Gymnosophists etc.

zydenbos at zydenbos at
Tue May 7 21:55:38 UTC 1996

Replies to msg 06 May 96: indology at
(l.m.fosse at

 lmfu> In the case of Indo-European culture, Indians,
 lmfu> Iranians, Greeks,
 lmfu> Norsemen, and the Irish all show a number of cultural
 lmfu> similarities. I would
 lmfu> still maintain that if an idea is persistently found
 lmfu> throughout the
 lmfu> Indo-European area, it is a stronger hypothesis to assume
 lmfu> that it is part
 lmfu> of a common heritage than to assume that it was borrowed
 lmfu> in one particular
 lmfu> area (such as e.g. Greece) from another area. (I'll leave
 lmfu> aside the
 lmfu> complicating possibility that a version of an idea found
 lmfu> in one culture
 lmfu> influenced another version of the same idea in another
 lmfu> culture).

With regard to Indo-European religion, I recall having seen an article by A.
Meillet in his _Linguistique historique et linguistique ge'ne'rale_ (Paris,
1948). I forgot the title of the article, but it is the very last one in the
book. Going by a study of words and names in the ancient Indo-European
languages for 'god', 'divinity' etc., he reached the conclusion that the
earliest, common Indo-European religious thought was extremely inchoate, and
that hence all the more highly developed forms of religion found among the
early Indo-Europeans had to be later local developments, perhaps largely
borrowed from non-Indo-Europeans.

I cannot say to what extent Meillet's findings have become outdated due to more
recent research. If these findings hold true, then they would be further
support for the idea of a borrowing of e.g. ideas of metempsychosis from India
by certain Greeks.

Robert Zydenbos
Internet: zydenbos at

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