas being perhaps the third largest of
Indian rivers, though greater than the greatest rivers elsewhere; but it is smaller than the
Ganges where it falls into it. Megasthenes informs us that this city stretched in the
inhabited quarters to an extreme length on each side of eighty stadia, and that its breadth
was fifteen stadia, and that a ditch encompassed it all round, which was six hundred feet
in breadth and thirty cubits in depth, and that the wall was crowned with 570 towers and
had four-and-sixty gates. The same writer tells us further this remarkable fact about India,
that all the Indians are free, and not one of them is a slave. The Lakedaemonians, and the
Indians are here so far in agreement. The Lakedaemonians, however, hold the Helots as
slaves, and these Helots do servile labour; but the Indians do not even use aliens as
slaves, and much less a countryman of their own.
Strab. XV. i. 53-56,–pp. 709-10.
Of the Manners of the Indians.
The Indians all live frugally, especially when in camp. They dislike a great
undisciplined multitude, and consequently they observe good order. Theft is of very rare
occurrence. Megasthenes says that those who were in the camp of Sandrakottos, wherein
lay 400,000 men, found that the thefts reported on any one day did not exceed the value
of two hundred drachmae, and this among a people who have no written laws, but are
ignorant of writing, and must therefore in all the business of life trust to memory. They
live, nevertheless, happily enough, being simple in their manners and frugal. They never
drink wine except at sacrifices. Their beverage is a liquor composed from rice instead of
barley, and their food is principally a rice-pottage. The simplicity of their laws and their
contracts is proved by the fact that they seldom go to law. They have no suits about
pledges or deposits, nor do they, require either seals or witnesses, but make their deposits
and confide in each other. Their houses and property they generally leave unguarded.
These things indicate that they possess good, sober sense; but other things they do which
one cannot approve: for instance, that they eat always alone, and that they have no fixed
hours when meals are to be taken by all in common, but each one eats when he feels
inclined. The contrary custom would be better for the ends of social and civil life.
Their favourite mode of exercising the body is by friction, applied in various ways,
but especially by passing smooth ebony rollers over the skin. Their tombs are plain, and
the mounds raised over the dead lowly. In contrast to the general simplicity of their style,
they love finery and ornament. Their robes are worked in gold, and ornamented with
precious stones, and they wear also flowered garments made of the finest muslin.
Attendants walking behind hold up umbrellas over them: for they have a high regard for
beauty, and avail themselves of every device to improve their looks. Truth and virtue they
hold alike in esteem. Hence they accord no special privileges to the old unless they
possess superior wisdom. They marry many wives, whom they buy from their parents,
giving in exchange a yoke of oxen. Some they marry hoping to find in them willing
helpmates; and others for pleasure and to fill their houses with children. The wives
prostitute themselves unless they are compelled to be chaste. No one wears a crown at a
sacrifice or libation, and they do not stab the victim, but strangle it, so that nothing
mutilated, but only what is entire, may be presented to the deity.
A person convicted of bearing false witness suffers mutilation of his extremities, He
who maims any one not only suffers in return the loss of the same limb, but his hand also
is cut off. If he causes an artizan to lose his hand or his eye, he is put to death. The same
writer says that none of the Indians employ slaves; [but Onesikritos says that this was
peculiar to that part of the country over which Musikanos ruled.]
The care of the king’s person is entrusted to women, who also are bought from their
parents. The guards and the rest of the soldiery attend outside the gates. A woman who
kills the king when drunk becomes the wife of his successor. The sons succeed the father.
The king may not sleep during the daytime, and by night he is obliged to change his
couch from time to time, with a view to defeat plots against his life.
The king leaves his palace not only in time of war, but also for the purpose of
judging causes. He then remains in court for the whole day, without allowing the business
to be interrupted, even though the hour arrives when he must needs attend to his person,–
that is, when he is to be rubbed with cylinders of wood. He continues hearing cases while
the friction, which is performed by four attendants, is still proceeding. Another purpose
for which he leaves his palace is to offer sacrifice; a third is to go to the chase, for which
he departs in Bacchanalian fashion. Crowds of women surround him, and outside of this
circle spearmen are ranged. The road is marked off with ropes, and it is death, for man
and woman alike, to pass within the ropes. Men with drums and gongs lead the
procession. The king hunts in the enclosures and shoots arrows from a platform. At his
side stand two or three armed women. If he hunts in the open grounds he shoots from the
back of an elephant. Of the women, some are in chariots, some on horses, and. some even
on elephants, and they are equipped with weapons of every kind, as if they were going on
[These customs are very strange when compared with our own, but the following are
still more so;] for Megasthenes states that the tribes inhabiting the Kaukasos have
intercourse with women in public, and eat the bodies of their relatives, that there are
monkeys which roll down stones, &c. (Fragm. XV. follows, and then Fragm. XXIX.)
FRAGM. XXVII B.
Aelian. V. L. iv.1.
The Indians neither put out money at usury, nor know how to borrow. It is contrary
to established usage for an Indian either to do or suffer a wrong, and therefore they
neither make contracts nor require securities. Conf. Suid. V.
FRAGM. XXVII. C.
Nicol. Damasc. 44; Stob. Serm. 42.
Among the Indians one who is unable to recover a loan or a deposit has no remedy
at law. All the creditor can do is to blame himself for trusting a rogue.
FRAGM. XXVII D.
Nicol. Damasc. 44; Stob. Serm. 42.
He who causes an artisan to lose his eye or his hand is put to death. If one is guilty
of a very heinous offence the king orders his hair to be cropped, this being a punishment
to the last degree infamous.
Athen: iv. p. 153.
Of the Suppers of the Indians.
Megasthenes, in the second book of his Indika, says that when the Indians are at
supper a table is placed before each person, this being like a tripod. There, is placed upon
it a golden bowl, into which they first put rice, boiled as one would boil barley, and then
they add many dainties prepared according to Indian receipts.
Strab. XV. i. 57,–p. 711.
Of fabulous tribes.
But deviating into fables he says there are men five spans and even three spans in
height, some of whom want the nose, having only two orifices above the mouth through
which they breathe. Against the men of three spans, war, as Homer has sung, is waged by
the cranes, and also by partridges, which are as large as geese. These people collect and
destroy the eggs of the cranes, for it is in their country the cranes lay their eggs, and thus
the eggs and the young cranes are not to be found anywhere else. Frequently a crane
escapes having the brazen point of a weapon in its body, from wounds received in that
country. Equally absurd is the account given of the Enotokoitai, of the wild men, and of
other monsters. The wild men could not be brought to Sandrakottos, for they refused to,
take food and died. Their heels are in front, and the instep and toes are turned backwards.
Some were brought to the court who had no mouths and were tame. They dwell near the
sources of the Ganges, and subsist on the savour of roasted flesh and the perfumes of
fruits and flowers, having instead of mouths orifices through which they breathe. They
are distressed with things of evil smell, and hence it is with difficulty they keep their hold
on life, especially in a camp. Referring to the other monstrosities, the philosophers told
him of the Okupedes, a people who in running could leave the horse behind; of the
Enotokoitai, who had ears reaching down to their feet, so that they could sleep in them,
and were so strong that they could pull up trees and break a bowstring. Of others the
Monommatoi, who have the ears of a dog, their one eye set in the middle of their
forehead, the hair standing erect, and their breasts shaggy; of the Amukteres also, a
people without nostrils, who devour everything, eat raw meat, and are short-lived, and die
before old age supervenes. The upper part of the mouth protrudes far over the lower lip.
With regard to the Hyperboreans, who live a thousand years, they give the same account
as Simonides, Pindaros, and other mythological writers. The story told by Timagenes,
that showers fall of drops of copper, which are swept together, is a fable. Megasthenes
states–what is more open to belief, since the same is the case in Iberia–that the rivers
carry down gold dust, and that a part of this is paid by way of tribute to the king.
Plin. Hist. Nat. VII. ii. 14-22.
Of fabulous races.
According to Megasthenes, on a mountain called Nulo there live men whose feet are
turned backward, and who have eight toes on each foot; while on many of the mountains
there lives a race of men having heads like those of dogs, who are clothed with the skins
of wild beasts, whose speech is barking, and who, being armed with claws, live by
hunting and fowling. [Ktesias asserts on his own authority that the number of these men
was upwards of 120,000, and that there is a race in India whose females bear offspring
but once in the course of their life, and that their children become at once grey-haired.]
Megasthenes speaks of a race of men among the Nomadic Indians who instead of
nostrils have merely orifices, whose legs are contorted like snakes, and who are called
Scyritae. He speaks also of a race living on the very confines of India on the east, near the
source of the Ganges, the Astomi who have no mouth; who cover their body, which is all
over hairy, with the soft down found upon the leaves of trees; and who live merely by
breathing, and the perfume inhaled by the nostrils. They eat nothing, and they drink
nothing. They require merely a variety of odours of roots and of flowers and of wild
apples. The apples they carry with them when they go on a distant journey, that they may
always have something to smell. Too strong an odour would readily kill them.
Beyond the Astomi, in the remotest part of the mountains, the Trispithami and the
Pygmies are said to have their abode. They are each three spans in height–that is, not
more than seven-and-twenty inches. Their climate is salubrious and they enjoy a
perpetual spring, under shelter of a barrier of mountains which rise on the north. They are
the same whom Homer mentions as being harassed by the attacks of the cranes. The story
about them is–that mounted on the backs of rams and goats, and equipped with arrows,
they march down in spring-time all in a body to the sea; and destroy the eggs and the
young of these birds. It takes them always three months to finish this yearly campaign,
and were it not undertaken they could not defend themselves against the vast flocks of
subsequent years. Their hats are made of clay and feathers and egg-shells. [Aristotle says
that they live in caves, but otherwise he gives the same account of them as others.]
[From Ktesias we learn that there is a people belonging to this race, which is called
Pandore and settled in the valleys, who live two hundred years, having in youth hoary
hair, which in old age turns black. On the other hand, others do not live beyond the age of
forty,–nearly related to the Macrobii, whose women bear offspring but once.
Agatharchides says the same of them, adding that they subsist on locusts, and are swift of
foot.] Clitarchus and Megasthenes call them Mandi and reckon the number of their
villages at three, hundred. The females bear children at the age of seven, and are old
women at forty.
Solin. 52. 26-30.
Near a mountain which is called Nulo there live men whose feet are turned
backwards and have eight toes on each foot. Megasthenes writes that on different
mountains in India there are tribes of men with dog-shaped heads, armed with claws,
clothed with skins, who speak not in the accents of human language, but only bark, and
have fierce grinning jaws. [In Ktesias we read that in some parts the females bear
offspring but once, and that the children are white-haired from their birth, &c.]
Those who live near the source of the Ganges, requiring nothing in the shape of
food, subsist on the odour of wild apples, and when they go on a long journey they carry
these with them for safety of their life, which they can support by inhaling their perfume.
Should they inhale very foul air, death is inevitable.
Plutarch, de facie in orbe lunae. (Opp. ed. Reisk, tom. ix. p. 701.)
Of the race of men without mouths.
For how could one find growing there that Indian root which Megasthenes says a
race of men who neither eat nor drink, and in fact have not even mouths, set on fire and
burn like incense, in order to sustain their existence with its odorous fumes, unless it
received moisture from the moon–
Arr. Ind. Xl.l.-XII.-9. Cf. Epit.40-53, and Plin. Hist. Nat. VI. xxii. 2, 3.
(See the translation of Arrian’s Indika.)
Strab. XV. 1. 39-41, 46-49,–pp. 703-4, 707.
Of the Seven Castes among the Indians.
(39.) According to him (Megasthenes) the population of India is divided into seven
parts. The philosophers are first in rank, but form the smallest class in point of number.
Their services are employed privately by persons who wish to offer sacrifices or perform
other sacred rites, and also publicly by the kings at what is called the Great Synod,
wherein at the beginning of the new year all the philosophers are gathered together before
the king at the gates, when any philosopher who may have committed any useful
suggestion to writing, or observed any means for improving the crops and the cattle, or
for promoting the public interests, declares it publicly. If any one is detected giving false
information thrice, the law condemns him to be silent for the rest of his life, but he who
gives sound advice is exempted from paying any taxes or contributions.
(40.) The second caste consists of the husbandmen, who form, the bulk of the
population, and are in disposition most mild and gentle. They are exempted from military
service, and cultivate their lands undisturbed by fear. They never go to town, either to
take part in its tumults, or for any other purpose. It therefore not infrequently happens
that at the same time, and in the same part of the country, men may be seen drawn up in
array of battle and fighting at risk of their lives, while other men close at hand are
ploughing and digging in perfect security, having these soldiers to protect them. The
whole of the land is the property of the king, and the husbandmen till it on condition of
receiving one-fourth of the produce.
(41.) The third caste consists of herdsmen and hunters, who alone are allowed to
hunt, and to keep cattle, and to sell draught animals or let them out on hire. In return for
clearing the land of wild beasts and fowls which devour the seeds sown in the fields, they
receive an allowance of grain from the king. They lead a wandering life and live under
FRAGM. XXXVI. follows here.
[So much, then, on the subject of wild animals. We shall now return to Megasthenes,
and resume from where we digressed.]
(46.) The fourth class, after herdsmen and hunters, consists of those who work it
trades, of those who vend wares, and of those who are employed in bodily labour. Some
of these pay tribute, and render to the state certain prescribed services. But the armourmakers
and shipbuilders receive wages and their victuals from the king, for whom alone
they work. The general in command of the army supplies the soldiers with weapons, and
the admiral of the fleet lets out ships on hire for the transport both of passengers and
(47.) The fifth class consists of fighting men, who, when not engaged in active
service, pass their time in idleness and drinking. They are maintained at the king’s
expense, and hence they are always ready, when occasion calls, to take the field, for they
carry nothing of their own with them but their own bodies.
(48.) The sixth class consists of the overseers, to whom is assigned the duty of
watching all that goes on, and making reports secretly to the king. Some are entrusted
with the inspection of the city, and others with that of the army. The former employ as
their coadjutors the courtezans of the city, and the latter the courtezans of the camp. The
ablest and most trustworthy men are appointed to fill these offices.
The seventh class consists of the councillors and assessors of the king. To them
belong the highest posts of government, the tribunals of justice, and the general
administration of public affairs. No one is allowed to marry out of his own caste, or to
exchange one profession or trade for another, or to follow more than one business. An
exception is made in favour of the philosopher, who for his virtue is allowed this
Strab. XV. 1. 50-52,–pp. 707-709.
Of the administration of public affairs.
Of the use of Horses and Elephants.
(Fragm. XXXIII. has preceded this.)
(50.) Of the great officers of state, some have charge of the market, others of the
city, others of the soldiers. Some superintend the rivers, measure the land, as is done in
Egypt, and inspect the sluices by which water is let out from the main canals into their
branches, so that every one may have an equal supply of it. The same persons have
charge also of the huntsmen, and are entrusted with the power of rewarding or punishing
them according to their deserts. They collect the taxes, and superintend the occupations
connected with land; as those of the woodcutters, the carpenters, the blacksmiths, and the
miners. They construct roads, and at every ten stadia set up a pillar to show the by-roads
and distances. Those who have charge of the city are divided into six bodies of five each.
The members of the first look after everything relating to the industrial arts. Those of the
second attend to the entertainment of foreigners. To these they assign lodgings, and they
keep watch over their modes of life by means of those persons whom they give to them
for assistants. They escort them on the way when they leave the country, or, in the event
of their dying, forward their property to their relatives. They take care of them when they
are sick, and if they die bury them. The third body consists of those who inquire when
and how births and deaths occur, with the view not only of levying a tax, but also in order
that births and deaths among both high and low may not escape the cognizance of
Government. The fourth class superintends trade and commerce. Its members have
charge of weights and measures, and see that the products in their season are sold by
public notice. No one is allowed to deal in more than one kind of commodity unless he
pays a double tax. The fifth class supervises manufactured articles, which they sell by
public notice. What is new is sold separately from what is old, and there is a fine for
mixing the two together. The sixth and last class consists of those who collect the tenths
of the prices of the articles sold. Fraud, in the payment of this tax is punished with death.
Such are the functions which these bodies separately discharge. In their collective
capacity they have charge both of their special departments, and also of matters affecting
the general interest, as the keeping of public buildings in proper repair, the regulation of
prices, the care of markets, harbours, and temples. Next to the city magistrates there is a
third governing body, which directs military affairs. This also consists of six divisions,
with five members to each. One division is appointed to cooperate with the admiral of the
fleet, another with the superintendent of the bullock-trains which are used for
transporting engines of war, food for the soldiers, provender for the cattle, and other
military requisites. They supply servants who beat the drum, and others who carry gongs;
grooms also for the horses, and mechanists and their assistants. To the sound of the gong
they send out foragers to bring in grass, and by a system of rewards and punishments
ensure the work being done with despatch and safety. The third division has charge of the
foot-soldiers, the fourth of the horses, the fifth of the war-chariots, and the sixth of the
elephants. There are royal stables for the horses and elephants, and also a royal magazine
for the arms, because the soldier has to return his arms to the magazine, and his horse and
his elephant to the stables. They use the elephants without bridles. The chariots are drawn
on the march by oxen, but the horses are led along by a halter, that their legs may not be
galled and inflamed, nor their spirits damped by drawing chariots. In addition to the
charioteer, there are two fighting men who sit up in the chariot beside him. The warelephant
carries four men–three who shoot arrows, and the driver. (Fragm. XXVII
Aelian, Hist. Anim. XIII. 10.
Of the use of Horses and Elephants.
Cf. Fragm. XXXIV. 13-15.
When it is said that an Indian by springing forward in front of a horse can check his
speed and hold him back, this is not true of all Indians, but only of such as have been
trained from boyhood to manage horses; for it is a practice with them to control their
horses with bit and bridle, and to make them move at a measured pace and in a straight
course. They neither, however, gall their tongue by the use of spiked muzzles, nor torture
the roof of their mouth. The professional trainers break them in by forcing them to gallop
round and round in a ring, especially when they see them refractory. Such as undertake
this work require to have a strong hand as well as a thorough knowledge of horses. The
greatest proficients test their skill by driving a chariot round and round in a ring; and in
truth it would be no trifling feat to control with ease a team of four high-mettled steeds
when whirling round in a circle. The chariot carries two men who sit beside the
charioteer. The war-elephant, either in what is called the tower, or on his bare back in
sooth, carries three fighting men, of whom two shoot from the side, while one shoots
from behind. There is also a fourth man, who carries in his hand the goad wherewith he
guides the animal, much in the same way as the pilot and captain of a ship direct its
course with the helm.
Strab. XV. 1. 41-43,–pp. 704-705.
Conf. Epit. 54-56.
(Fragm. XXXIII. 6 has preceded this.)
A private person is not allowed to keep either a horse or an elephant. These animals
are held to be the special property of the king, and persons are appointed to take care of
them. The manner of hunting the elephant is this. Round a bare patch of ground is dug a
deep trench about five or six stadia in extent, and over this is thrown a very narrow bridge
which gives access to the enclosure. Into this enclosure are introduced three or four of the
best-trained female elephants. The men themselves lie in ambush in concealed huts. The
wild elephants do not approach this trap in the daytime, but they enter it at night, going in
one-by-one. When all have passed the entrance, the men secretly close it up; then,
introducing the strongest of the tame fighting elephants, they fight it out with the wild
ones, whom at the same time they enfeeble with hunger. When the latter are now
overcome with fatigue, the boldest of the drivers dismount unobserved, and each man
creeps under his own elephant, and from this position creeps under the belly of the wild
elephant and ties his feet together. When this is done they incite the tame ones to beat
those whose feet are tied till they fall to the ground. They then bind the wild ones and the
tame ones together neck to neck with thongs of raw ox-hide. To prevent them shaking
themselves in order to throw off those who attempt to mount them, they make cuts all
round their neck and then put thongs of leather into the incisions so that the pain obliges
them to submit to their fetters and to remain quiet. From the number caught they reject
such as are too old or too young to be serviceable, and the rest they lead away to the
stables. Here they tie their feet one to another, and fasten their necks to a firmly fixed
pillar, and tame them by hunger. After this they restore their strength with green reeds
and grass. They next teach them to be obedient, which they effect by soothing them,
some by coaxing words, and others by songs and the music of the drum. Few of them are
found difficult to tame, for they are naturally so mild and gentle in their disposition that
they approximate to rational creatures. Some of them take up their drivers when fallen in
battle, and carry them off in safety from the field. Others, when their masters have sought
refuge between their forelegs, have fought in their defence and saved their lives. If in a fit
of anger they kill either the man who feeds or the man who trains them, they pine so
much for their loss that they refuse to take food, and sometimes die of hunger.
They copulate like horses, and the female casts her calf chiefly in spring. It is the
season for the male, when he is in heat and becomes ferocious. At this time he discharges
a fatty substance through an orifice near the temples. It is also the season for the females,
when the corresponding passage opens. They go with young for a period which varies
from sixteen to eighteen months. The dam suckles her calf for six years. Most of them
live as long as men who attain extreme longevity, and some live over two hundred years.
They are liable to many distempers, and are not easily cured. The remedy for diseases of
the eye is to wash it with, cows’ milk. For most of their other diseases draughts of black
wine are administered to them. For the cure of their wounds they are made to swallow
butter, for this draws out iron. Their sores are fomented with swine’s flesh.
Arr. Ind. ch. 13-14.
(Fragm. XXXII comes before this.)
(See the translation of Arrian’s Indika.)
[FRAGM. XXXVII B.]
Aelian, Hist. Anim. XII. 44.
(Cf. Fragm. XXXVI. 9-10 and XXXVII. 9-10 init. c. XIV.).
In India an elephant if caught when full-grown is difficult to tame, and longing for
freedom thirsts for blood. Should it be bound in chains, this exasperates it still more, and
it will not submit to a master. The Indians, however, coax it with food, and seek to pacify
it with various things for which it has a liking, their aim being to fill its stomach and to
soothe its temper. But it is still angry with them, and takes no notice of them. To what
device do they then resort? They sing to it their native melodies, and soothe it with the
music of an instrument in common use which has four strings and is called a skindapsos.
The creature now pricks up its ears, yields to the soothing strain, and its anger subsides.
Then, though there is an occasional outburst of its suppressed passion, it gradually turns
its eye to its food. It is then freed from its bonds, but does not seek to escape, being
enthralled with the music. It even takes food eagerly, and, like a luxurious guest riveted
to the festive board, has no wish to go, from its love of the music.
Aelian, Hist. Anim. XIII. 7.
Of the diseases of Elephants.
(Cf. Fragm. XXXVI. 15 and XXXVII 15.)
The Indians cure the wounds of the elephants which they catch, in the manner
They treat them in the way in which, as good old Homer tells us, Patroklos treated
the wound of Euryplyos,–they foment them with lukewarm water. After this they rub
them over with butter, and if they are deep allay the inflammation by applying and
inserting pieces of pork, hot but still retaining the blood. They cure ophthalmia with
cows’ milk, which is first used as a fomentation for the eye, and is then injected into it.
The animals open their eyelids, and finding they can see better are delighted, and are
sensible of the benefit like human beings. In proportion as their blindness diminishes their
delight overflows, and this is a token that the disease has been cured. The remedy for
other distempers to which they are liable is black wine; and if this potion fails to work a
cure nothing else can save them.
Strab. XV. 1. 44,–p. 706.
Of Gold-digging Ants.
Megasthenes gives the following account of these ants. Among the Derdai, a great
tribe of Indians, who inhabit the mountains on the eastern borders, there is an elevated
plateau about 3,000 stadia, in circuit. Beneath the surface there are mines of gold, and
here accordingly are found the ants which dig for that metal. They are not inferior in size
to wild foxes. They run with amazing speed, and live by the produce of the chase. The
time when they dig is winter. They throw up heaps of earth, as moles do, at the mouth of
the mines. The gold-dust has to be subjected to a little boiling. The people of the
neighbourhood, coming secretly with beasts of burden, carry this off. If they came openly
the ants would attack them, and pursue them if they fled, and would destroy both them
and their cattle. So, to effect the robbery without being observed, they lay down in
several different places pieces of the flesh of wild beasts, and when the ants are by this
device dispersed they carry off the gold-dust. This they sell to any trader they meet with
while it is still in the state of ore, for the art of fusing metals is unknown to them.
Arr. Ind. XV.5-7.
(See the translation of Arrian’s Indika.)
[FRAGM. XL. B.]
Dio Chrysost. Or. 35,–p. 436, Morell.
Of Ants which dig.for gold.
(Cf. Fragm. XXXIV. and XL.)
They get the gold from ants. These creatures are larger than foxes, but are in other
respects like the ants of our own country. They dig holes in the earth like other ants. The
heap which they throw up consists of gold the purest and brightest in all the world. The
mounds are piled up close to each other in regular order like hillocks of gold dust,
whereby all the plain is made effulgent. It is difficult, therefore, to look towards the sun,
and many who have attempted to do this have thereby destroyed their eyesight. The
people who are next neighbours to the ants, with a view to plunder these heaps, cross the
intervening desert, which is of no great extent, mounted on wagons to which they have
yoked their swiftest h6rses. They arrive at noon, a time when the ants have gone
underground, and at once seizing the booty make off at full speed. The ants, on learning
what has been done, pursue the fugitives, and overtaking them fight with them till they
conquer or die, for of all animals they are the most courageous. It hence appears that they
understand the worth of gold, and that they will sacrifice their lives rather than part with
FRAGM. XLI Strab. XV. 1. 58-60,–pp. 711-714.
Of the Indian Philosophers.
(Fragm. XXIX. has preceded this.)
(58.) Speaking of the philosophers, he (Megasthenes) says that such of them as live,
on the mountains are worshippers of Dionysos, showing as proofs that he had come
among them the wild vine, which grows in their country only, and the ivy, and the laurel,
and the myrtle, and the box-tree, and other evergreens, none of which are found beyond
the Euphrates, except a few in parks, which it requires great care to preserve. They
observe also certain customs which are Bacchanalian. Thus they dress in muslin, wear the
turban, use perfumes array themselves in garments dyed of bright colours; and their
kings, when they appear in public, are preceded by the music of drums and gongs. But
the, philosophers who live on the plains worship Herakles. [These accounts are fabulous,
and are impugned by many writers, especially what is said about the vine and wine. For
the greater part of Armenia, and the whole of Mesopotamia and Media, onwards to Persia
and Karmania, lie beyond the Euphrates, and throughout a great part of each of these
countries good vines grow, and good wine is produced.]
(69.) Megasthenes makes a different division of the philosophers, saying that they
are of two kinds–one of which he calls the Brachmanes, and the other the Sarmanes. The
Brachmanes are best esteemed, for they are more consistent in their opinions. From the
time of their conception in the womb they are under the guardian care of learned men,
who go to the mother and, under the pretence of using some incantations for the welfare
of herself and her unborn babe, in reality give her prudent hints and counsels. The women
who listen most willingly are thought to be the most fortunate in their children. After
their birth the children are under the care of one person after another, and as they advance
in age each succeeding master is more accomplished than his predecessor. The
philosophers have their abode in a grove in front of the city within a moderate-sized
enclosure. They live in a simple style, and lie on beds of rushes or (deer) skins. They
abstain from animal food and sexual pleasures, and spend their time in listening to
serious discourse, and in imparting their knowledge to such as will listen to them. The
hearer is not allowed to speak, or even to cough, and much less to spit, and if he offends
in any of these ways he is cast out from their society that very day, as being a man who is
wanting in self-restraint. After living in this manner for seven-and-thirty years, each
individual retires to his own property, where he lives for the rest of his days in ease and
serenity. They then array themselves in fine muslin, and wear a few trinkets of gold on
their fingers and in their ears. They eat flesh, but not that of animals employed in labour.
They abstain from hot and highly seasoned food. They marry as many wives as they
please, with a view to have numerous children, for by having many wives greater
advantages are enjoyed, and, since they have no slaves, they have more need to have
children around them to attend to their wants. The Brachmanes do not communicate a
knowledge of philosophy to their wives, lest they should, divulge any of the forbidden
mysteries to the profane if they became depraved, or lest they should, desert them if they
became good philosophers: far no one who despises pleasure and pain, as well as life and
death, wishes to be in subjection to another, but this is characteristic both of a good man
and of a good woman. Death is with them a very frequent subject of discourse. They
regard this life as, so to speak, the time when the child within the womb becomes mature,
and death as a birth into a real and happy life for the votaries of philosophy. On this
account they undergo much, discipline as a preparation for death. They consider nothing
that befalls men to be either good or bad, to suppose otherwise being a dream-like
illusion, else how could some be affected with sorrow, and others with pleasure, by the
very same things, and how could the same things affect the same individuals at different
times with these opposite emotions? Their ideas about physical phenomena, the same
author tells us, are very crude, for, they are better in their actions than in their reasonings,
inasmuch as their belief is in great measure based upon fables; yet on many points their
opinions coincide with those of the Greeks, for like them they say that the world had a
beginning, and is liable to destruction, and is in shape spherical, and that the Deity who
made it, and who governs it, is diffused through all its parts. They hold that various first
principles operate in the universe, and that water was the principle employed in the
making of the world. In addition to the four elements there is a fifth agency, from which
the heaven and the stars were produced. The earth is placed in the centre of the universe.
Concerning generation, and the nature of the soul, and many other subjects, they express
views like those maintained by the Greeks. They wrap up their doctrines about
immortality and future judgment, and kindred topics, in allegories, after the manner of
Plato. Such are his statements regarding the Brachmanes.
(60.) Of the Sarmanes he tells us that those who are held in most honour are called
the Hylobioi. They live in the woods, where they subsist on leaves of trees and wild
fruits, and wear garments made from the bark of trees. They abstain from sexual
intercourse and from wine. They communicate with the kings, who consult them by
messengers regarding the causes of things, and who through them worship and supplicate
the deity. Next in honour to the Hylobioi are the physicians, since they are engaged in the
study of the nature of man. They are simple in their habits, but do not live in the fields.
Their food consists of rice and barley-meal, which they can always get for the mere
asking, or receive from those who entertain them as guests in their houses. By their
knowledge of pharmacy they can make marriages fruitful, and determine the sex of the
offspring. They effect cures rather by regulating diet than by the use of medicines. The
remedies most esteemed are ointments and plasters. All others they consider to be in a
great measure pernicious in their nature. This class and the other class practise fortitude,
both by undergoing active toil, and by the endurance of pain, so that they remain for a
whole day motionless in one fixed attitude.
Besides these there are diviners and sorcerers, and adepts in the rites and customs
relating to the dead, who go about begging both in villages and towns. Even such of them
as are of superior culture and refinement inculcate such superstitions regarding Hades as
they consider favourable to piety and holiness of life. Women pursue philosophy with
some of them, but abstain from sexual intercourse.
Clem. Alex. Strom. I. p. 305 D (ed. Colon. 1688).
That the Jewish race is by far the oldest of all these, and that their philosophy, which
has been committed to writing, preceded the philosophy of the Greeks, Philo the
Pythagorean shows by many arguments, as does also Aristoboulos the Peripatetic, and
many others, whose names I need not waste time in enumerating. Megasthenes, the
author of a work on India, who lived with Seleukos Nikator, writes most clearly on this
point, and his words are these:– “All that has been said regarding nature by the ancients
is asserted also by philosophers out of Greece, on the one part in India by the
Brachmanes, and on the other in Syria by the people called the Jews.”
FRAGM. XLII. B.
Euseb. Praep. Ev. IX. 6,–pp. 410 C, D (ed. Colon. 1688).
Ex Clem. Alex.
Again, in addition to this, further on he writes thus:
“Megasthenes, the writer who lived with Seleukos Nikator, writes most clearly on
this point and to this effect:–‘All that has been said,’” &c.
FRAGM. XLII. C.
Cyrill. Contra Julian. IV. (Opp. ed. Paris, 1638, T. VI. p. 134 Al. Ex Clem. Alex.)
Aristoboulos the Peripatetic somewhere writes to this effect:–“All that has been
Clem. Alex. Strom. I. p. 305, A, B (ed. Colon. 1688).
Of the Philosophers of India.
[Philosophy, then; with all its blessed advantages to man, flourished long ages ago
among the barbarians, diffusing its light among the Gentiles, and eventually penetrated
into Greece. Its hierophants were the prophets among the Egyptians, the Chaldaeans
among the Assyrians, the Druids among the Gauls, the Sarmanaeans who were the
philosophers of the Baktrians and the Kelts, the Magi among the Persians, who, as you
know, announced beforehand the birth of the Saviour, being led by a star till they arrived
in the land of Judaea, and among the Indians the Gymnosophists, and other philosophers
of barbarous nations.]
There are two sects of these Indian philosophers–one called the Sarmanai and the
other the.Brachmanai. Connected with the Sarmanai are the philosophers called the
Hylobioi, who neither live in cities nor even in houses. They clothe themselves with the
bark of trees, and subsist upon acorns, and drink water by lifting it to their mouth with
their hands. They neither marry nor beget children [like those ascetics of our own day
called the Enkratetai. Among the Indians are those philosophers also who follow the
precepts of Boutta, whom they honour as a god on account of his extraordinary sanctity.]
Strab. XV. 1. 68,–p. 718.
Of Kalanos and Mandanis.
Megasthenes, however, says that self-destruction is not a dogma of the philosophers,
but that such as commit the act are regarded as foolhardy, those naturally of a severe
temper stabbing themselves or casting themselves down a precipice, those averse to pain
drowning themselves, those capable of enduring pain strangling themselves, and those of
ardent temperaments throwing themselves into the fire. Kalanos was a man of this stamp.
He was ruled by his passions, and became a slave to the table of Alexander. He is on this
account condemned by his countrymen, but Mandanis is applauded because when
messengers from Alexander invited him to go to the son of Zeus, with the promise of
gifts if he complied, and threats of punishment if he refused, he did not go. Alexander, he
said, was not the son of Zeus, for he was not so much as master of the larger half of the
world. As for himself, he wanted none of the gifts of a man whose desires nothing could
satiate; and as for his threats he feared them not: for if he lived, India would supply him
with food enough, and if he died, he would be delivered from the body of flesh now
afflicted with age, and would be translated to a better and a purer life. Alexander
expressed admiration of the man, and let him have his own way.
Arr. VIL ii. 3-9.
(See the translation of Arrian’s Indika.)
Strab. XV. I 6-8,–pp. 686-688.
That the Indians had never been attacked by others, nor had themselves attacked
(Cf. Epit. 23.)
6. But what just reliance can we place on the accounts of India from such
expeditions as those of Kyros and Semiramis? If Megasthenes concurs in this view, and
recommends his readers to put no faith in the ancient history of India. Its people, he says,
never sent an expedition abroad, nor was their country ever invaded and conquered
except by Herakles and Dionysos in old times, and by the Makedonians in our own. Yet
Sesostris the Egyptian and Tearkon the Ethiopian advanced as far as Europe. And
Nabukodrosor, who is more renowned among the Chaldaeans than even Herakles among
the Greeks, carried his arms to the Pillars, which Tearkon also reached, while Sesostris
penetrated from lberia even into Thrace and Pontos. Besides these there was Idanthyrsos
the Skythian, who overran Asia as far as Egypt. But not one of these great conquerors
approached India, and Semiramis, who meditated its conquest, died before the necessary
preparations were undertaken. The Persians indeed summoned the Hydrakai from India to
serve as mercenaries, but, they did not lead an army into the country, and only
approached its borders when Kyros marched against the Massagetai.
Of Dionysos and Herakles
7. The accounts about Herakles and Dionysos, Megasthenes and some few authors
with him consider entitled to credit, [but the majority, among whom is Eratosthenes,
consider them incredible and fabulous, like the stories current among the Greeks.]
8. On such grounds they called a particular race of people Nyssaians, and their city
Nyssa, which Dionysos had founded, and the mountain which rose above the city Meron,
assigning as their reason for bestowing these names that ivy grows there, and also the
vine, although its fruit does not come to perfection, as the clusters, on account of the
heaviness of the rains, fall off the trees before ripening. They further called the Oxydrakai
descendants of Dionysos, because the vine grew in their country, and their processions
were conducted with great pomp, and their kings on going forth to war and on other
occasions marched in Bacchic fashion, with drums beating, while they were dressed in
gay coloured robes, which is also a custom among other Indians. Again, when Alexander
had captured at the first assault the rock called Aornos, the base of which is washed by
the Indus near its source, his followers, magnifying the affair, affirmed that Herakles had
thrice assaulted the same rock and had been thrice repulsed. They said also that the Sibae
were descended from those who accompanied Herakles on his expedition, and that they
preserved badges of their descent, for they wore skins like Herakles, and carried clubs,
and branded the mark of a cudgel on their oxen and mules. In support of this story they
turn to account the legends regarding Kaukasos and Prometheus by transferring them
hither from Pontos, which they did on the slight pretext that they had seen a sacred cave
among the Paropamisadae. This they declared was the prison of Promestheus, whither
Herakles had come to effect his deliverance, and that this was the Kaukasos, to which the
Greeks represent Prometheus as having been bound.
Arr. Ind. V. 4-12.
(See the translation of Arrian’s Indika.)
Josephus Contra Apion. I. 20 (T. II p. 451, Havere.)
(Cf. Fragm. XLVI. 2.)
Megasthenes also expresses the same opinion in the fourth book of his Indika, where
he endeavours to show that the aforesaid king of the Babylonians (Nabouchodonosor)
surpassed Herakles in courage and the greatness of his achievements, by telling us that he
conquered even Iberia.
FRAGM. XLVIIL B.
Joseph. Ant. Jud. X. ii. 1 (T. I p. 533, Havere.)
[In this place (Nabouchodonosor) erected also of stone elevated places for walking
about on, which had to the eye the appearance of mountains, and were so contrived that
they were planted with all sorts of trees, because his wife, who had been bred up in the
land of Media, wished her surroundings to be like those of her early home.] Megasthenes
also, in the fourth book of his Indika, makes mention of these things, and thereby
endeavours to show that this king surpassed Herakles in courage and the greatness of his
achievements, for he says that he conquered Libya and a great part of Iberia.
FRAGM. XLVIII. C.
Zonar. ed. Basil. 1557, T. I. p. 87.
Among the many old historians who mention Nabouchodonosor, Josephos
enumerates Berosos, Megasthenes, and Diokles.
FRAGM. XLVIII. D.
G. Syncell. T. I. p. 419, ed. Benn. (p. 221 ed. Paris, p. 177 ed. Venet.)
Megasthenes, in his fourth book of the Indika represents Nabouchodonosor as
mightier than Herakles, because with great courage and enterprise he conquered the
greater part of Libya and lberia.
Abyden. ap. Euseb. Praep. Ev. I. 41 (ed. Colon. 1688, p. 456 D)
Megasthenes says that Nabouchodrosor, who was mightier than Herakles, undertook
an expedition against Libya and Iberia, and that having conquered them he planted a
colony of these people in the parts lying to the right of Pontos.
Arr. Ind. 7-9.
(See the translation of Arrian’s Indika.)
FRAGM. L. B.
Plin. Hist. Nat. IX. 5
Some writers allege that in swarms of oysters, as among bees, individuals
distinguished for size and beauty act as leaders. These are of wonderful cunning in
preventing themselves being caught, and are eagerly sought for by the divers. Should
they be caught, the others are easily enclosed in the nets as they go wandering about.
They are then put into earthen pots, where they are buried deep in salt. By this process
the flesh is all eaten away, and the hard concretions, which are the pearls, drop down to
Phlegon. Mirab. 33.
Of the Pandaian Land.
(Cf. Fragm. XXX. 6.)
Megasthenes says that the women of the Pandaian realm bear children when they are
six years of age.
FRAGM. L. C.
Plin. Hist. Nat.VI. xxi. 4-5.
Of the Ancient History of the Indians.
For the Indians stand almost alone among the nations in never having migrated from
their own country. From the days of Father Bacchus to Alexander the Great, their kings
are reckoned at 154, whose reigns extend over 6451 years and 3 months.
Solin. 52. 5.
Father Bacchus was the first who invaded India, and was the first of all who
triumphed over the vanquished Indians. From him to Alexander the Great 6451 years are
reckoned with 3 months additional, the calculation being made by counting the, kings
who reigned in the intermediate period, to the number of 153.
Arr. VII. ii. 3-9.
Of Kalanos and Mandanis.
This shows that Alexander, notwithstanding the terrible ascendancy which the
passion for glory had acquired over him, was not altogether without a perception of the
things that are better; for when he arrived at Taxila and saw the Indian gymnosophists, a
desire seized him to have one of these men brought into his presence, because he admired
their endurance. The eldest of these sophists, with whom the others lived as disciples with
a master, Dandamis by name, not only refused to go himself, but prevented the others
going. He is said to have returned this for answer, that he also was the son of Zeus as
much as Alexander himself was, and that he wanted nothing that was Alexander’s (for he
was well off in his present circumstances), whereas he saw those who were with him
wandering over so much sea and land for no good got by it, and without any end coming
to their many wanderings. He coveted, therefore, nothing Alexander had it in his power
to give, nor, on the other hand, feared aught he could do to coerce him: for if he lived,
India would suffice for him, yielding him her fruits in due season, and if he died, he
would be delivered from his ill-assorted companion the body. Alexander accordingly did
not put forth his hand to violence, knowing the man to be of an independent spirit. He is
said, however, to have won over Kalanos, one of the sophists of that place, whom
Megasthenes represents as a man utterly wanting in self-control, while the sophists
themselves spoke opprobriously of Kalanos, because that, having left the happiness
enjoyed among them, he went to serve another master than God.
Aelian, Hist. Anim. XII. 8.
(Conf. Fragm. xxxvi. 10, xxxvii. 10.)
The elephant when feeding at large ordinarily drinks water, but when undergoing the
fatigues of war is allowed wine,–not that sort, however, which comes from the grape, but
another which is prepared from rice. The attendants even go in advance of their elephants
and gather them flowers; for they are very fond of sweet perfumes, and they are
accordingly taken out to the meadows, there to be trained under the influence of the
sweetest fragrance. The animal selects the flowers according to their smell, and throws
them as they are gathered into a basket which is held out by the trainer. This being filled,
and harvest-work, so to speak, completed, he then bathes, and enjoys his bath with all the
zest of a consummate voluptuary. On returning from bathing he is impatient to have his
flowers, and if there is delay in bringing them he begins roaring, and will not taste a
morsel of food till all the flowers he gathered are placed before him. This done, he takes
the flowers out of the basket with his trunk and scatters them over the edge of his manger,
and makes by this device their fine scent be, as it were, a relish to his food. He strews
also a good quantity of them as litter over his stall, for he loves to have his sleep made
sweet and pleasant.
The Indian elephants were nine cubits in height and five in breadth. The largest
elephants in all the land were those called the Praisian, and next to these the Taxilan.
Aelian, Hist. Anim. III. 46.
Of a White Elephant.
(Cf. Fragm. xxxvi. 11, xxxvii. 11.)
An Indian elephant-trainer fell in with a white elephant-calf, which he brought when
still quite young to his home, where he reared it, and gradually made it quite tame and
rode upon it. He became much attached to the creature, which loved him in return, and by
its affection requited him for its maintenance. Now the king of the Indians, having heard
of this elephant, wanted to take it; but the owner, jealous of the love it had for him, and
grieving much, no doubt, to think that another should become its master, refused to give
it away, and made off at once to the desert mounted on his favourite. The king was
enraged at this, and sent men in pursuit, with orders to seize the elephant, and at the same
time to bring back the Indian for punishment. Overtaking the fugitive they attempted to
execute their purpose, but he resisted and attacked his assailants from the back of the
elephant, which in the affray fought on the side of its injured master. Such was the state
of matters at the first, but afterwards, when the Indian on being wounded slipped down to
the ground, the elephant, true to his salt, bestrides him as soldiers in battle bestride a
fallen comrade, whom they cover with their shields, kills many of the assailants, and puts
the rest to flight. Then twining his trunk around his rearer he lifted him on to his back,
and carried him home to the stall, and remained with him like a faithful friend with his
friend, and showed him every kind attention. [0 men! how base are ye! ever dancing
merrily when ye hear the music of the frying-pan, ever revelling in the banquet, but
traitors in the hour of danger, and vainly and for nought sullying the sacred name of
Pseudo-Orign, Philosoph. 24, ed. Delarue, Paris,
1733, vol. I. p. 904.
Of the Brahmans and their Philosophy
(Cf. Fragm. Xli, xliv, xlv.)
Of the Brachhmans in India.
There is among the Brachhmans in India a sect of philosophers who adopt an
independent life, and abstain from animal food and all victuals cooked by fire, being
content to subsist upon fruits, which they do not so much as gather from the trees, but
pick up when they have dropped to the ground, and their drink is the water of the river
Tagabena. Throughout life they go about naked, saying that the body has been given by
the Deity as a covering for the soul. They hold that God is light, but not such light as we
see with the eye, nor such as the sun or fire, but God is with them the Word,–by which
term they do not mean articulate speech, but the discourse of reason, whereby the hidden
mysteries of knowledge are discerned by the wise. This light, however, which they call
the Word, and think to be God, is, they say, known only by the Brachhmans themselves,
because they alone have discarded vanity, which is the outermost covering of the soul.
The members of this sect regard death with contemptuous indifference, and, as we have
seen already, they always pronounce the name of the Deity with a tone of peculiar
reverence, and adore him with hymns. They neither have wives nor beget children.
Persons who desire to lead a life like theirs cross over from the other side of the river, and
remain with them for good, never returning to their own country. These also are called
Brachhmans, although they do not follow the same mode of life, for there are women in
the country, from whom the native inhabitants are sprung, and of these women they beget
offspring. With regard to the Word, which they call God, they hold that it is corporeal,
and that it wears the body as its external covering, just as one wears the woollen surcoat,
and that when it divests itself of the body with which it is enwrapped it becomes manifest
to the eye. There is war, the Brachhmans hold, in the body where with they are clothed,
and they regard the body as being the fruitful source of wars, and, as we have already
shown, fight against it like soldiers in battle contending against the enemy. They
maintain, moreover, that all men are held in bondage, like prisoners of war, to their own
innate enemies, the sensual appetites, gluttony, anger, joy, grief, longing desire, and such
like, while it is only the man who has triumphed over these enemies who goes to God.
Dandamis accordingly, to whom Alexander the Makedonian paid a visit, is spoken of by
the Brachhmans as a god because he conquered in the warfare against the body, and on
the other hand they condemn Kalanos as one who had impiously apostatized from their
philosophy. The Brachhmans, therefore, when the have shuffled off the body, see the
pure sunlight as fish see it, when they spring up out of the water into the air.
Pallad. de Bragmanibus, pp. 8, 20 et seq. ed. Londin. 1668.
(Camerar. libell. gnomolog. pp., 116, 124 et seq.)
Of Kalanos and Mandanis.
(Cf. Fragm. x1i. 19, x1iv. x1v.)
They (the Bragmanes) subsist upon such fruits as they can find, and on wild herbs,
which the earth spontaneously produces, and drink only water. They wander about in the
woods, and sleep at night on pallets of the leaves of
“Kalanos, then, your false friend, held this opinion, but be is despised and trodden
upon by us. By you, however, accomplice as he was in causing many evils to you all, he
is honoured and worshipped, while from our society he has been contemptuously cast out
as unprofitable. And why not? when everything which we trample under foot is an object
of admiration to the lucre-loving Kalanos, your worthless friend, but no friend of ours, a
miserable creature, and more to be pitied than the unhappiest wretch, for by setting his
heart on lucre he wrought the perdition of his soul! Hence he seemed neither worthy of
us, nor worthy of the friendship of God, and hence he neither was content to revel away
life in the woods beyond all reach of care, nor was be cheered with the hope of a blessed
hereafter: for by his love of money he slew the very life of his miserable soul.
“We have, however, amongst us a sage called Dandamis whose home is in the
woods, where he lies on a pallet of leaves, and where he has nigh at hand the fountain of
peace, whereof he drinks, sucking, as it were, the pure breast of a mother. King
Alexander, accordingly, when he heard of all this, was desirous of learning the doctrines
of the sect, and so he sent for this Dandaamis, as being their teacher and president.
“Onesikrates was therefore despatched to fetch him, and when he found the great
sage he said, “Hail to thee, thou teacher of the Bragmanes. The son of the mighty god
Zeus, king Alexander, who is the sovereign lord of all men, asks you to go to him, and if
you comply, he will reward you with great and splendid gifts, but if you refuse will cut
off your head.”
Dandamis, with a complacent smile, heard him to the end, but did not so much as lift
up his head from his couch of leaves, and while still retaining his recumbent attitude
returned this scornful answer:–“God, the supreme king, is never the author of insolent
wrong, but is the creator of light, of peace, of life, of water, of the body of man, and of
souls, and these he receives when death sets them free, being in no way subject to evil
desire. He alone is the god of my homage, who abhors slaughter and instigates no wars.
But Alexander is not God, since he must taste of death; and how can such as he be the
world’s master, who has not yet reached the further shore of the river Tiberoboas, and has
not yet seated himself on a throne of universal dominion? Moreover, Alexander has
neither as yet entered living into Hades, nor does he know the course of the sun through
the central regions of the earth, while the nations on its boundaries have not so much as
heard his, name. If his present dominions are not capacious enough for his desire, let him
cross the Ganges river, and he will find a region able to sustain men if the country on our
side be too narrow to hold him. Know this, however, that what Alexander offers me, and
the gifts he promises, are all things to me utterly useless; but the things which I prize, and
find of real use and worth, are these leaves which are my house, these blooming plants
which supply me with dainty food and the water which is my drink, while all other
possessions and things, which are amassed with anxious care, are wont to prove ruinous
to those who amass them, and cause only- sorrow and vexation, with which every poor
mortal is fully fraught. But as for me, I lie upon the forest leaves, and, having nothing
which requires guarding, close my eyes in tranquil slumber; whereas had I gold to guard,
that would banish sleep. The earth supplies me with everything, even as a mother her
child with milk. I go wherever I please, and there are no cares with which I am forced to
cumber myself, against my will. Should Alexander cut off my head, he cannot also
destroy my soul. My head alone, now silent, will remain, but the soul will go away to its
Master, leaving the body like a torn garment upon the earth, whence also it was taken. I
then, becoming spirit, shall ascend to my God, who enclosed us in flesh, and left us upon
the earth to prove whether when here below we shall live obedient to his ordinances, and
who also will require of us, when we depart hence to his presence, an account of our life,
since he is judge of all proud wrong-doing; for the groans of the oppressed become the
punishments of the oppressors.
Let Alexander, then, terrify with these threats those who wish for gold and for
wealth, and who dread death, for against as these weapons are both alike powerless, since
the Bragmanes neither love gold nor fear death. Go, then, and tell Alexander this:
Dandamis has no need of aught that is yours, and therefore will not go to you, but if you
want anything from Dandamis come you to him.”
Alexander, on receiving from Onesikrates a report of the interview, felt a stronger
desire than ever to see Dandamis, who, though old and naked, was the only antagonist in
whom he, the conqueror of many nations, had found more than his match.
FRAGM. LV. B.
Ambrosius, De Moribus Brachmanorum, pp. 62, 68 et seq. ed. Pallad. Londin. 1668.
Of Calanus and Mandanis.
They (the Brachmans) eat what they find on the ground, such as leaves, of trees and
wild herbs, like cattle.
Calanus is your friend, but he is despised and trodden upon by us. He, then, who was
the author of many evils among you, is honoured and worshipped by you; but since he is
of no importance he is rejected by us, and those things we certainly do not seek, please
Calanus because of his greediness for money. But he was not ours, a man such as has
miserably injured and lost his soul, on which account he is plainly unworthy to be a
friend either of God or of ours nor has he deserved security among the woods in this
world, nor can he hope for the glory which is promised in the future.
When the emperor Alexander came to the forests, he was not able to see Dandamis
as he passed through.
When, therefore, the above-mentioned messenger came to Dandamis, he addressed
“The emperor Alexander, the son of the great Jupiter, who is lord of the human race,
has ordered, that you should hasten to him, for if you come, he will give you many gifts,
but if you refuse he will behead you as a punishment for your contempt.”
When these words came to the ears of Dandamis, he rose not from his leaves
whereon he lay, but reclining and smiling he replied in this way:–“The greatest God,” he
said, “can do injury to no one, but restores again the light of life to those who have
departed. Accordingly he alone is my lord who forbids murder and excites no wars. But
Alexander is no God, for he himself will have to die. How, then, can he be the lord of all,
who has not yet crossed the river Tyberoboas, nor has made the whole world his abode,
nor crossed the zone of Gades, nor has beheld the course of the sun in the centre of the
world? Therefore many nations do not yet even know his name. If, however, the country
he possesses cannot contain him, let him cross our river and he will find a soil which is
able to support men. All those things Alexander promises would be useless to me if he
gave them: I have leaves for a house, live on the herbs at hand and water to drink; other
things collected with labour, and which perish and yield nothing but sorrow to those
seeking them or possessing them, these I despise. I therefore now rest secure, and with
closed eyes I care for nothing. If I wish to keep gold, I destroy my sleep; Earth supplies
me with everything, as a mother does to her child. Wherever I wish to go, I proceed
wherever I do not wish to be, no necessity of care can force me to go. And if he wish to
cut off my head, he cannot take my soul; he will only take the fallen head, but the
departing soul will leave the head like a portion of some garment, and will restore it to
whence it received it, namely, to the earth. But when I shall have become a spirit I shall
ascend to God, who has enclosed it within this flesh. When he did this he wished to try
us, how, after leaving him, we would live in this world. And afterwards, when we shall
have returned to him, he will demand from us an account of this life. Standing by him I
shall see my injury, and shall contemplate his judgment on those who injured me: for the
sighs and groans of the injured become the punishments of the oppressors. Let Alexander
threaten with this them that desire riches or fear death, both of which I despise. For
Brachmans neither love gold nor dread death. Go, therefore, and tell Alexander this:–
‘Dandamis seeks nothing of yours, but if you think you need something of his, disdain
not to go to him.’”
When Alexander heard these words through the interpreter, he wished the more to
see such a man, since he, who had subdued many nations, was overcome by an old naked
Plin. Hist. Nat. VI. 21. 8-23. 11.
List of the Indian Races.
The other journeys made thence (from the Hyphasis) for Seleukos Nikator are as
follows:–168 miles to the Hesidrus, and to the river Jomanes as many (some copies add 5
miles); from thence to the Ganges 112 miles, 9 miles to Rhodopha (others give 325 miles
for this distance).
To the town Kalinipaxa 167-500. Others give 263 miles. Thence to the confluence
of the Jamanes and Ganges 625 miles (many add 13 miles), and to the town Palimbothra
425. To the mouth of the Ganges 738 miles.
The races which we may enumerate without being tedious, from the chain of
Emodus, of which a spur is called Imaus (meaning in the native tongue snowy), are the
Isari, Cosyri, Izgi, and on the hills the Chisiotosagi, and the Brachmauae, a name
comprising many tribes, among which are the Maccocalingae. The river Prinas and the
Cainas (which flows into the Ganges) are both navigable. The tribes called Calingae are
nearest the sea, and higher up are the Mandei, and the Malli in whose, country is Mount
Mallus, the boundary of all that district being the Ganges.
(22.) This river, according to some, rises from uncertain sources, like the Nile, and
inundates similarly the countries lying along its course; others say that it rises on the
Skythian mountains, and has nineteen tributaries, of which, besides those already
mentioned, the Condochates, Erannoboas, Cosoagus, and Sonus are navigable. Others
again assert that it issues forth at once with loud roar from its fountain, and after tumbling
down a steep and rocky channel is received immediately on reaching the level plains into
a lake, whence it flows out with a gentle current, being at the narrowest eight miles, and
on the average a hundred stadia in breadth, and never of less depth than twenty paces
(one hundred feet) in the final part of its course, which is through the country of the
Gangarides. The royal city of the Calingae is called Parthalis. Over their king 60,000
foot-soldiers, 1,000 horsemen, 700 elephants keep watch and ward in “procinct of war.”
For among the more civilized Indian communities life is spent in a great variety of
separate occupations. Some till the soil, some are soldiers, some traders; the noblest and
richest take part in the direction of state affairs, administer justice, and sit in council with
the kings. A fifth class devotes itself to the philosophy prevalent in the country, which
almost assumes the form of a religion, and the members always put an end to their life by
a voluntary death on a burning funeral pile. In addition to these classes there is one halfwild,
which is constantly engaged in a task of immense labour, beyond the power of
words to describe–that of hunting and taming elephants. They employ these animals in
ploughing and for riding on, and regard them as forming the main part of their stock in
cattle. They employ them in war and in fighting for their country. In choosing them for
war, regard is had to their age, strength, and size.
There is a very large island in the Ganges which is inhabited by a single tribe
Modogalingae. Beyond are situated the Modubae, Molindae, the Uberae with a handsome
town of the same name, the Galmodroesi, Preti, Calissae, Sasuri, Passalae, Colubae,
Orxulae, Abali, Taluctae. The king of these keeps under arms 50,000 foot-soldiers, 4,000
cavalry, and 400 elephants. Next come the Andarae, a still more powerful race, which
possesses numerous villages, and thirty towns defended by walls and towers, and which
supplies its king with an army of 100,000 infantry, 2,000 cavalry, and 1,000 elephants.
Gold is very abundant among the Dardae, and silver among the Setae.
But the Prasii surpass in power and glory every other people, not only in this
quarter, but one may say in all India, their capital Palibothra, a very large and wealthy
city, after which some call the people itself the Palibothri,–nay even the whole tract
along the Ganges. Their king has in his pay a standing army of 600,000 foot-soldiers,
30,000 cavalry, and 9,000 elephants: whence may be formed some conjecture as to the
vastness of his resources.
After these, but more inland, are the Monedes and Suari, in whose country is Mount
Maleus, on which shadows fall towards the north in winter, and towards the south in
summer, for six months alternately. Baeton asserts that the north pole in these parts is
seen but once in the year, and only for fifteen days; while Megasthenes says that the same
thing happens in many parts of India. The south pole is called by the Indians Dramasa.
The river Jomanes flows through the Palibothri into the Ganges between the towns
Methora and Carisobora. In the parts which lie southward from the Ganges the
inhabitants, already swarthy, are deeply coloured by the sun, though not scorched black
like the Ethiopians. The nearer they approach the Indus the more plainly does their
complexion betray the influence of the sun.
The Indus skirts the frontiers of the Prasii, whose mountain tracts are said to be
inhabited by the Pygmies. Artemidorus sets down the distance between the two rivers at
(23.) The Indus, called by the inhabitants Sindus, rising on that spur of Mount
Caucasus which is called Paropamisus, from sources fronting the sunrise, receives also
itself nineteen rivers, of which the most famous are the Hydaspes, which has four
tributaries; the Cantabra, which has three; the Acesines and the Hypasis, which are both
navigable; but nevertheless, having no very great supply of water, it is nowhere broader
than fifty stadia, or deeper than fifteen paces. It forms an extremely large island, which is
called Prasiane, and a smaller one, called Patale. Its stream, which is navigable, by the
lowest estimates, for 1,240 miles, turns westward as if following more or less closely the
course of the sun, and then falls into the ocean. The measure of the coast line from the
mouth of the Ganges to this river I shall set down as it is generally given, though none of
the computations agree with each other. From the mouth of the Ganges to Cape Calingon
and the town of Dandagula 625 miles; to Tropina 1,225; to the cape of Perimula, where
there is the greatest emporium of trade in India, 750 miles; to the town in the island of
Patala mentioned above, 620 miles.
The hill-tribes between the Indus and the Iomanes are the Cesi; the Cetriboni, who
live in the woods; then the Megallae, whose king is master of five hundred elephants and
an army of horse and foot of unknown strength; the Chrysei, the Parasangae, and the
Asange, where tigers abound, noted for their ferocity. The force under arms consists of
30,000 foot, 300 elephants, and 800 horse. These are shut in by the Indus, and are
surrounded by a circle of mountains and deserts over a space, of 625 miles. Below the
deserts are the Dari, the Surae, then deserts again for 187 miles, these deserts encircling
the fertile tracts just as the sea encircles islands. Below these deserts we find the
Maltecorae, Singhae, Marohae, Rarungae, Moruni. These inhabit the hills which in an
unbroken chain run parallel to the shores of the ocean. They are free and have no kings,
and occupy the mountain heights, whereon they have built many cities. Next follow the
Narae, enclosed by the loftiest of Indian mountains, Capitalia. The inhabitants on the
other side of this mountain work extensive mines of gold and silver. Next are the
Oraturae, whose king has only ten elephants, though he has a very strong force of
infantry. Next again are the Varetatae, subject to a king, who keep no elephants, but trust
entirely to their horse and foot. Then the Odomoboerae; the Salabastrae; the Horatae,
who have a fine city, defended by marshes which serve as a ditch, wherein crocodiles are
kept, which, having a great avidity for human flesh, prevent all access to the city except
by a bridge. And another city of theirs is much admired–Automela, which, being seated
on the coast at the confluence of five rivers, is a noble emporium of trade. The king is
master of 1,600 elephants, 150,000 foot, and 5,000 cavalry. The poorer king of the
Charmae has but sixty elephants, and his force otherwise is insignificant. Next come the
Pandae, the only race in India ruled by women. They say that Hercules having but one
daughter, who was on that account all the more beloved, endowed her with a noble
kingdom. Her descendants rule over 300 cities, and command an army of 150,000 foot
and 500 elephants. Next, with 300 cities, the Syrieni, Derangae, Posingae, Buzae,
Gogiarei, Umbrae, Nereae, Brancosi, Nobundae, Cocondae, Nesei, Pedatrirae,
Solobriasae, Olostrae, who adjoin the island Patale, from the furthest shore of which to
the Caspian gates the distance is said to be 1,925 miles.
Then next to these towards the Indus come, in an order which is easy to follow, the
Amatae, Bolingae, Gallitalutae, Dimuri, Megari, Ordabae, Mese; after these the Uri and
Sileni. Immediately beyond come deserts extending for 250 miles. These being passed,
we come to the Organagae, Abaortae, Sibarae, Suertae, and after these to deserts as
extensive as the former. Then come the Sarophages, Sorgae, Baraomatae, and the
Umbrittae, who consist of twelve tribes, each possessing two cities, and the Aseni, who
possess three cities. Their capital is Bucephala, built where Alexander’s famous horse of
that name was buried. Hillmen follow next, inhabiting the base of Caucasus, the
Soleadae, and the Sondrae; and if we cross to the other side of the Indus and follow its
course downward we meet the Samarabriae, Sambruceni, Bisambritae, Osii, Antixeni,
and the Taxillae with a famous city. Then succeeds a level tract of country known by the
general name of Amanda, whereof the tribes are four in number the Peucolaitae,
Arsagalitae, Geretae, Asoi.
Many writers, however, do not give the river Indus as the western boundary of India,
but include within it four satrapies,–the Gedrosi, Arachotae, Arii, Paropamisadae,
making the river Cophes its furthest limit; though others prefer to consider all these as
belonging to the Arii.
Many writers further include in India even the city Nysa and Mount Merus, sacred
to Father Bacchus, whence the origin of the fable that he sprang from the thigh of Jupiter.
They include also the Astacani, in whose country the vine grows abundantly, and the
laurel, and boxwood, and every kind of fruit-tree found in Greece. The remarkable and
almost fabulous accounts which are current regarding the fertility of its soil, and the
nature of its fruits and trees, its beasts and birds and other animals, will be set down each
in its own place in other parts of this work. A little further on I shall speak of the
satrapies, but the island of Taprobane requires my immediate attention.
But before we come to this island there are others, one being Patale, which, as we
have indicated, lies at the mouth of the Indus, triangular in shape, and 220 miles in
breadth. Beyond the mouth of the Indus are Chryse and Argyre, rich, as I believe, in
metals. For I cannot readily believe, what is asserted by some writers, that their soil is
impregnated with gold and silver. At a distance of twenty miles from these lies Crocala,
from which, at a distance of twelve miles, is Bigaba, which abounds with oysters and
other shell-fish. Next comes Toralliba, nine miles distant from the last-named island,
beside many others unworthy of note.
FRAGM. LVI. B.
Solin. 52. 6-17.
Catalogue of Indian Races.
The greatest rivers of India are the Ganges and Indus, and of these some assert that
the Ganges rises from uncertain sources and inundates the country in the manner of the
Nile, while others incline to think that it rises in the Scythian mountains. [The Hypanisis
is also there, a very noble river, which formed the limit of Alexander’s march, as the
altars erected on its banks prove.] The least breadth of the Ganges is eight miles, and its
greatest twenty. Its depth where it is shallowest is fully a hundred feet. The people who
live in the furthest-off part are the Gangarides, whose king possesses 1,000 horse, 700
elephants, and 60,000 foot in apparatus of war.
Of the Indians some cultivate the soil, very many follow war, and others trade. The
noblest and richest manage public affairs, administer justice, and sit in council with the
kings. There exists also a fifth class, consisting of those most eminent for their wisdom,
who, when sated with life, seek death by mounting a burning funeral pile. Those,
however, who have become the devotees of a sterner sect, and pass their life in the
woods, hunt elephants, which, when made quite tame and docile, they use for ploughing
and for riding on.
In the Ganges there is an island extremely populous, occupied by a very powerful
nation whose king keeps under arms 50,000 foot and 4,000 horse. In fact no one invested
with kingly power ever keeps on foot a military force without a very great number of
elephants and foot and cavalry.
The Prasian nation, which is extremely powerful, inhabits a city called Palibotra,
whence some call the nation itself the Palibotri. Their king keeps in his pay at all times
60,000 foot, 30,000 horse, and 8,000 elephants.
Beyond Palibotra is Mount Maleus, on which shadows in winter fall towards the
north, in summer towards the south, for six months alternately. In that region the Bears
are seen but once a year, and not for more than fifteen days, as Beton informs us, who
allows that this happens in many parts of India. Those living near the river Indus in the
regions that turn southward are scorched more than others by the heat, and at last the
complexion of the people is visibly affected by the great power of the sun. The mountains
are inhabited by the Pygmies.
But those who live near the sea have no kings.. The Pandaean nation is governed by
females, and their first queen is said to have been the daughter of Hercules. The city Nysa
is assigned to this region, as is also the mountain sacred to Jupiter, Meros by name, in a
cave on which the ancient Indians affirm Father Bacchus was nourished; while the name
has given rise to the well known fantastic story that Bacchus was born from the thigh of
his father. Beyond the mouth of the Indus are two islands, Chryse and Argyre, which
yield such an abundant supply of metals that many writers allege their soils consist of
gold and of silver.
Polyaen. Strateg. I. 1. 1-3.
(Cf. Epit. 25 et seq.)
Dionysos, in his expedition against the Indians, in order that the cities might receive
him willingly, disguised the arms with which he had equipped his troops, and made them
wear soft raiment and fawn-skins. The spears were wrapped round with ivy, and the
thyrsus had a sharp point. He gave the signal for battle by cymbals and drums instead of
the trumpet, and by regaling the enemy with wine diverted their thoughts from war to
dancing. These and all other Bacchic orgies were employed in the system of warfare by
which he subjugated the Indians and all the rest of Asia.
Dionysos, in the course of his Indian campaign, seeing that his army could not
endure the fiery heat of the air, took forcible possession of the three-peaked mountain of
India. Of these peaks, one is called Korasibie, another Kondaske, but to the third he
himself gave the name of Meros, in remembrance of his birth. Thereon were many
fountains of water sweet to drink, game in great plenty, tree-fruits in unsparing profusion,
and snows which gave new vigour to the frame. The troops quartered there made a
sudden descent upon the barbarians of the plain, whom they easily routed, since they
attacked them with missiles from a commanding position on the heights above.
[Dionysos, after conquering the Indians, invaded Baktria, taking with him as
auxiliaries the Indians and Amazons. That country has for its boundary the river
Saranges. The Baktrians seized the mountains overhanging that river with a view to
attack Dionysos, in crossing it from a post of advantage. He, however, having encamped
along the river, ordered the Amazons and the Bakkhai to cross it, in order that the
Baktrians, in their contempt for women, might be induced to come down from the
heights. The women then assayed to cross the stream, and the enemy came downhill, and
advancing to the river endeavoured to beat them back. The women then retreated, and the
Baktrians pursued them as far as the bank; then Dionysos, coming to the rescue with his
men, slew the Baktrians, who were impeded from fighting by the current, and he crossed
the river in safety.
Polyaen. Strateg. I. 3. 4.
Of Hercules and Pandaea.
(Cf. Fragm. L. 15.)
Herakles begat a daughter in India whom he called Pandaia. To her he assigned that
portion of India which lies to southward and extends to the sea, while he distributed the
people subject to her rule into 365 villages, giving orders that one village should each day
bring to the treasury the royal tribute, so that the queen might always have the assistance
of those men whose turn it was to pay the tribute in coercing those who for the time being
were defaulters in their payments.
Of the Beasts of India.
Aelian, Hist. Anim. XVI. 2-22.
(2.) In India I learn that there are to be found the birds called parrots; and though I
have no doubt, already mentioned them, yet what I omitted to state previously regarding
them may now with great propriety be here set down. There are, I am informed, three
species of them, and all these, if taught to speak, as children are taught, become as
talkative as children, and speak with human voice; but in the woods they utter a bird-like
scream, and neither send out any distinct and musical notes, nor being wild and untaught
are able to talk. There are also peacocks in India, the largest anywhere met with, and
pale-green ringdoves. One who is not well-versed in bird-lore seeing these for the first
time, would take them to be parrots, and not pigeons. In the colour of the bill and legs
they resemble Greek partridges. There are also cocks, which are of extraordinary size,
and have their crests not red as elsewhere, or at least in our country, but have the flowerlike
coronals of which the crest is formed variously coloured. Their rump feathers, again,
are neither curved nor wreathed, but are of great breadth, and they trail them in the way
peacocks trail their tails, when they neither straighten nor erect them: the feathers of these
Indian cocks are in colour golden, and also dark-blue like the smaragdus.
(3.) There is found in India also another remarkable bird. This is of the size of a
starling and is parti-coloured, and is trained to utter the sounds of human speech. It is
even more talkative than the parrot, and of greater natural cleverness. So far is it from
submitting with pleasure to be fed by man, that it rather has such a pining for freedom,
and such a longing to warble at will in the society of its mates, that it prefers starvation to
slavery with sumptuous fare. It is called by the Makedonians who settled among the
Indians in the city of Boukephala and its neighbourhood, and in the city called Kuropolis,
and others which Alexander the son of Philip built, the Kerkion. This name had, I
believe, its origin in the fact that the bird wags its tail in the same way as the waterousels.
(4.) I learn further that in India there is a bird called the Kelas, which is thrice the
size of the bustard, and has a bill of prodigious size and long legs. It is furnished also
with an immense crop resembling a leather pouch. The cry which it utters is peculiarly
discordant. The plumage is ash-coloured, except that the feathers at their tips are tinted
with a pale yellow.
(5.) I bear also that the Indian hoopoe is double the size of ours, and more beautiful
in appearance, and Homer says that while the bridle and trappings of a horse are the
delight of a Hellenic king, this hoopoe is the favourite plaything of the king of the
Indians, who carries it on his hand, and toys with it, and never tires gazing in ecstasy on
its splendour, and the beauty with which Nature has adorned it. The, Brachmanes,
therefore, even make this particular bird the subject of a mythic story, and the tale told of
it runs thus:–To the king of the Indians there was born a son. The child had elder
brothers, who when they came to man’s estate turned out to be very unjust and the
greatest of reprobates. They despised their brother because he was the youngest; and they
scoffed also at their father and their mother, whom they despised because they were very
old and grey-haired. The boy, accordingly, and his aged parents could at last no longer
live with these wicked men, and away they fled from home, all three together. In the
course of the protracted journey which they had then to undergo, the old people
succumbed to fatigue and died, and the boy showed them no light regard, but buried them
in himself, having cut off his head with a sword. Then, as the Brachmanes tell us, the allseeing
sun, in admiration of this surpassing act of piety, transformed the boy into a bird
which is most beautiful to behold, and which lives to a very advanced age. So on his head
there grew up a crest which was, as it were, a memorial of what he had done at the time
of his flight. The Athenians have also related, in a fable, marvels somewhat similar of the
crested lark; and this fable Aristophanes, the comic poet, appears to me to have followed
when he says in the Birds, “For thou wert ignorant, and not always bustling, nor always
thumbing Aesop, who spake of the crested lark, calling it the first of all birds, born before
ever the earth was; and telling how afterwards her father became sick and died, and how
that, as the earth did not then exist, he lay unburied till the fifth day, when his daughter,
unable to find a grave elsewhere, dug one for him in her own head.”
It seems, accordingly, probable that the fable, though with a different bird for its
subject, emanated from the Indians, and spread onward even to the Greeks. For the
Brachmanes say that a prodigious time has elapsed since the Indian hoopoe, then in
human form and young in years, performed that act of piety to its parents.
(6.) In India there is an animal closely resembling in appearance the land crocodile,
and somewhere about the size of a little Maltese dog. It is covered all over with a scaly
skin so rough altogether and compact that when flayed off it is used by the Indians as a
file. It cuts through brass and eats iron. They call it the phattages (pangolin or scaly anteater)
. . . . . . .
(8.) The Indian sea breeds sea-snakes which have broad tails, and the lakes breed
hydras of immense size, but these sea-snakes appear to inflict a bite more sharp than
(9.) In India there are herds of wild horses, and also of wild asses. They say that the
mares submit to be covered by the asses, and enjoy such coition, and breed mules, which
are of a reddish colour and very fleet, but impatient of the yoke and otherwise skittish.
They say that they catch these mules with foot-traps, and then take them to the king of the
Prasians, and that if they are caught when two years old they do not refuse to be broken
in, but if caught when beyond that age they differ in no respect from sharp-toothed and
(FRAGM. XII. B follows here.)
There is found in India (a graminivorous animal which is double the size of a horse,
and which has a very bushy tail purely black in colour. The hair of this tail is finer than
human hair, and its possession is a point on which Indian women set great store, for
therewith they make a charming coiffure, by binding and braiding it with the locks of
their own natural hair. The length of a hair is two cubits, and from a single root there
sprout out, in the form of a fringe, somewhere about thirty hairs. The animal itself is the
most timid that is known, for should it perceive that any one is looking at it, it starts off at
its utmost speed, and runs right forward,–but its eagerness to escape is greater than the
rapidity of its pace. It is hunted with horses and hounds good to run. When it sees that it
is on the point of being caught, it hides its tail in some near thicket, while it stands at bay
facing its pursuers, whom it watches narrowly. It even plucks up courage in a way, and
thinks that since its tail is hid from view the hunters will not care to capture it, for it
knows that its tail is the great object of attraction. But it finds this to be, of course, a vain
delusion, for some one hits it with a poisoned dart, who then flays off the entire skin (for
this is of value) and throws away the carcase, as the Indians make no use of any part of its
(12.) But further: whales are to be found in the Indian Sea, and these five times
larger than the largest elephant. A rib of this monstrous fish measures as much as twenty
cubits, and its lip fifteen cubits. The fins near the gills are each of them so much as seven
cubits in breadth. The shell-fish called Kerukes are also met with, and the purple fish of a
size that would admit it easily into a gallon measure, while on the other hand the shell of
the sea-urchin is large enough to cover completely a measure of that size. But fish in
India attain enormous dimensions, especially the sea-wolves, the thunnies, and the
golden-eyebrows. I bear also that at the season when the rivers are swollen, and with their
full and boisterous flood deluge all the land, the fish are carried into the fields, where
they swim and wander to and fro, even in shallow water, and that when the rains which
flood the rivers cease, and the waters retiring from the land resume their natural channels,
then in the low-lying tracts and in flat and marshy grounds, where we may be sure the socalled
Nine are wont to have some watery recesses, fish even of eight cubits length are
found, which the husbandmen themselves catch as they swim about languidly on the
surface of the water, which is no longer of a depth they can freely move in, but in fact so
very shallow that it is with the utmost difficulty they can live in it at all.
(13.) The following fish are also indigenous to India:–prickly roaches, which are
never in any respect smaller than the asps of Argolis; and shrimps, which in India are
even larger than crabs. These, I must mention, finding their way from the sea up the
Ganges, have claws which are very large, and which feel rough to the touch. I have
ascertained that those shrimps which pass from the Persian Gulf into the river Indus have
their prickles smooth, and the feelers with which they are furnished elongated and
curling, but this species has no claws.
(14.) The tortoise is found in India, where it lives in the rivers. It is of immense size,
and it has a shell not smaller than a full-sized skiff, and which is capable of holding ten
meimni (120 gallons) of pulse. There are, however, also land-tortoises which may be
about as big as the largest clods turned up in a rich soil where the glebe is very yielding,
and the plough sinks deep, and, cleaving the furrows with ease, piles the clods up high.
These are said to cast their shell. Husbandmen, and all the hands engaged in field labour,
turn them up with their mattocks, and take them out just in the way one extracts woodworms
from the plants they have eaten into. They are fat things and their flesh is sweet,
having nothing of the sharp flavour of the sea-tortoise.
(15.) Intelligent animals are to be met with among ourselves, but they are few, and
not at all so common as they are in India. For there we find the elephant, which answers
to this character, and the parrot, and apes of the sphinx kind, and the creatures called
satyrs. Nor must we forget the Indian ant, which is so noted for its wisdom. The ants of
our own country do, no, doubt, dig for themselves subterranean holes and burrows, and
by boring provide themselves with lurking-places, and wear out all their strength in what
may be called mining operations, which are indescribably toilsome and conducted with
secrecy; but the Indian ants construct for themselves a cluster of tiny dwelling-houses,
seated not on sloping or level grounds where they could easily be inundated, but on steep
and lofty eminences. And in these, by boring out with untold skill certain circuitous
passages which remind one of the Egyptian burial-vaults or Cretan labyrinths, they so
contrive the structure of their houses that none of the lines run straight, and it is difficult
for anything to enter them or flow into them, the windings and perforations being so
tortuous. On the outside they leave only a single aperture to admit themselves and the
grain which they collect and carry to their store-chambers. Their object in selecting lofty
sites for their mansions is, of course, to escape the high floods and inundations of the
rivers; and they derive this advantage from their foresight, that they live as it were in so
many watch-towers or islands when the parts around the heights become all a lake.
Moreover, the mounds they live in, though placed in contiguity, so far from being
loosened and torn asunder by the deluge, are rather strengthened, especially by the
morning dew: for they put on, so to speak, a coat of ice formed from this dew-thin, no
doubt, but still of strength; while at the same time they are made more compact at their
base by weeds and bark of trees adhering, which the silt of the river has carried down. Let
so much about Indian ants be said by me now, as it was said by Iobas long ago.
(16.) In the country of the Indian Areianoi there is a subterranean chasm down in
which there are mysterious vaults, concealed ways, and thoroughfares invisible to men.
These are deep withal, and stretch to a very great distance. How they came to exist, and
how they were excavated, the Indians do not say, nor do I concern myself to inquire.
Hither the Indians bring more than thrice ten thousand head of cattle of different kinds,
sheep and goats, and oxen and horses; and every person who has been terrified by, an
ominous dream, or a warning sound or prophetic voice, or who has seen a bird of evil
augury, as a substitute for his life casts into the chasm such a victim as his private means
can afford, giving the animal as a ransom to save his soul alive. The victims conducted
thither are not led in chains nor otherwise coerced, but they go along this road willingly,
as if urged forward by some mysterious spell and as soon as they find themselves on the
verge of the chasm they voluntarily, leap in, and disappear for ever from human sight so
soon as they fall into this mysterious and viewless cavern of the earth. But above there
are heard the bellowings of oxen, the bleating of sheep, the neighing of horses, and the
plaintive cries of goats, and if any one goes near enough to the edge and closely applies
his ear he will hear afar off the sounds just mentioned. This commingled sound is one
that never ceases, for every day that passes men bring new victims to be their substitutes.
Whether the cries of the animals last brought only are beard, or the cries also of those
brought before, I know not,–all I know is that the cries are heard.
(17.) In the sea which has been mentioned they say there is a very large island, of
which, as I hear, the name is Taprobane from what I can learn, it appears to be a very
long and mountainous island, having a length of 7,000 stadia and a breadth of 5,000. It
has not, however, any cities, but only villages, of which the number amounts to 750. The
houses in which the inhabitants lodge themselves are made of wood, and sometimes also
(18.) In the sea which surrounds the islands, tortoises are bred of so vast a size that
their shells are employed to make roofs for the houses: for a shell, being fifteen cubits in
length, can hold a good many people under it, screening them from the scorching heat of
the sun, besides affording them a welcome shade. But, more than this, it is a protection
against the violence of storms of rain far more effective than tiles, for it at once shakes
off the rain that dashes against it, while those under its shelter hear the rain rattling as on
the roof of a house. At all events they do not require to shift their abode, like those whose
tiling is shattered, for the shell is hard and like a hollowed rock and the vaulted roof of a
The island, then, in the great sea, which they call Taprobane, has palm-groves,
where the trees are planted with wonderful regularity all in a row, in the way we see the
keepers of pleasure parks plant out shady trees in the choicest spots. It has also herds of
elephants, which are there very numerous and of the largest size. These island elephants
are more powerful than those of the mainland, and in appearance larger, and may be
pronounced to be in every possible way more intelligent. The islanders export them to the
mainland opposite in boats, which they construct expressly for this traffic from wood
supplied by the thickets of the island, and they dispose of their cargoes to the king of the
Kalingai. On account of the great size of the island, the inhabitants of the interior have
never seen the sea, but pass their lives as if resident on a continent, though no doubt they
learn from others that they are all around enclosed by the sea. The inhabitants, again, of
the coast have no practical acquaintance with elephant-catching, and know of it only by
report. All their energy is devoted to catching fish and the monsters of the deep; for the
sea encircling the island is reported to breed an incredible number of fish, both of the
smaller fry and of the monstrous sort, among the latter being some which have the heads
of lions and of panthers and of other wild beasts, and also of rams; and, what is still a
greater marvel, there are monsters which in all points of their shape resemble satyrs.
Others are in appearance like women, but, instead of having locks of hair, are furnished
with prickles. It is even solemnly alleged that this sea contains certain strangely formed
creatures, to represent which in a picture would baffle all the skill of the artists of the
country, even though, with a view to make a profound sensation, they are wont to paint
monsters which consist of different parts of different animals pieced together. These have
their tails and the parts which are wreathed of great length, and have for feet either claws
or fins. I learn further that they are amphibious, and by night graze on the pasture-fields,
for they eat grass like cattle and birds that pick up seeds. They have also a great liking for
the date when ripe enough to drop from the palms, and accordingly they twist their coils,
which are supple, and large enough for the purpose, around these trees, and shake them
so violently that the dates come tumbling down, and afford them a welcome repast.
Thereafter when the night begins gradually to wane, but before there is yet clear daylight,
they disappear by plunging into the sea just as the first flush of morning faintly illumines
its surface. They say whales also frequent this sea, though it is not true that they come
near the shore lying in wait for thunnies. The dolphins are reported to be of two sorts–
one fierce and armed with sharp pointed teeth, which gives endless trouble to the
fisherman, and is of a remorselessly cruel disposition, while the other kind is naturally
mild and tame, swims about in the friskiest way, and is quite like a fawning dog. It does
not run away when any one tries to stroke it, and it takes with pleasure any food it is
(19.) The sea-hare, by which I now mean the kind found in the great sea (for of the
kind found in the other sea I have already spoken), resembles in every particular the land hare except only the fur, which in the case of the land animal is soft and lies smoothly down, and does not resist the touch, whereas its brother of the sea has bristling hair which is prickly, and inflicts a wound on any one who touches it. It is said to swim atop of the
sea-ripple without ever diving below, and to be very rapid in its movements. To catch it
alive is no easy matter, as it never falls into the net, nor goes near the line and bait of the
fishing rod. When it suffers, however, from disease, and being in consequence hardly
able to swim, is cast out on shore, then if any one touches it with his hand death ensues if
he is not attended to,–nay, should one, were it only with a staff, touch this dead hare, he
is affected in the same way as those who have touched a basilisk. But a root, it is said,
grows along the coast of the island, well known to every one, which is a remedy for the
swooning which ensues. It is brought close to the nostrils of the person who has fainted,
who thereupon recovers consciousness. But should the remedy not be applied the injury
proves fatal to life, so noxious is the vigour which this hare has at its command.
FRAGM. XV. B. follows here.
(22.) There is also a race called the Skiratait whose country is beyond India. They
are snub-nosed, either because in the tender years of infancy their nostrils are pressed
down, and continue to be so throughout their after-life, or because such is the natural
shape of the organ. Serpents of enormous size are bred in their country, of which some
kinds seize the cattle when at pasture and devour them, while other kinds only suck the
blood, as do the Aigithelai in Greece, of which I have already spoken in the proper place.
From: Ancient India as Described by Megasthenes and Arrian. Translated and edited by
J. W. McCrindle. Calcutta and Bombay: Thacker, Spink, 1877, 30-174.