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The Pramnai Ascetics of Strabo 15.1.70

Harry Falk

Pages 155 - 171


Summary: When dealing with ascetics in India, Strabo speaks of pramnai and about garmanes. Both terms have no phonetical counterpart in Indian languages. While O. Stein traced back garmanes to a misread Greek form rendering śramaṇa, the term pramnai so far lacked a plausible explanation. A survey of the techniques to express Indic /ś/ in Greek script shows that pramnai can be explained by forms which started in the mid-first century bc with Greek rho and ended about a century later with the thorn-like Bactrian ša in the days of Vema Takhtu. This ša in turn was unknown in Greece and mistaken for pi. The character of the pramnai in Strabo can be linked to one of the social groups (merē) of the Indian state as mentioned by Megasthenes and is further proof for the veracity of his observations.


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