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When the Greeks Converted the Buddha: Asymmetrical Transfers of Knowledge in Indo-Greek Cultures

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Chapter Summary

This chapter tracks Alexander's campaigns in Central Asia and Northwestern (NW) India, and examines how at different times and because of trade, the Hellenes of the East remained in close historical contact with their Mediterranean cousins and with their Indian and Central Asian neighbours. Alexander's policy of integration between East and West serves as a prelude to the meeting of Pyrrho of Elis with Indian ascetics. The chapter offers an overview of the encounters between Buddhist missions and Greek communities in the Mauryan Empire vis-à-vis the alleged impact of Buddhist missionaries as attested by the Greek edicts of Aśoka. It argues for the formation of Greco-Buddhist art as an endemic development initiated by Indo-Greeks who had converted to Buddhism. The chapter addresses the phenomenon of cultural conversion among the Indo-Greeks to Buddhism and of Buddhism to Hellenism drawing some instructive insights from Kroeber's theory of stimulus diffusion.

Keywords: Alexander's campaigns; Central Asia; Greco-Buddhist art; Greek communities; Hellenism; Indo-Greek cultures; Kroeber's theory; Mauryan Empire; NorthWestern (NW) India; pyrrhonism



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