Friday, December 1, 2017

Gymnosophists of Meroitic Civilization

My decipherment of Meroitic is based on the Kushana theory. The Kushana theory is that a group of “East Indian” Buddhist scholars introduced the Meroitic writing system to the Meroites.

The Kushana hypothesis was based on the following evidence, 1) no African language has been found to be a cognate language of Meroitic 2) the Classical literature says that the Kushites lived in Asia and Africa; 3) the Gymnosophists, or "naked sages" of Meroe were Buddhist, who came from India. The Gymnosophists were Buddhist.
Flavius Philostratus, the writer of the Vita Apollonii, Vol.1 , claimed that the Gymnosophists of Meroe originally came from India[1] . Given the fact that the Kushana had formerly ruled India around the time that the Meroitic writing was introduced to the Kushite civilization, led to the hypothesis that the ancestors of the Gymnosophist may have been Kushana philosophers. 
In addition to Philostratus, Heliodorus in his love story the Ethiopians[2] makes it clear that the Gymnosophists had great influence in the Kushite Empire.
The Ethiopians , Greek: (Aethiopica) Αιθιοπικά , a novel written  by Heliodorus provides us interesting information on the popularity of the Gymnosophist in Kush.  The Greeks called Kush: Ethiopia.
 At the end of the novel Heliodorus wrote that “Here ends the history of the Ethiopian adventures of Theagenes and Chariclea written by Heliodorus, a Phoenician of Emesus, son of Theodosius, and descended from the Sun." This indicates that Helliodorus was Black, since he says he was “descended from the Sun” .
 Heliodorus’ Ethiopian ,  a love story set in Kush indicates that Buddhism was popular in the Meroitic Empire. The Ethiopian is a love story about Theagenes and Chariclea. Chariclea, was the daughter of King Hydaspes and Queen Persinna of Kush. Queen Persinna placed Chariclea in the care of Sisimithres, who was chief of the king’s Gymnosophist council. Sisimithres, a gymnosophist took the Child to Egypt and placed her in the care of Charicles, a Pythian priest, who takes Chariclea to Delphi where she meets Theagenes.
At Delphi the two young people fall in love. On their way back to Meroe they encounter numerous perils: pirates, and  bandits, . Theagenes and Chariclea eventually  meet at Meroe , when Chariclea is about to be sacrificed to the gods by King Hydaspes.  The people learn that Chariclea was a princess, and the two lovers are happily married.
In the Ethiopian, the Gymnoophist had great influence among the people[3]. In the Ethiopian, Heliodorus said the Gymnosophists  “are of the king’s council” . They were even able to encourage the Meroites to give up human sacrifice. “ O King,” noted the gymnosophist Sisimithres, “you should long ere now concluded that the gods welcome this sacrifice that is being prepared for them... Come, let us recognize the divine miracle that has been wrought, and become collaborators in the gods’ design. Let us proceed to the holier obligations, and exclude human sacrifice for all future time” (10, 39) (Dworacki,  2009) .
If the Gymnosophist were really well known as councilors of the Meroite Kings since Persian times, as noted by Heliodurus explains why we find Kharosthi signs in Meroitic. The Buddhist or Gymnosphist wrote their scriptures in Kharosthi, it was only natural that they would include Kharosthi signs in Meroitic when they created the new script to replace Egyptian.
W. M. Flinders Petrie  found evidence of Buddhist colonist, which he claimed dated back to the Persian period of Egypt (c 525-405BC). he wrote:

"on the right side, at the top is the Tibetan Mongolian, below that the Aryan woman of the Punjab, and at the base a seated figure in Indian attitude with the scarf over the left shoulder. These are the first remains of Indians known on the Mediterranean. Hitherto there have been no material evidences for that connection which is stated to have existed, both by embassies from Egypt and Syria to India, and by the great Buddhist mission sent by Asoka as far west as Greece and Cyrene. We seem now to have touched the Indian colony in Memphis, and we may hope for more light on that connection which seems to have been so momentous for Western thought"[4] .

If Petrie's dating is correct this puts Buddhists in Egypt two hundred years before Asoka, sent Buddhist missionaries to Egypt. Moreover, it adds confirmation to Heliodorus’ claim in the  Ethiopian that Gymnosophists served as councilors to the Meroite Kings.
Asoka was a king of India. He worshipped Buddhism. Asoka loved Buddhism and sent out edicts throughout his empire encouraging people to adopt Buddhism as a way of life.
 There are records from Alexandria that indicate the arrival of a steady stream of Buddhist monks and philosophers. They would surely have contributed to the philosophical speculations and syncretism for which the city was noted. In particular, it seems the original Therapeutae were sent by Asoka on an embassy to Pharaoh Ptolemy II in 250 BC. The word 'Therapeutae' is itself of Buddhist origin, being a Hellenization of  Pali 'Thera-putta' (literally 'son of the elder.')
Philo Judaeus, a 1st century AD contemporary of Josephus, described the Therapeutae in his tract 'De Vita Contemplativa'. It appears they were a religious brotherhood without precedent in the Jewish world. Reclusive ascetics, devoted to poverty, celibacy, good deeds and compassion, they were just like Buddhist monks in fact.
From the Therapeutae it is quite possible a Buddhist influence spread to both the Essenes (a similar monkish order in Palestine) and to the Gnostics – adepts of philosophical speculations.
Philostratus:The Life of Apollonius of Tyana makes it clear that the Gymnosophist lived in Upper Egypt and the Meroitic Empire. The Gymnosophists were Buddhists.

There were Gymnosophist communities in Upper Egypt and the Meroitic Sudan. The Gymnosophists used Tocharian and the Kharosthi script to write their scriptures. This makes it clear that Tocharian and Kharosthi were important means of communication for this Meroite population. Tocharian was therefore probably a major language in the Meroitic Sudan.

The historical evidence makes it clear that there was probably two migrations of Buddhist Gymnosophists to Egypt and the Meroitic Empire.Asoka was a supporter of Buddhism. Zacharias P. Thundy, in Buddha and Christ make it clear that the edits of Asoka (c.274-236 BC) indicate that this ruler sent missionaries to Egypt to preach the Buddhist Dharma[5](pp.242-243).

Thundy maintains that archaeological evidence exist for a community of Indian sages living in Memphis as early as 200 BC (p.243).We know that decendents of these missionaries were still in Egypt over two hundred years later because they were visited by Apollonius of Tyana.

Asoka used Kharosthi to write his edits. The Buddhist also used this writing system to record their scriptures. This means that the Gymnosophists would have had a long tradition of employing Kharosthi to communicate their ideas. The Gymnosophists were probably well respected by the Meroites and some Meroites probably had knowledge of Buddhist teachings and literacy.
Some Meroites  played an important role in Buddhist because Blemmyae, a prominent group in the Meroitic Sudan, as noted by Heliodurus in the Ethiopian,  are mentioned in Pali text Tipitaka  Buddhist text.[6]. Dr.Derrett wrote that in early Pali text " wehave a Blemmya (an African) in front rank Buddhist texts of very respectable age (p.465).The Buddhist text where Blemmya were mentioned are very old. The Vinaya pitaka, is dated to the 4th century B.C.E.
If Blemmya are mentioned in Buddhists text we can be sure that Meroites were not ignorant of Kharosthi, because Blemmya was one of the tribes living in the Meroitic Empire. This would explain why many of the Meroitic symbols agree with Kharosthi. They agree because some Meroites were probably already literate in Kharosthi due to the influence of Buddhism in the Meroitic Empire.
There seems to have been a second migration of Buddhists to the Meroitic Empire many years after Asoka sent missionaries to Egypt. These migrants came to the Meroitic Empire after their king was murdered.

       Flavius Philostratus, the writer of the Vita Apollonii, Vol.1 , claimed that the Gymnosophists of Meroe originally came from India [7]. Given the fact that the Kushana had formerly ruled India around the time that the Meroitic writing was introduced to the Kushite civilization, led to the hypothesis that the ancestors of the Gymnosophist may have been Kushana philosophers. The historical evidence of the Kushana having ruled India made the Classical references to Indians, the Gymnosophists in Meroe, an important source for the construction of alternative theories about the possible location of the cognate language of Meroitic.
There is external evidence, which supports my theory. A theory explains observed phenomena and has predictive power. I have theorized that due to the claims of the Classical writers that some of the Meroites came from India .According to the Life of Apollonius, the Indian Meroites were formerly led by a King Ganges, who had "repulsed the Scythians who invaded this land [India from] across the Caucasus" [8]. Pilostratus also made it clear that the Indians of Meroe came to this country after their king was killed.  

In summary the classical literature makes it clear that there was a connection between the Gymnosophists (of Meroe) and the Indians. The fact that historical events mentioned in the classical sources are found in the Indian literature confirm the view that there were Indian-Meroites who could have introduced the Tokharian trade language to the Meroites.
Buddhist influence in Kush surrounds the worship of the Meroitic God Apedemak. At the temple of Naqa we see a number of examples of Buddhist influence, e,g.,  Apedemak  depicted as a three-headed leonine god with four arms; also at  the Temple,  Apedemak  is represented as a snake coming out of a blossoming lotus with a lion head. These are all symbols of Buddhism.
The lotus in Buddhism represents purity of mind and body; the open blossom represents full enlightenment. Other Buddhist elements in Meroitic society was the footprint, elephants and Swastika  seen in Meroitic iconography, and the influence of Kharosthi on the Meroitic script.
The Swastika in Buddhism means good luck, it is represented on the Stela of Meteya, published on page ..  The Elephant represented strength of the mind and gentleness. Finally footprints are found at numerous Meroitic sites; in Buddhism footprints represent the presence of Enlightenment , and represents the pilgrimage of the follower of Buddhism at Meroite temples. None of these religious ideas and symbolism are associated with Hinduism. You can find out more about Buddhism in Meroe in my book Meroitic Writing and Literature[9].  

[1] F.C Conybeare (Trans.), Philostratus: The life of Apollonius of Tyana Vol.2, (1950) pg.271
[2] DWORACKI, S. (2009). PECULIARITIES OF THE NON-GREEK WORLD IN HELIODORUS’ AETHIOPICA.  SYMBOLAE PHILOLOGORUM POSNANIENSIUM GRAECAE ET LATINAE  XIX: pp. 135-141; Heliodorus An Ethiopian Romance ,Translated by Moses Hada. University of Pennsylvania Press; and  The Æthiopica: “Heliodorus - An Aethiopian Romance” translated by Thomas Underdowne (Anno 1587).

[3] Patrick Robiano, Les gymnosophistes éthiopiens chez Philostrate et chez Héliodore,  Patrick Robiano

[4] W. M. Flinders Petrie, The peoples of the Persian Empire, Man (1908) No.71:pp.129-130.
[5] . Zacharias P. Thundy,  Buddha and Christ,
[6] :JDM Derrett, (2002) A Blemmya in India, Numen 49:460-474
[7] F.C. Conybeare, Philostratus:The Life of Apollonius of Tyana (1950), p.45.
[8] Conybeare, Vol.1, Pg.273.
[9]  Clyde Winters,  Meroitic Writing and Literature

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