Datei:Griffin from Cosmographia (1544) by Sebastian Münster .jpg
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Münster on India
These leaves from Book V of one of the earliest editions of Cosmographia (the Latin edition from the Basel printing house of Sebastian Heinrich-Petri, 1552) are devoted to Asia ("De terris Asiae maioris"), and more specifically to India. In his text, Münster clearly follows *Strabo*, relying heavily on his Geography (Book XV: On India).
"India is bounded on the north from Ariana to the eastern sea, by the extremities of the Taurus, which by the natives are severally called 'Paropamisus' and 'Emodus' and 'Imaus' and other names, but by the Macedonians 'Caucasus'; on the west by the Indus River; but the southern and eastern sides, which are much greater than the other two, extend out into the Atlantic sea, and thus the shape of the country becomes rhomboidal, each of the greater sides exceeding the opposite side by as much as three thousand stadia, which is the same number of stadia by which the cape common to the eastern and southern coast extends equally farther out in either direction than the rest of the shore. Now the length of the western side from the Caucasian Mountains to the southern sea is generally called thirteen thousand stadia, I mean along the Indus River to its outlets, so that the the opposite side, the eastern, if one adds the thousand of the cape, will be sixteen thousand stadia. These, then, are the minimum and maximum breadths of the country."
Several comments are in order here. The term "Indian Caucasus" was commonly used for the Hindu Kush. Paropamisus is a mountain range in northwest Afghanistan, stretching from the Hindu Kush toward the Elburz Mountains in Iran. The Taurus mountain range lies in southern Turkey. However, the names "Taurus" and "Imaus" were used by Münster for the Hindu Kush and the Himalayas. The text mentions the Indus and the Ganges rivers.
"I might almost say that the same animals are to be found in India as in Aethiopia and Egypt, and that the Indian rivers have all the other river animals except the hippopotamus, although Onesicritus says that the hippopotamus is also to be found in India. As for the people of India, those in the south are like the Aethiopians in colour, although they are like the rest in respect to countenance and hair (for on account of the humidity of the air their hair does not curl), whereas those in the north are like the Egyptians."
In the early summer of 27, Alexander left Bactria with a reinforced army under a reorganized command. If Plutarch's figure of 120,000 men has any reality, however, it must include all kinds of auxiliary services, together with muleteers, camel drivers, medical corps, peddlers, entertainers, women, and children; the fighting strength perhaps stood at about 35,000. Recrossing the Hindu Kush, probably by Bamian and the Ghorband Valley, Alexander divided his forces. Half the army with the baggage, with both cavalry commanders, was sent through the Khyber Pass, while he himself led the rest, together with his siege train, through the hills to the north.
"The Ichthyophagi, on the ebbing of the tide, collect fish, which they cast upon the rocks and dry in the sun. When they have well-broiled them, the bones are piled in heaps, and the flesh trodden with the feet is made into cakes, which are again exposed to the sun and used as food. In bad weather, when fish cannot be procured, the bones of which they have made heaps are pounded, made into cakes and eaten, but they suck the fresh bones. Some also live upon shellfish, when they are fattened, which is done by throwing them into holes and standing pools of the sea, where they are supplied with small fish, and used as food when other fish are scarce. They have various kinds of places for preserving and feeding fish, from whence they derive their supply."
Then come the creatures who live in "India beyond the Ganges" (which we now call Southeast Asia). In the medieval mappaemundi, lurking at the edges of the world were monstrous races. The text, here too following Pliny, contains the description of some of these species: the Cyclops (giants with one enormous eye in the middle of the forehead); the Blemmyai (they were headless and had their faces on their chests) [*another look at the Blemmyae*]; the Sciopods (although one-legged, they were very swift and used their single large feet as an umbrella to shade themselves from the sun). But, most importantly, there were the Cynocephali (Cynocephales, "Dog-heads"), one of the best-known monstrous races. They had the body of a man and the head of a dog. According to Pliny, they lived in the mountains of India and barked to communicate. They lived in caves, wore animal skins, hunted very succesfully, and used javelins, bows, and swords. Other sources that circulated in the middle ages picture the Cynocephali much more frighteningly, with enormous teeth and breathing fire. Several sources make them cannibals. All sources emphasize that they combine the natures of man and beast. [A closer look at the *monster races*.] The Pygmei seem to include creatures with long hanging ears that droop to the ground, who evoke the earlier *Panotii*. [An inventory of these and other monstrous creatures from the *Nuremberg Chronicle, 1493*.]
"Nearchus says that the skins of gold-mining ants are like those of leopards. But Megasthenes speaks of these ants, as follows: that among the Derdae, a large tribe of Indians living towards the east and in the mountains, there is a plateau approximately three thousand stadia in circuit, and that below it are gold mines, of which the miners are ants, animals that are no smaller than foxes, are surpassingly swift, and live on the prey they catch. They dig holes in winter and heap up the earth at the mouths of the holes, like moles; and the gold dust requires but little smelting. The neighbouring peoples go after it on beasts of burden by stealth, for if they go openly the ants fight it out with them and pursue them when they flee, and then, having overtaken them, exterminate both them and their beasts; but to escape being seen by the ants, the people lay out pieces of flesh of wild beasts at different places, and when the ants are drawn away from around the holes, the people take up the gold-dust and, not knowing how to smelt it, dispose of it unwrought to traders at any price it will fetch." (Strabo, Book XV.44)
(And there's a new *theory about those ants*.) Thereafter follows a section on monkeys and dogs of India ("De simiis Indianis & canibus") and on the Malay Peninsula (known in ancient times as the Chersonesus Aurea, or "Golden Peninsula").
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