Τετάρτη, 30 Μαΐου 2018

Ancient Greeks in China : The unknown history of the Greeks in Far East

The Dionysiaca is an ancient Greek epic poem and the principal work of Nonnus. It is an epic in 48 books, the longest surviving poem from antiquity at 20,426 lines, composed in Homeric dialect and dactylic hexameters, the main subject of which is the life of Greek god Dionysus, his expedition to India (3.000 BC), and his triumphant return to the west. The poem is thought to have been written in the late 4th and/or early 5th century AD. The primary models for Nonnus are Homer and the Cyclic poets; Homeric language, metrics, episodes, and descriptive canons are central to the Dionysiaca. The influence of Euripides' Bacchae is also significant, as is probably the influence of the other tragedians whose Dionysiac plays do not survive. His debt to poets whose work survives only in disjointed fragments is far harder to gauge, but it is likely that he alludes to earlier poets' treatments of the life of Dionysus, such as the lost poems by Euphorion, Peisander of Laranda's elaborate encyclopedic mythological poem, Dionysius, and Soteirichus. At Book 13 Zeus sends Iris to the halls of Rhea, ordering Dionysus to make a war against the impious Indians if he wants to join the gods on Olympus. Rhea gathers the troops for Dionysus. Catalogue of heroic troops including seven contingents from Greece and seven peripheral contingents. At Book 14 Catalogue of semi-divine troops, also gathered by Rhea for Dionysus. Dionysus sets his army in motion until they encounter the first Indian contingent, led by Astraeis. Hera deludes Astraeis to go to battle against the Bacchic troops. Maenads and satyrs massacre the Indian troops until Dionysus takes pity of them and turns the waters of the neighbouring lake Astacid. The Indians try wine for the first time. At Book 15 The Indians become drunk, fall asleep and are bound by the Dionysiac troops. At Book 16 Dionysus founds the city of Nicaea, as a double commemoration of the namesake nymph and of his first battle against the Indians. At Book 17 Dionysus travels through the east and is entertained by a shepherd, Brongus, in a country fashion. The Indians charge in and at first seem to win, but Dionysus screams like nine thousand men and detains them. Orontes and Dionysus engage in single combat: a tap of a vine cluster on Orontes' chest is enough to split his armour. Orontes plunges his sword into his own belly and throws himself into the river nearby, giving it his name (Orontes river). The Bacchic troops massacre the Indians. Astraeis flees. At Book 40 Deriades returns to battle and is confronted by Dionysus who grazes him with his thyrsus and forces him to jump into the river Hydaspes, calling the war to an end. Deriades' wife (Orsiboe) and daughters mourn him. Dionysus buries the dead, celebrates his victory and distributes spoils. Modaeus is appointed as governor of India. Dionysus travels to Tyre, admires the city, and hears the story of its founding from Heracles.
The Tocharians or Tokharians were Indo-European peoples who inhabited the medieval oasis city-states on the northern edge of the Tarim Basin (Xinjiang, China) in ancient times. The Taklamakan Desert is roughly oval in shape, about 1,000 km long and 400 km wide, surrounded on three sides by high mountains. The main part of the desert is sandy, surrounded by a belt of gravel desert. The desert is barren, but in the late spring the melting snows of the surrounding mountains feed streams, which have been altered by human activity to create oases with mild microclimates and supporting intensive agriculture. On the northern edge of the basin, these oases occur in small valleys before the gravels. On the southern edge, they occur in alluvial fans on the edge of the sand zone. Isolated alluvial fan oases also occur in the gravel deserts of the Turpan Depression to the east of the Taklamakan. The Tocharian languages, a branch of the Indo-European family, are known from manuscripts from the 6th to 8th centuries AD. The name "Tocharian" was given to them by modern scholars, who identified their speakers with a people who inhabited hellenistic Bactria from the 2nd century BC, and were known in ancient Greek sources as the Tókharoi (Tochari). The name "Tocharian" remains the most common term for the languages and their speakers. Agricultural communities first appeared in the oases of the northern Tarim circa 2000 BC. (The earliest Tarim mummies, which may not be connected to the Tocharians, date from c. 1800 BC.) Some scholars have linked these communities to the Afanasevo culture found earlier (c. 3500–2500 BC) in Siberia, north of the Tarim. By the 2nd century BC, these hellenistic settlements had developed into hellenistic city states, overshadowed by Turkic nomadic peoples to the north and Chinese empires to the east. These cities, the largest of which was Kucha, also served as way stations on the branch of the Silk Road that ran along the northern edge of the Taklamakan desert. From the 8th century AD, the Uyghurs speakers of a Turkic language from the Kingdom of Qocho (Mongolia) settled in the region. The peoples of the Tarim city states intermixed with the Uyghurs, whose Old Uyghur language spread through the region. The Tocharian languages are believed to have become extinct during the 9th century AD. The Tókharoi are often identified by modern scholars with the Yuezhi of Chinese historical accounts, who founded the Kushan Empire. The name of Kucha in Tocharian B was Kuśi, with adjectival form kuśiññe. The word may be derived from Proto-Indo-European *keuk "shining, white". The Tocharian B word akeññe may have referred to people of Agni, with a derivation meaning "borderers, marchers". One of the Tocharian A texts has ārśi-käntwā as a name for their own language, so that ārśi may have meant "Agnean", though "monk" is also possible.
The Greco-Bactrian Kingdom was along with the Indo-Greek Kingdom the easternmost part of the Hellenistic world, covering Bactria and Sogdiana in Central Asia from 250 to 125 BC. It was centered on the north of present-day Afghanistan. The expansion of the Greco-Bactrians into present-day eastern Afghanistan and Pakistan from 180 BC established the Indo-Greek Kingdom, which was to last until around 10 AD. Diodotus, the satrap of Bactria (and probably the surrounding provinces) founded the Greco-Bactrian Kingdom when he seceded from the Seleucid Empire around 250 BC and became King Diodotus I of Bactria. "Diodotus, the governor of the thousand cities of Bactria, defected and proclaimed himself king; all the other people of the Orient followed his example and seceded from the Macedonians." (Justin) The new kingdom, highly urbanized and considered as one of the richest of the Orient. "The Greeks who caused Bactria to revolt grew so powerful on account of the fertility of the country that they became masters, not only of Ariana, but also of India, as Apollodorus of Artemita says: and more tribes were subdued by them than by Alexander... Their cities were Bactra (also called Zariaspa, through which flows a river bearing the same name and emptying into the Oxus), and Darapsa, and several others. Among these was Eucratidia, which was named after its ruler." (Strabo) Euthydemus, a Magnesian Greek according to Polybius and possibly satrap of Sogdiana, overthrew the dynasty of Diodotus I around 230-220 BC and started his own dynasty. Euthydemus's control extended to Sogdiana, going beyond the city of Alexandria Eschate founded by Alexander the Great in Ferghana: "And they also held Sogdiana, situated above Bactriana towards the east between the Oxus River, which forms the boundary between the Bactrians and the Sogdians, and the Iaxartes River. And the Iaxartes forms also the boundary between the Sogdians and the nomads." (Strabo). Classical accounts also relate that Euthydemus negotiated peace with Antiochus III by suggesting that he deserved credit for overthrowing the original rebel Diodotus, and that he was protecting Central Asia from nomadic invasions thanks to his defensive efforts:"...for if he did not yield to this demand, neither of them would be safe: seeing that great hordes of Nomads were close at hand, who were a danger to both; and that if they admitted them into the country, it would certainly be utterly barbarised." (Polybius). Following the departure of the Seleucid army, the Bactrian kingdom seems to have expanded. In the west, areas in north-eastern Iran have been absorbed, as far as into Parthia, whose ruler had been defeated by Antiochus the Great. These territories are identical with the Bactrian satrapies of Tapuria and Traxiane. To the north, Euthydemus also ruled Sogdiana and Ferghana, and there are indications that from Alexandria Eschate the Greco-Bactrians have led expeditions as far as Kashgar and Ürümqi in Xinjiang, leading to the first known contacts between China and the West around 220 BC. The Greek historian Strabo too writes that: "they extended their empire even as far as the Seres(Chinese) and the Phryni". (Strabo). Several statuettes and representations of Greek soldiers have been found north of the Tien Shan, on the doorstep to China, and are today on display in the Xinjiang museum at Urumqi (Boardman). Middle Eastern or Greek influences on Chinese art have also been suggested (Hirth, Rostovtzeff). Designs with rosette flowers, geometric lines, and glass inlays, suggestive of Egyptian, Persian, and/or Hellenistic influences, can be found on some early Han dynasty bronze mirrors. Some speculate that Greek influence is found in the artworks of the burial site of China's first Emperor Qin Shi Huang, dating back to the 3rd century BC, including in the manufacture of the famous Terracotta army. This idea suggested that Greek artists may have come to China at that time to train local artisans in making sculptures. Numismatics suggest that some technology exchanges may have occurred on these occasions: the Greco-Bactrians were the first in the world to issue cupro-nickel coins, an alloy technology only known by the Chinese at the time under the name "White copper". The practice of exporting Chinese metals, in particular iron, for trade is attested around that period. Kings Euthydemus, Euthydemus II, Agathocles and Pantaleon made these coin issues around 170 BC and a nickeliferous copper ore was the source from mines at Anarak. Copper-nickel would not be used again in coinage until the 19th century.
The Sampul tapestry is an ancient woolen wall-hanging found at the Tarim Basin settlement of Shanpula also known as Sampul, in Lop County, Xinjiang, China, close to ancient city of Khotan. The object has many Hellenistic features, linking it to the Greek settlements of Central Asia, which existed from 180 BC until the 1st century AD. The full tapestry is 48 cm wide and 230 cm long. The centaur fragment is 45 cm by 55 cm, warrior's face fragment is 48 cm by 52 cm. The recovered tapestry only constitutes the left decorative border of what would be a much bigger wall hanging. Made of wool, it comprises 24 threads of various colours. The tapestry depicts a man with Caucasoid features, including blue eyes, and a centaur. If lost fabric is accounted for, the soldier would be about six times as tall as the centaur. The subject is identified as a warrior by the spear he is holding in his hand as well as a dagger tucked on his waist. He wears a tunic with rosette motifs. His headband could be a diadem, a symbol of kingship in the Hellenistic world and represented on Macedonian and other Greek coins. The centaur is playing a horn while wearing a cape and a hood. Surrounding him is a diamond-shaped floral ornament. Due to heavy looting at the location, the dating of the material is uncertain. It has been assigned dates from the 3rd century BC to the 4th century AD.
Serica was one of the easternmost countries of Asia known to the Ancient Greek and Roman geographers. It is generally taken as referring to North China during its Zhou, Qin, and Han dynasties, as it was reached via the overland Silk Road in contrast to the Sinae, who were reached via the maritime routes. A similar distinction was later observed during the Middle Agesbetween "Cathay" (north) and "Mangi" or "China" (south). The people of Serica were the Seres, whose name was also used for their region. Access to Serica was eased following the Han conquest of the Tarim Basin (Xinjiang) but largely blocked when the Parthian Empire fell to the Sassanids. Yule summarized the classical geographers: " If we fuse into one the ancient notices of the Seres and their country, omitting anomalous statements and manifest fables, the result will be something like the following: “The region of the Seres is a vast and populous country, touching on the east the Ocean (Pacific) and the limits of the habitable world, and extending west to Imaus (Himalayas) and the confines of Bactria. The people are civilized, mild, just, and frugal, eschewing collisions with their neighbours, and even shy of close intercourse, but not averse to dispose of their own products, of which raw silk is the staple, but which include also silk-stuffs, fine furs, and iron of remarkable quality.” That is manifestly a definition of the Chinese."
The Phryni were an ancient people of eastern Central Asia, probably located in the eastern part of the Tarim Basin, in an area connected to that of the Seres and the Tocharians. They are mentioned several times in Classical sources. Strabo, speaking of the Greco-Bactrian kingdom explains that: "they extended their empire even as far as the Seres and the Phryni". Later, Pliny the Elder includes the Phryni (which he names "Phruri" Phruroi in Greek means Guardians) in his description of the people of the Far East: "...After leaving these, we again come to a nation of the Scythians, and then again to desert tracts tenanted by wild beasts, until we reach a chain of mountains which runs up to the sea, and bears the name of Tabis (ie. Tibet). It is not, however, before we have traversed very nearly one half of the coast that looks towards the north-east, that we find it occupied by inhabitants. The first people that are known of here are the Seres, so famous for the wool that is found in their forests (...) and the nation of the Attacori on the gulf of that name, a people protected by their sunny hills from all noxious blasts (...)After the Attacori, we find the nations of the Phruri and the Tochari, and, in the interior, the Casiri, a people of India, who look toward the Scythians, and feed on human flesh."
Πηγή : https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sampul_tapestry

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