Indian Diplomatic Mission to Emperor Octavian Augustus: Indo-European Contacts

DOI: 10.46493/2663-2675.31(5).2021.28-34


Roman Pyrih , Counsellor of the Arabian Peninsula Division Fifth Territorial Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine


This study explores the possible motives of diplomatic contacts between imperial Rome and ancient India during the reign of Emperor Octavian Augustus (27 BC-14 AD). The existence of active ties between the Mediterranean and Hindustan in ancient times is an understudied page of history, which indicates the existence of a common Indo-European economic and cultural space. The relevance of this study is due, in particular, to the growing interest in the sources of the Indo-European community against the background of recent discoveries in the field of genomics and genography. The author analyses the economic basis of relations between the Mediterranean and the Hindu states, addressing the active development of trade relations between them, made possible by the development of navigation in the Indian Ocean, the incorporation of Egypt into the Roman Empire and high demand for Indian spices among the Romans. The study compares the power of Rome and India, as the dominant economies of the ancient world, and describes the influence of trade on cultural exchanges between them. Thoroughly examining the available historical sources and evidence of the Indian diplomatic mission to the Emperor Octavian Augustus, the author describes its possible causes, political and ideological consequences for the Empire. There is a version about the Scythian origin of King Porus and his possible desire to conclude a military alliance with Rome. To better understand the context of the event, the ritual traditions of Roman diplomacy are discussed separately. The interesting details of the Indian embassy include the attention to the self-immolation of one of its members – Zarmanoheg. The author contemplates the possible motives for his actions, the history of ritual suicides, the connection with the cult of Hermes and the Eleusinian Mysteries, refers to historical records of similar actions of Indian ascetics and rulers. Highlighting the Indian mission as a bright page in the relations between the western and eastern edges of the Indo-European space, the author of this paper puts this event in a broader context, beginning with the first contacts between Greeks and Indians recorded by historians during Alexander the Great's military campaign and ending with the colonisation of India by European powers and the renaissance of European interest in Indian religion and culture. The article will be of interest to specialists in the history of diplomacy, culturology and comparative studies

Keywords : diplomacy of ancient Rome, ancient India, Emperor Octavian Augustus, Alexander the Great, Eleusinian Mysteries

Language of the article : ukrainian

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