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Megasthenes: Wikis


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Megasthenes (Μεγασθένης, ca. 350 – 290 BC) was a Greek traveller and geographer. He was born in Asia Minor and became an ambassador of Seleucus I of Syria to the court of Sandrocottus (Chandragupta Maurya) of India, in Pataliputra. However the exact date of his embassy is uncertain. Scholars place it before 288 BC, which was the date of Chandragupta's death.

Arrian explains that Megasthenes lived in Arachosia, with the satrap Sibyrtius, from where he visited India:

"Megasthenes lived with Sibyrtius, satrap of Arachosia, and often speaks of his visiting Sandracottus, the king of the Indians." Arrian, Anabasis Alexandri [1]

We have more definite information regarding the parts of India which Megasthenes visited. He entered the country through the district of the Pentapotamia of the rivers of which he gave a full account (thought to be the five affluents of the Indus, forming the Punjab region), and proceeded from there by the royal road to Pataliputra. There are accounts of Megasthenes having visited Madurai (then, a bustling city and capital of Pandya Kingdom), but appears not to have visited any other parts of India. His observations were recorded in Indika, a work that served as an important source to many later writers such as Strabo and Arrian. He describes such features as the Himalayas and the island of Sri Lanka. He also described India's caste system.

Indian ethnic groups as described by Megasthenes
Location Races Information
from the chain of Emodus (Himalayas) are the Isari, Cosyri, Izgi (Isana, Kushana and Rishikas)
on the hills the Chisiotosagi (Type of Sakas), and the Brachmauae the Brachmauaea name comprising many tribes, among which are the Maccocalingae (Matsaya-Kalinga?)
Ganges the Mandei (Manava-deva or Manudevas's or Nandas), and the Malli (Malla), the Gangarides (Gangas or Magadha), the Calingae (Kalinga), the Prasii (Magadha or Prachya (Panchala)), the Modogalingae 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.

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. There is a very large island in the Ganges which is inhabited by a single tribe Modogalingae

Beyond these the Modubae (Moduvya or Morubas), Molindae (Murundas), the Uberae with a handsome town of the same name, the Galmodroesi (Gram-Odras) or KarMadras), Preti (Pretas), Calissae (Karusha), Sasuri, Passalae (Pashala), Colubae (Koruvya), Orxulae, Abali, Taluctae (Tamluk) The king of these keeps under arms 50,000 foot-soldiers, 4,000 cavalry, and 400 elephants
Next come the Andarae (Andhra) a 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
Next (In Mountains of Kshmira) the Dardae, the Setae Gold is very abundant among the Dardae, and silver among the Setae
Next the Prasii 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
After these, but more inland are the Monedes and Suari (Mundas and Surasena) in those country is Mount Maleus; The river Jomanes (Jamuna or Yamuna) flows through the Palibothri into the Ganges between the towns Methora and Carisobora. (Mathura and Surajpur[2])
The hill-tribes between the Indus and the Iomanes (Himalayas) the Cesi (Khasa or Kesi); the Cetriboni (Khatris), the Megallae (Meghwaras), the Chrysei (Karusha), the Parasangae (Prasangh or Upper/Larger Federation), and the Asange (A-sangha or Un-federated) the Megallae, whose king is master of five hundred elephants and an army of horse and foot of unknown strength;The force under arms consists of 30,000 foot, 300 elephants, and 800 horse the Asange, where tigers abound, noted for their ferocity
Below the deserts are the Dari (Dara Dari), the Surae (Sura or Suri), the Maltecorae, Singhae, Marohae (Maurya or Mushakas more likely), Rarungae (Laranka), Moruni (Mor or Mallani name for ancient Jodhpur) 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 the Narae (Nehra) enclosed by the loftiest of Indian mountains, Capitalia. The inhabitants on the other side of this mountain work extensive mines of gold and silver.
The inhabitants on the other side of this mountain the Oraturae whose king has only ten elephants, though he has a very strong force of infantry
Next again the Varetatae (Vijayrania) subject to a king, who keep no elephants, but trust entirely to their horse and foot
Then the Odomoboerae (Udambara); the Salabastrae (Shalapashtha); the Horatae (Saurashtra) 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 (Saran), Derangae, Posingae, Buzae, Gogiarei (Goga raya or Jogi-kingdom), 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 (Antal Amatya), Bolingae (Balyan Pullinga), Gallitalutae (Kalitalatya?), Dimuri (Dahiya or Dimri), Megari (Maukhari), Ordabae (Buria), Mese (Matsya)
after these the Uri (Uria) and Sileni Immediately beyond come deserts extending for 250 miles.
Immediately beyond come deserts extending for 250 miles. These being passed we come to the Organagae, Abaortae (Afridi), Sibarae (Sagari), Suertae (Suriara) and after these to deserts as extensive as the former.
Then come the Sarophages, Sorgae, Baraomatae, the Umbrittae, and the Aseni (Ashvayana) 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
inhabiting the base of Caucasus the Soleadae, and the Sondrae
if we cross to the other side of the Indus and follow its course downward we meet the Samarabriae, Sambruceni, Bisambritae, Osii (Asii), Antixeni, and the Taxillae (Taxila) with a famous city
Then succeeds a level tract of country known by the general name of Amanda the Peucolaitae, Arsagalitae(Asiagh), Geretae(Jat), Asoi (Asiagh) whereof the tribes are four in number
Beyond Indus four satrapies, --the Gedrosi (Gedrosia), Arachotae (Arachosia), Arii (Aria, Herat), Paropamisadae (Kabol valley) making the river Cophes its furthest limit; though others prefer to consider all these as belonging to the Arii (Aria)

See also


  1. ^ v,6
  2. ^ "Surajpur, referred to by Greek historians as Cleisobora".  

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