Greek Sources on India: Alexander to Megasthenes
Anyone who is surprised that with so many historians already in the field on Alexander it should have occurred to me to compose this history, should express his surprise only after perusing all their works and then reading mine”, remarked Arrian in the second century AD. Today after 1900 years the trend on Alexander is the same. Books on Alexander continue to appear, all written mainly by the Western scholars. No dearth of works has resulted in giving birth to many faces of Alexander. The justification furnished by each of them for their Alexander is not much different from Arrian's time. It was Alexander's conquests in India which remained the most fascinating subject in the writings of the historians. A.K. Narain has pointed out that “what remains of Alexander would be shorn of all its romance and glory if his campaigns in Sogdiana and the Punjab were deleted and there were no Spitamenes and Poros, Scythians and Malloi”. The narrative of Alexander and the stories developed around the Romance, which have been repeated quite often, do occur in this work too, but the main focus here is not on Alexander's exploits but on the critical commentary of the accounts of India, penned by the emperor's companions and the Hellenistic ambassador, who was deputed to the Magadhan court at Pataliputra. These included mainly Onesikritos, Nearchos, Aristoboulos, Ptolemy, Chares, Kallisthenes and Megasthenes. The present work is divided into three main sections. The first section is devoted to a discourse on Alexander and interaction of India with the Hellenistic world. The veracity of the Greek fragments of India as furnished mainly by Nearchos, Onesikritos, Chares and Megasthenes have been examined in the second section. In the last section the English translation of all the survived fragments of Alexander's companions and of Megasthenes have been made available to scholars at one place for ready reference. This is a publication which Sir John Boardman, the leading savant of Classical Studies, finds as ‘the inauguration of a new generation of Greco-Indian Studies’.