Τετάρτη, 20 Ιουλίου 2016

Grecobuddhism : The history of greek culture and civilisation in the Indian subcontinent

Greco-Buddhism refers to the cultural syncretism between Hellenistic culture and Buddhism, which developed between the 4th century BC and the 5th century AD in Bactria and the Indian subcontinent, corresponding to the territories of modern-day Afghanistan, India, and Pakistan. It was a cultural consequence of a long chain of interactions begun by Greek forays into India from the time of Alexander the Great, carried further by the establishment of the Indo-Greek Kingdom and extended during the flourishing of the Kushan Empire. Buddhism was then adopted in Central and Northeastern Asia from the 1st century AD, ultimately spreading to China, Korea, Japan, Philippines, Siberia, and Vietnam. In 326 BC, Alexander conquered Northern region of India. King Ambhi of Taxila, known as Taxiles, surrendered his city, a notable Buddhist center, to Alexander. Alexander fought an epic battle against King Porus of Pauravas in the Punjab, at the Battle of the Hydaspes in 326 BC. Several philosophers, such as Pyrrho, Anaxarchus and Onesicritus, are said to have been selected by Alexander to accompany him in his eastern campaigns. During the 18 months they were in India, they were able to interact with Indian ascetics, generally described as Gymnosophists.  Pyrrho (360-270 BC) returned to Greece and became the first Skeptic and the founder of the school named Pyrrhonism. The Greek biographer Diogenes Laërtius explained that Pyrrho's equanimity and detachment from the world were acquired in India. Few of his sayings are directly known, but they are clearly reminiscent of śramanic, possibly Buddhist, thought: "Nothing really exists, but human life is governed by convention. ... Nothing is in itself more this than that". Another of these philosophers, Onesicritus, a Cynic, is said by Strabo to have learnt in India the following precepts: "That nothing that happens to a man is bad or good, opinions being merely dreams. ... That the best philosophy [is] that which liberates the mind from [both] pleasure and grief". The Indian emperor Chandragupta Maurya, founder of the Maurya Empire, re-conquered around 322 BC the northwest Indian territory that had been lost to Alexander the Great. However, contacts were kept with his Greco-Iranian neighbours in the Seleucid Empire. Emperor Seleucus I Nicator came to a marital agreement as part of a peace treaty, and several Greeks, such as the historian Megasthenes, resided at the Mauryan court. Chandragupta's grandson Ashoka embraced the Buddhist faith and became a great proselytizer in the line of the traditional Pali canon of Theravada Buddhism, insisting on non-violence to humans and animals (ahimsa), and general precepts regulating the life of lay people. According to the Edicts of Ashoka, set in stone, some of them written in Greek and some in the Achemenid script, he sent Buddhist emissaries to the Greek lands in Asia and as far as the Mediterranean. Alexander had established in Bactria several cities (Ai-Khanoum, Bagram) and an administration that were to last more than two centuries under the Seleucid Empire and the Greco-Bactrian Kingdom, all the time in direct contact with Indian territory.  The Greeks sent ambassadors to the court of the Maurya Empire, such as the historian Megasthenes under Chandragupta Maurya, and later Deimachus under his son Bindusara, who reported extensively on the civilization of the Indians. The Greco-Bactrians maintained a strong Hellenistic culture at the door of India during the rule of the Maurya Empire in India, as exemplified by the archaeological site of Ai-Khanoum. When the Maurya Empire was toppled by the Shunga Empire around 180 BC, the Greco-Bactrians expanded into India, where they established the Indo-Greek Kingdom, under which Buddhism was able to flourish. The Greco-Bactrians conquered parts of North India from 180 BC, whence they are known as the Indo-Greeks. They controlled various areas of the northern Indian territory until AD 10. Buddhism prospered under the Indo-Greek kings, and it has been suggested that their invasion of India was intended to protect the Buddhist faith from the religious persecutions of the Shungas (185–73 BC), who had overthrown the Mauryans. According to Ptolemy, Greek cities were founded by the Greco-Bactrians in northern India. Menander established his capital in Sagala (Sialkot, Punjab, Pakistan) one of the centers of the blossoming Buddhist culture. A large Greek city built by Demetrius and rebuilt by Menander has been excavated at the archaeological site of Sirkap near Taxila, where Buddhist stupas were standing side-by-side with Hindu and Greek temples, indicating religious tolerance and syncretism. The Kushan Empire, one of the five tribes of the Yuezhi, settled in Bactria around 125 BC, displacing the Greco-Bactrians and invading the northern parts of Pakistan and India from around AD 1. By that time they had already been in contact with Greek culture and the Indo-Greek kingdoms for more than a century. They used the Greek script to write their language, as exemplified by their coins and their adoption of the Greek alphabet. The absorption of Greek historical and mythological culture is suggested by Kushan sculptures representing Dionysiac scenes or even the story of the Trojan Horse and it is probable that Greek communities remained under Kushan rule. The Kushan king Kanishka, who honored Zoroastrian, Greek and Brahmanic deities as well as the Buddha and was famous for his religious syncretism, convened the Fourth Buddhist council around AD 100 in Kashmir in order to redact the Sarvastivadin canon. Some of Kanishka's coins bear the earliest representations of the Buddha on a coin (around AD 120), in Hellenistic style and with the word "Boddo" in Greek script. The Kanishka casket, dated to the first year of Kanishka's reign in AD 127, was signed by a Greek artist named Agesilas, who oversaw work at Kanishka's stupas (cetiya), confirming the direct involvement of Greeks with Buddhist realizations at such a late date. Numerous works of Greco-Buddhist art display the intermixing of Greek and Buddhist influences, around such creation centers as Gandhara. The subject matter of Gandharan art was definitely Buddhist, while most motifs were of Western Asiatic or Hellenistic origin.
The first anthropomorphic representations of the Buddha himself are often considered a result of the Greco-Buddhist interaction. Before this innovation, Buddhist art was "aniconic": the Buddha was only represented through his symbols. Many of the stylistic elements in the representations of the Buddha point to Greek influence: himation, the contrapposto stance of the upright figures (see: 1st–2nd century Gandhara standing Buddhas, the stylized curly hair and ushnisha apparently derived from the style of the Apollo Belvedere(330 BC) and the measured quality of the faces, all rendered with strong artistic realism. A large quantity of sculptures combining Buddhist and purely Hellenistic styles and iconography were excavated at the modern site of Hadda, Afghanistan. The curly hair of Buddha is described in the famous list of the physical characteristics of the Buddha in the Buddhist sutras. The hair with curls turning to the right is first described in the Pāli canon. Greek artists were most probably the authors of these early representations of the Buddha, in particular the standing statues, which display "a realistic treatment of the folds and on some even a hint of modelled volume that characterizes the best Greek work. This is Classical or Hellenistic Greek, not archaizing Greek transmitted by Persia or Bactria, nor distinctively Roman." The Greek stylistic influence on the representation of the Buddha, through its idealistic realism, also permitted a very accessible, understandable and attractive visualization of the ultimate state of enlightenment described by Buddhism,
Πηγή: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greco-Buddhism

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