Hercules and origin of Scythians

    Who were these Scythians and Massagetae resembling to Scythians in their customs? Herodotus has given an interesting story about their origin as related by Greeks who dwelt about the Pontus. He says: “According to them, Heracles, when he was carrying off the cows of Geryon, arrived in the region which is now inhabited by the Scyths, but which was then a desert. Geryon lived outside the Pontus, in an island called by the Greeks Erytheia, near Gades, which is beyond the Pillars of Heracles upon the Ocean. Now some say that the Ocean begins in the east, and runs the whole way round the world, but they give no proof that this is really so.

  ‘’Heracles came from thence into the region now called Scythia, and, being overtaken by storm and frost, drew his lion’s skin about him, and fell fast asleep. While he slept, his mares, which he had loosed from his chariot to graze, by some wonderful chance disappeared.”

  Herodotus further relates: “On waking, he went in quest of them, and after wandering over the whole country, came at last to the district called ‘the Woodland’, where he found in a cave a strange being, between a maiden and a serpent, whose form from the waste upwards was like that of a woman, while all below was like a snake. He looked at her wonderingly; but nevertheless inquired, whether she had chanced to see his strayed mares anywhere.

  ‘’She answered him, ‘Yes, and they were now in her keeping but never would she consent to give them back, unless he took her for his mistress.

  “So Heracles, to get his mares back, agreed, but afterwards she put him off and delayed restoring the mares, since she wished to keep him with her as long as possible. He, on the other hand, was only anxious to secure them and to get away.

  ‘’At last, when she gave them up, she said to him, ‘When thy mares strayed hither, it was I who saved them for thee: now thou has paid their salvage; for lo! I bear in my womb three sons of thine. Tell me therefore when thy sons grow up, what must I do with them? Wouldst thou wish that I should settle them here in this land, whereof I am mistress, or shall I send them to thee? Thus questioned, they say, Heracles answered, ‘When the lads have grown to manhood, do thus, and assuredly thou wilt not err. Watch them, and when thou sees one of them bend his bow as I now bend it, and gird himself with this girdle thus, choose him to remain in the land. Those who fail in this trial, send away. Thus wilt thou at once please thyself and obey me.

  “Hereupon he strung one of his bows – up to that time he had carried two – and showed her how to fasten the belt. Then he gave both bow and belt into her hands. Now the belt had a golden goblet attached to its clasp. So after he had given them to her, he went his way; and the woman, when her children grew to manhood, first gave them severally their names.

  “One she called Agathyrsus, one Gelonus, and the other, who was the youngest, Scythes. Then she remembered the instructions she had received from Heracles, and, in obedience to his orders, she put her sons to the test. Two of them, Agathyrsus and Gelonus, proving unequal to the task enjoined, their mother sent them out of the land; Scythes, the youngest, succeeded, and so he was allowed to remain.

  “From Scythes, the son of Heracles, were descended the after kings of Scythia; and from the circumstance of the goblet which hung from the belt, the Scythians to this day wear goblets at their girdles (this girdle is called Tagadi and its wearing by children even today is considered auspicious by jits of northern India). This was the only thing that the mother of Scythes did for him. Such is the tale told by the Greeks who dwell around the Pontus. According to the account that the Scythians themselves give, they are the youngest of all nations. Their tradition is as follows. A certain Targitaus was the first man who ever lived in their country, which before his time was a desert without inhabitants. He was a child of Zeus (the god of Greeks) and a daughter of Borysthenes etc.”

  This event may have taken place soon after the Great War (of Mahabharata). These people must have multiplied over a period of time and with many kings before entering India and founding Taxila (Taxila, etymologically is from Sanskrit ‘Takshak’ + ‘Shila’, that is, takshak (= snake) + shila (= platform or place made of stone). The entire tribe most probably may not have migrated to Taxila and a large part of it must still have continued to live in Scythia.

  These people after a time may have made second inroad into India of which Herodotus is speaking here. Those who penetrated many countries like, Baktria, Sogdiana, etc. and then India must have belonged to second wave of penetration. This process must have been continued over generations after generations. Not only had they moved towards India, they also spread towards Samarkand.

  The Central Asia is called the nursery of mankind and has very good climate. These people settled at Taxila, Samarkand, Bokhara, Bactria, Kabul, Kandahar, Sind, and Punjab and even at faraway places of Europe like Scandinavia, Jutland, Germany, etc. since we are concerned with India, we will confine to their Indian penetration only.

  Herodotus says: “It appears likewise that the Cimmerians, when they fled into Asia to escape Scyths, made a settlement in the peninsula where the Greek City of Sinope was afterwards built. The Scyths, it is plain, pursued them, and missing their road, poured into Media (Media is identified with Aderbaijan). For the Cimmerians kept the line which led along the sea-shore, but the Scyths in their pursuit held the Caucasus upon their right, thus proceeding inland, and falling upon Media. This accounts one that is common both to Greeks and barbarians (that is, Scyths).”

  Herakles (Heracles or Hercules) is reported by Strabo to have penetrated in the east and the west to the extremities of known world. Ancient Greeks believed him their brave ancestor who conquered India and Alexander even boasted that he belonged to the race of Herakles who was worshipped as God even by Indians. Who was this Herakles or Heracles who penetrated to the extremities of east and west of known world, who was worshipped by Indians as God, from whom, according to the Greeks, Scythians derived their ancestry, and who was regarded by ancient Greeks as their god?

  Col James Tod in his’ Annals and Antiquities of Rajasthan’ says thus: “Arrian gives the story thus: “He (Hercules) had a daughter when he was advanced in years; and being unable to find a husband worthy of her, he married her himself, that he might supply the throne of India with monarchs. His name was Pandea, and he caused the whole province in which she was born to receive its name from her…”

  Tod further observes:“Hercules is a generic term for the sovereigns of the race Hari, used by Arrian as a proper name. A section of the Mahabharata is devoted to the history of the Hericula, of which race was Vyasu. Arrian notices the similarity of the Theban and the Hindu Hercules, and cites as authority the ambassador of Seleucus, Megasthenes, who says: “He uses the same habit with the Theban; and is particularly worshipped by the Suraseni, who ‘have two great cities belonging to ‘them, namely, Methoras (Mathoora) and Clisoboras.’

  “Diodorus has the same legend, with some variety. He says,”Heracules was born amongst the Indians, and like the Greeks they furnish him with a club and lion’s hide. In strength (bala) he excelled all men, and cleared the sea and land of monsters and wild beasts. He had many sons but only one daughter. It is said that he built Palibothra, and divided his kingdom amongst his sons (the Balica-putras, sons of Bali). They never colonized; but in time most of the cities assumed a democratic form of government (though some were monarchical) till Alexander’s time.”

  ‘’The combats of Hercules, to which Diodorus alludes, are those in the legendary haunts of the Hericulas, during their twelve years’ exile from the seats of their forefathers.

  “How invaluable such remnants of the ancient race of Her-cula! How refreshing to the mind yet to discover, amidst the ruins on the Yamuna, Hercules (Baldeva, god of strength) retaining his club and lion’s hide, standing on his pedestal at Buldeo, and yet worshipped by the Suraseni!

  “This name was given to a large tract of country round Mathoora, or rather round Soorpoora, the ancient capital founded by Soorseh, the grandfather of the Indian brother-deities, Crishna and Baldeva, Apollo and Hercules. The title would apply to either; though Baldeva has the attributes of the ‘god of strength’. Both are ‘es’ (lord) of the ‘cula’ (race) of ‘Heri’ (Heri-cul–es), of which the Greeks might have made the compound Hercules. Might not a colony after the Great War have migrated westward? The period of the return Heraclidae, the descendants of Atreus (Atri is progenitor of the Heri-cula) would answer: it was about half a century after the Great War.

  ‘’It is unfortunate that Alexander’s historians were unable to penetrate into the arcane of the Hindus, as Herodotus appears to have done with those of the Egyptians. The shortness of Alexander’s stay, the unknown language in which their science and religion were hid, presented an insuperable difficulty. They could have made very little progress in the study of the language without discovering its analogy to their own.

  “Yoodishtra, Buldeva, and Crishna, having retired with the wreck of this ill-fated struggle to Dwarica, the two former had soon to lament the death of Crishna, slain by one of the aboriginal tribes of Bhills; against whom, from their shattered condition, they were unable to contend. After this event, Yoodishtra, with Buldeva and a few followers, entirely withdrew from India, and emigrating northwards, by Sinde, to the Himalya mountains, are there abandoned by Hindu traditional history, and are supposed to have perished in the snows.

  “Having ventured to surmise analogies between the Hercules of the east and west, I shall carry them a point farther. Amidst the snows of Caucasus, Hindu legend abandons the Hercules, under their leaders Yoodishtra and Buldeva: yet if Alexander established his altars in Panchalica, amongst the sons of Pooru and the Hriculas, what physical impossibility exists that a colony of them, under Yoodishtra and Buldeva, eight centuries anterior should have penetrated to Greece? Comparatively far advanced in science and arms, the conquest would have been easy. When Alexander attacked the “free cities” of Panchalica, the Poorus and Heraculas who opposed him evinced the recollections of their ancestor, in carrying the figure of Hericules as their standard.

  ‘’Comparison proves a common origin to Hindu and Grecian mythology: and Plato says the Greeks had theirs from Egypt and the East. May not this colony of the Herculas be the Heraclidae, who penetrated into the Pelopobnnesus (according to Voleny) 1078 years before Christ, sufficiently near our calculated period of the Great War? The Heraclidae claimed from Atreus: the Hericulas claim from Atri.

  “Euristhenes was the first king of the Heraclidae: Yoodishtra has sufficient affinity in name to the first Spartan king, not to startle the etymologist, the d and r being always permutable in Sanscrit.

   ‘’The  Greeks or  lonians  are  descended  from  Yavan,  or  Javan,  the seventh from Japhet. The Hericulas are also Yavanas claiming from Javan or Yavan, the thirteenth in descent from Yayat, the third son of, the primeval patriarch. The ancient Heraclidae of Greece asserted they were as old as the sun, and older than the moon. May not this boast conceal the fact that the Heliadae (or suryavansl) of Greece had settled there anterior to the colony of the Indus (Lunar race) race of Hericula?

  “In all that relates to the mythological history of the Indian demi-gods, Buldeva (Heracules), Crishna or Karsnya (Apollo), and Buddha (Mercury), a powerful and almost perfect resemblance can be traced between those of Hindu legend, Greece and Egypt. Buldeva (the god of strength) Hericula, is still worshipped as in the days of Alexander; his shrine at Buldeo in Brij (the Suraseni of the Greeks), his club, a ploughshare, and a lion’s skin his covering.”

  McCrindle in his introduction to ‘Ancient India as Described by Arrian etc. says:  “From Prophathasia Alexander proceeded southwards into the fertile plains along the Etymander (River Helmund), then inhabited by a peaceful tribe called the Ariaspians (note: Ari + asw + ans, that is, those who ride horses facing enemies), who had  received from Cyrus the title of Euer-getae (that is, Getae, the benefactors), because  they had assisted him at a time when he had been reduced to great straits. Alexander spent two months in their dominions, probably awaiting the arrival of reinforcements from Ekbatana. … Alexander before resuming his march appointed a governor over the Euergetae, but rewarded their hospitality by augmenting their territory and confirming them in the enjoyment of their political privileges.

  “He left this country about mid-winter, and ascending the valley of the Etymander penetrated into Archosia, a province that stretched eastward to the Indus. As he advanced northward by Kandahar the snow lay deep on the ground, and the soldiers suffered severally both from hunger and cold. … Continuing (meanwhile) his own advance, he arrived at the foot of the colossal mountain-barrier, the chain of Paropanisos, which separates Kabul from Baktria.

  ‘’Here in a commanding position, near the village of Charikar, which stands in the rich and beautiful valley of Koh-Daman, he founded yet another Alexandria (called by way of distinction Alexandria of the Paropamisadai), and planted it with Macedonian colonists.

  ‘’(Then) he crossed the mountains, as some think, by the Bamian Pass, the most western of the four routes that give access from the Koh-Daman to the regions of the Upper Oxus. It is likelier, however, that he ascended by the more direct route along the course of the Panjshir River. The army again suffered on the way from the severity of the cold and still more from the scarcity of provisions….

  “The Macedonians had now reached (Adrapsa), a fertile country; but as Bessos had ordered it to be ravaged, they found a wide barrier of desolation opposed to their further advance. The barrier was interposed in vain. Alexander resolutely pressed forward, and Bessos and his associates fled at his approach, and crossing the Oxus, retired into Sogdiana. Aomos and Baktria, the two principal cities of the Baktrian satrapy (a word derived from Sanscrit ‘Chchtrap, a knight under the king), surrendered without resistance, and the satrapy itself was soon afterwards reduced

  “Alexander marched to the Oxus in pursuit of Bessos, and came upon that river at the point where Kijli now stands. There it was about three-quarters of a mile in breadth, and the current was found to be both deep and rapid. The passage, which occupied five days, was made on floats, supported by skin stuffed with straw, and rendered watertight.”

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