Makers of History
BY JACOB ABBOTT
NEW YORK AND LONDON
HARPER & BROTHERS PUBLISHERS
Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1852, by
HARPER & BROTHERS,
in the Clerk's Office for the Southern District of New York.
Copyright, 1880, by BENJAMIN VAUGHAN ABBOTT, AUSTIN ABBOTT, LYMAN ABBOTT, and EDWARD ABBOTT.
In writing the series of historical narratives to which the present work pertains, it has been the object of the author to furnish to the reading community of this country an accurate and faithful account of the lives and actions of the several personages that are made successively the subjects of the volumes, following precisely the story which has come down to us from ancient times. The writer has spared no pains to gain access in all cases to the original sources of information, and has confined himself strictly to them. The reader may, therefore, feel assured in perusing any one of these works, that the interest of it is in no degree indebted to the invention of the author. No incident, however trivial, is ever added to the original account, nor are any words even, in any case, attributed to a speaker without express authority. Whatever of interest, therefore, these stories may possess, is due solely to the facts themselves which are recorded in them, and to their being brought together in a plain, simple, and connected narrative.
I. CADMUS 13
II. CADMUS'S LETTERS 36
III. THE STORY OF AENEAS 59
IV. THE DESTRUCTION OF TROY 79
V. THE FLIGHT OF AENEAS 103
VI. THE LANDING IN LATIUM 131
VII. RHEA SILVIA 155
VIII. THE TWINS 179
IX. THE FOUNDING OF ROME 202
X. ORGANIZATION 225
XI. WIVES 248
XII. THE SABINE WAR 270
XIII. THE CONCLUSION 295
THE HARPIES Frontispiece.
JUPITER AND EUROPA 28
MAP—JOURNEYINGS OF CADMUS 30
SYMBOLICAL WRITING 37
SYMBOLICAL AND PHONETIC WRITING 44
MAP—ORIGIN OF VENUS 61
AENEAS DEFENDING THE BODY OF PANDARUS 68
THE TORTOISE 98
MAP—WANDERINGS OF AENEAS 119
SILVIA'S STAG 145
RHEA SILVIA 180
FAUSTULUS AND THE TWINS 184
SITUATION OF ROME 209
PROMISING THE BRACELETS 284
THE DEATH OF ROMULUS 305
Different kinds of greatness.—Founders of cities.—Rome.—Interest in respect to its origin.—The story of AEneas.—The Mediterranean sea.—Italy and Greece in ancient times, and now.—Ancient chieftains.—Their modes of life.—Religious ideas of the ancient Greeks and Romans.—Ancient studies of nature.—Purpose of them.—History.—Ancient poems and tales.—How far founded in fact.—Cadmus.—Interest felt in respect to the origin of writing.—True story of Cadmus.—His father Agenor.—Europa.—Telephassa.—The pursuit of Europa.—Fruitless result.—Cadmus settles in Greece.—Thebes.—Arts introduced by him.—The ancient legend of Cadmus.—Jupiter.—Adventures of Jupiter.—His love for Europa.—His elopement.—Jupiter and Europa in Crete.—The expedition of Cadmus.—His various wanderings.—Death of Telephassa.—Visit to the oracle at Delphi.—The directions of the oracle.—Cadmus finds his guide.—The place for his city determined.—The fountain of Dirce.—The dragon's teeth.—Thebes built.—Cadmia.—Ancient ideas of probability.—Belief in supernatural tales.—Final recording of the ancient tales.
Some men are renowned in history on account of the extraordinary powers and capacities which they exhibited in the course of their career, or the intrinsic greatness of the deeds which they performed. Others, without having really achieved any thing in itself very great or wonderful, have become widely known to mankind by reason of the vast consequences which, in the subsequent course of events, resulted from their doings. Men of this latter class are conspicuous rather than great. From among thousands of other men equally exalted in character with themselves, they are brought out prominently to the notice of mankind only in consequence of the strong light reflected, by great events subsequently occurring, back upon the position where they happened to stand.
The celebrity of Romulus seems to be of this latter kind. He founded a city. A thousand other men have founded cities; and in doing their work have evinced perhaps as much courage, sagacity, and mental power as Romulus displayed. The city of Romulus, however, became in the end the queen and mistress of the world. It rose to so exalted a position of influence and power, and retained its ascendency so long, that now for twenty centuries every civilized nation in the western world have felt a strong interest in every thing pertaining to its history, and have been accustomed to look back with special curiosity to the circumstances of its origin. In consequence of this it has happened that though Romulus, in his actual day, performed no very great exploits, and enjoyed no pre-eminence above the thousand other half-savage chieftains of his class, whose names have been long forgotten, and very probably while he lived never dreamed of any extended fame, yet so brilliant is the illumination which the subsequent events of history have shed upon his position and his doings, that his name and the incidents of his life have been brought out very conspicuously to view, and attract very strongly the attention of mankind.
* * * * *
The history of Rome is usually made to begin with the story of AEneas. In order that the reader may understand in what light that romantic tale is to be regarded, it is necessary to premise some statements in respect to the general condition of society in ancient days, and to the nature of the strange narrations, circulated in those early periods among mankind, out of which in later ages, when the art of writing came to be introduced, learned men compiled and recorded what they termed history.
The countries which formed the shores of the Mediterranean sea were as verdant and beautiful, in those ancient days, and perhaps as fruitful and as densely populated as in modern times. The same Italy and Greece were there then as now. There were the same blue and beautiful seas, the same mountains, the same picturesque and enchanting shores, the same smiling valleys, and the same serene and genial sky. The level lands were tilled industriously by a rural population corresponding in all essential points of character with the peasantry of modern times; and shepherds and herdsmen, then as now, hunted the wild beasts, and watched their flocks and herds on the declivities of the mountains. In a word, the appearance of the face of nature, and the performance of the great function of the social state, namely, the procuring of food and clothing for man by the artificial cultivation of animal and vegetable life, were substantially the same on the shores of the Mediterranean two thousand years ago as now. Even the plants and the animals themselves which the ancient inhabitants reared, have undergone no essential change. Their sheep and oxen and horses were the same as ours. So were their grapes, their apples, and their corn.
If, however, we leave the humbler classes and occupations of society, and turn our attention to those which represent the refinement, the cultivation, and the power, of the two respective periods, we shall find that almost all analogy fails. There was an aristocracy then as now, ruling over the widely extended communities of peaceful agriculturalists and herdsmen, but the members of it were entirely different in their character, their tastes, their ideas, and their occupations from the classes which exercise the prerogatives of government in Europe in modern times. The nobles then were military chieftains, living in camps or in walled cities, which they built for the accommodation of themselves and their followers. These chieftains were not barbarians. They were in a certain sense cultivated and refined. They gathered around them in their camps and in their courts orators, poets, statesmen, and officers of every grade, who seem to have possessed the same energy, genius, taste, and in some respects the same scientific skill, which have in all ages and in every clime characterized the upper classes of the Caucasian race. They carried all the arts which were necessary for their purposes and plans to high perfection, and in the invention of tales, ballads and poems, to be recited at their entertainments and feasts, they evinced the most admirable taste and skill;—a taste and skill which, as they resulted not from the operation and influence of artificial rules, but from the unerring instinct of genius, have never been surpassed. In fact, the poetical inventions of those early days, far from having been produced in conformity with rules, were entirely precedent to rules, in the order of time. Rules were formed from them; for they at length became established themselves in the estimation of mankind, as models, and on their authority as models, the whole theory of rhetorical and poetical beauty now mainly reposes.
The people of those days formed no idea of a spiritual world, or of a spiritual divinity. They however imagined, that heroes of former days still continued to live and to reign in certain semi-heavenly regions among the summits of their blue and beautiful mountains, and that they were invested there with attributes in some respects divine. In addition to these divinities, the fertile fancy of those ancient times filled the earth, the air, the sea, and the sky with imaginary beings, all most graceful and beautiful in their forms, and poetical in their functions,—and made them the subjects, too, of innumerable legends and tales, as graceful, poetical, and beautiful as themselves. Every grove, and fountain, and river,—every lofty summit among the mountains, and every rock and promontory along the shores of the sea,—every cave, every valley, every water-fall, had its imaginary occupant,—the genius of the spot; so that every natural object which attracted public notice at all, was the subject of some picturesque and romantic story. In a word, nature was not explored then as now, for the purpose of ascertaining and recording cold and scientific realities,—but to be admired, and embellished, and animated;—and to be peopled, everywhere, with exquisitely beautiful, though imaginary and supernatural, life and action.
What the genius of imagination and romance did thus in ancient times with the scenery of nature, it did also on the field of history. Men explored that field not at all to learn sober and actual realities, but to find something that they might embellish and adorn, and animate with supernatural and marvelous life. What the sober realities might have actually been, was of no interest or moment to them whatever. There were no scholars then as now, living in the midst of libraries, and finding constant employment, and a never-ending pleasure, in researches for the simple investigation of the truth. There was in fact no retirement, no seclusion, no study. Every thing except what related to the mere daily toil of tilling the ground bore direct relation to military expeditions, spectacles and parades; and the only field for the exercise of that kind of intellectual ability which is employed in modern times in investigating and recording historic truth, was the invention and recitation of poems, dramas and tales, to amuse great military audiences in camps or public gatherings, convened to witness shows or games, or to celebrate great religious festivals. Of course under such circumstances there would be no interest felt in truth as truth. Romance and fable would be far more serviceable for such ends than reality.
Still it is obvious that such tales as were invented to amuse for the purposes we have described, would have a deeper interest for those who listened to them, if founded in some measure upon fact, and connected in respect to the scene of their occurrence, with real localities. A prince and his court sitting at their tables in the palace or the tent, at the close of a feast, would listen with greater interest to a story that purported to be an account of the deeds and the marvelous adventures of their own ancestors, than to one that was wholly and avowedly imaginary. The inventors of these tales would of course generally choose such subjects, and their narrations would generally consist therefore rather of embellishments of actual transactions, than of inventions wholly original. Their heroes were consequently real men; the principal actions ascribed to them were real actions, and the places referred to were real localities. Thus there was a semblance of truth and reality in all these tales which added greatly to the interest of them; while there were no means of ascertaining the real truth, and thus spoiling the story by making the falsehood or improbability of it evident and glaring.
We cannot well have a better illustration of these principles than is afforded by the story of Cadmus, an adventurer who was said to have brought the knowledge of alphabetic writing into Greece from some countries farther eastward. In modern times there is a very strong interest felt in ascertaining the exact truth on this subject. The art of writing with alphabetic characters was so great an invention, and it has exerted so vast an influence on the condition and progress of mankind since it was introduced, that a very strong interest is now felt in every thing that can be ascertained as actually fact, in respect to its origin. If it were possible now to determine under what circumstances the method of representing the elements of sound by written characters was first devised, to discover who it was that first conceived the idea, and what led him to make the attempt, what difficulties he encountered, to what purposes he first applied his invention, and to what results it led, the whole world would take a very strong interest in the revelation. The essential point, however, to be observed, is that it is the real truth in respect to the subject that the world are now interested in knowing. Were a romance writer to invent a tale in respect to the origin of writing, however ingenious and entertaining it might be in its details, it would excite in the learned world at the present day no interest whatever.
There is in fact no account at present existing in respect to the actual origin of alphabetic characters, though there is an account of the circumstances under which the art was brought into Europe from Asia, where it seems to have been originally invented. We will give the facts, first in their simple form, and then the narrative in the form in which it was related in ancient times, as embellished by the ancient story-tellers.
The facts then, as now generally understood and believed, are, that there was a certain king in some country in Africa, named Agenor, who lived about 1500 years before Christ. He had a daughter named Europa, and several sons. Among his sons was one named Cadmus. Europa was a beautiful girl, and after a time a wandering adventurer from some part of the northern shores of the Mediterranean sea, came into Africa, and was so much pleased with her that he resolved if possible, to obtain her for his wife. He did not dare to make proposals openly, and he accordingly disguised himself and mingled with the servants upon Agenor's farm. In this disguise he succeeded in making acquaintance with Europa, and finally persuaded her to elope with him. The pair accordingly fled, and crossing the Mediterranean they went to Crete, an island near the northern shores of the sea, and there they lived together.
The father, when he found that his daughter had deceived him and gone away, was very indignant, and sent Cadmus and his brothers in pursuit of her. The mother of Europa, whose name was Telephassa, though less indignant perhaps than the father, was overwhelmed with grief at the loss of her child, and determined to accompany her sons in the search. She accordingly took leave of her husband and of her native land, and set out with Cadmus and her other sons on the long journey in search of her lost child. Agenor charged his sons never to come home again unless they brought Europa with them.
Cadmus, with his mother and brothers, traveled slowly toward the northward, along the eastern shores of the Mediterranean sea, inquiring everywhere for the fugitive. They passed through Syria and Phenicia, into Asia Minor, and from Asia Minor into Greece. At length Telephassa, worn down, perhaps, by fatigue, disappointment, and grief, died. Cadmus and his brothers soon after became discouraged; and at last, weary with their wanderings, and prevented by their father's injunction from returning without Europa, they determined to settle in Greece. In attempting to establish themselves there, however, they became involved in various conflicts, first with wild beasts, and afterward with men, the natives of the land, who seemed to spring up, as it were, from the ground, to oppose them. They contrived, however, at length, by fomenting quarrels among their enemies, and taking sides with one party against the rest, to get a permanent footing in Greece, and Cadmus finally founded a city there, which he called Thebes.
In establishing the institutions and government of Thebes, and in arranging the organization of the people into a social state, Cadmus introduced among them several arts, which, in that part of the country, had been before unknown. One of these arts was the use of copper, which metal he taught his new subjects to procure from the ore obtained in mines. There were several others; but the most important of all was that he taught them sixteen letters representing elementary vocal sounds, by means of which inscriptions of words could be carved upon monuments, or upon tablets of metal or of stone.
It is not supposed that the idea of representing the elements of vocal sounds by characters originated with Cadmus, or that he invented the characters himself. He brought them with him undoubtedly, but whether from Egypt or Phenicia, can not now be known.
Such are the facts of the case, as now generally understood and believed. Let us now compare this simple narration with the romantic tale which the early story-tellers made from it. The legend, as they relate it, is as follows.
Jupiter was a prince born and bred among the summits of Mount Ida, in Crete. His father's name was Saturn. Saturn had made an agreement that he would cause all his sons to be slain, as soon as they were born. This was to appease his brother, who was his rival, and who consented that Saturn should continue to reign only on that condition.
Jupiter's mother, however, was very unwilling that her boys should be thus cruelly put to death, and she contrived to conceal three of them, and save them. The three thus preserved were brought up among the solitudes of the mountains, watched and attended by nymphs, and nursed by a goat. After they grew up, they engaged from time to time in various wars, and met with various wonderful adventures, until at length Jupiter, the oldest of them, succeeded, by means of thunderbolts which he caused to be forged for his use, in vast subterranean caverns beneath Mount Etna and Mount Vesuvius, conquered all his enemies, and became universal king. He, however, divided his empire between himself and his brothers, giving to them respectively the command of the sea and of the subterranean regions, while he reserved the earth and the heavenly regions for himself.
He established his usual abode among the mountains of Northern Greece, but he often made excursions to and fro upon the earth, appearing in various disguises, and meeting with a great number of strange and marvelous adventures. In the course of these wanderings he found his way at one time into Egypt, and to the dominions of Agenor,—and there he saw Agenor's beautiful daughter, Europa. He immediately determined to make her his bride; and to secure this object he assumed the form of a very finely shaped and beautiful bull, and in this guise joined himself to Agenor's herds of cattle. Europa soon saw him there. She was much pleased with the beauty of his form, and finding him gentle and kind in disposition, she approached him, patted his glossy neck and sides, and in other similar ways gratified the prince by marks of her admiration and pleasure. She was at length induced by some secret and magical influence which the prince exerted over her, to mount upon his back, and allow herself to be borne away. The bull ran with his burden to the shore, and plunged into the waves. He swam across the sea to Crete,[A] and there, resuming his proper form, he made the princess his bride.
[Footnote A: See Map, p. 30.]
Agenor and Telephassa, when they found that their daughter was gone, were in great distress, and Agenor immediately determined to send his sons on an expedition in pursuit of her. The names of his sons were Cadmus, Phoenix, Cylix, Thasus, and Phineus. Cadmus, as the oldest son, was to be the director of the expedition. Telephassa, the mother, resolved to accompany them, so overwhelmed was she with affliction at the loss of her daughter. Agenor himself was almost equally oppressed with the calamity which had over whelmed them, and he charged his sons never to come home again until they could bring Europa with them.
Telephassa and her sons wandered for a time in the countries east of the Mediterranean sea, without being able to obtain any tidings of the fugitive. At length they passed into Asia Minor, and from Asia Minor into Thrace, a country lying north of the Egean Sea. Finding no traces of their sister in any of these countries, the sons of Agenor became discouraged, and resolved to make no farther search; and Telephassa, exhausted with anxiety and fatigue, and now overwhelmed with the thought that all hope must be finally abandoned, sank down and died.
Cadmus and his brothers were much affected at their mother's death. They made arrangements for her burial, in a manner befitting her high rank and station, and when the funeral solemnities had been performed, Cadmus repaired to the oracle at Delphi, which was situated in the northern part of Greece, not very far from Thrace, in order that he might inquire there whether there was any thing more that he could do to recover his lost sister, and if so to learn what course he was to pursue. The oracle replied to him that he must search for his sister no more, but instead of it turn his attention wholly to the work of establishing a home and a kingdom for himself, in Greece. To this end he was to travel on in a direction indicated, until he met with a cow of a certain kind, described by the oracle, and then to follow the cow wherever she might lead the way, until at length, becoming fatigued, she should stop and lie down. Upon the spot where the cow should lie down he was to build a city and make it his capital.
Cadmus obeyed these directions of the oracle. He left Delphi and went on, attended, as he had been in all his wanderings, by a troop of companions and followers, until at length in the herds of one of the people of the country, named Pelagon, he found a cow answering to the description of the oracle. Taking this cow for his guide, he followed wherever she led the way. She conducted him toward the southward and eastward for thirty or forty miles, and at length wearied apparently, by her long journey, she lay down. Cadmus knew immediately that this was the spot where his city was to stand.
He began immediately to make arrangements for the building of the city, but he determined first to offer the cow that had been his divinely appointed guide to the spot, as a sacrifice to Minerva, whom he always considered as his guardian goddess.
Near the spot where the cow lay down there was a small stream which issued from a fountain not far distant, called the fountain of Dirce. Cadmus sent some of his men to the place to obtain some water which it was necessary to use in the ceremonies of the sacrifice. It happened, however, that this fountain was a sacred one, having been consecrated to Mars,—and there was a great dragon, a son of Mars, stationed there to guard it. The men whom Cadmus sent did not return, and accordingly Cadmus himself, after waiting a suitable time, proceeded to the spot to ascertain the cause of the delay. He found that the dragon had killed his men, and at the time when he arrived at the spot, the monster was greedily devouring the bodies. Cadmus immediately attacked the dragon and slew him, and then tore his teeth out of his head, as trophies of his victory. Minerva had assisted Cadmus in this combat, and when it was ended she directed him to plant the teeth of the dragon in the ground. Cadmus did so, and immediately a host of armed men sprung up from the place where he had planted them. Cadmus threw a stone among these armed men, when they immediately began to contend together in a desperate conflict, until at length all but five of them were slain. These five then joined themselves to Cadmus, and helped him to build his city.
He went on very successfully after this. The city which he built was Thebes, which afterward became greatly celebrated. The citadel which he erected within, he called, from his own name, Cadmia.
Such were the legends which were related in ancient poems and tales; and it is obvious that such narratives must have been composed to entertain groups of listeners whose main desire was to be excited and amused, and not to be instructed. The stories were believed, no doubt, and the faith which the hearer felt in their truth added of course very greatly to the interest which they awakened in his mind. The stories are amusing to us; but it is impossible for us to share in the deep and solemn emotion with which the ancient audiences listened to them, for we have not the power, as they had, of believing them. Such tales related in respect to the great actors on the stage in modern times, would awaken no interest, for there is too general a diffusion both of historical and philosophical knowledge to render it possible for any one to suppose them to be true. But those for whom the story of Europa was invented, had no means of knowing how wide the Mediterranean sea might be, and whether a bull might not swim across it. They did not know but that Mars might have a dragon for a son, and that the teeth of such a dragon might not, when sown in the ground, spring up in the form of a troop of armed men. They listened therefore to the tale with an interest all the more earnest and solemn on account of the marvelousness of the recital. They repeated it word for word to one another, around their camp-fires, at their feasts, in their journeyings,—and when watching their flocks at midnight, among the solitudes of the mountains. Thus the tales were handed down from generation to generation, until at length the use of the letters of Cadmus became so far facilitated, that continuous narrations could be expressed by means of them; and then they were put permanently upon record in many forms, and were thus transmitted without any farther change to the present age.
Two modes of writing.—Symbols.—Example.—Symbol of the Deity.—Ancient symbols.—The Egyptian hieroglyphics phonetic.—Natural symbols.—Mexican record.—Arbitrary symbols.—Advantages of the symbolical mode of writing.—The meaning of them more easily understood.—Comparison of the two systems.—Further comparison of the two systems.—Two modes of representing the idea of a battle.—Great advantages of the phonetic mode of writing.—Uncertainty of the origin of phonetic writing.—Cadmus's alphabet.—Difficulties attending the introduction of it.—Different modes of writing.—The art of writing at first very little used.—Proofs of this.—Story of the lots.—Other instances.—The invention of papyrus.—Mode of manufacturing papyrus.—Volumes.—Mode of using ancient books.—Ink.—Ink found at Herculaneum.—Recent discoveries in respect to the Egyptian hieroglyphics.—Specimen of Egyptian hieroglyphics.—Explanation of the figures.—Moses in Egypt.—Importance of the art of writing.
There are two modes essentially distinct from each other, by which ideas may be communicated through the medium of inscriptions addressed to the eye. These two modes are, first, by symbolical, and secondly, by phonetic characters. Each of these two systems assumes, in fact, within itself, quite a variety of distinct forms, though it is only the general characteristics which distinguish the two great classes from each other, that we shall have occasion particularly to notice here.
Symbolical writing consists of characters intended severally to denote ideas or things, and not words. A good example of true symbolical writing is to be found in a certain figure often employed among the architectural decorations of churches, as an emblem of the Deity. It consists of a triangle representing the Trinity with the figure of an eye in the middle of it. The eye is intended to denote the divine omniscience. Such a character as this, is obviously the symbol of an idea, not the representative of a word. It may be read Jehovah, or God, or the Deity, or by any other word or phrase by which men are accustomed to denote the Supreme Being. It represents, in fine, the idea, and not any particular word by which the idea is expressed.
The first attempts of men to preserve records of facts by means of inscriptions, have, in all ages, and among all nations, been of this character. At first, the inscriptions so made were strictly pictures, in which the whole scene intended to be commemorated was represented, in rude carvings. In process of time substitutions and abridgments were adopted in lieu of full representations, and these grew at length into a system of hieroglyphical characters, some natural, and others more or less arbitrary, but all denoting ideas or things, and not the sounds of words. These characters are of the kind usually understood by the word hieroglyphics; though that word can not now with strict accuracy be applied as a distinctive appellation, since it has been ascertained in modern times that a large portion of the Egyptian hieroglyphics are of such a nature as brings them within the second of the two classes which we are here describing, that is, the several delineations represent the sounds and syllables of words, instead of being symbols of ideas or things.
It happened that in some cases in this species of writing, as used in ancient times, the characters which were employed presented in their form some natural resemblance to the thing signified, and in other cases they were wholly arbitrary. Thus, the figure of a scepter denoted a king, that of a lion, strength; and two warriors, one with a shield, and the other advancing toward the first with a bow and arrow, represented a battle. We use in fact a symbol similar to the last-mentioned one at the present day, upon maps, where we often see a character formed by two swords crossed, employed to represent a battle.
The ancient Mexicans had a mode of writing which seems to have been symbolical in its character, and their characters had, many of them at least, a natural signification. The different cities and towns were represented by drawings of such simple objects as were characteristic of them respectively; as a plant, a tree, an article of manufacture, or any other object by which the place in question was most easily and naturally to be distinguished from other places. In one of their inscriptions, for example, there was a character representing a king, and before it four heads. Each of the heads was accompanied by the symbol of the capital of a province, as above described. The meaning of the whole inscription was that in a certain tumult or insurrection the king caused the governors of the four cities to be beheaded.
But though, in this symbolical mode of writing, a great many ideas and events could be represented thus, by means of signs or symbols having a greater or less resemblance to the thing signified, yet in many cases the characters used were wholly arbitrary. They were in this respect like the character which we use to denote dollars, as a prefix to a number expressing money; for this character is a sort of symbol, that is, it represents a thing rather than a word. Our numerals, too, 1, 2, 3, &c., are in some respects of the character of symbols. That is, they stand directly for the numbers themselves, and not for the sounds of the words by which the numbers are expressed. Hence, although the people of different European nations understand them all alike, they read them, in words, very differently. The Englishman reads them by one set of words, the Spaniard by another, and the German and the Italian by others still.
The symbolical mode of writing possesses some advantages which must not be overlooked. It speaks directly to the eye, and is more full of meaning than the Phonetic method, though the meaning is necessarily more vague and indistinct, in some respects, while it is less so in others. For example, in an advertising newspaper, the simple figure of a house, or of a ship, or of a locomotive engine, at the head of an advertisement, is a sort of hieroglyphic, which says much more plainly and distinctly, and in much shorter time, than any combination of letters could do, that what follows it is an advertisement relating to a house, or a vessel, or a railroad. In the same manner, the ancient representations on monuments and columns would communicate, perhaps more rapidly and readily to the passer-by, an idea of the battles, the sieges, the marches, and the other great exploits of the monarchs whose history they were intended to record, than an inscription in words would have done.
Another advantage of the symbolical representations as used in ancient times, was that their meaning could be more readily explained, and would be more easily remembered, and so explained again, than written words. To learn to read literal writing in any language, is a work of very great labor. It is, in fact, generally found that it must be commenced early in life, or it can not be accomplished at all. An inscription, therefore, in words, on a Mexican monument, that a certain king suppressed an insurrection, and beheaded the governors of four of his provinces, would be wholly blind and unintelligible to the mass of the population of such a country; and if the learned sculptor who inscribed it, were to attempt to explain it to them, letter by letter, they would forget the beginning of the lesson before reaching the end of it,—and could never be expected to attempt extending the knowledge by making known the interpretation which they had received to others in their turn. But the royal scepter, with the four heads before it, each of the heads accompanied by the appropriate symbol of the city to which the possessor of it belonged, formed a symbolical congeries which expressed its meaning at once, and very plainly, to the eye. The most ignorant and uncultivated could readily understand it. Once understanding it, too, they could never easily forget it; and they could, without any difficulty, explain it fully to others as ignorant and uncultivated as themselves.
It might seem, at first view, that a symbolical mode of writing must be more simple in its character than the system now in use, inasmuch as by that plan each idea or object would be expressed by one character alone, whereas, by our mode of writing, several characters, sometimes as many as eight or ten, are required to express a word, which word, after all, represents only one single object or idea. But notwithstanding this apparent simplicity, the system of symbolical writing proved to be, when extensively employed, extremely complicated and intricate. It is true that each idea required but one character, but the number of ideas and objects, and of words expressive of their relations to one another, is so vast, that the system of representing them by independent symbols, soon lost itself in an endless intricacy of detail. Then, besides,—notwithstanding what has been said of the facility with which symbolical inscriptions could be interpreted,—they were, after all, extremely difficult to be understood without interpretation. An inscription once explained, the explanation was easily understood and remembered; but it was very difficult to understand one intended to express any new communication. The system was, therefore, well adapted to commemorate what was already known, but was of little service as a mode of communicating knowledge anew.
We come now to consider the second grand class of written characters, namely, the phonetic, the class which Cadmus introduced into Greece, and the one almost universally adopted among all the European nations at the present day. It is called Phonetic, from a Greek word denoting sound, because the characters which are used do not denote directly the thing itself which is signified, but the sounds made in speaking the word which signifies it. Take, for instance, the two modes of representing a conflict between two contending armies, one by the symbolic delineation of two swords crossed, and the other by the phonetic delineation of the letters of the word battle. They are both inscriptions. The beginning of the first represents the handle of the sword, a part, as it were, of the thing signified. The beginning of the second, the letter b, represents the pressing of the lips together, by which we commence pronouncing the word. Thus the one mode is symbolical, and the other phonetic.
On considering the two methods, as exemplified in this simple instance, we shall observe that what has already been pointed out as characteristic of the two modes is here seen to be true. The idea is conveyed in the symbolical mode by one character, while by the phonetic it requires no less than six. This seems at first view to indicate a great advantage possessed by the symbolical system. But on reflection this advantage is found entirely to disappear. For the symbolical character, though it is only one, will answer for only the single idea which it denotes. Neither itself nor any of its elements will aid us in forming a symbol for any other idea; and as the ideas, objects, and relations which it is necessary to be able to express, in order to make free and full communications in any language, are from fifty to a hundred thousand,—the step which we have taken, though very simple in itself, is the beginning of a course which must lead to the most endless intricacy and complication. Whereas in the six phonetic characters of the word battle, we have elements which can be used again and again, in the expression of thousands of other ideas. In fact, as the phonetic characters which are found necessary in most languages are only about twenty-four, we have in that single word accomplished one quarter of the whole task, so far as the delineation of characters is concerned, that is necessary for expressing by writing any possible combination of ideas which human language can convey.
At what time and in what manner the transition was made among the ancient nations from the symbolic to the phonetic mode of writing, is not now known. When in the flourishing periods of the Grecian and Roman states, learned men explored the literary records of the various nations of the East, writings were found in all, which were expressed in phonetic characters, and the alphabets of these characters were found to be so analogous to each other, in the names and order, and in some respects in the forms, of the letters, as to indicate strongly something like community of origin. All the attempts, however, which have been made to ascertain the origin of the system, have wholly failed, and no account of them goes farther back than to the time when Cadmus brought them from Phenicia or Egypt into Greece.
The letters which Cadmus brought were in number sixteen. The following table presents a view of his alphabet, presenting in the several columns, the letters themselves as subsequently written in Greece, the Greek names given to them, and their power as represented by the letters now in use. The forms, it will be seen, have been but little changed.
Greek letters. Greek names. English representatives.
[Greek: A] Alpha A [Greek: B] Beta B [Greek: G] Gamma G [Greek: D] Delta D [Greek: E] Epsilon E [Greek: I] Iota I [Greek: L] Lamda L [Greek: K] Kappa K [Greek: M] Mu M [Greek: N] Nu N [Greek: O] Omicron O [Greek: P] Pi P [Greek: R] Rho R [Greek: S] Sigma S [Greek: T] Tau T [Greek: U] Upsilon U
The phonetic alphabet of Cadmus, though so vastly superior to any system of symbolical hieroglyphics, for all purposes where any thing like verbal accuracy was desired, was still very slow in coming into general use. It was of course, at first, very difficult to write it, and very difficult to read it when written. There was a very great practical obstacle, too, in the way of its general introduction, in the want of any suitable materials for writing. To cut letters with a chisel and a mallet upon a surface of marble is a very slow and toilsome process. To diminish this labor the ancients contrived tables of brass, copper, lead, and sometimes of wood, and cut the inscriptions upon them by the use of various tools and implements. Still it is obvious, that by such methods as these the art of writing could only be used to an extremely limited extent, such as for brief inscriptions in registers and upon monuments, where a very few words would express all that it was necessary to record.
In process of time, however, the plan of painting the letters by means of a black dye upon a smooth surface, was introduced. The surface employed to receive these inscriptions was, at first, the skin of some animal prepared for this purpose, and the dye used for ink, was a colored liquid obtained from a certain fish. This method of writing, though in some respects more convenient than the others, was still slow, and the materials were expensive; and it was a long time before the new art was employed for any thing like continuous composition. Cadmus is supposed to have come into Greece about the year 1550 before Christ; and it was not until about 650 before Christ,—that is, nearly nine hundred years later, that the art of writing was resorted to in Greece to record laws.
The evidences that writing was very little used in any way during this long period of nine hundred years, are furnished in various allusions contained in poems and narratives that were composed during those times, and committed to writing afterward. In the poems of Homer, for instance, there is no allusion, from the beginning to the end, to any monument or tomb containing any inscription whatever; although many occasions occur in which such inscriptions would have been made, if the events described were real, and the art of writing had been generally known, or would have been imagined to be made, if the narratives were invented. In one case a ship-master takes a cargo on board, and he is represented as having to remember all the articles, instead of making a record of them. Another case still more striking is adduced. In the course of the contest around the walls of Troy, the Grecian leaders are described at one time as drawing lots to determine which of them should fight a certain Trojan champion. The lots were prepared, being made of some substance that could be marked, and when ready, were distributed to the several leaders. Each one of the leaders then marked his lot in some way, taking care to remember what character he had made upon it. The lots were then all put into a helmet, and the helmet was given to a herald, who was to shake it about in such a manner, if possible, as to throw out one of the lots and leave the others in. The leader whose lot it was that should be thus shaken out, was to be considered as the one designated by the decision, to fight the Trojan champion.
Now, in executing this plan, the herald, when he had shaken out a lot, and had taken it up from the ground, is represented, in the narrative, as not knowing whose it was, and as carrying it around, accordingly, to all the different leaders, to find the one who could recognize it as his own. A certain chief named Ajax recognized it, and in this way he was designated for the combat. Now it is supposed, that if these men had been able to write, that they would have inscribed their own names upon the lots, instead of marking them with unmeaning characters. And even if they were not practiced writers themselves some secretary or scribe would have been called upon to act for them on such an occasion as this, if the art of writing had been at that time so generally known as to be customarily employed on public occasions. From these and similar indications which are found, on a careful examination, in the Homeric poems, learned men have concluded that they were composed and repeated orally, at a period of the world when the art of writing was very little known, and that they were handed down from generation to generation, through the memory of those who repeated them, until at last the art of writing became established among mankind, when they were at length put permanently upon record.
It seems that writing was not much employed for any of the ordinary and private purposes of life by the people of Greece until the article called papyrus was introduced among them. This took place about the year 600 before Christ, when laws began first to be written. Papyrus, like the art of writing upon it, came originally from Egypt. It was obtained from a tree which it seems grew only in that country. The tree flourished in the low lands along the margin of the Nile. It grew to the height of about ten feet. The paper obtained from it was formed from a sort of inner bark, which consisted of thin sheets or pellicles growing around the wood. The paper was manufactured in the following manner. A sheet of the thin bark as taken from the tree, was laid flat upon a board, and then a cross layer was laid over it, the materials having been previously moistened with water made slightly glutinous. The sheet thus formed was pressed and dried in the sun. The placing of two layers of the bark in this manner across each other was intended to strengthen the texture of the sheet, for the fibers, it was found, were very easily separated and torn so long as they lay wholly in one direction. The sheet when dry was finished by smoothing the surface, and prepared to receive inscriptions made by means of a pen fashioned from a reed or a quill.
In forming the papyrus into books it was customary to use a long sheet or web of it, and roll it upon a stick, as is the custom in respect to maps at the present day. The writing was in columns, each of which formed a sort of page, the reader holding the ends of the roll in his two hands, and reading at the part which was open between them. Of course, as he advanced, he continually unrolled on one side, and rolled up upon the other. Rolls of parchment were often made in the same manner.
The term volume used in respect to modern books, had its origin in this ancient practice of writing upon long rolls. The modern practice is certainly much to be preferred, though the ancient one was far less inconvenient than might at first be supposed. The long sheet was rolled upon a wooden billet, which gave to the volume a certain firmness and solidity, and afforded it great protection. The ends of this roller projected beyond the edges of the sheet, and were terminated in knobs or bosses, which guarded in some measure the edges of the papyrus or of the parchment. The whole volume was also inclosed in a parchment case, on the outside of which the title of the work was conspicuously recorded. Many of these ancient rolls have been found at Herculaneum.
For ink, various colored liquids were used, generally black, but sometimes red and sometimes green. The black ink was sometimes manufactured from a species of lampblack or ivory black, such as is often used in modern times for painting. Some specimens of the inkstands which were used in ancient times have been found at Herculaneum, and one of them contained ink, which though too thick to flow readily from the pen, it was still possible to write with. It was of about the consistence of oil.
These rolls of papyrus and parchment, however, were only used for important writings which it was intended permanently to preserve. For ordinary occasions tablets of wax and other similar materials were used, upon which the writer traced the characters with the point of a steel instrument called a style. The head of the style was smooth and rounded, so that any words which the writer wished to erase might be obliterated by smoothing over again, with it, the wax on which they had been written.
Such is a brief history of the rise and progress of the art of writing in the States of Greece. Whether the phonetic principle which Cadmus introduced was brought originally from Egypt, or from the countries on the eastern shore of the Mediterranean sea, can not now be ascertained. It has generally been supposed among mankind, at least until within a recent period, that the art of phonetic writing did not originate in Egypt, for the inscriptions on all the ancient monuments in that country are of such a character that it has always been supposed that they were symbolical characters altogether, and that no traces of any phonetic writing existed in that land. Within the present century, however, the discovery has been made that a large portion of these hieroglyphics are phonetic in their character; and that the learned world in attempting for so many centuries, in vain, to affix symbolical meanings to them, had been altogether upon the wrong track. The delineations, though they consist almost wholly of the forms of plants and animals, and of other natural and artificial objects, are not symbolical representations of ideas, but letters, representing sounds and words. They are thus precisely similar, in principle, to the letters of Cadmus, though wholly different from them in form.
To enable the reader to obtain a clearer idea of the nature of this discovery, we give on the adjoining page some specimens of Egyptian inscriptions found in various parts of the country, and which are interpreted to express the name Cleopatra, a very common name for princesses of the royal line in Egypt during the dynasty of the Ptolemy's. We mark the various figures forming the inscription, with the letters which modern interpreters have assigned to them. It will be seen that they all spell, rudely indeed, but yet tolerably distinctly, the name CLEOPATRA.
By a careful examination of these specimens, it will be seen that the order of placing the letters, if such hieroglyphical characters can be so called, is not regular, and the letter a, which is denoted by a bird in some of the specimens, is represented differently in others. There are also two characters at the close of each inscription which are not represented by any letter, the one being of the form of an egg, and the other a semicircle. These last are supposed to denote the sex of the sovereign whose name they are connected with, as they are found in many cases in inscriptions commemorative of princesses and queens. They are accordingly specimens of symbolic characters, while all the others in the name are phonetic.
It seems therefore not improbable that the principle of forming a written language by means of characters representing the sounds of which the words of the spoken language are composed, was of Egyptian origin; and that it was carried in very early times to the countries on the eastern shore of the Mediterranean sea, and there improved upon by the adoption of a class of characters more simple than the hieroglyphics of Egypt, and of a form more convenient for a regular linear arrangement in writing. Moses, who spent his early life in Egypt, and who was said to be learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, may have acquired the art of writing there.
However this may be, and whatever may be the uncertainty which hangs over the early history of this art, one thing is certain, and that is, that the discovery of the art of writing, including that of printing, which is only the consummation and perfection of it,—the art by which man can record language, and give life and power to the record to speak to the eye permanently and forever—to go to every nation—to address itself simultaneously to millions of minds, and to endure through all time, is by far the greatest discovery, in respect to the enlargement which it makes of human powers, that has ever been made.
THE STORY OF AENEAS.
Story of AEneas remained long unwritten.—Mother of AEneas.—Her origin.—Early history of Venus.—Her magical powers.—Her children Eros and Anteros.—She goes to Olympus.—Aphrodite's love for Anchises.—The golden apple.—The award of Paris.—Venus's residence at Mt. Ida.—Aphrodite's assumed character.—She leaves Anchises.—Childhood of AEneas.—The Trojan war.—Achilles.—AEneas engages in the war.—Story of Pandarus.—AEneas rescued by his mother.—Her magic vail.—Venus is wounded.—Iris conveys her away.—Single combat between AEneas and Achilles.—The charmed life of Achilles.—His shield.—The meeting of AEneas and Achilles on the field.—The harangues of the combatants.—The battle begun.—Narrow escape.—Sudden termination of the combat.—The tales of the AEneid.
Besides the intrinsic interest and importance of the facts stated in the last chapter, to the student of history, there was a special reason for calling the attention of the reader to them here, that he might know in what light the story of the destruction of Troy, and of the wanderings of AEneas, the great ancestor of Romulus, which we now proceed to relate, is properly to be regarded. The events connected with the destruction of Troy took place, if they ever occurred at all, about the year twelve hundred before Christ. Homer is supposed to have lived and composed his poems about the year nine hundred; and the art of writing is thought to have been first employed for the purpose of recording continuous compositions, about the year six hundred. The story of AEneas then, so far as it has any claims to historical truth, is a tale which was handed down by oral tradition, among story-tellers for three hundred years, and then was clothed in verse, and handed down in that form orally by the memory of the reciters of it, in generations successive for three hundred years more, before it was recorded; and during the whole period of this transmission, the interest felt in it was not the desire for ascertaining and communicating historic truth, but simply for entertaining companies of listeners with the details of a romantic story. The story, therefore, can not be relied upon as historically true; but it is no less important on that account, that all well-informed persons should know what it is.
The mother of AEneas (as the story goes), was a celebrated goddess. Her name was Aphrodite;[B] though among the Romans she afterward received the name of Venus. Aphrodite was not born of a mother, like ordinary mortals, but sprang mysteriously and supernaturally from a foam which gathered on a certain occasion upon the surface of the sea. At the commencement of her existence she crept out upon the shores of an island that was near,—the island of Cythera,—which lies south of the Peloponnesus.
[Footnote B: Pronounced in four syllables, Aph-ro-di-te.]
She was the goddess of love, of beauty, and of fruitfulness; and so extraordinary were the magical powers which were inherent from the beginning, in her very nature, that as she walked along upon the sands of the shore, when she first emerged from the sea, plants and flowers of the richest verdure and beauty sprang up at her feet wherever she stepped. She was, besides, in her own person, inexpressibly beautiful; and in addition to the natural influence of her charms, she was endued with the supernatural power of inspiring the sentiment of love in all who beheld her.
From Cythera the goddess made her way over by sea to Cyprus, where she remained for some time, amid the gorgeous and magnificent scenery of that enchanting island. Here she had two children, beautiful boys. Their names were Eros and Anteros. Each of these children remained perpetually a child, and Eros, in later times called Cupid, became the god of "love bestowed," while Anteros was the God of "love returned." After this the mother and the boys roamed about the world,—now in the heavenly regions above, and now among mortals on the plains and in the valleys below: they sometimes appeared openly, in their true forms, sometimes they assumed disguises, and sometimes they were wholly invisible; but whether seen or unseen, they were always busy in performing their functions—the mother inspiring everywhere, in the minds both of gods and men, the tenderest sentiments of beauty and desire,—while Eros awakened love in the heart of one person for another, and Anteros made it his duty to tease and punish those who thus became objects of affection, if they did not return the love.
After some time, Aphrodite and her boys found their way to the heavenly regions of Mount Olympus, where the great divinities resided,[C] and there they soon produced great trouble, by enkindling the flames of love in the hearts of the divinities themselves, causing them, by her magic power, to fall in love not only with one another, but also with mortal men and women on the earth below. In retaliation upon Aphrodite for this mischief, Jupiter, by his supreme power, inspired Aphrodite herself with a sentiment of love. The object of her affection was Anchises, a handsome youth, of the royal family of Troy, who lived among the mountains of Ida, not far from the city.
[Footnote C: See Map, page 61.]
The way in which it happened that the affection of Aphrodite turned toward an inhabitant of Mount Ida was this. There had been at one time a marriage among the divinities, and a certain goddess who had not been invited to the wedding, conceived the design of avenging herself for the neglect, by provoking a quarrel among those who were there. She, accordingly, caused a beautiful golden apple to be made, with an inscription marked upon it, "FOR THE MOST BEAUTIFUL." This apple she threw in among the guests assembled at the wedding. The goddesses all claimed the prize, and a very earnest dispute arose among them in respect to it. Jupiter sent the several claimants, under the charge of a special messenger, to Mount Ida, to a handsome and accomplished young shepherd there, named Paris—who was, in fact, a prince in disguise—that they might exhibit themselves to him, and submit the question of the right to the apple to his award. The contending goddesses appeared accordingly before Paris, and each attempted to bribe him to decide in her favor, by offering him some peculiar and tempting reward. Paris gave the apple to Aphrodite, and she was so pleased with the result, that she took Paris under her special protection, and made the solitudes of Mount Ida one of her favorite retreats.
Here she saw and became acquainted with Anchises, who was, as has already been said, a noble, or prince, by descent, though he had for some time been dwelling away from the city, and among the mountains, rearing flocks and herds. Here Aphrodite saw him, and when Jupiter inspired her with a sudden susceptibility to the power of love, the shepherd Anchises was the object toward which her affections turned. She accordingly went to Mount Ida, and giving herself up to him, she lived with him for some time among the mountains as his bride. AEneas was their son.
Aphrodite did not, however, appear to Anchises in her true character, but assumed, instead, the form and the disguise of a Phrygian princess. Phrygia was a kingdom of Asia Minor, not very far from Troy. She continued this disguise as long as she remained with Anchises at Mount Ida; at length, however, she concluded to leave him, and to return to Olympus, and at her parting she made herself known. She, however, charged Anchises never to reveal to any person who she was, declaring that AEneas, whom she was going to leave with his father when she went away, would be destroyed by a stroke of lightning from heaven, if the real truth in respect to his mother were ever revealed.
When Aphrodite had gone, Anchises, having now no longer any one at home to attend to the rearing of the child, send him to Dardanus, a city to the northward of Troy, where he was brought up in the house of his sister, the daughter of Anchises, who was married and settled there. His having a sister old enough to be married, would seem to show that youth was not one of the attractions of Anchises in Aphrodite's eyes. AEneas remained with his sister until he was old enough to be of service in the care of flocks and herds, and then returned again to his former residence among the pasturages of the mountains. His mother, though she had left him, did not forget her child; but watched over him continually, and interposed directly to aid or to protect him, whenever her aid was required by the occurrence of any emergency of difficulty or danger.
At length the Trojan war broke out. For a time, however, AEneas took no part in it. He was jealous of the attentions which Priam, the king of Troy, paid to other young men, and fancied that he himself was overlooked and that the services that he might render were undervalued. He remained, therefore, at his home among the mountains, occupying himself with his flocks and herds; and he might, perhaps, have continued in these peaceful avocations to the end of the war, had it not been that Achilles, one of the most formidable of the Grecian leaders, in one of his forays in the country around Troy, in search of provisions, came upon AEneas's territory, and attacked him while tending his flocks upon the mountain side. Achilles seized the flocks and herds, and drove AEneas and his fellow-herdsmen away. They would, in fact, all have been killed, had not Aphrodite interposed to protect her son and save his life.
The loss of his flocks and herds, and the injury which he himself had received, aroused AEneas's indignation and anger against the Greeks. He immediately raised an armed force of Dardanians, and thenceforth took an active part in the war. He became one of the most distinguished among the combatants, for his prowess and his bravery; and being always assisted by his mother in his conflicts, and rescued by her when in danger, he performed prodigies of strength and valor.
At one time he pressed forward into the thickest of the battle to rescue a Trojan leader named Pandarus, who was beset by his foes and brought into very imminent danger. AEneas did not succeed in saving his friend. Pandarus was killed. AEneas, however, flew to the spot, and by means of the most extraordinary feats of strength and valor he drove the Greeks away from the body. They attacked it on every side, but AEneas, wheeling around it, and fighting now on this side and now on that, drove them all away. They retired to a little distance and then began to throw in a shower of spears and darts and arrows upon him. AEneas defended himself and the body of his friend from these missiles for a time, with his shield. At length, however, he was struck in the thigh with a ponderous stone which one of the Greek warriors hurled at him,—a stone so heavy that two men of ordinary strength would have been required to lift it. AEneas was felled to the ground by the blow. He sank down, resting upon his arm, faint and dizzy, and being thus made helpless would have immediately been overpowered and killed by his assailants had not his mother interposed. She came immediately to rescue him. She spread her vail over him, which had the magic power of rendering harmless all blows which were aimed at what was covered by it, and then taking him up in her arms she bore him off through the midst of his enemies unharmed. The swords, spears, and javelins which were aimed at him were rendered powerless by the magic vail.
Aphrodite, however, flying thus with her wounded son, mother-like, left herself exposed in her anxiety to protect him. Diomedes, the chief of the pursuers, following headlong on, aimed a lance at Venus herself. The lance struck Venus in the hand, and inflicted a very severe and painful wound. It did not, however, stop her flight. She pressed swiftly on, while Diomedes, satisfied with his revenge, gave up the pursuit, but called out to Aphrodite as she disappeared from view, bidding her learn from the lesson which he had given her that it would be best for her thenceforth to remain in her own appropriate sphere, and not come down to the earth and interfere in the contests of mortal men.
Aphrodite, after conveying AEneas to a place of safety, fled, herself, faint and bleeding, to the mountains, where, after ascending to the region of mists and clouds, Iris, the beautiful goddess of the rainbow, came to her aid. Iris found her faint and pale from the loss of blood; she did all in her power to soothe and comfort the wounded goddess, and then led her farther still among the mountains to a place where they found Mars, the god of war, standing with his chariot. Mars was Aphrodite's brother. He took compassion upon his sister in her distress, and lent Iris his chariot and horses, to convey Aphrodite home. Aphrodite ascended into the chariot, and Iris took the reins; and thus they rode through the air to the mountains of Olympus. Here the gods and goddesses of heaven gathered around their unhappy sister, bound up her wound, and expressed great sympathy for her in her sufferings, uttering at the same time many piteous complaints against the merciless violence and inhumanity of men. Such is the ancient tale of AEneas and his mother.
At a later period in the history of the war, AEneas had a grand combat with Achilles, who was the most terrible of all the Grecian warriors, and was regarded as the grand champion of their cause. The two armies were drawn up in battle array. A vast open space was left between them on the open plain. Into this space the two combatants advanced, AEneas on the one side and Achilles on the other, in full view of all the troops, and of the throngs of spectators assembled to witness the proceedings.
A very strong and an universal interest was felt in the approaching combat. AEneas, besides the prodigious strength and bravery for which he was renowned, was to be divinely aided, it was known, by the protection of his mother, who was always at hand to guide and support him in the conflict, and to succor him in danger. Achilles, on the other hand, possessed a charmed life. He had been dipped by his mother Thetis, when an infant, in the river Styx, to render him invulnerable and immortal; and the immersion produced the effect intended in respect to all those parts of the body which the water laved. As, how ever, Thetis held the child by the ankles when she plunged him in, the ankles remained unaffected by the magic influence of the water. All the other parts of the body were rendered incapable of receiving a wound.
Achilles had a very beautiful and costly shield which his mother had caused to be made for him. It was formed of five plates of metal. The outermost plates on each side were of brass; in the centre was a plate of gold; and between the central plate of gold and the outer ones of brass were two other plates, one on each side, made of some third metal. The workmanship of this shield was of the most elaborate and beautiful character. The mother of Achilles had given this weapon to her son when he left home to join the Greeks in the Trojan war, not trusting entirely it seems to his magical invulnerability.
The armies looked on with great interest as these two champions advanced to meet each other, while all the gods and goddesses surveyed the scene with almost equal interest, from their abodes above. Some joined Venus in the sympathy which she felt for her son, while others espoused the cause of Achilles. When the two combatants had approached each other, they paused before commencing the conflict, as is usual in such cases, and surveyed each other with looks of anger and defiance. At length Achilles spoke. He began to upbraid AEneas for his infatuation and folly in engaging in the war, and especially for coming forward to put his life at hazard by encountering such a champion as was now before him. "What can you gain," said he, "even if you conquer in this warfare? You can never be king, even if you succeed in saving the city. I know you claim to be descended from the royal line; but Priam has sons who are the direct and immediate heirs, and your claims can never be allowed. Then, besides, what folly to attempt to contend with me! Me, the strongest, bravest, and most terrible of the Greeks, and the special favorite of many deities." With this introduction Achilles went on to set forth the greatness of his pedigree, and the loftiness of his pretensions to superiority over all others in personal prowess and valor, in a manner very eloquent indeed, and in a style which it seems was very much admired in those days as evincing only a proper spirit and energy,—though in our times such a harangue would be very apt to be regarded as only a vainglorious and empty boasting.
AEneas replied,—retorting with vauntings on his side no less spirited and energetic than those which Achilles had expressed. He gave a long account of his pedigree, and of his various claims to lofty consideration. He, however, said, in conclusion, that it was idle and useless for them to waste their time in such a war of words, and so he hurled his spear at Achilles with all his force, as a token of the commencement of the battle.
The spear struck the shield of Achilles, and impinged upon it with such force that it penetrated through two of the plates of metal which composed the shield, and reached the central plate of gold, where the force with which it had been thrown being spent, it was arrested and fell to the ground. Achilles then exerting his utmost strength threw his spear in return. AEneas crouched down to avoid the shock of the weapon, holding his shield at the same time above his head, and bracing himself with all his force against the approaching concussion. The spear struck the shield near the upper edge of it, as it was held in AEneas's hands. It passed directly through the plates of which the shield was composed, and then continuing its course, it glided down just over AEneas's back, and planted itself deep in the ground behind him, and stood there quivering. AEneas crept out from beneath it with a look of horror.
Immediately after throwing his spear, and perceiving that it had failed of its intended effect, Achilles drew his sword and rushed forward to engage AEneas, hand to hand. AEneas himself recovering in an instant from the consternation which his narrow escape from impalement had awakened, seized an enormous stone, heavier, as Homer represents it, than any two ordinary men could lift, and was about to hurl it at his advancing foe, when suddenly the whole combat was terminated by a very unexpected interposition. It seems that the various gods and goddesses, from their celestial abodes among the summits of Olympus, had assembled in invisible forms to witness this combat—some sympathizing with and upholding one of the combatants, and some the other. Neptune was on AEneas's side; and accordingly when he saw how imminent the danger was which threatened AEneas, when Achilles came rushing upon him with his uplifted sword, he at once resolved to interfere. He immediately rushed, himself, between the combatants. He brought a sudden and supernatural mist over the scene, such as the God of the Sea has always at his command; and this mist at once concealed AEneas from Achilles's view. Neptune drew the spear out of the ground, and released it too from the shield which remained still pinned down by it; and then threw the spear down at Achilles's feet. He next seized AEneas, and lifting him high above the ground he bore him away in an invisible form over the heads of soldiers and horsemen that had been drawn up in long lines around the field of combat. When the mist passed away Achilles saw his spear lying at his feet, and on looking around him found that his enemy was gone.
Such are the marvelous tales which were told by the ancient narrators, of the prowess and exploits of AEneas under the walls of Troy, and of the interpositions which were put forth to save him in moments of desperate danger, by beings supernatural and divine. These tales were in those days believed as sober history. That which was marvelous and philosophically incredible in them, was sacredly sheltered from question by mingling itself with the prevailing principles of religious faith. The tales were thus believed, and handed down traditionally from generation to generation, and admired and loved by all who heard and repeated them, partly on account of their romantic and poetical beauty, and partly on account of the sublime and sacred revelations which they contained, in respect to the divinities of the spiritual world.
THE DESTRUCTION OF TROY.
Termination of the siege of Troy.—Appearances observed by the besieged.—The wooden horse.—Its probable size.—Various opinions in respect to the disposal of it.—Sudden appearance of a captive.—His wretched condition.—Sinon's account of the departure of the Greeks.—His story of the proposed sacrifice.—His escape.—Priam's address to him.—Sinon's account of the horse.—Effect produced by Sinon's story.—The serpents and Laocoon.—Ancient statue of Laocoon.—Its history.—The statue now deposited in the Vatican.—Description of it.—Effect produced upon the Trojans by Laocoon's fate.—The Trojans draw the horse into the city.—The Greeks admitted to the city.—AEneas awakened by the din.—His meeting with Pantheus.—His surprise and terror.—Adventures of AEneas and Pantheus.—The tortoise.—The position of AEneas.—The tower.—The sacking of the palace.—Priam.—Priam and Hecuba at the altar.—The death of Priam.—The despair of the Trojans.
After the final conquest and destruction of Troy, AEneas, in the course of his wanderings, stopped, it was said, at Carthage, on his way to Italy, and there, according to ancient story, he gave the following account of the circumstances attending the capture and the sacking of the city, and his own escape from the scene.
One day, after the war had been continued with various success for a long period of time, the sentinels on the walls and towers of the city began to observe extraordinary movements in the camp of the besiegers, which seemed to indicate preparations for breaking up the camp and going away. Tents were struck. Men were busy passing to and fro, arranging arms and military stores, as if for transportation. A fleet of ships was drawn up along the shore, which was not far distant, and a great scene of activity manifested itself upon the bank, indicating an approaching embarkation. In a word, the tidings soon spread throughout the city, that the Greeks had at length become weary of the protracted contest, and were making preparations to withdraw from the field. These proceedings were watched, of course, with great interest from the walls of the city, and at length the inhabitants, to their inexpressible joy, found their anticipations and hopes, as they thought, fully realized. The camp of the Greeks was gradually broken up, and at last entirely abandoned. The various bodies of troops were drawn off one by one to the shore, where they were embarked on board the ships, and then sailed away. As soon as this result was made sure, the Trojans threw open the gates of the city, and came out in throngs,—soldiers and citizens, men, women and children together,—to explore the abandoned encampment, and to rejoice over the departure of their terrible enemies.
The first thing which attracted their attention was an immense wooden horse, which stood upon the ground that the Greek encampment had occupied. The Trojans immediately gathered, one and all, around the monster, full of wonder and curiosity. AEneas, in narrating the story, says that the image was as large as a mountain; but, as he afterward relates that the people drew it on wheels within the walls of the city, and especially as he represents them as attaching the ropes for this purpose to the neck of the image, instead of to its fore-legs, which would have furnished the only proper points of attachment if the effigy had been of any very extraordinary size, he must have had a very small mountain in mind in making the comparison. Or, which is perhaps more probable, he used the term only in a vague metaphorical sense, as we do now when we speak of the waves of the ocean as running mountain high, when it is well ascertained that the crests of the billows, even in the most violent and most protracted storms, never rise more than twenty feet above the general level.
At all events, the image was large enough to excite the wonder of all the beholders. The Trojan people gathered around it, wholly unable to understand for what purpose the Greeks could have constructed such a monster, to leave behind them on their departure from Troy. After the first emotions of astonishment and wonder which the spectacle awakened had somewhat subsided, there followed a consultation in respect to the disposal which was to be made of the prodigy. The opinions on this point were very various. One commander was disposed to consider the image a sacred prize, and recommended that they should convey it into the city, and deposit it in the citadel, as a trophy of victory. Another, dissenting decidedly from this counsel, said that he strongly suspected some latent treachery, and he proposed to build a fire under the body of the monster, and burn the image itself and all contrivances for mischief which might be contained in it, together. A third recommended that they should hew it open, and see for themselves what there might be within. One of the Trojan leaders named Laocoon, who, just at this juncture, came to the spot, remonstrated loudly and earnestly against having any thing to do with so mysterious and suspicious a prize, and, by way of expressing the strong animosity which he felt toward it, he hurled his spear with all his force against the monster's side. The spear stood trembling in the wood, producing a deep hollow sound by the concussion.
What the decision would have been in respect to the disposal of the horse, if this consultation and debate had gone on, it is impossible to say, as the farther consideration of the subject was all at once interrupted, by new occurrences which here suddenly intervened, and which, after engrossing for a time the whole attention of the company assembled, finally controlled the decision of the question. A crowd of peasants and shepherds were seen coming from the mountains, with much excitement, and loud shouts and outcries, bringing with them a captive Greek whom they had secured and bound. As the peasants came up with their prisoner, the Trojans gathered eagerly round them, full of excitement and threats of violence, all thirsting, apparently, for their victim's blood. He, on his part, filled the air with the most piteous lamentations and cries for mercy.
His distress and wretchedness, and the earnest entreaties which he uttered, seemed at length to soften the hearts of his enemies and finally, the violence of the crowd around the captive became somewhat appeased, and was succeeded by a disposition to question him, and hear what he had to say. The Greek told them, in answer to their interrogations, that his name was Sinon, and that he was a fugitive from his own countrymen the Greeks, who had been intending to kill him. He said that the Greek leaders had long been desirous of abandoning the siege of Troy, and that they had made many attempts to embark their troops and sail away, but that the winds and seas had risen against them on every such attempt, and defeated their design. They then sent to consult the oracle of Apollo, to learn what was the cause of the displeasure and hostility thus manifested against them by the god of the sea. The oracle replied, that they could not depart from Troy, till they had first made an atoning and propitiatory offering by the sacrifice of a man, such an one as Apollo himself might designate. When this answer was returned, the whole army, as Sinon said, was thrown into a state of consternation. No one knew but that the fatal designation might fall on him. The leaders were, however, earnestly determined on carrying the measure into effect. Ulysses called upon Calchas, the priest of Apollo, to point out the man who was to die. Calchas waited day after day, for ten days, before the divine intimation was made to him in respect to the individual who was to suffer. At length he said that Sinon was the destined victim. His comrades, Sinon said, rejoicing in their own escape from so terrible a doom, eagerly assented to the priest's decision, and immediately made preparations for the ceremony. The altar was reared. The victim was adorned for the sacrifice, and the garlands, according to the accustomed usage, were bound upon his temples. He contrived, however, he said, at the last moment, to make his escape. He broke the bands with which he had been bound, and fled into a morass near the shore, where he remained concealed in inaccessible thickets until the Greeks had sailed away. He then came forth and was at length seized and bound by the shepherds of the mountains, who found him wandering about, in extreme destitution and misery. Sinon concluded his tale by the most piteous lamentations, on his wretched lot. The Trojans, he supposed, would kill him, and the Greeks, on their return to his native land, in their anger against him for having made his escape from them, would destroy his wife and children.
The air and manner with which Sinon told this story seemed so sincere, and so natural and unaffected were the expressions of wretchedness and despair with which he ended his narrative, that the Trojan leaders had no suspicion that it was not true. Their compassion was moved for the wretched fugitive, and they determined to spare his life. Priam, the aged king, who was present at the scene, in the midst of the Trojan generals, ordered the cords with which the peasants had bound the captive to be sundered, that he might stand before them free. The king spoke to him, too, in a kind and encouraging manner. "Forget your countrymen," said he. "They are gone. Henceforth you shall be one of us. We will take care of you. And now," he continued, "tell us what this monstrous image means. Why did the Greeks make it, and why have they left it here?"
Sinon, as if grateful for the generosity with which his life had been spared, professed himself ready to give his benefactors the fullest information. He told them that the wooden horse had been built by the Greeks to replace a certain image of Pallas which they had previously taken and borne away from Troy. It was to replace this image, Sinon said, that the Greeks had built the wooden horse; and their purpose in making the image of this monstrous size was to prevent the possibility of the Trojans taking it into the city, and thus appropriating to themselves the benefit of its protecting efficacy and virtue.
The Trojans listened with breathless interest to all that Sinon said, and readily believed his story; so admirably well did he counterfeit, by his words and his demeanor, all the marks and tokens of honest sincerity in what he said of others, as well of grief and despair in respect to his own unhappy lot. The current of opinion which had begun before to set strongly in favor of destroying the horse, was wholly turned, and all began at once to look upon the colossal image as an object of sacred veneration, and to begin to form plans for transporting it within the limits of the city. Whatever remaining doubts any of them might have felt on the subject were dispelled by the occurrence of a most extraordinary phenomenon just at this stage of the affair, which was understood by all to be a divine judgment upon Laocoon for his sacriligious temerity in striking his spear into the horse's side. It had been determined to offer a sacrifice to Neptune. Lots were drawn to determine who should perform the rite. The lot fell upon Laocoon. He began to make preparations to perform the duty, assisted by his two young sons, when suddenly two immense serpents appeared, coming up from the sea. They came swimming over the surface of the water, with their heads elevated above the waves, until they reached the shore, and then gliding swiftly along, they advanced across the plain, their bodies brilliantly spotted and glittering in the sun, their eyes flashing, and their forked and venomous tongues darting threats and defiance as they came. The people fled in dismay. The serpents, disregarding all others, made their way directly toward the affrighted children of Laocoon, and twining around them they soon held the writhing and struggling limbs of their shrieking victims hopelessly entangled in their deadly convolutions.
Laocoon, who was himself at a little distance from the spot, when the serpents came, as soon as he saw the danger and heard the agonizing cries of his boys, seized a weapon and ran to rescue them. Instead, however, of being able to save his children, he only involved himself in their dreadful fate. The serpents seized him as soon as he came within their reach, and taking two turns around his neck and two around his body, and binding in a remorseless grip the forms of the fainting and dying boys with other convolutions, they raised their heads high above the group of victims which they thus enfolded, and hissed and darted out their forked tongues in token of defiance and victory. When at length their work was done, they glided away and took refuge in a temple that was near, and coiled themselves up for repose beneath the feet of the statue of a goddess that stood in the shrine.
The story of Laocoon has become celebrated among all mankind in modern times by means of a statue representing the catastrophe, which was found two or three centuries ago among the ruins of an ancient edifice at Rome. This statue was mentioned by an old Roman writer, Pliny, who gave an account of it while it yet stood in its place in the ancient city. He said that it was the work of three artists, a father and two sons, who combined their industry and skill to carve in one group, and with immense labor and care, the representation of Laocoon himself, the two boys, and the two serpents, making five living beings intertwined intricately together, and all carved from one single block of marble. On the decline and fall of Rome this statue was lost among the ruins of the city, and for many centuries it was known to mankind only through the description of Pliny. At length it was brought to light again, having been discovered about three centuries ago, under the ruins of the very edifice in which Pliny had described it as standing. It immediately became the object of great interest and attention to the whole world. It was deposited in the Vatican; a great reward was paid to the owner of the ground on which it was discovered; drawings and casts of it, without number, have been made; and the original stands in the Vatican now, an object of universal interest, as one of the most celebrated sculptures of ancient or modern times.
Laocoon himself forms the center of the group, with the serpents twined around him, while he struggles, with a fearful expression of terror and anguish in his countenance, in the vain attempt to release himself from their hold. One of the serpents has bitten one of the boys in the side, and the wounded child sinks under the effects of the poison. The other boy, in an agony of terror, is struggling, hopelessly, to release his foot from the convolutions with which one of the serpents has encircled it. The expression of the whole group is exciting and painful, and yet notwithstanding this, there is combined with it a certain mysterious grace and beauty which charms every eye, and makes the composition the wonder of mankind.
But to return to the story. The people understood this awful visitation to be the judgment of heaven against Laocoon for his sacrilegious presumption in daring to thrust his spear into the side of the image before them, and which they were now very sure they were to consider as something supernatural and divine. They determined with one accord to take it into the city.
They immediately began to make preparations for the transportation of it. They raised it from the ground, and fitted to the feet some sort of machinery of wheels or rollers, suitable to the nature of the ground, and strong enough to bear the weight of the colossal mass. They attached long ropes to the neck of the image, and extended them forward upon the ground, and then brought up large companies of citizens and soldiers to man them. They arranged a procession, consisting of the generals of the army, and of the great civil dignitaries of the state; and in addition to these were groups of singing boys and girls, adorned with wreaths and garlands, who were appointed to chant sacred hymns to solemnize the occasion. They widened the access to the city, too, by tearing down a portion of the wall so as to open a sufficient space to enable the monster to get in. When all was ready the ropes were manned, the signal was given, the ponderous mass began to move, and though it encountered in its progress many difficulties, obstructions, and delays, in due time it was safely deposited in the court of a great public edifice within the city. The wall was then repaired, the day passed away, the night came on, the gates were shut, and the curiosity and wonder of the people within being gradually satisfied, they at length dispersed to their several homes and retired to rest. At midnight the unconscious effigy stood silent and alone where its worshipers had left it, while the whole population of the city were sunk in slumber, except the sentinels who had been stationed as usual to keep guard at the gates, or to watch upon the towers and battlements above them.
In the mean time the Greek fleet, which had sailed away under pretense of finally abandoning the country, had proceeded only to the island of Tenedos, which was about a league from the shore, and there they had concealed themselves during the day. As soon as night came on they returned to the main land, and disembarking with the utmost silence and secrecy, they made their way back again under cover of the darkness, as near as they dared to come to the gates of the city. In the mean time Sinon had arisen stealthily from the sleep which he had feigned to deceive those to whose charge he had been committed, and creeping cautiously through the streets he repaired to the place where the wooden horse had been deposited, and there opened a secret door in the side of the image, and liberated a band of armed and desperate men who had been concealed within. These men, as soon as they had descended to the ground and had adjusted their armor, rushed to the city walls, surprised and killed the sentinels and watchmen, threw open the gates, and gave the whole body of their comrades that were lurking outside the walls, in the silence and darkness of the night, an unobstructed admission.
AEneas was asleep in his house while these things were transpiring. The house where he lived was in a retired and quiet situation, but he was awakened from his sleep by distant outcries and din, and springing from his couch, and hastily resuming his dress, he ascended to the roof of the house to ascertain the cause of the alarm. He saw flames ascending from various edifices in the quarter of the city where the Greeks had come in. He listened. He could distinctly hear the shouts of men, and the notes of trumpets sounding the alarm. He immediately seized his armor and rushed forth into the streets, arousing the inhabitants around him from their slumbers by his shouts, and calling upon them to arm themselves and follow him.