Marc Steinmann, Alexander der Große und die „nackten Weisen“ Indiens. Der fiktive Briefwechsel zwischen Alexander und dem Brahmanenkönig Dindimus, Einleitung, lateinischer Text, Übersetzung und Kommentar, Berlin 2012.
The Collatio Alexandri et Dindimi is a collection of five letters between Alexander and Dindimus, head of the Brahmans, on the lifestyle of the Indian philosophers. In the first letter, Alexander, having heard about the virtue of the sages, asks for more detailed information on their philosophy of life, which was based on simplicity and sobriety. Dindimus and Alexander exchange in turn two letters each; Alexander has the last word in the debate. The Brahmans’ ideals of poverty and asceticism are contrasted with Alexander’s rational stance on the enjoyment of life and material goods, inspired by a sense of moderation. The Macedonian king is portrayed positively, as a wise and benevolent king.
Scholars variously dated the work to the period between the IIIrd and Vth century AD. Alcuinus promised a copy of the Collatio to Charlemagne; his mention of the work is a certain terminus ante quem. The language is generally considered to point to the second century AD or later. Very recently Alan Cameron has argued in favour of the hypothesis of a dating to the fifth century on the basis of a direct influence of Symmachus (The Last Pagans of Rome, 2011, p. 562). Steinmann in his edition (2012) dates it between 410-420 a.D.
The philosophical and religious stance of the author is also debated. Some scholars have claimed that Christian ideals and the influence of Church fathers can be seen in the work. Others stress the presence of elements from Cynic and Stoic ascetical traditions and, in the final letter, the importance of Aristotle’s precepts (refusal of excesses; praise of μεσότης). Cynicism influenced Christian thought, which makes the problem difficult to solve.
Scholars also debated on whether the Collatio is a translation of a lost Greek original, as is the case with the other late antique works on Alexander: Steinmann deems it an original latin composition. The Collatio is transmitted in several manuscripts (77 in total); the oldest ones date to the IXth century AD. An adaptation of the Collatio is present in a Bamberg manuscript from the beginning of the XIth century AD. [R. Tabacco; tr. di L. Battezzato]