St. Augustine of Hippo was Manichean before he became a Christian. I have read in Wikipedia that Mani, the prophet of Manichaeism, knew but rejected the doctrines of Buddha and that he died about a century before St. Augustine. There's also in Wikipedia information about Indian, maybe Buddhist, ambassadors and travelers arriving to Rome and Greece.

Is there any evidence to show that St. Augustine or some other common westerner Roman from his time (about 400 AD) was familiar with Buddha and his teachings? I want to exclude eastern Romans, like Syrians and Egyptians, from this question. When I say "common Roman" I mean ordinary, maybe educated people, like Augustine. I exclude politicians, merchants and ambassadors.

  • 1
    The article on Manichaesim that you link states these two things: 1. Manichaesim had Buddhist influences, and 2. St. Augustine of Hippo was a Manichaean before he converted to Christianity (after a disappointing meeting with a Manichaean Bishop). Considering that St. Augustine was well-read, it's quite possible that he knew about Buddha.
    – taninamdar
    Dec 9, 2016 at 18:53
  • 2
    Related but different question: history.stackexchange.com/questions/20889/… Dec 10, 2016 at 13:21
  • 1
    @FrédéricGrosshans I'd say that answer is perfectly valid for this. There's nothing that can be added there that would also answer this question.
    – user12566
    Dec 11, 2016 at 19:52
  • Hippo was a city in Algeria, North Africa, roughly corresponding to the modern day Annaba. When you said that you want to exclude Egypt (and Syria), did you have all of Roman Africa in mind, or strictly its eastern parts ?
    – Lucian
    May 14, 2020 at 22:05
  • 1
    @Ginasius: Asia spanned between the Nile (or Red Sea) and the Indus, with Africa (Libya) to its west, and India to (or in) its east.
    – Lucian
    May 21, 2020 at 0:59

1 Answer 1


Perhaps not: this article by Alison Gopnik in The Atlantic suggests that Buddhism was barely known in Western Europe until the 1700s.

  • 2
    Given the massive cultural changes occuring in Europe between the fall of the Romans empire and the Renaissance, I doubt that a lack of knowledge on Buddhism in Europe around 1700 gives us any information about the state of knowledge on this subject in the western Roman empire Dec 10, 2016 at 13:12
  • 1
    Certainly, but in light of how well documented the Roman Empire was, I'd personally be surprised if institutional knowledge of a major world religion could be lost in this fashion. Dec 10, 2016 at 16:20

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge that you have read and understand our privacy policy and code of conduct.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.