The Two Orients for Greek Writers
India was subdued by Darius I and incorporated into the vast Persian Empire at the end of the sixth century. This conquest stimulated the interest of Greeks living in Persian Asia Minor, such as Scylax, Hecataeus, Herodotus and Ctesias, whose accounts of India are known to us. The aim of this paper is to examine those accounts, and bring forward the authors’ views of India, the Persian Empire, and the world.
The investigation, which focuses mainly on Herodotus and Ctesias due to the relative size and scope of their surviving works, points to the following: Ctesias’ Indica was based on more direct and personal experience than Herodotus’ logos, since Ctesias stayed at the Persian court for a substantial length of time and likely had ample opportunity to experience aspects of Indian culture first hand. They had a similar image of India, but Ctesias’ description of Indian tribes is more fantastical in nature than that of Herodotus’, in spite of his having more direct experience. I subsequently hypothesize that Ctesias had a greater tendency to accept information which sounded ‘irrational’ to him, due to his prior knowledge of Indian ‘marvels’. Lastly, the absence of a mortal king, which is a clue to understanding of the historiography of Herodotus and Ctesias, gave readers the impression that India was ‘a nation without history.’