Wednesday 2 July 2014

Ctesias and words from an Indian language

Ἰνδιστί occurs four times in relation to Indian words (actually, 'names') explained by Ctesias (Jacoby fr. 45, Photius Codex 72).

Lines 321 and 330 (Photius, section 36):
There is a river that flows through India, not large, but about 350 meters broad. It is called Hyparchus in Indian, meaning in Greek [φέρων πάντα τὰ ἀγαθά] "bestowing all blessings." During thirty days in the year it brings down amber. It is said that in the mountains there are trees on the banks of the river where it passes through, which at a certain season of the year shed tears like the almond, fir, or any other tree, especially during these thirty days. These tears drop into the river and become hard. This tree is called in Indian Siptakhora, meaning in Greek [γλυκύ, ἡδύ] "sweet," and from it the inhabitants gather amber. It also bears fruit in clusters like grapes, the stones of which are as large as the nuts of Pontus.

Line 521 (Photius, section 47):
There are trees in India as high as cedars or cypresses, with leaves like those of the palm tree, except that they are a little broader and have no shoots. They flower like the male laurel, but have no fruit. The tree is called by the Indians carpios, by the Greeks myrorodon [unguent rose]; it is not common. Drops of oil ooze out of it, which are wiped off with wool and then squeezed into stone alabaster boxes. The oil is reddish, rather thick, and so fragrant that it scents the air to a distance of 900 meters. Only the king and his family are allowed to use it. The king of India sent some to the king of Persia, and Ctesias, who saw it, says that he cannot compare the perfume with any other.

Line 550 (Photius, section 49):
There is a square fountain in India, about five ells in circumference. The water is in a rock, about three cubits' depth down, and the water itself three fathoms. The Indians of highest rank -men, women, and children- bathe in it not only for cleanliness, but as a preventive of disease. They plunge feet foremost into the water, and when they jump into it, it throws them out again on to dry land, not only human beings, but every animal, living or dead, in fact, everything that is thrown into it except iron, silver, gold, and copper, which sink to the bottom. The water is very cold, and agreeable to drink; it makes a loud noise like that of water boiling in a caldron. It cures leprosy and scab. In Indian it is called ballade, and in Greek ophelime ["useful"].

Cf. without Ἰνδιστί: sections 6, 15 (with a subsequent Greek gloss), 34, 35, and 37 (with a subsequent Greek gloss).

There is also the bilingual parrot; line 550 (Photius, section 8):
of the parrot about as large as a hawk, which has a human tongue and voice, a dark red beak, a black, beard, and blue feathers up to the neck, which is red like cinnabar. It speaks Indian like a native, and if taught Greek, speaks Greek.

No comments: