Most people look at his nose and say he is a Jew. Because they cannot link him with anyone else, they say he is one of the lost tribes. His Islamic faith, and its inevitable influence on his life and manners, give a certain plausibility to this impression. Yet the basic principles that rule him no matter who the King is are more Spartan than Jewish.
I have been very curious about his origin. The oldest writer I could consult about him is that charming old humbug, Herodotus, who believed all that he heard, and wrote all that he believed, he refers to the Pathan’s part of the world as Bectia, and says it is inhabited by a small dark people who deal in gold and spices. He goes on to say that this gold is collected at great risk of life in the desert from ants as big as dogs who bring it out from the bowels of the earth. The sun in this gold field is too hot for any animal except the camel. So when the ants, who are supposed to indulge in road and town- building only at night, retire from the sun into their holes, the Bectians rush in on their camels and collect the gold and gallop back to get out of the home of those man-eating ants before sunset. Many of them, says the kindly Herodotus, are killed but some get away with the precious metal.
This proves many things:
(1) That the Bectians were not as good warriors as the Greeks but they were better liars.
(2) That the world had a system of trade rights and monopoly even in the time of Alexander.
(3) That this is the only argument in favour of the theory that then the Pathans might have been Jews.
(4) That dear old Herodotus is perfectly truthful and has therefore recorded the greatest number of lies.
The world has always had clever liars and saintly Herodotuses who believed them.
It also proves that the people who now inhabit the vague Bectia of Herodotus (he is poor in geography – all gossips are and the old Greek is a delightful old gossip – with a solemnity that makes you laugh and a skin that makes you wonder) are neither small nor dark nor clever monopoly traders. On the contrary they are big and fair and straight and look upon murder as a much more respectable pastime than trade.
Apparently some friends of Herodotus settled along the rivers and valleys of the Bectians, acquired their lovely girls for wives and talked to their children about war and courage, death and glory. For, the Pathan will forgive you anything if you do it bravely enough. His villages have Greek names. His tribes have Greek customs. Like the Greek he is a great poet and a great warrior. Like the Greeks almost all his wars are over women.
The Pathans have no written history but they have thousands of ruins where the carved stones tell their story to anyone who would care to listen.
The oldest relics you see are of a distinctly pre-Greek period. They are the same in conception and style as those of the United Provinces or Orissa, e.g.the features of dolls and gods (two things that humanity has a way of mixing up) are most unlike those of the Pathans of today.
But when we come to the Buddhist and the Greco-Buddhist period the features of the dolls and Buddhas and kings and saints take the likeness of those of the Pathans of today. The great ferocity of the Pathan might well be a reaction to a rather long dose of Buddhist non-violence.
Racially he is clearly Greek, crossed with something. What that something was I do not know. Nor would I worry about it any further. What he was five thousand years ago does not matter.
It is also obvious that he was a Buddhist before he became a Muslim, and that he was a Hindu before he became a Buddhist. I do not know what sort of a Buddhist he was in spite of the thousand of images of Buddha that he made. For he is a good shot, and a bad soldier. He is too independent to make the ideal follower of any prophet, so probably he was a good sculptor and a poor Buddhist.
Whatever he might be, he is not a Jew, for where will you find a Jew who will tell his child about war and courage, death and glory! He is perhaps a mixture of every race that came to India from the heart of Asia “the Persian, the Greek, the Mongol and the Turk.
Each race has contributed something to his virtues and vices, looks and beliefs, religion and love-songs. His temperament, like his clothes, is picturesque and elegant. He loves fighting but hates to be a soldier. He loves music but has a great contempt for the musician. He is kind and gentle but hates to show it. He has strange principles and peculiar notions. He is hot-blooded and hot-headed and poor and proud, if that is what you call a Jew, then he is certainly a Jew, nose and all.
The best course would be to forget how it all started and look upon what he really is today. Neither a Jew nor a Greek, but a temperamental neighbour who might become a loving friend, or a deadly enemy. He knows no happy medium; that is his greatest virtue and his greatest drawback.