Imatges de pÓgina
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scriptio.. The first is the collection of astronomical observations made during nineteen hundred successive years at Babylon, and transferred by Alexander to Greece. This series of observations, which goes back two thousand two hundred and thirty-four years beyond our vulgar era, decidedly proves that the Babylonians existed as an associated and incorporated people many ages before; for the arts are struck out and elaborated only in the slow course of time, and the indolenee natural to mankind permits thousands of years to roll away without their acquiring any other knowledge or talents than what are required for food, clothing, shelter, and mutual destruction. Let the truth of these remarks be judged of from the state of the Germans and the English in the time of Cæsar, from that of the Tartars at the present day, from that of twothirds of Africa, and from that of all the various nations found in the vast continent of America, excepting, in some respects, the kingdoms of Peru and Mexico, and the republic of Thlascala. Let it be recollected, that in the whole of the new world not a single individual could write or read.

The second monument is the central eclipse of the sun, calculated in China two thousand one hundred and fifty-five years before our vulgar era, and admitted by all our astronomers to have actually occurred. We must apply the same remark to the Chinese as to the people of Babylon. They had undoubtedly, long before this period, constituted a vast empire and social polity. But what places the Chinese above all the other nations of the world, is that neither their laws, nor manners, nor the language exclusively spoken by their men of learning, have experienced any change in the course of about four thousand years. Yet this nation and that of India, the most ancient of all that are now subsisting, those which possess the largest and most fertile tracts of territory, those which had invented nearly all the arts almost before we were in possession even of any

of them, have been always omitted, down to our time, in our pretended universal histories. And whenever a

Spaniard or a Frenchman enumerated the various nations of the globe, neither of them failed to represent his own country as the first monarchy on earth, and his king as the greatest sovereign, under the flattering hope, no doubt, that that greatest of sovereigns, after having read his book, would confer upon him a pension.

The third monument, but very inferior to the two others, is the Arundel Marbles. The chronicle of Athens was inscribed on these marbles two hundred and sixty-three years before our era, but it goes no farther back than the time of Cecrops, thirteen hundred and nineteen years beyond the time of its inscription. In the history of all antiquity, these are the only incontestable epochs that we possess.

Let us attend a little particularly to these marbles, which were brought from Greece by my lord Arundel. The chronicle contained in them commences fifteen hundred and seventy-seven years before our era. This, at the present time,* makes an antiquity of 3348 years, and in the course of that period you do not find a single miraculous or prodigious event on record. It is the same with the Olympiads. It must not be in reference to these that the expression can be applied of“ Grecia mendax,” lying Greece. The Greeks well knew how to distinguish history from fable, and real facts from the tales of Herodotus; just as in relation to important public affairs, their orators borrowed nothing from the discourses of the sophists or the imagery of the poets.

The date of the taking of Troy is specified in these marbles, but there is no mention made of Apollo's arrows, or the sacrifice of Iphigenia, or the ridiculous battles of the gods. The date of the inventions of Triptolemus and Ceres is given; but Ceres is not called goddess. Notice is taken of a poem upon the rape of Proserpine; but it is not said that she is the daughter of Jupiter and a goddess, and the wife of the god of hell.

Hercules is initiated in the Eleusinian mysteries,

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but not a single word is mentioned of the twelve labours, nor of his passage to Africa in his cup, nor of his divinity, nor of the great fish by which he was swallowed, and which, according to Lycophron, kept him in its belly three days and three nights.

Among us, on the contrary, a standard is brought by an angel from heaven to the monks of St. Dennis ; a pigeon brings a bottle of oil to the church of Rheims; two armies of serpents engage in pitched battle in Germany; an archbishop of Mayence is besieged and devoured by rats; and to complete and crown the whole, the year in which these adventures occurred is given with the most particular precision. The abbé Langlet, also condescending to compile, compiles these contemptible fooleries, while the almanacks, for the hundredth time, repeat them. In this manner are our youth instructed and enlightened; and all these trumpery fables are put in requisition even for the education of princes !

All history is comparatively recent. It is by no means astonishing to find, that we have, in fact, no profane history that goes back beyond about four thousand years. The cause of this is to be found in the revolutions of the globe, and the long and universal ignorance of the art which transmits events by writing. There are still many nations totally unacquainted with the practice of this art. It existed only in a small number of civilized states, and even in them was confined to comparatively few hands. Nothing was more rare among the French and Germans than knowing how to write: down to the fourteenth century of our vulgar era, scarcely any public acts were attested by witnesses. It was not till the reign of Charles VII. in France, in 1454, that an attempt was made to reduce to writing some of the customs of France. The art was still more uncommon among the Spaniards, and hence it arises that their history is so dry and doubtful till the time of Ferdinand and Isabella. ceive, from what has been said, with what facility the very small number of persons who possessed the art of writing might impose by means of it, and how easy

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it has been to produce a belief of the most enormous absurdities.

There have been nations who have subjugated a considerable part of the world, and who yet have not been acquainted with the use of characters. We know that Gengis-kran conquered a part of Asia in the beginning of the thirteenth century; but it is not from him, nor from the Tartars, that we have derived that knowledge. Their history, written by the Chinese, and translated by father Gaubil, states that these Tartars were, at that time, unacquainted with the art of writing.

This art was, unquestionably, not likely to be less unknown to the Scythian Ogus-kan, called by the Persians and Greeks Madies, who conquered a part of Europe and Asia long before the reign of Cyrus. It is almost a certainty, that at that time, out of a hundred nations, there were only two or three that employed characters. It is undoubtedly possible, that in an ancient world destroyed, mankind were acquainted with the art of writing and the other arts, but in our world they are all of recent date.

There remain monuments of another kind, which serve to prove merely the remote antiquity of certain nations, an antiquity preceding all known epochs, and all books: these are the prodigies of architecture, such as the pyramids and palaces of Egypt, which have resisted and wearied the power of time. Herodotus, who lived two thousand two hundred years ago, and who had seen them, was unable to learn from the Egyptian priests, at what periods these structures were raised.

It is difficult to ascribe to the oldest of the pyramids, an antiquity of less than four thousand years, and, it is necessary to consider, that those ostentatious piles, erected by monarchs, could not have been commenced till long after the establishment of cities. But, in order to build cities in a country every year inundated, it must always be recollected, that it would have been previously necessary in this land of slime and mud, to lay the foundation upon piles, that they might thus be inaccessible to the inundation ; it would have been necessary, even before taking this indispensable measure of precaution, and before the inhabitants could be in a state to engage in such important and even dangerous labours, that the people should have contrived retreats, during the swelling of the Nile, between the two chains of rocks which exist on the right and left banks of the river. It would have been necessary that these collected multitudes should have instruments of tillage, and of architecture, a knowledge of architecture and surveying, regular laws, and an active police. All these things require a space of time absolutely prodigious. We see, every day, by the long details which relate even to those of our undertakings, which are most necessary and most diminutive, how difficult it is to execute works of magnitude, and that they not only require unwearied perseverence, but many generations animated by the same spirit.

However, whether we admit that one or two of those immense masses were erected by Menes, or Thaut, or Cheops, or Rameses, we shall not, in consequence, have the slightest farther insight into the ancient history of Egypt. The language of that people is lost; and all we know in reference to the subject is, that before the most ancient historians existed, there existed materials for writing ancient history.

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SECTION II.

As we already possess, I had almost said, twenty thousand works, the greater number of them extend ing to many volumes on the subject, exclusively, of the history of France; and as, even a studious man, were he to live a hundred years, would find it impossible to read them, I think it a good thing to know where to stop. We are obliged to connect with the knowledge of our own country, the history of our neighbours. We are still less permitted to remain ignorant of the Greeks and Romans, and their laws which are become ours; but, if to this laborious study we should resolve to add that of more remote antiquity, we should resemble the man who deserted Tacitus and Livy to study seriously the Thousand and

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