y.r.rani at MAIL.UTEXAS.EDU y.r.rani at MAIL.UTEXAS.EDU
Wed May 1 12:38:08 UTC 1996

The influences  of "Indic thought" on classical Greek philosophy, may, as
suggested by Lars Martin Fos, go back to the common source of Indo-European
culture.  However, since the work of the Orientalists discovered
similarities between Eastern and Western philosophy, it has been discussed
among some scholars that Plato and others may have "borrowed" ideas from
India.  This possibility is historically not too far fetched.

The fact that there was commercial trade between the Indian Subcontinent
and Mesopotamia, Syria, Egypt and the countries of the Fertile Crescent,
for almost 2500 years before the common era is well documented.  Cuneiform
records dating from 2400 BCE describe shipments of cotton cloth, spices,
oil, grains, and such exotic items as peacocks.  There are mummies dating
from 2000 BC whose wrappings were made from Indus Valley cotton.  Ideas as
well as merchandise had been exchanged between the India and western
regions for centuries.  Pythagoris is said to have been influenced by
Oriental ideas and the Greek prince, Seleucus Nikator, shortly after the
time of Alexander the Great, gave his daughter in marriage to the Indian
sovereign and sent an ambassador, Megasthenes, to the court of
Chandragupta.  There were individuals living in the western parts of
Askoka's empire who were from Greece and Palestine.  This is speculated
because one of the famous edicts of Ashoka, carved on a pillar in what is
present day Balouchi (Afghani?) territory, is written in both in Greek and

There were also Buddhist missionaries who visited Greece, Egypt and other
countries in the Mediterranean area.  One such visit is documented as late
as 20 BCE in Athens.  In this account an ambassador from India was
accompanied by a Buddhist philosopher who immolated himself (to prove some
point of impermanence?).  His tomb became a famous tourist attraction and
is mentioned by several historians.  It has been argued that in St. Paul's
first letter to the Corinthians, Chapter 13, he alludes to this well known
event when he writes, "though I give my body to be burned, and have not
love, it profits me nothing."

I personally think this line of inquiry is fascinating.

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