Q: Kannada words in a Greek play?

Klaus Karttunen KJKARTTU at Elo.Helsinki.fi
Tue Apr 1 14:10:12 UTC 1997

Dear Colleagues,

the discussion about Danielou started so quickly that nobody has 
remembered the original question. Leaving Danielou I try to say as much 
as I can with very few sources at hand.

In the Greek mimus contained in Pap. Ox. 413 part of the plot is located 
in India and it contains some sentences given as "Indian language". It 
was an idea of E. Hultzsch that these could be explained through 
Kannada, which he, having been long time in South India  working as an 
epigraphist, probably knew rather well. His attempt was published twice, 
first in German in the journal Hermes 39, 1904, 307-311, and in English 
translation in the Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society 1904, 399-405. 
The problem is that there is a gap of many centuries between earliest 
documents in Kannada and the Greek papyrus and that his comparisons are 
not very convincing. It might be that the Indian of the mimus was just a 
nonsense -- for the audience in Hellenistic Egypt this was as good as 
real Indian language. From this viewpoint he was well criticized by Otto 
Stein in Indologica Pragensia 1929, now reprinted in Stein's Kleine 
Schriften (1985). There is another attempt the Kannada explanation by an 
Indian scholar published in the QJMS in the 1920s, I think, but I do not 
have the reference here.

The text of the Papyrus is most easily found in the Loeb Classical 
Library Greek Papyri volumes, where it is also translated into English.

Klaus Karttunen

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