previous next

Gymnosophistae

Γυμνοσοφισταί). “Naked Sages.” A name given by the Greek writers to a certain class of Indian ascetics belonging to the caste of the Brahmins, and who, in accordance with the prevalent belief, thought that, by subjecting the body to sufferings and privations, and by withdrawing from all intercourse with mankind, they could effect a reunion of the spiritual nature of man with the divine essence. Most of these ascetics dispensed almost entirely with the use of clothes, and many of them went entirely naked. Hence the name applied to them by the Greeks. Many of these hermits appear in former times to have studied the abstract sciences with great success, and they have always been considered by the orthodox Hindus as the wisest and holiest of mankind. The Gymnosophists often burned themselves alive, as Calanus did in the presence of Alexander (Arrian, Anab. vii. 18; Plut. Alex. 65 foll.; Diod. Sic.xvii. 107).

hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: