re Kalanos the gymnosophist

lusthaus at lusthaus at
Thu May 2 23:19:16 UTC 1996

>However, *if* borrowing could be
>established, before the time of Alexander, then the ramifications are much
>more forceful: particular Greeks have *borrowed* particular ideas from this
>or that particular "Indian."

IF there is such univocal evidence, I'm not aware of it (but would love to
know about it). But the problem runs deeper. There are many theories about
where, for instance, Plato got his ideas, including a stint he may have
done in Egypt, learning the secrets of Egyptian priests, etc., which, some
have claimed, was the source for his notion of forms. There are suggestive
materials, but nothing hard and fast. Since some believe that Indian ideas
were known and studied in Egypt, here is another suggestive link -- with
little solid documentation to support it.

Another question is: How "Greek" is Greek philosphy? Most of the important
preSocratic philosophers did not live in Greece proper.

What was going on in Asia Minor (present day Turkey)? Pythagoras has his
"revelation" about tuning theory while there (overhearing a blacksmith
pounding on some iron implements), and he spent his later years in Italy.
Thales, Anaxemander, et al. were strewn throughout the Mediterranean world,
leaving them open to all sorts of non-Greek influences. If by "Greek" we
mean simply the lingua-franca of the Mediterranean, so that "Greek
philosophy" means Mediterranean philosophy written or recorded in Greek,
then we are back looking at trade routes, etc., and noting the non-Greek
(potential) influences that were streaming into the "Greek" [Mediterranean]
world (and vice versa). Even if we take "Greek" to mean some sort of ethnic
or cultural (Hellenic) expansion throughout the Mediterranean, via
establishment of city-states, etc., we are still left with a wider
geographical realm within which to look for influences than Greece proper.
That complicates matters since whose records do we rely on? And how much
that could have proved helpful was lost with the Alexandrian library?

Another question is: What was going on in Central Asia (through which the
people with the ideas would have had to come)? Pre-Islamic Central Asian
history is still a somewhat murky, under-developed field, and
Pre-Alexandrian Central Asian history is virtually a black hole in
scholarship. It will be hard to nail down precise, documentable borrowings
until we can determine with some greater specificity what was going on (and
through) Central Asia, Egypt, Asia Minor, and the Mediterranean in general.

Fascinating stuff on which to speculate though.

Dan Lusthaus
Macalester College
lusthaus at

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