Herodotus: from The History of the Persian Wars, c. 430 BCE
Herodotus: from The History of the Persian Wars,
III.98: The way in which the Indians get the plentiful supply of gold which
enables them to furnish year by year so vast an amount of gold-dust to the kind is the
following: Eastward of India lies a tract which is entirely sand. Indeed of all the
inhabitants of Asia, concerning whom anything certain is known, the Indians dwell the
nearest to the east, and the rising of the sun. Beyond them the whole country is desert on
account of the sand. The tribes of Indians are numerous, and do not all speak the same
language---some are wandering tribes, others not. They who dwell in the marshes along the
river live on raw fish, which they take in boats made of reeds, each formed out of a
single joint. These Indians wear a dress of sedge, which they cut in the river and bruise;
afterwards they weave it into mats, and wear it as we wear a breast-plate.
III.99: Eastward of these Indians are another tribe, called Padaeans, who are
wanderers, and live on raw flesh. This tribe is said to have the following customs: If one
of their number be ill, man or woman, they take the sick person, and if he be a man, the
men of his acquaintance proceed to put him to death, because, they say, his flesh would be
spoilt for them if he pined and wasted away with sickness. The man protests he is not ill
in the least; but his friends will not accept his denial---in spite of all he can say,
they kill him, and feast themselves on his body. So also if a woman be sick, the women,
who are her friends, take her and do with her exactly the same as the men. If one of them
reaches to old age, about which there is seldom any question, as commonly before that time
they have had some disease or other, and so have been put to death---but if a man,
notwithstanding, comes to be old, then they offer him in sacrifice to their gods, and
afterwards eat his flesh.
III.100: There is another set of Indians whose customs are very different. They
refuse to put any live animal to death, they sow no corn, and have no dwelling-houses.
Vegetables are their only food. There is a plant which grows wild in their country,
bearing seed, about the size of millet-seed, in a calyx: their wont is to gather this seed
and having boiled it, calyx and all, to use it for food. If one of them is attacked with
sickness, he goes forth into the wilderness, and lies down to die; no one has the least
concern either for the sick or for the dead.
III.101: All the tribes which I have mentioned live together like the brute
beasts: they have also all the same tint of skin, which approaches that of the Ethiopians.
Their country is a long way from Persia towards the south: nor had king Darius ever any
authority over them.
III.102: Besides these, there are Indians of another tribe, who border on the
city of Caspatyrus, and the country of Pactyica; these people dwell northward of all the
rest of the Indians, and follow nearly the same mode of life as the Bactrians. They are
more warlike than any of the other tribes, and from them the men are sent forth who go to
procure the gold. For it is in this part of India that the sandy desert lies. Here, in
this desert, there live amid the sand great ants, in size somewhat less than dogs, but
bigger than foxes. The Persian king has a number of them, which have been caught by the
hunters in the land whereof we are speaking. Those ants make their dwellings under ground,
and like the Hellene ants, which they very much resemble in shape, throw up sand-heaps as
they burrow. Now the sand which they throw up is full of gold. The Indians, when they go
into the desert to collect this sand, take three camels and harness them together, a
female in the middle and a male on either side, in a leading-rein. The rider sits on the
female, and they are particular to choose for the purpose one that has but just dropped
her young; for their female camels can run as fast as horses, while they bear burthens
very much better.
III.104: When the Indians therefore have thus equipped themselves they set off
in quest of the gold, calculating the time so that they may be engaged in seizing it
during the most sultry part of the day, when the ants hide themselves to escape the heat.
The sun in those parts shines fiercest in the morning, not, as elsewhere, at noonday; the
greatest heat is from the time when he has reached a certain height, until the hour at
which the market closes. During this space he burns much more furiously than at midday in
Hellas, so that the men there are said at that time to drench themselves with water. At
noon his heat is much the same in India as in other countries, after which, as the day
declines, the warmth is only equal to that of the morning sun elsewhere. Towards evening
the coolness increases, till about sunset it becomes very cold.
III.105: When the Indians reach the place where the gold is, they fill their
bags with the sand, and ride away at their best speed: the ants, however, scenting them,
as the Persians say, rush forth in pursuit. Now these animals are, they declare, so swift,
that there is nothing in the world like them: if it were not, therefore, that the Indians
get a start while the ants are mustering, not a single gold-gatherer could escape. During
the flight the male camels, which are not so fleet as the females, grow tired, and begin
to drag, first one, and then the other; but the females recollect the young which they
have left behind, and never give way or flag. Such, according to the Persians, is the
manner in which the Indians get the greater part of their gold; some is dug out of the
earth, but of this the supply is more scanty.
III.106: It seems as if the extreme regions of the earth were blessed by nature
with the most excellent productions, just in the same way that Hellas enjoys a climate
more excellently tempered than any other country. In India, which, as I observed lately,
is the furthest region of the inhabited world towards the east, all the four-footed beasts
and the birds are very much bigger than those found elsewhere, except only the horses,
which are surpassed by the Median breed called the Nisaean. Gold too is produced there in
vast abundance, some dug from the earth, some washed down by the rivers, some carried off
in the mode which I have but now described. And further, there are trees which grow wild
there, the fruit whereof is a wool exceeding in beauty and goodness that of sheep. The
natives make their clothes of this tree-wool.
VII.65: The Indians wore cotton dresses, and carried bows of cane, and arrows
also of cane with iron at the point. Such was the equipment of the Indians, and they
marched under the command of Pharnazathres the son of Artabates.
VII.70. The Eastern Ethiopians---for two nations of this name served in the
army---were marshalled with the Indians [probably those who currently speak the Dravidian
language Brahui, who presently live in Pakistan, west of the Indus River. ---ed.].
They differed in nothing from the other Ethiopians, save in their language, and the
character of their hair. For the Eastern Ethiopians have straight hair, while they of
Libya are more woolly-haired than any other people in the world. Their equipment was in
most points like that of the Indians, but they wore upon their heads the scalps of horses,
with the ears and mane attached; the ears were made to stand upright, and the mane served
as a crest. For shields this people made use of the skins of cranes.
VII.86: The Medes, and Cissians, who had the same equipment as their
foot-soldiers. The Indians, equipped as their foot. men, but some on horseback and some in
chariots---the chariots drawn either by horses, or by wild asses.