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communicated to the public, of too interesting a nature to be passed over in silence; and I shall therefore make no apology for allotting to the consideration of it a separate section.
If, in the prosecution of this subject, I should be thought to enlarge upon it at a length disproportionate to its importance, I hope that some allowance will be made for my partiality to an hypothesis, which seems to myself to possess some plausibility as well as novelty ; while I attempt, at the same time, by varying the object of the reader's attention, to relieve a little the unavoidable uniformity of these abstract disquisitions.
Miscellaneous Observations on Language, continued.-Conjectures concerning the
Origin of the Sanscrit.
It is now a considerable time since the similarity between the Sanscrit and the Greek (and also between the Sanscrit and the Latin, which is the most ancient dialect of the Greek) was remarked by Mr. Halhed and Mr. Wilkins, the first Englishmen, it would seem, who attempted to study Sanscrit with grammatical accuracy.
They took notice particularly of the striking resemblance in many of those words, which, being necessarily coëval with civilized society, no language could have borrowed from another, unless it was a derivative or dialect of that language. Of this kind are the names of numbers; of the members of the human body; and of family relations, such as those of father, mother, and brother.t
To Mr. Halhed we are indebted for two other very important facts, that “every Sanscrit verb has a form equivalent to the middle voice of the Greek, used through all the tenses with a reflective sense;" I and that all the Greek verbs in ul are formed exactly upon the same
* See the Preface to a Grammar of the Sanskrita Language, by Charles Wilkins. LL. D. † Ancient Metaphysics, Vol. IV. p. 326.
Grammar of the Bengal Language, printed at Hoogly, in Bengal, 1778, p. 101.
principle with the Sanscrit conjugations, even in the minutest particulars.” *
In addition to these facts, Mr. Wilkins remarked the coincidence of the Sanscrit with the Greek, in the composition of words with the letter a, implying á negation of the quality expressed by the word, and therefore called by the Greek grammarians the Alpha privativum. According to Mr. Wilkins, this composition is equally common in both languages.t
Another convincing proof of the close affinity between Sanscrit and Greek, is afforded, in my opinion by the near coincidence between them in their system of prosody. On this point we have the conclusive testimony of Sir William Jones. “The Sanscrit prosody is easy and beautiful. The learned will find in it almost all the measures of the Greeks, and it is remarkable, that the language of the Bramins runs very naturally into Sapphics, Alcaics, and lambics." I
A variety of other instances of the affinity or analogy between these two languages have been taken notice of by other writers, since the time that the idea was first started by Mr. Halhed and Mr. Wilkins; but the most decisive statement I have yet met with on the subject, occurs in a letter addressed to an anonymous correspondent in England, by the Rev. David Brown, Provost of the College of Fort William. The letter is dated Calcutta, 13th September, 1806.
After mentioning that a translation by the missionaries of the two first gospels will be ready by the end of this
Ibid. p. 126.
This coincidence between Sanscrit and Greek is not, so far as I know, mentioned by Mr. Wilkins in any of his own publications; but it is confidently stated, upon his authority, by Lord Monboddo, in the 4th volume of his Ancient Metaphysics, p. 331. His words are these :-“ But a more extraordinary composition in the Sanscrit than any I have hitherto mentioned, and which is the same in the Greek, and is so remarkable a peculiarity in both languages, that I think it is impossible it could exist, except in languages that were originally the same. The composition I mean is of words with the letter a, implying a negation of the quality expressed by the word; for which reason it is called by the Greek grammarians the ă privative, such as the words ürpatos, á@nains, and hundreds of others. Now, I am told, not only by Mr. Wilkins, but by others who have applied to the study of the Sanscrit
, particularly Mr. Hastings, who is not only a good Greek scholar, but learned in the Sanscrit, that this composition is as common in that language as it is in Greek.” | Works of Sir William Jones, Vol. I. p. 359. VOL. III.
Mr. Brown adds,—“ Shanscrit answers to Greek, as face answers to face in a glass. The translation will be perfect, while it will be almost verbal. A Shanscrit edition of the Gospels will be published with the Greek on the opposite page, as soon as we can procure Greek types.
You will find the verb in the corresponding mood and tense, the noun and adjective in the corresponding case and gender. The idiom and government are the same ; where the Greek is absolute, so is the Shanscrit, and in many instances the primitives or roots are the same. This will exhibit a curious phenomenon to the learned in Europe.
On a coincidence so astonishing, it would perhaps be more prudent for me to be totally silent; but the reader will; I hope, pardon me if I add a few conjectures to those of my predecessors, concerning a fact which may be regarded as unparalleled in the history of man. These conjectures were suggested to me by a remark thrown out by Mr. Gibbon in his history. “I have long harboured a suspicion,” he observes, “that some, perhaps much, of the Indian science was derived from the Greeks of Bactriana.” † To this hint, however, I paid but little attention, till I found the same opinion stated with considerable confidence by the very learned Meiners in his Historia de Vero Deo; who refers, in support of it, to the proofs alleged by Bayer in his Historia Regni Græcorum Bactriani. But, on looking into this work of Bayer, I was much disappointed to find that it embraces only a very narrow corner of Indian science; relating almost entirely to the names of numbers ; the division of time into minutes, hours, weeks, months, &c.; the Hin
* For some farther information on this subject, the curious reader is referred to an article in the 33d volume of the Edinburgh Review, p. 431, where some very striking analogies between Greek and Sanscrit, (particularly in the inflections of the verbs,) are quoted from a German publication by Francis Bopp. I regret much, that my total ignorance of the language puts it out of my power to have recourse to the original work.
The author of the article now referred to informs us, that the philologers of Germany have lately begun to direct their attention to the languages of India. He, in particular, speaks in terms of high praise of an Essay on the Language and Philosophy of the Indians, by the celebrated Mr. Frederick Schlegel. Of this I know nothing, but from the very general account of its object and results given by Madame de Staël, in her work, De l'Allemagne. -See Tome 3me, p. 119.
† Gibbon's History, Vol. VII. p. 294.
doo calendar; and certain astronomical cycles; which he labors to show that. the Indians derived from the Greeks, and not the Greeks from the Indians. In his argument on this head he displays much curious learning: but he indulges also a good deal in conjectures; and the apology he offers for these appears to me just and philosophical. Indeed it was chiefly to introduce this apology that I was led at present to refer to his work, as I flatter myself it may serve, in some measure, to justify my presumption in indulging imagination a little upon a subject of which I have no pretension to treat from any knowledge of Eastern languages. “Sed de Græcis artibus, quemadmodum cum oriente communicatæ fuerint, ex conjecturâ egi. Quo in loco veniam mihi dari cupio, si minutis suspicionibus plus fuerim obsecutus, quam vobis videbitur æquum esse. Odiosum hoc est sæpe suspicari : Attamen, ut mea opinio fert, in tempore et loco necessarium atque utile. Ut enim in obscurissimis quæstionibus primum hoc est, suspicari, ita, si nihil proficiamus amplius, extare et cognosci suspiciones nostras convenit, quibus fortassis alii occasio præbeatur, aut hoc ipsum, aut novum et diversum iter sibi muniendi, quo proxime ad veritatem perveniatur.” *
Before I proceed to say any thing of the Sanscrit, it may be proper to recall to the memory of the reader some facts, for which we have the evidence of history, concerning the ancient intercourse between the Greek colony of Bactriana and the inhabitants of Hindostan.
It is universally known,t that after the conquests of Alexander in Asia, it was one great object of his policy to secure the possession of his new empire by incorporating and assimilating, as far as possible, his Asiatic and his European subjects. With this view we find him, soon after the victory at Arbela, assuming, along with many of his officers, the Persian dress, and adopting several of the customs of the conquered people. On the other hand, he encouraged the Persian nobles
* Bayeri Historia Regni Græcorum Bactriani. Petropoli, 1738.
† Dr. Robertson's Disquisition concerning Ancient India, p. 24, et seq. edit. of 1791. The reader will find Dr. Robertson's authorities carefully quoted at the foot
of each page.
to learn the Greek language, and to cultivate a taste for Greek literature. We find him, in prosecution of the same design, not only marrying one of the daughters of Darius, but choosing wives for a hundred of his principal officers in the most illustrious Persian families. The example was so eagerly followed by the lower ranks, that, we are told, above ten thousand Macedonians married Persian women, and received marriage gifts from Alexander, as a mark of his approbation.
It is not to be doubted, even although we had no direct evidence of the fact, that he followed the same policy in his Indian dominions; but he was soon interrupted in the execution of his plans by the mutinous spirit of his soldiers, and almost immediately afterwards by his untimely death.*
The measures, however, which he had taken for the security of his conquests had been so well concerted, that India quietly submitted to Pytho, the son of Agenor, and afterwards to Seleucus, who successively obtained dominion over that part of Asia. During the reign of the latter, which terminated forty-two years after Alexander's death, the Macedonian power and possessions in India remained unimpaired.
After the death of Seleucus, the Syrian monarchs seem to have lost their Indian possessions. But the Greeks continued to maintain an intercourse with India, and even to extend their dominions in that quarter. This intercourse was carried on from the kingdom of Bactriana, originally subject to Seleucus, but wrested from his son or grandson about sixty-nine years after the death of Alexander, and erected into an independent state. From the very imperfect gleanings which we are able to collect on this subject from ancient authors, we learn that the commerce of Bactriana with
* “ Alexander was so intent on rendering this union of his subjects complete, that, after his death, there was found in his tablets or commentaries (among other magnificent schemes which he meditated) a resolution to build several new cities, some in Asia and some in Europe, and to people those in Asia with Europeans, and those in Europe with Asiatics, that,' says the historian, óby intermarriages and exchange of good offices, the inhabitants of these two great continents might be gradually moulded into a similarity of sentiments, and become attached to each other with mutual affection." "-- Diod Sicul, lib. xviii. c. 4.–Robertson's Disquisition concerning Ancient India, p. 191.