Saturday, May 19, 2012

India and Antioch

While fossicking through some of the journal entries form before 1923 that have now been liberated in JSTOR I stumbled upon two articles related to Antioch and India. In the past I have written of a Chinese delegation arriving at the city and recording for posterity the sights they saw.
In the first, "Some Aspects of the Overland Oriental Trade at the Christian Era" by WILFRED H. SCHOFF, Secretary of the Commercial Museum, Philadelphia, Pa.", the author speaks of the trade routes in the ancient Middle East. In relation to Antioch he notes " the route which led from Antioch in Syria to the ford of the Euphrates, thence down that river and across to Seleucia on the Tigris, up the Zagros valley, over the plateau to the Caspian Gates and north of the Persian desert to Nisaea and Antiochia Margiana; thence through Bactria to the Pamirs, or through Arachosia to Kabul and the Panjab".

The other text is: On the Indian Embassy to Augustus by Osmond De Beauvoir Priaulx in The Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland, Vol. 17, (1860), pp. 309-321. He writes that Nicolaus Damascenus, in a fragment preserved by Strabo, relates "that at Antioch Epidaphne, he fell in with three Indian ambassadors, then on their way to tho court of Augustus. They were, as their letter showed, the survivors of a larger embassy, but to the others the length of the journey principally had proved fatal. Their letter was written on parchment and in the name of Porus, and in Greek. It set forth that Porus, though Lord over 600 kings, much valued the friendship of, and was ready to open his dominions to Caesar, and to assist him on all just and lawful occasions. The presents they brought with them were in the charge of eight well-anointed slaves, naked all but their girdles, and consisted of a youth whose arms had been amputated at the shoulders in childhood, a sort of Hermes, some large vipers, a snake ten cubits long, a river tortoise of four cubits, and a partridge somewhat larger than a vulture".

Well they say to beware of Greeks bearing gifts, but frankly we would be more wary of what these Indians were bringing!

6 comments:

Judith Weingarten said...

Very interesting indeed. Can you give me the link to your post on the Chinese delegation arriving at Antioch? I know only of the envoys who supposedly arrived in Rome at the time of Augustus (Florus Epitome 34): "For the Scythians and the Sarmatians sent ambassadors seeking friendship; the Seres too and the Indians, who live immediately beneath the sun...." I always thought Florus had projected the Kushan embassy to Trajan back to the time of Augustus; but possibly not. Judith

Libanius_Redux said...

My original post is here:

http://libaniusredux.blogspot.com/2008/03/annotated-and-highly-subjective.html

and it is based on:

http://books.google.com/books?id=hocNAAAAIAAJ&printsec=frontcover&dq=hirth%2Borient&ei=wHQTSK-3G5HcywSx8eSKCA#v=onepage&q=hirth%2Borient&f=false

Libanius_Redux said...

One should remember that Rome may have imagined itself as the center of the universe but that the Chinese traders were selling silk and it was primarily destined for conversion in the dyeworks of Lebanon and the workshops of Syria (mainly Antioch) where it was converted into finished or semi-finished clothing that was sent on to Rome. These were not political missions and it maybe even suited these Chinese traders to only go as far as Roman Syria, exchange their goods then head home. Thus Antioch, Tripoli and Palmyra were good places to turn around.

Judith Weingarten said...

For Chinese ideas about, and travels in the Roman Empire, see John E. Hill, Through the Jade Gate to Rome: A Study of the Silk Routes during the later Han Dynasty 2009. As far as I can see (not that I've read every word of this massive study), they never actually arrived in Rome and probably not Antioch either. But Hill might have missed something. Anyway, much more up to date than Hirth, and absolutely fascinating.

Libanius_Redux said...

Here is a pretty chunky article.. only in French dealing with mutual perceptions between the Romans and the Chinese:


http://www.persee.fr/web/revues/home/prescript/article/mefr_0223-5102_1979_num_91_1_1195

Judith Weingarten said...

Thanks for that reference. After a quick read, I still don't see evidence of any actual Chinese envoys or merchants arriving either at Antioch or Rome. A delegation may well have reached Charax on the Red Sea (according to Hill) but that seems the extreme limit of their voyaging. Other sightings probably confuse 'Seres' with Indians or Kushans, inho. It works the other way as well, of course, with so-called Romans reaching China.