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Roarks on the Sequel to the Periplus of the Erythrean Sea, and on the country of the Seres, as described by Ammianus Marcellino By JAMEs Taylor, Esq., Civil Surgeon, Dacca.
At a period long anterior to the navigation of the Erythream Sea by the Egyptian Greeks, the Arabians carried on a trade with India, and were the means, either directly, or through the Phoenicians, of supplyits the Western world with the valuable productions of the East. It is generally supposed that they availed themselves of their knowledge of the monsoons to make periodical voyages to this country across the on sea, and that they had settlements along its western coast, and on as far south as Ceylon. On these points, however, nothing certain on, and with the exception of the fact of there being enume" in the Sacred Writings particular spices and perfumes which are the idionus productions of India, there remains little or no evidence of the to that existed between Arabia and the farther East at the remo” Porod here referred to. Of the extent to which Indian commereo "* ared on by the Sabeans, and Phoenicians; of the commodities they * in exchange for the merchandize they imported; or of the emporia ** Indian coast, whither they repaired for the purpose of traffic, we **ntirely ignorant; and indeed, of the ancient trade of India go". *** * said, that we have no authentic information prior ** Christian era." The earliest work extant, in which a detailed account
- * Appendix, No. 1.
is given of the navigation and commerce along the coasts of India, is the Periplus of the Erythrean Sea. This treatise is ascribed by some geographers to Arrian of Nicomedia, the author of the Periplus of the Euxine Sea, but there is reason to believe that it was written not by him but by an Egyptian Greek of the same name, who, it is generally supposed, flourished early in the second century of the Christian era. Arrian of Alexandria, who appears to have been both a mariner and a merchant, delineates, in this narrative or journal, the course of naviga tion along the coasts of Eastern Africa, Arabia, Persia, and India. He mentions their principal seaports or marts, and specifies the articles of merchandize found in them—distinguishing them by commercial names, composed in some instances, of Greek terms, in others, of words derived from the language of the country. How far Arrian extended his voyage along the western coast of India, we are not informed. It is supposed, however, that he did not proceed beyond Nelkunda, the modern Nelisuram on the Malabar coast: and the account, therefore, which he gives of the countries situated to the south and east of this. is generally considered as the result, not of personal observation, but of information, obtained from native traders, whom he met in the ports of Western India. Rennell was of opinion that, in the time of the Ptolemies, the Egyptians sailed, not only beyond Cape Comorin, but even up the Ganges to Palibothra. It is probable, however, from what Strabo states, that foreigners seldom extended their voyages so far as the
capital of India. IIe incidentally alludes, indeed, to sailing up the
Ganges, or against the stream, to Palibothra; but he does not state, whether this was done by Egyptian or by native navigators, while in another place he distinctly informs us that few of the Egyptian merchants, who sailed from the Red Sea to India, ever proceeded to the Ganges; and adds that the persons, who made this voyage, were
illiterate and incompetent to comprehend matters or questions relating .
to Geography.” He describes the Ganges as entering the sea by a single mouth or outlett—an error which must be ascribed to the imperfect knowledge that the Egyptian traders had of the Gangetic Delta, and which Strabo could not have committed, if these navigators had been in the habit of ascending this river as high as Palibothra. It would seem from the Periplus, that the trade between Malabar and Coromandel was
* Strabo, 686. + Ibid, p. 690.
arried on in the coasting vessels of the country: but that voyages from the latter coast to the Ganges were made in ships, that sailed across the Bay of Bengal. These were native or country-built vessels, and tike the ships described by Fa Hian about the end of the 4th century, as sailing from the Ganges to Ceylon and thence to China, they appear to have been manned by Hindoos.” That the Hindoos were a maritime people in ancient times, is now generally admitted. In evidence of this fort, may be mentioned the allusion to marine insurance in the Institutes of Menu, the circumstance of Hindoos having formerly resided in Java, . and the notice “in poems, tales, and plays dating from the 1st century before to the 12th century after our era, of adventures at sea in which Iolan sailors and ships alone are concerned.”t Mention is made in the Brihatkatha of a “king of Bengal who proceeded on an expedition to the coast, and of Srimanta, Chand, and Dhanapati, celebrated native +erchants, who made periodical voyages in a fleet to Ceylon.”f The historians of Ceylon relate that a king named Wijeya, who held the woreignty of their island for a period of thirty-eight years commencirs B. C. 543, was a native of Bengal, and that he had been exiled by his father Singababu, king of the latter country, who, it is said, sent him away with seven hundred followers to seek his fortune on the sea. §
. It may be inferred from these circumstances, which so directly prove
the early maritime communication between Bengal and Ceylon, that the transportation of merchandize from the Ganges to the marts of Southon Inua was effected by the natives of the country, that the Egyptian traders seldom extended their navigation beyond Cape Comorin, and that the commercial intercourse that existed between them and the natives of Bengal centred in the ports of Southern India. Arrian appears to have dented his information regarding the navigation of the Bay of Bengal from native traders whom he met in some of these ports, and to their raccuracy in geographical details, and love of the marvellous, may be ascribed the errors and fabulous statements which occur in his description of the countries, and tribes of Eastern India. The concluding part of Arriam's journal, which relates to countries * Professor wilson's Account of the Foe Kue Ki, in Jour, Royal As. Soc. Vol. 5, p. 16- t Ibid.
: Preface to Bengali Dictionary by Babu Ram Comul Sen. * Krish: no. History of Ceylon, p. 11, 51.