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Guest ximaira

Greeks of India and Indonesia

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Guest ximaira


Some people know about Greek Bactria (north India) 2000 years ago. Also in the south at this time there were Greek traders.


".The development of overseas trade was made easy by the seaports situated on the coasts of the Tamil country.. .  On the West coast, Musiri and Thondi were the two important seaports. Warehouses for storing the goods were built along the coasts. . Facilities were also made in the seaports for repairing the ships. The arrival and stay of foreign merchants in port towns were common during the Sangam period.( 400 BC - 200AD) .  People from various countries had also lived in port towns and this paved the way for the development of cosmopolitan civic system in these towns.
Thus, throughout the Sangam period, the Tamil country had maintained commercial and other contacts with Greece and Rome. "

Recently in Bali Indonesia there were gold rings , ceramic plates and beads that were found by archaeologists and dated to 100 BC.  The rings were of the same type as those found in Cambodia which had Kharoshti script , used by Greeks in Bactria . The plates were identified as south Indian. Together , the common factor of Greek trading populations indicate that Greeks were among the first to sail to Indonesia with definite proof from such objects.  Greeks had become Buddhist and were largely responsible for taking the faith to Sri Lanka.  Buddhism and Hinduism in Indonesia were then in part due to Greek traders settling there.

1200 years later it seems that Buddhism reached east Australia so maybe "Greeks" arrived before the British.

There is more detail........



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Guest ximaira

Here we go.......

Sembiran and Pacung on the north coast of Bali: a strategic ...

New archaeological research at Sembiran and Pacung in 2012   ..late 2nd century BC... .....
  . However, three  out  of the ten gold rings resemble a Cambodian gold ring inscribed with a horseman motif,  confirmed to be non-Southeast- Asian, based on its composition.  The Cambodian ring resembles inscribed gold, copper and bronze rings typical of Saka-Parthian (first century AD) in the Taxila region of Pakistan . A Bali potsherd inscribed with characters in Kharoshthi script , found  in 1989, also implies links with the Taxila region..northern Pakistan was under Achaemenid and then Greek rule into the early first millennium AD, .Other gold objects found in Southeast Asia,which bear stylistic parallels with Taxila gold and copper ornaments include: (a) inscribed gold rings from Pyu sites in Burma. (B) the above-mentioned inscribed gold ring with horseman motif from Prohear in Cambodia; ©s-shaped gold units from Khao Sam Kaeo in Thailand ; and (d) a gold bracelet  in Java, of a type unknown elsewhere in Island Southeast Asia, but which resembles copper bracelets from Taxila .
 "..coarse-fabric south Indian imitations of Rouletted Ware , were found at the port site of Arikamedu on India’s south-eastern coast and as Balinese imitations of Indian dishes .
In South Asia, coarse dishes in the shape of Rouletted Ware were not found in northern India, but were widely found in Sri Lanka and southern India, together with Rouletted Ware.   The second century BC south Indian and Sri Lankan production of coarse-fabric dishes  has been argued for.
We suggest here that Pacung and Sembiran have also produced these south Indian coarse  dishes, as well as local Indian-style dishes."
Indian Epigraphy : A Guide to the Study of Inscriptions in ...
,. ...  on the coins of the Indo-Greek and Scythian kings, Kharosthi script was also in use.
"Mahavamsa §29 records that during the rule of the Greco-Bactrian King Menander I, a Yona head monk named Mahadharmaraksita led 30,000 Buddhist monks from "the Greek city of Alasandra" ( north of modern Kabul, Afghanistan) to Sri Lanka for the dedication of the Ruwanwelisaya in Anuradhapura, indicating that Greco-Buddhism contributed to early Sri Lankan Buddhism. See also the Milinda Panha.
Menander I Soter of the Indo-Greek Kingdom (165/155 –130 BC) who established a large empire in North India and became a patron of Buddhism, was initially a king of Bactria. After conquering the Punjab he established an empire in the Indian subcontinent ..expeditions southward into Rajasthan and as far east down the Ganges River Valley as Pataliputra (Patna), and the Greek geographer Strabo wrote that he "conquered more tribes than Alexander the Great." "

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Guest FriendofGreece

Hi, Ximaira, welcome to the forum!


Myself, I am very interested about the influence of Ancient Greece/Hellenism in Asia, more so in China and South-East Asia. It appears there has been no influence there though, except what you mentioned about the coins, dishes, etc. These could have been brought in those areas by traders, but whether they were Greek traders, I am not sure. Even Buddhist statutes look different from Hellenistic Buddhist statues.


Eeryone knows the influence of Greek art on Buddhism along the Silk Road. But this is the first time I heard about Greek influence going till Indonesia.After reading the article below, I am not sure if it was the Greeks who went in Indonesia or Indians themselves. 




Could it also have been that the Chinese pilgrims who went to India to bring back Buddhist texts also brought the coins, etc., back to China and somehow, through traders, ended up in Cambodia and Thailand?

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Guest ximaira

Hi FriendofGreece

Could you say why that article suggests Indians not Greeks went to Indonesia?

"The view that Buddhism was transmitted to China by the sea route comparatively lacks convincing and supporting materials, and some arguments are not sufficiently rigorous. Based on the existing historical texts and the archaeological iconographic materials discovered since the 1980s, particularly the first-century Buddhist manuscripts recently found in Afghanistan, the commentator believes that the most plausible theory is that Buddhism reached China from the Greater Yuezhi of northwest India and took the land route to reach Han China."

The accepted date for China is about 200 years after the Bali rings, beads and plates. It's hard to imagine Chinese in north India getting south Indian plates of cheap value , carrying them by land to China and taking them back by sea to Indonesia .

Cham Vietnam was settled 1st century by Hindu people for the purpose of China trade. No Chinese articles of that era are reported as far as I know, in SE Asia. Chinese visits of later times across the whole region are recorded.

Greeks had already sailed to south India for trade , not religious , reasons and had connections all the way to Rome so that Chinese plates bought at Oc Eo Vietnam arrived in Britain and are found today in the mud of the Thames river.  The flow of gold was east to China , not west and Rome had to stop the loss of wealth in buying Chinese silk and ceramics.  China had little incentive to sail to India which was building large ships from the1st century.

There's an interesting building near Angkor Wat,  Preah Khan named  "the Greek library" because of its design with columns in unusual style.

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This is all very interesting information. Thanks for sharing ximaira. It's common knowledge that Greeks reached present day Pakistan and India with Alexander the Great, but I had never heard before of direct Greek influence in China, Vietnam and Indonesia. 

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Guest ximaira

Out of curiosity I found this. A Greek city , Carlisle in England..

Greeks in the United Kingdom - Wikipedia, the free ...


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greeks_in_the_United_Kingdom1Mycenaean Greeks in Great Britain; 2 Early Greek settlement; 3 Middle ages ... Many Greeks later arrived with the Roman legions as soldiers and traders, and ...



It's a long stretch to connect this together , but Menander in India reached the city of Patna. It has a link with Australia.


It appears that religion from Indonesia went to Australia about 800 years ago. In Java, king Kertajaya

offended his Hindu and Buddhist priests and sailed "to the land of gods". Bundjalung people in east Australia remember that a boat arrived and the men gave laws and languages to the countries. There is much evidence for that and this is one example. Melbourne city has the 3rd largest Gr population today.


Patna City Anthem पटना नगर-गीत nagara gita (Skr nagasya gitam)


Tamil . nagarin gita.


Java , Bali . nagarane gita.


William Barak - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


(1824 – 15 August 1903), was the last traditional ngurungaeta (elder) ...Melbourne.


" Murrundindi is the ngurungaeta of the Wurundjeri people, a descendant of William Barak.

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Guest FriendofGreece

Ximaira, for the simple reason that although the article mentioned the many countries where there was Greek influence, Indonesia was not mentioned, nor Cambodia or Thailand. We know that Indians had a big influence on Indonesia, so I concluded that it must have been the Indian traders, rather than Greek traders, who went to Indonesia. Besides, at that time, were there Greek traders left? It is the period of Hellenism, could we say there were true Greeks in that area? Alexander the Great left some of his generals and army, but how many remained true Greeks? They must have married local women and were mixed Greeks by that time.


No, I did not say that Chinese traders took those things by sea to Indonesia, but to Cambodia or Thailand which are closer and by land. 


It is my understanding that once Ashoka popularized Buddhism in India, he wanted to spread Buddhism elsewhere and therefore sent Buddhist monks to other countries and some of them went to China, presumably by land, not by sea. Afterwards, there were a lot of Chinese pilgrims to went to China and I don't know if it was in North or South India. However, I mentioned they might have brought back coins or plates because wouldn't those be part of everyday life? They would need coins to pay for things and plates to eat with. Pilgrims are not particularly rich, so those would be everyday utensils, I guess.  

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Guest ximaira

The article you posted is 2011, the year before the Bali archaeology report. The normal Chinese route

was over the northern road. It's an enormous distance that way to the southern tip of Cambodia /Vietnam and China makes some ..china plates. Why would they go through the jungles of Myanmar, Thailand and

Cambodia to drop their plates in Bali?

"Greek was still in official use until the time of Kanishka (AD 120): "He (Kanishka) issued (?) an

edict(?) in Greek and then he put it into the Aryan language"._ from your article. They used Gr and

Kharosthi script on the one coin.

Yes Greeks were assimilating more each generation into Indian population. But coins show them as

culturally Greek to 1st century AD , distinct from Scythians or Dravidians. Of all the possible

scripts and ring styles in India, the Cambodian , Balinese objects have Greek-Bactrian style,Gr

Kharosthi script and are plates from south Indian where Greeks were traders.

It is possible that Chinese horsemen rode to south India, bought a ship and plates and cruised in SE

Asia to buy Chinese goods from middle-men to sell to India. That chance of that business is about 1% China to 99% Greek .

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Guest FriendofGreece

No no, I did not say Chinese traders went to Indonesia, the question I had was whether it was Indian or Greek traders who went to Indonesia. This is the first time I hear about Greeks traders in Indonesia. When I read articles about Indonesia, there is no mention of Greeks at all, only Indians and later, Muslims. So it is really surprising after all that time, that there is a connection between Greek traders and Indonesia. I mean, how many artefacts are we talking about? They could have been brought to Indonesia by any traders, any, not even Indian, no? Indonesia is pretty far away for Greeks to go there at that time, no? Not to talk about Australia. 

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Guest ximaira

You mean the Chinese took the same style of Bactrian rings to Cambodia that Indians took to Bali? A co-incidence ...

The Bali report was 1 year after 2011 which is 2012.


"To date, the total count of fine Indian sherds from Sembiran and Pacung can be
conservatively estimated at over 600, with a similar quantity of coarse-fabric sherds of
possible Indian manufacture. This underlines the significance of the sites for Indian traders,
possibly involved in the early commerce of Moluccan spices, and reaching Bali mainly
from the south Indian subcontinent since the late first millennium BC from sites such as
Arikamedu, which produced pre-Roman Rouletted Ware and also Julio-Claudian Arretine
ware and coins (Begley 1996). "
Arikamedu was a Roman trading port in south India.
It was just as far to Bali for anyone to travel , so why would other people be more likely than people from India?  The objects found are from 2 places where Greeks lived and Indians outside Bactria didn't use Kharosti script. It's back to 99% Greek , 1% another ethnic group. 

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Guest ximaira


Google doesn't give photos of Bali rings or plates. There are detailed surveys of the chemistry of

Roman plates in Arikamedu India but as Bali details are missing then things can't be compared. You can find names and follow up by googling. These experts give reasons for what they say:


Early Cambodian gold and silver from Prohear: Composition ...




May 15, 2014 - Official Full-Text Publication: Early Cambodian gold and silver from Prohear: Composition, trace elements and gilding on ResearchGate, the ...


( 2nd quote . p 278 photo of gold rings )



Pottery, beads retrace close links between India and Bali ...







Jul 29, 2015 - DNA ... "Trade between India and Bali can be traced from as early as the late 2nd century BC. ... He said Julah, located near Sembiran and Pacung, was a thriving port ...



History of Tinnevelly - Page 17 - Google Books Result




Bishop R. Caldwell - 1881 - ‎Tirunelveli (India : District)


The statement generally made by the Greek and Roman historians who refer to this ... More is known

about Korkai from the Greeks than from Native ...

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Guest ximaira

I think the Oracle of Delphi used to be Echidna / Python the snake ancestor of Celts. It connects with

Vedic Indra and snake legend which is seen in Indonesian Indra tradition, and Danu goddess of Ireland

and Bali.. There are about 300 Sanskrit-Indonesian words in north Australia and so some ritual

expressions in Australia are linked with Celtic Gaelic of Scotland , such as in Mayday pagan rites.

And Greeks were involved in some ways along the whole distance.

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