A General History for Colleges and High Schools
P. V. N. Myers
Part 1 out of 13
Produced by Anne Soulard, Charles Franks
and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team.
A GENERAL HISTORY FOR COLLEGES AND HIGH SCHOOLS.
P. V. N. MYERS, A.M.
[Illustration: VIEW OF THE ATTIC PLAINS, WITH A GLIMPSE OF THE ACROPOLIS
This volume is based upon my _Ancient History_ and _Mediĉval and Modern
History_. In some instances I have changed the perspective and the
proportions of the narrative; but in the main, the book is constructed
upon the same lines as those drawn for the earlier works. In dealing with
so wide a range of facts, and tracing so many historic movements, I cannot
hope that I have always avoided falling into error. I have, however, taken
the greatest care to verify statements of fact, and to give the latest
results of discovery and criticism.
Considering the very general character of the present work, an enumeration
of the books that have contributed facts to my narration, or have helped
to mould my views on this or that subject, would hardly be looked for; yet
I wish here to acknowledge my special indebtedness, in the earlier parts
of the history, to the works of George Rawlinson, Sayce, Wilkinson,
Brugsch, Grote, Curtius, Mommsen, Merivale, and Leighton; and in the later
parts, and on special periods, to the writings of Hodgkin, Emerton, Ranke,
Freeman, Michaud, Bryce, Symonds, Green (J. R.), Motley, Hallam, Thiers,
Lecky, Baird, and Müller.
Several of the colored maps, with which the book will be found liberally
provided, were engraved especially for my _Ancient History_; but the
larger number are authorized reproductions of charts accompanying
Professor Freeman's _Historical Geography of Europe_. The Roman maps were
prepared for Professor William F. Allen's _History of Rome_, which is to
be issued soon, and it is to his courtesy that I am indebted for their
The illustrations have been carefully selected with reference to their
authenticity and historical truthfulness. Many of those in the Oriental
and Greek part of the work are taken from Oscar Jäger's _Weltgeschichte_;
while most of those in the Roman portion are from Professor Allen's
forthcoming work on Rome, to which I have just referred, the author having
most generously granted me the privilege of using them in my work,
notwithstanding it is to appear in advance of his.
Further acknowledgments of indebtedness are also due from me to many
friends who have aided me with their scholarly suggestions and criticism.
My warmest thanks are particularly due to Professor W.F. Allen, of the
University of Wisconsin; to Dr. E.W. Coy, Principal of Hughes High School,
Cincinnati; to Professor William A. Merrill, of Miami University; and to
Mr. D. H. Montgomery, author of _The Leading Facts of History_ series.
P. V. N. M.
COLLEGE HILL, OHIO,
TABLE OF CONTENTS.
LIST OF MAPS
GENERAL INTRODUCTION: THE RACES AND THEIR EARLY MIGRATIONS
SECTION I.--THE EASTERN NATIONS.
I. India and China.
1. Political History.
2. Religion, Arts, and General Culture.
1. Political History.
2. Arts and General Culture.
1. Political History.
2. Religion, Arts, and General Culture.
VI. The Hebrews.
VII. The Phoenicians.
VIII. The Persian Empire.
1. Political History.
2. Government, Religion, and Arts.
SECTION II.--GRECIAN HISTORY.
IX. The Land and the People.
X. The Legendary or Heroic Age.
XI. Religion of the Greeks.
XII. Age of the Tyrants and of Colonization: the Early Growth of
Sparta and of Athens.
1. Age of the Tyrants and of Colonization.
2. The Growth of Sparta.
3. The Growth of Athens.
XIII. The Grĉco-Persian Wars.
XIV. Period of Athenian Supremacy.
XV. The Peloponnesian War: the Spartan and the Theban Supremacy.
1. The Peloponnesian War.
2. The Spartan and the Theban Supremacy.
XVI. Period of Macedonian Supremacy: Empire of Alexander.
XVII. States formed from the Empire of Alexander.
XVIII. Greek Architecture, Sculpture, and Painting.
2. Sculpture and Painting.
XIX. Greek Literature.
1. Epic and Lyric Poetry.
2. The Drama and Dramatists.
3. History and Historians.
XX. Greek Philosophy and Science.
XXI. Social Life of the Greeks.
SECTION III.--ROMAN HISTORY.
XXII. The Roman Kingdom.
XXIII. The Early Roman Republic: Conquest of Italy.
XXIV. The First Punic War.
XXV. The Second Punic War.
XXVI. The Third Punic War.
XXVII. The Last Century of the Roman Republic.
XXVIII. The Last Century of the Roman Republic (_concluded_).
XXIX. The Roman Empire (from 31 B.C. to A.D. 180).
XXX. Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire in the West (A.D. 180-476).
XXXI. Roman Civilization.
2. Literature, Philosophy, and Law.
3. Social Life.
MEDIĈVAL AND MODERN HISTORY.
SECTION I.--MEDIĈVAL HISTORY.
FIRST PERIOD.--THE DARK AGES.
(From the Fall of Rome, A.D. 476, to the Eleventh Century.)
XXXII. Migrations and Settlements of the Teutonic Tribes.
XXXIII. The Conversion of the Barbarians.
XXXIV. Fusion of the Latin and Teutonic Peoples.
XXXV. The Roman Empire in the East.
XXXVI. Mohammed and the Saracens.
XXXVII. Charlemagne and the Restoration of the Empire in the West.
XXXVIII. The Northmen.
XXXIX. Rise of the Papal Power.
SECOND PERIOD.--THE AGE OF REVIVAL.
(From the opening of the Eleventh Century to the Discovery of America by
Columbus, in 1492.)
XL. Feudalism and Chivalry.
XLI. The Norman Conquest of England.
XLII. The Crusades.
1. Introductory: Causes of the Crusades.
2. The First Crusade.
3. The Second Crusade.
4. The Third Crusade.
5. The Fourth Crusade.
6. Close of the Crusades: Their Results.
XLIII. Supremacy of the Papacy: Decline of its Temporal Power.
XLIV. Conquests of the Turanian Tribes.
XLV. Growth of the Towns: The Italian City-Republics.
XLVI. The Revival of Learning.
XLVII. Growth of the Nations: Formation of National Governments
7. The Northern Countries.
SECTION II. MODERN HISTORY.
THIRD PERIOD.--THE ERA OF THE PROTESTANT REFORMATION.
(From the Discovery of America to the Peace of Westphalia, in 1648.)
XLVIII. The Beginnings of the Reformation under Luther.
XLIX. The Ascendency of Spain.
1. Reign of the Emperor Charles V.
2. Spain under Philip II.
L. The Tudors and the English Reformation.
2. The Reign of Henry VII.
3. England severed from the Papacy by Henry VIII.
4. Changes in the Creed and Ritual under Edward VI.
5. Reaction under Mary.
6. Final Establishment of Protestantism under Elizabeth.
LI. The Revolt of the Netherlands: Rise of the Dutch Republic.
LII. The Huguenot Wars in France.
LIII. The Thirty Years' War.
FOURTH PERIOD.--THE ERA OF THE POLITICAL REVOLUTION.
(From the Peace of Westphalia, in 1648, to the present time.)
LIV. The Ascendency of France under the Absolute Government of
LV. England under the Stuarts: The English Revolution.
1. The First Two Stuarts.
2. The Commonwealth.
3. The Restored Stuarts.
4. The Orange-Stuarts.
5. England under the Earlier Hanoverians.
LVI. The Rise of Russia: Peter the Great.
LVII. The Rise of Prussia: Frederick the Great.
LVIII. The French Revolution.
1. Causes of the Revolution: The States-General of 1789.
2. The National, or Constituent Assembly.
3. The Legislative Assembly.
4. The National Convention.
5. The Directory.
LIX. The Consulate and the First Empire: France since the Second
1. The Consulate and the Empire.
2. France since the Second Restoration.
LX. Russia since the Congress of Vienna.
LXI. German Freedom and Unity.
LXII. Liberation and Unification of Italy.
LXIII. England since the Congress of Vienna.
1. Progress towards Democracy.
2. Expansion of the Principle of Religious Equality.
3. Growth of the British Empire in the East.
CONCLUSION: THE NEW AGE.
INDEX, PRONOUNCING VOCABULARY, AND GLOSSARY
LIST OF COLORED MAPS.
1. Ancient Egypt
2. The Tigris and the Euphrates
3. Lydia, Media, and Babylonia, c. B.C. 550
4. Greece and the Greek Colonies
5. Greece in the 5th Century B.C.
6. Dominions and Dependencies of Alexander, c. B.C. 323
7. Kingdoms of the Successors of Alexander, c. B.C. 300
8. Italy before the Growth of the Roman Power
9. Mediterranean Lands at the Beginning of Second Punic War
10. Roman Dominions at the End of the Mithridatic War, B.C. 64
11. The Roman Empire under Trajan, A.D. 117
12. Roman Empire divided into Prefectures
13. Europe in the Reign of Theodoric, c. A.D. 500
14. Europe in the Time of Charles the Great, 814
15. The Western Empire as divided at Verdun, 843
16. Spanish Kingdoms, 1360
17. Central Europe, 1360
18. The Spanish Kingdoms and their European Dependencies under Charles V
19. Europe in the 16th and 17th Centuries
20. The Baltic Lands, c. 1701
21. Central Europe, 1801
22. Sketch Map of Europe showing Principal Battles of Napoleon
[Footnote: For the use of this map I am indebted to the courtesy
of Mr. D. H. Montgomery, author of "Leading Facts of French History."]
23. Central Europe, 1810
24. Central Europe, 1815
25. South-Eastern Europe according to the Treaty of Berlin, 1878
26. Europe in 1880
GENERAL INTRODUCTION: THE RACES AND THEIR EARLY MIGRATIONS.
DIVISIONS OF HISTORY.--History is usually divided into three periods,--
Ancient, Mediĉval, and Modern. Ancient History begins with the earliest
nations of which we can gain any certain knowledge, and extends to the
fall of the Roman Empire in the West, A.D. 476. Mediĉval History embraces
the period, about one thousand years in length, lying between the fall of
Rome and the discovery of the New World by Columbus, A.D. 1492. Modern
History commences with the close of the mediĉval period and extends to the
present time. [Footnote: It is thought preferable by some scholars to let
the beginning of the great Teutonic migration (A.D. 375) mark the end of
the period of ancient history. Some also prefer to date the beginning of
the modern period from the capture of Constantinople by the Turks, A.D.
1453; while still others speak of it in a general way as commencing about
the close of the 15th century, at which time there were many inventions
and discoveries and a great stir in the intellectual world.]
ANTIQUITY OF MAN.--We do not know when man first came into possession of
the earth. We only know that, in ages vastly remote, when both the climate
and the outline of Europe were very different from what they are at
present, man lived on that continent with animals now extinct; and that as
early as 4000 or 3000 B.C.,--when the curtain first rises on the stage of
history,--in some favored regions, as in the Valley of the Nile, there
were nations and civilizations already venerable with age, and possessing
languages, arts, and institutions that bear evidence of slow growth
through very long periods of time before written history begins.
[Footnote: The investigation and study of this vast background of human
life is left to such sciences as _Ethnology, Comparative Philology_,
and _Prehistoric Archeology_.]
THE RACES OF MANKIND.--Distinctions in form, color, and physiognomy divide
the human species into three chief types, or races, known as the Black
(Ethiopian, or Negro), the Yellow (Turanian, or Mongolian), and the White
(Caucasian). But we must not suppose each of these three types to be
sharply marked off from the others; they shade into one another by
There has been no perceptible change in the great types during historic
times. The paintings upon the oldest Egyptian monuments show us that at
the dawn of history, about five or six thousand years ago, the principal
races were as distinctly marked as now, each bearing its racial badge of
color and physiognomy. As early as the times of Jeremiah, the permanency
of physical characteristics had passed into the proverb, "Can the
Ethiopian change his skin?"
Of all the races, the White, or Caucasian, exhibits by far the most
perfect type, physically, intellectually, and morally.
[Illustration: NEGRO CAPTIVES, From the Monuments of Thebes. (Illustrating
the permanence of race characteristics.)]
THE BLACK RACE.--Africa is the home of the peoples of the Black Race, but
we find them on all the other continents, whither they have been carried
as slaves by the stronger races; for since time immemorial they have been
"hewers of wood and drawers of water" for their more favored brethren.
THE YELLOW, OR TURANIAN RACE.--The term Turanian is very loosely applied
by the historian to many and widely separated families and peoples. In its
broadest application it is made to include the Chinese and other more or
less closely allied peoples of Eastern Asia; the Ottoman Turks, the
Hungarians, the Finns, the Lapps, and the Basques, in Europe; and (by
some) the Esquimaux and American Indians.
The peoples of this race were, it seems, the first inhabitants of Europe
and of the New World; but in these quarters, they have, in the main,
either been exterminated or absorbed by later comers of the White Race. In
Europe, however, two small areas of this primitive population escaped the
common fate--the Basques, sheltered among the Pyrenees, and the Finns and
Lapps, in the far north; [Footnote: The Hungarians and Turks are Turanian
peoples that have thrust themselves into Europe during historic times]
while in the New World, the Esquimaux and the Indians still represent the
race that once held undisputed possession of the land.
The polished stone implements found in the caves and river-gravels of
Western Europe, the shell-mounds, or kitchen-middens, upon the shores of
the Baltic, the Swiss lake habitations, and the barrows, or grave-mounds,
found in all parts of Europe, are supposed to be relics of a prehistoric
Although some of the Turanian peoples, as for instance the Chinese, have
made considerable advance in civilization, still as a rule the peoples of
this race have made but little progress in the arts or in general culture.
Even their languages have remained undeveloped. These seem immature, or
stunted in their growth. They have no declensions or conjugations, like
those of the languages of the Caucasian peoples.
THE WHITE RACE AND ITS THREE FAMILIES.--The White Race embraces the
historic nations. This type divides into three families,--the Hamitic, the
Semitic, and the Aryan, or Indo-European (formerly called the Japhetic).
The ancient Egyptians were the chief people of the Hamitic branch. In the
gray dawn of history we discover them already settled in the Valley of the
Nile, and there erecting great monuments so faultless in construction as
to render it certain that those who planned them had had a very long
previous training in the art of building.
The Semitic family includes among its chief peoples the ancient
Babylonians and Assyrians, the Hebrews, the Phoenicians, and the Arabians.
We are not certain what region was the original abode of this family. We
only know that by the dawn of history its various clans and tribes,
whencesoever they may have come, had distributed themselves over the
greater part of Southwestern Asia.
It is interesting to note that the three great historic religions of the
world,--the Hebrew, the Christian, and the Mohammedan,--the three
religions that alone (if we except that of Zoroaster) teach a belief in
one God, arose among peoples belonging to the Semitic family.
The Aryan, or Indo-European, though probably the youngest, is the most
widely scattered family of the White Race. It includes among its members
the ancient Hindus, Medes, and Persians, the classic Greeks and Romans,
and the modern descendants of all these nations; also almost all the
peoples of Europe, and their colonists that have peopled the New World,
and taken possession of other parts of the earth.
MIGRATIONS OF THE ARYANS.--The original seat of the Aryan peoples was, it
is conjectured [Footnote: Some scholars seek the primitive home in
Europe], somewhere in Asia. At a period that cannot be placed later than
3000 B.C., the Aryan household began to break up and scatter, and the
different clans to set out in search of new dwelling-places. Some tribes
of the family spread themselves over the table-lands of Iran and the
plains of India, and became the progenitors of the Medes, the Persians,
and the Hindus. Other clans entering Europe probably by the way of the
Hellespont, pushed themselves into the peninsulas of Greece and Italy, and
founded the Greek and Italian states. Still other tribes seem to have
poured in successive waves into Central Europe. The vanguard of these
peoples are known as the Celts. After them came the Teutonic tribes, who
crowded the former out on the westernmost edge of Europe--into Gaul and
Spain, and out upon the British Isles. These hard-pressed Celts are
represented to-day by the Welsh, the Irish, and the Highland Scots. Behind
the Teutonic peoples were the Slavonic folk, who pushed the former hard
against the Celts, and, when they could urge them no farther to the west,
finally settled down and became the ancestors of the Russians and other
Although these migratory movements of the various clans and tribes of this
wonderful Aryan family began in the early morning of history, some five
thousand or more years ago, still we must not think of them as something
past and unrelated to the present. These movements, begun in those remote
times, are still going on. The overflow of the population of Europe into
the different regions of the New World, is simply a continuation of the
prehistoric migrations of the members of the primitive Aryan household.
Everywhere the other races and families have given way before the advance
of the Aryan peoples, who have assumed the position of leaders and
teachers among the families of mankind, and are rapidly spreading their
arts and sciences and culture over the earth.
EARLY CULTURE OF THE ARYANS.--One of the most fascinating studies of
recent growth is that which reveals to us the customs, beliefs, and mode
of life of the early Aryans, while they were yet living together as a
single household. Upon comparing the myths, legends, and ballads of the
different Aryan peoples, we discover the curious fact that, under various
disguises, they are the same. Thus our nursery tales are found to be
identical with those with which the Hindu children are amused. But the
discovery should not surprise us. We and the Hindus are kinsmen, children
of the same home; so now, when after a long separation we meet, the tales
we tell are the same, for they are the stories that were told around the
common hearth-fire of our Aryan forefathers.
And when we compare certain words in different Aryan languages, we often
find them alike in form and meaning. Thus, take the word _father_. This
word occurs with but little change of form in several of the Aryan
tongues. [Footnote: Sanscrit, _pitri_; Persian, _padar_; Greek, _pater_;
Latin, _pater_; German, _vater_.] From this we infer that the remote
ancestors of the now widely separated Aryan peoples once lived together
and had a common speech.
Our knowledge of the prehistoric culture of the Aryans, gained through the
sciences of comparative philology and mythology, may be summed up as
follows: They personified and worshipped the various forces and parts of
the physical universe, such as the Sun, the Dawn, Fire, the Winds, the
Clouds. The all-embracing sky they worshipped as the Heaven-Father
(_Dyaus-Pitar_, whence Jupiter). They were herdsmen and at least
occasional farmers. They introduced the sheep, as well as the horse, into
Europe: the Turanian people whom they displaced had neither of these
domestic animals. In social life they had advanced to that stage where the
family is the unit of society. The father was the priest and absolute lord
of his house. The families were united to form village-communities ruled
by a chief, or patriarch, who was assisted by a council of elders.
IMPORTANCE OF ARYAN STUDIES.--This picture of life in the early Aryan
home, the elements of which are gathered in so novel a way, is of the very
greatest historical value and interest. In these customs and beliefs of
the early Aryans, we discover the germs of many of the institutions of the
classical Greeks and Romans, and of the nations of modern Europe. Thus, in
the council of elders around the village patriarch, political historians
trace the beginnings of the senates of Greece and Rome and the national
parliaments of later times.
Just as the teachings of the parental roof mould the life and character of
the children that go out from under its discipline, so have the influences
of that early Aryan home shaped the habits, institutions, and character of
those peoples and families that, as its children, went out to establish
new homes in their "appointed habitations."
RACES OF MANKIND, WITH CHIEF FAMILIES AND PEOPLES.
BLACK RACE (Ethiopian, or Negro).
Tribes of Central and Southern Africa, the Papuans and the Australians.
(This group includes two great divisions, the Negroid and Australoid.)
YELLOW RACE (Turanian, or Mongolian).
(1) The Chinese, Burmese, Japanese, and other kindred peoples of Eastern
Asia; (2) the Malays of Southeastern Asia, and the inhabitants of many
of the Pacific islands; (3) the nomads (Tartars, Mongols, etc.) of
Northern and Central Asia and of Eastern Russia; (4) the Turks, the
Magyars, or Hungarians, the Finns and Lapps, and the Basques, in Europe;
(5) the Esquimaux and the American Indians. Languages of these peoples
are monosyllabic or agglutinative. (Note that the Malays and American
Indians were formerly classified as distinct races.)
WHITE RACE (Caucasian).
Chaldĉans (partly Turanian)
Canaanites (chiefly Semitic),
Aryan, or Indo-European Family
The peoples of modern Germany are the descendants of various Germanic
tribes. The Swedes, Norwegians, and Danes represent the Scandinavian
branch of the Teutonic family. The Irish, the Welsh, the Scotch
Highlanders, and the Bretons of Brittany (anciently Armorica), in France,
are the present representatives of the ancient Celts. The French,
Spaniards, Portuguese, and Italians have sprung, in the main, from a
blending of the Celts, the ancient Romans, and the Germanic tribes that
thrust themselves within the limits of the Roman Empire in the West. The
English are the descendants of the Angles, Saxons, and Jutes (Teutonic
tribes), slightly modified by interminglings with the Danes and Normans
(also of Teutonic origin). (See _Mediĉval and Modern History_, pp. 169-
SECTION I.--THE EASTERN NATIONS.
INDIA AND CHINA.
THE ARYAN INVASION.--At the time of the great Aryan migration (see p. 4),
some Aryan bands, journeying from the northwest, settled first the plains
of the Indus and then occupied the valley of the Ganges. They reached the
banks of the latter river as early probably as 1500 B.C.
These fair-skinned invaders found the land occupied by a dark-skinned,
non-Aryan race, whom they either subjugated and reduced to serfdom, or
drove out of the great river valleys into the mountains and the half-
desert plains of the peninsula.
THE ORIGIN OF CASTES.--The conflict of races in Northern India gave rise
to what is known as the system of castes; that is, society became divided
into a number of rigid hereditary classes. There arose gradually four
chief castes: (1) Brahmans, or priests; (2) warriors; (3) agriculturists
and traders; and (4) serfs, or Sudras. The Brahmans were those of pure
Aryan blood, while the Sudras were the despised and oppressed non-Aryan
aborigines. The two middle classes, the warriors and the cultivators of
the soil, were of mixed Aryan and non-Aryan blood. Below these several
castes were the Pariahs, or outcasts, the most degraded of the degraded
natives. [Footnote: At a later period, the Brahmans, in order to
perpetuate their own ascendancy and to secure increased reverence for
their order, incorporated among the sacred hymns an account of creation
which gave a sort of divine sanction to the system of castes by
representing the different classes of society to have had different
origins. The Brahmans, the sacred books are made to say, came forth from
the mouth of Brahma, the soldier from his arms, the farmer from his
thighs, and the Sudra from his feet. ]
The system of castes, modified however by various influences, particularly
by the later system of Buddhism (see p. 11), has characterized Hindu
society from the time the system originated down to the present, and is
one of the most important facts of Indian history.
THE VEDAS.--The most important of the sacred books of the Hindus are
called the Vedas. They are written in the Sanscrit language, which is
believed to be the oldest form of Aryan speech. The Rig-Veda, the most
ancient of the books, is made up of hymns which were composed chiefly
during the long period, perhaps a thousand years or more, while the Aryans
were slowly working their way from the mountains on the northwest of India
across the peninsula to the Ganges. These hymns are filled with memories
of the long conflict of the fair-faced Aryans with the dark-faced
aborigines. The Himalayas, through whose gloomy passes the early emigrants
journeyed, must have deeply impressed the wanderers, for the poets often
refer to the great dark mountains.
BRAHMANISM.--The religion of the Indian Aryans is known as Brahmanism.
This system gradually developed from the same germs as those out of which
grew the Greek and Roman religions. It was at first a pure nature-worship,
that is, the worship of the most striking phenomena of the physical world
as intelligent and moral beings. The chief god was Dyaus-Pitar, the
Heaven-Father. As this system characterized the early period when the
oldest Vedic hymns were composed, it is known as the Vedic religion.
In course of time this nature-worship of the Vedic period developed into a
sort of pantheism, that is, a system which identifies God with the
universe. This form of the Indian religion is known as Brahmanism. Brahma,
an impersonal essence, is conceived as the primal existence. Forth from
Brahma emanated, as heat and light emanate from the sun, all things and
all life. Banish a personal God from the universe, as some modern
scientists would do, leaving nothing but nature with her original nebula,
her endless cycles, her unconscious evolutions, and we have something very
A second, fundamental conception of Brahmanism is that all life, apart
from Brahma, is evil, is travail and sorrow. We can make this idea
intelligible to ourselves by remembering what are our own ideas of this
earthly life. We call it a feverish dream, a journey through a vale of
sorrow. Now the Hindu regards _all_ conscious existence in the same
light. He has no hope in a better future; so long as the soul is
conscious, so long must it endure sorrow and pain.
This conception of all conscious existence as necessarily and always evil,
leads naturally to the doctrine that it is the part of wisdom and of duty
for man to get rid of consciousness, to annihilate himself, in a word, to
commit soul-suicide. Brahmanism teaches that the only way to extinguish
self and thus get rid of the burden of existence, is by re-absorption into
Brahma. But this return to Brahma is dependent upon the soul's
purification, for no impure soul can be re-absorbed into the primal
essence. The necessary freedom from passion and the required purity of
soul can best be attained by self-torture, by a severe mortification of
the flesh; hence the asceticism of the Hindu devotee.
As only a few in each generation reach the goal, it follows that the great
majority of men must be born again, and yet again, until all evil has been
purged away from the soul and eternal repose found in Brahma. He who lives
a virtuous life is at death born into some higher caste, and thus he
advances towards the longed-for end. The evil man, however, is born into a
lower caste, or perhaps his soul enters some unclean animal. This doctrine
of re-birth is known as the transmigration of souls (metempsychosis).
Only the first three classes are admitted to the benefits of religion. The
Sudras and the outcasts are forbidden to read the sacred books, and for
any one of the upper classes to teach a serf how to expiate sin is a
BUDDHISM.--In the fifth century before our era, a great teacher and
reformer, known as Buddha, or Gautama (died about 470 B.C.), arose in
India. He was a prince, whom legend represents as being so touched by the
universal misery of mankind, that he voluntarily abandoned the luxury of
his home, and spent his life in seeking out and making known to men a new
and better way of salvation. He condemned the severe penances and the
self-torture of the Brahmans, yet commended poverty and retirement from
active life as the best means of getting rid of desire and of attaining
_Nirvana_, that is, the repose of unconsciousness.
[Illustration: STATUE OF BUDDHA.]
Buddha admitted all classes to the benefits of religion, the poor outcast
as well as the high-born Brahman, and thus Buddhism was a revolt against
the earlier harsh and exclusive system of Brahmanism. It holds somewhat
the same relation to Brahmanism that Christianity bears to Judaism.
Buddhism gradually gained the ascendancy over Brahmanism; but after some
centuries the Brahmans regained their power, and by the eighth century
after Christ, the faith of Buddha was driven out of almost every part of
India. But Buddhism has a profound missionary spirit, like that of
Christianity, Buddha having commanded his disciples to make known to all
men the way to Nirvana and consequently during the very period when India
was being lost, the missionaries of the reformed creed were spreading the
teachings of their master among the peoples of all the countries of
Eastern Asia, so that to-day Buddhism is the religion of almost one third
of the human race. Buddha has probably nearly as many followers as both
Christ and Mohammed together.
During its long conflict with Buddhism, Brahmanism was greatly modified,
and caught much of the gentler spirit of the new faith, so that modern
Brahmanism is a very different religion from that of the ancient system;
hence it is usually given a new name, being known as Hinduism. [Footnote:
Among the customs introduced into Brahmanism during this period was the
rite of Suttee, or the voluntary burning of the widow on the funeral pyre
of her husband.]
ALEXANDER'S INVASION OF INDIA (327 B.C.).--Although we find obscure
notices of India in the records of the early historic peoples of Western
Asia, yet it is not until the invasion of the peninsula by Alexander the
Great in 327 B.C. that the history of the Indian Aryans comes in
significant contact with that of the progressive nations of the West. From
that day to our own its systems of philosophy, its wealth, and its
commerce have been more or less important factors in universal history.
Greece carried on an intellectual commerce with this country; Rome, and
the Italian republics of the Middle Ages, a more material but not less
important trade. Columbus was seeking a short all-sea route to this
country when he found the New World. And in the upbuilding of the imperial
greatness of the England of to-day, the wealth and trade of India have
played no inconsiderable part.
GENERAL REMARKS: THE BEGINNING.--China is the seat of a very old
civilization, older perhaps than that of any other land save Egypt; yet
Chinese affairs have not until recently exerted any appreciable influence
upon the general current of history. All through ancient and mediĉval
times the country lay, vague and mysterious, in the haze of the world's
horizon. During the Middle Ages the land was known to Europe under the
name of Cathay.
The beginning of the Chinese nation was a band of Turanian wanderers who
came into the basin of the Yellow River, from the West, probably prior to
3000 B.C. These immigrants gradually pushed out the aborigines whom they
found in the land, and laid the basis of institutions that have endured to
the present day.
DYNASTIC HISTORY.--The government of China since the remotest times has
been a parental monarchy. The Emperor is the father of his people. But
though an absolute prince, still he dare not rule tyrannically: he must
rule justly, and in accordance with the ancient customs and laws.
The Chinese have books that purport to give the history of the different
dynasties that have ruled in the land from a vast antiquity; but these
records are largely mythical and legendary. Everything is confused and
uncertain until we reach the eighth or seventh century before our era; and
even then we meet with little of interest in the dynastic history of the
country until we come to the reign of Che Hwang-te (246-210 B.C.). This
energetic ruler strengthened and consolidated the imperial power, and
executed great works of internal improvement, such as roads and canals.
As a barrier against the incursions of the Huns, he began the erection of
the celebrated Chinese Wall, a great rampart extending for about 1500
miles along the northern frontier of the country. [Footnote: The Great
Wall is one of the most remarkable works of man. "It is," says Dr.
Williams, "the only artificial structure which would arrest attention in a
hasty survey of the globe." It has been estimated that there is more than
seventy times as much material in the wall as there is in the Great
Pyramid of Cheops, and that it represents more labor than 100,000 miles of
ordinary railroad. It was begun in 214(?) and finished in 204(?) B.C. It
is twenty-five feet wide at base, and from fifteen to thirty feet high.
Towers forty feet high rise at irregular intervals. In some places it is a
mere earthen rampart; in others it is faced with brick; and then again it
is composed of stone throughout.]
From the strong reign of Che Hwang-te to the end of the period covered by
ancient history, Chinese dynastic records present no matters of universal
interest that need here occupy our attention.
CHINESE WRITING.--It is nearly certain that the art of writing was known
among the Chinese as early as 2000 B.C. The system employed is curiously
cumbrous. In the absence of an alphabet, each word of the language is
represented upon the written page by means of a symbol, or combination of
symbols; this, of course, requires that there be as many symbols, or
characters, as there are words in the language. The number sanctioned by
good use is about 25,000; but counting obsolete characters, the number
amounts to over 50,000. A knowledge of 5000 or 6000 characters, however,
enables one to read and write without difficulty. The task of learning
even this number might well be hopeless, were it not that many of the
characters bear a remote resemblance to the objects for which they stand,
and when once explained, readily suggest the thing or idea represented.
The nature of the characters shows conclusively that the Chinese system of
writing, like that of all others with which we are acquainted, was at
first purely hieroglyphical, that is, the characters were originally
simply rude outline pictures of material objects. Time and use have worn
them to their present form.
This Chinese system of representing thought, cumbrous and inconvenient as
it is, is employed at the present time by one third of the human race.
Printing from blocks was practised in China as early as the sixth century
of our era, and printing from movable types as early as the tenth or
eleventh century, that is to say, about four hundred years before the same
art was invented in Europe.
CHINESE LITERATURE: CONFUCIUS AND MENCIUS.--The most highly prized portion
of Chinese literature is embraced in what is known as the Five Classics
and the Four Books, called collectively the Nine Classics. The Five
Classics are among the oldest books in the world. For some of the books an
antiquity of 3000 years is claimed. The books embrace chronicles,
political and ethical maxims, and numerous odes. One of the most important
of the Classics is the so-called Book of Rites, said to date from 1200
The Four Books are of later origin than the Five Classics, having been
written about the fifth and fourth centuries before the Christian era; yet
they hardly yield to them in sacredness in the eyes of the Chinese. The
first three of the series are by the pupils of the great sage and moralist
Confucius (551-478 B.C.), and the fourth is by Mencius (371-288 B.C.), a
disciple of Confucius, and a scarcely less revered philosopher and ethical
teacher. The teachings of the Four Books may be summed up in the simple
precept, "Walk in the Trodden Paths." Confucius was not a prophet, or
revealer; he laid no claims to a supernatural knowledge of God or of the
hereafter; he said nothing of an Infinite Spirit, and but little of a
future life. His cardinal precepts were obedience to superiors, reverence
for the ancients, and imitation of their virtues. He himself walked in the
old paths, and thus added the force of example to that of precept. He gave
the Chinese the Golden Rule, stated negatively: "What you do not want done
to yourself, do not do to others."
During the reign of Che Hwang-te (see p. 13), Chinese literature suffered
a great disaster. That despot, for the reason that the teachers in their
opposition to him were constantly quoting the ancient writings against his
innovations, ordered the chief historical books to be destroyed, and
sentenced to death any one who should presume to talk about the proscribed
writings, or even allude to the virtues of the ancients in such a way as
to reflect upon his reforms. The contumacious he sent to work upon the
Great Wall. But the people concealed the books in the walls of their
houses, or better still hid them away in their memories; and in this way
the priceless inheritance of antiquity was preserved until the storm had
INFLUENCE OF THIS LITERATURE AND OF THE SAGE CONFUCIUS.--It would be
impossible to exaggerate the influence which the Nine Classics have had
upon the Chinese nation. For more than 2000 years these writings have been
the Chinese Bible. And as all of the Four Books, though they were not
written by Confucius, yet bear the impress of his mind and thought, just
as the Gospels teach the mind of Christ, a large part of this influence
must be attributed to the life and teachings of that great Sage. His
influence has been greater than that of any other teacher, excepting
Christ and perhaps Buddha. His precepts, implicitly followed by his
countrymen, have shaped their lives from his day to the present.
The moral system of Confucius, making, as it does, filial obedience and a
conformity to ancient customs primary virtues, has exalted the family life
among the Chinese and given a wonderful stability to Chinese society.
Chinese children are the most obedient and reverential to parents of any
children in the world, and the Chinese Empire is the only one in all
history that has prolonged its existence from ancient times to the
But along with much good, one great evil has resulted from this blind,
servile following of the past. The Chinese in strictly obeying the
injunction to walk in the old ways, to conform to the customs of the
ancients, have failed to mark out any new footpaths for themselves. Hence
their lack of originality, their habit of imitation: hence the unchanging,
unprogressive character of Chinese civilization.
EDUCATION AND CIVIL SERVICE COMPETITIVE EXAMINATIONS.--China has a very
ancient educational system. The land was filled with schools, academies,
and colleges more than a thousand years before our era, and education is
to-day more general among the Chinese than among any other pagan people. A
knowledge of the sacred books is the sole passport to civil office and
public employment. All candidates for places in the government must pass a
competitive examination in the Nine Classics. This system is practically
the same in principle as that which we, with great difficulty, are trying
to establish in connection with our own civil service.
THE THREE RELIGIONS,--CONFUCIANISM, TAOISM, AND BUDDHISM.--There are three
leading religions in China,--Confucianism, Taoism, and Buddhism. The great
Sage Confucius is reverenced and worshipped throughout the Empire. He
holds somewhat the same relation to the system that bears his name that
Christ holds to that of Christianity. Taoism takes its name from Tao,
which is made, like Brahma in Brahmanism, the beginning of all things. It
is a very curious system of mystical ideas and superstitious practices.
Buddhism was introduced into China about the opening of the Christian era,
and soon became widely spread.
There is one element common to all these religions, and that is the
worship of ancestors. Every Chinese, whether he be a Confucianist, a
Taoist, or a Buddhist, reverences his ancestors, and prays and makes
offerings to their spirits.
POLICY OF NON-INTERCOURSE.--The Chinese have always been a very self-
satisfied and exclusive people. They have jealously excluded foreigners
and outside influence from their country. The Great Wall with which they
have hedged in their country on the north, is the symbol of their policy
of isolation. Doubtless this characteristic of the Chinese has been
fostered by their geographical isolation; for great mountain barriers and
wide deserts cut the country off from communication with the rest of the
Asiatic continent. And then their reverence for antiquity has rendered
them intolerant of innovation and change. Hence, in part, the
unwillingness of the Chinese to admit into their country railroads,
telegraphs, and other modern improvements. For them to adopt these new-
fangled inventions, would be like our adopting a new religion. Such a
departure from the ways and customs of the past has in it, to their way of
thinking, something akin to disrespect and irreverence for ancestors.
1. POLITICAL HISTORY.
EGYPT AND THE NILE.--Egypt comprises the delta of the Nile and the flood-
plains of its lower course. The whole land is formed of the deposits of
the river; hence Herodotus, in happy phrase, called the country "the gift
of the Nile." The delta country was known to the ancients as Lower Egypt;
while the valley proper, reaching from the head of the delta to the First
Cataract, a distance of six hundred miles, was called Upper Egypt.
[Footnote: About seven hundred miles from the Mediterranean a low ledge of
rocks, stretching across the Nile, forms the first obstruction to
navigation in passing up the river. The rapids found at this point are
termed the First Cataract. Six other cataracts occur in the next seven
hundred miles of the river's course.]
Through the same means by which Egypt was originally created, is the land
each year still renewed and fertilized. The Nile, swollen by the heavy
tropical rains about its sources, begins to rise in its lower parts late
in June, and by October, when the inundation has attained its greatest
height, the country presents the appearance of an inland sea.
By the end of November the river has returned to its bed, and the fields,
over which has been spread a film of rich earth, [Footnote: The rate of
the fluviatile deposit is from three to five inches in a century. The
surface of the valley at Thebes, as shown by the accumulations about the
monuments, has been raised seven feet during the last seventeen hundred
years.] present the appearance of black mud-flats. Usually the plow is run
lightly over the soft surface, but in some cases the grain is sown upon
the undisturbed deposit, and simply trampled in by flocks of sheep and
goats driven over it. In a few weeks the entire land, so recently a
flooded plain, is overspread with a sea of verdure, which forms a striking
contrast to the desert sands and barren hills that rim the valley.
[Illustration: ANCIENT EGYPT]
CLIMATE.--In Lower Egypt, near the sea, the rainfall in the winter is
abundant; but the climate of Upper Egypt is all but rainless, only a few
slight showers falling throughout the year. This dryness of the Egyptian
air is what has preserved through so many thousand years, in such
wonderful freshness of color and with such sharpness of outline, the
numerous paintings and sculptures of the monuments of the Pharaohs.
The southern line of Egypt only just touches the tropics; still the
climate, influenced by the wide and hot deserts that hem the valley, is
semi-tropical in character. The fruits of the tropics and the cereals of
the temperate zone grow luxuriantly. Thus favored in climate as well as in
the matter of irrigation, Egypt became in early times the granary of the
East. To it less favored countries, when stricken by famine,--a calamity
so common in the East in regions dependent upon the rainfall,--looked for
food, as did the families of Israel during drought and failure of crops in
DYNASTIES AND CHRONOLOGY.--The kings, or Pharaohs, that reigned in Egypt
from the earliest times till the conquest of the country by Alexander the
Great (332 B.C.), are grouped into thirty-one dynasties. Thirty of these
we find in the lists of Manetho, an Egyptian priest who lived in the third
century B.C., and who compiled a chronicle of the kings of the country
from the manuscripts kept in the Egyptian temples.
We cannot assign a positive date to the beginning of the First Dynasty,
chiefly because Egyptologists are at a loss to know whether to consider
all the dynasties of Manetho's list as successive or in part
contemporaneous. Thus, it is held by some scholars that several of these
families were reigning at the same time in the different cities of Upper
and Lower Egypt; while others think that they all reigned at different
epochs, and that the sum of the lengths of the several dynasties gives us
the true date of the beginning of the political history of the country.
Accordingly, some place the beginning of the First Dynasty at about 5000
B.C., while others put it at about 3000 B.C. The constantly growing
evidence of the monuments is in favor of the higher figures.
MENES, THE FIRST OF THE PHARAOHS.--Menes is the first kingly personage,
shadowy and indistinct in form, that we discover in the early dawn of
Egyptian history. Tradition makes him the founder of Memphis, near the
head of the Delta, the site of which capital he secured against the
inundations of the Nile by vast dikes and various engineering works. To
him is ascribed the achievement of first consolidating the numerous petty
principalities of Lower Egypt into a single state.
THE FOURTH DYNASTY: THE PYRAMID KINGS (about 2700 B.C.).--The kings of the
Fourth Dynasty, who reigned at Memphis, are called the Pyramid builders.
Kufu I., the Cheops of the Greeks, was the first great builder. To him we
can now positively ascribe the building of the Great Pyramid, the largest
of the Gizeh group, near Cairo; for his name has been found upon some of
the stones,--painted on them by his workmen before the blocks were taken
from the quarries.
The mountains of stone heaped together by the Pyramid kings are proof that
they were cruel oppressors of their people, and burdened them with useless
labor upon these monuments of their ambition. Tradition tells how the very
memory of these monarchs was hated by the people. Herodotus says that the
Egyptians did not like even to speak the names of the builders of the two
THE TWELFTH DYNASTY (about 2300 B.C.).--After the Sixth Dynasty, Egypt,
for several centuries, is almost lost from view. When finally the valley
emerges from the obscurity of this period, the old capital Memphis has
receded into the background, and the city of Thebes has taken its place as
the seat of the royal power.
The period of the Twelfth Dynasty, a line of Theban kings, is one of the
brightest in Egyptian hhistory. Many monuments scattered throughout the
country perpetuate the fame of the sovereigns of this illustrious house.
Egyptian civilization is regarded by many as having during this period
reached the highest perfection to which it ever attained.
THE HYSKOS, OR SHEPHERD KINGS (from about 2100 to 1650 B.C.).--Soon after
the bright period of the Twelfth Dynasty, Egypt again suffered a great
eclipse. Nomadic tribes from Syria crossed the eastern frontier of Egypt,
took possession of the inviting pasture-lands of the Delta, and
established there the empire of the Shepherd Kings.
These Asiatic intruders were violent and barbarous, and destroyed or
mutilated the monuments of the country. But gradually they were
transformed by the civilization with which they were in contact, and in
time they adopted the manners and culture of the Egyptians. It was
probably during the supremacy of the Hyksos that the families of Israel
found a refuge in Lower Egypt. They received a kind reception from the
Shepherd Kings, not only because they had the same pastoral habits, but
also, probably, because of near kinship in race.
At last these intruders, after they had ruled in the valley four or five
hundred years, were expelled by the Theban kings, and driven back into
Asia. This occurred about 1650 B.C. The episode of the Shepherd Kings in
Egypt derives great importance from the fact that these Asiatic conquerors
were one of the mediums through which Egyptian civilization was
transmitted to the Phoenicians, who, through their wide commercial
relations, spread the same among all the early nations of the
And further, the Hyksos conquest was an advantage to Egypt itself. The
conquerors possessed political capacity, and gave the country a strong
centralized government. They made Egypt in fact a great monarchy, and laid
the basis of the power and glory of the mighty Pharaohs of the Eighteenth
and Nineteenth Dynasties.
THE EIGHTEENTH DYNASTY (about 1650-1400 B.C.).--The revolt which drove the
Hyksos from the country was led by Amosis, or Ahmes, a descendant of the
Theban kings. He was the first king of what is known as the Eighteenth
Dynasty, probably the greatest race of kings, it has been said, that ever
reigned upon the earth.
The most eventful period of Egyptian history, covered by what is called
the New Empire, now opens. Architecture and learning seem to have
recovered at a bound from their long depression under the domination of
the Shepherd Kings. To free his empire from the danger of another invasion
from Asia, Amosis determined to subdue the Syrian and Mesopotamian tribes.
This foreign policy, followed out by his successors, shaped many of the
events of their reigns.
Thothmes III., one of the greatest kings of this Eighteenth Dynasty, has
been called "the Alexander of Egyptian history." During his reign the
frontiers of the empire reached their greatest expansion. His authority
extended from the oases of the Libyan desert to the Tigris and the
[Illustration: PHALANX OF THE KHITA: In the background, town protected by
walls and moats.]
Thothmes was also a magnificent builder. His architectural works in the
valley of the Nile were almost numberless. He built a great part of the
temple of Karnak, at Thebes, the remains of which form the most majestic
ruin in the world. His obelisks stand to-day in Constantinople, in Rome,
in London, and in New York.
The name of Amunoph III. stands next after that of Thothmes III. as one of
the great rulers and builders of the Eighteenth Dynasty.
THE NINETEENTH DYNASTY (about 1400-1280 B.C.).--The Pharaohs of the
Nineteenth Dynasty rival those of the Eighteenth in their fame as
conquerors and builders. It is their deeds and works, in connection with
those of the preceding dynasty, that have given Egypt such a name and
place in history. The two great names of the house are Seti I. and Rameses
One of the most important of Seti's wars was that against the Hittites
(_Khita_, in the inscriptions) and their allies. The Hittites were a
powerful non-Semitic people, whose capital was Carchemish, on the
Euphrates, and whose strength and influence were now so great as to be a
threat to Egypt.
But Seti's deeds as a warrior are eclipsed by his achievements as a
builder. He constructed the main part of what is perhaps the most
impressive edifice ever raised by man,--the world-renowned "Hall of
Columns," in the Temple of Karnak, at Thebes (see illustration, p. 32). He
also cut for himself in the Valley of the Tombs of the Kings, at the same
place, the most beautiful and elaborate of all the rock-sepulchres of the
Pharaohs (see p. 31). In addition to these and numerous other works, he
began a canal to unite the Red Sea and the Nile,--an undertaking which was
completed by his son and successor, Rameses II.
[Illustration: SETI I. (From a photograph of the mummy.)]
Rameses II., surnamed the Great, was the Sesostris of the Greeks. His is
the most prominent name of the Nineteenth Dynasty. Ancient writers, in
fact, accorded him the first place among all the Egyptian sovereigns, and
made him the hero of innumerable stories. His long reign, embracing sixty-
seven years, was, in truth, well occupied with military expeditions and
the superintendence of great architectural works.
His chief wars were those against the Hittites. Time and again is Rameses
found with his host of war-chariots in their country, but he evidently
fails to break their power; for we find him at last concluding with them a
celebrated treaty, in which the chief of the Hittites is called "The Great
King of the Khita" (Hittites), and is formally recognized as in every
respect the equal of the king of Egypt. Later, Rameses marries a daughter
of the Hittite king. All this means that the Pharaohs had met their peers
in the princes of the Hittites, and that they could no longer hope to
become masters of Western Asia.
It was probably the fear of an invasion by the tribes of Syria that led
Rameses to reduce to a position of grinding servitude the Semitic peoples
that under former dynasties had been permitted to settle in Lower Egypt;
for this Nineteenth Dynasty, to which Rameses II. belongs, was the new
king (dynasty) that arose "which knew not Joseph" (Ex. i. 8), and
oppressed the children of Israel. It was during the reign of his son
Menephtha that the Exodus took place (about 1300 B.C.).
[Illustration: RAMESES II. RETURNING IN TRIUMPH FROM SYRIA, with his
chariot garnished with the heads of his enemies. (From the monuments of
THE TWENTY-SIXTH DYNASTY (666-527 B.C.).--We pass without comment a long
period of several centuries, marked, indeed, by great vicissitudes in the
fortunes of the Egyptian monarchs, yet characterized throughout by a sure
and rapid decline in the power and splendor of their empire.
During the latter part of this period Egypt was tributary to Assyria. But
about 666 B.C., a native prince, Psammetichus I. (666-612 B.C.), with the
aid of Greek mercenaries from Asia Minor, succeeded in expelling the
Assyrian garrisons. Psammetichus thus became the founder of the Twenty-
The reign of this monarch marks a new era in Egyptian history. Hitherto
Egypt had secluded herself from the world, behind barriers of jealousy,
race, and pride. But Psammetichus being himself, it seems, of non-Egyptian
origin, and owing his throne chiefly to the swords of Greek soldiers, was
led to reverse the policy of the past, and to throw the valley open to the
commerce and influences of the world. His capital, Sais, on the Canopic
branch of the Nile, forty miles from the Mediterranean, was filled with
Greek citizens; and Greek mercenaries were employed in his armies.
This change of policy, occurring at just the period when the rising states
of Greece and Rome were shaping their institutions, was a most significant
event. Egypt became the University of the Mediterranean nations. From this
time forward Greek philosophers, as in the case of Pythagoras and of
Plato, are represented as becoming pupils of the Egyptian priests; and
without question the learning and philosophy of the ancient Egyptians
exerted a profound influence upon the quick, susceptible mind of the
Hellenic race, that was, in its turn, to become the teacher of the world.
The liberal policy of Psammetichus, while resulting in a great advantage
to foreign nations, brought a heavy misfortune upon his own. Displeased
with the position assigned Greek mercenaries in the army, the native
Egyptian soldiers revolted, and two hundred thousand of the troops
seceding in a body, emigrated to Ethiopia, whence no inducement that
Psammetichus offered could persuade them to return.
The son of Psammetichus, Necho II. (612-596 B.C.), the Pharaoh-Necho of
the Bible, followed the liberal policy marked out by his father. To
facilitate commerce, he attempted to reopen the old canal dug by Seti I.
and his son, which had become unnavigable. After the loss of one hundred
and twenty thousand workmen in the prosecution of the undertaking, Necho
was constrained to abandon it; Herodotus says, on account of an
Necho then fitted out an exploring expedition for the circumnavigation of
Africa, in hope of finding a possible passage for his fleets from the Red
Sea to the Nile by a water channel already opened by nature, and to which
the priests and oracles could interpose no objections. The expedition, we
have reason to believe, actually accomplished the feat of sailing around
the continent; for Herodotus, in his account of the enterprise, says that
the voyagers upon their return reported that, when they were rounding the
cape, the sun was on their right hand (to the north). This feature of the
report, which led Herodotus to disbelieve it, is to us the very strongest
evidence possible that the voyage was really performed.
THE LAST OF THE PHARAOHS.--Before the close of his reign, Necho had come
into collision with the king of Babylon, and was forced to acknowledge his
supremacy. A little later, Babylon having yielded to the rising power of
Persia, Egypt also passed under Persian authority (see p. 77). The
Egyptians, however, were restive under this foreign yoke, and, after a
little more than a century, succeeded in throwing it off; but the country
was again subjugated by the Persian king Artaxerxes III. (about 340 B.C.),
and from that time until our own day no native prince has ever sat upon
the throne of the Pharaohs. Long before the Persian conquest, the Prophet
Ezekiel, foretelling the debasement of Egypt, had declared, "There shall
be no more a prince of the land of Egypt." [Footnote: Ezek. xxx. 13.]
Upon the extension of the power of the Macedonians over the East (333
B.C.), Egypt willingly exchanged masters; and for three centuries the
valley was the seat of the renowned Grĉco-Egyptian Empire of the
Ptolemies, which lasted until the Romans annexed the region to their all-
absorbing empire (30 B.C.).
"The mission of Egypt among the nations was fulfilled; it had lit the
torch of civilization in ages inconceivably remote, and had passed it on
to other peoples of the West."
2. RELIGION, ARTS, AND GENERAL CULTURE.
CLASSES OF SOCIETY.--Egyptian society was divided into three great
classes, or orders,--priests, soldiers, and common people; the last
embracing shepherds, husbandmen, and artisans.
The sacerdotal order consisted of high-priests, prophets, scribes, keepers
of the sacred robes and animals, sacred sculptors, masons, and embalmers.
They enjoyed freedom from taxation, and met the expenses of the temple
services with the income of the sacred lands, which embraced one third of
the soil of the country.
The priests were extremely scrupulous in the care of their persons. They
bathed twice by day and twice by night, and shaved the entire body every
third day. Their inner clothing was linen, woollen garments being thought
unclean; their diet was plain and even abstemious, in order that, as
Plutarch says, "their bodies might sit light as possible about their
Next to the priesthood in rank and honor stood the military order. Like
the priests, the soldiers formed a landed class. They held one third of
the soil of Egypt. To each soldier was given a tract of about eight acres,
exempt from all taxes. They were carefully trained in their profession,
and there was no more effective soldiery in ancient times than that which
marched beneath the standard of the Pharaohs.
THE CHIEF DEITIES.--Attached to the chief temples of the Egyptians were
colleges for the training of the sacerdotal order. These institutions were
the repositories of the wisdom of the Egyptians. This learning was open
only to the initiated few.
The unity of God was the central doctrine in this private system. They
gave to this Supreme Being the very same name by which he was known to the
Hebrews--_Nuk Pu Nuk_, "I am that I am." [Footnote: "It is evident
what a new light this discovery throws on the sublime passage in Exodus
iii. 14; where Moses, whom we may suppose to have been initiated into this
formula, is sent both to his people and to Pharaoh to proclaim the true
God by this very title, and to declare that the God of the highest
Egyptian theology was also the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob. The
case is parallel to that of Paul at Athens."--Smith's _Ancient History
of the East_, p. 196, note.] The sacred manuscripts say, "He is the one
living and true God,... who has made all things, and was not himself
The Egyptian divinities of the popular mythology were frequently grouped
in triads. First in importance among these groups was that formed by
Osiris, Isis (his wife and sister), and Horus, their son. The members of
this triad were worshipped throughout Egypt.
The god Set (called Typhon by the Greek writers), the principle of evil,
was the Satan of Egyptian mythology. While the good and beneficent Osiris
was symbolized by the life-giving Nile, the malignant Typhon was
emblemized by the terrors and barrenness of the desert.
[Illustration: MUMMY OF A SACRED BULL. (From a photograph.)]
ANIMAL-WORSHIP.--The Egyptians regarded certain animals as emblems of the
gods, and hence worshipped them. To kill one of these sacred animals was
adjudged the greatest impiety. Persons so unfortunate as to harm one
through accident were sometimes murdered by the infuriated people. The
destruction of a cat in a burning building was lamented more than the loss
of the property. Upon the death of a dog, every member of the family
shaved his head. The scarabĉus, or beetle, was especially sacred, being
considered an emblem of the sun, or of life.
Not only were various animals held sacred, as being the emblems of certain
deities, but some were thought to be real gods. Thus the soul of Osiris,
it was imagined, animated the body of some bull, which might be known from
certain spots and markings.
Upon the death of the sacred bull, or Apis, as he was called, a great
search, accompanied with loud lamentation, was made throughout the land
for his successor: for, the moment the soul of Osiris departed from the
dying bull, it entered a calf that moment born. The calf was always found
with the proper markings; but, as Wilkinson says, the young animal had
probably been put to "much inconvenience and pain to make the marks and
hair conform to his description."
The body of the deceased Apis was carefully embalmed, and, amid funeral
ceremonies of great expense and magnificence, deposited in the tomb of his
predecessors. In 1851, Mariette discovered this sepulchral chamber of the
sacred bulls. It is a narrow gallery, two thousand feet in length, cut in
the limestone cliffs just opposite the site of ancient Memphis. A large
number of the immense granite coffins, fifteen feet long and eight wide
and high, have been brought to light.
Many explanations have been given to account for the existence of such a
debased form of worship among so cultured a people as were the ancient
Egyptians. Probably the sacred animals in the later worship represent an
earlier stage of the Egyptian religion, just as many superstitious beliefs
and observances among ourselves are simply survivals from earlier and
JUDGMENT OF THE DEAD.--Death was a great equalizer among the Egyptians.
King and peasant alike must stand before the judgment-seat of Osiris and
his forty-two assessors.
This judgment of the soul in the other world was prefigured by a peculiar
ordeal to which the body was subjected here. Between each chief city and
the burial-place on the western edge of the valley was a sacred lake,
across which the body was borne in a barge. But, before admittance to the
boat, it must pass the ordeal called "the judgment of the dead." This was
a trial before a tribunal of forty-two judges, assembled upon the shore of
the lake. Any person could bring accusations against the deceased, false
charges being guarded against by the most dreadful penalties. If it
appeared that the life of the deceased had been evil, passage to the boat
was denied; and the body was either carried home in dishonor, or, in case
of the poor who could not afford to care for the mummy, was interred on
the shores of the lake. Many mummies of those refused admission to the
tombs of their fathers have been dug up along these "Stygian banks."
[Illustration: JUDGMENT OF THE DEAD: above, an ape-assessor scourges an
evil soul, that has been changed into an unclean animal.]
But this ordeal of the body was only a faint symbol of the dread tribunal
of Osiris before which the soul must appear in the lower world. In one
scale of a balance was placed the heart of the deceased; in the other
scale, an image of Justice, or Truth. The soul stands by watching the
result, and, as the beam inclines, is either welcomed to the companionship
of the good Osiris, or consigned to oblivion in the jaws of a frightful
hippopotamus-headed monster, "the devourer of evil souls." This
annihilation, however, is only the fate of those inveterately wicked.
Those respecting whom hopes of reformation may be entertained are
condemned to return to earth and do penance in long cycles of lives in the
bodies of various animals. This is what is known as the transmigration of
souls. The kind of animals the soul should animate, and the length of its
transmigrations, were determined by the nature of its sins.
TOMBS.--The Egyptians bestowed little care upon the temporary residences
of the living, but the "eternal homes" of the dead were fitted up with the
most lavish expenditure of labor. These were chambers, sometimes built of
brick or stone, but more usually cut in the limestone cliffs that form the
western rim of the Nile valley; for that, as the land of the sunset, was
conceived to be the realm of darkness and of death. The cliffs opposite
the ancient Egyptian capitals are honeycombed with sepulchral cells.
[Illustration: BRICK-MAKING IN ANCIENT EGYPT, (From Thebes.)]
In the hills back of Thebes is the so-called Valley of the Tombs of the
Kings, the "Westminster Abbey of Egypt." Here are twenty-five magnificent
sepulchres. These consist of extensive rock-cut passages and chambers
richly sculptured and painted.
The subjects of the decorations of many of the tombs, particularly of the
oldest, are drawn from the life and manners of the times. Thus the artist
has converted for us the Egyptian necropolis into a city of the living,
where the Egypt of four thousand years ago seems to pass before our eyes.
THE PYRAMIDS.--The Egyptian pyramids, the tombs of the earlier Pharaohs,
are the most venerable monuments that have been preserved to us from the
early world. They were almost all erected before the Twelfth Dynasty.
Although thus standing away back in the earliest twilight of the historic
morning, nevertheless they mark, not the beginning, but the perfection of
Egyptian art. They speak of long periods of growth in art and science
lying beyond the era they represent. It is this vast and mysterious
background that astonishes us even more than these giant forms cast up
[Illustration: THE GREAT HALL OF COLUMNS AT KARNAK.]
Being sepulchral monuments, the pyramids are confined to the western side
of the Nile valley (see p. 31). There are over thirty still standing, with
traces of about forty more.
The Pyramid of Cheops, the largest of the Gizeh group, near Cairo, rises
from a base covering thirteen acres, to a height of four hundred and fifty
feet. According to Herodotus, Cheops employed one hundred thousand men for
twenty years in its erection.
PALACES AND TEMPLES.---The earlier Memphian kings built great unadorned
pyramids, but the later Theban monarchs constructed splendid palaces and
temples. Two of the most prominent masses of buildings on the site of
Thebes are called, the one the Temple of Karnak, and the other the Temple
of Luxor, from the names of two native villages built near or within the
ruined enclosures. The former was more than five hundred years in
building. As an adjunct of the temple at Karnak was a Hall of Columns,
which consisted of a phalanx of one hundred and sixty-four gigantic
pillars. Some of these columns measure over seventy feet in height, with
capitals sixty-five feet in circumference.
[Illustration: STATUES OF MEMNON AT THEBES.]
In Nubia, beyond the First Cataract, is the renowned rock-hewn temple of
Ipsambul, the front of which is adorned with four gigantic portrait-
statues of Rameses II., seventy feet in height. This temple has been
pronounced the greatest and grandest achievement of Egyptian art.
SCULPTURE: SPHINXES AND COLOSSI.--A strange immobility, due to the
influence of religion, attached itself, at an early period, to Egyptian
art. The artist, in the portrayal of the figures of the gods, was not
allowed to change a single line in the conventional form. Hence the
impossibility of improvement in sacred sculpture. Wilkinson says that
Menes would have recognized the statue of Osiris in the Temple of Amasis.
Plato complained that the pictures and statues in the temples in his day
were no better than those made "ten thousand years" before.
The heroic, or colossal size of many of the Egyptian statues excites our
admiration. The two colossi at Thebes, known as the "Statues of Memnon,"
are forty-seven feet high, and are hewn each from a single block of
granite. The appearance of these time-worn, gigantic figures, upon the
solitary plain, is singularly impressive. "There they sit together, yet
apart, in the midst of the plain, serene and vigilant, still keeping their
untired watch over the lapse of ages and the eclipse of Egypt."
One of these statues acquired a wide reputation among the Greeks and
Romans, under the name of the "Vocal Memnon." When the rays of the rising
sun fell upon the colossus, it emitted low musical tones, which the
Egyptians believed to be the greeting of the statue to the mother-sun.
[Footnote: It is probable that the musical notes were produced by the
action of the sun upon the surface of the rock while wet with dew. The
phenomenon was observed only while the upper part of the colossus, which
was broken off by an earthquake, remained upon the ground. When the statue
was restored, the music ceased.]
The Egyptian sphinxes were figures having a human head and the body of a
lion, symbolizing intelligence and power. The most famous of the sphinxes
of Egypt is the colossal figure at the base of the Great Pyramid, at
Gizeh, sculptured, some think, by Menes, and others, by one of the kings
of the Fourth Dynasty. The immense statue, cut out of the native rock,
save the fore-legs, which are built of masonry, is ninety feet long and
seventy feet high. "This huge, mutilated figure has an astonishing effect;
it seems like an eternal spectre. The stone phantom seems attentive; one
would say that it hears and sees. Its great ear appears to collect the
sounds of the past; its eyes, directed to the east, gaze, as it were, into
the future; its aspect has a depth, a truth of expression, irresistibly
fascinating to the spectator. In this figure--half statue, half mountain--
we see a wonderful majesty, a grand serenity, and even a sort of sweetness
GLASS MANUFACTURE.--The manufacture of glass, a discovery usually
attributed to the Phoenicians, [Footnote: The Phoenicians, being the
carriers of antiquity, often received credit among the peoples with whom
they traded, for various inventions and discoveries of which they were
simply the disseminators.] was carried on in Egypt more than four thousand
years ago. The paintings of the monuments represent glass-blowers moulding
all manner of articles. Glass bottles, and various other objects of the
same material, are found in great numbers in the tombs. Some of these
objects show that the ancient Egyptians were acquainted with processes of
coloring glass that secured results which we have not yet been able to
equal. The Egyptian artists imitated, with marvellous success, the
variegated hues of insects and stones. The manufacture of precious gems,
so like the natural stone as to defy detection, was a lucrative
THE PAPYRUS PAPER.--The chief writing material used by the ancient
Egyptians was the noted papyrus paper, manufactured from a reed which grew
in the marshes and along the water-channels of the Nile. From the Greek
names of this Egyptian plant, _byblos_ and _papyrus_, come our words
"Bible" and "paper." The plant has now entirely disappeared from Egypt,
and is found only on the Anapus, in the island of Sicily, and on a
small stream near Jaffa, in Palestine. Long before the plant became
extinct in Egypt an ancient prophecy had declared, "The paper reeds by the
brooks ... shall wither, be driven away, and be no more." (Isa. xix. 7.)
The costly nature of the papyrus paper led to the use of many substitutes
for writing purposes--as leather, broken pottery, tiles, stones, and
FORMS OF WRITING.--The Egyptians employed three forms of writing: the
_hieroglyphical_, consisting of rude pictures of material objects,
usually employed in monumental inscriptions; the _hieratic_, an
abbreviated or rather simplified form of the hieroglyphical, adapted to
writing, and forming the greater part of the papyrus manuscripts; and the
_demotic_, or _encorial_, a still simpler form than the hieratic. The last
did not come into use till about the seventh century B.C., and was then
used for all ordinary documents, both of a civil and commercial nature. It
could be written eight or ten times as fast as the hieroglyphical form.
KEY TO EGYPTIAN WRITING.--The key to the Egyptian writing was discovered
by means of the Rosetta Stone. This valuable relic, a heavy block of black
basalt, is now in the British Museum. It holds an inscription, written in
hieroglyphic, in demotic, and in Greek characters. Champollion, a French
scholar, by comparing the characters composing the words Ptolemy,
Alexander, and other names in the parallel inscriptions, discovered the
value of several of the symbols; and thus were opened the vast libraries
of Egyptian learning.
We have now the Ritual, or Book, of the Dead, a sort of guide to the soul
in its journey through the underworld; romances, and fairy tales, among
which is "Cinderella and the Glass Slipper"; autobiographies, letters,
fables, and epics; treatises on medicine, astronomy, and various other
scientific subjects; and books on history--in prose and verse--which fully
justify the declaration of the Egyptian priests to Solon: "You Greeks are
mere children, talkative and vain; you know nothing at all of the past."
ASTRONOMY, GEOGRAPHY AND ARITHMETIC.--The cloudless and brilliant skies of
Egypt invited the inhabitants of the Nile valley to the study of the
heavenly bodies. And another circumstance closely related to their very
existence, the inundation of the Nile, following the changing cycles of
the stars, could not but have incited them to the watching and predicting
of astronomical movements. Their observations led them to discover the
length, very nearly, of the sidereal year, which they made to consist of
365 days, every fourth year adding one day, making the number for that
year 366. They also divided the year into twelve months of thirty days
each, adding five days to complete the year. This was the calendar that
Julius Cĉsar introduced into the Roman Empire, and which, slightly
reformed by Pope Gregory XIII. in 1582, has been the system employed by
almost all the civilized world up to the present day.
The Greeks accounted for the early rise of the science of geometry among
the Egyptians by reference to the necessity they were under each year of
re-establishing the boundaries of their fields--the inundation
obliterating old landmarks and divisions. The science thus forced upon
their attention was cultivated with zeal and success. A single papyrus has
been discovered that holds twelve geometrical theorems.
Arithmetic was necessarily brought into requisition in solving
astronomical and geometrical problems. We ourselves are debtors to the
ancient Egyptians for much of our mathematical knowledge, which has come
to us from the banks of the Nile, through the Greeks and the Saracens.
MEDICINE AND THE ART OF EMBALMING.--The custom of embalming the dead,
affording opportunities for the examination of the body, without doubt had
a great influence upon the development of the sciences of anatomy and
medicine among the Egyptians. That the embalmers were physicians, we know
from various testimonies. Thus we are told in the Bible that Joseph
"commanded the _physicians_ to embalm his father." The Egyptian doctors
had a very great reputation among the ancients.
Every doctor was a specialist, and was not allowed to take charge of cases
outside of his own branch. As the artist was forbidden to change the lines
of the sacred statues, so the physician was not permitted to treat cases
save in the manner prescribed by the customs of the past; and if he were
so presumptuous as to depart from the established mode of treatment, and
the patient died, he was adjudged guilty of murder. Many drugs and
medicines were used; the ciphers, or characters, employed by modern
apothecaries to designate grains and drams are of Egyptian invention.
The Egyptians believed that after a long lapse of time, several thousand
years, the departed soul would return to earth and reanimate its former
body; hence their custom of preserving the body by means of embalmment. In
the processes of embalming, the physicians made use of oils, resin,
bitumen, and various aromatic gums. The body was swathed in bandages of
linen, while the face was sometimes gilded, or covered with a gold mask.
As this, which was the "most approved method" of embalming, was very
costly, the expense being equivalent probably to $1000 of our money, the
bodies of the poorer classes were simply "salted and dried," wrapped in
coarse mats, and laid in tiers in great trenches in the desert sands.
[Illustration: PROFILE OF RAMESES II. (From a photograph of the mummy.)]
Only a few years ago (in 1881) the mummies of Thothmes III., Seti I., and
Rameses II., together with those of nearly all of the other Pharaohs of
the Eighteenth, Nineteenth, Twentieth, and Twenty-first Dynasties, were
found in a secret cave near Thebes. It seems that, some time in the 12th
century B.C., a sudden alarm caused these bodies to be taken hastily from
the royal tombs of which we have spoken (see p. 31), and secreted in this
hidden chamber. When the danger had passed, the place of concealment had
evidently been forgotten; so the bodies were never restored to their
ancient tombs, but remained in this secret cavern to be discovered in our
The mummies were taken to the Boulak Museum, at Cairo, where they were
identified by means of the inscriptions upon the cases and wrappings.
Among others the body of Seti I. and that of Rameses II. were unbandaged
(1886), so that now we may look upon the faces of the greatest and most
renowned of the Pharaohs. The faces of both Seti and Rameses are so
remarkably preserved, that "were their subjects to return to earth to-day
they could not fail to recognize their old sovereigns." Both are strong
faces, of Semitic cast, that of Rameses bearing a striking resemblance to
that of his father Seti, and both closely resembling their portrait
statues and profiles. Professor Maspero, the director-general of the
excavations and antiquities of Egypt, in his official report of the
uncovering of the mummies, writes as follows of the appearance of the face
of Rameses: "The face of the mummy gives a fair idea of the face of the
living king. The expression is unintellectual, perhaps slightly animal;
but even under the somewhat grotesque disguise of mummification, there is
plainly to be seen an air of sovereign majesty, of resolve, and of pride."
[Footnote: On the finding and identification of the Pharaohs, consult two
excellent articles in _The Century Magazine_ for May, 1887.]
1. POLITICAL HISTORY.
BASIN OF THE TIGRIS AND EUPHRATES.-The northern part of the Tigris and
Euphrates valley, the portion that comprised ancient Assyria, consists of
undulating plains, broken in places by considerable mountain ridges.
But all the southern portion of the basin, the part known as Chaldĉa, or
Babylonia, having been formed by the gradual encroachment of the deposits
of the Tigris and Euphrates upon the waters of the Persian Gulf, is as
level as the sea. During a large part of the year, rains are infrequent;
hence agriculture is dependent mainly upon artificial irrigation. The
distribution of the waters of the Tigris and the Euphrates was secured, in
ancient times, by a stupendous system of canals and irrigants, which, at
the present day, in a sand-choked and ruined condition, spread like a
perfect network over the face of the country (see cut, p. 41).
The productions of Babylonia are very like those of the Nile valley. The
luxuriant growth of grain upon these alluvial flats excited the wonder of
all the Greek travellers who visited the East. Herodotus will not tell the
whole truth, for fear his veracity may be doubted. The soil is as fertile
now as in the time of the historian; but owing to the neglect of the
ancient canals, the greater part of this once populous district has been
converted into alternating areas of marsh and desert.
THE THREE GREAT MONARCHIES.--Within the Tigris-Euphrates basin, three
great empires--the Chaldĉan, the Assyrian, and the Babylonian--
successively rose to prominence and dominion. Each, in turn, not only
extended its authority over the valley, but also made the power of its
arms felt throughout the adjoining regions. We shall now trace the rise
and the varied fortunes of these empires, and the slow growth of the arts
and sciences from rude beginnings among the early Chaldĉans to their
fuller and richer development under the Assyrian and Babylonian
THE CHALDĈANS A MIXED PEOPLE.--In the earliest times Lower Chaldĉa was
known as Shumir, the Shinar of the Bible, while Upper Chaldĉa bore the
name of Accad. The original inhabitants were conjecturally of Turanian
race, and are called Accadians.
[Illustration: ANCIENT BABYLONIAN CANALS.]
These people laid the basis of civilization in the Euphrates valley, so
that with them the history of Asian culture begins. They brought with them
into the valley the art of hieroglyphical writing, which later developed
into the well-known cuneiform system. They also had quite an extensive
literature, and had made considerable advance in the art of building.
The civilization of the Accadians was given a great impulse by the arrival
of a Semitic people. These foreigners were nomadic in habits, and
altogether much less cultured than the Accadians. Gradually, however, they
adopted the arts and literature of the people among whom they had settled;
yet they retained their own language, which in the course of time
superseded the less perfect Turanian speech of the original inhabitants;
consequently the mixed people, known later as Chaldĉans, that arose from
the blending of the two races, spoke a language essentially the same as
that used by their northern neighbors, the Semitic Assyrians.
SARGON (SHARRUKIN) I. (3800? B.C.).--We know scarcely anything about the
political affairs of the Accadians until after the arrival of the Semites.
Then, powerful kings, sometimes of Semitic and then again of Turanian, or
Accadian origin, appear ruling in the cities of Accad and Shumir, and the
political history of Chaldĉa begins.
The first prominent monarch is called Sargon I. (Sharrukin), a Semitic
king of Agade, one of the great early cities. An inscription recently
deciphered makes this king to have reigned as early as 3800 B.C. He
appears to have been the first great organizer of the peoples of the
Yet not as a warrior, but as a patron and protector of letters, is
Sargon's name destined to a sure place in history. He classified and
translated into the Semitic, or Assyrian tongue the religious,
mythological, and astronomical literature of the Accadians, and deposited
the books in great libraries, which he established or enlarged,--the
oldest and most valuable libraries of the ancient world. The scholar Sayce
calls him the Chaldĉan Solomon.
CONQUEST OF CHALDĈA BY THE ELAMITES (2286 B.C.).--While the Chaldĉan kings
were ruling in the great cities of Lower Babylonia, the princes of the
Elamites, a people of Turanian race, were setting up a rival kingdom to
the northeast, just at the foot of the hills of Persia.
In the year 2286 B.C., a king of Elam, Kudur-Nakhunta by name, overran
Chaldĉa, took all the cities founded by Sargon and his successors, and
from the temples bore off in triumph to his capital, Susa, the statues of
the Chaldĉan gods, and set up in these lowland regions what is known as
the Elamite Dynasty.
[Illustration: MAP OF THE TIGRIS AND EUPHRATES REGION.]
More than sixteen hundred years after this despoiling of the Chaldĉan
sanctuaries, a king of Nineveh captured the city of Susa, and finding
there these stolen statues, caused them to be restored to their original
The Chedorlaomer of Genesis, whose contact with the history of the Jewish
patriarch Abraham has caused his name to be handed down to our own times
in the records of the Hebrew people, is believed to have been the son and
successor of Kudur-Nakhunta.
CHALDĈA ECLIPSED BY ASSYRIA.--After the Elamite princes had maintained a
more or less perfect dominion over the cities of Chaldĉa for two or three
centuries, their power seems to have declined; and then for several
centuries longer, down to about 1300 B.C., dynasties and kings of which we
know very little as yet, ruled the country.
During this period, Babylon, gradually rising into prominence,
overshadowed the more ancient Accadian cities, and became the leading city
of the land. From it the whole country was destined, later, to draw the
name by which it is best known--Babylonia.
Meanwhile a Semitic power had been slowly developing in the north. This
was the Assyrian empire, the later heart and centre of which was the great
city of Nineveh. For a long time Assyria was simply a province or
dependency of the lower kingdom; but about 1300 B.C., the Assyrian monarch
Tiglathi-nin conquered Babylonia, and Assyria assumed the place that had
been so long held by Chaldĉa. From this time on to the fall of Nineveh in
606 B.C., the monarchs of this country virtually controlled the affairs of
2. ARTS AND GENERAL CULTURE.
TOWER-TEMPLES.--In the art of building, the Chaldĉans, though their
edifices fall far short of attaining the perfection exhibited by the
earliest Egyptian structures, displayed no inconsiderable architectural
knowledge and skill.
The most important of their constructions were their tower-temples. These
were simple in plan, consisting of two or three terraces, or stages,
placed one upon another so as to form a sort of rude pyramid. The material
used in their construction was chiefly sun-dried brick. The edifice was
sometimes protected by outer courses of burnt brick. The temple proper
surmounted the upper platform.
All these tower-temples have crumbled into vast mounds, with only here and
there a projecting mass of masonry to distinguish them from natural hills,
for which they were at first mistaken.
CUNEIFORM WRITING.--We have already mentioned the fact that the Accadians,
when they entered the Euphrates valley, were in possession of a system of
writing. This was a simple pictorial, or hieroglyphical system, which they
gradually developed into the cuneiform.
In the cuneiform system, the characters, instead of being formed of
unbroken lines, are composed of wedge-like marks; hence the name (from
_cuneus_, a wedge). This form, according to the scholar Sayce, arose
when the Accadians, having entered the low country, substituted tablets of
clay for the papyrus or other similar material which they had formerly
used. The characters were impressed upon the soft tablet by means of a
triangular writing-instrument, which gave them their peculiar wedge-shaped
The cuneiform mode of writing, improved and simplified by the Assyrians
and the Persians, was in use about two thousand years, being employed by
the nations in and near the Euphrates basin, down to the time of the
conquest of the East by the Macedonians.
BOOKS AND LIBRARIES.--The books of the Chaldĉans were in general clay
tablets, varying in length from one inch to twelve inches, and being about
one inch thick. Those holding records of special importance, after having
been once written over and baked, were covered with a thin coating of
clay, and then the matter was written in duplicate and the tablets again
baked. If the outer writing were defaced by accident or altered by design,
the removal of the outer coating would at once show the true text.
The tablets were carefully preserved in great public libraries. Even
during the Turanian period, before the Semites had entered the land, one
or more of these collections existed in each of the chief cities of Accad
and Shumir. "Accad," says Sayce, "was the China of Asia. Almost every one
could read and write." Erech was especially renowned for its great
library, and was known as "the City of Books."
[Illustration: CHALDĈAN TABLET.]
THE RELIGION.--The Accadian religion, as revealed by the tablets, was
essentially the same as that held today by the nomadic Turanian tribes of
Northern Asia--what is known as Shamanism. It consisted in a belief in
good and evil spirits, of which the latter held by far the most prominent
place. To avert the malign influence of these wicked spirits, the
Accadians had resort to charms and magic rites. The religion of the
Semites was a form of Sabĉanism,--that is, a worship of the heavenly
bodies,--in which the sun was naturally the central object of adoration.
When the Accadians and the Semites intermingled, their religious systems
blended to form one of the most influential religions of the world--one
which spread far and wide under the form of Baal worship. There were in
the perfected system twelve primary gods, at whose head stood Il, or Ra.
Besides these great divinities, there were numerous lesser and local
There were features of this old Chaldĉan religion which were destined to
exert a wide-spread and potent influence upon the minds of men. Out of the
Sabĉan Semitic element grew astrology, the pretended art of forecasting
events by the aspect of the stars, which was most elaborately and
ingeniously developed, until the fame of the Chaldĉan astrologers was
spread throughout the ancient world, while the spell of that art held in
thraldom the mind of mediĉval Europe.
Out of the Shamanistic element contributed by the Turanian Accadians, grew
a system of magic and divination which had a most profound influence not
only upon all the Eastern nations, including the Jews, but also upon the
later peoples of the West. mediĉval magic and witchcraft were, in large
part, an unchanged inheritance from Chaldĉa.
THE CHALDĈAN GENESIS.--The cosmological myths of the Chaldĉans, that is,
their stories of the origin of things, are remarkably like the first
chapters of Genesis.
[Illustration: ASSYRIAN TABLET WITH PARTS OF THE DELUGE LEGEND.]
The discoveries and patient labors of various scholars have reproduced, in
a more or less perfect form, from the legendary tablets, the Chaldĉan
account of the Creation of the World, of an ancestral Paradise and the
Tree of Life with its angel guardians, of the Deluge, and of the Tower of
Babel. [Footnote: Consult especially George Smith's _The Chaldĉan
Account of Genesis_; see also _Records of the Past_, Vol. VII. pp.
THE CHALDĈAN EPIC OF IZDUBAR.--Beside their cosmological myths, the
Chaldĉans had a vast number of so-called heroic and nature myths. The most
noted of these form what is known as the Epic of Izdubar (Nimrod?), which
is doubtless the oldest epic of the race. This is in twelve parts, and is
really a solar myth, which recounts the twelve labors of the sun in his
yearly passage through the twelve signs of the Chaldĉan zodiac.
This epic was carried to the West, by the way of Phoenicia and Asia Minor,
and played a great part in the mythology of the Greeks and Romans. "The
twelve labors of Heracles may be traced back to the adventures of
Gisdhubar [Izdubar] as recorded in the twelve books of the great epic of
SCIENCE.--In astronomy and arithmetic the Chaldĉans made substantial
progress. The clear sky and unbroken horizon of the Chaldĉan plains,
lending an unusually brilliant aspect to the heavens, naturally led the
Chaldĉans to the study of the stars. They early divided the zodiac into
twelve signs, and named the zodiacal constellations, a memorial of their
astronomical attainments which will remain forever inscribed upon the
great circle of the heavens; they foretold eclipses, constructed sun-dials
of various patterns, divided the year into twelve months, and the day and
night into twelve hours each, and invented or devised the week of seven
days, the number of days in the week being determined by the course of the
moon. "The 7th, 14th, 19th, 21st, and 28th days of the lunar month were
kept like the Jewish Sabbath, and were actually so named in Assyria."
In arithmetic, also, the Chaldĉans made considerable advance. A tablet has
been found which contains the squares and cubes of the numbers from one to
CONCLUSION.-This hasty glance at the beginnings of civilization among the
primitive peoples of the Euphrates valley, will serve to give us at least
some little idea of how much modern culture owes to the old Chaldĉans. We
may say that Chaldĉa was one of the main sources--Egypt was the other--of
the stream of universal history.
1. POLITICAL HISTORY.
TIGLATH-PILESER I. (1130-1110 B.C.).--It is not until about two centuries
after the conquest of Chaldĉa by the Assyrian prince Tiglathi-Nin (see p.
43), that we find a sovereign of renown at the head of Assyrian affairs.
This was Tiglath-Pileser I., who came to the throne about 1130 B.C. The
royal records detail at great length his numerous war expeditions, and
describe minutely the great temples which he constructed.
For the two centuries following the reign of Tiglath-Pileser, Assyria is
quite lost to history; then it is again raised into prominence by two or
three strong kings; after which it once more almost "drops below the
TIGLATH-PILESER II. (745-727 B.C.).--With this king, who was a usurper,
begins what is known as the Second Empire. He was a man of great energy
and of undoubted military talent,--for by him the Assyrian power was once
more extended over the greater part of Southwestern Asia.
But what renders the reign of this king a landmark in Assyrian history, is
the fact that he was not a mere conqueror like his predecessors, but a
political organizer of great capacity. He laid the basis of the power and
glory of the great kings who followed him upon the Assyrian throne.
SARGON (722-705 B.C.).--Sargon was one of the greatest conquerors and
builders of the Second Empire. In 722 B.C., he took Samaria and carried
away the Ten Tribes into captivity beyond the Tigris. The larger part of
the captives were scattered among the Median towns, where they became so
mingled with the native population as to be inquired after even to this
day as the "lost tribes."
During this reign the Egyptians and their allies, in the first encounter
(the battle of Raphia, 720 B.C.) between the empires of the Euphrates and
the Nile valley, suffered a severe defeat, and the ancient kingdom of the
Pharaohs became tributary to Assyria.
Sargon was a famous builder. Near the foot of the Persian hills he founded
a large city, which he named for himself; and there he erected a royal
residence, described in the inscriptions as "a palace of incomparable
magnificence," the site of which is now preserved by the vast mounds of
SENNACHERIB (705-681 B.C.).--Sennacherib, the son of Sargon, came to the
throne 705 B.C. We must accord to him the first place of renown among all
the great names of the Assyrian Empire. His name, connected as it is with
the story of the Jews, and with many of the most wonderful discoveries
among the ruined palaces of Nineveh, has become as familiar to the ear as
that of Nebuchadnezzar in the story of Babylon.
The fulness of the royal inscriptions of this reign enables us to permit
Sennacherib to tell us in his own words of his great works and military
expeditions. Respecting the decoration of Nineveh, he says: "I raised
again all the edifices of Nineveh, my royal city; I reconstructed all its
old streets, and widened those that were too narrow. I have made the whole
town a city shining like the sun."
Concerning an expedition against Hezekiah, king of Judah, he says: "I took
forty-six of his strong fenced cities; and of the smaller towns which were
scattered about I took and plundered a countless number. And from these
places I captured and carried off as spoil 200,150 people, old and young,
male and female, together with horses and mares, asses and camels, oxen
and sheep, a countless multitude. And Hezekiah himself I shut up in
Jerusalem, his capital city, like a bird in a cage, building towers round
the city to hem him in, and raising banks of earth against the gates, so
as to prevent escape." [Footnote: Rawlinson's _Ancient Monarchies_,
Vol. II. p. 161.]
While Sennacherib was besieging Jerusalem, the king of Egypt appeared in
the field in the south with aid for Hezekiah. This caused Sennacherib to
draw off his forces from the siege to meet the new enemy; but near the
frontiers of Egypt the Assyrian host, according to the Hebrew account, was
smitten by "the angel of the Lord," [Footnote: This expression is a
Hebraism, meaning often any physical cause of destruction, as a plague or
storm. In the present case, the destroying agency was probably a
pestilence. ] and the king returned with a shattered army and without
glory to his capital, Nineveh.
Sennacherib employed the closing years of his reign in the digging of
canals, and in the erection of a splendid palace at Nineveh. He was
finally murdered by his own sons.
[Illustration: SIEGE OF A CITY, SHOWING USE OF BATTERING-RAM. (From
ASSHUR-BANI-PAL (668-626? B.C.).--This king, the Sardanapalus of the
Greeks, is distinguished for his magnificent patronage of art and
literature. During his reign Assyria enjoyed her Augustan age.
But Asshur-bani-pal was also possessed of a warlike spirit. He broke to
pieces, with terrible energy, in swift campaigns, the enemies of his
empire. All the scenes of his sieges and battles he caused to be
sculptured on the walls of his palace at Nineveh. These pictured panels
are now in the British Museum. They are a perfect Iliad in stone.
SARACUS OR ESARHADDON II. (?-606 B.C.).--Saracus was the last of the long
line of Assyrian kings. His reign was filled with misfortunes for himself
and his kingdom. For nearly or quite seven centuries the Ninevite kings
had lorded it over the East. There was scarcely a state in all Western
Asia that had not, during this time, felt the weight of their conquering
arms; scarcely a people that had not suffered their cruel punishments, or
tasted the bitterness of their servitude.
But now swift misfortunes were bearing down upon the oppressor from every
quarter. The Scythian hordes, breaking through the mountain gates on the
north, spread a new terror throughout the upper Assyrian provinces; from
the mountain defiles on the east issued the armies of the recent-grown
empire of the Aryan Medes, led by the renowned Cyaxares; from the southern
lowlands, anxious to aid in the overthrow of the hated oppressor, the
Babylonians, led by the youthful Nebuchadnezzar, the son of the traitor
viceroy Nabopolassar, joined, it appears, the Medes as allies, and
together they laid close siege to the Assyrian capital.
The operations of the besiegers seem to have been aided by an unusual
inundation of the Tigris, which undermined a section of the city walls. At
all events the place was taken, and dominion passed away forever from the
proud capital [Footnote: Saracus, in his despair, is said to have erected
a funeral pyre within one of the courts of his palace, and, mounting the
pile with the members of his family, to have perished with them in the
flames; but this is doubtless a poetical embellishment of the story.] (606
B.C.). Two hundred years later, when Xenophon with his Ten Thousand
Greeks, in his memorable retreat (see p. 156), passed the spot, the once
great city was a crumbling mass of ruins, of which he could not even learn
2. RELIGION, ARTS, AND GENERAL CULTURE.
RELIGION.--The Assyrians were Semites, and as such they possessed the deep
religious spirit that has always distinguished the peoples of this family.
In this respect they were very much like the Hebrews. The wars which the
Assyrian monarchs waged were not alone wars of conquest, but were, in a
certain sense, crusades made for the purpose of extending the worship and
authority of the gods of Assyria. They have been likened to the wars of
the Hebrew kings, and again to the conquests of the Saracens.
As with the wars, so was it with the architectural works of these
sovereigns. Greater attention, indeed, was paid to the palace in Assyria
than in Babylonia; yet the inscriptions, as well as the ruins, of the
upper country attest that the erection and adornment of the temples of the
gods were matters of anxious and constant care on the part of the Assyrian
monarchs. Their accounts of the construction and dedication of temples for
their gods afford striking parallels to the Bible account of the building
of the temple at Jerusalem by King Solomon.
[Illustration: EMBLEM OF ASSHUR.]
Not less prominently manifested is the religious spirit of these kings in
what we may call their sacred literature, which is filled with prayers
singularly like those of the Old Testament.
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