Page:A Brief History of the Indian Peoples.djvu/92

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88 THE GREEKS IN INDIA. way to the Syrian monarchy during the eleven years which followed Alexander's death, Chandra Gupta was building up an empire in Northern India. Seleukos reigned in Syria from 312 to 280 B.C.; Chandra Gupta in the Gangetic valley from 316 to 292 b.c. In 312 b.c. these two monarchs advanced their kingdoms to each other's frontier ; they had to decide whether they were to live in peace or at war. Seleukos in the end sold the Greek conquests in the Kabul valley and the Punjab to Chandra Gupta, and gave his daughter in marriage to the Indian king. He also stationed a Greek ambassador at Chandra Gupta's court from 306 to 298 b.c Megasthenes' Account of India. — This ambassador was the famous Megasthenes. His description of India is perhaps the best that reached Europe during two thousand years, from 300 B.C. to 1700 a. d. He says that the people were divided into seven castes instead of four — namely, philosophers, hus- bandmen, shepherds, artisans, soldiers, inspectors, and the counsellors of the king. The philosophers were the Brahmans, and the prescribed stages of their religious life are indicated. Megasihenes draws a distinction between the Brahmans (Brach- manes) and the Sramans {Sarmanai), from which some scholars infer that the Buddhist Sramanas or monks were a recognized order fifty years before the Council of Asoka. But the Sarmanai of Megasthenes probably also include Brahmans in the first and third stages of their life, as students and forest recluses. The inspectors, or sixth class of Megasthenes, have been identified with the Buddhist supervisors of morals. Arrian's name for them, episkopoi, is the Greek word which has become our modern Bishop or overseer of souls. Indian Society, 300 B. C. — The Greek ambassador observed with admiration the absence of slavery in India, the chastity of the women, and the courage of the men. In valour, he says, they excelled all other Asiatics ; they required no locks to their doors ; above all, no Indian was ever known to tell a lie. Sober and industrious, good farmers, and skilful artisans, they scarcely ever had recourse to a lawsuit, and lived peaceably under their native chiefs. The kingly government is portrayed almost as described in the Code of Manu. Megasthenes men- tions that India was divided into 118 kingdoms ; some of which,