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Megasthenes (Ancient Greek: Μεγασθένης, ca. 350 – 290 BCE) was a Greek ethnographer and explorer in the Hellenistic period. He wrote the work Indica. He was born in Asia Minor (now Turkey).

Arrian says that Megasthenes lived in Arachosia, with the satrap Sibyrtius. He visited India from there:

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

At the beginning of his Indica, he speaks about the older Indians who know about when Dionysus and Hercules arrived in India. This story was very popular during the Alexandrian period. What he says about the religions of the Indians is important. He mentions the devotees of Heracles (Lord Krishna) and Dionysus (Lord Shiva or King Lord Indra). However, he does not mention Buddhists. This could mean that the religion was not well known before Ashoka took power.[2]

Writers like Arrian, Strabo, Diodorus and Pliny refer to Indica in their works. Arrian said the best things about Megasthenes, but Strabo and Pliny do not treat him with as much respect.

Megasthenes' Indica is the first well-known description of India by someone from the Western world.

References[change | change source]

  1. v,6
  2. Vassiliades, Demetrios, "Greeks and Buddhism Historical Contacts in the Development of a Universal religion"The Eastern Buddhist, Vol. XXXVI, No. 1 & 2, Otani University, Kyoto 2005.
  • McCrindle, J.W. (1877). Ancient India As Described By Megasthenes and Arrian. Trubner & Co., London.
  • Dahlaquist, Allan (1996). Megasthenes and Indian Religion- Volume 11 of History and Culture Series. Motilal Banarsidass Publ. p. 386. ISBN 81-208-1323-5.
  • Vassiliades, Demetrios (2000). The Greeks in India: A survey in Philosophical Understanding. New Delhi: Munshiram Manoharlal Publ. ISBN 81-215-0921-1.
  • Megasthenes (1846), E. A. Schwanbeck (ed.), Indica, Sumptibus Pleimesii, bibliopolae (Original Oxford University)

Other websites[change | change source]