“Metera Taprobanen Asiegeneon elephanton.”]
DIONYSIUS PERIEGETES, v. 593.
Cosmas observes upon the smallness of their tusks compared with those of Africa, and mentions the strange fact, that ivory was then exported from Ethiopia to India, as well as to Persia and the countries of Europe. He makes other allusions to Ceylon, but the passages extracted above, present the bulk of his information concerning the island.
[Footnote 1: The above translation has been made from THEVENOT’s version of Cosmas, which may differ slightly from that of MONTFAUCON, Collect. Nov. Patrum. Paris, 1706, vol. ii. p.]
Knowledge of Ceylon possessed by the Phoenicians.
In the previous chapter, p. 526, &c., allusion has been made to the possible resort of the Phoenicians to Ceylon in the course of their voyages to India, but I have not thought it expedient to embody in the text any notice of the description of the island which is given in the Phoenician History of SANCHONIATHON, published by Wagenfeld, at Bremen, in 1837, under the title of “Sanchuniathonis Historiarum Phoeniciae Libri Novem Groece Versos a Philone Byblio, edidit Latinaque Versione donavit F. WAGENFELD.”
Sanchoniathon is alleged to have lived before the Trojan war; and in Asiatic chronology he is said to have been a contemporary of Semiramis. The Phoenician original perished; but its contents were preserved in the Greek translation of Philo, a native of Byblus, a frontier town of Phoenicia, who wrote in the first century after Christ, and till the alleged discovery of the MS. from which Wagenfeld professed to publish, the only portion of Philo’s version known to exist consisted of fragments preserved by Eusebius and Porphyry. Wagenfeld’s statement was, that the MS. in his possession had been obtained from the Portuguese monastery of St. Maria de Merinhao (the existence of which there is reason to doubt), and the portion which he first ventured to print appeared with a preface by Grotefend. Its genuineness was instantly impugned; a learned and protracted controversy arose; and though Wagenfeld eventually published the whole of the Greek MS., with a Latin version by himself, he was never prevailed upon to exhibit the original parchments, alleging that he had been compelled to restore them to the convent. The assailants of Wagenfeld accuse him of wilful deception; but the probability is that the document which he translated is one of those inventions of the Middle Ages, in which history and geography were strangely confounded with imagination and romance; and that it is an attempt to restore the lost books of Philo Byblius, as Philo himself is more than suspected to have invented the history which he professed to have translated from Sanchoniathon. (See ERSCH and GRUEBER’S Encyclopaedia, 1847; MOEVER’S Phoenician History, vol. i. p. 117.)