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Nicolaus of Damascus (Nikolāos Damaskēnos) was a Greek historical and philosophical writer who lived in the Augustan age. His name is derived from that of his birthplace, Damascus. He was an intimate friend of Herod the Great, whom he survived.

His chief work was a universal history in 144 books, of which only a few fragments remain. He also wrote an autobiography, a life of Augustus, a life of Herod, and some philosophical works.

Nicolaus is famous for his account of an embassy sent by an Indian king "named Pandion (Pandyan kingdom?) or, according to others, Porus" to Caesar Augustus around 13 AD. He met with the embassy at Antioch. The embassy was bearing a diplomatic letter in Greek, and one of its members was a sramana who burnt himself alive in Athens to demonstrate his faith. The event made a sensation and was quoted by Strabo[1] and Dio Cassius[2]. A tomb was made to the sramana, still visible in the time of Plutarch, which bore the mention "ΖΑΡΜΑΝΟΧΗΓΑΣ ΙΝΔΟΣ ΑΠΟ ΒΑΡΓΟΣΗΣ" ("The sramana master from Barygaza in India").

These accounts indicate that Indian religious men (Sramanas, to which the Buddhists belonged, as opposed to Hindu Brahmanas) were circulating in the Levant during the time of Jesus.

Notes

  1. Strabo, xv, 1, on the immolation of the Sramana in Athens (Paragraph 73)
  2. Dio Cassius, liv, 9.

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