|previous article in this issue||next article in this issue|
Document Details :
Title: L'Indo-grec MÃ©nandre ou Paul DemiÃ©ville revisitÃ©
Author(s): FUSSMAN, GÃ©rard
Journal: Journal Asiatique
Volume: 281 Issue: 1-2 Date: 1993
Most of the Greek kings whose dominions extended over Northern India in the 2nd century BC are known only from their coins. We have more data about Menandros: at least one Indian inscription; a few sentences by Greek and Latin historians; a whole Indian book the title of which, The Questions of Milinda, still preserves his name. About seventy years ago, P. DemiÃ©ville was able to demonstrate in BEFEO 1924 that, of the two extant translations of this North-Indian text, the Chinese rendering was older than the Pāli one and probably closer to the original composition. As taught since the end of the 19th century by S. LÃ©vi and other buddhologists, that implies that data found in only one of these two translations are suspect. We are on better ground when we can rely on evidence preserved in both texts, provided it does not belong to the stock of political or literary clichÃ©s usually found in Indian and Chinese buddhist literature. A perusal of modern histories of the Indo-Greek kings shows that P. DemiÃ©ville's warning continues to be neglected. The pāli Milindapañha is still used without much discrimination as a valuable historical source. The purpose of this paper is to go back to the bare facts by reviewing all the available evidence: Greek and Latin sources, Chinese and Pāli translations of the Questions of Milinda, Menandros' own coinage and the three Indian inscriptions which are, or are said to be, related to him (the Bajaur casket, a newly discovered Mathurā inscription referring to a yavana era, the Reh liṅga). That entails a discussion of the Greek currency systems in Bactria and India, with reference to the Qunduz hoard of coins and the Yue-zhi conquest of Bactria.