Ελληνική ιστορία και προϊστορία

Ελληνική ιστορία και προϊστορία
Ελληνική ιστορία και προϊστορία

Τετάρτη, 1 Μαΐου 2019

Taprovane : The ancient Greek and Roman history of Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka officially the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka, is an island country in South Asia, located in the Indian Ocean to the southwest of the Bay of Bengal and to the southeast of the Arabian Sea. The island is geographically separated from the Indian subcontinent by the Gulf of Mannar and the Palk Strait. The legislative capital, Sri Jayawardenepura Kotte, is a suburb of the commercial capital and largest city, Colombo. Sri Lanka's documented history spans 3,000 years, with evidence of pre-historic human settlements dating back to at least 125,000 years. It has a rich cultural heritage and the first known Buddhist writings of Sri Lanka, the Pāli Canon, date back to the Fourth Buddhist council in 29 BC. Its geographic location and deep harbours made it of great strategic importance from the time of the ancient Silk Road through to the modern Maritime Silk Road.The island is home to many cultures, languages and ethnicities. The majority of the population are from the Sinhalese ethnicity, while a large minority of Tamils have also played an influential role in the island's history. Moors, Burghers, Malays, Chinese, and the indigenous Vedda are also established groups on the island.
Sri Lanka lies on the Indian Plate, a major tectonic plate that was formerly part of the Indo-Australian Plate. It is in the Indian Ocean southwest of the Bay of Bengal, between latitudes 5° and 10°N, and longitudes 79° and 82°E. Sri Lanka is separated from the mainland portion of the Indian subcontinent by the Gulf of Mannar and Palk Strait. According to Hindu mythology, a land bridge existed between the Indian mainland and Sri Lanka. It now amounts to only a chain of limestone shoals remaining above sea level. Legends claim that it was passable on foot up to 1480 AD, until cyclones deepened the channel. Portions are still as shallow as 1 metre, hindering navigation. The island consists mostly of flat to rolling coastal plains, with mountains rising only in the south-central part. The highest point is Pidurutalagala, reaching 2,524 metres above sea level. Sri Lanka has 103 rivers. The longest of these is the Mahaweli River, extending 335 kilometres. The coastline and adjacent waters support highly productive marine ecosystems such as fringing coral reefs and shallow beds of coastal and estuarine seagrasses. Sri Lanka island has 45 estuaries and 40 lagoons. Sri Lanka's mangrove ecosystem spans over 7,000 hectares and played a vital role in buffering the force of the waves in the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. The island of Sri Lanka is rich in many minerals.
The climate is tropical and warm, due to the moderating effects of ocean winds. Mean temperatures range from 17 °C in the central highlands, where frost may occur for several days in the winter, to a maximum of 33 °C in other low-altitude areas. Average yearly temperatures range from 28 °C to nearly 31 °C. Day and night temperatures may vary by 14 °C to 18 °C. Rainfall pattern is influenced by monsoon winds from the Indian Ocean and Bay of Bengal. The "wet zone" and some of the windward slopes of the central highlands receive up to 2,500 millimetres of rain each year, but the leeward slopes in the east and northeast receive little rain. Most of the east, southeast, and northern parts of Sri Lanka comprise the "dry zone", which receives between 1,200 and 1,900 mm of rain annually. The arid northwest and southeast coasts receive the least amount of rain at 800 to 1,200 mm per year. Periodic squalls occur and sometimes tropical cyclones bring overcast skies and rains to the southwest, northeast, and eastern parts of the island. Humidity is typically higher in the southwest and mountainous areas and depends on the seasonal patterns of rainfall. An increase in average rainfall coupled with heavier rainfall events has resulted in recurrent flooding and related damages to infrastructure, utility supply and the urban economy.
Taprobana or Taprobane was the name by which the Indian Ocean island of Sri Lanka was known to the ancient Greeks. Reports of the island's existence were known before the time ofAlexander the Great as inferred from Pliny. The treatise De Mundo (by Aristotle (died 322 BC) but according to others by Chrysippus the Stoic (280 to 208 BC) incorrectly states that theisland is as large as Great Britain. The name was first reported to Europeans by the Greek geographer Megasthenes around 290 BC. Herodotus (444 BC) does not mention the island. The first Geography in which it appears is that of Eratosthenes (276 to 196 BC) and was later adopted by Ptolemy (139 AD) in his geographical treatise to identify a relatively large island south of continental Asia. Taprobana may be the Greek rendition of Tamraparni or Tambapanni, meaning "copper-colored," the color of the sand along the north-western coast of Sri Lanka where the Pali epic poem known as the Mahawamsa claims that a ship-wrecked Indian prince named "Vijaya" and his company landed.
The Anuradhapura Kingdom was established in 380 BC during the reign of Pandukabhaya of Anuradhapura. Thereafter, Anuradhapura served as the capital city of the country for nearly 1,400 years. Ancient Sri Lankans excelled at building certain types of structures (constructions) such as tanks, dagobas and palaces. Society underwent a major transformation during the reign of Devanampiya Tissa of Anuradhapura, with the arrival of Buddhism from India. The 1,600-year-old Sigiriya frescoes are an example of ancient Sri Lankan art at its finest. They are one of the best preserved examples of ancient urban planning in the world. They have been declared by UNESCO as one of the seven World Heritage Sites in Sri Lanka. Among other structures, large reservoirs, important for conserving water in a climate with rainy and dry seasons, and elaborate aqueducts, some with a slope as finely calibrated as one inch to the mile, are most notable. Biso Kotuwa, a peculiar construction inside a dam, is a technological marvel based on precise mathematics that allows water to flow outside the dam, keeping pressure on the dam to a minimum. Ancient Sri Lanka was the first country in the world to establish a dedicated hospital, in Mihintalein the 4th century. It was also the leading exporter of cinnamon in the ancient world. It maintained close ties with European civilisations including the Roman Empire. For example, Bhatikabhaya (22 BC – AD 7) sent an envoy to Rome who brought back red coral, which was used to make an elaborate netlike adornment for the Ruwanwelisaya. In addition, Sri Lankan male dancers witnessed the assassination of Caligula. When Queen Cleopatra sent her son Caesarion into hiding, he was headed to Sri Lanka.
Hippalus was a Greek navigator and merchant who probably lived in the 1st century BCE. He is sometimes conjectured to have been the captain of the Greek explorer Eudoxus of Cyzicus' ship. The writer of the Periplus of the Erythraean Sea credited Hippalus with discovering the direct route from the Red Sea to India over the Indian Ocean by plotting the scheme of the sea and the correct location of the trade ports along the Indian coast. Pliny the Elder claimed that Hippalus discovered not the route but the monsoon wind also called Hippalus (the south-west monsoon wind). Most historians have tried to reconcile the reports by stating that knowledge of the monsoon winds was necessary to use the direct route, but the historian André Tchernia explains that Plinius' connection between the wind and the navigator was based on common pronunciation: in the Hellenistic Era the name of the wind was written as Hypalus, only in Roman times the spelling Hippalus came in use. The wind had already been known in Hellenistic times and had before been used by Himyarite (Southern Arabian Semites) and Indian sailors to cross the Indian Ocean. To understand the importance of Hippalus' discovery we have to know that before him Greek geographers thought that the Indian coast stretched from west to east. Hippalus was probably the first (in the west) to recognize the north-south direction of India's west coast. Only someone who has this insight will think crossing the Indian Ocean might be a faster way to south India than following the coastline. The use of Hippalus' direct route greatly contributed to the prosperity of trade contacts between the Roman province of Aegyptus and India from the 1st century BCE onwards. From Red Sea ports like Berenice of Greco-Roman Egypt large ships crossed the Indian Ocean to the Tamil kingdoms of the Pandyas, Cholas and Cheras in present-day Kerala and Tamil Nadu.
The Periplus of the Erythraean Sea, also known by its Latin name as the Periplus Maris Erythraei, is a Greco-Roman periplus written in Koine Greek that describes navigation andtrading opportunities fromRoman Egyptian ports like Berenice Troglodytica along the coast of the Red Sea, and others along Horn of Africa, the Sindh region of Pakistan, along with southwestern regions of India. The text has been ascribed to different dates between the first and third centuries, but a mid-first century date is now the most commonly accepted. While the author is unknown, it is clearly a firsthand description by someone familiar with the area and is nearly unique in providing accurate insights into what the ancient European world knew about the lands around the Indian Ocean.
The strategic position of the island of Lanka in the Indian ocean, at middle of the maritime silk route from China to Europe, made it a hub for ancient trade. Ptolemy in 150 CE described Taprobane as an island of nearly continental size. From historical sources and archaeological evidence, we can infer international trade links, from the 8th century BCE. The south west monsoons carried in the sailing ships across the oceans from the west and the North East monsoons on their return journey from the East. The natural harbors around Lanka, such as Manthai (3rd century BCE to 11th CE) in the north-west, Godawaya (1st century BCE to 10th CE) in the South, and Gokanna in the east were busy sea ports, with adjacent navigable rivers facilitating trade with inland cities like Anuradhapura and Pollonaruwa.Lanka was one of the great emporiums of the East. Merchants imported items both for export as well as for exchange. According to Knox writing in the 17th century, different colored cloths of several sorts, velvets, silks, cotton, ceramics, porcelain, drugs of various kinds, opium, camphor, tobacco, musk, Agarwood; saltpeter, sulphur, looking-glasses, glass bottles, were imported to Lanka from ancient times. Lanka had indigenous products of high export value such as precious gems, pearls, elephants, ivory, tortoise shell, valuable wood, textiles and Spices, especially cloves, cardamoms, pepper and cinnamon. In the colonial era, Ceylon was exploited, with the introduction of cash crops such as Coffee, Tea and Rubber which were cultivated mainly for export.
The arrival of Vijaya and his follows from Orissa in India in the 5th century BCE is oldest historically recorded travel by ship to Lanka. Emperor Asoka's daughter Sangamitta brought the Sri Maha Bodhi sapling in the 3rd century BCE. The Mahavamsa mentions that the mast, rudder and helm of that ship were placed in three "museums" built for them in Anuradhapura. The Yaathra, large sea going vessels, about 30 meters in length, were in use in Lanka for over two Millenniums. They are mentioned in the writing of ancient Greeks and Romans. Much smaller Oru transported the goods from the Yaathra when anchored in deep water. The maritime silk route from China to Europe, opened in the middle of the Tang dynasty (618CE-907CE). Ships starting from Chinese port Hepu, passed Philippines, Indonesia and through isthmus of Malacca. Crossing the bay of Bengal, they stopped in Lanka on their way to Europe via the Persian Gulf or Red Sea, and few to the southern coast of Africa. In the 1st century CE the navigators understood the monsoons periods and used them to their advantage. Lanka being at the middle of this trade route grew to be a major hub, contributing valuable exports such as Gems, Pearls, Ivory, and Spices.The island known my many names as Lanka to the Indians, Serendib to the Arabs, and Taprobane to the Greeks. By virtue of great reputation was projected to be about 16 times larger in area than reality when described in Ptolemy's Geographia (circa 150 CE). Direct evidence for ancient international trade is given by large number of foreign coins of those era found particularly close to the many harbours of Lanka. Coins from ancient Rome, Greece China, India, Afghanistan, Persia have been found and their ancient origin can be established. The Roman brass were even imitated for trade and local circulation and hoards with thousands of coins have been found.
Lanka has been trading in Jewelry and Textiles from the ancient to the modern Era. Ancient Greek descriptions of the island say that Lanka exported cotton cloth from domestic industry close to Manthai. Persian traders obtained Silks from China at the ports of Lanka. Literary sources record that King Saddhathissa used cotton cloth to cover the "Maha Thupa" and King Nisanka Malla used Chinese silk to decorate the Latha Mandapa. Ancient Greek and Indian texts from the 3rd century BCE to 3rd CE describe Lanka as the Spice island, famous for Cinnamon, Pepper, Cardamoms, and Cloves. Spices are now used mainly to flavour food. However in Ancient and medieval era Spices played an important role in food preservation. Arabs controlled the Spice trade and took them overland from the east via Constantinople into Europe where they were a costly, but necessary commodity. In the 15th century European navigators found sea routes to the East, mainly to brake the Arab monopoly of the Spice trade. Cinnamon is obtained from the inner bark of a genus of trees. The variety of Cinnamon, native to Lanka gave the finest quality in the world, a secret kept by the Arabs. It had many uses in addition to cooking, ranging from an ingredient in top quality perfumes to embalming royals in Egypt. During the Colonial era Portuguese and later the Dutch and British cultivated Cinnamon in Lanka to extract Oil to take to Europe.
Jethawana monastery site had Red Polished Ware pottery imported from North-India, and some Persian and Roman pottery pieces. Anuradhapura citadel site had some Black Hellenistic pots (2nd Century BCE to 1st CE) originating in the Mediterranean. Mantai site had Black Polished Ware with Orange coloured clay of Persian origin, pottery pieces made using Cayoline clay produced in Middle East. and also some huge jars used for transport of goods. Chinese ceramics have been found particularly in Yapahuwa. The 6th century CE Greek description of Taprobane by Cosmas says that Horses were imported into Lanka from India and Persia. The merchants who came to trade with Lanka, mixed in their religion, culture and cuisine to the social environment of the island. Frequent invasions from South India left behind a Dravidian population from the Malabar coast. Some of the Arabian traders settled down and their descendants are the Muslim/Malay population in the island. The descendants of the Europeans are the Burgers.
Poking around a bit, I did find a Roman-Sri Lankan connection mentioned in Cosmas Indicopleustes, who mentions the Greeks called the place Taprobanê. In book 11.338 he relates an interesting anecdote (this would be the time of Justinian, of course; the numbers in the quotation refer to notes in the online text put up by Roger Pearse): " Now I must here relate what happened to one of our countrymen, a merchant called Sopatrus, who used to go thither on business, but who to our knowledge has now been dead these five and thirty years past. Once on a time he came to this island of Taprobane on business, and as it chanced a vessel from Persia put into port at the same time with himself. So the men from Adulé with whom Sopatrus was, went ashore, as did likewise the people of Persia, with whom came a person of venerable age and appearance. Then, as the way there was, the chief men of the place and the custom-house officers received them and brought them to the king. The king having admitted them to an audience and received their salutations, requested them to be seated. Then he asked them: In what state are your countries, and how go things with them? To this they replied, they go well. Afterwards, as the conversation proceeded, the king inquired Which of your kings is the greater and the more powerful? The elderly Persian snatching the word answered: Our king is both the more powerful and the greater and richer, and indeed is King of Kings, and whatsoever he desires, that he is able to do. Sopatrus on the other hand sat mute. So the king asked: Have you, Roman, nothing to say? What have I to say, he rejoined, when he there has said such things? but if you wish to learn the truth you have the two kings here present. Examine each and you will see which of them is the grander and the more powerful. The king on hearing this was amazed at his words and asked, How say you that I have both the kings here? You have, replied Sopatrus, the money of both the nomisma 49 of the one, and the drachma, that is, the miliarision of the other. Examine the image of each, and you will see the truth. The king thought well of the suggestion, and, nodding his consent, ordered both the coins to be produced. Now the Roman coin had a right good ring, was of bright metal and finely shaped, for pieces of this kind are picked for export to the island. But the miliarision, to say it in one word, was of silver, and not to be compared with the gold coin. So the king after he had turned them this way and that, and had attentively examined both, highly commended the nomisma, saying that the Romans were certainly a splendid, powerful, and sagacious people. So he ordered great honour to be paid to Sopatrus, causing him to be mounted on an elephant, and conducted round the city with drums beating and high state. These circumstances were told us by Sopatrus himself and his companions, who had accompanied him to that island from Adule; and as they told the story, the Persian was deeply chagrined at what had occurred."
There’s also a bit on Taprobane in Strabo 15.14 ff … here’s the incipit of that viaLacus Curtius: " As for Taprobanê,15 it is said to be an island situated in the high sea within a seven days’ sail towards the south from the most southerly parts of India, the land of the Coniaci; that it extends in length about eight thousand stadia16 in the direction of Aethiopia, and that it also has elephants. Such are the statements of Eratosthenes; but my own description will be specially characterised by the addition of the statements of the other writers, wherever they add any accurate information. Onesicritus, for example, says of Taprobanê that it is “five thousand stadia in size,” without distinguishing its length or breadth; and that it is a twenty days’ voyage distant from the mainland, but p23that it is a difficult voyage for ships that are poorly furnished with sails and are constructed without belly-ribs on both sides;17 and that there are also other islands between Taprobanê and India, though Taprobanê is farthest south; and that amphibious monsters are to be found round it, some of which are like kine, others like horses, and others like other land-animals."
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