Half Buddha and half Greek, a characteristic sample of Gandhara art of 4th century A.D.

Precious acquisitions of Gantara style statues at the Benaki Museum in Athens...

The Benaki Museum has acquired a statue of Buddha, with an ancient greek style robe, which has an intense influence of Greek art. The Buddha statue resembles god Apollo with three sculptural samples of an infrequent cultural phenomenon of the hellinobuddhist Gandhara art, recently. The masterpieces were bought from an auction, with resources of bequest. The statues originated from some part of Afghanistan and they signal the effort of the Benaki Museum to detect the presence and the influence of the Hellinic culture to the known ancient civilizations.

After the recent bombings of the Taliban, against the two Buddha statues, which resulted to their destruction, in these same regions, the new acquisitions of the Benaki Museum presents additional interest. The unknown side, to the wide public, of the history of the hellinobuddhist art in a recent Moslem country can throw some light in this inexplicable mystery. As a particularly important acquisition is considered a stone embossed plate from grayish slate of 2nd-3rd century A.D., which probably comes from the east part of Pakistan, which represents a assembly of students of Buddha, while the two clay heads with traces of color from the region Hanta of Afghanistan recall the form of a bearded Seilinou, with the half opened mouth and the virtues of art of the portrait head of a “donor” enwreathed with a band. The Benaki Museum is directed in exposing the whole-body statue of Buddha in the Asian Art department, which will open in the Kerameiko, while one of the “Greek” heads has already been included in its re-exposition at of central building of the Museum at Koumbari Street!

The Greek were not unknown to the ancient Indians. The first Iones, an tribe in ancient Greece, moved to India, after their exile from Dareio the 6th century B.C. Alexander, in his sweeping expedition went down to the depths of India, the Gange, starting from the North, the current Afghanistan, the area which was the extended mountainous country of Vactria, Pakistan, at the valley of Souat. The hellenistic kingdom of the Vactrian?s lasted until the middle of the 1st century B.C., therefore was placed under roman suzerainty. In this precise the region, round the mountain range of Caucasus and with epicentre the Taxila, between the two countries developed the culture and the Gandhara art, that already had been for centuries a satrapeia of the Ahaimenidon. The Greek culture and the neighboring ahaimenic culture were solidified and propagated to the Indians and the populations of the region not as a result of violence, but because to the charm of their supremacy. A fundamental role played the circulation of the currency, silver and cupreous, with the heads of the kings of the Vactrians.

The deep knowledge of the Greeks in medicine, the exceptional beauty and sharpness of the language and their philosophical thought, the constructions, the tools were admired; the Greek warriors were fictionalized for the power and their bravery. Thus the Indians forgave them for the basic cultural differences that separated them.

The Greeks did not believe in the system of separating of people in castes. The same orthodoxe hinduistic thought cultivated by the contact with the depth of Greek thought, while in the substance Greeks and Indians lived in a society which was the basic form of the vision of a world ideology, that had been inspired by Alexander the Great. The Greek presence is considered to have given to these populations a new and compacter cohesion, which helped them to differentiate. Under this conditions king Asoka was born, the 1st century B.C. Asoka, did everything within his power, in order to propagate the Dharma, and Buddhism. Asoka, also addressed to the isolated HellinoIndians, or Indohellins, declaring and translating in Greek and Aramaic language the decree that declared the laws of “devotion”.

The country, with epicentre the Taxila, filled with holy monasteries, monuments, stupas and statues influenced accordingly to the human morphological rules of the hellenistic art, of the 1st century A.D., the romans, which was widely accepted, with epicentre the region of Gandhara in the recent northwest of Pakistan. Apart from Corinthian kiones, the architecture and the wreaths, the Buddha has been established in the Gandhara art as a juvenile - extraordinary idealized face of Apollo, with an hellenic or roman clothing. Hercules, also was useful as a model for the Vagiripani and the Tixi for the Hariti. The sculptors depict scenes from the life of Buddha, from the period when he was still prince up to his enlightenment. Scenes framed from vines-shoot, Erotides with festoons, Tritones and Kentaurous. This art was propagated at the same time with the adoration of Buddha from the Kousan the white Ounnes particularly between the 1st century B.C. and the 7th century A.D., which thereafter began the infiltration of Islam with Arabes from the West and the Turks from the 10th century from the North that prevailed finally, while following the Silk road, Buddhism traveled to central and east Asia. The Gandhara art, apart from stone, used very widely clay and a good mortar that encouraged the mass production and the circulation, the adoration but also to the wide spread of Buddhism. The discovery of Gandhara art the 19th century and the interest of collectors and museums, led to the destruction of hundreds of archaeological areas and monuments, that continued up to today with the attendance of not only of those thieves of the monuments but also the private collectors, the communities, farmers, the governments covered up for various aims.