"… aut facere scribendam, aut scribere legendam …"
(Pliny the Younger in a letter to his friend Tacitus)
Dear Friends and Fellow Researchers,
another year with 12 months full of intensive efforts to trace, copy, read and digest still more source material on the history of our main topic — the Yuezhi/Rouzhi/Wuzhi, i.e. the Asioi/Iatioi, Asiani/Asi, Arsi/Arshi — has gone by.
In this time, my “sparring partner” John Hill (half a world away in Cooktown/Australia, but connected by e-mail as closely as if he were living next door) has been a great inspiration in our ongoing lively discussions. These help me so much to clarify and formulate my findings.
And over us hover in benevolent guidance two university teachers : Prof. Victor H. Mair, Sinologist at Penn U, and Prof. Harry Falk, Indologist at Berlin FU. They represent the two worlds in which the Yuezhi (Arsi) grew up in antiquity and rose to fame. To retrace the history of this phenomenal people of swift horse archers, one has to be at home in the worlds and cultures of ancient China, India and Greece — a break-neck endeavor.
Also, early last year I introduced myself to the “Bayerische Staatsbibliothek”, the State Library at Munich. In two days time I copied excerpts of so many books I had been unable to find here in Berlin in so many years. In this way, too, I became familiar with the online catalogue OPACplus of the great Bavarian Library, famous for its fabulous collection of rare books. I also noted that the BSB has started to put these “rara” online for anyone with access to a computer to read and even download. This “Digital Library” is a new development with tremendous implications for all future in-depth research work world-wide.
At present doing research on Strabon 11.8.2 — the “list” of nomad peoples that stormed and destroyed Greek Bactria in the second century BCE — I found out from the oldest Strabon editions that the original reading Tacharoi has been amended (mistakenly!) to Tocharoi by Carolus Henricus Tzschucke, Lipsiae 1806. Whereas the truly corrupt Sakarauloi kai (for the original Sakaraukai), still found in the text today, can be traced back all the way to the first Latin translation of Strabon’s Geography by Guarinus Veronensis and Gregorius de Tipherno, Venetiae 1472 …
A first task in 2012, then, should be a longer discussion of “Strabon 11.8.2” which became the topic in the box text of my New Year’s card for 2012 (see below) — to which I append a few quick remarks here.
Another task would be to update my excerpts from Western Yuezhi literature (monographs and Journal papers), originally typed into the computer 1998–2001. At the time, I had these printed out, first in one volume of some 1,000 pages, soon followed by a volume of additions of another 500 pages, and had presented the books to a few close friends.
Now I am trying to find out whether or not I can convert these age-old WordPerfect6.0 + TwinBridge3.3 files to pdf. In this format I could make that collection of helpful Yuezhi texts available to all by placing it here on my website.
In a second step I could add the most important quotes from the mass of source material I collected in the years since 2001. In pdf, the files would be fully searchable and thus become very helpful tools for anyone doing research on the Yuezhi — including myself.
If this were still not enough work for the new year, I could also try to do a second edition of my “Shiji 110 / Hanshu 94A. The Xiongnu” — correcting the great amount of mistakes I found since, and then adding a novum : an English translation to the ancient Chinese notes in the Shiji and Hanshu that were ignored in toto by Hulsewé/Loewe and Watson.
So there’s no lack of ideas what to do in the great year of the Dragon 2012 !
In 1927, 1928 and again in 1930, Professor Wolfgang Aly of Freiburg University (my hometown in Germany) went to Rome to decipher the folios of a palimpsest containing fragments of Strabōn’s Geography — today our oldest Strabōn codex, originally written in the fifth (!) century AD.
Before this trip abroad, Aly, at the Benedictine Abbey of Beuron, had made himself familiar with the latest photographic methods to make erased texts of rewritten manuscripts, or palimpsests, visible again. He then saw to it that Beuron sent Father A. Dold with it’s technical equipment to Rome to do the necessary photographic shots on the folios of the Strabōn codex which had been reused (by erasing the old and writing a new text on them) twice in the long time of their existence.
Since 1844 the Vatican Library at Rome had brought together a total of 69 folios of this overwritten Strabon codex from a number of places. The find had been made public in 1875, and first tentative readings of parts of the palimpsest were published by the Basilian Father G. Cozza-Luzi 1884–1898.
It took Aly 25 years to publish the sum of his own deciphering efforts, Città del Vaticano 1956, done fittingly in the Latin language. The book opened a new page in the history of Strabōn studies.
Very fortunate for us, the fragments contained Strabōn 11.8.2 — in a perfectly readable state of preservation. Two corruptions in the four names in Strabōn’s list of conquering nomad peoples were finally corrected:
— Tacharoi in place of Tocharoi and
— Sakaraukai in place of Sakarauloi.
The mistaken reading “Tocharoi” in our Strabōn editions/translations is due to a rather new “emendation” by K. H. Tzschucke, 1806. But it has become so entrenched in modern literature that this corruption will be hard to correct again.
By contrast, the corrupt reading “Sakarauloi” can be found in the very first printed edition of Strabōn’s Geography, a translation into Latin by Guarinus/Gregorius, Venice 1472. We will have to search the various Strabōn mss to find out when this mistake crept into the text: in any case sometime between the 5th and the 15th century. In modern times, scholars like E. Herzfeld (1932: 26) suggested that the “Sakarauloikai…” of the text should be read Sakarau(loi)kai, i.e. as the effort of an enlightened copyist to correct his predecessor’s mistaken Sakarauloi back to Sakaraukai — but Ch. G. Groskurd in his famous early German translation (1831: 397) did not understand and deleted, not the “-loi”, but the (seemingly redundant) “kai” …
Here I insert the box text of my New Year’s card for 2012 once more for easier reading, followed by a few further remarks on the topic.
Strabōn Palimpsest, folio 281 recto, column 1, lines 12–20 (= 11.8.2) :
notorious of all No-
mads became those
who from the
Greeks took away
the Baktriane :
The Asioi (also [called] both Asianoi
and Tacharoi) and the Sa-
karaukai [“Royal Saka”] …
W. Aly: De Strabonis Codice Rescripto (Studi e Testi 188), Città del Vaticano 1956:
Habemus igitur 69 folia, id est, ut conspectus noster docet, septimam fere partem codicis Straboniani … Folia etiamnunc altitudinem 281 mm, latitudinem 260 mm habent … latitudo columnarum 55 ad 58 mm, distancia columnarum 20 mm, intervalla versuum 5,5 ad 6,5 mm, altitudo litterarum 2,5 mm … Scriptura [uncialis continua inclinata] aequalis et elegantissima … Signum vetustatis scriptura est tribus columnis disposita eo more, quo vetustissimi Sacrae Scripturae codices exarati sunt velut Vaticanus et Sinaiticus … Hic fuit scribendi mos, qui usque ad sextum saeculum valuit … (pp.VII–XII)
Variae lectiones … [fol.] 281 r I 19/20 = [11.]8.2 CAKAPAUKAI : L [codices omnes praeter palimpsestum, i.e. codicem rescriptum] σακάραυλοι καί; καί del. Grosk[urd]. TAXAPOI L quoque exhibent. (p.196)
Nam inter viros doctos constat in scriptura unciali litteras quidem Н et П, i.e. 8 et 80 saepissime confundi … in margine adscriptam esse H, quae falso pro П lecta est … (pp.242–243)
Manuscriptum nondum editum additamenta marginalia exhibuisse iam negari non potest. Post mortem auctoris editum est. Tempore procedente exemplaria scripta sunt, quibus marginalia omittebantur. Huius generis codex Stephani fuit, ex quo codices Byzantini profluxerunt. In aliis scriba eruditior notas exquisitiores in contextum recepit. Hinc origo codicis rescripti fuit … (pp.260–261)
KAIHACIANOIKAITAXAPOI had been one such note Strabōn, after reading Trogus’ Historiae Philippicae very late in his life, wrote into the margin next to …ACIOI… in book 11, chapter 8, of his manuscript — which he never published in his lifetime. Long after his death, a scriba eruditior placed the gloss into the text.
The most convincing prove for the new interpretation of Strabōn’s two thousand years old phrase is no doubt the fact that our various sources on the history of Central Asia now agree on the number of nomad peoples conquering and destroying Greek Bactria in the latter half of the second century BCE.
Generations of scholars have lamented that by the Greek geographer Strabōn, the Roman historian Trogus, and the Chinese explorer Zhang Qian (in Sima Qian) we were told that the number of these conquering nomad peoples were four, two, and just one, respectively — and that it was impossible to say who was right.
Christian Lassen (1852: 360–361) wrote:
„Den umständlichsten Bericht über den Skytheneinbruch hat uns Strabon aufbewahrt … Ausser dieser Stelle finden sich nur zwei kurze Notizen aus dem Werke des Trogus Pompeius … Die Verschiedenheiten dieser Angaben betreffen theils die Zahl der Völker, theils ihre Namen. Strabon führt vier auf, Trogus Pompeius dagegen nur drei, seine Sarancae müssen die Sakarauler des ersteren seyn.
Da die Pasianer sonst nirgends vorkommen, möchte es kaum zweifelhaft seyn, dass in seinen Texte dieser Name aus einer Randglosse … durch die Abschreiber eingedrungen ist …
Wie lässt sich nun diese Darstellung mit der Chinesischen vereinigen, in welcher nur ein einziges Volk genannt und ihm der Name Sse beigelegt wird? Denn, dass dieses Volk und nicht die Juetchi in diesem Falle zu verstehen sind, wird dadurch sicher, dass jene die vordersten waren …“
( “The most detailed report on the irruption of the Scythians Strabon has preserved for us … beyond this passage there are only two short notices in the work of Trogus Pompeius … The differences in these texts concern on the one hand the number of these peoples, on the other hand their names. Strabon lists four, Trogus Pompeius by contrast only three, his Sarancae must be the Sakarauli of the former (Strabon).
Since the Pasiani are not mentioned elsewhere, there can be hardly any doubt that this name was entered into his (Strabōn’s) text from a marginal note … by the copyists …
How can this statement be made to agree with that of the Chinese in which only one single people is mentioned to which they give the name Sse (Sai)? Because that this people and not the Juetchi (Yuezhi) must be understood here becomes sure through the fact that they were the foremost …” )
In this place in 2008 (my New Year’s card of 2008, see below), I have shown that the Hanshu and later Chinese Standard Histories know in fact of TWO peoples conquering Greek Bactria :
— most prominently the Yuezhi 月氏 (old pronunciation Ar-si);
— but before them the Saiwang 塞王 (old pronunciation Sak-wang = “King Saka”).
The Yuezhi kept chasing the Saiwang before them ever since these two antagonistic nomad peoples clashed for a first time in the fertile plains of the Ili River, in or immediately after 166 BCE.
In Strabōn’s “list” of four conquering peoples the obscure Pasiani had been deleted by J. F. Vaillant (1725: 61) and L. Du Four de Longuerue (1732: 14), suggesting that πασιανοι should be amended to η ασιανoι “also (called) the Asiani”.
This left the Tachari amongst the conquering nomad peoples — causing tremendous confusion amongst prominent historians of the following three hundred years.
With the deletion of the Pasiani AND the Tachari, Strabõn’s list finally names the Asioi and the Sakaraukai only. They can be equated with Trogus’ Asiani and Sa[ka]raucae and Ban Gu’s Yuezhi/Arsi and Saiwang.
The true Tochar(ians) — whose original name was in fact Tachar, the Daxia 大夏 of the early Chinese sources — at long last become again what they had always been : the autochthonous, well-settled inhabitants of East Bactria, the original Tochar-i-stan, defined by the 10th century Persian geographer Ishtakhri as located east of Balkh, west of Badakhshan, south of the Amu Darya (Oxus), and north of the Hindukush mountains.
The so-called Tochar(ians), however, were the Yuezhi AFTER their conquest of the true Tochar(ians) in about 130 BCE. As they were unable to conquer the whole of Bactria for close to two hundred years, they became known — in the West, but soon also in their original homeland in East Asia — by the name of the local people in their part of Bactria.
It were the Yuezhi/Arsi, alias Asi(oi)/Asi(ani), who made the name Tachar(oi) famous — as Strabōn had sought to point out in his gloss.
Berlin, New Year’s Day 2012,
Chris M. Dorn’eich
First minutes of 2011
(Photo: U. Schücking)
Dear Friends and Colleagues,
with 2011 CE this blog, devoted to historical research, now goes into its third year…
2010 went by much too quickly. Most of it I used up to reorganize my working conditions. The all-important source material, collected in the span of a decade by copying excerpts of what I had been reading mostly in the Berlin State Library, reached an extent where I rapidly lost track of it. The files, filling a dozen meters of shelf space, needed a more careful organization. To each copied journal or book text a tag had to be added to stick out so that I could find what I was looking for fairly quickly. As a matter of fact, a complete bibliography with a thousand titles was called for — but I have hardly begun the tedious task.
I am a private researcher. An amateur doing work for his own pleasure and in any case without remuneration. Under such circumstances, it is not altogether easy to secure the means for our basic needs: clothing, food, and shelter. However, I find this situation a healthy and challenging one and somehow manage to survive.
Last year, I celebrated my 70th birthday. At an age, where others are inclined to retire from a life-long occupation, I find that a huge amount of work is still left for me to do. I am trying my best to stay fit and healthy enough to go on for a few more years. At least as far as age and health are concerned, I hope to follow the example of Strabo of Amaseia who, two thousand years ago and at the age of over eighty, bequeathed to the world the manuscript of his monumental Geographika. In our context, his work is of crucial importance — it includes a sentence which has confused and mislead generations of scholars.
Late last year, I took up the topic once more I had started to investigate twelve months before: the unique and fateful migration of the greater part of the whole Yuezhi/Arsi people from their original seats between Anding and Dunhuang (or from the center of the Yellow River bend to the western end of the Hexi corridor) in East Asia, first to the Ili River, and from there into Sogdiana in Central Asia. Here, they founded a new kingdom and soon extended it into East Bactria or Daxia 大夏 — the land of the Tachar(ians) —, since the Ili River plains always chasing the Sakaraukai/Saiwang 塞王 or “King Sakas” before them.
For the year of this exodus/flight from one world into a completely different one, where the Easterners rather quickly rose to prominence under the guise of several Western names, various dates have been suggested, ranging from 176 to 157 BCE. By quoting and evaluating the well-known Chinese sources (and including the less-known notes of the ancient Chinese commentators as well) I hope to have shown convincingly that the great irruption of a huge Xiongnu army through the Xiao Guan 蕭關, or Northern Gate in the Great Wall of the Qin, into the territory of Anding, next to the Han Chinese border province of Beidi, “in the year fourteen of Han Emperor Wen, in the winter” 孝 文 帝 十 四 年 冬 (167/166 BCE), was thus directed against, not the Chinese, but their immediate Western neighbors, i.e. the Yuezhi/Arsi. This people, like the Xiongnu, shared a common border with Beidi province. Suffering a traumatic defeat at the hands of the proto-Huns, they decided to escape the prospect of subjugation and annihilation by moving far enough west to be out of reach for their arch enemy, the despised Xiongnu under their mighty Emperor (Chanyu) Lao Shang, or “The Venerable High” …
The year 166 BCE is thus a date in the history of Asia which stands out as the beginning of the movements/relocations of certain nomad peoples that reshaped the whole map of Central Asia in the following decades and centuries.
Berlin, January 17th, 2011 (revised April 9th, 2011)
Chris M. Dorn’eich