Hieronymus' explanation of the origin of sati appears to be his own composite, created from a variety of Indian traditions and practices to form a moral lesson upholding traditional Greek values.
In the 1886 published Hobson-Jobson, Henry Yule and Arthur Coke Burnell mention the practice of Suttee (sati) as an early custom of Russians near Volga, tribes of Thracians in southeast Europe, and some tribes of Tonga and Fiji islands.
The practice is considered to have originated within the warrior aristocracy in India, gradually gaining in popularity from the 10th century AD and spreading to other groups from the 12th through 18th century CE.
Centuries later, instances of sati began to be marked by inscribed memorial stones called Sati stones. Both of these are found in many regions of India, but "rarely if ever earlier in date than the 8th or 9th century".
A description of sati appears in the Greek 1st-century BCE historian Diodorus Siculus's account of the war fought in Iran between two of Alexander the Great's generals, Eumenes of Cardia and Antigonus Monophthalmus.
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The term sati was originally interpreted as "chaste woman".
Sati appears in Hindi and Sanskrit texts, where it is synonymous with "good wife"; Sati designates therefore originally the woman, rather than the rite; the rite itself having technical names such as sahagamana ("going with") or sahamarana ("dying with").
Anvarohana ("ascension" to the pyre) is occasionally met, as well as satidaha as terms to designate the process.
Few reliable records exist of the practice before the time of the Gupta empire, approximately 400 CE although the Greek historian Aristobulus of Cassandreia, who traveled to India with the expedition of Alexander the Great, recorded that he had heard that among certain tribes widows were glad to burn along with their husbands, and that those who declined to die were disgraced. Harle, the medieval memorial stones appear in two forms – viragal (hero stone) and satigal (sati stone), each to memorialize something different.
Yule and Burnell also compiled a few dozen excerpts of historical descriptions of sati, the first being of Ceteus (or Keteus) mentioned above in 317 BC, and then a few before the 9th century AD, where the widow of a king had the choice to burn with him or abstain.