History Of Ancient Civilization
by Charles Seignobos
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Transcriber's Note: Bolded text is distinguished by ='s at start and finish. Italicized text is distinguished by _'s at start and finish.







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In preparing this volume, the Editor has used both the three-volume edition and the two-volume edition of the "Histoire de la Civilisation." He has usually preferred the order of topics of the two-volume edition, but has supplemented the material therein with other matter drawn from the three-volume edition.

A few corrections to the text have been given in foot-notes. These notes are always clearly distinguished from the elucidations of the author.




PREHISTORIC TIMES. Prehistoric archaeology—Prehistoric remains; their antiquity—Prehistoric science—The four ages.

THE ROUGH STONE AGE. Remains found in the gravels—The cave-men.

THE POLISHED STONE AGE. Lake-villages—Megalithic monuments.

THE BRONZE AGE. Bronze—Bronze objects.

THE IRON AGE. Iron—Iron weapons—Epochs of the Iron Age.

Conclusions: How the four ages are to be conceived; uncertainties; solved questions.


HISTORY AND THE DOCUMENTS. History—Legends—History in general—Great divisions of history—Ancient history—Modern history—The Middle Ages.

SOURCES FOR THE HISTORY OF ANCIENT CIVILIZATIONS. Books—Monuments—Inscriptions—Languages—Lacunae.

RACES AND PEOPLES. Anthropology—The races—Civilized peoples—Aryans and Semites.


THE EGYPTIANS. Egypt—The country—The Nile—Fertility of the soil—The accounts of Herodotus—Champollion—Egyptologists—Discoveries.

THE EGYPTIAN EMPIRE. Antiquity of the Egyptian people—Memphis and the pyramids—Egyptian civilization—Thebes—The Pharaoh—The subjects—Despotism—Isolation of the Egyptians.

RELIGION OF THE EGYPTIANS. The gods—Osiris—Ammon-ra—Gods with animal heads—Sacred animals—The bull Apis—Worship of the dead—Judgment of the soul—Mummies—Book of the Dead—The arts—Industry— Architecture—Tombs—Temples—Sculpture—Painting—Literature— Destinies of the Egyptian civilization.


THE ASSYRIANS AND BABYLONIANS. Chaldea—The land—The people—The cities.

THE ASSYRIANS—Assyria—Origins—Ancient accounts—Modern discoveries— Inscriptions on bricks—Cuneiform writing—The Assyrian people—The king—Fall of the Assyrian Empire.

THE BABYLONIANS. The second Chaldean empire—Babylon—The Tower of Babylon.

CUSTOMS AND RELIGION. Customs—Religion—The gods—Astrology— Sorcery—The sciences.

THE ARTS. Architecture—Palaces—Sculpture.


THE ARYANS OF INDIA. The Aryans—Aryan languages—The Aryan people.

PRIMITIVE RELIGION OF THE HINDOOS. The Aryans on the Indus—The Vedas—The gods—Indra—Agni—The cult—Worship of ancestors.

BRAHMANIC SOCIETY. The Hindoos on the Ganges—Castes—The Impure—The Brahmans—The new religion of Brahma—Transmigration of souls— Character of this religion—The rites—Purity—Penances—The monks.

BUDDHISM. Buddha—Nirvana—Charity—Fraternity—Tolerance—Later history of Buddhism—Changes in Buddhism—Buddha transformed into a god—Mechanical prayer—Amelioration of manners.


THE PERSIANS. The religion of Zoroaster—Iran—The Iranians— Zoroaster—The Zend-Avesta—Ormuzd and Ahriman—Angels and demons— Creatures of Ormuzd and Ahriman—The cult—Morality—Funerals— Destiny of the soul—Character of Mazdeism.

THE PERSIAN EMPIRE. The Medes—The Persians—Cyrus—The inscription of Behistun—The Persian empire—The satrapies—Revenues of the empire—The Great King—Services rendered by the Persians—Susa and Persepolis—Persian architecture.


THE PHOENICIANS. The Phoenician people—The land—The cities—Phoenician ruins—Organization of the Phoenician—Tyre—Carthage—Carthaginian army—The Carthaginians—The Phoenician religion.

PHOENICIAN COMMERCE. Occupations of the Phoenicians—Caravans—Marine commerce—Commodities—Secret kept by the Phoenicians—Colonies— Influence of the Phoenicians—The alphabet.


THE HEBREWS. Origin of the Hebrew people—The Bible—The Hebrews—The patriarchs—The Israelites—The call of Moses—Israel in the desert—The Promised Land.

THE RELIGION OF ISRAEL. One God—The people of God—The covenant—The Ten Commandments—The Law—Religion constituted the Jewish people.

THE EMPIRE OF ISRAEL. The Judges—The Hangs—Jerusalem—The tabernacle—The temple.

THE PROPHETS. Disasters of Israel—Sentiments of the Israelites—The prophets—The new teaching—The Messiah.

THE JEWISH PEOPLE. Return to Jerusalem—The Jews—The synagogues— Destruction of the temple—The Jews after the dispersion.


GREECE AND THE GREEKS. The country—The sea—The climate—Simplicity of Greek life—The people—Origin of the Greeks—Legends—The Trojan War—The Homeric Poems—The Greeks at the time of Homer—The Dorians—The Ionians—The Hellenes—The cities.

THE HELLENES BEYOND THE SEA. Colonization—Character of the colonies— Traditions touching the colonies—Importance of the Greek colonies.


GREEK RELIGION. The gods—Polytheism—Anthropomorphism—Mythology—Local gods—The great gods—Attributes of the gods—Olympus and Zeus—Morality of the Greek mythology.

THE HEROES. Various sorts of heroes—Presence of the heroes— Intervention of the heroes.

WORSHIP. Principle of the cult of the gods—The great Feasts—the sacred games—Omens—Oracles—Amphictyonies.


SPARTA. The People—Laconia—The Helots—The Perioeci—Condition of the Spartiates.

EDUCATION. The children—The girls—The discipline—Laconism—Music— The dance—Heroism of the women.

INSTITUTIONS. The kings and the council—The ephors—The army—The hoplites—The phalanx—Gymnastics—Athletes—Role of the Spartiates.


ATHENS. Origins of the Athenian people—Attica—Athens—The revolutions in Athens—Reforms of Cleisthenes.

THE ATHENIAN PEOPLE. The slaves—The foreigners—The citizens.

THE GOVERNMENT. The assembly—The courts—The magistrates—Character of the government—The demagogues.

PRIVATE LIFE. Children—Marriage—Women.


WARS. The Persian wars—Origin of these wars—Comparison of the two adversaries—First Persian war—Second Persian war—Reasons for the victory of the Greeks—Results of the wars.

WARS OF THE GREEKS AMONG THEMSELVES. The Peloponnesian war—War with Sparta—Savage character of the wars—Effects of these wars.


THE ARTS IN GREECE. Athens in the time of Pericles—Pericles—Athens and her monuments—Importance of Athens.

LETTERS. Orators—Sages—Sophists—Socrates and the philosophers—The chorus—Tragedy and comedy—Theatre.

ARTS. The Grecian temples—Characteristics of Grecian architecture—Sculpture—Pottery—Painting.


THE GREEKS IN THE ORIENT. Asia before Alexander—Decadence of the Persian empire—Expedition of the Ten Thousand—Agesilaus.

CONQUEST OF ASIA BY ALEXANDER. Macedon—Philip—Demosthenes—The Macedonian supremacy—Alexander—The phalanx—Departure of Alexander—Victories of Granicus, Issus, and Arbela—Death of Alexander—Projects of Alexander.

THE HELLENES IN THE ORIENT. Dismemberment of the empire of Alexander— The Hellenistic kingdoms—Alexandria—Museum—Pergamum.


LATER PERIOD OF GREEK HISTORY. Decadence of the cities—Rich and poor—Strife between rich and poor—Democracy and oligarchy—The tyrants—Exhaustion of Greece.

THE ROMAN CONQUEST. The leagues—The allies of the Romans—The last struggles.

THE HELLENES IN THE OCCIDENT. Influence of Greece on Rome— Architecture—Sculpture—Literature—Epicureans and Stoics.


ANCIENT PEOPLES OF ITALY. The Etruscans—Etruria—The Etruscan people— The Etruscan tombs—Industry and commerce—Religion—The augurs— Influence of the Etruscans.

THE ITALIAN PEOPLE. Umbrians and Oscans—The Sacred Spring—The Samnites—The Greeks of Italy.

LATINS AND ROMANS. The Latins—Rome—Roma Quadrata and the Capitol.


RELIGION AND THE FAMILY. Religion—The Roman gods—Form of the gods—Principle of the Roman religion—Worship—Formalism— Prayer—Omens—The priests.

WORSHIP OF ANCESTORS. The dead—Worship of the dead—Cult of the hearth.

THE FAMILY. Religion of the family—Marriage—Women—Children—Father of the family.


THE ROMAN CITY. Formation of the Roman people—The kings—The Roman people—The plebeians—Strife between patricians and plebeians— The tribunes of the plebs—Triumph of the plebs.

THE ROMAN PEOPLE. Right of citizenship—The nobles—The knights—The plebs—Freedmen.

THE GOVERNMENT OF THE REPUBLIC. The comitia—Magistrates—Censors— Senate—The course of offices.


ROMAN CONQUEST. The Roman army—Military service—The levy—Legions and allies—Military exercises—Camp—Order of battle—Discipline— Colonies &ad military roads.

CHARACTER OF THE CONQUESTS. War—Conquest of Italy—Punic wars—Hannibal—Conquest of the Orient—Conquest of barbarian lands—The triumph—Booty—Allies of Rome—Motives of conquest.

RESULTS OF THE CONQUESTS. Empire of the Roman people—The public domain—Agrarian laws.


THE CONQUERED PEOPLES. The provincials—Provinces—The proconsuls— Tyranny and oppression of the proconsuls—The publicans—Bankers— Defencelessness of the provincials.

SLAVERY. Sale of slaves—Condition of slaves—Number of slaves—Urban slaves—Rural slaves—Treatment of slaves—Ergastulum and mill— Character of the slaves—Revolts—Admission to citizenship.


TRANSFORMATION OF LIFE IN ROME. Influence of Greece and the Orient.

CHANGES IN RELIGION. Greek gods—The Bacchanals—Superstitions of the Orient—Sceptics.

CHANGES IN MANNERS. The old customs—Cato the Elder—The new manners— Oriental luxury—Greek humanity—Lucullus—The new education—New status of women—Divorce.


FALL OF THE REPUBLIC. Causes of the decadence—Destruction of the peasant class—The city plebs—Electoral corruption—Corruption of the Senate—Corruption of the army.

THE REVOLUTION. Necessity of the revolution—Civil wars—The Gracchi— Marius and Sulla—Pompey and Caesar—End of the Republic—Need of peace—Power of the individual.


THE EMPIRE AT ITS HEIGHT. The twelve Caesars—The emperor—Apotheosis— Senate and people—The praetorians—Freedmen of the emperors— Despotism and disorder.

THE CENTURY OF THE ANTONINES. Marcus Aurelius—Conquests of the Antonines.

IMPERIAL INSTITUTIONS. Extent of the empire in the second century— Permanent army—Deputies and agents of the emperor—Municipal life—Imperial regime.

SOCIAL LIFE UNDER THE EMPIRE. The continued decadence at Rome—The shows—Theatre—Circus—Amphitheatre—Gladiators—The Roman peace—Fusion of the peoples—Superstitions.


ARTS AND SCIENCES IN ROME. Letters—Imitation of the Greeks—The Augustan Age—Orators and rhetoricians—Importance of the Latin literature and language—Arts—Sculpture and painting— Architecture—Characteristics of Roman architecture—Rome and its monuments.

ROMAN LAW. The Twelve Tables—Symbolic process—Formalism— Jurisprudence—The praetor's edict—Civil law and the law of nations—Written reason.


THE CHRISTIAN RELIGION. Origin of Christianity—Christ—Charity— Equality—Poverty and humility—The kingdom of God.

FIRST CENTURIES OF THE CHURCH. Disciples and apostles—The church— Sacred books—Persecutions—Martyrs—Catacombs.

THE MONKS OF THE THIRD CENTURY. Solitaries—Asceticism—Cenobites.


THE LATER EMPIRE. The revolutions of the third century—Military anarchy—Worship of Mithra—Taurobolia—Confusion of religions.

REGIME OF THE LATER EMPIRE. Reforms of Diocletian and Constantine— Constantinople—The palace—The officials—Society of the later empire.

CHURCH AND STATE. Triumph of Christianity—Organization of the church—Councils—Heretics—Paganism—Theodosius.




Prehistoric Remains.—One often finds buried in the earth, weapons, implements, human skeletons, debris of every kind left by men of whom we have no direct knowledge. These are dug up by the thousand in all the provinces of France, in Switzerland, in England, in all Europe; they are found even in Asia and Africa. It is probable that they exist in all parts of the world.

These remains are called prehistoric because they are more ancient than written history. For about fifty years men have been engaged in recovering and studying them. Today most museums have a hall, or at least, some cases filled with these relics. A museum at Saint-German-en-Laye, near Paris, is entirely given up to prehistoric remains. In Denmark is a collection of more than 30,000 objects. Every day adds to the discoveries as excavations are made, houses built, and cuts made for railroads.

These objects are not found on the surface of the ground, but ordinarily buried deeply where the earth has not been disturbed. They are recovered from a stratum of gravel or clay which has been deposited gradually and has fixed them in place safe from the air, a sure proof that they have been there for a long time.

Prehistoric Science.—Scholars have examined the debris and have asked themselves what men have left them. From their skeletons, they have tried to construct their physical appearance; from their tools, the kind of life they led. They have determined that these instruments resemble those used by certain savages today. The study of all these objects constitutes a new science, Prehistoric Archaeology.[1]

The Four Ages.—Prehistoric remains come down to us from very diverse races of men; they have been deposited in the soil at widely different epochs since the time when the mammoth lived in western Europe, a sort of gigantic elephant with woolly hide and curved tusks. This long lapse of time may be divided into four periods, called Ages:

1. The Rough Stone Age.

2. The Polished Stone Age.

3. The Bronze Age.

4. The Iron Age.

The periods take their names from the materials used in the manufacture of the tools,—stone, bronze, iron. These epochs, however, are of very unequal length. It may be that the Rough Stone Age was ten times as long as the Age of Iron.


Gravel Debris.—The oldest remains of the Stone Age have been found in the gravels. A French scholar found between 1841 and 1853, in the valley of the Somme, certain sharp instruments made of flint. They were buried to a depth of six metres in gravel under three layers of clay, gravel, and marl which had never been broken up. In the same place they discovered bones of cattle, deer, and elephants. For a long time people made light of this discovery. They said that the chipping of the flints was due to chance. At last, in 1860, several scholars came to study the remains in the valley of the Somme and recognized that the flints had certainly been cut by men. Since then there have been found more than 5,000 similar flints in strata of the same order either in the valley of the Seine or in England, and some of them by the side of human bones. There is no longer any doubt that men were living at the epoch when the gravel strata were in process of formation. If the strata that cover these remains have always been deposited as slowly as they are today, these men whose bones and tools we unearth must have lived more than 200,000 years ago.

The Cave Men.—Remains are also found in caverns cut in rock, often above a river. The most noted are those on the banks of the Vezere, but they exist in many other places. Sometimes they have been used as habitations and even as graves for men. Skeletons, weapons, and tools are found here together. There are axes, knives, scrapers, lance-points of flint; arrows, harpoon-points, needles of bone like those used by certain savages to this day. The soil is strewn with the bones of animals which these men, untidy like all savages, threw into a corner after they had eaten the meat; they even split the bones to extract the marrow just as savages do now. Among the animals are found not only the hare, the deer, the ox, the horse, the salmon, but also the rhinoceros, the cave-bear, the mammoth, the elk, the bison, the reindeer, which are all extinct or have long disappeared from France. Some designs have been discovered engraved on the bone of a reindeer or on the tusk of a mammoth. One of these represents a combat of reindeer; another a mammoth with woolly hide and curved tusks. Doubtless these men were the contemporaries of the mammoth and the reindeer. They were, like the Esquimaux of our day, a race of hunters and fishermen, knowing how to work in flint and to kindle fires.


Lake Dwellings.—In 1854, Lake Zurich being very low on account of the unusual dryness of the summer, dwellers on the shore of the lake found, in the mud, wooden piles which had been much eaten away, also some rude utensils. These were the remains of an ancient village built over the water. Since this time more than 200 similar villages have been found in the lakes of Switzerland. They have been called Lake Villages. The piles on which they rest are trunks of trees, pointed and driven into the lake-bottom to a depth of several yards. Every village required 30,000 to 40,000 of these.

A wooden platform was supported by the pile work and on this were built wooden houses covered with turf. Objects found by the hundred among the piles reveal the character of the life of the former inhabitants. They ate animals killed in the chase—the deer, the boar, and the elk. But they were already acquainted with such domestic animals as the ox, the goat, the sheep, and the dog. They knew how to till the ground, to reap, and to grind their grain; for in the ruins of their villages are to be found grains of wheat and even fragments of bread, or rather unleavend cakes. They wore coarse cloths of hemp and sewed them into garments with needles of bone. They made pottery but were very awkward in its manufacture. Their vases were poorly burned, turned by hand, and adorned with but few lines. Like the cave-men, they used knives and arrows of flint; but they made their axes of a very hard stone which they had learned to polish. This is why we call their epoch the Polished Stone Age. They are much later than the cave-men, for they know neither the mammoth nor the rhinoceros, but still are acquainted with the elk and the reindeer.[2]

Megalithic Monuments.—Megalith is the name given to a monument formed of enormous blocks of rough stone. Sometimes the rock is bare, sometimes covered with a mass of earth. The buried monument is called a Tumulus on account of its resemblance to a hill. When it is opened, one finds within a chamber of rock, sometimes paved with flag-stones. The monuments whose stone is above ground are of various sorts. The Dolmen, or table of rock, is formed of a long stone laid flat over other stones set in the ground. The Cromlech, or stone-circle, consists of massive rocks arranged in a circle. The Menhir is a block of stone standing on its end. Frequently several menhirs are ranged in line. At Carnac in Brittany four thousand menhirs in eleven rows are still standing. Probably there were once ten thousand of these in this locality. Megalithic monuments appear by hundreds in western France, especially in Brittany; almost every hill in England has them; the Orkney Islands alone contain more than two thousand. Denmark and North Germany are studded with them; the people of the country call the tumuli the tombs of the giants.

Megalithic monuments are encountered outside of Europe—in India, and on the African coast. No one knows what people possessed the power to quarry such masses and then transport and erect them. For a long time it was believed that the people were the ancient Gauls, or Celts, whence the name Celtic Monuments. But why are like remains found in Africa and in India?

When one of these tumuli still intact is opened, one always sees a skeleton, often several, either sitting or reclining; these monuments, therefore, were used as tombs. Arms, vases, and ornaments are placed at the side of the dead. In the oldest of these tombs the weapons are axes of polished stone; the ornaments are shells, pearls, necklaces of bone or ivory; the vases are very simple, without handle or neck, decorated only with lines or with points. Calcined bones of animals lie about on the ground, the relics of a funeral repast laid in the tomb by the friends of the dead. Amidst these bones we no longer find those of the reindeer, a fact which proves that these monuments were constructed after the disappearance of this animal from western Europe, and therefore at a time subsequent to that of the lake villages.


Bronze Age.—As soon as men learned to smelt metals, they preferred these to stone in the manufacture of weapons. The metal first to be used was copper, easier to extract because found free, and easier to manipulate since it is malleable without the application of heat. Pure copper, however, was not employed, as weapons made of it were too fragile; but a little tin was mixed with it to give it more resistance. It is this alloy of copper and tin that we call bronze.

Bronze Utensils.—Bronze was used in the manufacture of ordinary tools—knives, hammers, saws, needles, fish-hooks; in the fabrication of ornaments—bracelets, brooches, ear-rings; and especially in the making of arms—daggers, lance-points, axes, and swords. These objects are found by thousands throughout Europe in the mounds, under the more recent dolmens, in the turf-pits of Denmark, and in rock-tombs. Near these objects of bronze, ornaments of gold are often seen and, now and then, the remains of a woollen garment. It cannot be due to chance that all implements of bronze are similar and all are made according to the same alloy. Doubtless they revert to the same period of time and are anterior to the coming of the Romans into Gaul, for they are never discovered in the midst of debris of the Roman period. But what men used them? What people invented bronze? Nobody knows.


Iron.—As iron was harder to smelt and work than bronze, it was later that men learned how to use it. As soon as it was appreciated that iron was harder and cut better than bronze, men preferred it in the manufacture of arms. In Homer's time iron is still a precious metal reserved for swords, bronze being retained for other purposes. It is for this reason that many tombs contain confused remains of utensils of bronze and weapons of iron.

Iron Weapons.—These arms are axes, swords, daggers, and bucklers. They are ordinarily found by the side of a skeleton in a coffin of stone or wood, for warriors had their arms buried with them. But they are found also scattered on ancient battle-fields or lost at the bottom of a marsh which later became a turf-pit. There were found in a turf-pit in Schleswig in one day 100 swords, 500 lances, 30 axes, 460 daggers, 80 knives, 40 stilettos—and all of iron. Not far from there in the bed of an ancient lake was discovered a great boat 66 feet long, fully equipped with axes, swords, lances, and knives.

It is impossible to enumerate the iron implements thus found. They have not been so well preserved as the bronze, as iron is rapidly eaten away by rust. At the first glance, therefore, they appear the older, but in reality are more recent.

Epoch of the Iron Age.—The inhabitants of northern Europe knew iron before the coming of the Romans, the first century before Christ. In an old cemetery near the salt mines of Hallstadt in Austria they have opened 980 tombs filled with instruments of iron and bronze without finding a single piece of Roman money. But the Iron Age continued under the Romans. Almost always iron objects are found accompanied by ornaments of gold and silver, by Roman pottery, funeral urns, inscriptions, and Roman coins bearing the effigy of the emperor. The warriors whom we find lying near their sword and their buckler lived for the most part in a period quite close to ours, many under the Merovingians, some even at the time of Charlemagne. The Iron Age is no longer a prehistoric age.


How the Four Ages are to be Conceived.—The inhabitants of one and the same country have successively made use of rough stone, polished stone, bronze, and iron. But all countries have not lived in the same age at the same time. Iron was employed by the Egyptians while yet the Greeks were in their bronze age and the barbarians of Denmark were using stone. The conclusion of the polished stone age in America came only with the arrival of Europeans. In our own time the savages of Australia are still in the rough stone age. In their settlements may be found only implements of bone and stone similar to those used by the cave-men. The four ages, therefore, do not mark periods in the life of humanity, but only epochs in the civilization of each country.

Uncertainties.—Prehistoric archaeology is yet a very young science. We have learned something of primitive men through certain remains preserved and discovered by chance. A recent accident, a trench, a landslip, a drought may effect a new discovery any day. Who knows what is still under ground? The finds are already innumerable. But these rarely tell us what we wish to know. How long was each of the four ages? When did each begin and end in the various parts of the world? Who planned the caverns, the lake villages, the mounds, the dolmens? When a country passes from polished stone to bronze, is it the same people changing implements, or is it a new people come on the scene? When one thinks one has found the solution, a new discovery often confounds the archaeologists. It was thought that the Celts originated the dolmens, but these have been found in sections which could never have been traversed by Celts.

What has been determined.—Three conclusions, however, seem certain:

1.—Man has lived long on the earth, familiar as he was with the mammoth and the cave-bear; he lived at least as early as the geological period known as the Quaternary.

2.—Man has emerged from the savage state to civilized life; he has gradually perfected his tools and his ornaments from the awkward axe of flint and the necklace of bears' teeth to iron swords and jewels of gold. The roughest instruments are the oldest.

3.—Man has made more and more rapid progress. Each age has been shorter than its predecessor.


[1] It originated especially with French, Swiss, and scholars.

[2] According to Lubbock (Prehistoric Times, N.Y., 1890, p. 212) the reindeer was not known to the Second Stone Age.—ED.




Legends.—The most ancient records of people and their doings are transmitted by oral tradition. They are recited long before they are written down and are much mixed with fable. The Greeks told how their heroes of the oldest times had exterminated monsters, fought with giants, and battled against the gods. The Romans had Romulus nourished by a wolf and raised to heaven. Almost all peoples relate such stories of their infancy. But no confidence is to be placed in these legends.

History.—History has its true beginning only with authentic accounts, that is to say, accounts written by men who were well informed. This moment is not the same with all peoples. The history of Egypt commences more than 3,000 years before Christ; that of the Greeks ascends scarcely to 800 years before Christ; Germany has had a history only since the first century of our era; Russia dates back only to the ninth century; certain savage tribes even yet have no history.

Great Divisions of History.—The history of civilization begins with the oldest civilized people and continues to the present time. Antiquity is the most remote period, Modern Times the era in which we live.

Ancient History.—Ancient History begins with the oldest known nations, the Egyptians and Chaldeans (about 3,000 years before our era), and surveys the peoples of the Orient, the Hindoos, Persians, Phoenicians, Jews, Greeks, and last of all the Romans. It terminates about the fifth century A.D., when the Roman empire of the west is extinguished.

Modern History.—Modern History starts with the end of the fifteenth century, with the invention of printing, the discovery of America and of the Indies, the Renaissance of the sciences and arts. It concerns itself especially with peoples of the West, of Spain, Italy, France, Germany, Russia, and America.

The Middle Age.—Between Antiquity and Modern Times about ten centuries elapse which belong neither to ancient times (for the civilization of Antiquity has perished) nor to modern (since modern civilization does not yet exist). This period we call the Middle Age.


The Sources.—The Assyrians, Greeks, and Romans are no longer with us; all the peoples of antiquity have passed away. To know their religion, their customs, and arts we have to seek for instruction in the remains they have left us. These are books, monuments, inscriptions, and languages, and these are our means for the study of ancient civilizations. We term these sources because we draw our knowledge from them. Ancient History flows from these sources.

Books.—Ancient peoples have left written records behind them. Some of these peoples had sacred books—for example, the Hindoos, the Persians, and the Jews; the Greeks and Romans have handed down to us histories, poems, speeches, philosophical treatises. But books are very far from furnishing all the information that we require. We do not possess a single Assyrian or Phoenician book. Other peoples have transmitted very few books to us. The ancients wrote less than we, and so they had a smaller literature to leave behind them; and as it was necessary to transcribe all of this by hand, there was but a small number of copies of books. Further, most of these manuscripts have been destroyed or have been lost, and those which remain to us are difficult to read. The art of deciphering them is called Palaeography.

The Monuments.—Ancient peoples, like ourselves, built monuments of different sorts: palaces for their kings, tombs for the dead, fortresses, bridges, aqueducts, triumphal arches. Of these monuments many have fallen into ruin, have been razed, shattered by the enemy or by the people themselves. But some of them survive, either because there was no desire to destroy them, or because men could not. They still stand in ruins like the old castles, for repairs are no longer made; but enough is preserved to enable us to comprehend their former condition. Some of them are still above ground, like the pyramids, the temples of Thebes and of the island of Philae, the palace of Persepolis in Persia, the Parthenon in Greece, the Colosseum in Rome, and the Maison Carree and Pont du Gard in France. Like any modern monument, these are visible to the traveller. But the majority of these monuments have been recovered from the earth, from sand, from river deposits, and from debris. One must disengage them from this thick covering, and excavate the soil, often to a great depth. Assyrian palaces may be reached only by cutting into the hills. A trench of forty feet is necessary to penetrate to the tombs of the kings of Mycenae. Time is not the only agency for covering these ruins; men have aided it. When the ancients wished to build, they did not, as we do, take the trouble to level off the space, nor to clear the site. Instead of removing the debris, they heaped it together and built above it. The new edifice in turn fell into ruins and its debris was added to that of more remote time; thus there were formed several strata of remains. When Schliemann excavated the site of Troy, he had passed through five beds of debris; these were five ruined villages one above another, the oldest at a depth of fifty feet.

By accident one town has been preserved to us in its entirety. In 79 A.D. the volcano of Vesuvius belched forth a torrent of liquid lava and a rain of ashes, and two Roman cities were suddenly buried, Herculaneum by lava, and Pompeii by ashes; the lava burnt the objects it touched, while the ashes enveloped them, preserving them from the air and keeping them intact. As we remove the ashes, Pompeii reappears to us just as it was eighteen centuries ago. One still sees the wheel-ruts in the pavement, the designs traced on the walls with charcoal; in the houses, the pictures, the utensils, the furniture, even the bread, the nuts, and olives, and here and there the skeleton of an inhabitant surprised by the catastrophe. Monuments teach us much about the ancient peoples. The science of monuments is called Archaeology.

Inscriptions.—By inscriptions one means all writings other than books. Inscriptions are for the most part cut in stone, but some are on plates of bronze. At Pompeii they have been found traced on the walls in colors or with charcoal. Some have the character of commemorative inscriptions just as these are now attached to our statues and edifices; thus in the monument of Ancyra the emperor Augustus publishes the story of his life.

The greatest number of inscriptions are epitaphs graven on tombs. Certain others fill the function of our placards, containing, as they do, a law or a regulation that was to be made public. The science of inscriptions is called Epigraphy.

Languages.—The languages also which ancient peoples spoke throw light on their history. Comparing the words of two different languages, we perceive that the two have a common origin—an evidence that the peoples who spoke them were descended from the same stock. The science of languages is called Linguistics.

Lacunae.—It is not to be supposed that books, monuments, inscriptions, and languages are sufficient to give complete knowledge of the history of antiquity. They present many details which we could well afford to lose, but often what we care most to know escapes us. Scholars continue to dig and to decipher; each year new discoveries of inscriptions and monuments are made; but there remain still many gaps in our knowledge and probably some of these will always exist.


Anthropology.—The men who people the earth do not possess exact resemblances, some differing from others in stature, the form of the limbs and the head, the features of the face, the color of the hair and eyes. Other differences are found in language, intelligence, and sentiments. These variations permit us to separate the inhabitants of the earth into several groups which we call races. A race is the aggregate of those men who resemble one another and are distinguished from all others. The common traits of a race—its characteristics—constitute the type of the race. For example, the type of the negro race is marked by black skin, frizzly hair, white teeth, flat nose, projecting lips, and prominent jaw. That part of Anthropology which concerns itself with races and their sub-divisions is called Ethnology.[3] This science is yet in its early development on account of its complete novelty, and is very complex since types of men are very numerous and often very difficult to differentiate.

The Races.—The principal races are:

1.—The White race, which inhabits Europe, the north of Africa, and western Asia.

2.—The Yellow race in eastern Asia to which belong the Chinese, the Mongols, Turks, and Hungarians, who invaded Europe as conquerors. They have yellow skin, small regular eyes, prominent cheek-bones, and thin beard.

3.—The Black race, in central Africa. These are the Negroes, of black skin, flat nose, woolly hair.

4.—The Red race, in America. These are the Indians, with copper-colored skin and flat heads.

Civilized Peoples.—Almost all civilized peoples belong to the white race. The peoples of the other races have remained savage or barbarian, like the men of prehistoric times.[4]

It is within the limits of Asia and Africa that the first civilized peoples had their development—the Egyptians in the Nile valley, the Chaldeans in the plain of the Euphrates. They were peoples of sedentary and peaceful pursuits. Their skin was dark, the hair short and thick, the lips strong. Nobody knows their origin with exactness and scholars are not agreed on the name to give them (some terming them Cushites, others Hamites). Later, between the twentieth and twenty-fifth centuries B.C. came bands of martial shepherds who had spread over all Europe and the west of Asia—the Aryans and the Semites.

The Aryans and the Semites.—There is no clearly marked external difference between the Aryans and the Semites. Both are of the white race, having the oval face, regular features, clear skin, abundant hair, large eyes, thin lips, and straight nose. Both peoples were originally nomad shepherds, fond of war. We do not know whence they came, nor is there agreement whether the Aryans came from the mountain region in the northwest of the Himalayas or from the plains of Russia. What distinguishes them is their spiritual bent and especially their language, sometimes also their religion. Scholars by common consent call those peoples Aryan who speak an Aryan language: in Asia, the Hindoos and Persians; in Europe, the Greeks, Italians, Spaniards, Germans, Scandinavians, Slavs (Russians, Poles, Serfs), and Celts.[5]

Similarly, we call Semites those peoples who speak a Semitic language: Arabs, Jews and Syrians. But a people may speak an Aryan or a Semitic language and yet not be of Aryan or Semitic race; a negro may speak English without being of English stock. Many of the Europeans whom we classify among the Aryans are perhaps the descendants of an ancient race conquered by the Aryans and who have adopted their language, just as the Egyptians received the language of the Arabs, their conquerors.

These two names (Aryan and Semite), then, signify today rather two groups of peoples than two distinct races. But even if we use the terms in this sense, one may say that all the greater peoples of the world have been Semites or Aryans. The Semitic family included the Phoenicians, the people of commerce; the Jews, the people of religion; the Arabs, the people of war. The Aryans, some finding their homes in India, others in Europe, have produced the nations which have been, and still are, foremost in the world—in antiquity, the Hindoos, a people of great philosophical and religious ideas; the Greeks, creators of art and of science; the Persians and Romans, the founders, the former in the East, the latter in the West, of the greatest empires of antiquity; in modern times, the Italians, French, Germans, Dutch, Russians, English and Americans.

The history of civilization begins with the Egyptians and the Chaldeans; but from the fifteenth century before our era, history concerns itself only with the Aryan and Semitic peoples.


[3] Ethnography is the study of races from the point of view of their objects and customs.

[4] The Chinese only of the yellow race have elaborated among themselves an industry, a regular government, a polite society. But placed at the extremity of Asia they have had no influence on other civilized peoples. [The Japanese should be included.—ED.]

[5] The English and French are mixtures of Celtic and German blood.




The Land of Egypt.—Egypt is only the valley of the Nile, a narrow strip of fertile soil stretching along both banks of the stream and shut in by mountains on either side, somewhat over 700[6] miles in length and 15 in width. Where the hills fall away, the Delta begins, a vast plain cut by the arms of the Nile and by canals. As Herodotus says, Egypt is wholly the gift of the Nile.

The Nile.—Every year at the summer solstice the Nile, swollen by the melted snows of Abyssinia, overflows the parched soil of Egypt. It rises to a height of twenty-six or twenty-seven feet, sometimes even to thirty-three feet.[7] The whole country becomes a lake from which the villages, built on eminences, emerge like little islands. The water recedes in September; by December it has returned to its proper channel. Everywhere has been left a fertile, alluvial bed which serves the purpose of fertilization. On the softened earth the peasant sows his crop with almost no labor. The Nile, then, brings both water and soil to Egypt; if the river should fail, Egypt would revert, like the land on either side of it, to a desert of sterile sand where the rain never falls. The Egyptians are conscious of their debt to their stream. A song in its honor runs as follows: "Greeting to thee, O Nile, who hast revealed thyself throughout the land, who comest in peace to give life to Egypt. Does it rise? The land is filled with joy, every heart exults, every being receives its food, every mouth is full. It brings bounties that are full of delight, it creates all good things, it makes the grass to spring up for the beasts."

Fertility of the Country.—Egypt is truly an oasis in the midst of the desert of Africa. It produces in abundance wheat, beans, lentils, and all leguminous foods; palms rear themselves in forests. On the pastures irrigated by the Nile graze herds of cattle and goats, and flocks of geese. With a territory hardly equal to that of Belgium, Egypt still supports 5,500,000 inhabitants. No country in Europe is so thickly populated, and Egypt in antiquity was more densely thronged than it is today.

The Accounts of Herodotus.—Egypt was better known to the Greeks than the rest of the Orient. Herodotus had visited it in the fifth century B.C. He describes in his History the inundations of the Nile, the manners, costume, and religion of the people; he recounts events of their history and tales which his guides had told him. Diodorus and Strabo also speak of Egypt. But all had seen the country in its decadence and had no knowledge of the ancient Egyptians.

Champollion.—The French expedition to Egypt (1798-1801) opened the country to scholars. They made a close examination of the Pyramids and ruins of Thebes, and collected drawings and inscriptions. But no one could decipher the hieroglyphs, the Egyptian writing. It was an erroneous impression that every sign in this writing must each represent a word. In 1821 a French scholar, Champollion, experimented with another system. An official had reported that there was an inscription at Rosetta in three forms of writing—parallel with the hieroglyphs was a translation in Greek. The name of King Ptolemy, was surrounded with a cartouche.[8] Champollion succeeded in finding in this name the letters P, T, O, L, M, I, S. Comparing these with other names of kings similarly enclosed, he found the whole alphabet. He then read the hieroglyphs and found that they were written in a language like the Coptic, the language spoken in Egypt at the time of the Romans, and which was already known to scholars.

Egyptologists.—Since Champollion, many scholars have travelled over Egypt and have ransacked it thoroughly. We call these students Egyptologists, and they are to be found in every country of Europe. A French Egyptologist, Mariette (1821-1881), made some excavations for the Viceroy of Egypt and created the museum of Boulak. France has established in Cairo a school of Egyptology, directed by Maspero.

Discoveries.—Not every country yields such rich discoveries as does Egypt. The Egyptians constructed their tombs like houses, and laid in them objects of every kind for the use of the dead—furniture, garments, arms, and edibles. The whole country was filled with tombs similarly furnished. Under this extraordinarily dry climate everything has been preserved; objects come to light intact after a burial of 4,000 or 5,000 years. No people of antiquity have left so many traces of themselves as the Egyptians; none is better known to us.


Antiquity of the Egyptian People.—An Egyptian priest said to Herodotus, "You Greeks are only children." The Egyptians considered themselves the oldest people of the world. Down to the Persian conquest (520[9] B.C.) there were twenty-six dynasties of kings. The first ran back 4,000 years,[10] and during these forty centuries Egypt had been an empire. The capital down to the tenth dynasty (the period of the Old Empire) was at Memphis in Lower Egypt, later, in the New Empire, at Thebes in Upper Egypt.

Memphis and the Pyramids.—Memphis, built by the first king of Egypt, was protected by an enormous dike. The village has existed for more than five thousand years; but since the thirteenth century the inhabitants have taken the stones of its ruins to build the houses of Cairo; what these people left the Nile recaptured. The Pyramids, not far from Memphis, are contemporaneous with the old empire; they are the tombs of three kings of the fourth dynasty. The greatest of the pyramids, 480 feet high, required the labor of 100,000 men for thirty years.[11] To raise the stones for it they built gradually ascending platforms which were removed when the structure was completed.

Egyptian Civilization.—The statues, paintings, and instruments which are taken from the tombs of this epoch give evidence of an already civilized people. When all the other eminent nations of antiquity—the Hindoos, Persians, Jews, Greeks, Romans—were still in a savage state, 3,500 years before our era, the Egyptians had known for a long time how to cultivate the soil, to weave cloths, to work metals, to paint, sculpture, and to write; they had an organized religion, a king, and an administration.

Thebes.—At the eleventh dynasty Thebes succeeds Memphis as capital. The ruins of Thebes are still standing. They are marvellous, extending as they do on both banks of the Nile, with a circuit of about seven miles. On the left bank there is a series of palaces and temples which lead to vast cemeteries. On the right bank two villages, Luxor and Karnak, distant a half-hour one from the other, are built in the midst of the ruins. They are united by a double row of sphinxes, which must have once included more than 1,000 of these monuments. Among these temples in ruins the greatest was the temple of Ammon at Karnak. It was surrounded by a wall of over one and one-third miles in length; the famous Hall of Columns, the greatest in the world, had a length of 334 feet, a width of 174 feet,[12] and was supported by 134 columns; twelve of these are over 65 feet high. Thebes was for 1,500 years the capital and sacred city, the residence of kings and the dwelling-place of the priests.

The Pharaoh.—The king of Egypt, called Pharaoh, was esteemed as the son of the Sun-god and his incarnation on earth; divinity was ascribed to him also. We may see in a picture King Rameses II standing in adoration before the divine Rameses who is sitting between two gods. The king as man adores himself as god. Being god, the Pharaoh has absolute power over men; as master, he gives his orders to his great nobles at court, to his warriors, to all his subjects. But the priests, though adoring him, surround and watch him; their head, the high priest of the god Ammon, at last becomes more powerful than the king; he often governs under the name of the king and in his stead.

The Subjects of Pharaoh.—The king, the priests, the warriors, the nobles, are proprietors of all Egypt; all the other people are simply their peasants who cultivate the land for them. Scribes in the service of the king watch them and collect the farm-dues, often with blows of the staff. One of these functionaries writes as follows to a friend, "Have you ever pictured to yourself the existence of the peasant who tills the soil. The tax-collector is on the platform busily seizing the tithe of the harvest. He has his men with him armed with staves, his negroes provided with strips of palm. All cry, 'Come, give us grain,' If the peasant hasn't it, they throw him full length on the earth, bind him, draw him to the canal, and hurl him in head foremost."

Despotism.—The Egyptian people has always been, and still is, gay, careless, gentle, docile as an infant, always ready to submit to tyranny. In this country the cudgel was the instrument of education and of government. "The young man," said the scribes, "has a back to be beaten; he hears when he is struck." "One day," says a French traveller, "finding myself before the ruins of Thebes, I exclaimed, 'But how did they do all this?' My guide burst out laughing, touched me on the arm and, showing me a palm, said to me, 'Here is what they used to accomplish all this. You know, sir, with 100,000 branches of palms split on the backs of those who always have their shoulders bare, you can build many a palace and some temples to boot.'"

Isolation of the Egyptians.—The Egyptians moved but little beyond their borders. As the sea inspired them with terror, they had no commerce and did not trade with other peoples. They were not at all a military nation. Their kings, it is true, often went on expeditions at the head of mercenaries either against the negroes of Ethiopia or against the tribes of Syria. They gained victories which they had painted on the walls of their palaces, they brought back troops of captives whom they used in building monuments; but they never made great conquests. Foreigners came more to Egypt than Egyptians went abroad.

Religion of the Egyptians.—"The Egyptians," said Herodotus, "are the most religious of all men." We do not know any people so devout; almost all their paintings represent men in prayer before a god; almost all their manuscripts are religious books.

Egyptian Gods.—The principal deity is a Sun-god, creator, beneficent, "who knows all things, who exists from the beginning." This god has a divine wife and son. All the Egyptians adored this trinity; but not all gave it the same name. Each region gave a different name to these three gods. At Memphis they called the father Phtah, the mother Sekhet, the son Imouthes; at Abydos they called them Osiris, Isis, and Horus; at Thebes, Ammon, Mouth, and Chons. Then, too, the people of one province adopted the gods of other provinces. Further, they made other gods emanate from each god of the trinity. Thus the number of gods was increased and religion was complicated.

Osiris.—These gods have their history; it is that of the sun; for the sun appeared to the Egyptians, as to most of the primitive peoples, the mightiest of beings, and consequently a god. Osiris, the sun, is slain by Set, god of the night; Isis, the moon, his wife, bewails and buries him; Horus, his son, the rising sun, avenges him by killing his murderer.

Ammon-ra.—Ammon-ra, god of Thebes, is represented as traversing heaven each day in a bark ("the good bark of millions of years"); the shades of the dead propel it with long oars; the god stands at the prow to strike the enemy with his lance. The hymn which they chanted in his honor is as follows: "Homage to thee; thou watchest favoringly, thou watchest truly, O master of the two horizons.... Thou treadest the heavens on high, thine enemies are laid low. The heaven is glad, the earth is joyful, the gods unite in festal cheer to render glory to Ra when they see him rising in his bark after he has overwhelmed his enemies. O Ra, give abounding life to Pharaoh, bestow bread for his hunger (belly), water for his throat, perfumes for his hair."

Animal-Headed Gods.—The Egyptians often represented their gods with human form, but more frequently under the form of a beast. Each god has his animal: Phtah incarnates himself in the beetle, Horus in the hawk, Osiris in the bull. The two figures often unite in a man with the head of an animal or an animal with the head of a man. Every god may be figured in four forms: Horus, for example, as a man, a hawk, as man with the head of a hawk, as a hawk with the head of a man.

Sacred Animals.—What did the Egyptians wish to designate by this symbol? One hardly knows. They, themselves, came to regard as sacred the animals which served to represent the gods to them: the bull, the beetle, the ibis, the hawk, the cat, the crocodile. They cared for them and protected them. A century before the Christian era a Roman citizen killed a cat at Alexandria; the people rose in riot, seized him, and, notwithstanding the entreaties of the king, murdered him, although at the same time they had great fear of the Romans. There was in each temple a sacred animal which was adored. The traveller Strabo records a visit to a sacred crocodile of Thebes: "The beast," said he, "lay on the edge of a pond, the priests drew near, two of them opened his mouth, a third thrust in cakes, grilled fish, and a drink made with meal."

The Bull Apis.—Of these animal gods the most venerated was the bull Apis. It represented at once Osiris and Phtah and lived at Memphis in a chapel served by the priests. After its death it became an Osiris (Osar-hapi), it was embalmed, and its mummy deposited in a vault. The sepulchres of the "Osar-hapi" constituted a gigantic monument, the Serapeum, discovered in 1851 by Marietta.

Cult of the Dead.—The Egyptians adored also the spirits of the dead. They seem to have believed at first that every man had a "double" (Ka), and that when the man was dead his double still survived. Many savage peoples believe this to this day. The Egyptian tomb in the time of the Old Empire was termed "House of the Double." It was a low room arranged like a chamber, where for the service of the double there were placed all that he required, chairs, tables, beds, chests, linen, closets, garments, toilet utensils, weapons, sometimes a war-chariot; for the entertainment of the double, statues, paintings, books; for his sustenance, grain and foods. And then they set there a double of the dead in the form of a statue in wood or stone carved in his likeness. At last the opening to the vault was sealed; the double was enclosed, but the living still provided for him. They brought him foods or they might beseech a god that he supply them to the spirit, as in this inscription, "An offering to Osiris that he may confer on the Ka of the deceased N. bread, drink, meat, geese, milk, wine, beer, clothing, perfumes—all good things and pure on which the god (i.e. the Ka) subsists."

Judgment of the Soul.—Later, originating with the eleventh dynasty, the Egyptians believed that the soul flew away from the body and sought Osiris under the earth, the realm into which the sun seemed every day to sink. There Osiris sits on his tribunal, surrounded by forty-two judges; the soul appears before these to give account of his past life. His actions are weighed in the balance of truth, his "heart" is called to witness. "O heart," cries the dead, "O heart, the issue of my mother, my heart when I was on earth, offer not thyself as witness, charge me not before the great god." The soul found on examination to be bad is tormented for centuries and at last annihilated. The good soul springs up across the firmament; after many tests it rejoins the company of the gods and is absorbed into them.

Mummies.—During this pilgrimage the soul may wish to re-enter the body to rest there. The body must therefore be kept intact, and so the Egyptians learned to embalm it. The corpse was filled with spices, drenched in a bath of natron, wound with bandages and thus transformed into a mummy. The mummy encased in a coffin of wood or plaster was laid in the tomb with every provision necessary to its life.

Book of the Dead.—A book was deposited with the mummy, the Book of the Dead, which explains what the soul ought to say in the other world when it makes its defence before the tribunal of Osiris: "I have never committed fraud; ... I have never vexed the widow; ... I have never committed any forbidden act; ... I have never been an idler; ... I have never taken the slave from his master; ... I never stole the bread from the temples; ... I never removed the provisions or the bandages of the dead; I never altered the grain measure; ... I never hunted sacred beasts; I never caught sacred fish; ... I am pure; ... I have given bread to the hungry, water to the thirsty, clothing to the naked; I have sacrificed to the gods, and offered funeral feasts to dead." Here we see Egyptian morality: observance of ceremonies, respect for everything pertaining to the gods, sincerity, honesty, and beneficence.


Industry.—The Egyptians were the first to practice the arts necessary to a civilized people. From the first dynasty, 3,000[13] years B.C., paintings on the tomb exhibit men working, sowing, harvesting, beating and winnowing grain; we have representations of herds of cattle, sheep, geese, swine; of persons richly clothed, processions, feasts where the harp is played—almost the same life that we behold 3,000 years later. As early as this time the Egyptians knew how to manipulate gold, silver, bronze; to manufacture arms and jewels, glass, pottery, and enamel; they wove garments of linen and wool, and cloths, transparent or embroidered with gold.

Architecture.—They were the oldest artists of the world. They constructed enormous monuments which appear to be eternal, for down to the present, time has not been able to destroy them. They never built, as we do, for the living, but for the gods and for the dead, i.e., temples and tombs. Only a slight amount of debris is left of their houses, and even the palaces of their kings in comparison with the tombs appear, in the language of the Greeks, to be only inns. The house was to serve only for a lifetime, the tomb for eternity.

Tombs.—The Great Pyramid is a royal tomb. Ancient tombs ordinarily had this form. In Lower Egypt there still remain pyramids arranged in rows or scattered about, some larger, others smaller. These are the tombs of kings and nobles. Later the tombs are constructed underground, some under earth, others cut into the granite of the hills. Each generation needs new ones, and therefore near the town of living people is built the richer and greater city of the dead (necropolis).

Temples.—The gods also required eternal and splendid habitations. Their temples include a magnificent sanctuary, the dwelling of the god, surrounded with courts, gardens, chambers where the priests lodge, wardrobes for his jewels, utensils, and vestments. This combination of edifices, the work of many generations, is encircled with a wall. The temple of Ammon at Thebes had the labors of the kings of all the dynasties from the twelfth to the last. Ordinarily in front of the temple a great gate-way is erected, with inclined faces—the pylone. On either side of the entrance is an obelisk, a needle of rock with gilded point, or perhaps a colossus in stone representing a sitting giant. Often the approach to the temple is by a long avenue rimmed with sphinxes.

Pyramids, pylones, colossi, sphinxes, and obelisks characterize this architecture. Everything is massive, compact, and, above all, immense. Hence these monuments appear clumsy but indestructible.

Sculpture.—Egyptian sculptors began with imitating nature. The oldest statues are impressive for their life and freshness, and are doubtless portraits of the dead. Of this sort is the famous squatting scribe of the Louvre.[14] But beginning with the eleventh dynasty the sculptor is no longer free to represent the human body as he sees it, but must follow conventional rules fixed by religion. And so all the statues resemble one another—parallel legs, the feet joined, arms crossed on the breast, the figure motionless; the statues are often majestic, but always stiff and monotonous. Art has ceased to reproduce nature and is become a conventional symbol.

Painting.—The Egyptians used very solid colors; after 5,000 years they are still fresh and bright. But they were ignorant of coloring designs; they knew neither tints, shadows, nor perspective. Painting, like sculpture, was subject to religious rules and was therefore monotonous. If fifty persons were to be represented, the artist made them all alike.

Literature.—The literature of the Egyptians is found in the tombs—not only books of medicine, of magic and of piety, but also poems, letters, accounts of travels, and even romances.

Destiny of the Egyptian Civilization.—The Egyptians conserved their customs, religion, and arts even after the fall of their empire. Subjects of the Persians, then the Greeks, and at last of the Romans, they kept their old usages, their hieroglyphics, their mummies and sacred animals. At last between the third and second centuries A.D., Egyptian civilization was slowly extinguished.


[6] Following the curves of the stream.—ED.

[7] In some localities, e.g. Thebes, the flood is even higher.—ED.

[8] An enclosing case.

[9] 525 B.C.—ED.

[10] The chronology of early Egyptian history is uncertain. Civilization existed in this land much earlier than was formerly supposed.—ED.

[11] According to Petrie ("History of Egypt," New York, 1895, i., 40) twenty years were consumed.—ED.

[12] Perrot and Chipiez ("History of Ancient Egyptian Art," London. 1883, i., 365) give 340 feet by 170.—ED.

[13] Probably much earlier than this.—ED.

[14] The Louvre Museum in Paris has an excellent collection of Egyptian subjects.




The Land.—From the high and snowy mountains of Armenia flow two deep and rapid rivers, the Tigris to the east, the Euphrates to the west. At first in close proximity, they separate as they reach the plain. The Tigris makes a straight course, the Euphrates a great detour towards the sandy deserts; then they unite before emptying into the sea. The country which they embrace is Chaldea. It is an immense plain of extraordinarily fertile soil; rain is rare and the heat is overwhelming. But the streams furnish water and this clayey soil when irrigated by canals becomes the most fertile in the world. Wheat and barley produce 200-fold; in good years the returns are 300-fold. Palms constitute the forests and from these the people make their wine, meal and flour.[15]

The People.—For many centuries, perhaps as long as Egypt, Chaldea has been the abode of civilized peoples. Many races from various lands have met and mingled in these great plains. There were Turanians of the yellow race, similar to the Chinese, who came from the north-east; Cushites, deep brown in color, related to the Egyptians, came from the east; Semites, of the white race, of the same stock as the Arabs, descended from the north.[16] The Chaldean people had its origin in this mixture of races.

The Cities.—Chaldean priests related that their kings had ruled for 150,000 years. While this is a fable, they were right in ascribing great antiquity to the Chaldean empire. The soil of Chaldea is everywhere studded with hills and each of these is a mass of debris, the residue of a ruined city. Many of these have been excavated and many cities brought to view, (Our, Larsam, Bal-ilou), and some inscriptions recovered. De Sarsec, a Frenchman, has discovered the ruins of an entire city, overwhelmed by the invader and its palace destroyed by fire. These ancient peoples are still little known to us; many sites remain to be excavated when it is hoped new inscriptions will be found. Their empire was destroyed about 2,300 B.C.; it may then have been very old.[17]


Assyria.—The country back of Chaldea on the Tigris is Assyria. It also is fertile, but cut with hills and rocks. Situated near the mountains, it experiences snow in winter and severe storms in summer.

Origins.—Chaldea had for a long time been covered with towns while yet the Assyrians lived an obscure life in their mountains. About the thirteenth century B.C. their kings leading great armies began to invade the plains and founded a mighty empire whose capital was Nineveh.

Ancient Accounts.—Until about forty years ago we knew almost nothing of the Assyrians—only a legend recounted by the Greek Diodorus Siculus. Ninus, according to the story, had founded Nineveh and conquered all Asia Minor; his wife, Semiramis, daughter of a goddess, had subjected Egypt, after which she was changed into the form of a dove. Incapable kings had succeeded this royal pair for the space of 1,300 years; the last, Sardanapalus, besieged in his capital, was burnt with his wives. This romance has not a word of truth in it.

Modern Discoveries.—In 1843, Botta, the French consul at Mossoul, discovered under a hillock near the Tigris, at Khorsabad, the palace of an Assyrian king. Here for the first time one could view the productions of Assyrian art; the winged bulls cut in stone, placed at the gate of the palace were found intact and removed to the Louvre Museum in Paris. The excavations of Botta drew the attention of Europe, so that many expeditions were sent out, especially by the English; Place and Layard investigated other mounds and discovered other palaces. These ruins had been well preserved, protected by the dryness of the climate and by a covering of earth. They found walls adorned with bas-reliefs and paintings; statues and inscriptions were discovered in great number. It was now possible to study on the ground the plan of the structures and to publish reproductions of the monuments and inscriptions.

The palace first discovered, that of Khorsabad, had been built by King Sargon at Nineveh, the site of the capital of the Assyrian kings. The city was built on several eminences, and was encircled by a wall 25 to 30 miles[18] in length, in the form of a quadrilateral. The wall was composed of bricks on the exterior and of earth within. The dwellings of the city have disappeared leaving no traces, but we have recovered many palaces constructed by various kings of Assyria. Nineveh remained the residence of the kings down to the time that the Assyrian empire was destroyed by the Medes and Chaldeans.

Inscriptions on the Bricks.—In these inscriptions every character is formed of a combination of signs shaped like an arrow or wedge, and this is the reason that this style of writing is termed cuneiform (Latin cuneus and forma). To trace these signs the writer used a stylus with a triangular point; he pressed it into a tablet of soft clay which was afterwards baked to harden it and to make the impression permanent. In the palace of Assurbanipal a complete library of brick tablets has been found in which brick serves the purpose of paper.

Cuneiform Writing.—For many years the cuneiform writing has occupied the labors of many scholars impatient to decipher it. It has been exceedingly difficult to read, for, in the first place, it served as the writing medium of five different languages—Assyrian, Susian, Mede, Chaldean, and Armenian, without counting the Old Persian—and there was no knowledge of these five languages. Then, too, it is very complicated, for several reasons:

1. It is composed at the same time of symbolic signs, each of which represents a word (sun, god, fish), and of syllabic signs, each of which represents a syllable.

2. There are nearly two hundred syllabic signs, much alike and easy to confuse.

3. The same sign is often the representation of a word and a syllable.

4. Often (and this is the hardest condition) the same sign is used to represent different syllables. Thus the same sign is sometimes read "ilou," and sometimes "an." This writing was difficult even for those who executed it. "A good half of the cuneiform monuments which we possess comprises guides (grammars, dictionaries, pictures), which enable us to decipher the other half, and which we consult just as Assyrian scholars did 2,500 years ago."[19]

Cuneiform inscriptions have been solved in the same manner as the Egyptian hieroglyphics—there was an inscription in three languages—Assyrian, Mede, and Persian. The last gave the key to the other two.

The Assyrian People.—The Assyrians were a race of hunters and soldiers. Their bas-reliefs ordinarily represent them armed with bow and lance, often on horseback. They were good knights—alert, brave, clever in skirmish and battle; also bombastic, deceitful, and sanguinary. For six centuries they harassed Asia, issuing from their mountains to hurl themselves on their neighbors, and returning with entire peoples reduced to slavery. They apparently made war for the mere pleasure of slaying, ravaging, and pillaging. No people ever exhibited greater ferocity.

The King.—Following Asiatic usage they regarded their king as the representative of God on earth and gave him blind obedience. He was absolute master of all his subjects, he led them in battle, and at their head fought against other peoples of Asia. On his return he recorded his exploits on the walls of his palace in a long inscription in which he told of his victories, the booty which he had taken, the cities burned, the captives beheaded or flayed alive. We present some passages from these stories of campaigns:

Assurnazir-hapal in 882 says, "I built a wall before the great gates of the city; I flayed the chiefs of the revolt and with their skins I covered this wall. Some were immured alive in the masonry, others were crucified or impaled along the wall. I had some of them flayed in my presence and had the wall hung with their skins. I arranged their heads like crowns and their transfixed bodies in the form of garlands."

In 745 Tiglath-Pilezer II writes, "I shut up the king in his royal city. I raised mountains of bodies before his gates. All his villages I destroyed, desolated, burnt. I made the country desert, I changed it into hills and mounds of debris."

In the seventh century Sennacherib wrote: "I passed like a hurricane of desolation. On the drenched earth the armor and arms swam in the blood of the enemy as in a river. I heaped up the bodies of their soldiers like trophies and I cut off their extremities. I mutilated those whom I took alive like blades of straw; as punishment I cut off their hands." In a bas-relief which shows the town of Susa surrendering to Assurbanipal one sees the chiefs of the conquered tortured by the Assyrians; some have their ears cut off, the eyes of others are put out, the beard torn out, while some are flayed alive. Evidently these kings took delight in burnings, massacres, and tortures.

Ruin of the Assyrian Empire.—The Assyrian regime began with the capture of Babylon (about 1270). From the ninth century the Assyrians, always at war, subjected or ravaged Babylonia, Syria, Palestine, and even Egypt. The conquered always revolted, and the massacres were repeated. At last the Assyrians were exhausted. The Babylonians and Medes made an alliance and destroyed their empire. In 625 their capital, Nineveh, "the lair of lions, the bloody city, the city gorged with prey," as the Jewish prophets call it, was taken and destroyed forever. "Nineveh is laid waste," says the prophet Nahum, "who will bemoan her?"


The Second Chaldean Empire.—In the place of the fallen Assyrian empire there arose a new power—in ancient Chaldea. This has received the name Babylonian Empire or the Second Chaldean Empire. A Jewish prophet makes one say to Jehovah, "I raise up the Chaldeans, that bitter and hasty nation which shall march through the breadth of the land to possess dwelling places that are not theirs. Their horses are swifter than leopards. Their horsemen spread themselves; (their horsemen) shall fly as the eagle that hasteth to eat." They were a people of knights, martial and victorious, like the Assyrians. They subjected Susiana, Mesopotamia, Syria, and Jordan. But their regime was short: founded in 625, the Babylonian Empire was overthrown by the Persians in 538 B.C.

Babylon.—The mightiest of its kings, Nebuchadrezzar (or Nebuchadnezzar), 604-561, who destroyed Jerusalem and carried the Jews into captivity, built many temples and places in Babylon, his capital. These monuments were in crude brick as the plain of the Euphrates has no supply of stone; in the process of decay they have left only enormous masses of earth and debris. And yet it has been possible on the site of Babylon to recover some inscriptions and to restore the plan of the city. The Greek Herodotus who had visited Babylon in the fifth century B.C., describes it in detail. The city was surrounded by a square wall cut by the Euphrates; it covered about 185 square miles, or seven times the extent of Paris. This immense space was not filled with houses; much of it was occupied with fields to be cultivated for the maintenance of the people in the event of a siege. Babylon was less a city than a fortified camp. The walls equipped with towers and pierced by a hundred gates of brass were so thick that a chariot might be driven on them. All around the wall was a large, deep ditch full of water, with its sides lined with brick. The houses of the city were constructed of three or four stories. The streets intersected at right angles. The bridge and docks of the Euphrates excited admiration; the fortified palace also, and the hanging gardens, one of the seven wonders of the world. These gardens were terraces planted with trees, supported by pillars and rows of arches.

Tower of Babylon.—Hard by the city Nebuchadnezzar had aimed to rebuild the town of Babel. "For the admiration of men," he says in an inscription: "I rebuilt and renovated the wonder of Borsippa, the temple of the seven spheres of the world. I laid the foundations and built it according to its ancient plan." This temple, in the form of a square, comprised seven square towers raised one above another, each tower being dedicated to one of the seven planets and painted with the color attributed by religion to this planet. They were, beginning with the lowest: Saturn (black), Venus (white), Jupiter (purple), Mercury (blue), Mars (vermilion), the moon (silver), the sun (gold). The highest tower contained a chapel with a table of gold and magnificent couch whereon a priestess kept watch continually.


Customs.—We know almost nothing of these peoples apart from the testimony of their monuments, and nearly all of these refer to the achievements of their kings. The Assyrians are always represented at war, hunting, or in the performance of ceremonies; their women never appear on the bas-reliefs; they were confined in a harem and never went into public life. The Chaldeans on the contrary, were a race of laborers and merchants, but of their life we know nothing. Herodotus relates that once a year in their towns they assembled all the girls to give them in marriage; they sold the prettiest, and the profits of the sale of these became a dower for the marriage of the plainest. "According to my view," he adds, "this is the wisest of all their laws."

Religion.—The religion of the Assyrians and Chaldeans was the same, for the former had adopted that of the latter. It is very obscure to us, since it originated, like that of the Chaldean people, in a confusion of religions very differently mingled. The Turanians, like the present yellow race of Siberia, imagined the world full of demons (plague, fever, phantoms, vampires), engaged in prowling around men to do them harm; sorcerers were invoked to banish these demons by magical formulas. The Cushites adored a pair of gods, the male deity of force and the female of matter. The Chaldean priests, united in a powerful guild, confused the two religions into a single one.

The Gods.—The supreme god at Babylon is Ilou; in Assyria, Assur. No temple was raised to him. Three gods proceed from him: Anou, the "lord of darkness," under the figure of a man with the head of a fish and the tail of an eagle; Bel, the "sovereign of spirits," represented as a king on the throne; Nouah, the "master of the visible world," under the form of a genius with four extended wings. Each has a feminine counterpart who symbolizes fruitfulness. Below these gods are the Sun, the Moon, and the five planets, for in the transparent atmosphere of Chaldea the stars shine with a brilliancy which is strange to us; they gleam like deities. To these the Chaldeans raised temples, veritable observatories in which men who adored them could follow all their motions.

Astrology.—The priests believed that these stars, being powerful deities, had determining influence on the lives of men. Every man comes into the world under the influence of a planet and this moment decides his destiny; one may foretell one's fortune if the star under which one is born is known. This is the origin of the horoscope. What occurs in heaven is indicative of what will come to pass on earth; a comet, for example, announces a revolution. By observing the heavens the Chaldean priests believed they could predict events. This is the origin of Astrology.

Sorcery.—The Chaldeans had also magical words; these were uttered to banish spirits or to cause their appearance. This custom, a relic of the Turanian religion, is the origin of sorcery. From Chaldea astrology and sorcery were diffused over the Roman empire, and later over all Europe. In the formulas of sorcery of the sixteenth century corrupted Assyrian words may still be detected.[20]

Sciences.—On the other hand it is in Chaldea that we have the beginning of astronomy. From this land have come down to us the zodiac, the week of seven days in honor of the seven planets; the division of the year into twelve months, of the day into twenty-four hours, of the hour into sixty minutes, of the minute into sixty seconds. Here originated, too, the system of weights and measures reckoned on the unit of length, a system adopted by all the ancient peoples.


Architecture.—We do not have direct knowledge of the art of the Chaldeans, since their monuments have fallen to ruin. But the Assyrian artists whose works we possess imitated those of Chaldea, and so we may form a judgment at the same time of the two countries. The Assyrians like the Chaldeans built with crude, sun-dried brick, but they faced the exterior of the wall with stone.

Palaces.—They constructed their palaces[21] on artificial mounds, making these low and flat like great terraces. The crude brick was not adapted to broad and high arches. Halls must therefore be straight and low, but in compensation they were very long. An Assyrian palace, then, resembled a succession of galleries; the roofs were flat terraces provided with battlements. At the gate stood gigantic winged bulls. Within, the walls were covered now with panelling in precious woods, now with enamelled bricks, now with plates of sculptural alabaster. Sometimes the chambers were painted, and even richly encrusted marbles were used.

Sculpture.—The sculpture of the Assyrian palaces is especially admirable. Statues, truly, are rare and coarse; sculptors preferred to execute bas-reliefs similar to pictures on great slabs of alabaster. They represented scenes which were often very complicated—battles, chases, sieges of towns, ceremonies in which the king appeared with a great retinue. Every detail is scrupulously done; one sees the files of servants in charge of the feast of the king, the troops of workmen who built his palace, the gardens, the fields, the ponds, the fish in the water, the birds perched over their nests or flitting from tree to tree. Persons are exhibited in profile, doubtless because the artist could not depict the face; but they possess dignity and life. Animals often appeared, especially in hunting scenes; they are ordinarily made with a startling fidelity. The Assyrians observed nature and faithfully reproduced it; hence the merit of their art.

The Greeks themselves learned in this school, by imitating the Assyrian bas-reliefs. They have excelled them, but no people, not even the Greeks, has better known how to represent animals.


[15] A Persian song enumerates 300 different uses of the palm.

[16] Or perhaps from the east (Arabia).—ED.

[17] Recent discoveries confirm the view of a very ancient civilization—ED.

[18] Somewhat exaggerated. See Perrot and Chipiez, "History of Art in Assyria and Chaldea," ii., 60; and Maspero, "Passing of the Empires," p. 468.—ED.

[19] Lenormant, "Ancient History."

[20] For example, hilka, hilka, bescha, bescha (begone! begone! bad! bad!)

[21] The temples were pyramidal, of stones or terraces similar to the tower of Borsippa.




Aryan Languages.—The races which in our day inhabit Europe—Greeks and Italians to the south, Slavs in Russia, Teutons in Germany, Celts in Ireland—speak very different languages. When, however, one studies these languages closely, it is perceived that all possess a stock of common words, or at least certain roots. The same roots occur in Sanscrit, the ancient language of the Hindoos, and also in Zend, the ancient tongue of the Persians. Thus,

Father—pere (French), pitar (Sanscrit), pater (Greek and Latin). It is the same word pronounced in various ways. From this (and other such examples) it has been concluded that all—Hindoos, Persians, Greeks, Latins, Celts, Germans, Slavs—once spoke the same language, and consequently were one people.

The Aryan People.—These peoples then called themselves Aryans and lived to the north-west of India, either in the mountains of Pamir, or in the steppes of Turkestan or Russia; from this centre they dispersed in all directions. The majority of the people—Greeks, Latins, Germans, Slavs—forgot their origin; but the sacred books of the Hindoos and the Persians preserve the tradition. Effort has been made[22] to reconstruct the life of our Aryan ancestors in their mountain home before the dispersion. It was a race of shepherds; they did not till the soil, but subsisted from their herds of cattle and sheep, though they already had houses and even villages.

It was a fighting race; they knew the lance, the javelin, and shield. Government was patriarchal; a man had but one wife; as head of the family he was for his wife, his children, and his servants at once priest, judge, and king. In all the countries settled by the Aryans they have followed this type of life—patriarchal, martial, and pastoral.


The Aryans on the Indus.—About 2,000 years before our era some Aryan tribes traversed the passes of the Hindu-Kush and swarmed into India. They found the fertile plains of the Indus inhabited by a people of dark skin, with flat heads, industrious and wealthy; they called these aborigines Dasyous (the enemy). They made war on them for centuries and ended by exterminating or subjecting them; they then gradually took possession of all the Indus valley (the region of the five rivers).[23] They then called themselves Hindoos.

The Vedas.—These people were accustomed in their ceremonies to chant hymns (vedas) in honor of their gods. These chants constituted a vast compilation which has been preserved to the present time. They were collected, perhaps, about the fourteenth century B.C. when the Aryans had not yet passed the Indus. The hymns present to us the oldest religion of the Hindoos.

The Gods.—The Hindoo calls his gods devas (the resplendent). Everything that shines is a divinity—the heavens, the dawn, the clouds, the stars—but especially the sun (Indra) and fire (Agni).

Indra.—The sun, Indra, the mighty one, "king of the world and master of creatures," bright and warm, traverses the heavens on a car drawn by azure steeds; he it is who hurls the thunderbolt, sends the rain, and banishes the clouds. India is a country of violent tempests; the Hindoo struck with this phenomenon explained it in his own fashion. He conceived the black cloud as an envelope in which were contained the waters of heaven; these beneficent waters he called the gleaming cows of Indra. When the storm is gathering, an evil genius, Vritra, a three-headed serpent, has driven away the cows and enclosed them in the black cavern whence their bellowings are heard (the far-away rumblings of thunder). Indra applies himself to the task of finding them; he strikes the cavern with his club, the strokes of which are heard (the thunderbolt), and the forked tongue of the serpent (the lightning) darts forth. At last the serpent is vanquished, the cave is opened, the waters released fall on the earth, Indra the victor appears in glory.

Agni.—Fire (Agni, the tireless) is regarded as another form of the sun. The Hindoo, who produces it by rapidly rubbing two pieces of wood together, imagines that the fire comes from the wood and that the rain has placed it there. He conceives it then as the fire of heaven descended to earth; in fact, when one places it on the hearth, it springs up as if it would ascend toward heaven. Agni dissipates darkness, warms mankind, and cooks his food; it is the benefactor and the protector of the house. It is also "the internal fire," the soul of the world; even the ancestor of the human race is the "son of lightning." Thus, heat and light, sources of all life, are the deities of the Hindoo.

Worship.—To adore his gods he strives to reproduce what he sees in heaven. He ignites a terrestrial fire by rubbing sticks, he nourishes it by depositing on the hearth, butter, milk, and soma, a fermented drink. To delight the gods he makes offerings to them of fruits and cakes; he even sacrifices to them cattle, rams and horses; he then invokes them, chanting hymns to their praise. "When thou art bidden by us to quaff the soma, come with thy sombre steeds, thou deity whose darts are stones. Our celebrant is seated according to prescription, the sacred green is spread, in the morning stones have been gathered together. Take thy seat on the holy sward; taste, O hero, our offering to thee. Delight thyself in our libations and our chants, vanquisher of Vritra, thou who art honored in these ceremonies of ours, O Indra."

The Hindoo thinks that the gods, felicitated by his offerings and homage, will in their turn make him happy. He says naively, "Give sacrifice to the gods for their profit, and they will requite you. Just as men traffic by the discussion of prices, let us exchange force and vigor, O Indra. Give to me and I will give to you; bring to me and I will bring to you."

Ancestor Worship.—At the same time the Hindoo adores his ancestors who have become gods, and perhaps this cult is the oldest of all. It is the basis of the family. The father who has transmitted the "fire of life" to his children makes offering every day at his hearth-fire, which must never be extinguished, the sacrifice to gods and ancestors, and utters the prayers. Here it is seen that among Hindoos, as among other Aryans, the father is at once a priest and a sovereign.


The Hindoos on the Ganges.—The Hindoos passing beyond the region of the Indus, between the fourteenth and tenth century B.C. conquered all the immense plains of the Ganges. Once settled in this fertile country, under a burning climate, in the midst of a people of slaves, they gradually changed customs and religion. And so the Brahmanic society was established. Many works in Sanscrit are preserved from this time, which, with the Vedas, form the sacred literature of the Hindoos. The principal are the great epic poems, the Mahabarata, which has more than 200,000 verses; the Ramayana with 50,000, and the laws of Manou, the sacred code of India.

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