Sanskrit into Greek

Kautilya [also called Canakya or Visnugupta Galanos Demetrios]. Synopsis gnomon ethikon [...]. Sommario di sentenze morali del filosofo indiano Sanakea dal dialetto sanscrite ossia bracmanico indiano nella lingua greca e italiana tradotto dal viaggiatore Greco Cap.n Niccola Chiefala di Zante, [etc.]

Rome, Philip & Nikola de Romanis, 1825.

4to (185 x 250 mm) 49, (3) pp. Modern marbled paper.


First edition of this extremely rare pamphlet in modern Greek, itself translated from the Sanskrit - not, as the title says, by Nikolaos Kephalas, but in fact by the savant Demetrios Galanos. Kautilya was an Indian political theorist and minister of Candragupta, who flourished about 300 BCE, but was better known under the name Canakya (or Chanakya). Various works are attributed to him. This work introduced him to Europe, and a French translation, made from the Italian by Leon Bezout, was published in 1826. It is divided into eight chapters and contains some 148 "Sayings" with two preliminary paragraphs, the Greek and Italian versions being printed in parallel columns. There are also a number of notes printed beneath these columns, also in both languages. The "Sayings" are concerned with many facets of life: "if you are a learned man, make sure you are recognized as such; if you are not, confess your ignorance" (I, 15); "The clemency of a king towards his subjects should be the same as that of a father to his own sons" (IV, 6); "Heroes, learned men, and beautiful women, in whatever country they find themselves, immediately find an hourable reception" (VIII, 1).

Galanos (1760-1833), a Greek from Athens, was destined for priesthood and studied at Missolonghi under Panagiotes Palamas, and then at Patmos. After a brief sojourn in Constantinople, he went to Bengal as tutor to the children of a Greek merchant. He himself clearly became a successful merchant, as he amassed enough money to abandon commerce in 1793 and devote himself solely to scholarship and the study of Sanskrit at Varanasi, which he continued to do until his death. He was well known in India and was referred to (without being named) by Bishop Heber of Calcutta. Like that of the the Jews and the Armenians, the Greek commercial community in Calcutta flourished.

In addition to his massive lexicographical work, which was never published and survives only in manuscript in Athens (his mss. have been stored in the National Library since 1837), Galanos made a number of translations from the Sanskrit. Some of these were posthumously published by George Kozakis Typaldos, from 1842 director of the National Library of Greece, including an abridgment of the Mahabharata (a volume of 900 pages) and the "Bhagavadgita", but most remain in manuscript.

Nikolaos Kefalas or Niccolo Chiefala was born ca. 1765 on Zante (Zakynthos) and was therefore a British subject, but he was forever in trouble with the British authorities. Before 1812 he fought in the French army in Europe; in that year he returned to Constantinople, which he was immediately required to leave by the British consul, though it was the Turks who ensured his departure. This adventurer was the author of numerous works published from 1817 to 1845 in Vienna and elsewhere (the last in Athens), including works on sailing and marine matters, two maps (one a sea chart) published in Paris in 1818, and a description of Benares, published in Livorno. Kefalas was referred to by Pouqueville (Histoire VI, 12 [1824] as "cet intriguant", and his appropriation or theft of Galanos's work is referred to by others. He has in fact added a few things himself.

In an article in the Festschrift for Maurice Bloomfield (Studies in Honor of Maurice Bloomfield, New Haven: Yale UP, 1920) the Homeric philologist Bolling published "The Recension of Canakya used by Galanos". This prints and discusses the (transliterated) Sanskrit original of Galanos's Greek version of nominally 330 (actually 319) verses under the title "Politika, oikonomika kai ethika ex diaforon poieton" by Canakya, which was published in 1845 in his "Indikon metafraseon prodromos".


Legrand Bibl. Ionienne (Paris 1910), no. 1068. Papadopoulos, Ionike Vivliografia (Athens 1998), no. 1801 (simply taken from the entry in Legrand). There are copies at the BL, at Princeton, in Leiden and at the Niedersächsische Bibliothek. For Galanos see the article by Siegfried A. Schulz, "Demetrios Galanos (1760-1833): A Greek Indologist", in JAOS 89.2 (April-June 1969), pp. 339-356.

Art.-Nr.: BN#57328 Schlagwörter: , , ,