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Title: The Martyrdom of Man
Author: Winwood Reade
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Language:  English
Date first posted: January 2008
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Title: The Martyrdom of Man
Author: Winwood Reade


Reade's full name was William Winwood Reade: on the Martrydom, and on
his last book, The Outcast, it stands as Winwood Reade, his literary
choice. A nephew of Charles Reade, he was born at Murrayfield, near
Crieff, on 26 December, 1838, and died at Wimbledon, on 24th April,
1875. (These are the dates of Mr. Legge, who seems, however, not to have
finally correlated them.) He published in 1859 Charlotte and Myra; in
1860 Liberty Hall Oxon (his college was Magdalen, then known as
Hertford); in 1860 The Veil of Isis, an attack on Catholicism. His first
visit to Africa was in 1862. In 1865 he published See-Saw; in 1868 he
again went to Africa, and in 1873 appeared his African Sketch Book,
which is in part an abridgment of his Savage Africa (1863). The
Martyrdom of Man was published in 1872. In 1873 he made his third trip
to Africa, as Times correspondent in the Ashanti War, which he saw
through, being the only civilian present at the taking of Coomassie; and
in 1874 appeared his Story of the Ashanti Campaign, embodying, with
criticism, his Times letters. In his last illness he wrote The Outcast
(1875) setting forth in fiction form the fate of persecution attaching
to the aggressive profession of "unbelief." Orthodox writers have
stressed the fact that, while he again professes his disbelief in
immortality, he does not profess to "know." The Outcast reached a third
edition in the year of its issue, but does not appear to have been since
reprinted until its publication by Watts & Co., in the Thinker's Library
series in 1933.


In 1862-3 I made a tour in Western Africa, and afterwards desired to
revisit that strange country with the view of opening up new ground and
of studying religion and morality among the natives. I was, however,
unable to bear a second time the great expenses of African travel, and
had almost given up the hope of becoming an explorer when I was
introduced by Mr. Bates, the well known Amazon traveller and Secretary
of the Royal Geographical Society, to one of its Associates, Mr. Andrew
Swanzy, who had long desired to do something in the cause of African
discovery. He placed unlimited means at my disposal, and left me free to
choose my own route. I travelled in Africa for two years (1868-70) and
made a journey which is mentioned in the test. The narrative of my
travels will be published in due course; I allude to them now in order
to show that I have had some personal experience of savages. I wish also
to take the first opportunity of thanking Mr. Swanzy for his assistance,
which was given not only in the most generous but also in the most
graceful manner.

With respect to the present work, I began it intending to prove that
"Negroland" or Inner Africa is not cut off from the main-stream of
events, as writers of philosophical history have always maintained, but
connected by means of Islam with the lands of the East; and also that it
has, by means of the slave-trade, powerfully influenced the moral
history of Europe and the political history of the United States. But I
was gradually led from writing the history of Africa into writing the
history of the world. I could not describe the Negroland of ancient
times without describing Egypt and Carthage. From Egypt I was drawn to
Asia and to Greece; from Carthage I was drawn to Rome. That is the first

Next, having to relate the progress of the Mohammedans in Central
Africa, it was necessary for me to explain the nature and origin of
Islam, but that religion cannot be understood without a previous study
of Christianity and of Judaism, and those religions cannot be understood
without a study of religion among savages. That is the second chapter.

Thirdly, I sketched the history of the slave-trade, which took me back
to the discoveries of the Portuguese, the glories of Venetian commerce,
the revival of the arts, the Dark Ages, and the invasion of the Germans.
Thus finding that my outline of universal history was almost complete, I
determined in the last chapter to give a brief summary of the whole,
filling up the parts omitted, and adding to it the materials of another
work suggested several years ago by The Origin of Species.

One of my reasons for revisiting Africa was to collect materials for
this work, which I had intended to call The Origin of Mind. However, Mr.
Darwin's Descent of Man has left little for me to say respecting the
birth and infancy of the faculties and affections. I therefore merely
follow in his footsteps, not from blind veneration for a great master,
but because I find that his conclusions are confirmed by the phenomena
of savage life.

On certain minor points I venture to dissent from Mr. Darwin's views, as
I shall show in my personal narrative, and there is probably much in
this work of which Mr. Darwin will disapprove. He must therefore not be
made responsible for all the opinions of his disciple.

I had intended to give my authorities in full with notes and
elucidations, but am prevented from doing so by want of space, this
volume being already larger than it should be. I wish therefore to
impress upon the reader that there is scarcely anything in this work
which I can claim as my own. I have taken not only facts and ideas, but
phrases and even paragraphs, from other writers. I cannot pay all my
debts in full, but I must at least do myself the pleasure of mentioning
those authors who have been my chief guides. On Egypt they are
Wilkinson, Herodotus (Rawlinson's edition), Bunsen; Ethiopia or
Abyssinia, Bruce, Baker, Lepsius; Carthage, Heeren (African Nations),
Niebuhr, ommsen; East Africa, Vincent (Periplus), Guillain, Hakluyt
Society's Publications; Moslem Africa (Central), Park, Caillie, Denham
and Clapperton, Lander, Barth, Ibn Batuta, Leo Africanus; Guinea and
South Africa, Azurara, Barros, Major, Hakluyt, Purchas, Livingstone;
Assyria, Sir H. Rawlinson, Layard; India, Max Muller, Weber; Persia,
Heeren (Asiatic Nations); Central Asia, Burnes, Wolff, Vambery; Arabia,
Niebuhr, Caussin de Perceval,

Sprenger, Deutsch, Muir, Burckhardt, Burton, Palgrave; Palestine, Dean
Stanley, Renan, Dollinger, Spinoza, Robinson, Neander; Greece, Grote, O.
Muller, Curtius, Heeren, Lewes, Taine, About, Becker (Charicles); Rome,
Gibbon, Macaulay, Becker (Gallus); Dark Ages, Hallam, Guizot, Robertson,
Prescott, Irving; Philosophy of History, Herder, Buckle Comte, Lecky,
Mill, Draper; Science, Darwin, Lyell, Herbert, Spencer, Huxley, Tyndall,
Chambers (Vestiges of Creation), Wallace, Tylor, and Lubbock. All of the
works of the above named authors deserve to be carefully read by the
students of universal history, and in them he will find references to
the original authorities, and to all writers of importance on the
various subjects treated of in this work.

As for my religious sentiments, they are expressed in opposition to the
advice and wishes of several literary friends, and of the publisher, who
have urged me to alter certain passages which they do not like, and
which they believe will provoke against me the anger of the public. Now,
as a literary workman I am thankful to be guided by the knowledge of
experts, and I bow to the decisions of the great public, for whom alone
I write, whom alone I care to please, and in whose broad unbiased
judgment I place implicit trust. But in the matter of religion I listen
to no remonstrance; I acknowledge no decision save that of the divine
monitor within me. My conscience is my adviser, my audience, and my
judge. It bade me write as I have written, without evasion, without
disguise; it bids me to go on as I have begun, whatever the result may
be. If therefore my religious opinions should be condemned, without a
single exception, by every reader of the book, it will not make me
regret having expressed them, and it will not prevent me from expressing
then again. It is my earnest and sincere conviction that those opinions
are not only true, but also that they tend to elevate and purify the
mind. One thing at all events I know--that it has done me good to write
this book, and therefore I do not think that it can injure those by whom
it will be read.



The land of Egypt is six hundred miles long, and is bounded by two
ranges of naked limestone hills which sometimes approach and sometimes
retire from each other, leaving between them an average breadth of seven
miles. On the north they widen and disappear, giving place to a marshy
meadow plain which extends to the Mediterranean coast. On the south they
are no longer of limestone, but of granite; they narrow to a point; they
close in till they almost touch; and through the mountain gate thus
formed the river Nile leaps with a roar into the valley, and runs north
towards the sea.

In the winter and spring it rolls a languid stream through a dry and
dusty plain. But in the summer an extraordinary thing happens. The river
grows troubled and swift; it turns red as blood, and then green; it
rises, it swells, till at length, overflowing its banks, it covers the
adjoining lands to the base of the hills on either side. The whole
valley becomes a lake from which the villages rise like islands, for
they are built on artificial mounds.

This catastrophe was welcomed by the Egyptians with religious gratitude
and noisy mirth. When their fields had entirely disappeared they thanked
the gods and kept their harvest-home. The tax gatherers measured the
water as if it were grain, and announced what the crops and the budget
of the next year would be. Gay barges with painted sails conveyed the
merry husbandmen from village to village and from fair to fair. It was
then that they had their boat tournaments, their wrestling matches,
their bouts at single-stick and other athletic sports. It was then that
the thimble-riggers and jack-puddings, blind harpers and nigger
minstrels from Central Africa, amused the holiday-hearted crowd. It was
then that the old people sat over draughts and dice-box in the cosy
shade, while the boys played at mora, or at pitch and toss, and the
girls at a game of ball, with forfeits for the one who missed a catch.
It was then that the house-father bought new dolls for the children,
and amulets or gold ear-rings or necklaces of porcelain bugles for the
wife. It was then that the market stalls abounded with joints of beef
and venison, and with geese hanging down in long rows, and with chickens
hatched by thousands under heaps of dung. Salted quails, smoked fish,
date sweetmeats, doura cakes, and cheese; leeks, garlic cucumbers, and
onions; lotus seeds mashed in milk, roasted stalks of papyrus, jars of
barley beer and palm wine, with many other kinds of food, were sold in
unusual plenty at that festive time.

It was then also that the white-robed priests, bearing the image of a
god and singing hymns, marched with solemn procession to the waterside,
and cast in a sacrifice of gold. For the water which had thus risen was
their life. Egypt is by nature a rainless desert which the Nile and the
Nile only, converts into a garden every year.

Far, far away in the distant regions of the south, in the deep heart of
Africa, lie two inland seas. These are the headwaters of the Nile; its
sources are in the sky. For the clouds, laden with waters collected out
of many seas, sail to the African equator, and there pour down a ten
months' rain. This ocean of falling water is received on a region
sloping towards the north, and is conveyed by a thousand channels to the
vast rocky cisterns which form the Speke and Baker Lakes. [Lakes
Victoria and Albert] They, filled and bursting, cast forth the Nile, and
drive it from them through a terrible and thirsty land. The hot air lies
on the stream and laps it as it flows. The parched soil swallows it with
open pores, but ton after ton of water is supplied from the gigantic
reservoirs behind, and so it is enabled to cross that vast desert which
spreads from the latitude of Lake Tchad to the borders of the
Mediterranean Sea.

The existence of the Nile is due to the Nyanza Lakes alone, but the
inundation of the river has a distinct and separate cause. In that
phenomenon the lakes are not concerned.

Between the Nile and the mouth of the Arabian Gulf are situated the
highlands of Abyssinia, rising many thousand feet above the level of the
sea, and intercepting the clouds of the Indian Ocean in their flight
towards the north. From these mountains, as soon as the rainy season has
set in, two great rivers come thundering down their dried-up beds, and
rush into the Nile. The main stream is now forced impetuously along; in
the Nubian desert its swelling waters are held in between walls of rock;
as soon as it reaches the low lying lands of Egypt it naturally

The Abyssinian tributaries do even more than this. The waters of the
White Nile are transparent and pure; but the Atbara and Blue Nile bring
down from their native land a black silt which the flood strews over the
whole valley as a kind of top-dressing or manure. On that rich and
unctuous mud, as soon as the waters have retired, the natives cast their
seed. Then their labours are completed; no changes of weather need
afterwards be feared; no anxious looks are turned towards the sky;
sunshine only is required to fulfil the crop, and in Egypt the sun is
never covered by a cloud.

Thus, were it not for the White Nile, the Abyssinian rivers would be
drunk up by the desert; and were it not for the Abyssinian rivers, the
White Nile would be a barren stream. The river is created by the rains
of the equator; the land by the tropical rains condensed in one spot by
the Abyssinian mountain pile.

In that fair Egyptian valley, fattened by a foreign soil, brightened by
eternal sunshine, watered by terrestrial rain, the natives were able to
obtain a year's food in return for a few days' toil, and so were
provided with that wealth of time which is essential for a nation's

A people can never rise from low estate as long as they are engrossed in
the painful struggle for daily bread. On the other hand, leisure alone
is not sufficient to effect the self-promotion of men. The savage of the
primeval forest burns down a few trees every year; his women raise an
easy crop from the ashes which mingle with the soil. He basks all day in
the sunshine, or prostrates himself in his canoe with his arms behind
his head and a fishing-line tied to his big toe. When the meat-hunger
comes upon him he takes up bow and arrow and goes for a few days into
the bush. His life is one long torpor, with spasms of activity. Century
follows century, but he does not change. Again, the shepherd tribes roam
from pasture to pasture; their flocks and herds yield them food and
dress and "houses of hair," as they call their tents. They have little
work to do; their time is almost entirely their own. They pass long
hours in slow conversation, in gazing at the heavens, in the sensuous,
passive oriental reverie. The intellectual capacities of such men are by
no means to be despised, as those who have lived among them are aware.
They are skilful interpreters of nature's language and of the human
heart; they compose beautiful poems; their religion is simple and
sublime; yet time passes on, and they do not advance. The Arab sheikh of
the present day lives precisely as Abraham did three thousand years ago;
the Tartars of Central Asia are the Scythians whom Herodotus described.

It is the first and indispensable condition of human progress that a
people shall be married to a single land; that they shall wander no more
from one region to another, but remain fixed and faithful to their soil.
Then, if the Earth-wife be fruitful, she will bear them children by
hundreds and by thousands; and then calamity will come and teach them by
torture to invent.

The Egyptians were islanders, cut off from the rest of the world by sand
and sea. They were rooted in their valley; they lived entirely upon its
fruits, and happily these fruits sometimes failed. Had they always been
able to obtain enough to eat, they would have remained always in the
semi-savage state.

It may appear strange that Egypt should have suffered from famine, for
there was no country in the ancient world where food was so abundant and
so cheap. Not only did the land produce enormous crops of corn; the
ditches and hollows which were filled by the overflowing Nile supplied a
harvest of wholesome and nourishing aquatic plants, and on the borders
of the desert thick groves of date-palms, which love a neutral soil,
embowered the villages, and formed live granaries of fruit.

But however plentiful food may be in any country, the population of that
country, as Malthus discovered, will outstrip it in the long run. If
food is unusually cheap, population will increase at an unusually rapid
rate, and there is not limit to its ratio of increase--no limit, that
is to say, except disease and death. On the other hand, there is a limit
to the amount of food that can be raised, for the basis of food is land,
and land is a fixed quantity. Unless some discovery is made by means of
which provisions may be manufactured with as much facility as children,
the whole earth will some day be placed in the same predicament as the
island in which we live, which has outgrown its food-producing power,
and is preserved from starvation only by means of foreign corn.

At the time we speak of, Egypt was irrigated by the Nile in a natural
and therefore imperfect manner. Certain tracts were overflooded; others
were left completely dry. The valley was filled with people to the brim.
When it was a good Nile, every ear of corn, every bunch of dates, every
papyrus stalk and lotus root was pre-engaged. There was no waste and no
surplus store. But sometimes a bad Nile came.

The bread of the people depended on the amount of inundation, and that
depended on the tropical rains, which vary more than is usually
supposed. If the rainfall in the Abyssinian highlands happened to be
slight, the river could not pay its full tribute of earth and water to
the valley below; and if the rainfall was unusually severe, houses were
swept away, cattle were drowned, and the water, instead of returning at
the usual time, became stagnant on the fields. In either case famine and
pestilence invariably ensued. The plenty of ordinary years, like a
baited trap, had produced a luxuriance of human life, and the massacre
was proportionally severe. Encompassed by the wilderness, the
unfortunate natives were unable to escape. They died in heaps; the
valley resembled a field of battle; each village became a charnel-house;
skeletons sat grinning at street corners, and the winds clattered among
dead men's bones. A few survivors lingered miserably through the year,
browsing on the thorny shrubs of the desert, and sharing with the
vultures their horrible repast.

"God made all men equal" is a fine sounding phrase, and has also done
good service in its day, but it is not a scientific fact. On the
contrary, there is nothing so certain as the natural inequality of men.
Those who outlive hardships and sufferings which fall on all alike owe
their existence to some superiority, not only of body but of mind. It
will easily be conceived that among such superior-minded men there would
be some who, stimulated by the memory of that which was past and by the
fear of that which might return, would strain to the utmost their
ingenuity to control and guide the fickle river which had hitherto
sported with their lives.

We shall not attempt to trace out their inventions step by step. Humble
in its beginnings, slow in its improvements, the art or science of
hydraulics was finally mastered by the Egyptians. They devised a system
of dikes, reservoirs, and lock-canals, by means of which the excessive
waters of a violent Nile were turned from the fields and stored up to
supply the wants of a dry year. Thus also the precious fluid was
conveyed to tracts of land lying above the level of the river, and was
distributed over the whole valley with such precision that each lot or
farm received a just and equal share. Next, as the inundation destroyed
all landmarks, surveying became a necessary art in order to settle the
disputes which broke out every year. And, as the rising of the waters
was more and more carefully observed, it was found that its beginning
coincided with certain aspects of the stars. This led to the study of
astronomy and the discovery of the solar year. Agriculture became a
mathematical art. It was ascertained that so many feet of water would
yield so many quarters of corn, and thus, before a single seed was sown,
they could count up the harvest as correctly as if it had been already
gathered in.

A natural consequence of all this was the separation of the inventor
class, who became at first the counsellors and afterwards the rulers of
the people. But while the men of mind were battling with the forces of
Nature, a contest of another kind was also going on. Those who dwell on
the rich banks of a river flowing through desert lands are always liable
to be attacked by the wandering shepherd hordes who resort to the
waterside in summer, when the wilderness pasture is dried up. There is
nothing such tribes desire better than to conquer the corn-growing
people of the river lands, and to make them pay a tribute of grain when
the crops are taken in. The Egyptians, as soon as they had won their
harvests from the flood, were obliged to defend them against the robbers
of the desert, and out of such wars arose a military caste. These allied
themselves with the intellectual caste, who were also priests, for among
the primitive nations religion and science were invariably combined. In
this manner the bravest and wisest of the Egyptians rose above the
vulgar crowd, and the nation was divided into two great classes, the
rulers and the ruled.

Then oppression continued the work which war and famine had begun. The
priests announced, and the armies executed, the divine decrees. The
people were reduced to servitude. The soldiers discovered the gold and
emerald mines of the adjoining hills, and filled their dark recesses
with chained slaves and savage overseers. They became invaders; they
explored distant lands with the spear. Communications with Syria and the
fragrant countries at the mouth of the Red Sea, first opened by means of
war, were continued by means of commerce. Foreign produce became an
element of Egyptian life. The privileged classes found it necessary to
be rich. Formerly the priests had merely salted the bodies of the dead;
now a fashionable corpse must be embalmed, at an expense of two hundred
and fifty pounds, with asphalt from the Dead Sea and spices from the
Somali groves; costly incense must be burnt on the altars of the gods;
aristocratic heads must recline on ivory stools; fine ladies must
glitter with gold ornaments and precious stones, and must be served by
waiting-maids and pages with woolly hair and velvety black skins. War
and agriculture were no longer sufficient to supply these patrician
wants. It was no longer sufficient that the people should feed on dates
and the coarse doura-bread, while the wheat which they raised was sold
by their masters for gewgaws and perfumes. Manufactures were
established; slaves laboured at a thousand looms; the linen goods of
Egypt became celebrated throughout the world. Laboratories were opened;
remarkable discoveries were made. The Egyptian priests distilled brandy
and sweet waters. They used the blow-pipe, and were far advanced in the
chemical processes of art. They fabricated glass mosaics, and
counterfeited precious stones and porcelain of exquisite transparency
and delicately blended hues. With the fruits of these inventions they
adorned their daily life, and attracted into Egypt the riches of other

Thus, when Nature selects a people to endow them with glory and with
wealth, her first proceeding is to massacre their bodies, her second to
debauch their minds. She begins with famine, pestilence and war; next,
force and rapacity above, chains and slavery below. She uses evil as the
raw material of good; though her aim is always noble, her earliest means
are base and cruel. But as soon as a certain point is reached she washes
her black and bloody hands, and uses agents of a higher kind. Having
converted the animal instinct of self-defence into the ravenous lust of
wealth and power, that also she transforms into ambition of a pure and
lofty kind. At first knowledge is sought only for the things which it
will buy--the daily bread indispensable to life, and those trinkets of
body and mind which vanity demands. Yet those low desires do not always
and entirely possess the human soul. Wisdom is like the heiress of the
novel who is at first courted only for her wealth, but whom the
fortune-hunter learns afterwards to love for herself alone.

At first sight there seems little in the arts and sciences of Egypt
which cannot be traced to the enlightened selfishness of the priestly
caste. For in the earlier times it was necessary for the priests to
labour unceasingly to preserve the power which they had usurped. It was
necessary to overawe not only the people who worked in the fields, but
their own dangerous allies, the military class; to make religion not
only mysterious but magnificent; not only to predict the precise hour of
the rising of the waters, or the eclipses of the moon, but also to adopt
and nurture the fine arts, to dazzle the public with temples, monuments,
and paintings. Above all, it was necessary to prepare a system of
government which should keep the labouring classes in subjection and yet
stimulate them to labour indefatigably for the state; which should strip
them of all the rewards of industry and yet keep that industry alive.
Expediency will therefore account for much that the Egyptian intellect
produced, but it certainly will not account for all. The invention of
hieroglyphics is alone sufficient to prove that higher motives were at
work than mere political calculation and the appetite of gold. For
writing was an invention which at no time could have added in a palpable
manner to the wealth or power of the upper classes, and which yet could
not have been finished to a system without a vast expenditure of time
and toil. It could not have been the work of a single man, but of
several men labouring in the same direction, and in its early beginnings
must have appeared as unpractical, as truly scientific to them, as the
study of solar chemistry and the observation of the double stars to us.
Besides, the intense and faithful labour which is conspicuous in all the
Egyptian works of art could only have been inspired by that enthusiasm
which belongs to noble minds.

We may fairly presume that Egypt once possessed its chivalry of the
intellect, its heroic age, and that the violent activity of thought
generated by the love of life and developed by the love of power was
raised to its full zenith by the passion for art and science, for the
beautiful and the true.

At first the Nile valley was divided into a number of independent
states, each possessing its own corporation of priests and soldiers, its
own laws and system of taxation, its own tutelary god and shrine, but
each a member of one body, united by the belief in one religion, and
assembling from time to time to worship the national gods in an
appointed place. There, according to general agreement ratified by
solemn oaths, all feuds were suspended, all weapons laid aside. There
also, under the shelter of the sanctuary, property was secure, and the
surplus commodities of the various districts could be conveniently
interchanged. In such a place, frequented by vast crowds of pilgrims and
traders, a great city would naturally arise, and such it seems probable
was the origin of Thebes.

But Egypt, which possesses a simple undivided form, and which is
nourished by one great arterial stream, appears destined to be
surmounted by a single head, and we perceive in the dim dawn of history
a revolution taking place, and Menes, the Egyptian Charlemagne, founding
an empire upon the ruins of local governments, and inspiring the various
tribes with the sentiment of nationality. Thebes remained the sacred
city, but a new capital, Memphis, was built at the other end of the
valley, not far from the spot where Cairo now stands.

By degrees the Egyptian empire assumed a consolidated form. A regular
constitution was established and a ritual prescribed. The classes were
organised in a more effective manner, and were not at first too strictly
fixed. All were at liberty to intermarry, excepting only the swineherds,
who were regarded as unclean. The system of government became masterly,
and the servitude of the people became complete. Designs of imperial
magnitude were accomplished, some of them gigantic but useless, mere
exploits of naked human strength, others structures of true grandeur and
utility. The valley was adorned with splendid monuments and temples;
colossal statues were erected, which rose above the houses like the
towers and spires of our cathedral towns. An army of labourers was
employed against the Nile. The course of the mighty stream was altered;
its waters were snatched from its bosom and stored up in Lake Moeris, an
artificial basin hollowed out of an extensive swamp, and thence were
conducted by a system of canals into the neighbouring desert, which they
changed to smiling fields. For the Sahara can always be revived. It is
barren only because it receives no rain.

The Empire consisted of three estates--the Monarch, the Army, and the
Church. There were in theory no limits to the power of the king. His
authority was derived directly from the gods. He was called "the Sun";
he was the head of the religion and the state; he was the supreme judge
and lawgiver; he commanded the army and led it to war. But in reality
his power was controlled and reduced to mere pageantry by a parliament
of priests. He was elected by the military class, but as soon as he was
crowned he was initiated into the mysteries and subjected to the severe
discipline of the holy order. No slave or hireling might approach his
person: the lords in waiting, with the state parasol and the
ostrich-feather fans, were princes of the blood; his other attendants
were invariably priests. The royal time was filled and measured by
routine: laws were laid down in the holy books for the order and nature
of the king's occupations. At daybreak he examined and dispatched his
correspondence; he then put on his robes and attended divine service in
the temple. Extracts were read from those holy books which contained the
sayings and actions of distinguished men, and these were followed by a
sermon from the High Priest. He extolled the virtues of the reigning
sovereign, but criticised severely the lives of those who had preceded
him--a post-mortem examination to which the king knew that he would be
subjected in his turn.

He was forbidden to commit any kind of excess: he was restricted to a
plain diet of veal and goose, and to a measured quantity of wine. The
laws hung over him day and night; they governed his public and private
action: they followed him even to the recesses of his chamber, and
appointed a set time for the embraces of his queen. He could not punish
a single person except in accordance with the code; the judges took oath
before the king that they would disobey the king if he ordered them to
do anything contrary to law. The ministry were responsible for the
actions of their master, and they guarded their own safety. They made it
impossible for him to forfeit that reverence and affection which the
ignorant and the religious always entertain for their anointed king. He
was adored as a god when living, and when he died he was mourned by the
whole nation as if each man had lost a well-beloved child. During
seventy-two days the temples were closed; lamentations filled the air;
and the people fasted, abstaining from flesh and wine, cooked food,
ointments, baths, and the company of their wives. The Army appears to
have been severely disciplined. To run twenty miles before breakfast was
part of the ordinary drill. The amusements of the soldiers were athletic
sports and martial games. Yet they were not merely fighting men. They
were also farmers. Each warrior received from the state twelve acres of
choice land; these gave him a solid interest in the prosperity of the
fatherland and in the maintenance of civil peace.

The most powerful of the three estates was undoubtedly the Church. In
the priesthood were included not only the ministers of religion, but
also the whole civil service and the liberal professions. Priests were
the royal chroniclers and keepers of the records, the engravers of
inscriptions, physicians of the sick and embalmers of the dead, lawyers
and lawgivers, sculptors and musicians. Most of the skilled labour of
the country was under their control. In their hands were the linen
manufactories and the quarries between the Cataracts. Even those posts
in the Army which required a knowledge of arithmetic and penmanship were
supplied by them: every general was attended by young priest scribes,
with papyrus rolls in their hands and reed pencils behind their ears.
The clergy preserved the monopoly of the arts which they had invented;
the whole intellectual life of Egypt was in them. It was they who, with
the nilometers, took the measure of the waters, and proclaimed good
harvests to the people or bade them prepare for hungry days. It was they
who studied the diseases of the country, compiled a pharmacopoeia, and
invented the signs which are used in our prescriptions at the present
day. It was they who judged the living and the dead, who enacted laws
which extended beyond the grave, who issued passports to paradise, or
condemned to eternal infamy the memories of men that were no more.

Their power was immense, but it was exercised with justice and
discretion: they issued admirable laws, and taught the people to obey
them by the example of their own humble, self-denying lives.

Under the tutelage of these pious and enlightened men, the Egyptians
became a prosperous and also a highly moral people. The monumental
paintings reveal their whole life, but we read in them no brutal or
licentious scenes. Their great rivals, the Assyrians, even at a later
period, were accustomed to impale and flay alive their prisoners of war.
The Egyptians granted honours to those who fought gallantly against
them. The penalty for the murder of a slave was death; this law exists
without parallel in the dark slavery annals both of ancient and of
modern times. The pardoning power in cases of capital offence was a
cherished prerogative of royalty with them as with us; and with them,
also as with us, when a pregnant woman was condemned to death the
execution was postponed until after the birth of the guiltless child. It
is a sure criterion of the civilisation of ancient Egypt that the
soldiers did not carry arms except on duty, and that the private
citizens did not carry them at all. Women were treated with much regard.
They were allowed to join their husbands in the sacrifices to the gods;
the bodies of man and wife were united in the tomb. When a party was
given the guests were received by the host and hostess seated side by
side in a large armchair. In the paintings their mutual affection is
portrayed. Their fond manners, their gestures of endearment, the
caresses which they lavish on their children, form sweet and touching
scenes of domestic life.

Crimes could not be compounded, as in so many other ancient lands, by
the payment of a fine. The man who witnessed a crime without attempting
to prevent it was punished as partaker. The civil laws were administered
in such a manner that the poor could have recourse to them as well as
the rich. The judges received large salaries that they might be placed
above the temptation of bribery, and might never disgrace the image of
Truth which they wore round their necks suspended on a golden chain.

But most powerful of all, to preserve the morality of the people by
giving a tangible force to public opinion, and by impeaching those sins
against society which no legal code can touch, was that sublime police
institution the "Trial of the Dead."

When the corpse had been brought back from the embalming house it was
encased in a sycamore coffin covered with flowers, placed in a sledge,
and drawn by oxen to the sacred lake. The hearse was followed by the
relations of the deceased, the men unshorn and casting dust upon their
heads, the women beating their breasts and singing mournful hymns. On
the banks of the lake sat forty-two judges in the shape of a crescent; a
great crowd was assembled; in the water floated a canoe, and within it
stood Charon the ferryman, awaiting the sentence of the chief judge. On
the other side of the lake lay a sandy plain, and beyond it a range of
long, low hills, in which might be discerned the black mouths of the
caverns of the dead.

It was in the power of any man to step forward and accuse the departed
before the body could be borne across. If the charge was held to be
proved, the body was denied burial in the consecrated ground, and the
crowd silently dispersed. If a verdict of not guilty was returned, the
accuser suffered the penalty of the crime alleged, and the ceremony took
its course. The relatives began to sing with praises the biography of
the deceased; they sang in what manner he had been brought up from a
child till he came to man's estate, how pious he had been towards the
gods, how righteous he had been towards men. And if this was true, if
the man's life had indeed been good, the crowd joined in chorus,
clapping their hands, and sang back in return that he would be received
into the glory of the just. Then the coffin was laid in the canoe, the
silent ferryman plied his oar, a priest read the service of the dead,
and the body was deposited in the cemetery caves. If he was a man of
rank he was laid in a chamber of his own, and the sacred artists painted
on the walls an illustrated catalogue of his possessions, the principal
occupations of his life, and scenes of the society in which he moved.
For the priests taught that, since life is short and death is long,
man's dwelling-house is but a lodging, and his eternal habitation is the
tomb. Thus the family vault of the Egyptian was his picture gallery, and
thus the manners and customs of this singular people have, like their
bodies, been preserved through long ages by means of religious art.

There are also still existing on the walls of the temples, and in the
grotto tombs, grand historical paintings which illuminate the terse
chronicles engraved upon the granite. Among these may be remarked one
subject in particular which appears to have been a favourite with the
artist and the public, for it again and again recurs. The Egyptians,
distinguished always by their smooth faces and shaven heads, are
pursuing an enemy with long beards and flowing robes, who are surrounded
by flocks and herds. The Egyptians here show no mercy; they appear alive
with fury and revenge. Sometimes the victor is depicted with a scornful
air, his foot placed upon the neck of a prostrate foe; sometimes he is
piercing the body through and through with a spear. Certain sandals have
also been discovered in which the figure of the same enemy is painted on
the inner sole, so that the foot trod upon the portrait when the sandal
was put on.

Those bearded men had inflicted on Egypt long years of dreadful disaster
and disgrace. They were the Bedouins of the Arabian peninsula, a
pastoral race who wandered eternally in a burning land, each tribe or
clan within an orbit of its own. When they met they fought, the women
uttering savage cries and cursing their husbands if they retreated from
the foe. Accustomed to struggle to the death for a handful of withered
grass or for a little muddy water at the bottom of a well, what a rich
harvest must Egypt have appeared to them! In order to obtain it they
were able to suspend all feuds, to take an oath of alliance, and to
unite into a single horde. They descended upon their prey and seized it
at the first swoop. There does not appear to have been even one great
battle, and this can be explained if, as is probable enough, the
Egyptians before that invasion had never seen a horse.

The Arab horse, or rather mare, lived in her master's tent and supped
from the calabash of milk, and lay down to sleep with the other members
of the family. She was the playmate of the children; on her the cruel,
the savage Bedouin lavished the one tender feeling of his heart. He
treasured up in his mind her pedigree as carefully as his own; he
composed songs in honour of his beloved steed--his friend, his
companion, his ally. He sang to her of the gazelles which they had
hunted down, and of the battles which they had fought together--for the
Arab horse was essentially a beast of war. When the signal was given for
the charge, when the rider, loudly yelling, couched his spear, she
snorted and panted and bounded in the air. With tail raised and
spreading to the wind, with neck beautifully arched, mane flapping, red
nostrils dilating, and eyes glaring, she rushed like an arrow into the
midst of the melee. Though covered with wounds, she would never turn
restive or try to escape, but if her master was compelled to take to
flight she would carry him till she dropped down dead.

It is quite possible that when the mounted army appeared in the river
plain the inhabitants were paralysed with fright, and believed them to
be fabulous animals, winged men. Be that as it may, the conquest was
speedy and complete; the imperial Memphis was taken, Egypt was enslaved,
and the king and his family and court were compelled to seek a new home
across the sandy seas.

On the south side of the Nubian desert was the land of Ethiopia, the
modern Sudan, which had been conquered by the Egyptians, and which they
used as an emporium in their caravan trade with Central Africa and the
shores of the Red Sea. But it could be reached only by means of a
journey which is not without danger at the present day, and which must
have been inexpressibly arduous at a time when the camel had not been

The Nile, it is true, flows through this desert, and joins Ethiopia to
Egypt with a silver chain. But from the time of its leaving the Sudan
until it reaches the black granite gate which marks the Egyptian
frontier, it is confined within a narrow, crooked, hollow way.
Navigation is impossible, for its bed is continually broken up by rocks
and the stream is walled in; it cannot overflow its banks. The reign of
the Sahara is uninterrupted, undisturbed. On all sides is the desert,
the brown, shining desert, the implacable waste. Above is a ball of fire
ascending and descending in a steel blue sky; below, a dry and scorching
sea which the wind ripples into gloomy waves. The air is a cloud which
rains fire, for it is dim with perpetual dust--each molecule a spark.
The eye is pained and dazzled; it can find no rest. The ear is startled;
it can find no sound. In the soft and yielding sand the footstep
perishes unheard; nothing murmurs, nothing rustles, nothing sings. This
silence is terrible, for it conveys the idea of death, and all know that
in the desert death is not far off. When the elements become active they
assume peculiar and portentous forms. If the wind blows hard a strange
storm arises; the atmosphere is pervaded by a dull and lurid glare;
pillars of sand spring up as if by magic, and whirl round and round in a
ghastly and fantastic dance. Then a mountain appearing on the horizon
spreads upward in the sky, and a darkness more dark than night falls
suddenly upon the earth. To those who gasp with swelled tongues and
blackened lips in the last agonies of thirst, the mirage, like a mocking
stream, exhibits lakes of transparent water and shady trees. But the
wells of this desert are scanty, and the waters found in them are salt.

The fugitives concealed the images of the gods, and taking with them the
sacred animals, embarked upon their voyage of suffering and woe. After
many weary days they again sighted land; they arrived on the shores of
Ethiopia, the country of the blacks. Once more their eyes were refreshed
with green pastures; once more they listened to the rustling of the
palms, and drank the sweet waters of the Nile. Yet soon they discovered
that it was not their own dear river, it was not their own beloved land.
In Egypt Nature was a gentle handmaid; here she was a cruel and
capricious queen. The sky flashed and bellowed against them;
the rain fell in torrents, and battered down the houses of the
Ethiopians--wretched huts like hay-ricks, round in body with a
cone-shaped roof, built of grass and mud. The lowlands changed beneath
the flood, not into meadows of flowers and fields of waving corn, but
into a pestilential morass. At the rising of the dog-star came a
terrible fly which drove even the wild beasts from the river banks and
destroyed all flocks and herds. At that evil season the Egyptian
colonists were forced to migrate to the forests of the interior, which
were filled with savage tribes. Here were the Troglodytes who lived
under ground. An ointment was their only dress; their language resembled
the hissing of serpents and the whistling of bats. Every month they
indulged in a carouse; every month they opened the veins of their sheep
and drank of the warm and gurgling blood as if it had been delicious
wine. They made merry when they buried their dead, and, roaring with
laughter, cast stones upon the corpse until it was concealed from view.
Here were the root-eaters, the twig-eaters and the seed-eaters, who
lived entirely on such wretched kinds of food. Here were the
elephant-eaters, who, sitting on the tops of trees like birds, watched
the roads, and when they had sighted a herd crept after it, and hovered
round it till the sleepy hour of noon arrived. Then they selected a
victim, stole up to it snake-like from behind, hamstrung the enormous
creature with a dexterous cut from a sharp sword, and as it lay helpless
on the ground feasted upon morsels of its live and palpitating flesh.
Here were the locust-eaters, whose harvest was a passing swarm, for they
lit a smoky fire underneath, which made the insects fall like withered
leaves; they roasted them, pounded them, and made them into cakes with
salt. The fish-eaters dwelt by the coral-line borders of the Red Sea;
they lived in wigwams thatched with seaweed, with ribs of whales for the
rafters and the walls. The richest men were those who possessed the
largest bones. There was no fresh water near the shore where they hunted
for their food. At stated times they went in herds like cattle to the
distant river-side, and singing to one another discordant songs, lay
flat on their bellies and drank till they were gorged.

Such was the land to which the Pharaohs were exiled. In the meantime the
Bedouins established a dynasty which ruled a considerable time, and is
known as that of the Hyksos or Shepherd Kings.

But those barbarians were not domiciled in Egypt. They could not breathe
inside houses, and could not understand how the walls remained upright.
The camp was their true fatherland. They lived aloof from the Egyptians;
they did not ally themselves with the country gods; they did not teach
the people whom they had conquered to regard them as the successors of
the Pharaohs. Their art of government began and ended with the
collection of a tax. The Shepherd Kings were associated in the minds of
the Egyptian fellahin, not with their ancient and revered religion, not
with the laws by which they were still governed under their local
chiefs, but only with the tribute of corn which was extorted from them
every harvest by the whip. The idea of revolution was always present in
their minds. Misfortune bestowed upon them the ferocious virtues of the
desert, while the vice of cities crept into the Bedouin camp. The
invaders became corrupted by luxurious indolence and sensual excess,
till at length a descendant of the Pharaohs raised an army in Ethiopia
and invaded Egypt. The uprising was general, and the Arabs were driven
back into their own harsh and meagre land.

The period which followed the Restoration is the most brilliant in
Egyptian history. The expulsion of the Bedouins excited an enthusiasm
which could not be contained within the narrow valley of the Nile. Egypt
became not only an independent but a conquering power. Her armies
overran Asia to the shores of the Euxine and of the Caspian Sea. Her
fleets swept over the Indian Ocean to the mud-stained shallows at the
Indus mouth. On the monuments we may read the proud annals of those
campaigns. We see the Egyptian army, with its companies of archers
shooting from the ear like the Englishmen of old; we see their squadrons
of light and heavy chariots of war, which skilfully skirmished or
heavily charged the dense masses of the foe; we see their remarkable
engines for besieging fortified towns, their scaling ladders, their
movable towers, and their shield-covered rams. We see the Pharaoh
returning in triumph, his car drawn by captive kings, and a long
procession of prisoners bearing the productions of their respective
lands. The nature and variety of those trophies sufficiently prove how
wide and distant the Egyptian conquests must have been, for among the
animals that figure in the triumph are the brown bear, the baboon, the
Indian elephant, and the giraffe. Among the prisoners are negroes of the
Sudan in aprons of bulls' hides, or in wild-beast skins with the tails
hanging down behind. They carry ebony, ivory, and gold; their chiefs are
adorned with leopard robes and ostrich feathers, as they are at the
present day. We see also men from some cold country of the North, with
blue eyes and yellow hair, wearing light dresses and long-fingered
gloves, while others clothed like Indians are bearing beautiful vases,
rich stuffs, and strings of precious stones.

When the kings came back from their campaigns, they built temples of the
yellow and rose-tinted sandstone, with obelisks of green granite and
long avenues of sphinxes, to commemorate their victories and immortalise
their names. They employed prisoners of war to erect these memorials of
war; it became the fashion to boast that a great structure had been
raised without a single Egyptian being doomed to work. By means of these
victories the servitude of the lower classes was mitigated for a time,
and the wealth of the upper classes was enormously increased. The
conquests it is true, were not permanent; they were merely raids on a
large scale. But in very ancient times, when seclusion and suspicion
formed the foreign policy of states, and when national intercourse was
scarcely known, invasion was often the pioneer of trade. The wealth of
Egypt was not derived from military spoil--which soon dissolves, however
large it may appear--but from the new markets opened for her linen

It is certain that the riches contained in the country were immense. The
house of an Egyptian gentleman was furnished in an elegant and costly
style. The cabinets, tables, and chairs were beautifully carved, and
were made entirely of foreign woods--of ebony from Ethiopia, of a kind
of mahogany from India, of deal from Syria, or of cedar from the heights
of Lebanon. The walls and ceilings were painted in gorgeous patterns
similar to those which are now woven into carpets. Every sitting room
was adorned with a vase of perfumes, a flower-stand, and an altar for
unburnt offerings. The house was usually one storey high, but the roof
was itself an apartment, sometimes covered, but always open at the
sides. There the house-master would ascent in the evening to breathe the
cool wind, and to watch the city waking into life when the heat was
past. The streets swarmed and hummed with men; the river was covered
with gilded gondolas gliding by. And when the sudden night had fallen,
lamps flashed and danced below; from the house-yards came sounds of
laughter and the tinkling of castanets; from the stream came the wailing
music of the boatmen and the soft splashing of the lazy oar.

The Egyptian grandee had also his villa or country house. Its large
walled garden was watered by a canal communicating with the Nile. One
side of the canal was laid out in a walk shaded by trees--the leafy
sycamore, the acacia with its yellow blossoms, and the doum or Theban
palm. In the centre of the garden was a vineyard, the branches being
trained over trellis-work so as to form a boudoir of green leaves, with
clusters of red grapes glowing like pictures on the walls. Beyond the
vineyard, at the further end of the garden, stood a summer house or
kiosk; in front of it a pond which was covered with the broad leaves and
blue flowers of the lotus, and in which waterfowl played. It was also
stocked with fish which the owner amused himself by spearing: or
sometimes he angled for them as he sat on his camp-stool. Adjoining this
garden were the stables and coach-houses, and a large park in which
gazelles were preserved for coursing. The Egyptian gentry were ardent
lovers of the chase. They killed wild ducks with throw-sticks, made use
of decoys, and trained cats to retrieve. They harpooned hippopotami in
the Nile; they went out hunting in the desert with lions trained like
dogs. They were enthusiastic pigeon fanciers, and had many different
breeds of dogs. Their social enjoyments were not unlike our own. Young
ladies in Egypt had no croquet, but the gentle sport of archery was
known among them. They had also boating parties on the Nile, and water
picnics beneath the shady foliage of the Egyptian bean. They gave
dinners, to which, as in all civilised countries, the fair sex were
invited. The guests arrived for the most part in palanquins, but the
young men of fashion drove up to the door in their cabs, and usually
arrived rather late. Each guest was received by a cluster of servants,
who took off his sandals, gave him water to wash his hands, anointed and
perfumed him, presented him with a bouquet, and offered him some raw
cabbage to increase his appetite for wine, a glass of which was taken
before dinner--the sherry and bitters of antiquity.

The gentlemen wore wigs and false beards, and their hands were loaded
with rings. The ladies wore their own hair plaited in a most elaborate
manner, the result of many hours between their little bronze mirrors and
the skilful fingers of their slaves. Their eyelashes were pencilled with
the antimonial powder, their finger-nails tinged with the henna's golden
juice--fashions older than the Pyramids which still govern the women of
the East.

The guests met in the dining-room, and grace was said before they sat
down. They were crowned with garlands of the lotus, the violet, and the
rose--the florists of Egypt were afterwards famous in Rome. A band of
musicians played during the repast on the harp, the lyre, the flute, and
the guitar. Some of the servants carried round glass decanters of wine
encircled with flowers, and various dishes upon trays. Others fanned the
porous earth-jars which contained the almond-flavoured water of the
Nile. Others burnt Arabian incense or flakes of sweet-scented wood to
perfume the air. Others changed the garlands of the guests as soon as
they began to fade. Between the courses dwarfs and deformed persons
skipped about before the company with marvellous antics and contortions;
jugglers and gymnasts exhibited many extraordinary feats; girls jumped
through hoops, tossed several balls into the air after the manner of the
East, and performed dances after the manner of the West. Strange as it
may appear, the pirouette was known to the Egyptians three thousand
years ago, and stranger still, their ballet-girls danced it in lighter
clothing than is worn by those who now grace the operatic boards. At the
beginning of the repast a mummy, richly painted and gilded, was carried
round by a servant, who showed it to each guest in turn and said, "Look
on this, drink and enjoy thyself, for such as it is now, so thou shalt
be when thou art dead." So solemn an injunction was not disregarded, and
the dinner often ended as might be expected from the manner in which it
was begun. The Hogarths of the period have painted the young dandy being
carried home by his footman without his wig, while the lady in her own
apartment is showing unmistakable signs of the same disorder.

But we must leave these pleasant strolls in the bypaths of history and
return to the broad and beaten road. The vast wealth and soft luxury of
the New Empire undermined its strength. It became apparent to the
Egyptians themselves that the nation was enervated and corrupt, a
swollen, pampered body from which all energy and vigour had for ever
fled. A certain Pharaoh commanded a curse to be inscribed in one of the
temples against the name of Menes, who had first seduced the Egyptians
from the wholesome simplicity of early times. Filled with a spirit of
prophecy, the king foresaw his country's ruin, which indeed was near at
hand, for though he himself was buried in peace, his son and successor
was compelled to hide in the marshes from a foreign foe.

To the same cause may be traced the ruin and the fall, not only of
Egypt, but of all the powers of the ancient world; of Nineveh and
Babylon and Persia; of the Macedonian kingdom and the Western Empire. As
soon as those nations became rich they began to decay. If this were the
fifth century, and we were writing history in the silent and melancholy
streets of Rome, we should probably propound a theory entirely false,
yet justified at that time by the universal experience of mankind. We
should declare that nations are mortal like the individuals of which
they are composed; that wealth is the poison, luxury the disease, which
shortens their existence and dooms them to an early death. We should
point to the gigantic ruins around--to that vast and mouldering body
from which the soul had fled--moralise about Lucullus and his thrushes,
recount the enormous sums that had been paid for a dress, a table or a
child, and assure our Gothic pupils that national life and health are
only to be preserved by contented poverty and simple fare.

But what has been the history of those barbarians? In the Dark Ages
there was no luxury in Europe. It was a miserable continent inhabited by
robbers, fetishmen, and slaves. Even the Italians of the eleventh
century wore clothes of unlined leather, and had no taste except for
horses and for shining arms, no pride except that of building strong
towers for their lairs. Man and wife grabbled for their supper from the
same plate, while a squalid boy stood by them with a torch to light
their greasy fingers to their mouths. Then the India trade was opened;
the New World was discovered; Europe became rich, luxurious, and
enlightened. The sunshine of wealth began first to beam upon the costs
of the Mediterranean Sea, and gradually spread towards the North. In the
England of Elizabeth it was declared from the pulpit that the
introduction of forks would demoralise the people and provoke divine
wrath. But in spite of sermons and sumptuary laws, Italian luxuries
continued to pour in, and national prosperity continued to increase. At
the present day the income of a nation affords a fair criterion of its
intellect and also of its strength. It may safely be asserted that the
art of war will soon be reduced to a simple question of expenditure and
credit, and that the largest purse will be the strongest arm. As for
luxury, a small tradesman at the present day is more luxurious than a
king in ancient times. It has been wisely and wittily remarked that
Augustus Caesar had neither glass panes to his windows nor a shirt to
his back, and the luxury of the Roman senators may without exaggeration
be compared with that of the West Indian creoles in the eighteenth
century. The gentleman and his lady glittered with jewels; the table and
sideboard blazed with plate; but the house itself was little better than
a barn, and the attendants a crowd of dirty, half-naked slaves who
jostled the guests as they performed the service of the table, and sat
down in the verandah over the remnants of the soup before they would
condescend to go to the kitchen for the fish.

In the modern world we find luxury the harbinger of progress, in the
ancient world the omen of decline. But how can this be? Nature does not
contradict herself; the laws which govern the movements of society are
as regular and unchangeable as those which govern the movements of the

Wealth is in reality as indispensable to mankind for purposes of growth
as water to the soil. It is not the fault of the water if its natural
circulation is interfered with, if certain portions of the land are
drowned while others are left completely dry. Wealth in all countries of
the ancient world was artificially confined to a certain class. More
than half the area of the Greek and Roman world was shut off by slavery
from the fertilising stream. This single fact is sufficient to explain
how that old civilisation, in some respects so splendid, was yet so
one-sided and incomplete.

But the civilisation of Egypt was less developed still, for that country
was enthralled by institutions from which Greece and Rome, happily for
them, were free.

It has been shown that the instinct for self-preservation, the struggle
for bare life against hostile nature, first aroused the mental activity
of the Egyptian priests, while the constant attacks of the desert tribes
developed the martial energies of the military men. Next, the ambition
of power produced an equally good effect. The priests invented, the
warriors campaigned; mines were opened, manufactories were founded; a
system of foreign commerce was established; sloth was abolished by whip
and chain; the lower classes were saddled, the upper classes were
spurred; the nation careered gallantly along. Finally, chivalrous
ardour, intellectual passion, inspired heart and brain; war was loved
for glory's sake; the philosopher sought only to discover, the artist to

And then there came a race of men who, like those that inherit great
estates, had no incentive to continue the work which had been so
splendidly begun. In one generation the genius of Egypt slumbered, in
the next it died. Its painters and sculptors were no longer possessed of
that fruitful faculty with which kindred spirits contemplate each
other's works; which not only takes, but gives; which produces from
whatever it receives; which embraces to wrestle, and wrestles to
embrace; which is sometimes sympathy, sometimes jealousy, sometimes
hatred, sometimes love, but which always causes the heart to flutter,
and the face to flush, and the mind to swell with the desire to rival
and surpass; which is sometimes as the emulative awe with which
Michaelangelo surveyed the dome that yet gladdens the eyes of those who
sit on the height of fair Fiesole, or who wander afar off in silver
Arno's vale; which is sometimes as that rapture of admiring wrath which
incited the genius of Byron when his great rival was pouring forth
masterpiece on masterpiece with invention more varied, though perhaps
less lofty, and with fancy more luxuriant even than his own.

The creative period passed away, and the critical age set in. Instead of
working, the artists were content to talk. Their admiration was sterile,
yet still it was discerning. But the next period was lower still. It was
that of blind worship and indiscriminating awe. The past became sacred,
and all that it had produced, good and bad, was reverenced alike. This
kind of idolatry invariably springs up in that interval of languor and
reaction which succeeds an epoch of production. In the mind-history of
every land there is a time when slavish imitation is inculcated as a
duty, and novelty regarded as a crime. But in Egypt the arts and
sciences were entangled with religion. The result will easily be
guessed. Egypt stood still, and theology turned her into stone.
Conventionality was admired, then enforced. The development of the mind
was arrested; it was forbidden to do any new thing.

In primitive times it is perhaps expedient that rational knowledge
should be united with religion. It is only by means of superstition that
a rude people can be induced to support, and a robber soldiery to
respect, an intellectual class. But after a certain time this alliance
must be ended, or harm will surely come. The boy must leave the
apartments of the women when he arrives at a certain age. Theology is an
excellent nurse, but a bad mistress for grown-up minds. The essence of
religion is inertia; the essence of science is change. It is the
function of the one to preserve, it is the function of the other to
improve. If, as in Egypt, they are firmly chained together, either
science will advance, in which case the religion will be altered, or the
religion will preserve its purity, and science will congeal.

The religious ideas of the Egyptians became associated with a certain
style. It was enacted that the human figure should be drawn always in
the same manner, with the same colours, contour, and proportions. Thus
the artist was degraded to an artisan, and originality was strangled in
its birth.

The physicians were compelled to prescribe for their patients according
to the rules set down in the standard works. If they adopted a treatment
of their own and the patient did not recover, they were put to death.
Thus even in desperate cases heroic remedies could not be tried, and
experiment, the first condition of discovery, was disallowed.

A censorship of literature was not required, for literature in the
proper sense of the term did not exist. Writing, it is true, was widely
spread. Cattle, clothes, and workmen's tools were marked with the
owners' names. The walls of the temples were covered and adorned with
that beautiful picture character, more like drawing than writing, which
cold delight the eyes of those who were unable to penetrate its sense.
Hieroglyphics may be found on everything in Egypt, from the colossal
statue to the amulet and gem. But the art was practised only by the
priests, as the painted history plainly declares. No books are to be
seen in the furniture of houses; no female is depicted in the act of
reading; the papyrus scroll and pencil never appear except in connection
with some official act.

The library at Thebes was much admired. It had a blue ceiling speckled
with golden stars. Allegorical pictures of a religious character and
portraits of the sacred animals were painted on the walls. Above the
door were inscribed these words, "The Balsam of the Soul." Yet this
magnificent building contained merely a collection of prayer books and
ancient hymns, some astronomical almanacs, some works on religious
philosophy, medicine, music, and geometry, and the historical archives,
which were probably little else than a register of the names of kings,
with the dates of certain inventions and a scanty outline of events.

Even these books, so few in number, were not open to all the members of
the learned class. They were the manuals of the various departments or
professions, and each profession stood apart; each profession was even
sub-divided within itself. In medicine and surgery there were no general
practitioners. There were oculists, aurists, dentists, doctors of the
head, doctors of the stomach, etc., and each was forbidden to invade the
territory of his colleagues. This specialist arrangement has been highly
praised, but it has nothing in common with that which has arisen in
modern times.

It is one of the first axioms of medical science that no one is
competent to treat the disease of a single organ unless he is competent
to treat the diseases of the whole frame. The folly of dividing the
diseases of such organs as the head and stomach, between which the most
intimate sympathy exists, is evident even to the unlearned. But the
whole structure is united by delicate white threads, and by innumerable
pipes of blood. It is scarcely possible for any complaint to influence
one part alone. The Egyptian, however, was marked off like a chess board
into little squares, and whenever the pain made a move a fresh doctor
had to be called in.

This arrangement was part of a system founded on an excellent principle,
but carried to absurd excess. It is needless to explain that division of
labour is highly potent in developing skill and economising time. It is
also clearly of advantage that in an early stage of society the son
should follow the occupation of the father. It is possible that
hereditary skill or tastes come into play; it is certain that
apprenticeship at home is more natural and more efficient than
apprenticeship abroad. The father will take more pains to teach, the boy
will take more pains to learn, than will be the case when master and
pupil are strangers to each other.

The founders of Egyptian civilisation were acquainted with these facts.
Hence they established customs which their successors petrified into
unchanging laws. They did it no doubt with the best of motives. They
adored the grand and noble wisdom of their fathers; whatever came from
them must be cherished and preserved. They must not presume to depart
from the guidance of those god-like men. They must paint as they
painted, physic as they physicked, pray as they prayed. The separation
of classes which they had made must be rendered rigid and eternal.

And so the arts and sciences were ordered to stand still, and society
was divided and sub-divided into functions and professions, trades and
crafts. Every man was doomed to follow the occupation of his father, to
marry within his own class, to die as he was born. Hope was torn out of
the human life. Egypt was no longer a nation, but an assemblage of
torpid castes isolated from one another and breeding in and in. It was
no longer a body animated by the same heart, fed by the same blood, but
an automaton neatly pieced together, of which the head was the
priesthood, the arms were the army, and the feet the working-class. In
quiescence it was a perfect image of the living form, but a touch came
from without, and the arms broke asunder at the joints and fell upon the

The colony founded in the Sudan by the exiled Pharaohs became after the
restoration an important province. When the new empire began to decline
a governor-general rebelled, and the kingdom of Ethiopia was
established. It was a medley dominion composed of brown men and black
men, shepherds and savages, half-caste Egyptians, Arabs, Berbers, and
negroes, ruled over by a king and a college of priests. It was enriched
by annual slave hunts into the Black Country, and by the caravan trade
in ivory, gold dust, and gum. It also received East India goods and
Arabian produce through its ports on the Red Sea. Meroe, its capital,
attained the reputation of a great city; it possessed its temples and
its pyramids like those of Egypt, but on a smaller scale. The Ethiopian
empire in its best days might have comprised the modern Egyptian
provinces of Kordofan and Sennaar, with the mountain kingdom of
Abyssinia as it existed under Theodore. Of all the classical countries
it was the most romantic and the most remote. It was situated, according
to the Greeks, on the extreme limits of the world; its inhabitants were
the most just of men, and Jupiter dined with them twice a year. They
bathed in the waters of a violet-scented spring which endowed them with
long life, noble bodies, and glossy skins. They chained their prisoners
with golden fetters; they had bows which none but themselves could bend.
It is at least certain that Ethiopia took its place among the powers of
the ancient world. It is mentioned in the Jewish records and in the
Assyrian cuneiform inscriptions.

So far had Egypt fallen that now it was conquered by its ancient
province. Sabaco of Ethiopia seized the throne and sat upon it many
years. But he was frightened by a dream; he believed that a misfortune
impended over him in Egypt. He abdicated in haste and fled back to his
native land.

His departure was followed by uproar and confusion, a complete
disruption of Egyptian society, usurpation, and civil war.

But why should this have been? Sabaco was an Egyptian by descent, though
his blood had been darkened on the female side. He had governed in the
Egyptian manner. He had abolished capital punishment, but in no other
way had altered the ancient laws. He had improved the public works. He
had taken the country rather as a native usurper than as a foreign foe.
His reign was merely a change of dynasty, and Egyptian history is
numbered by dynasties as English history is numbered by kings.

But indirectly the Ethiopian conquest had prepared a revolution. Between
the two services, the Army and the Church, there had existed a constant
and perhaps wholesome rivalry since the days of Menes, the first king.
It was a victory of the warrior class which established the regal power.
It was a victory of the priests which assigned to themselves the right
hand, to the officers the left hand, of the sovereign when seated on his
throne. It was an evident compromise between the two that the king
should be elected from the army, and that he should be ordained as soon
as he was crowned. During the brilliant campaigns of the Restoration the
military had been in power, but a long period of inaction had intervened
since then. The discipline of the soldiers was relaxed; their dignity
was lowered; they no longer tilled their own land--that was done by
foreign slaves. Their rivals possessed the affection and reverence of
the common people, while these soldiers, who had never seen a battle,
were detested as idle drones who lived upon what they had not earned.
Under the new dynasty their position became insecure. In Ethiopia there
was no military caste. The army of Sabaco had been levied from the
pastoral tribes on the outskirts of the desert, from the Abyssinian
mountaineers and the negroes of the river plain. The king of Ethiopia
was a priest, elected by his peers. He therefore regarded the soldier
aristocracy with no friendly eye. He did not formally invade their
prescriptive rights, but he must have disarmed them or in some way have
taken out their sting. For as soon as he was gone the priests were able
to form an alliance with the people, and to place one of their own caste
upon the throne. This king deprived the soldiers of their lands, and the
triumph of the hierarchy was complete.

But in such a country as Egypt Disestablishment is a dangerous thing.
During long centuries the people had been taught to associate innovation
with impiety. That venerable structure the Egyptian constitution had
been raised by no human hands. As the gods had appointed certain animals
to swim in the water, and others to fly in the air, and others to move
upon the earth, so they had decreed that one man should be a priest, and
that another should be a soldier, and that another should till the
ground. There are times when every man feels discontented with his lot.
But it is evident that if men were able to change their occupation
whenever they chose, there would be a continual passing to and fro.
Nobody would have patience to learn a trade; nobody would settle down in
life. In a short time the land would become a desert, and society would
be dissolved. To provide against this the gods had ordained that each
man should do his duty in that state of life into which he had been
called, and woe be to him that disobeys the gods! Their laws are eternal
and can never change. Their vengeance is speedy and can never fail.

Such, no doubt, was the teaching of the Egyptian Church, and now the
Church had shown it to be false. The revolution had been begun, and, as
usually happens, it could not be made to stop half way. As soon as the
first precedent was unloosed, down came the whole fabric with a crash.
The priest-king Sethos reigned in peace, but as soon as he died the
central government succumbed; the old local interests which had been
lying dormant for ages raised their heads; the empire broke up into
twelve states, each governed by a petty king.

We now approach the event which first brought Egypt into contact with
the European world. Psammiticus, one of the twelve princes, received as
his allotment the swampy district which adjoined the sea-coast and the
mouths of the Nile. His fortune, as we shall see, was made by this

The commerce of Egypt had hitherto been conducted entirely by means of
caravans. From Arabia Felix came a long train of camels laden with the
gums of that aromatic land, and with the more precious produce of
countries far beyond--with the pearls of the Persian Gulf and the
carpets of Babylon, the pepper and ginger of Malagar, the shawls of
Kashmir, the cinnamon of Ceylon, the fine muslins of Bengal, the
calicoes of Coromandel, the nutmegs and camphor and cloves of the Indian
Archipelago, and even silk and musk from the distant Chinese shores.
From Syria came other caravans with the balm of Gilead, so precious in
medicine, asphalt from the Dead Sea for embalming, cedar from Lebanon,
and enormous quantities of wine and olive oil in earthen jars. Meroe
contributed the spices of the Somali country, ebony, ivory, ostrich
feathers, slaves, and gold in twisted rings; the four latter products
were also imported direct from Darfour, and by another route which
connected Egypt through Fezzan with Carthage, Morocco, and the regions
beyond the desert in the neighbourhood of Timbuktu. In return, the
beautiful glass wares of the Egyptians and other artistic manufactures
were exported to Hindustan; the linen goods of Memphis were carried into
the very heart of Africa as Manchester goods are now; and then, as now,
a girdle of beads was the essential part of an African young lady's

On the side of the Mediterranean Egypt was a closed land, and this
Chinese policy had not been adopted from superstitious motives. The
first ships which sailed that sea were pirates who had kidnapped and
plundered the dwellers on the coast. The government had therefore in
self-defence placed a garrison at Rhacotis harbour, with orders to kill
or enslave any stranger who should land. When the Phoenicians from
pirates had become merchants they were allowed to trade with Egypt by
way of the land, and with this they were content. It was left for
another people to open up the trade by sea.

Ionia was the fairest province of Asiatic Greece. It lay opposite to
Athens, its motherland. The same soft blue waters, the same fragrant
breezes caressed their shores by turn. It was celebrated by the poets as
one of the gardens of the world. There the black soil granted a rich
harvest and the fruit hung heavily on the branches. It was the
birth-place of poetry, of history, of philosophy, and of art. It was
there that the Homeric poems were composed. It was there that men first
cast off the chains of authority and sought in Nature the materials of a

It was, however, as a seafaring and commercial people that the Ionians
first obtained renown. They served on board Phoenician vessels and
laboured in the dockyards of Tyre and Sidon until they learnt how to
build the "sea-horses" for themselves, and how to navigate by that small
but constant star which the Tyrians had discovered in the constellation
of the Little Bear. They took to the sea on their own account, and in
Egypt they found a good market. The wine and oil of Palestine, which the
Phoenicians imported, were expensive luxuries; the lower classes drank
only the fermented sap of the palm-tree and barley beer, and had only
castor oil, with which they rubbed their bodies, but with which, for
obvious reasons, they could not cook their food. The Ionians were able
to sell red wine and sweet oil at a much lower price, for in the first
place they had vineyards and olive groves of their own, and secondly
such bulky wares could be brought by sea more cheaply than by land.

The Greeks first appeared on the Egyptian coast as pirates clad in
bronze, next as smugglers, welcomed by the people, but in opposition to
the laws, and lastly as allies and honoured friends. They took advantage
of the confusion which followed the departure of Sabaco to push up the
Nile with thirty vessels, each of fifty oars, and established factories
upon its banks. They negotiated with Psammiticus, who ascertained that
their country produced not only oil but men. He ordered a cargo, and
transports arrived with troops. Europeans for the first time entered the
valley of the Nile. Their gallantry and discipline were irresistible,
and the empire of the Pharaohs was restored. But now commenced a new
regime. There succeeded to the throne a series of kings who were not
related to the ancient Pharaohs, who were not always men of noble birth,
who were not even good Egyptians. They were called Phil-Hellenes, or
Lovers of the Greeks. Of these Psammiticus was the founder and the
first. He moved Egypt towards the sea. He placed his capital near the
mouth of the river, that the Greek ships might anchor beneath its walls.
This new city of Sais, being distant from the quarries, was built of
bricks from the black mud of the Nile, but it was adorned with spoils
from the forsaken Memphis. Chapels, obelisks, and sphinxes were brought
down on rafts. There was also a kind of Renaissance under the new kings;
for a short time the arts again became alive. Psammiticus retained the
soldiers who had fought his battles, and sent children to the camp to be
taught Greek. Hence rose a class who acted as brokers, interpreters, and
ciceroni to the travellers who soon crowded into Egypt. The king
encouraged such visits, and gave safe-conducts to those who desired to
pass into the interior.

All this was a cause of deep offence to the people of the land. They
regarded their country as a temple, and all strangers as impure. And now
they saw men whose swords had been reddened with Egyptian blood
swaggering as conquerors through the streets, pointing with derision at
the sacred animals, eating things strangled and unclean. The warriors
were those who suffered most. As a caste they still survived, but all
their power and prestige were gone. In battle the foreigners were
assigned the post of honour--the right wing. In times of peace the
foreigners were the favourite regiments--the household troops, the
Guards. While the royals lived merrily at Sais crowned with garlands of
the papyrus, and revelling at banquets to the music of the flute, the
native troops were stationed on the hot and dismal frontiers of the
desert; year followed year, and they were not relieved. Such a state of
things was no longer to be borne. One king had robbed them of their
lands, and now another had robbed them of their honour. They were no
longer soldiers, they were slaves; they determined to leave the country
in which they were despised, and to seek a better fortune in the Sudan.
In number two hundred thousand, they gathered themselves together and
began their march.

They were soon overtaken by envoys from the king, who had no desire to
lose an army. The soldiers were entreated to return and not to desert
their fatherland. They cried out, beating their shields and shaking
their spears, that they would soon get another fatherland. Then the
messengers began to speak of their wives and little ones at home. Would
they leave them also, and go wifeless and childless to a savage land?
But one of the soldiers explained, with a coarse gesture, that they had
the means of producing families wherever they might go. This ended the
conference. Psammiticus pursued them with his Ionians, but could not
overtake them. In the wastes of Nubia there may yet be seen a colossal
statue, on the right leg of which is an inscription in Greek announcing
that it was there they gave up the chase. The Egyptian soldiers arrived
at Meroe in safety; the king presented them with a province which had
rebelled. They drove out the men, married the women, and did much to
civilise the native tribes. In the meantime Psammiticus and his
successors opened wider and wider the gloomy portals of the land. The
town of Naucratis was set apart, like Canton, for the foreign trade.
Nine independent Greek cities had their separate establishments within
that town, and their magistrates and consuls, who administered their
respective laws. The merchants met in the Hellenion, which was half
temple, half exchange, to transact their business and offer sacrifices
to the gods. Naucratis was in all respects a European town. There the
garlic-chewing sailors, when they came on shore, could enjoy a holiday
in the true Greek style. They could stroll in the market-place, where
the money-changers sat before their tables and the wine merchants ran
about with sample flasks under their arms, and where garlands of
flowers, strange-looking fish, and heaps of purple dates were set out
for sale. They could resort to the barbers' shops and gather the gossip
of the day, or to taverns where quail fighting was always going on. Nor
were the chief ornaments of sea-port society wanting to grace the scene.
No Egyptian girl, as Herodotus discovered, would kiss a Greek. But
certain benevolent and enterprising men had imported a number of Heterae
or "lady-friends," the most famous of whom was Rhodopis, "the
rosy-faced," with whom Sappho's brother fell in love, and whom the
poetess lampooned.

The foreign policy of Egypt was now completely changed. A long period of
seclusion had followed the conquests of the new empire. But the
battle-pieces of the ancient time still glowed upon the temple walls.
With their vivid colours and animated scenes they seemed to incite the
modern Pharaohs to heroic deeds. The throne was surrounded by warlike
and restless men. It was determined that Egypt should become a naval
power. For this, timber was indispensable, and the forests of Lebanon
must be seized. War was carried to the continent. Syria was reduced. A
garrison was planted on the banks of the Euphrates. A navy was erected
in the Mediterranean Sea, and the Tyrians were defeated in a great
sea-battle. The Suez Canal was opened for the first time, and an
exploring expedition circumnavigated Africa.

Yet, for all that and all that, the Egyptian people were not content.
The victories won by mercenary troops excited little patriotic pride,
and the least reverse occasioned the most gloomy forebodings, the most
serious discontent. The Egyptians indeed had good cause to be
alarmed--the Phil-Hellenes were playing at a dangerous game. Times had
changed since Sesostris overran Asia. A great power had arisen on the
banks of the Tigris; a greater power still on the banks of the
Euphrates. They had narrowly escaped Sennacherib when Nineveh was in its
glory, and now Babylon had arisen and Nebuchadnezzar had drawn the
sword. For a long time Chaldea and Egypt fought over Syria, their
battle-ground and their prey. At last came the decisive day of
Carchemish. The Phoenicians, the Syrians, and the Jews obtained new
masters; the Egyptians were driven out of Asia.

Yet even then the kings were not cured of their taste for war. An
expedition was sent against Cyrene, a Greek kingdom on the northern
coast of Africa. It was unsuccessful, and the sullen disaffection which
had so long smouldered burst forth into flame. The king was killed, and
Amasis, a man of the people, was placed upon the throne.

This monarch did not go to war, and he contrived to favour the Greeks
without offending the prejudices of his fellow-countrymen. He was,
however, a true Phil-Hellene; he encircled himself with a bodyguard of
Greeks; he married a princess of Cyrene; he gave a handsome subscription
to the fund for rebuilding the temple at Delphi; he extended the
commerce of Egypt and improved its manufactures. The liberal policy in
trade which he pursued had the most satisfactory results. Never had
Egypt been so rich as she was then. But she was defenceless; she had
lost her arms. It is probable that under Amasis she was a vassal of
Babylon, paying tribute every year; and now a time was coming when gold
could no longer purchase repose, when the horrified people would see
their temples stripped, their idols dashed to pieces, their sacred
animals murdered, their priests scourged, and the embalmed body of their
king snatched from its last resting-place and flung upon the flames.

A vast wilderness extends from the centre of Africa to the jungles of
Bengal. It consists of rugged mountain and of sandy wastes; it is
traversed by three river basins or valley plains.

In its centre is the basin of the Tigris and Euphrates. On its east is
the basin of the Indus; on its west is the basin of the Nile. Each of
these river systems is enclosed by deserts. The whole region may be
pictured to the mind as a broad yellow field with three green streaks
running north and south.

Egypt, Babylonia, and India proper, or the Punjab, are the primeval
countries of the ancient world. In these three desert-bound,
river-watered valleys we find, in the earliest dawn of history,
civilisation growing wild. Each in a similar manner had been fostered
and tortured by Nature into progress; in each existed a people skilled
in the management of land, acquainted with manufactures, and possessing
some knowledge of practical science and of art. The civilisation of
India was the youngest of the three, yet Egypt and Chaldea were
commercially its vassals and dependents. India offered for sale articles
not elsewhere to be found--the shining warts of the oyster; glass-like
stones dug up out of the bowels of the earth, or gathered in the beds of
dried-up brooks; linen which was plucked as a blossom from a tree, and
manufactured into cloth as white as snow; transparent fabrics, webs of
woven wind which when laid on the dewy grass melted from the eyes; above
all, those glistening, glossy threads stolen from the body of a
caterpillar, beautiful as the wings of the moth into which that
caterpillar is afterwards transformed.

Neither the Indians, the Chaldeans, nor the Egyptians were in the habit
of travelling beyond the confines of their own valleys. They resembled
islanders, and they had no ships. But the intermediate seas were
navigated by the wandering shepherd tribes, who sometimes pastured their
flocks by the waters of the Indus, sometimes by the waters of the Nile.
It was by their means that the trade between the river lands was carried
on. They possessed the camels and other beasts of burden requisite for
the transport of goods. Their numbers and their warlike habits, their
intimate acquaintance with the watering-places and seasons of the
desert, enabled them to carry the goods in safety through a dangerous
land, while the regular profits they derived from the trade, and the
oaths by which they were bound, induced them to act fairly to those by
whom they were employed. At a later period the Chinese, who were once a
great naval people, and who claim the discovery of the New World,
doubled Cape Comorin in their huge junks, and sailed up the western
coasts of India into the Persian Gulf, and along the coast of Arabia to
the mouth of the Red Sea. It as probably from them that the arts of
shipbuilding and navigation were acquired by the Arabs of Yemen and the
Indians of Guzerat, who then made it their business to supply Babylon
and Egypt and Eastern Africa with India goods. At a later period still
these India goods were carried by the Phoenicians to the coasts of
Europe, and acorn-eating savages were awakened to industry and ambition.
India, as a "land of desire," has contributed much to the development of
man. On the routes of the India caravan, as on the banks of navigable
rivers, arose great and wealthy cities, which perished when the route
was changed. Open the book of universal history at what period we may,
it is always the India trade which is the cause of internal industry and
foreign negotiation.

The intercourse between the Indians, Chaldeans, and Egyptians was often
interrupted by wars, which recurred like epidemics, and which like
epidemics closely resembled one another. The roving tribes of the sandy
deserts, the pastoral mountains, or the elevated steppe-plateaux pressed
by some mysterious impulse--a famine, an enemy in their rear, or the
ambition of a single man--swept down upon the plains of the Tigris and
Euphrates, and thence spread their conquests right and left. Sometimes
they merely encamped, and the natives recovered their independence. But
more frequently they adopted the manners of the conquered people, and
flung themselves into luxury with the same ardour which they had
displayed in war. This luxury was not based on refinement but on
sensuality, and it soon made them indolent and weak. Sooner or later
they suffered the fate which their fathers had inflicted, and a new race
of invaders poured over the empire, to be supplanted in their turn when
their time was come.

Invasions of this nature were on the whole beneficial to the human race.
The mingling of a young, powerful people with the wise but somewhat
weary nations of the plains produced an excellent effect. And since the
conquerors adopted the luxury of the conquered, they were obliged to
adopt the same measure for supplying the foreign goods--for luxury means
always something from abroad. As soon as the first shock was over the
trade routes were again opened, and perhaps extended, by the brand-new
energies of the barbarian kings.

Western Asia

Babylonia or Chaldea, the alluvial country which occupies the lower
course of the Euphrates, was undoubtedly the original abode of
civilisation in Western Asia. But it was on the banks of the Tigris that
the first great empire arose--the first at least of which we know. For
who can tell how many cities, undreamt of by historians, lie buried
beneath the Assyrian plains? And Nineveh itself may have been built from
some dead metropolis, as Babylon bricks were used in the building of
Baghdad. Recorded history is a thing of yesterday--the narrative of
modern man. There is, however, a science of history; by this we are
enabled to restore in faint outline the unwritten past, and by this we
are assured that whatever the names and number of the forgotten empires
may have been, they merely repeated one another. In describing the
empire of Nineveh we describe them all.

The Assyrian empire covered a great deal of ground. The kingdom of Troy
was one of its fiefs. Its rule was sometimes extended to the islands of
the Grecian sea. Babylon was its subject. It stretched far away into
Asia. But the conquered provinces were loosely governed, or rather no
attempt was made to govern them at all. Phoenicia was allowed to remain
a federation of republics. Israel, Judah, and Damascus were allowed to
continue their angry bickerings and petty wars. The relations between
the conquered rulers and their subjects were left untouched. Their laws,
their manners, and their religion were in no way changed. It was merely
required that the vassal kings or senates should acknowledge the Emperor
of Nineveh as their suzerain or lord, that they should send him a
certain tribute every year, and that they should furnish a certain
contingent of troops when he went to war.

As long as a vigorous and dreaded king sat upon the throne this simple
machinery worked well enough. Every year the tributes, with certain
forms of homage and with complimentary presents of curiosities and
artisans, were brought to the metropolis. But whenever an imperial
calamity of any kind occurred--an unsuccessful foreign war, the death or
even sickness of the reigning prince--the tributes were withheld. Then
the emperor set to work to subdue the provinces again. But this time the
conquered were treated not as enemies only but as traitors. The vassal
king and his advisers were tortured to death, the cities were razed to
the ground, and the rebels were transplanted by thousands to another
land--an effectual method of destroying their patriotism or religion of
the soil. The Syrian expeditions of Sennacherib were provoked by the
contumacy of Judah and of Israel. The kingdom of Israel was blotted out,
but a camp plague broke up the Assyrian army before Jerusalem, and not
long afterwards the empire crumbled away. All the vassal nations became
free, and for a short time Nineveh stood alone, naked but unattacked.
Then there was war in every direction, and when it was over the city was
a heap of charred ruins, and three great kingdoms took its place.

The first kingdom was that of the Medes, who had set the example of
rebellion, and by whom Nineveh had been destroyed. They inhabited the
highland regions bordering on the Tigris, Ecbatana was their capital.
They were renowned for their luxury, and especially for their robes of
flowing silk. Their priests were called Magi, and formed a separate
tribe or caste; they were dressed in white, lived only on vegetables,
slept on beds of leaves, worshipped the sun and the element of fire, as
symbols of the deity, and followed the precepts of Zoroaster. The empire
of the Medes was bounded on the west by the Tigris. They inherited the
Assyrian provinces in Central Asia, the boundaries of which are not
precisely known.

The civilisation of Nineveh had been derived from Babylon, a city famous
for its rings and gems, which were beautifully engraved, its carpets in
which the figures of fabulous animals were interwoven, its magnifying
glasses, its sun-dials, and its literature printed in cuneiform
characters on clay tablets, which were then baked in the oven. Many
hundreds of these have lately been deciphered, and are found to consist
chiefly of military dispatches, law papers, royal game-books,
observatory reports, agricultural treatises, and religious documents. In
the partition of Assyria Babylon obtained Mesopotamia, or "the Land
between the Rivers," and Syria, including Phoenicia and Palestine.
Nebuchadnezzar was the founder of the Empire; he routed the Egyptians,
he destroyed Jerusalem, transplanted the Jews on account of their
rebellion, and reduced Tyre after a memorable siege. He built a new
Babylon as Augustus built a new Rome, and the city became one of the
wonders of the world. It was a vast fortified district, five or six
times the area of London, interspersed with parks and gardens and
fields, and enclosed by walls on which six chariots could be driven side
by side. Its position in a flat country made it resemble in the distance
a mountain with trees waving at the top. These were the "hanging
gardens," a grove of large trees planted on the square surface of a
gigantic tower, and ingeniously watered from below. Nebuchadnezzar
erected this extraordinary structure to please his wife, who came from
the highlands of Media, and who, weary of the interminable plains,
coveted meadows on mountain tops such as her native land contained. The
Euphrates ran through the centre of the city, and was crossed by a stone
bridge which was a marvel for its time. But more wonderful still, there
was a kind of Thames Tunnel passing underneath the river, and connecting
palaces on either side. The city was united to its provinces by roads
and fortified posts; rafts inflated with skins, and reed boats pitched
over with bitumen, floated down the river with timber from the mountains
of Armenia and stones for the purposes of building. A canal large enough
for ships to ascend was dug from Babylon to the Persian Gulf, and on its
banks were innumerable machines for raising the water and spreading it
upon the soil.

The third kingdom was that of the Lydians, a people in manners and
appearance resembling the Greeks. They did not consider themselves
behind the rest of the world. They boasted that they had invented dice,
coin, and the art of shop-keeping, and also that the famous Etruscan
state was a colony of theirs. They inhabited Asia Minor, a sterile,
rugged tableland, but possessing a western coast enriched by nature and
covered with the prosperous cities of the Asiatic Greeks. Hitherto Ionia
had never been subdued, but the cities were too jealous of one another
to combine, and Croesus was able to conquer them one by one. This was
the man whose wealth is still celebrated in a proverb--he obtained his
gold from the washings of a sandy stream. Croesus admired the Greeks; he
was the first of the lion-hunters, and invited all the men of the day to
visit him at Sardis, where he had the pleasure of hearing Aesop tell
some of his own fables. He was anxious that his capital should form part
of the grand tour which had already become the fashion of the Greek
philosophers, and that they should be able to say when they returned
home that they had not only seen the pyramids of Egypt and the ruins of
Troy, but also the treasure-house of Croesus. When he received a visit
from one of these sages in cloak and beard he would show him his heaps
of gold and silver, and ask him whether, in all his travels, he had ever
seen a happier man--to which question he did not always receive a very
courteous reply.

After long wars, peace was established between the Babylonians, the
Lydians, and the Medes on a lasting and secure foundation. The royal
families were united by marriage; alliances, defensive and offensive,
were made and ratified on oath. Egypt was no longer able to invade, and
there was a period of delicious calm in that stormy Asiatic world,
broken only by the plaintive voices of the poor Jewish captives who sat
by the waters of Babylon and sang of the Holy City that was no more.

In the twinkling of an eye all this was changed. A band of hardy
mountaineers rushed out of the recesses of Persia and swept like a wind
across the plains. They were dressed in leather from top to toe; they
had never tasted fruit or wine; they had never seen a market; they knew
not how to buy or sell. They were taught only three things--to ride on
horseback, to hurl the javelin, and to speak the truth.

The Persians

All Asia was covered with blood and flames. The allied kingdoms fell at
once. India and Egypt were soon afterwards added to this empire, the
greatest that the world had ever seen. The Persians used to boast that
they ruled from the land of uninhabitable heat to the land of
uninhabitable cold; that their dominion began in regions where the sun
frizzled the hair and blackened the faces of the natives, and ended in a
land where the air was filled with snow like feathers and the earth was
hard as stone. The Persian empire was in reality bounded by the deserts
which divided Egypt from Ethiopia on the south and from Carthage on the
west; by the desert which divided the Punjab from Bengal; by the steppes
which lay on the other side of the Jaxartes; by the Mediterranean, the
Caspian, and the Black Sea.

Darius, the third emperor, invented a system of provincial government
which, though imperfect when viewed by the wisdom of modern times, was
far superior to any that had preceded it in Asia. He appointed satraps
or pashas to administer the conquered provinces. Each of these viceroys
received with his commission a map of his province engraved on brass. He
was at once the civil governor and commander of the troops, but his
power was checked and supervised by a secretary or clerk of the
accounts, and the province was visited by royal commissioners once a
year. The troops in each province were of two kinds; some garrisoned the
cities; others, for the most part cavalry, lived, like the Roman
legions, always in a camp; it was their office to keep down brigands,
and to convey the royal treasure from place to place. The troops were
subsisted by the conquered people; this formed part of the tribute, and
was collected at the point of the sword. There was also a fixed tax in
money and in kind, which was received by the clerk of the accounts and
dispatched to the capital every year. The Great King still preserved in
his habits something of the nomad chief. He wintered at Babylon, but in
the summer the heat was terrible in that region; the citizens retired to
their cellars, and the king went to Susa, which was situated on the
hills, or to Ecbatana, the ancient capital of the Medes, or to
Persepolis, the true hearth and home of the Persian race. When he
approached one of these cities the magi came forth to meet him, dressed
all in white and singing hymns. The road was strewn with myrtle boughs
and roses, and silver altars with blazing frankincense were placed by
the wayside.

His palaces were built of precious woods, but the naked wood was never
permitted to be seen: the walls were covered with golden plates, the
roof with silver tiles. The courts were adorned with white, green, and
blue hangings, fastened with cords of fine linen to pillars of marble by
silver rings. The gardens were filled with rare and exotic plants; from
the cold bosom of the snow-white stone fountains sprang upwards,
sparkling in the air; birds of gorgeous plumage flashed from tree to
tree, resembling flowers where they perched. And as the sun sank low in
the heavens and the shadows on the earth grew deep, the voice of the
nightingale was heard in the thicket, and the low cooing of the dove.
Sounds of laughter proceeded from the house; lattices were opened;
ponderous doors swung back, and out poured a troop of houris which a
Persian poet alone would venture to describe. For there might be seen
the fair Circassian, with cheeks like the apple in its rosy bloom; and
the Abyssinian damsel, with warm brown skin and voluptuous drowsy eyes;
the Hindu girl, with lithe and undulating form and fingers which seemed
created to caress; the Syrian, with aquiline and haughty look; the Greek
with features brightened by intellect and vivacity; and the home-born
beauty prepared expressly for the harem, with a complexion as white as
the milk on which she had been fed, and a face in form and expression
resembling the full moon.

All these dear charmers belonged to the king, and no doubt he often
wished half of them away. For if he felt a serious passion rising in his
breast, etiquette compelled him to put it down. Inconstancy was enjoined
on him by law. He was subjected to a rotation of kisses by the regulated
science of the harem. Ceremony interdicted affection and caprice. He
suffered from unvarying variety and the monotony of eternal change. The
whole empire belonged to him, and all its inhabitants were his slaves.
If he happened to be struck to the heart by a look cast from under a
pair of black-edged eyelids, if he became enamoured of a high-bosomed
virgin, with a form like the oriental willow, he had only to say the
word; she was at once taken to the apartments of the women, and her
parents received the congratulations of their friends. But then he was
not allowed to see his beloved for a twelve-month: six months she must
be prepared with the oil of myrrh, six months with the sweet odours,
before she was sufficiently purified and perfumed to receive the august
embraces of the king, and to soothe a passion which meanwhile had ample
time to cool.

The Great King slept on a splendid couch, overspread by a vine of
branching gold, with clusters of rubies representing grapes. He wore a
dress of purple and white, with scarlet trousers, a girdle like that of
a woman, and a high tiara encircled by a sky-blue turban. He lived in a
prison of rich metal and dazzling stone. Around him stood the courtiers
with their hands wrapped in their robes, and covering their mouths lest
he should be polluted by their base-born breath. Those who desired to
speak to his majesty prostrated themselves before him on the ground. If
any one entered uncalled, a hundred sabres gleamed in the air, and
unless the king stretched out his sceptre the intruder would be killed.

An army sat down to dinner in the palace every day, and every day a herd
of oxen was killed for them to eat. These were only the household
troops. But when the Great King went to war, the provinces sent in their
contingents, and then might be seen, as in some great exhibition, a
collection of warriors from the four quarters of the earth. Then might
be seen the Immortals, or Persian life-guards; their arms were of gold
and silver, their standards were of silk. Then might be seen the
heavy-armed Egyptian troops, with long wooden shields reaching to the
ground; the Greeks from Ionia, with crested helmets and breastplates of
bronze; the fur-clad Tartars of the steppes, who "raised hair" like the
Red Indians, a people probably belonging to the same race; the
Ethiopians of Africa, with fleecy locks, clad in the skins of lions and
armed with throw-sticks and with stakes, the points of which had been
hardened in the fire, or tipped with horn or stone; the Berbers in their
four-horse chariots; the camel cavalry of Arabia, each camel being
mounted by two archers sitting back to back, and thus prepared for the
enemy on either side; the wild horsemen of the Persian hills who caught
the enemy with their lassos; the black-skinned but straight-haired
aborigines of India, with their bows of the bamboo and their shields
made of the skins of cranes; and above all the Hindus, dressed in white
muslin and seated on the necks of elephants, which were clothed in
Indian steel and which looked like moving mountains with snakes for
hands. Towers were erected on their backs, in which sat bowmen, who
shot down the foe with unerring aim, while the elephants were taught to
charge, to trample down the opposing ranks in heaps, and to take up
armed men in their trunks and hand them to their riders. Sometimes huge
scythes were fastened to their trunks, and they mowed down regiments as
they marched along. The army was also attended by packs of enormous
blood-hounds to hunt the fugitives when a victory had been gained, and
by falcons which were trained to fly at the eyes of the enemy to baffle
them, or even blind them as they were fighting.

When this enormous army began to march it devoured the whole land over
which it passed. At night the camp-fires reddened the sky as if a great
city was in flames. In the morning, a little after daybreak, a trumpet
sounded, and the image of the sun, cased in crystal and made of
burnished gold, was raised on the top of the king's pavilion, which was
built of wood, covered with cashmere shawls, and supported on silver
poles. As soon as the ball caught the first rays of the rising sun the
march began. First went the chariot with the altar and the sacred fire,
drawn by eight milk-white horses driven by charioteers, who walked by
the side with golden wands. The chariot was followed by a horse of
extraordinary magnitude, which was called the "Charger of the Sun." The
king followed with the ten thousand Immortals, and with his wives in
covered carriages drawn by mules, or in cages upon camels. Then came the
army without order or precision, and there rose a dust which resembled a
white cloud, and which could be seen across the plain for miles. The
enemy, when this cloud drew near, could distinguish within it the
gleaming of brazen armour, and they could hear the sound of the lash,
which was always part of the military music of the Persians. When a
battle was fought, the king took his seat on a golden throne, surrounded
by his secretaries, who took notes during the engagement and recorded
every word which fell from the royal lips.

This army was frequently required by the Persians. They were a restless
people, always lusting after war. Vast as their empire was, it was not
large enough for them. The courtiers used to assure an enterprising
monarch that he was greater than all the kings that were dead, and
greater than those that were yet unborn; that it was his mission to
extend the Persian territory as far as God's heaven reached, in order
that the sun might shine on no land beyond their borders. Hyperbole
apart, it was the aim and desire of the kings to annex the plains of
Southern Russia, and so to make the Black Sea a lake in the interior of
Persia; and to conquer Greece, the only land in Europe which really
merited their arms. In both these attempts they completely failed. The
Russian Tartars, who had no fixed abode and whose houses were on wheels,
decoyed the Persian army far into the interior, eluded it in pursuit,
harassed and almost destroyed it in retreat. The Greeks defeated them in
pitched battles on Greek soil, and defeated their fleets in Greek

This contest, which lasted many years, to the Greeks was a matter of
life and death, but it was merely an episode in Persian history. The
defeats of Plataea and Salamis caused the Great King much annoyance, and
cost him a shred of land and sea. But they did not directly affect the
prosperity of his empire. What was the loss of a few thousand slaves,
and of a few hundred Phoenician and Egyptian and Ionian ships, to him?
Indirectly, indeed, it decided the fate of Persia by developing the
power of the Greeks, but ruined in any case that empire must have been,
like all others of its kind. The causes of its fall must be sought for
within and not without. In the natural course of events it would have
become the prey of some people like the Parthian highlanders or the
wandering Turks. The Greek wars had this result; the empire was
conquered at an earlier period than would otherwise have been the case,
and it was conquered by a European instead of an Asiatic power.

The Greeks

There is no problem in history so interesting as the unparalleled
development of Greece. How was it that so small a country could exert so
remarkable an influence on the course of events and on the intellectual
progress of mankind? The Greeks, as the science of language clearly
proves, belonged to the same race as the Persians themselves. Many
centuries before history begins a people migrated from the highlands of
Central Asia and overspread Europe on the one side, on the other side
Hindustan. Celts and Germans, Russians and Poles, Romans and Greeks,
Persians and Hindus, all sprang from the loins of a shepherd tribe
inhabiting the tableland of the sources of the Oxus and Jaxartes, and
are quite distinct from the Assyrians, the Arabs, and Phoenicians, whose
ancestors descended into the plains of Western Asia from the tableland
of the sources of the Tigris and Euphrates. It is also inferred from the
evidence of language that at some remote period the Egyptians belonged
to the same stock as the mountaineers of Armenia, the Chinese to the same
stock as the highlanders of Central Asia, and that at a period still
more remote the Turanian or Chinese Tartar, the Aryan or Indo-European,
and the Semitic races and languages were one. Upon this last point
philologists are not agreed, though the balance of authority is in
favour of the view expressed. But as regards the descent of the English
and Hindus from the same tribe of Asiatic mountaineers, that is now as
much a fact of history as the common descent of the English and the
Normans from the same race of pirates on the Baltic shores. The Celts
migrated first into Europe; they were followed by the Graeco-Italian
people, and then by the German-Slavonians, the Persians and Hindus
remaining longest in their primeval homes. The great difference between
the various breeds of the Indo-European race is partly due to their
intermixture with the natives of the countries which they colonised and
conquered. In India the Aryans found a black race which yet exist in the
hills and jungles of that country, and who yet speak languages of their
own which have nothing in common with the noble Sanskrit. Europe was
inhabited by a people of Tartar origin who still exist as the Basques of
the Pyrenees, and as the Finns and Lapps of Scandinavia. It is probable
that these people also were intruders of comparatively recent date, and
that a yet more primeval race existed on the gloomy banks of the Danube
and the Rhine, in huts built on stakes in the shallow waters of the
Swiss lakes, and in the mountain caverns of France and Spain. The
Aryans, who migrated into India, certainly intermarried with the blacks,
and there can be no reasonable doubt that the Celts who first migrated
into Europe took the wives as well as the lands of the natives. The
aborigines were therefore largely absorbed by the Celts, to the
detriment of that race, before the arrival of the Germans, whose blood
remained comparatively pure.

We may freely use the doctrine of intermarriage to explain the
difference in colour between the sepoy and his officer. We may apply
it--though with less confidence--to explain the difference in character
and aspect between the Irish and the English, but we do not think that
the doctrine will help us much towards expounding the genius of Greece.
And if the superiority of that people was not dependent in any way on
race distinction, inherent or acquired, it must have been in some way
connected with locality and other incidents of life.

A glance at the map is sufficient to explain how it was that Greece
became civilised before the other European lands. It is nearest to those
countries in which civilisation first arose. It is the borderland of
East and West. The western coast of Asia and the eastern coast of Greece
lie side by side; the sea between them is narrow, with the islands like
stepping-stones across a brook. On the other hand, a mountain wall
extends in the form of an arc from the Adriatic to the Black Sea and
shuts off Europe from Greece, which is thus compelled to grow towards
Asia as a tree grows towards the light. Its coasts are indented in a
peculiar manner by the sea. Deep bays and snug coves, forming hospitable
ports, abound. The character of the Aegean is mild and humane; its
atmosphere is clear and favourable for those who navigate by the eye
from island to island and from point to point. The purple shell-fish, so
much in request with the Phoenicians for their manufactures, was found
upon the coasts of Greece. A trade was opened up between the two lands,
and with trade there came arithmetic and letters to assist the trade,
and from these a desire on the part of the Greeks for more luxury and
more knowledge. All this was natural enough. But how was it that
whatever came into the hands of the Greeks was used merely as raw
material--that whatever they touched was transmuted into gold? How was
it that Asia was only their dame's school, and that they discovered the
higher branches of knowledge for themselves? How was it that they who
were taught by the Babylonians to divide the day into twelve hours
afterwards exalted astronomy to the rank of an exact science? How was it
that they who received from Egypt the canon of proportions and the first
ideas of the portraiture of the human form, afterwards soared into the
regions of the ideal, and created in marble a beauty more exquisite than
can be found on earth--a vision, as it were, of some unknown yet not
unimagined world?

The mountains of Greece are disposed in a peculiar manner, so as to
enclose extensive tracts of land which assume the appearance of large
basins or circular hollows, level as the ocean and consisting of rich
alluvial soil through which rise steep insulated rocks. The plain
subsisted a numerous population; the rock became the Acropolis or
citadel of the chief town, and the mountains were barriers against
invasion. Other districts were parcelled out by water in the same
manner; their frontiers were swift streaming rivers or estuaries of the
sea. Each of these cantons became an independent city-state, and the
natives of each canton became warmly attached to their fatherland.
Nature had given them ramparts which they knew how to use. They defended
with obstinacy the river and the pass; if those were forced the citadel
became a place of refuge and resistance, and if the worst came to the
worst they could escape to inaccessible mountain caves.

Each of these states possessed a constitution of its own, and each was
home-made and differed slightly from the rest. It may be imagined what a
variety of ideas must have risen in the process of their manufacture.
The laws were debated in a general assembly of the citizens; each
community within itself was full of intellectual activity.

Self-development and independence are too often accompanied by
isolation, and nations, like individuals, become torpid when they retire
from the world. But this was not the case with Greece. Though its people
were divided into separate states, they all spoke the same language and
worshipped the same gods, and there existed certain institutions which
at appointed times assembled them together as a nation.

Greece is a country which possesses the most extraordinary climate in
the world. Within two degrees of latitude it ranges from the beech to
the palm. In the morning the traveller may be shivering in a snow-storm,
and viewing a winter landscape of naked trees; in the afternoon he may
be sweltering beneath a tropical sun, with oleanders blooming around him
and oranges shining in the green foliage like balls of gold. From this
variety of climate resulted a variety of produce which stimulated the
natives to barter and exchange. A central spot was chosen as the
market-place, and it was made, for the common protection, a sanctuary of
Apollo. The people, when they met for the purposes of trade, performed
at the same time religious rites, and also amused themselves, in the rude
manner of the age, with boxing, wrestling, running races, and throwing
the spear; or they listened to the minstrels, who sang the ballads of
ancient times, and to the prophets or inspired politicians, who chanted
predictions in hexameters. That sanctuary became in time the famous
oracle of Delphi, and those sports expanded into the Olympian Games. To
the great fair came Greeks from all parts of the land, and when chariot
races were introduced it became necessary to make good roads from state
to state, and to build bridges across the streams. The administration of
the sanctuary, the laws and regulations of the games, and the management
of the public fund subscribed for the expenses of the fair, could only
be arranged by means of a national council composed of deputies from all
the states. This congress was called the Amphictyonic League, which,
soon extending its powers, enacted national laws, and as a supreme court
of arbitration decided all questions that arose between state and state.

At Olympia the inhabitants of the coast displayed the scarlet cloth and
the rich trinkets which they had obtained from Phoenician ships. At
Olympia those who had been kidnapped into slavery, and had afterwards
been ransomed by their friends at home, related to an eager crowd the
wonders which they had seen in the enchanted regions of the East.

And then throughout all Greece there was an inward stirring and a
hankering after the unknown, and a desire to achieve great deeds. It
began with the expedition of Jason--an exploring voyage to the Black
Sea; it culminated in the siege of Troy.

In such countries as the Grecian states, where the area is small, the
community flourishing, and the frontier inexorably defined, the law of
population operates with unusual force. The mountain walls of the Greek
cantons, like the deserts which surrounded Egypt, not only kept out the
enemy but also kept in the natives; they were not only fortresses but
prisons. In order to exist, the Greeks were obliged to cultivate every
inch of soil. But when this had been done the population still continued
to increase, and now the land could no longer be increased. In those
early days they had no manufactures, mines, or foreign commerce by means
of which they could supply themselves, as we do, with food from other
lands. In such an emergency the government, if it acts at all, has only
two methods to pursue. It must either strangle or bleed the population;
it must organise infanticide or emigration.

The first method was practised to some extent, but happily the last was
now within their power. The Trojan war had made them acquainted with the
Asiatic coast, and overcrowded states began to send forth colonies by
public act. The emigrants consisted chiefly, as may be supposed, of the
poor, the dangerous, and the discontented classes. They took with them
no women; they went forth, like the buccaneers, sword in hand. They
swooped down on the Ionian coast--there was at that time no power in
Asia Minor which was able to resist them. They obtained wives, sometimes
by force, sometimes by peaceable arrangement with the natives. In course
of time the coast of Asia Minor was lined with rich and flourishing
towns. The mother country continued to pour forth colonies, and colonies
also founded colonies. The Greeks sailed and settled in every direction.
They braved the dark mists and the inclement seasons of the Black Sea,
and took up their abode among a people whose faces were almost concealed
in furs, who dwelt at the mouths of great rivers and cultivated
boundless plains of wheat. This wheat the Greeks exported to the mother
country, with barrels of the salted tunny-fish, and the gold of Ural,
and even the rich products of the Oriental trade which were brought
across Asia from India or China by the waters of the Oxus to the Aral
Sea, from the Aral to the Caspian Sea by land, from the Caspian to
the Black Sea by the Volga and the Don.

But where Italy dipped her arched and lovely foot in the blue waters of
an untroubled sea, beneath the blue roof of an unclouded sky--where the
flowers never perished, where eternal summer smiled, where mere
existence was voluptuous and life itself a sensual joy--there the Greek
cities clustered richly together--cities shining with marble and built
in fairy forms, before them the deep tranquil harbour, behind them
violet valleys, myrtle groves, and green lakes of waving corn.

When a bank of emigrants went forth they took with them fire kindled on
the city hearth. Although each colony was independent, it regarded with
reverence the mother state, and all considered themselves with pride not
foreigners but Greeks; for Greece was not a country but a people;
wherever the Greek language was spoken, that was Greece.

They all spoke the same grand and harmonious language--although the
dialects might differ; they had the same bible, for Homer was in all
their hearts, and the memory of their youthful glory was associated in
their minds with the union of Greek warriors beneath the walls of Troy.
The chief colonial states were represented at the meetings of the
Amphictyonic League, and any Greek from the Crimea to Marseilles might
contend at the Olympian Games with the full rights of a Spartan or
Athenian, a privilege which the Great King could by no means have

The intense enthusiasm which was excited by the Olympian Games was the
chief cause of the remarkable development of Greece. The man who won the
olive garland on that celebrated course was famous for ever afterwards.
His statue was erected in the public hall at Delphi; he was received by
his native city with all the honours of a formal triumph; he was not
allowed to enter by the gates--a part of the city wall was beaten down.
The city itself became during five years the talk of Greece, and
wherever its people travelled they were welcomed with congratulations
and esteem.

The passion for praise is innate in the human mind. It is only natural
that throughout the whole Greek world a spirit of eager rivalry and
emulation should prevail. In every city was established a gymnasium
where crowds of young men exercised themselves naked. This institution
was originally intended for those only who were in training for the
Olympian Games, but afterwards it became a part of daily life, and the
Greeks went to the gymnasium with the same regularity as the Romans went
to the bath.

At first the national prizes were only for athletes, but at a later
period the principle of competition was extended to books and musical
compositions, paintings and statues. There was also a competition in
rich and elegant display. The carriages and retinues which were
exhibited upon the course excited a desire to obtain wealth, and gave a
useful impulse to foreign commerce, manufactures, and mining operations.

The Greek world was composed of municipal aristocracies--societies of
gentlemen living in towns, with their farms in the neighbourhood, and
having all their work done for them by slaves. They themselves had
nothing to do but to cultivate their bodies by exercise in the
gymnasium, and their minds by conversation in the market-place. They
lived out of doors while their wives remained shut up at home. In Greece
a lady could only enter society by adopting a mode of life which in
England usually facilitates her exit. The Greeks spent little money on
their wives, their houses, or their food: the rich men were expected to
give dramatic entertainments, and to contribute a company or a
man-of-war for the protection of the city. The market-place was the
Greek club. There the merchants talked their business--the labours of
the desk were then unknown. The philosopher instructed his pupils under
the shade of a plane-tree, or strolling up and down a garden path.
Mingling with the song of the cicada from the boughs might be heard the
chipping of the chisel from the workshop of the sculptor, and the
laughter and shouts from the gymnasium. And sometimes the tinkle of a
harp would be heard; a crowd would be collected, and a rhapsodist would
recite a scene from the Iliad, every word of which his audience knew by
heart, as an audience at Naples or Milan knows every bar of the opera
which is about to be performed. Sometimes a citizen would announce that
his guest, who had just arrived from the sea of Azov or the Pillars of
Hercules, would read a paper on the manners and customs of the
barbarians. It was in the city that the book was first read and the
statue exhibited--the rehearsal and the private view; it was in Olympia
that they were published to the nation. When the public murmured in
delight around a picture of Xeuxis or a statue of Praxiteles, when they
thundered in applause to an ode by Pindar or a lecture by Herodotus, how
many hundreds of young men must have gone home with burning brows and
throbbing hearts, devoured by the love of fame! And when we consider
that though the geographical Greece is a small country, the true
Greece--that is to say, the land inhabited by the Greeks--was in reality a
large country; when we consider with what an immense number of ideas
they must have been brought in contact on the shores of the Black Sea,
in Asia Minor, in Southern Italy, in Southern France, in Egypt, and in
Northern Africa; when we consider that, owing to those noble contests of
Olympia, city was every contending against city, and within the city man
against man, there is surely no longer anything mysterious in the
exceptional development of that people.

Education in Greece was not a monopoly; it was the precious privilege of
all the free. The business of religion was divided among three classes.
The priests were merely the sacrificers and guardians of the sanctuary;
they were elected, like the mayors of our towns, by their fellow
citizens for a limited time only, and without their being withdrawn from
the business of ordinary life. The poets revealed the nature, and
portrayed the character, and related the biography of the gods. The
philosophers undertook the education of the young, and were also the
teachers and preachers of morality. If a man wished to obtain the favour
of the gods, or to take divine advice, he went to a priest; if he
desired to turn his mind to another, though scarcely a better world, he
took up his Homer or his Hesiod; and if he suffered from sickness or
mental affliction he sent for a philosopher.

It will presently be shown that the philosophers invaded the territory
of the poets, who were defended by the government and by the mob, and
that a religious persecution was the result. But the fine arts were
free; and the custom which came into vogue of erecting statues to the
gods, to the victors of the games, and to other illustrious men favoured
the progress of sculpture, which was also aided by the manners of the
land. The gymnasium was a school of art. The eyes of the sculptor
revelled on the naked form--not purchased, as in London, at
eighteenpence an hour, but visible in marvellous perfection at all times
and in every pose. Thus ever present to the eye of the artist, it was
ever present to his brain, and flowed forth from his fingers in lovely
forms. As art was fed by nature, so nature was fed by art. The Greek
women placed statues of Apollo or Narcissus in their bedrooms, that they
might bear children as beautiful as those on whom they gazed. Such
children they prayed the gods to give them, for the Greeks loved beauty
to distraction, and regarded ugliness as sin. They had exhibitions of
beauty at which prizes were given by celebrated artists who were
appointed to the judgment-seat. There were towns in which the most
beautiful men were elected to the priesthood. There were connoisseurs
who formed companies of soldiers composed exclusively of comely young
men, and who could plead for the life of a beautiful youth amidst the
wrath and confusion of the battlefield.

The Persian wars gave a mighty impulse to the intellect of Greece.
Indeed, before that period Greek art had been uncouth; it was then that
the Age of Marble really began, and that Phidias moulded the ideas of
Homer into noble forms. It was then that Athens, having commanded the
Greeks in the War of Independence, retained the supremacy and became the
centre of the nation. Athens had died for Greece; it had been burnt by
the Persians to the ground, and from those glorious ashes arose the
Athens of history--the City of the Violet Crown. To Athens were summoned
the great artists: to Athens came every young man who had talent and
ambition: to Athens every Greek who could afford it sent his boys to
school. The Academy was planted with wide-spreading plane-trees and
olive groves, laid out in walks with fountains, and surrounded by a
wall. A theatre was built entirely of masts which had been taken from
the enemy. A splendid harbour was constructed--a harbour which was in
itself a town. All that fancy could create, all that money could
command, was lavished upon the city and its environs--the very
milestones on the roads were works of art.

The Persians assisted the growth of Greece, not only by those invasions
which had favoured the union, aroused the ardour, multiplied the
desires, and ennobled the ambition of the Greek people, but also by
their own conquests. Their failure in Europe and their success in Asia
were equally profitable to the Greeks. Trade and travel were much
facilitated by their extensive rule. A government postal service had
been established: royal couriers might by seen every day galloping at
full speed along the splendid roads which united the provinces of the
Punjab and Afghanistan and Bokhara on one side of the Euphrates, and of
Asia Minor, Syria and Egypt on the other side of that river, with the
imperial palaces at Babylon, Susa, Ecbatana, and Persepolis.
Caravanserais were fitted up for the reception of travellers in lonely
places where no other houses were to be found. Troops of mounted police
patrolled the roads. In desert tracts thousands of earthen jars, filled
with water and planted up to their necks in sand, supplied the want of
wells. The old system of national isolation and closed ports was
battered down. The Greeks were no longer forbidden to enter the
Phoenician ports, or compelled to trade exclusively at one Egyptian
town. Greek merchants were able to join in the caravan trade of Central
Asia, and to traffic on the shores of the Indian Ocean. Philosophers,
taking with them a venture of oil to pay expenses, could now visit the
learned countries of the East with more profit than had previously been
the case. Since that country was deprived of its independence, the
priests were inclined to encourage the cultivated curiosity of their new

Egypt from the earliest times had been the university of Greece. It had
been visited, according to tradition, by Orpheus and Homer: there Solon
had studied law-making, there the rules and principles of the
Pythagorean order had been obtained, there Thales had taken lessons in
geometry, there Democritus had laughed and Xenophanes had sneered. And
now every intellectual Greek made the voyage to that country; it was
regarded as a part of education, as a pilgrimage to the cradle-land of
their mythology. To us Egypt is a land of surpassing interest, but
nevertheless merely a charnel-house, a museum, a valley of ruins and dry
bones. The Greeks saw it alive. They saw with their own eyes the solemn
and absurd rites of the temple--the cat solemnly enthroned, the tame
crocodiles being fed, ibis mummies being packed up in red jars, scribes
carving the animal language upon the granite. They wandered in the mazes
of the Labyrinth: they gazed on the mighty Sphinx couched on the yellow
sands with a temple between its paws: they entered the great hall of
Carnac, filled with columns like a forest and paved with acres of solid
stone. In that country Herodotus resided several years and took notes on
his wooden tablets of everything that he saw, ascertained the existence
of the Niger, made inquiries about the sources of the Nile, collated the
traditions of the priests of Memphis with those of Thebes. To Egypt came
the divine Plato, and drank long and deeply of its ancient lore. The
house in which he lived at Heliopolis was afterwards shown to
travellers--it was one of the sights of Egypt in Strabo's day. There are
some who ascribe the whole civilisation of Greece, and the rapid growth
of Greek literature, to the free trade which existed between the two
lands. Greece imported all its paper from Egypt, and without paper there
would have been few books. The skins of animals were too rare, and their
preparation too expensive, to permit the growth of a literature for the

Gradually the Greeks become dispersed over the whole Asiatic world, and
such was the influence of their superiority that countries in which they
had no political power adopted much of their culture and their manners.
They surpassed the inhabitants of Asia as much in the arts of war as in
those of peace. They served as mercenaries in every land; wherever the
kettledrum was beaten they assembled in crowds.

It soon became evident to keen observers that the Greeks were destined
to inherit the Persian world. That vast empire was beginning to decay.
The character of the ruling people had completely changed. It is said
that the Lombards of the fourth generation were terrified when they
looked at the portraits of their savage ancestors who, with their hair
shaved behind and hanging down over their mouths in front, had issued
from the dark forests of Central Europe, and had streamed down from the
Alps upon the green Italian plains. The Persians soon ceased to be the
rude and simple mountaineers who had scratched their heads with wonder
at the sight of a silk dress, and who had been unable to understand the
object of changing one thing for another. It was remarked that no people
adopted more readily the customs of other nations. Whenever they heard
of a new luxury they made it their own. They soon became distinguished
for that exquisite and refined politeness which they retain at the
present day; their language cast off its guttural sounds and became
melodious to the ear. Time went on, and their old virtues entirely
departed. They made use of gloves and umbrellas when they walked out in
the sun; they no longer hunted except in battues, slaughtering without
danger or fatigue the lean, mangy creatures of the parks. They painted
their faces and pencilled their eyebrows and wore bracelets and collars,
and dined on a variety of entrees, tasting a little here and a little
there, drank deep, yawned half the day in their harems, and had valets
de chambre to help them out of bed. Their actions were like water, and
their words were like the wind. Once a Persian's right hand had been a
pledge which was never broken; now no one could rely on his most solemn

A country in which polygamy prevails can never enjoy a well-ordered
constitution. There is always an uncertainty about succession. The
kingdom does not descend by rule to the eldest son, but to the son of
the favourite wife; it is not determined beforehand by a national law,
constant and unchangeable, given forth from the throne and ratified by
the estates; it may be decided suddenly and at any moment in that hour
when men are weak and yielding, women sovereign and strong--when right
is often strangled by a fond embrace and reason kissed to sleep by rosy
lips. The fatal "Yes"! is uttered and cannot be revoked. The heir is
appointed and an injustice has been done. But the rival mother has yet a
hope--the appointed heir may die. Then the seraglio becomes a nursery of
treason; the harem administration is stirred by dark whispers; the
cabinet of women and eunuchs is cajoled and bribed. A crime is committed
and is revenged. The whole palace smells of blood. The king trembles on
his throne. He himself is never safe; he is always encircled by
soldiers; he never sleeps twice in the same place; his dinner is served
in sealed trays; a man stands at his left hand who tastes from the cup
before he dares to raise it to his lips.

The satrap form of government is far superior to that of vassal kings.
As long as the system of inspection is kept up there is no comparison
between the two. But if once the satrapies are allowed to become
hereditary there is no difference between the two. In the latter days of
the Persian empire the satraps were no longer supervised by royal
visitors and clerks of the accounts. Each of these viceroys had his
bodyguard of Persians and his army of mercenary Greeks. Sometimes they
fought against each other; sometimes they even contested for the throne.
As for the subject nations, they were by no means idle; revolts broke
out in all directions. Egypt enjoyed a long interlude of independence,
though afterwards she was again reduced to servitude. The Indians appear
to have shaken themselves free, and to have attained the position of
allies. Many provinces still recognised the emperor as their suzerain
and lord, but did not pay him any tribute. When he travelled from Susa
to Persepolis he had to go through a rocky pass where he paid a toll.
The king of Persia could not enter Persia proper without buying the
permission of a little shepherd tribe.

A remarkable event now occurred. A pretender to the throne hired a Greek
army, led it to Babylon, and defeated the Great King at the gates of his
palace. The empire was won, but the pretender had fallen in the battle;
his Persian adherents went over to the other side; the Greeks were left
without a commander and without a cause. They were in the heart of Asia,
cut off from their home by swift streaming rivers and burning plains of
sand. They were only ten thousand strong, yet in spite of their
desperate condition they cut their way back to the sea. That glorious
victory, that still more glorious retreat, exposed the true state of
affairs to public view, and it became known all over Greece that the
Persian empire could be overcome.

But Greece unhappily was subject to vices and abuses of its own, and was
not in a position to take advantage of the weakness of its neighbour.

The intellectual achievements of the Greeks have been magnificently
praised. And when we consider what the world was when they found it, and
what it was when they left it, when we review their productions in
connection with the time and the circumstances under which they were
composed, we are forced to acknowledge that it would be difficult to
exaggerate their excellence. But the splendour of their just renown must
not blind us to their moral defects, and to their exceeding narrowness
as politicians.

In the arts and letters they were one nation, and their jealousy of one
another only served to stimulate their inventiveness and industry. But
in politics this envious spirit had a very different effect; it divided
them, it weakened them; the Ionian cities were enslaved again and again
because they could not combine. And one reason of their not being able
to combine was this: they never trusted one another. It was their
inveterate dishonesty, their want of faith, their disregards for the
sanctity of oaths, their hankering after money, which had much to do
with their disunion even in the face of danger. There are some who
desire to persuade us that the Greeks whom the Romans described were
entirely a different race from the Greeks of the Persian wars. But an
unprejudiced study of original authorities gives no support to such a
theory. From the pirates to the orators, from the heroic and treacherous
Ulysses to the patriotic and venal Demosthenes, we find almost all their
best men tainted with the same disease. Polybius complains that the
Greek statesmen would never keep their hands out of the till. In
Xenophon's Retreat of the Ten Thousand a little banter is exchanged
between a Spartan and an Athenian which illustrates the state of public
opinion in Greece. They have come to a country where it is necessary to
rob the natives in order to provide themselves with food. The Athenian
says that, as the Spartans are taught to steal, now is the time for them
to show that they have profited by their education. The Spartan replies
that the Athenians will no doubt be able to do their share, as the
Athenians appoint their best men to govern the state, and their best men
are invariably thieves. The same kind of pleasantry, no doubt, goes on
in Greece at the present day; to rob a foreigner in the mountains, or to
filch the money from the public chest, are looked upon in that country
as "little affairs" which are not disgraceful so long as they are not
found out. But the modern Greeks are degenerate in every way. The
ancient Greeks surpassed them not only in sculpture and in metaphysics
but also in duplicity. With their fine phrases and rhetorical
expressions, they have even swindled history, and obtained a vast amount
of admiration under false pretences.

The narrowness of the Greeks was not less strongly marked. When Athens
obtained the supremacy a wise and just policy might have formed the
Greeks into a nation. But Pericles had no sympathies beyond the city
walls: he was a good Athenian but a bad Greek. He removed the federal
treasury from Delphi to Athens, where it was speedily emptied on the
public works. Since Athens had now become the university and capital of
Greece, it appears not unjust that it should have been beautiful at the
expense of Greece. But it must be remembered that the Athenians
considered themselves the only pure Greeks, and no Athenian was allowed
to marry a Greek who was not also an Athenian. Heavy taxes were laid on
the allies, and were not spent entirely on works of art. Besides the
money that was purloined by government officials, large sums were
distributed among the citizens of Athens as payment for attending the
law courts, the parliament, and the theatre. It was also ordered that
all cases of importance would be tried at Athens, and judicial decisions
then as now were looked upon at Athens as saleable articles belonging to
the court. The Greeks soon discovered that the Athenians were harder
masters than the Persians. They began to envy the fate of the Ionian
cities, whose municipal rights were undisturbed. They rose up against
their tyrant; long wars ensued; and finally the ships of Athens were
burnt and its walls beaten down to the music of flutes. Then Sparta
became supreme, also tyrannised, and also fell; and then Thebes followed
its example, till at last all the states of Greece were so exhausted
that the ambition of supremacy died away, and each city cared only for
its own life.

The jealousy and distrust which prevented the union of the Greeks, and
the constant wars in which they were engaged, sufficiently explain how
it was that they did not conquer Persian, and by this time Persia had
discovered how to conquer them. When Xerxes was on his famous march he
was told by a Greek that if he chose to bribe the orators of Greece he
could do with that country what he pleased, but that he would never
conquer it by force. This method of making war was now adopted by the
king. When Agesilaus the Spartan had already begun the conquest of the
Persian empire, ten thousand golden coins marked with the effigy of a
bowman were sent to the demagogues of Athens, Corinth, and Thebes. Those
cities at once made war upon Sparta, and Agesilaus was recalled--driven
out of Asia, as he used to say, by ten thousand of the king's archers.
In this manner the Greek orators, who were often very eloquent men but
who never refused a bribe, kept their country continually at war, till
at last it was in such an enfeebled state that the Persian had no longer
anything to fear, and even used his influence in making peace. The land
which might have been the mistress of the East passed under the
protection of an empire in its decay.

It was now that a new power sprang into life. Macedonia was a hilly
country on the northern boundaries of Greece; a Greek colony having
settled there in ancient times, the reigning house and the language of
the courts were Hellenic; the mass of the people were barbarians. It was
an old head placed on young shoulders--the intellect of the Greek united
with the strength and sinews of wild and courageous mountaineers.

The celebrated Philip, when a young man, had passed some time in Greece;
he had seen what could be done with money in that country; he
conjectured what might be done if the money were sustained by arms. When
he became king of Macedon, he made himself president of the Greek
confederation, obtaining by force and skilful address, by bribery and
intrigue, the position which Athens and Sparta had once possessed. He
was preparing to conquer Persia and to avenge the ancient wrongs of
Greece when he was murdered, and Alexander, like Frederick the Great,
inherited an army disciplined to perfection and the great design for
which that army had been prepared.

Alexander reduced and garrisoned the rebellious Greeks, passed over into
Asia Minor, defeated a Persian army at the Granicus, marched along the
Ionian coast, and crossed over the snowy range of Taurus, which the
Persians neglected to defend. He heard that the Great King was behind
him with his army entangled in the mountains. He went back, won the
battle of Issus, and took prisoner the mother and wife and daughter of
Darius. He passed into Syria and laid siege to Tyre, the Cherbourg of
the Persians, and took it after several months; this gave him possession
of the Mediterranean Sea. He passed down the Syrian coast, crossed the
desert--a three days' journey--which separates Palestine from Egypt,
received the submission of that satrapy and made arrangements for its
administration, visited the oracle of Jupiter Ammon in The Sahara, and
returned to Tyre. Thence making a long detour to avoid the sandy deserts
of Arabia, he entered the plains of Mesopotami, inhabited only by the
ostrich and the wild ass, and marched towards the ruins of Nineveh, near
which he fought his third and last great battle with the Persians. He
proceeded to Babylon, which at once opened its vast gates. He restored
the Chaldean priesthood and the old idolatry of Belus. He took Susa,
Ecbatana, and Persepolis, the other three palatial cities, reducing the
highlanders who had so long levied blackmail on the Persian monarchs.
He pursued Darius to the moist, forest-covered shores of the Caspian
Sea, and inflicted a terrible death on the assassins of that ill-fated
king. The Persian histories relate that Alexander discovered Darius
apparently dead upon the ground. He alighted from his horse; he raised
his enemy's head upon his knees; he shed tears and kissed the expiring
monarch who opened his eyes and said, "The world has a thousand doors
through which its tenants continually enter and pass away." "I swear to
you," cried Alexander, "I never wished a day like this. I desired not
to see your royal head in the dust, nor that blood should stain these
cheeks." The legend is a fiction, but it illustrates the character of
Alexander. Such legends are not related of Genghis Khan or of Tamerlane
by the people whom they conquered.

Alexander now marched by way of Mushed, Herat, and the reedy shores of
Lake Zurrah to Kandahar and Kabul. He entered that delightful land in
which the magpies fluttering from tree to tree, and the white daisies
shining in the meadow grass, reminded the soldiers of their home.
Turning again towards the north, he climbed over the lofty back of the
Hindu Kush, where the people are kept inside their houses half the year
by snow, and descended into the province of Bactria, a land of low,
waving hills, destitute of trees and covered only with a dry kind of
grass. But as he passed on, crossing the muddy waters of the Oxus, he
arrived at the oases of Bokhara and Samarkand, regions of garden-land
with smiling orchards of fruit trees and poplars rustling their silvery
leaves. Finally he reached the banks of the Jaxartes, the frontier of
the Persian empire. Beyond that river was an ocean of salt and sandy
plains, inhabited by wild Tartar or Turkish tribes who boasted that they
reposed beneath the shade neither of a tree nor of a king, who lived by
rapine like beasts of prey, and whose wives rode forth to attack a
passing caravan if their husbands happened to be robbing elsewhere--a
practice which gave rise to the romantic stories of the Amazons. These
people came down to the banks of the river near Khojend and challenged
Alexander to come across and fight. He inflated the soldiers' tents,
which were made of skins, formed them into rafts, paddled across and
gave the Tartars as much as they desired. He returned to Afghanistan and
marched through the western passes into the open plains of the Punjab,
where perhaps at some future day hordes of drilled Mongols and Hindu
sepoys will fight under Russian and English officers for the empire of
the Asiatic world. He built a fleet on the Indus, sailed down it to its
mouth, and dispatched his general Nearchus to the Persian Gulf by sea,
while he himself marched back through the terrific deserts which
separate Persian from the Indus.

So ended Alexander's journey of conquest, which was marked not only by
heaps of bones on battlefields and by the blackened ashes of ruined
towns, but also by cities and colonies which he planted as he passed.
The memory of that extraordinary man has never perished in the East. The
Turkomans still speak of his deeds of war as if they had been performed
a few years ago. In the tea booths of Bokhara it is yet the custom to
read aloud the biography in verse of Secunder Rooni--by some believed to
be a prophet, by others one of the believing genii. There are still
existing chiefs in the valleys of the Oxus and the Indus who claim to be
heirs of his royal person, and tribes who boast that their ancestors
were soldiers of his army, and who refuse to give their children in
marriage to those who are not of the same descent.

He returned to Babylon, and there found ambassadors from all parts of
the world waiting to offer him the homage of their masters. His success
was incredible; it had not met with a single check. The only men who had
ever given him cause to be alarmed were his own countrymen and soldiers,
but these also he had mastered by his skill and strength of mind.

The Macedonians

The Macedonians had expected that he would adhere to the constitution
and customs of their own country, which gave the king small power in
time of peace and allowed full liberty and even licence of speech on the
part of the nobles round the throne. But Alexander now considered
himself not king of Macedonia but emperor of Asia, and successor of
Darius, the King of Kings. They had supposed that he would give them the
continent to plunder as a carcass; that they would have nothing to do
but plunder and enjoy. There were disappointed and alarmed when they
found that he was reappointing Persian gentlemen as satraps, everywhere
treating the conquered people with indulgence, everywhere levying native
troops. They were disgusted and alarmed when they saw him put on the
tiara of the Great King, and the woman's girdle, and the white and
purple robe, and they burst into fierce wrath when he ordered that the
ceremony of prostration should be performed in his presence as it had
been in that of the Persian king.

In all this they saw only the presumption of a man intoxicated by
success. But Alexander knew well that he could only govern an empire so
immense by securing the allegiance of the Persian nobles; he knew that
they would not respect him unless they were made to humble themselves
before him after the manner of their country, and this they certainly
would not do unless his own officers did the same. He therefore
attempted to obtain the prostration of the Macedonians, and alleged as a
pretext for so extraordinary a demand the oracle of Ammon--that he was
the son of Jove.

It is possible, indeed, that he believed this himself, for his vanity
amounted to madness. He could not endure a candid word, and was subject
under wine and contradiction to fits of ungovernable rage. At Samarkand
he murdered Clitus, who had insulted him grossly but who was his friend
and associate, and who had saved his life. It was a drunken action, and
his repentance was as violent as his wrath. For Alexander was a man of
extremes: his magnanimity and his cruelty were without bounds. If he
forgave it was right royally; if he punished he pounded to the dust and
scattered to the winds. Yet with all his faults it is certain that he
had some conception of the art of governing a great empire. Mr. Grote
complains that "he had none of that sense of correlative right and
obligation which characterised the free Greeks," but Mr. Grote describes
Alexander too much from the Athenian point of view. In all
municipalities, in all aristocratic bodies, in all corporate assemblies,
in all robber communities, in all savage families or clans, the
privileged members have a sense of correlative right and obligation. The
real question is, how far and to what extent this feeling prevails
outside the little circle of selfish reciprocity and mutual admiration.
The Athenians did not include their slaves in their ideas of correlative
right and obligation; nor their prisoners of war, when they passed a
public decree to cut off all their thumbs, so that they might not be
able to handle the pike, but might still be able to handle the oar; nor
their allies, when they took their money and spent it all upon
themselves. Alexander committed some criminal and despotic acts, but it
was his noble idea to blot out the word "barbarian" from the vocabulary
of the Greeks, and to amalgamate them with the Persians.

Mr. Grote declares that Alexander intended to make Greece Persian, not
Persia Greek. Alexander certainly intended to make Greece a satrapy, as
it was afterwards made a Roman province. And where would have been the
loss? The independence of the various Greek cities had at one time
assisted the progress of the nation. But that time was past. Of late
they had made use of their freedom only to indulge in civil war. All
that was worthy of being preserved in Greece was its language and its
culture, and to that Alexander was not indifferent. He sent thirty
thousand Persian boys to school, and so laid the foundations of the
sovereignty of Greek ideas. He behaved towards the conquered people not
as a robber but as a sovereign. The wisdom of his policy is clearly
proved by the praises of the Oriental writers and by the blame of the
Greeks, who looked upon barbarians as a people destined by nature to be
slaves. But had Alexander governed Persia as they desired, the land
would have been in a continual state of insurrection, and it would have
been impossible for him, even had he lived, to have undertaken new

The story that he wept because there were no more worlds for him to
conquer would seem to imply that after the conquest of the Persian
empire there was nothing left for him in the way of war but to go out
savage-hunting in the forests of Europe, the steppes of Tartary, or the
deserts of Central Africa. However, there still remained a number of
powerful and attractive states, even if we place China entirely aside as
a land which could not be touched by the stream of events, however
widely they might overflow.

Alexander no doubt often reflected to himself that after all he had only
walked in the footsteps of other men. It was the genius of his father
which had given him possession of Greece; it was the genius of the
Persians which had planted the Asia that he had gathered. It is true
that he had conquered the Persian empire more thoroughly than the
Persians had ever been able to conquer it themselves. He had not left
behind him a single rock fortress or forest den uncarried, a single
tribe untamed. Yet still he had not been able to pass the frontiers
which they had fixed. He had once attempted to do so and had failed.
When he had reached the eastern river of the Punjab, or "Land of the
Five Streams," he stood on the brink of the empire with the Himalayas on
his left and before him a wide expanse of sand. Beyond that desert was a
country which the Persians had never reached. There a river as mighty as
the Indus took its course towards the sea through a land of surpassing
beauty and enormous wealth. There ruled a king who rode on a white
elephant, and who wore a mail coat composed entirely of precious stone;
whose wives slept on a thousand silken mattresses and a thousand golden
beds. The imagination of Alexander was inflamed by these glowing tales.
He yearned to discover a new world, to descend upon a distant and
unknown people like a god, to enter the land of diamonds and rubies, of
gleaming and transparent robes--the India of the Indies, the romantic,
and half-fabulous Bengal. But the soldiers were weary of collecting
plunder which they could not carry, and refused to march. Alexander
spent three days in his tent in an agony of anger and distress. He
established garrisons on the banks of the Indus; there could be little
doubt that some day or other he would resume his lost design.

There was one country which had sent him no ambassadors. It was Arabia
Felix, situated at the mouth of the Red Sea, abounding in forests of
those tearful trees which shed a yellow, fragrant gum grateful to the
gods, burnt in their honour on all the altars of the world. Arabia was
also enriched by the monopoly of the trade between Egypt and the coast
of Malabar. It was filled with rich cities. It had never paid tribute to
the Persians. On the land side it was protected by deserts and by
wandering hordes who drank from hidden wells. But it could easily be
approached by sea.

On the opposite side of the Arabian gulf lay Ethiopia, reputed to be the
native land of gold, but chiefly attractive to a vain-glorious and
emulative man from the fact that a Persian emperor had attempted its
conquest and had failed. There was also Carthage, the great republic of
the West, and there were rich silver-mines in Spain.

And can it be supposed that Alexander would remain content when he had
not yet made the circuit of the Grecian world? Was there not Sicily,
which Athens had attempted to conquer, and in vain? Rome had not yet
become great, but the Italian city-states were already famed in war.
Alexander's uncle had invaded that country and had been beaten back. He
declared that Alexander had fallen on the chamber of the women and he on
the chamber of the men. This sarcasm followed the conqueror into Central
Asia, and was flung in his teeth by Clitus on that night of drunkenness
and blood, every incident of which must have been continually present to
his mind.

We might therefore fairly infer, even if we had no evidence to guide us,
that Alexander did not consider his career accomplished. But in point of
fact we do know that he had given orders to fit out a thousand
ships-of-war; that he intended one fleet to attack Arabia from the
Mediterranean Sea. He had already arranged a plan for connecting Egypt
with his North African possession that were to be, and had he lived a
few years longer the features of the world might have been changed. The
Italians were unconquerable if united, but there was at that time no
supreme city to unite them as they were afterwards united against
Pyrrhus. It is at least not impossible that Alexander might have
conquered Italy; that the peninsula might have become a land of
independent cultivated cities like the Venice and Genoa and Florence of
the Middle Ages; that Greek might have been established as the reigning
language, and Latin remained a rustic dialect and finally died away. It
is at all events certain that in a few more years Alexander would have
made Carthage Greek, and that event alone would have profoundly
influenced the career of Rome.

However, this was not to be. Alexander went out in a boat among the
marshes in the neighbourhood of Babylon and caught a fever, the first
symptoms of which appeared after a banquet which had been kept up all
the night and the whole of the following day. At that time the Arabian
expedition was prepared, and Nearchus the admiral was under sailing
orders. Day after day the king continued to send for his officers to
give orders, and to converse about his future plans. But the fever
gradually increased, and while yet in the possession of his sense he was
deprived of the power of speech. The physicians announced that there was
no longer any hope.

And then were forgotten all the crimes and follies of which he had been
guilty--his assumption of the honours of a god, the murder of his bosom
friend. The Macedonian soldiers came in to him weeping to bid him the
last farewell. He sat up and saluted them man by man as they marched
past his bedside. When this last duty had been discharged he threw back
his weary frame. He expired on the evening of the next day.

The night, the dark, murky night, came on. None dared light a lamp; the
fires were extinguished. By the glimmering of the stars and the faint
beams of the horned moon, the young nobles of the household were seen
wandering like maniacs through the town. On the roofs of their houses
the Babylonians stood grave and silent, with folded hands and eyes
turned towards heaven as if awaiting a supernatural event. High aloft in
the air the trees of the hanging gardens waved their moaning boughs, and
the daughters of Babylon sang the dirge of the dead. In that sorrowful
hour the conquerors could not be distinguished from the conquered; the
Persians lamented their just and merciful master; the Macedonians their
greatest, bravest king. In an apartment of the palace an aged woman was
lying on the ground; her hair was torn and dishevelled; a golden crown
had fallen from her head. "Ah! Who will now protect my girls?" she said.
Then, veiling her face and turning from her grand-daughters, who wept at
her feet, she stubbornly refused both food and light. She who had
survived Darius was unable to survive Alexander. In famine and darkness
she sat, and on the fifth day she died.

Alexander's body lay cold and stiff. The Egyptian and Chaldean embalmers
were commanded to do their work. Yet long they gazed upon that awful
corpse before they could venture to touch it with their hands. Placed in
a golden coffin, shrouded in a bed of fragrant herbs, it remained two
years at Babylon, and was then carried to Egypt to be buried in the
oasis of Ammon. But Ptolemy stopped it on the road, and interred it at
Alexandria in a magnificent temple, which he built for the purpose and
surrounded with groves for the celebration of funereal rites and
military games. Long afterwards, when the dominion of the Macedonians
had passed away, there came Roman emperors who gazed upon that tomb with
reverence and awe. The golden coffin had been sold by a degenerate
Ptolemy, and had been changed for one of glass through which the body
could be seen. Augustus placed upon it a nosegay and crown. Septimus
Severus had the coffin sealed up in a vault. Then came the savage
Caracalla, who had massacred half Alexandria because he did not like the
town. He ordered the vault to be opened and the coffin to be exposed,
and all feared that some act of sacrilege would be committed. But those
august remains could touch the better feelings which existed even in a
monster's heart. He took off his purple robe, his imperial ornaments,
all that he had of value on his person, and laid them reverently upon
the tomb.

The empire of Alexander was partitioned into three great kingdoms--that
of Egypt and Cyrene, that of Macedonia, including Greece, and that of
Asia, the capital of which was at first on the banks of the Euphrates,
but was afterwards unwisely transferred to Antioch. In these three
kingdoms, and in their numerous dependencies, Greek became the language
of government and trade. It was spoken all over the world--on the shores
of Malabar, in the harbours of Ceylon, among the Abyssinian mountains,
in distant Mozambique. The shepherds of the Tartar steppes loved to
listen to recitations of Greek poetry, and Greek tragedies were
performed to Brahmin "houses" by the waters of the Indus. The history of
the Greeks of Inner Asia, however soon comes to an end. Sandracottus,
the Rajah of Bengal, conquered the Greek province of the Punjab. The
rise of the Parthian power cut off the Greek kingdom of Bokhara from the
Western world, and it was destroyed, according to the Chinese
historians, by a powerful horde of Tartars a hundred and thirty years
after its foundation.


We can now return to African soil, and we find that a city of
incomparable splendour has arisen, founded by Alexander and bearing his
name. For as he was on his way to the oasis of Ammon, travelling along
the sea-coast, he came to a place a little west of the Nile's mouth where
an island close to the shore, and the peculiar formation of the land,
formed a natural harbour, while a little way inland was a large lagoon
communicating with the Nile. A few houses were scattered about, and
this, he was told, was the village of Rhacotis, where in the old days
the Pharaohs stationed a garrison to prevent the Greek pirates from
coming on shore. He saw that the spot was well adapted for a city, and
with his usual impetuosity went to work at once to mark it out. When he
returned from the oasis, the building of the city had begun, and in a few
years it had become the residence of Ptolemy and the capital of Egypt.

It filled up the space between the sea and the lagoon. On the one side
its harbour was filled with ships which came from Italy and Greece and
the lands of the Atlantic with amber, timber, tin, wine, and oil. On the
other side were the cargo boats that came from the Nile with the
precious stones, the spices, and the beautiful fabrics of the East. The
island on which stood the famous lighthouse was connected with the
mainland by means of a gigantic mole furnished with drawbridges and
forts. It is on this mole that the modern city stands--the site of the
old Alexandria is sand.

When Ptolemy the First, one of Alexander's generals, mounted the throne
he applied himself with much caution and dexterity to that difficult
problem the government of Egypt. Had the Greeks been the first
conquerors of the country, it is doubtful whether the wisest policy
would have kept its natives quiet and content. For they were like the
Jews, a proud, ignorant, narrow-minded, religious race who looked upon
themselves as the chosen people of the gods, and upon all foreigners as
unclean things. But they had been taught wisdom by misfortune; they had
felt the bitterness of an Oriental yoke; the feet of the Persians had
been placed upon their necks. On the other hand, the Greeks had lived
for centuries among them, and had assisted them in all their revolts
against the Persian king. During their interlude of independence the
towns had been garrisoned partly by Egyptian and partly by Greek
soldiers: the two nations had grown accustomed to each other. Persia had
finally re-enslaved them, and Alexander had been welcomed as the saviour
of their country. The golden chain of the Pharaohs was broken. It was
impossible to restore the line of ancient kings. The Egyptians therefore
cheerfully submitted to the Ptolemies, who reciprocated this kindly
feeling to the full. They patronised the Egyptian religion, they built
many temples in the ancient style, they went to the city of Memphis to
be crowned, they sacrificed to the Nile at the rising of the waters, and
they assumed the divine titles of the Pharaohs. The priests were
content, and in Egypt the people were always guided by the priests. The
Rosetta Stone, that remarkable monument which, with its inscription in
Greek, in the Egyptian vernacular, and in the sacred hieroglyphics, has
afforded the means of deciphering the mysterious language of the Nile,
was a memorial of gratitude from the Egyptian priests to a Greek king,
to whom in return for favours conferred they erected an image and a
golden shrine.

But while the Ptolemies were Pharaohs to the Egyptians, they were Greeks
to the colonists of Alexandria, and they founded or favoured that school
of thought upon which modern science is established.

There is a great enterprise in which men have always been unconsciously
engaged, but which they will pursue with method as a vocation and an
art, and which they will devoutly adopt as a religious faith as soon as
they realise its glory. It is the conquest of the planet on which we
dwell, the destruction or domestication of the savage forces by which we
are tormented and enslaved. An episode of this war occurring in ancient
Egypt has been described; the war itself began with the rise of our
ancestors into the human state, and when, drawing fire from wood or
stone, they made it serve them night and day the first great victory was
won. But we can conquer Nature only by obeying her laws, and in order to
obey those laws we must first learn what they are.

Storms and tides, thunder and lightning and eclipse, the movements of
the heavenly bodies, the changing aspects of the earth, were among all
ancient people regarded as divine phenomena. In the Greek world there
was no despotic caste, but the people clung fondly to their faith, and
the study of Nature, which began in Ionia, was at first regarded with
abhorrence and dismay. The popular religion was supported by the genius
of Homer. The Iliad and the Odyssey were regarded not only as epic poems
but as sacred writ; even the geography had been inspired. However, when
the Greeks began to travel, the old legends could no longer be received.
It was soon discovered that the places visited by Ulysses did not exist,
that there was no River Ocean which ran round the earth, and that the
earth was not shaped like a round saucer with the oracle of Delphi in
its centre. The Egyptians laughed in the faces of the Greeks, and called
them children when they talked of their gods of yesterday, and so well
did their pupils profit by their lesson that they soon laughed at the
Egyptians for believing in the gods at all. Xenophanes declaimed against
the Egyptian myth of an earth-walking, dying resuscitated god. He said
that if Osiris was a man they should not worship him, and that if he was
a god they need not lament his sufferings. This remarkable man was the
Voltaire of Greece; there had been free-thinkers before his time, but
they had reserved their opinions for their disciples.

Xenophanes declared that the truth should be made known to all. He
lived, like Voltaire, to a great age; he poured forth a multitude of
controversial works; he made it his business to attack Homer, and
reviled him bitterly for having endowed the gods of his poems with the
passions and propensities of men; he denied the old theory of the Golden
Age, and maintained that civilisation was the work of time and of man's
own toil. His views were no doubt distasteful to the vulgar crowd by
whom he was surrounded, and even to cultivated and imaginative minds
which were sunk in sentimental idolatry, blinded by the splendour of the
Homeric poems. He was, however, in no way interfered with; religious
persecution was unknown in the Greek world except at Athens. In that
city free thought was especially unpopular because it was imported from
abroad. It was the doctrine of those talented Ionians who streamed into
Athens after the Persian wars. When one of these philosophers announced,
in his open-air sermon in the market-place, that the sun which the
common people believed to be alive--the bountiful god Helios which shone
both on mortals and immortals--was nothing but a mass of red-hot iron;
when he declared that those celestial spirits the stars were only
revolving stones; when he asserted that Jupiter, and Venus and Apollo,
Mars, Juno, and Minerva, were mere creatures of the poet's fancy, and
that if they really existed they ought to be despised; when he said that
over all there reigned, not blind Fate, but a supreme, all seeing Mind,
great wrath was excited among the people. A prophet went about uttering
oracles in a shrill voice, and procured the passing of a decree that
all who denied the religion of the city or who philosophised in matters
appertaining to the gods should be indicted as state criminals. This law
was soon put in force. Damon and Anaxagoras were banished; Aspasia was
impeached for blasphemy, and the tears of Pericles alone saved her;
Socrates was put to death; Plato was obliged to reserve pure reason for
a chosen few, and to adulterate it with revelation for the generality of
his disciples; Aristotle fled from Athens for his life, and became the
tutor of Alexander. Alexander had a passion for the Iliad. His edition
had been corrected by Aristotle; he kept it in a precious casket which
he had taken from the Persian king, and it was afterwards known as the
"edition of the casket." When he invaded Asia he landed on the plains of
Troy, that he might see the ruins of that celebrated town and hang a
garland upon the tomb of Achilles. But it was not poetry alone that he
esteemed; he had imbibed his master's universal tastes. When staying at
Ephesus he used to spend hours in the studio of Apelles, sitting down
among the boys who ground colours for the great painter. He delighted in
everything that was new and rare. He invented exploration. He gave a
large sum of money to Aristotle to assist him in composing the history
of animals, and employed a number of men to collect for him in Asia. He
sent him a copy of the astronomical records of the Babylonians, although
by that time they had quarrelled--like Dionysius and Plato, Frederick
and Voltaire. It is taken for granted that Alexander was the one to
blame, as if philosophers were immaculate and private tutors never in
the wrong.

The Ptolemies were not unworthy followers of Alexander. They established
the Museum, which was a kind of college, with a hall where the
professors dined together, with corridors for promenading lectures, and
a theatre for scholastic festivals and public disputation. Attached to
it also was the Botanical Garden, filled with medicinal and exotic
plants; a menagerie of wild beasts and rare birds; and the famous
Library, where 700,000 volumes were arranged on cedar shelves, and where
hundreds of clerks were continually at work copying from scroll to
scroll, gluing the separate strips of papyrus together, smoothing with
pumice-stone and blackening the edges, writing the titles on red labels,
and fastening ivory tops on the sticks round which the rolls were

All the eminent men of the day were invited to take up their abode at
the Museum, and persons were dispatched into all countries to collect
books. It was dangerous to bring original manuscripts into Egypt--they
were at once seized and copied, the originals being retained. The city
of Athens lent the autograph editions of its dramatists to one of the
Ptolemies, and saw them no more. It was even said that philosophers were
sometimes detained in the same manner.

Soon after the wars of Alexander, the "barbarians" were seized with a
desire to make known to their conquerors the history of their native
lands. Berosus, a priest of Babylon, compiled a history of Chaldea;
Menander, and Phoenician, a history of Tyre; and Manetho wrote in Greek,
but from Egyptian sources, a history which Egyptology has confirmed. It
was at the Museum also that the Old Testament was translated under royal
patronage into Greek, and at the same time the Zoroastrian Bible or

There was some good work done at the Museum. Among works of imagination
the pastorals of Theocritus have alone obtained the approbation of
posterity. But it was in Alexandria that the immortal works of the
preceding ages were edited and arranged, and it was there that language
was first studied for itself, and that lexicons and grammars were first
compiled. It was only in the Museum that anatomists could sometimes
obtain the corpse of a criminal to dissect; elsewhere they were forced
to content themselves with monkeys. There Eratosthenes, the "Inspector
of the Earth," elevated geography to a science, and Euclid produced that
work which, as Macaulay would say, "every schoolboy knows." There the
stars were carefully catalogued and mapped, and chemical experiments
were made. Expeditions were sent to Abyssinia to ascertain the cause of
the inundation of the Nile. The Greek intellect had hitherto despised
the realities of life: it had been considered by Plato unworthy of a
mathematician to apply his knowledge to so vulgar a business as
mechanics. But this notion was corrected at Alexandria by the practical
tendencies of Egyptian science. The Suez Canal was reopened, and
Archimedes taught the Alexandrians to apply his famous screw to the
irrigation of their fields. These Egyptian pumps, as they were then
called, were afterwards used by the Romans to pump out the water from
their silver-mines in Spain.

No doubt most of the Museum professors were pitiful "Graeculi"--
narrow-minded pedants such as are always to be found where patronage
exists, parasites of great libraries who spend their lives in learning
the wrong things. No doubt much of the astronomy was astrological, much
of the medicine was magical, much of the geography was mythical, and
much of the chemistry was alchemical--for they had already begun to
attempt the transmutation of metals and to search for the elixir vitae
and the philosopher's stone. No doubt physics were much too
metaphysical, in spite of the example which Aristotle had given of
founding philosophy on experiment and fact; and the alliance between
science and labour, which is the true secret of modern civilisation,
could be but faintly carried out in a land which was under the fatal ban
of slavery. Yet with all this it should be remembered that from
Alexandria came the science which the Arabs restored to Europe, with
some additions, after the Crusades. It was in Alexandria that were
composed those works which enabled Copernicus to lay the keystone of
astronomy, and which emboldened Columbus to sail across the Western

The history of the nation under the Ptolemies resembles its history
under the Phil-Hellenes, Egypt and Asia were again rivals, and again
contested for the vineyards of Palestine and the forests of Lebanon.
Alexander had organised a brigade of elephants for his army of the
Indus, and these animals were afterwards invariably used by the Greeks
in war. Pyrrhus took them to Italy, and the Carthaginians adopted the
idea from him. The elephants of the Asiatic Greeks were brought from
Hindustan. The Ptolemies, like the Carthaginians, had elephant forests
at their own doors. Shooting-boxes were built on the shores of the Red
Sea: elephant hunting became a royal sport. The younger members of the
herd were entrapped in large pits, or driven into enclosures cunningly
contrived; were then tamed by starvation, shipped off to Egypt, and
drilled into beasts of war. On the field of battle the African
elephants, distinguished by their huge, flapping ears and their convex
brows, fought against the elephants of India, twisting their trunks
together and endeavouring to gore one another with their tusks. The
Indian species is unanimously described as the larger animal and the
better soldier of the two.

The third Ptolemy made two brilliant campaigns. In one he overran Greek
Asia and brought back the sacred images and vessels which had been
carried off by the Persians centuries before; in the other he made an
Abyssinian expedition resembling the achievement of Napier. He landed
his troops in Annesley Bay, which he selected as his base of operations,
and completely subdued the mountaineers of the plateau, carrying the
Egyptian arms, as he boasted, where the Pharaohs themselves had never
been. But the policy of the Ptolemies was on the whole a policy of
peace. Their wars were chiefly waged for the purpose of obtaining timber
for their fleet, and of keeping open their commercial routes. They
encouraged manufactures and trade, and it was afterwards observed that
Alexandria was the most industrious city in the world. "Idle people were
there unknown. Some were employed in the blowing of glass, others in the
weaving of linen, others in the manufacture of the Papyrus. Even the
blind and the lame had occupations suited to their condition."

The glorious reigns of the three first Ptolemies extended over nearly a
century, and then Egypt began again to decline. Such must always be the
case where a despotic government prevails, and where everything depends
on the taste and temper of a single man. As long as a good king sits
upon the throne all is well. A gallant service, an intellectual
production, merit of every kind is recognised at once. Corrupt
tax-gatherers and judges are swiftly punished. The enemies of the people
are the enemies of the king. His palace is a court of justice always
open to his children; he will not refuse a petition from the meanest
hand. But sooner or later in the natural course of events the sceptre is
handed to a weak and vicious prince, who empties the treasury of its
accumulated wealth; who plunders the courtiers, allowing them to
indemnify themselves at the expense of those that are beneath them; who
dies, leaving behind him a legacy of wickedness which his successors are
forced to accept. Oppression has now become a custom, and custom is the
tyrant of kings. In Egypt the prosperity of the land depended entirely
on the government. Unless the public works were kept in good order half
the land was wasted, half the revenue was lost, half the inhabitants
perished of starvation. But the dikes could not be repaired and the
screw pumps could not be worked without expense, and so if the treasury
was empty the inland revenue ceased to flow in. The king could still
live in luxury on the receipts of the foreign trade, but the life of the
people was devoured, and the ruin of the country was at hand. The
Ptolemies became invariably tyrants and debauchees--perhaps the
incestuous marriages practised in that family had something to do with
the degeneration of the race. The Greeks of Alexandria became half
Orientals, and were regarded by their brethren of Europe with aversion
and contempt. One by one the possessions of Egypt abroad were lost. The
condition of the land became deplorable. The empire which had excited
the envy of the world became deficient in agriculture, and was fed by
foreign corn. Alexandria glittered with wealth which it was no longer
able to defend. The Greeks of Asia began to fix their eyes on the
corrupt and prostrate land. Armies gathered on the horizon like dark
clouds; then was seen the flashing of arms; then was heard the rattling
of distant drums. The reigning Ptolemy had but one resource. In that
same year a great battle had been fought, a great empire had fallen on
the African soil. For the first time in history the sun was seen rising
in the West. Towards the West, ambassadors from Egypt went forth with
silks and spices and precious stones. They returned bringing with them
an ivory chair, a coarse garment of purple, and a quantity of copper
coin. These humble presents were received in a delirium of joy. The
Roman Senate accorded its protection, and Alexandria was saved. But its
independence was forfeited, its individuality became extinct. Here
endeth the history of Egypt. Let us travel to another shore.

There was a time when the waters of the Mediterranean were silent and
bare; when nothing disturbed the solitude of that blue and tideless sea
but the weed which floated on its surface and the gull which touched it
with its wing.

A tribe of Canaanites, or people of the plain, driven hard by their
foes, fled over the Lebanon and took possession of a narrow strip of
land shut off by itself between the mountains and the sea.

The Phoenicians

The agricultural resources of the little country were soon outgrown, and
the Phoenicians were forced to gather a harvest from the water. They
invented the fishing-line and net, and when the fish could no longer be
caught from the shore they had to follow them out to sea or starve. They
hollowed trunks of trees with axe and fire into canoes; they bound logs
of wood together to form a raft, with a bush stuck in it for a sail. The
Lebanon mountains supplied them with timber; in time they discovered how
to make boats with keels, and to sheathe them with copper, which also
they found in their mountains. From those heights of Lebanon the island
of Cyprus could plainly be seen, and the current assisted them across.
They colonised the island; it supplied them with pitch, timber, copper,
and hemp--everything that was required in the architecture of a ship.
With smacks and cutters they followed the tunny-fish in their
migrations; they discovered villages on other coasts, pillaged them, and
carried off their inhabitants as slaves. Some of these, when they had
learnt the language, offered to pay a ransom for their release; the
arrangement was accomplished under oath, and presents as tokens of
goodwill were afterwards exchanged. Each party was pleased to obtain
something which his own country did not produce, and thus arose a system
of barter and exchange.

The Phoenicians from fishermen became pirates, and from pirates traders:
from simple traders they became also manufacturers. Purple was always
the fashionable colour in the East, and they discovered two kinds of
shell-fish which yielded a handsome dye. One species was found on rocks,
the other under water. These shells they collected by means of divers
and pointer dogs. When the supply on their own coast was exhausted they
obtained them from foreign coasts, and as the shell yielded but a small
quantity of fluid, and therefore was inconvenient to transport,
they preferred to extract the dyeing material on the spot where the
shells were found. This led to the establishment of factories abroad,
and permanent settlements were made. Obtaining wool from the Arabs and
other shepherd tribes, they manufactured woven goods and dyed them with
such skill that they found a ready market in Babylonia and Egypt. In
this manner they purchased from those countries the produce and
manufactures of the East, and these they sold at a great profit to the
inhabitants of Europe.

When they sailed along the shores of that savage continent and came to a
place where they intended to trade, they lighted a fire to attract the
natives, pitched tents on shore, and held a six days' fair, exhibiting
in their bazaar the toys and trinkets manufactured at Tyre expressly for
their naked customers, with purple robes and works of art in tinted
ivory and gold for those who, like the Greeks, were more advanced. At
the end of the week they went away, sometimes kidnapping a few women and
children to "fill up." But in the best trading localities the factory
system prevailed, and their establishments were planted in the Grecian
Archipelago and in Greece itself, on the marshy shores of the Black Sea,
in Italy, in Sicily, on the African coast and in Spain.

Then, becoming bolder and more skilful, they would no longer be
imprisoned within the lake-like waters of the land-locked sea. They
sailed out through the Straits of Gibraltar and beheld the awful
phenomenon of tides. They sailed on the left hand to Morocco for ivory
and gold dust, on the right hand for amber and tin to the ice-creeks of
the Baltic and the foaming waters of the British Isles. They also opened
up an inland trade. They were the first to overcome the exclusiveness of
Egypt, and were permitted to settle in Memphis itself. Their quarter was
called the Syrian camp; it was built round a grove and chapel sacred to
Astarte. Their caravan routes extended in every direction towards the
treasure countries of the East. Wandering Arabs were their sailors, and
camels were their ships. They made voyages by sand, more dangerous than
those by sea, to Babylon through Palmyra or Tadmor on the skirts of the
desert; to Arabia Felix and the market city of Petra; and to Gerrha, a
city built entirely of salt on the rainless shores of the Persian Gulf.

Phoenicia itself was a narrow, undulating plain about a hundred miles in
length, and at the most not more than a morning's ride in breadth. It
was walled in by the mountains on the north and east. To those who
sailed along its coast it appeared to be one great city interspersed
with gardens and fields. On the lower slopes of the hills beyond gleamed
the green vineyard patches and the villas of the merchants. The offing
was whitened with sails, and in every harbour was a grove of masts. But
it was Tyre which of all the cities was the queen. It covered an island
which lay at anchor off the shore. The Greek poet Nonnus has prettily
described the mingling around it of the sylvan and marine. "The sailor
furrows the sea with his oar," he says, "and the ploughman the soil; the
lowing of oxen and the singing of birds answer the deep roar of the
main; the wood nymph under the tall trees hears the voice of the
sea-nymph calling to her from the waves; the breeze from the Lebanon,
while it cools the rustic at his midday labour, speeds the mariner who
is outward bound."

These Canaanitish men are fairly entitled to our gratitude and esteem,
for they taught our intellectual ancestors to read and write. Wherever a
factory trade is carried on it is found convenient to employ natives as
subordinate agents and clerks. And thus it was that the Greeks received
the rudiments of education. That the alphabet was invented by the
Phoenicians is improbable in the extreme, but it is certain that they
introduced it into Europe. They were intent only on making money, it is
true; they were not a literary or artistic people; they spread knowledge
by accident like birds dropping seeds. But they were gallant, hardy,
enterprising men. Those were true heroes who first sailed through the
sea-valley of Gibraltar into the vast ocean and breasted its enormous
waves. Their unceasing activity kept the world alive. They offered to
every country something which it did not possess. They roused the savage
Briton from his torpor with a rag of scarlet cloth, and stirred him to
sweat in the dark bowels of the earth. They brought to the satiated
Indian prince the luscious wines of Syria and the Grecian
amber-gatherers of the Baltic mud to the nutmeg-growers of the
equatorial groves, from the mulberry plantations of the Celestial Empire
to the tin-mines of Cornwall and the silver-mines of Spain, emulation
was excited, new wants were created, and whole nations were stimulated
to industry by the agency of the Phoenicians.

Shipbuilding and navigation were their inventions, and for a long time
were entirely in their hands. Phoenician shipwrights were employed to
build the fleet of Sennacherib: Phoenician mariners were employed by
Necho to sail round Africa. But they could not forever monopolise the
sea. The Greeks built ships on the Phoenician model, and soon showed
their masters that kidnapping and piracy was a game at which two could
play. The merchant kings who possessed the whole commercial world were
too wise to stake their prosperity on a single province. They had no
wish to tempt a siege of Tyre which might resemble the siege of Troy.
They quickly retired from Greece and its islands, and the western coast
of Asia Minor and the margin of the Black Sea. They allowed the Greeks
to take the foot of Italy and the eastern half of Sicily, and did not
molest their isolated colonies of Cyrene in Africa and Marseilles in
Southern Gaul.

But in spite of all their prudence and precautions, the Greeks
supplanted them entirely. The Phoenicians, like the Jews, were vassals
of necessity and by position: they lived half-way between two empires.
They found it cheaper to pay tribute than to go to war, and submitted to
the emperor of Syria for the time being, sending their money with equal
indifference to Nineveh or Memphis.

But when the empire was disputed, as in the days of Nebuchadnezzar and
of Necho, they were compelled to choose a side. Like the Jews, they
chose the wrong one, and the old Tyre and Jerusalem were demolished at
the same time.

From that day the Phoenicians began to go down the hill, and under the
Persians their ships and sailors were forced to do service in the royal
navy. This was the hardest kind of tribute that they could be made to
pay, for it deprived them not only of their profits but of the means by
which those profits were obtained. In the Macedonian war they went wrong
again; they chose the side of the Persians although they had so often
rebelled against them and Tyre was severely handled by its conqueror.
But it was the foundation of Alexandria which ruined the Phoenician
cities, as it ruined Athens. Form that time Athens ceased to be
commercial and became a university. Tyre also ceased to be commercial,
but remained a celebrated manufactory. Under the Roman empire it enjoyed
the monopoly of the sacred purple, which was afterwards adopted by the
popes. It prospered under the caliphs; its manufactories in the Middle
Ages were conducted by the Jews; but it fell before the artillery of the
Turks to rise no more. The secret of the famous dye was lost, and the
Vatican changed the colour of its robes.

But while Phoenicia was declining in the East its great colony,
Carthage, was rising in the West. This city had been founded by
malcontents from Tyre. But they kindly cherished the memories of their
motherland, and, like the Pilgrim Fathers, always spoke of the country
which had cast them forth as "Home." And after a time all the old wrongs
were forgotten, all angry feelings died away. Every year the
Carthaginians sent to the national temple a tenth part of their revenues
as a free-will offering. During the great Persian wars, when on all
sides empires and kingdoms were falling to the ground, the Phoenicians
refused to lend their fleet to the Great King to make war upon Carthage.
When Tyre was besieged by Alexander the nobles sent their wives and
children to Carthage, where they were tenderly received.

The Africa of the ancients--the modern Barbary--lies between the Sahara
and the Mediterranean Sea. It is protected from the ever-encroaching
waves of the sandy ocean by the Atlas range. In its western parts this
mountain wall is high and broad and covered with eternal snow. It
becomes lower as it runs towards the east, also drawing nearer to the
sea, and dwindles and dwindles till finally it disappears, leaving a
wide, unprotected region between Barbary and Egypt. Over this the Sahara
flows, forming a desert barrier tract to all intents and purposes itself
a sea, dividing the two lands from each other as completely as the
Mediterranean divides Italy and Greece. This land of North Africa is in
reality a part of Spain; the Atlas is the southern boundary of Europe.
Grey cork-trees clothe the lower sides of those magnificent mountains;
their summits are covered with pines, among which the cross-bill
flutters, and in which the European bear may still be found. The flora
of the range, as Dr. Hooker has lately shown, is of a Spanish type; the
Straits of Gibraltar is merely an accident; there is nothing in Morocco
to distinguish it from Andalusia. The African animals which are there
found are desert-haunting species--the antelope and gazelle, the lion,
the jackal, the hyena, [spelt hyaena in original text] and certain
species of the monkey tribe; and these might easily have found their way
across the Sahara from oasis to oasis. It is true that in the
Carthaginian days the elephant abounded in the forests of the Atlas, and
it could not have come across from central Africa, for the Sahara,
before it was a desert, was a sea. It is probable that the elephant of
Barbary belonged to the same species as the small elephant of Europe,
the bones of which have been discovered in Malta and in certain caves of
Spain, and that it outlived the European kind on account of its isolated
position in the Atlas, which was thinly inhabited by savage tribes. But
it did not long withstand the power of the Romans. Pliny mentions that
in his time the forests of Morocco were being ransacked for ivory, and
Isidore of Seville, in the seventh century observes that "there are no
longer any elephants in Mauritania."

In Morocco the Phoenicians were settled only on the coast. The Regency
of Tunis and part of Algeria is the scene on which the tragedy of
Carthage was performed.

In that part of Africa the habitable country must be divided into three
regions; first a corn region, lying between the Atlas and the sea,
exceedingly fertile but narrow in extent; secondly the Atlas itself,
with its timber stores and elephant preserves; and thirdly a plateau
region of poor sandy soil, affording a meagre pasture, interspersed with
orchards of date-trees, abounding in ostriches, lions, and gazelles, and
gradually fading away into the desert.

Africa belonged to a race of man whom we shall call Berbers or Moors,
but who were known as the ancients under many names, and who still exist
as the Kabyles or Algeria, the Shilluhs of the Atlas, and the Tuaricks
or tawny Moors of the Sahara. Their habits depended on the locality in
which they dwelt. Those who lived in the Tell or region of the coast
cultivated the soil and lived in towns, some of which appear to have
been of considerable size. Those who inhabited the plateau region led a
free Bedouin life, wandering from place to place with flocks and herds,
and camping under oblong huts which the Romans compared to boats turned
upside down. In holes and caverns of the mountains dwelt a miserable
black race, apparently the aborigines of the country, and represented to
this day by the Rock Tibboos. They were also found on the outskirts of
the desert, and were hunted by the Berbers in four-horse chariots,
caught alive, and taken to the Carthage market to be sold.

The Phoenician settlements were at first independent of one another, but
Carthage gradually obtained the supremacy as Tyre had obtained it in
Phoenicia. The position of Utica towards Carthage was precisely that of
Sidon towards Tyre. It was the more ancient city of the two, and it
preserved a certain kind of position without actual power. Carthage and
Utica, like Tyre and Sidon, were at one time always spoken of together.

The Carthaginians began by paying a quit-rent or custom to the natives,
but that did not last very long; they made war, and exacted tribute from
the original possessors of the soil. When Carthage suffered from
over-population, colonies were dispatched out west along the coast, and
down south into the interior. These colonies were more on the Roman than
the Greek pattern; the emigrants built cities and intermarried freely
with the Berbers, for there was no difference of colour between them,
and little difference of race. In course of time the whole of the
habitable region was subdued; the Tyrian factory became a mighty empire.
Many of the roving tribes were broken in; the others were driven into
the desert or into wild Morocco. A line of fortified posts and
block-houses protected the cultivated land. The desire to obtain red
cloth and amber and blue beads secured the allegiance of many
unconquerable desert tribes, and by their means, although the camel had
not yet been introduced, a trade was opened up between Carthage and
Timbuktu. Negro slaves, bearing tusks of ivory on their shoulders and
tied to one another so as to form a chain of flesh and blood, were
driven across the terrible desert--a caravan of death, the route of
which was marked by bones bleaching in the sun. Gold dust also was
brought over from those regions of the Niger, and the Carthaginian
traders reached the same land by sea. For they were not content, like
the Tyrians, to trade only on the Morocco coast as far as Mogadore. By
good fortune there has been preserved the log-book of an expedition
which sailed to the wood-covered shores of Guinea; saw the hills covered
with fire, as they always are in the dry season when the grass is being
burnt; heard the music of the natives in the night; and brought home the
skins of three chimpanzees which they probably killed near Sierra Leone.

When Phoenicia died, Carthage inherited its settlements on the coasts of
Sicily and Spain and on the adjoining isles. Not only were these islands
valuable possessions in themselves--Malta as a cotton plantation, Elba
as an iron-mine, Majorca and Minorca as a recruiting ground for slingers;
they were also useful as naval stations to preserve the monopoly of the
Western waters.

The foreign policy of Carthage was very different from that of the
motherland. The Phoenicians had maintained an army of mercenaries, but
had used them only to protect their country from the robber kings of
Damascus and Jerusalem. They had many ships of war, but had used them
only to convoy their round-bellied ships of trade and to keep off the
attacks of the Greek and Etruscan pirates. Their settlements were merely
fortified factories; they made no attempt to reduce the natives of the
land. If their settlements grew into colonies, they let them go. But
Carthage founded many colonies and never lost a single one. Situated
among them, and possessing a large fleet, she was able both to punish
and protect. She defended them in time of war; she controlled them in
time of peace.

A policy of concession had not saved the Phoenicians from the Greeks,
and now these same Greeks were settling in the West and displaying
immense activity. The Carthaginians saw that they must resist or be
ruined, and they went to war as a matter of business. They first put
down the Etruscan rovers, in which undertaking they were assisted by the
events which occurred on the Italian main. They next put a stop to the
spread of the Greek power in Africa itself.

Half-way between Algeria and Egypt, in the midst of the dividing sea of
sand, is a coast oasis formed by a tableland of sufficient height to
condense the vapours which float over from the sea, and to chill them
into rain. There was a hole in the sky above it, as the natives used to
say. To this island-tract came a band of Greeks directed thither by the
oracle at Delphi, where geography was studied as a part of the system.
They established a city and called it Cyrene.

The land was remarkably fertile, and afforded them three harvests in the
course of the year. One was gathered on the coast meadows, which were
watered by the streams that flowed down from the hills; a second on the
hill-sides; a third on the surface of the plateau, [spelt pleateau in
the original text] which was about two thousand feet above the level of
the sea. Cyrenaica produced the silphium, or asafoetida, which, like the
balm of Gilead, was one of the specifics of antiquity, and which is
really a medicine of value. It was found in many parts of the world--for
instance, in certain districts of Asia Minor, and on the summit of the
Hindu Kush. But the asafoetida of Cyrene was the most esteemed. Its
juice, when dried, was worth its weight in gold; its leaves fattened
cattle and cured them of all diseases.

Some singular pits or chasms existed in the lower part of the Cyrene
hills. Their sides were perpendicular walls of rock: it appeared
impossible to descend to the bottom of the precipice, and yet, when the
traveller peeped over the brink, he saw to his astonishment that the
abyss beneath had been sown with herbs and corn. Hence rose the legend
of the Gardens of the Hesperides.

Cyrene was renowned as the second medical school of the Greek world. It
produced a noted free-thinker, who was a companion of Socrates and the
founder of a school. It was also famous for its barbs, which won more
than one prize in the chariot races of the Grecian games. It obtained
the honour of more than one Pindaric ode. But owing to internal
dissension it never became great. It was conquered by Persia, it
submitted to Alexander, and Carthage speedily checked its growth towards
the west by taking the desert which lay between them, and which it then
garrisoned with nomad tribes.

The Carthaginians hitherto had never paid tribute, and they had never
suffered a serious reverse. Alcibiades talked much of invading them when
he had done with Sicily, and the young men of his set were at one time
always drawing plans of Carthage in the dust of the market-place at
Athens; but the Sicilian expedition failed. The affection of the Tyrians
preserved them from Cambyses. Alexander opportunely died. Pyrrhus in
Sicily began to collect ships to sail across, but he who tried to take
up Italy with one hand and Carthage with the other, and who also excited
the enmity of the Sicilian Greeks, was not a very dangerous foe.
Agathocles of Syracuse invaded Africa, but it was the action of a
desperate and defeated man and bore no result.

Sicily was long the battlefield of the Carthaginians, and ultimately
proved their ruin. Its western side belonged to them: its eastern side
was held by a number of independent Greek cities which were often at war
with one another. Of these Syracuse was the most important: its ambition
was the same as that of Carthage--to conquer the whole island, and then
to extend its rule over the flourishing Greek towns on the south Italian
coast. Hence followed wars generation after generation, till at length
the Carthaginians obtained the upper hand. Already they were looking on
the island as their own when a new power stepped upon the scene.

The ancient Tuscans or Etruscans had a language and certain arts
peculiar to themselves, and Northern Italy was occupied by Celtic Gauls.
But the greater part of the peninsula was inhabited by a people akin to
the Greeks, though differing much from them in character, dwelling in
city-states, using a form of the Phoenician alphabet, and educating
their children in public schools. The Greek cities on the coast diffused
a certain amount of culture through the land.

A rabble of outlaws and runaway slaves banded together, built a town,
fortified it strongly, and offered it as an asylum to all fugitives. To
Rome fled the over-beaten slave, the thief with his booty, the murdered
with blood-red hands. This city of refuge became a war-town--to use an
African phrase--its citizens alternately fought and farmed; it became
the dread and torment of the neighbourhood. However, it contained no
women, and it was hoped that in course of time the generation of robbers
would die out. The Romans offered their hands and hearts to the daughters
of a neighbouring Sabine city. The Sabines declined, and told them that
they had better make their city an asylum for runaway women. The Romans
took the Sabine girls by force; a war ensued, but the relationship had
been established; the women reconciled their fathers to their husbands,
and the tribes were united in the same city.

The hospitality which Rome had offered in its early days in order to
sustain its life became a custom and a policy. The Romans possessed the
art of converting their conquered enemies into allies, and this was done
by means of concessions which cities of respectable origin would have
been too proud to make.

Their military career was very different from that of the Persians, who
swept over the continent in a few months. The Romans spent three
centuries in establishing their rule within a circle of a hundred miles
round the city. Whatever they won by the sword they secured by the
plough. After every successful war they demanded a tract of land, and on
this they planted a colony of Roman farmers. The municipal governments
of the conquered cities were left undisturbed. The Romans aimed to
establish, at least in appearance, a federation of states, a united
Italy. At the time of the first Punic War this design had nearly been
accomplished. Wild tribes of Celtic shepherds still roamed over the rich
plains at the foot of the Alps, but the Italian boroughs had
acknowledged the supremacy of Rome. The Greek cities on the southern
coast had, a few years before, called over Pyrrhus, King of Epirus, a
soldier of fortune and the first general of the day. But the legion
broke the Macedonian phalanx, and the broadsword vanquished the
Macedonian spear. The Greek cities were no longer independent except in
name. Pyrrhus returned to Greece, and prophesied of Sicily, as he left
its shores, that it would become the arena of the Punic and the Roman

In the last war that was ever waged between the Syracusans and the
Carthaginians, the former had employed some mercenary troops belonging
to the Mamertines, an Italian tribe. When the war was ended these
soldiers were paid off and began to march home. They passed through the
Greek town of Messina on their road, were hospitably received by the
citizens, and provided with quarters for the night. In the middle of the
night they rose up and massacred the men, married the widows, and
settled down as rulers of Messina, each soldier beneath another man's
vine and fig-tree. A Roman regiment stationed at Rhegium, a Greek town
on the Italian side of the straits, heard of this exploit, considered it
an excellent idea, and did the same. The Romans marched upon Rhegium,
took it by storm, and executed four hundred of the soldiers in the
Forum. The king of Syracuse, who held the same position in eastern
Sicily as did Rome on the peninsula, marched against Messina. The
Mamertine bandits became alarmed; one party sent to the Carthaginians
for assistance; another party sent to Rome, declaring that they were
kinsmen and desired to enter the Italian league.

The Roman Senate rejected this request on account of its "manifest
absurdity." They had just punished their soldiers for imitating the
Mamertines; how then could they interfere with the punishment of the
Mamertines? But in Rome the people possessed the sovereign power of
making peace or war. There was a scarcity of money at that time; a raid
on Sicily would yield plunder, and troops were accordingly ordered to
Messina. For the first time Romans went outside Italy--the vanguard of
an army which subdued the world. The Carthaginians were already in
Messina: the Romans drove them out, and the war began. The Syracusans
were defeated in the first battle, and then went over to the Roman side.
It became a war between Asiatics and Europeans.

Carthage and Rome

The two great republics were already well acquainted with each other. In
the apartment of the Aediles in the Capitol was preserved a commercial
treaty between Carthage and Rome, inscribed on tables of brass in old
Latin; in the time of Polybius it could scarcely be understood, for it
had been drawn up twenty eight years before Xerxes invaded Greece. When
Pyrrhus invaded Italy the Carthaginians had taken the Roman side, for
the Greeks were their hereditary enemies. There were Carthaginian shops
in the streets of Rome, a city in beauty and splendour far inferior to
Carthage, which was called the metropolis of the Western world. The
Romans were a people of warriors and small farmers, quaint in their
habits and simple in their tastes. Some Carthaginian ambassadors were
much amused at the odd fashion of their banquets, where the guests sang
old ballads in turn while the piper played, and they discovered that
there was only one service of plate in Rome, and that each senator
borrowed it when he gave a dinner. Yet there were already signs that
Rome was inhabited by a giant race. The vast aqueducts had been
constructed; the tunnel-like sewers had been hollowed out; the streets
were paved with smooth and massive slabs. There were many temples and
statues to be seen; each temple was the monument of a great victory;
each statue was the memorial of a hero who had died for Rome.

The Carthaginian army was composed entirely of mercenary troops. Africa,
Spain and Gaul were their recruiting grounds, an inexhaustible treasury
of warriors as long as the money lasted which they received as pay. The
Berbers were a splendid Cossack cavalry; they rode without saddle or
bridle, a weapon in each hand; on foot they were merely a horde or
savages with elephant-hide shields, long spears, and bear-skins floating
from their shoulders. The troops of Spain were the best infantry that
the Carthaginians possessed; they wore a white uniform with purple
facings; they fought with pointed swords. The Gauls were brave troops
but were badly armed; they were naked to the waist; their cutlasses were
made of soft iron and had to be straightened after every blow. The
Balearic Islands supplied a regiment of slingers whose balls of hardened
clay whizzed through the air like bullets, broke armour, and shot men
dead. We read much of the Sacred Legion in the Sicilian wars. It was
composed of young nobles, who wore dazzling white shields and
breast-plates which were works of art; who even in the camp never drank
except from goblets of silver and of gold. But this corps had apparently
become extinct, and the Carthaginians only officered their troops, who
they looked upon as ammunition, and to whom their orders were delivered
through interpreters. The various regiments of the Carthaginian army had
therefore nothing in common with one another or with those by whom they
were led. They rushed to battle in confusion, "with sounds, discordant
as their various tribes," and with no higher feeling than the hope of
plunder or the excitement which the act of fighting arouses in the brave

In Rome the army was the nation: no citizen could take office unless he
had served in ten campaigns. All spoke the same language, all were
inspired by the same ambition. The officers were often small farmers
like the men, but this civil equality produced no ill effects; the
discipline was most severe. It was a maxim that the soldier should fear
his officer more than he feared his foe. The drill was unremitting; when
they were in winter quarters they erected sheds in which the soldiers
fenced with swords cased in leather with buttons at the point and hurled
javelins, also buttoned, at one another. These foils were double the
weight of the weapons that were actually used. When the day's march was
over they took pick-axe and spade, and built their camp like a town with
a twelve-foot stockade around it, and a ditch twelve feet deep and
twelve feet broad. When the red mantle was hung before the general's
tent each soldier said to himself, "Perhaps to-day I may win the golden
crown." Laughing and jesting they rubbed their limbs with oil, and took
out of their cases the bright helmets and the polished shields which
they used only on the battle-day. As they stood ready to advance upon
the foe, the general would address them in a vigorous speech; he
would tell them that the greatest honour which could befall a Roman was
to die for his country on the field, and that glorious was the sorrow,
enviable the woe of the matron who gave a husband or a son to Rome. Then
the trumpets pealed, and the soldiers charged, first firing a volley of
javelins and then coming to close quarters with the solid steel. The
chief fault of the Roman military system at that time was in the
arrangement of the chief command. There were two commanders-in-chief,
possessing equal powers, and it sometimes happened that they were both
present on the same spot, that they commanded on alternate days, and
that their tactics differed. They were appointed only for the year, and
when the term drew near its end a consul would often fight a battle at a
disadvantage, or negotiate a premature peace, that he might prevent his
successor from reaping the fruits of his twelve month's toil. The
Carthaginian generals had thereby an advantage, but they also were
liable to be recalled when too successful by the jealous and distrustful
government at home.

The wealth of Carthage was much greater than that of Rome, but her
method of making war was more costly, and a great deal of money was
stolen and wasted by the men in power. In Carthage the highest offices
of state were openly bought from a greedy and dangerous populace, just
as in Pompey's time tables were set out in the streets of Rome at which
candidates for office paid the people for their votes. But at this time
bribery was a capital offence at Rome. It was a happy period in Roman
history, the interlude between two aristocracies. There had been a time
when a system of hereditary castes prevailed; when the plebeians were
excluded from all share in the public lands and the higher offices of
state; when they were often chained in the dungeons of the nobles, and
marked with scars upon their backs: when Romans drew swords on Romans
and the tents of the people whitened the Sacred Hill. But the Licinian
Laws were carried; the orders were reconciled; plebeian consuls were
elected; and two centuries of prosperity, harmony, and victory prepared
Rome for the prodigious contest in which she was now engaged.

To her subject people Carthage acted as a tyrant. She had even deprived
the old Phoenician cities of their liberty of trade. She would not allow
them to build walls for fear they should rebel, loaded them with heavy
burdens grievous to be borne, treated the colonial provinces as
conquered lands, and sent decayed nobles as governors to wring out of
the people all they could. If the enemies of Carthage invaded Africa
they would meet with no resistance except from Carthage herself, and
they would be joined by thousands of Berbers who longed to be revenged
on their oppressors. But if the enemies of Rome invaded Italy they would
find everywhere walled cities ready to defend their liberties and having
liberties to defend. No tribute was taken by Rome from her allies except
that of military service, which service was rewarded with a share of the
harvest that the war brought in.

The Carthaginians were at a greater distance from the seat of war than
the Romans, who had only to sail across a narrow strait. However, this
was counterbalanced by the superiority of the Punic fleet. At that time
the Carthaginians were completely masters of the sea; they boasted that
no man could wash his hands in the salt water without their permission.
The Romans had not a single decked vessel, and in order to transport
their troops across the straits they were obliged to borrow triremes
from the Italian-Greeks. But their marvellous resolution and the absolute
necessities of the case overmastered their deficiencies and their
singular dislike of the sea. The wreck of a Carthaginian man-of-war
served them as a model; they ranged benches along the beach and drilled
sailors who had just come from the plough's tail to the service of the
oar. The vessels were rudely built and the men clumsy at their work, and,
when the hostile fleets first met, the Carthaginians burst into loud
guffaws. Without taking order of battle they flew down upon the Romans,
the admiral leading the van in a seven-decker that had belonged to
Pyrrhus. On they went, each ship in a bed of creamy foam, flags flying,
trumpets blowing, and the negroes singing and clanking their chains as
they laboured at the oar. But presently they perceived some odd-looking
machines on the forecastles of the Roman ships; they had never seen such
things before, and this made them hesitate a little. But when they saw
in what a lubberly fashion the ships were worked their confidence
returned; they dashed in among the Roman vessels, which they tried to
rip up with their aquiline prows. As soon as they came to close quarters
the machines fell down upon them with a crash, tore open their decks,
and grappled them tightly in their iron jaws, forming at the same time a
gangway over which the Roman soldiers poured. The sea fight was made a
land fight, and only a few ships with beaks all bent and broken
succeeded in making their escape. They entered the harbour of Carthage
with their bows covered with skins, the signal of defeat.

However, by means of skilful manoeuvring the invention of Duilius was
made of no avail, and the Carthaginians for many years remained the
masters of the sea. Twice the Roman fleet was entirely destroyed, and
their treasury was now exhausted. But the undaunted people fitted out a
fleet by private subscription, and so rapidly was this done that the
trees, as Florus said, were transformed into ships. Two hundred
five-deckers were ready before the enemy knew that they had begun to
build, and so the Carthaginian fleet was one day surprised by the Romans
in no fighting condition, for the vessels were laden to the gunwales
with corn, and only sailors were on board; the whole fleet was taken or
sunk, and the war was at an end. Yet when all was added up it was found
that the Romans had lost two hundred vessels more than the
Carthaginians. But Rome, even without large ships, could always
reinforce Sicily, while the Carthaginians, without a full fleet, were
completely cut off from the seat of war, and they were unable to rebuild
in the manner of the Romans.

The war in Sicily had been a drawn game. Hamilcar Barca, although
unconquered, received orders to negotiate for peace. The Romans demanded
a large indemnity to pay for the expenses of the war, and took the
Sicilian settlements which Carthage had held for four hundred years.

Peace was made, and the mercenary troops were sent back to Carthage.
Their pay was in arrear, and there was no money left. Matters were so
badly managed that the soldiers were allowed to retain their arms. They
burst into mutiny, ravaged the country, and besieged the capital. The
veterans of Hamilcar could only be conquered by Hamilcar himself. He
saved Carthage, but the struggle was severe. Venerable senators, ladies
of gentle birth, innocent children, had fallen into the hands of the
brutal mutineers, and had been crucified, torn to pieces, tortured to
death in a hundred ways. During those awful orgies of Spendius and Matho,
the Roman war had almost been forgotten; the disasters over which men
had mourned became by comparison happiness and peace. The destruction of
the fleet was viewed as a slight calamity when death was howling at the
city gates. At last Hamilcar triumphed, and the rebels were cast to the
elephants, who kneaded their bodies with their feet and gored them with
their tusks; and Carthage, exhausted, faint from loss of blood,
attempted to repose.

But all was not yet over. The troops that were stationed in Sardinia
rebelled, and Hamilcar prepared to sail with an armament against them.

The Romans had acted in the noblest manner towards the Carthaginians
during the civil war. The Italian merchants had been allowed to supply
Carthage with provisions, and had been forbidden to communicate with the
rebels. When the Sardinian troops mutinied they offered the island to
Rome; the city of Utica had also offered itself to Rome, but the Senate
had refused both applications. And now all of a sudden, as if possessed
by an evil spirit, they pretended that the Carthaginian armament had
been prepared against Rome, and declared war. When Carthage, in the last
stage of misery and prostration, prayed for peace in the name of all the
pitiful gods, it was granted. But Rome had been put to some expense on
account of this intended war; they must therefore pay an additional
indemnity, and surrender Corsica and Sardinia. Poor Carthage was made to
bite the dust indeed.

Hamilcar Barca was appointed commander-in-chief. He was the favourite of
the people. He had to the last remained unconquered in Sicily. He had
saved the city from the mutineers. His honour was unstained, his
patriotism was pure.

In that hour of calamity and shame, when the city was hung with black,
when the spacious docks were empty and bare, when there was woe in every
face and the memory of death in every house, faction was forced to be
silent, and the people were permitted to be heard, and those who loved
their country more than their party rejoiced to see a Man at the head of
affairs. But Hamilcar knew well that he was hated by the leaders of the
government, the politicians by profession, those men who had devoured
the gold which was the very heart of Carthage, and had brought upon her
by their dishonesty this last distressing war; those men who by their
miserable suspicions and intrigues had ever deprived their best generals
of their commands as soon as they began to succeed, and appointed
generals whom they--and the enemy--had no cause to fear. To him was
entrusted by the patriots the office of regenerating Carthage. But how
was it to be done? Without money he was powerless; without money he
could not keep his army together; without money he could not even retain
his command. He had been given it by the people, but the people were
accustomed to be bribed. Gold they must have from the men in power; if
he had none to give they would go to those who had. His enemies he knew
would be able to employ the state revenues against him. What could he
do? Where was the money to be found? He saw before him nothing but
defeat, disgrace, and even an ignominious death--for in Carthage they
sometimes crucified their generals. Often he thought that it would be
better to give up public life, to abandon the corrupt and ruined city,
and to sail to those sweet islands which the Carthaginians had
discovered in the Atlantic Sea. There the earth was always verdant, the
sky was always pure. No fiery sirocco blew, and no cold rain fell in
that delicious land. Odoriferous balm dripped from the branches of the
trees; canary birds sang among the leaves; streams of silver water
rippled downwards to the sea. There Nature was a calm and gentle mother:
there the turmoils of the world might be forgotten; there the weary
heart might be at rest.

Yet how could he desert his fatherland in its affliction? To him the
nation turned its sorrowful eyes; on him the people called as men call
upon their gods. At this feet lay the poor, torn, and wounded
Carthage--the Carthage once so beautiful and so strong, the Carthage who
had fed him from her full breast with riches and with power, the
Carthage who had made him what he was. And should he, who had never
turned his back upon her enemies, desert her now?

Then a glorious idea flashed in upon his brain. He saw a way of
restoring Carthage to her ancient glory, of making her stronger than she
had ever been, of making her a match for Rome. He announced to the
senate that he intended to take the army to Tangiers to reduce a native
tribe which had caused some trouble in the neighbourhood. He quickly
made all arrangements for the march. A few vessels had been prepared for
the expedition to Sardinia. These were commanded by his brother, and he
ordered that they should be sailed along the coast side by side with the
army as it marched. It might have appeared strange to some persons that
he should require ships to make war against a tribe of Moors on land.
But there was no fear of his enemies suspecting his design. It was so
strange and wild that when it had been actually accomplished they could
scarcely believe that it was real.

The night before he marched he went to the Great Temple to offer the
sacrifice of propitiation and entreaty. He took with him his son, a boy
nine years of age. When the libations and other rites were ended and the
victim lay divided on the altar, he ordered the attendants to withdraw.
He remained alone with his son.

The temple of Baal was a magnificent building supported by enormous
columns, covered with gold, or formed of a glass-like substance which
began to glitter and sparkle in a curious manner as the night came on.
Around the temple walls were idols representing the Phoenician gods;
prominent among them was the hideous statue of Moloch, with its
downward-sloping hands and the fiery furnace at its feet. There also
might be seen beautiful Greek statues, trophies of the Sicilian
Wars--especially the Diana which the Carthaginians had taken from
Segesta, which was afterwards restored to that city by the Romans, which
Verres placed in his celebrated gallery and Cicero in his celebrated
speech. There also might be seen the famous brazen bull which an
Athenian invented for the amusement of Phalaris. Human beings were put
inside, a fire was lit underneath, and the throat was so contrived that
the shrieks and groans of the victims made the bull bellow as if he was
alive. The first experiment was made by King Phalaris upon the artist,
and the last by the people upon King Phalaris.

Hamilcar caressed his son and asked him if he would like to go to the
war; when the boy said yes, and showed much delight, Hamilcar took his
little hands and placed them upon the altar, and made him swear that he
would hate the Romans to his dying day. Long years afterwards, when that
boy was an exile in a foreign land--the most glorious, the most
unfortunate of men--he was accused by his royal host of secretly
intriguing with the Romans. He then related this circumstance, and asked
if it was likely that he would ever be a friend to Rome.

Hamilcar marched. The politicians supposed that he was merely engaged in
a third-rate war, and were quite easy in their minds. But one day there
came a courier from Tangiers. He brought tidings which plunged the whole
city in a tumult of wonder and excitement. The three great streets which
led to the market-place were filled with streaming crowds. A multitude
collected round the city hall, in which sat the senators anxiously
deliberating. Women appeared on the roofs of the houses and bent eagerly
over the parapets, while men ran along bawling out the news. Hamilcar
Barca had gone clean off. He was no longer in Africa. He had crossed the
sea. The Tangier expedition was a trick. He had taken the army right
over into Spain, and was fighting with the native chiefs who had always
been the friends and allies of Carthage.

By a strange fortuity, Spain was the Peru of the ancient world. The
horrors of the mines in South America, the sufferings of the Indians,
were copied, so to speak, from the early history of the people who
inflicted them. When the Phoenicians first entered the harbours of
Andalusia they found themselves in a land where silver was used as iron.
They loaded their vessel with the precious metal to the water's edge,
cast away their wooden lead-weighted anchor, and substituted a lump of
pure silver in its stead. Afterwards factories were established,
arrangements were made with the chiefs for the supply of labour, and the
mining was conducted on scientific principles. The Carthaginians
succeeded the Phoenicians, and remained, like them, only on the coast.

It was Hamilcar's design to conquer the whole country, to exact tribute
from the inhabitants, to create a Spanish army. His success was splendid
and complete. The peninsula of Spain became almost entirely a Punic
province. Hamilcar built a city which he called New Carthage--the
Carthagena of modern times--and discovered in its neighbourhood rich
mines of silver-lead which have lately been reopened. He acquired a
private fortune, formed a native army, fed his party at Carthage, and
enriched the treasury of the state. He administered the province nine
years, and then dying, was succeeded by his brother, who, after
governing or reigning a few years, also died. Hannibal, the son of
Hamilcar, became Viceroy of Spain.

It appears strange that Rome should so tamely have allowed the
Carthaginians to take Spain. The truth was that the Romans just then had
enough to do to look after their own affairs. The Gauls of Lombardy had
furiously attacked the Italian cities, and had called to their aid the
Gauls who lived beyond the Alps. Before the Romans had beaten off the
barbarians the conquest in Spain had been accomplished. The Romans
therefore accepted the fact, and contented themselves with a treaty by
which the government of Carthage pledged itself not to pass beyond the

But Hannibal cared nothing about treaties made at Carthage. As Hamilcar
without orders had invaded Spain, so he without orders invaded Italy.
The expedition of the Gauls had shown him that it was possible to cross
the Alps, and he chose that extraordinary route. The Roman army was
about to embark for Spain, which it was supposed would be the seat or
war, when the news arrived that Hannibal had alighted in Italy with
elephants and cavalry, like a man descending from the clouds.

If wars were always decided by individual exploits and pitched battles,
Hannibal would have conquered Italy. He defeated the Romans so often and
so thoroughly that at last they found it their best policy not to fight
with him at all. He could do nothing then but sweep over the country
with his Cossack cavalry, plunder, and destroy. It was impossible for
him to take Rome, which was protected by walls strong as rocks and by
rocks steep as walls. When he did march on Rome, encamping within three
miles of the city and raising a panic during an afternoon, it was done
merely as a ruse to draw away the Roman army from the siege of Capua.
But it did not have even that effect. The army before Capua remained
where it was, and another army appeared as if by magic to defend the
city. Rome appeared to be inexhaustible, and so in reality it was.

Hannibal knew well that Italy could be conquered only by Italians. So
great a general could never have supposed that with a handful of cavalry
he could subdue a country which had a million armed men to bring into
the field. He had taken it for granted that if he could gain some
success at first he would be joined by the subject cities. But in spite
of his great victories they remained true to Rome. Nothing shows so
clearly the immense resources of the Italian Republic as that second
Punic War. Hannibal was in their country, but they employed against him
only a portion of their troops. A second army was in Sicily waging war
against his Greek allies; a third army was in Spain, attacking his
operations at the base, pulling Carthage out of Europe by the roots.
Added to which, it was now the Romans who ruled the sea. When Scipio had
taken New Carthage and conquered Spain, he crossed over into Africa, and
Hannibal was of necessity recalled. He met on the field of Zama a
general whose genius was little inferior to his own, and who possessed
an infinitely better army. Hannibal lost the day, and the fate of
Carthage was decided. It was not the battle which did that; it was the
nature and constitution of the state. In itself the battle of Zama was
not a more ruinous defeat than the battle of Cannae. But Carthage was
made of different stuff from that of Rome. How could a war between those
two people have ended otherwise than as it did? Rome was an armed nation
fighting in Italy for hearth and home, in Africa for glory and revenge.
Carthage was a city of merchants, who paid men to fight for them, and
whose army was dissolved as soon as the exchequer was exhausted. Rome
could fight to its last man; Carthage could fight only to its last
dollar. At the beginning of both wars the Carthaginians did wonders, but
as they became poor they became feeble; their strength dribbled out with
their gold; the refusal of Alexandria to negotiate a loan perhaps
injured them more deeply than the victory of Scipio.

The fall of the Carthaginian empire is not a matter for regret. Outside
the walls of the city existed hopeless slavery on the part of the
subject, shameless extortion on the part of the officials. Throughout
Africa Carthage was never named without a curse. In the time of the
mercenary war the Moorish women, taking oath to keep nothing back,
stripped off their gold ornaments and brought them all to the men who
were resisting their oppressors. That city, that Carthage, fed like a
vulture upon the land. A corrupt and grasping aristocracy, a corrupt and
turbulent populace, divided between them the prey. The Carthaginian
customs were barbarous in the extreme. When a battle had been won they
sacrificed their handsomest prisoners to the gods; when a battle had
been lost the children of their noblest families were cast into the
furnace. Their Asiatic character was strongly marked. They were a people
false and sweet-worded, effeminate and cruel, tyrannical and servile,
devout and licentious, merciless in triumph, faint-hearted in danger,
divinely heroic in despair.

Let us therefore admit that, as an imperial city, Carthage merited her
fate. But henceforth we must regard her from a different point of view.
In order to obtain peace she had given up her colonies abroad, her
provinces at home, her vessels and elephants of war. The empire was
reduced to a municipality. Nothing was left but the city and a piece of
ground. The merchant princes took off their crowns and went back into
the glass and purple business. It was only as a town of manufacture and
trade that Carthage continued to exist, and as such her existence was of
unmixed service to the world.

Hannibal was made prime minister, and at once set to work to reform the
constitution. The aristocratic party informed the Romans that he was
secretly stirring up the people to war. The Romans demanded that he
should be surrendered; he escaped to the court of Antiochus, the Greek
king in Asia Minor, and there he did attempt to raise war against Rome.
The senate were justified in expelling him from Carthage, for he was
really a dangerous man. But the persecution to which he was afterwards
subjected was not very creditable to their good fame. Driven from place
to place, he at last took refuge in Bithynia, on the desolate shores of
the Black Sea, and a Roman consul, who wished to obtain some notoriety by
taking home the great Carthaginian as a show, commanded the prince under
whose protection he was living to give him up. When Hannibal heard of
this he took poison, saying, "Let me deliver the Romans from their cares
and anxieties since they think it too tedious and too dangerous to wait
for the death of a poor, hated old man." The news of this occurrence
excited anger in Rome, but it was the presage of a greater crime which
was soon to be committed in the Roman name.

There was a Berber chief named Masinissa who had been deprived of his
estates, and who during the war had rendered important services to Rome.
He was made king of Numidia, and it was stipulated in the treaty that
the Carthaginians should restore the lands and cities which had belonged
to him and to his ancestors. The lands which they had taken from him
were accordingly surrendered, and then Masinissa sent in a claim for
certain lands which he said had been taken from his ancestors. The
wording of the treaty was ambiguous. He might easily declare that the
whole of the sea-coast had belonged to his family in ancient times, and
who could disprove the evidence of a tradition? He made no secret of his
design; it was to drive the Phoenician strangers out of Africa and to
reign at Carthage in their stead. He soon showed that he was worthy to
be called the King of Numidia and the Friend of Rome. He drilled his
bandits into soldiers; he taught his wandering shepherds to till the
ground. He made his capital, Constantine, a great city; he opened
schools in which the sons of native chiefs were taught to read and write
in the Punic tongue. He allied himself with the powers of Morocco and
the Atlas. He reminded the Berbers that it was to them the soil
belonged, that the Phoenicians were intruders who had come with presents
in their hands and with promises in their mouths, declaring that they
had met with trouble in their own country, and praying for a place where
they might repose from the weary sea. Their fathers had trusted them;
their fathers had been bitterly deceived. By force and by fraud the
Carthaginians had taken all the lands which they possessed; they had
stolen the ground on which their city stood.

In the meantime Rome advanced into the East. As soon as the battle of
Zama had been fought Alexandria demanded her protection. This brought
the Romans into contact with the Graeco-Asiatic world; they found it in
much the same condition as the English found Hindustan, and they
conquered it in much the same manner.

Time went on. The generation of Hannibal had almost become extinct. In
Carthage war had become a tradition of the past. The business of that
city was again as flourishing as it had ever been. Again ships sailed to
the coasts of Cornwall and Guinea; again the streets were lined with the
workshops of industrious artisans. Such is the vis medicatrix, the
restoring power of a widely extended commerce, combined with active
manufactures and the skilful management of soil, that the city soon
regained its ancient wealth. The Romans had imposed an enormous
indemnity which was to be paid off by instalments extending over a
series of years. The Carthaginians paid it off at once.

But in the midst of all their prosperity and happiness there were grave
and anxious hearts. They saw ever before them the menacing figure of
Masinissa. The very slowness of his movements was portentous. He was in
all things deliberate, gradual, and calm. From time to time he demanded
a tract of land; if it was not given up at once he took it by force.
Then, waiting as if to digest it, he left them for a while in peace.

They were bound by treaty not to make war against the Friend of Rome.
They therefore petitioned the Senate that commissioners should be sent
and the boundary definitely settled. But the Senate had no desire that
Carthage should be left in peace. The commissioners were instructed to
report in such a manner that Masinissa might be encouraged to continue
his depredations. They brought back astonishing accounts of the
magnificence and activity of the African metropolis; and among these
commissioners there was one man who never ceased to declare that the
country was in danger, and who never rose to speak in the House without
saying before he sat down: "And it is my opinion, fathers, that Carthage
must be destroyed."

Cato the censor has been called the last of the old Romans. That class
of patriot farmers had been extinguished by Hannibal's invasion. In
order to live during the long war they had been obliged to borrow money
on their lands. When the war was over the prices of everything rose to
an unnatural height; the farmers could not recover themselves, and the
Roman law of debt was severe. They were ejected by thousands--it was the
favourite method to turn the women and children out of doors while the
poor man was working in the fields. Italy was converted into a
plantation; slaves in chains tilled the land. No change was made in the
letter of the constitution, but the commonwealth ceased to exist.
Society was now composed of the nobles, the money-merchants or city men,
and a mob like that of Carthage, which lived on saleable votes, sometimes
raging for agrarian laws, and which was afterwards fed at government
expense like a wild beast every day.

At this time a few refined and intellectual men began to cultivate a
taste for Greek literature and the fine arts. They collected libraries,
and adorned them with busts of celebrated men and with antiques of
Corinthian bronze. Crowds of imitators soon arose, and the conquests in
the East awakened new ideas. In the days of old the Romans had been
content to decorate their door-posts with trophies obtained in single
combat, and their halls with the waxen portraits of their ancestors. The
only spoils which they could then display were flocks and herds, wagons
of rude structure, and heaps of spears and helmets. But now the arts of
Greece and the riches of Asia adorned the triumphs of their generals,
and the reign of taste and luxury commenced. A race of dandies appeared
who wore semi-transparent robes, and who were always passing their hands
in an affected manner through their hair--who lounged with the languor
of the Sybarite, and spoke with the lisp of Alcibiades. The wives of
senators and bankers became genteel, kept a herd of ladies' maids,
passed hours before their full-length silver mirrors, bathed in asses'
milk, rouged their cheeks and dyed their hair, never went out except in
palanquins, gabbled Greek phrases, and called their slaves by Greek
names even when they happened to be of Latin birth. The houses of the
great were paved with mosaic floors, and the painted walls were works of
art: sideboards were covered with gold and silver plate, with vessels of
amber and of the tinted Alexandrine glass. The bathrooms were of marble,
with the water issuing from silver tubes.

New amusements were invented, and new customs began to reign. An academy
was established, in which five hundred boys and girls were taught
castanet dances of anything but a decorous kind. The dinner hour was
made later, and instead of sitting at table they adopted the style of
lying down to eat on sofas inlaid with tortoiseshell and gold. It was
chiefly in the luxuries of the cuisine that the Romans exhibited their
wealth. Prodigious prices were paid for a good Greek cook. Every
patrician villa was a castle of gastronomical delight: it was provided
with its salt-water tank for fish and oysters, and an aviary which was
filled with field-fares, ortolans, nightingales, and thrushes; a white
dove-cot, like a tower, stood beside the house, and beneath it was a
dark dungeon for fattening the birds; there was also a poultry ground,
with pea-fowl, guinea-fowl, and pink feathered flamingoes imported from
the East, while an orchard of fig-trees, honey-apples, and other fruits,
and a garden in which the trees of cypress and yew were clipped into
fantastic shapes, conferred an aspect of rural beauty on the scene. The
hills round the Bay of Naples were covered with these villas; and to
that charming region it became the fashion to resort at a certain season
of the year. In such places gambling, drinking, and lovemaking shook off
all restraints. Black-eyed soubrettes tripped perpetually about with
billets-doux in Greek; the rattle of the ivory dice-box could be heard
in the streets, like the click of billiard balls in the Parisian
boulevards; and many a boat with purple sails and with garlands of roses
twined round its mast floated softly along the water, laughter and sweet
music sounding from the prow.

Happily for Cato's peace of mind, he died before the casino with its
cachucha--or cancan, or whatever it might have been--was introduced, and
before the fashions of Asia had been added to those of Greece. But he
lived long enough to see the Graeco-maniacs triumphant. In earlier and
happier days he had been able to expel two philosophers from Rome, but
now he saw them swarming in the streets with their ragged cloaks and
greasy beards, and everywhere obtaining seats as domestic chaplains at
the tables of the rich. He could now do no more than protest in his
bitter and extravagant style against the corruption of the age. He
prophesied that as soon as Rome had thoroughly imbibed the Greek
philosophy she would lose the empire of the world; he declared that
Socrates was a prating, seditious fellow who well deserved his fate; and
he warned his son to beware of the Greek physicians, for the Greeks had
laid a plot to kill all the Romans, and the doctors had been deputed to
put it into execution with their medicines.

Cato was a man of an iron body which was covered with honourable scars,
a loud, harsh voice, greenish-grey eyes, foxy hair, and enormous teeth
resembling tusks. His face was so hideous and forbidding that, according
to one of the hundred epigrams that were composed against him, he would
wander for ever on the banks of the Styx, for hell itself would be
afraid to let him in. He was distinguished as a general, as an orator,
and as an author, but he pretended that it was his chief ambition to be
considered a good farmer. He lived in a little cottage on his Sabine
estate, and went in the morning to practise as an advocate in the
neighbouring town. When he came home he stripped to the skin and worked
in the fields with his slaves, drinking as they did the vinegar-water or
the thin, sour wine. In the evening he used to boil the turnips for his
supper while his wife made the bread. Although he cared so little about
external things, if he gave an entertainment and the slaves had not
cooked it or waited to his liking, he used to chastise them with leather
thongs. It was one of his maxims to sell his slaves when they grew
old--the worst cruelty that a slave-owner can commit. "For my part,"
says Plutarch, "I should never have the heart to sell an ox that had
grown old in my service, still less my aged slave."

Cato's old-fashioned virtue paid very well. He gratified his personal
antipathies and obtained the character of the people's friend. He was
always impeaching the great men of his country, and was himself
impeached nearly fifty times. The man who sets up as being much better
than his age is always to be suspected, and Cato is perhaps the best
specimen of the rugged hypocrite and austere charlatan that history can
produce. This censor of morals bred slaves for sale. He made laws
against usury and then turned usurer himself. He was always preaching
about the vanity of riches, and wrote an excellent work on the best way
of getting rich. He degraded a Roman knight for kissing his wife in the
day-time in the presence of his daughter, and he himself, while he was
living under his daughter-in-law's roof, bestowed his favours on one of
the servant girls of the establishment, and allowed her to be impudent
to her young mistress. "Old age," he once said to a grey-headed
debauchee, "has deformities enough of its own. Do not add to it the
deformity of vice." At the time of the amorous affair above mentioned
Cato was nearly eighty years of age.

On the other hand, he was a most faithful servant to his country; he was
a truly religious man, and his god was the Commonwealth of Rome. Nor was
he destitute of the domestic virtues, though sadly deficient in that
respect. He used to say that those who beat their wives and children
laid their sacrilegious hands on the holiest things in the world. He
educated his son himself, taught him to box, to ride, and to swim, and
wrote out for him a history of Rome in large pothook characters, that he
might become acquainted at an early age with the great actions of the
ancient Romans. He was as careful in what he said before the child as if
he had been in the presence of the vestal virgins.

This Cato was the man on whom rests chiefly the guilt of the murder
which we must now relate. In public and in private, by direct
denunciation, by skilful innuendo, by appealing to the fears of some and
to the interests of others, he laboured incessantly towards his end.
Once, after he had made a speech against Carthage in the senate, he
shook the skirt of his robe as if by accident, and some African figs
fell upon the ground. When all had looked and wondered at their size and
beauty he observed that the place where they grew was only three days'
sail from Rome.

It is possible that Cato was sincere in his alarms, for he was one of
the few survivors of the second Punic War. He had felt the arm of
Carthage in its strength. He could remember that day when even Romans
had turned pale; when the old men covered their faces with their
mantles; when the young men clambered on the walls; when the women ran
wailing round the temples of the gods, praying for protection and
sweeping the shrines with their hair; when a cry went forth that
Hannibal was at the gates; when a panic seized the city; when the
people, collecting on the roofs, flung tiles at Roman soldiers,
believing them to be the enemy already in the town; when all over the
Campagna could be seen the smoke of ricks and farmhouses mounting in the
air, and the wild Berber horsemen driving herds of cattle to the Punic

Besides, it was his theory that the annihilation of foreign powers was
the building up of Rome. He used to boast that in his Peninsular
campaign he had demolished a Spanish town a day. There were in the
Senate many enlightened men who denied that the prosperity of Rome could
be assisted by the destruction of trading cities, and Carthage was
defended by the Scipio party. But the influence of the banker class was
employed on Cato's side. They wanted every penny that was spent in the
Mediterranean world to pass through their books. Carthage and Corinth
were rival firms which it was to their profit to destroy. These
money-mongers possessed great power in the senate and the state, and at
last they carried the day. It was privately resolved that Carthage
should be attacked as soon as an opportunity occurred.

Thus in Africa and in Italy Masinissa and Cato prepared the minds of men
for the deed of blood. It was as if the Furies of the slaughtered dead
had entered the bodies of those two old men and kept them alive beyond
their natural term. Cato had done his share. It was now Masinissa's
turn. As soon as he was assured that he would be supported by the Romans,
he struck again and again the wretched people, who were afraid to resist
and yet who soon saw that it would be folly to submit. It was evident
that Rome would not interfere. If Masinissa was not checked he would
strip them of their cornfields; he would starve them to death. The war
party at last prevailed; the city was fortified and armed. Masinissa
descended on their villas, their gardens, and their farms. Driven to
despair, the Carthaginians went forth to defend the crops which their
own hands had sown. A great battle was fought, and Masinissa was

On a hill near the battlefield sat a young Roman officer, Scipio
Aemilianus, a relative of the man who had defeated Hannibal. He had been
sent over from Spain for a squadron of elephants, and arrived in
Masinissa's camp at this interesting crisis. The news of the battle was
soon despatched by him to Rome. The treaty had now been broken, and the
Senate declared war.

The Carthaginians fell into an agony of alarm. They were now so broken
down that a vassal of Rome could defeat them in the open field. What had
they to expect in a war with Rome? Ambassadors were at once dispatched
with full powers to obtain peace--peace at any price--from the terrible
Republic. The envoys presented themselves before the Senate; they
offered the submission of the Carthaginians, who formally disowned the
act of war, who had put the two leaders of the war-party to death, and
who desired nothing but the alliance and goodwill of Rome. The answer
which they received was this: "Since the Carthaginians are so well
advised, the senate returns them their country, their laws, their
sepulchres, their liberties, and their estates, if they will surrender
three hundred sons of their senators as hostages, and obey the orders of
the consuls."

The Roman army had already disembarked. When the consuls landed on the
coast no resistance was made. They demanded provisions. Then the city
gates were opened, and long trains of bullocks and mules laden with corn
were driven to the Roman camp. The hostages were demanded. Then the
senators brought forth their children and gave them to the city; the
city gave them to the Romans; the Romans placed them on board the
galleys, which at once spread their sails and departed from the coast.
The roofs of the palaces of Carthage were crowded with women who watched
these receding sails with straining eyes and outstretched arms. Never
more would they see their beloved ones. Yet they would not perhaps have
grieved so much at the children leaving Carthage had they known what was
to come.

The city gates again opened. The Senate sent its council to the Roman
camp. A company of venerable men clad in purple, with golden chains,
presented themselves at headquarters and requested to know what were the
"orders of the consuls." They were told that Carthage must disarm. They
returned to the city and at once sent out to the camp all their
fleet material and artillery, all the military stores in the public
magazines, and all the arms that could be found in the possession of
private individuals. Three thousand catapults and two hundred thousand
sets of armour were given up.

They again came out to the camp. The military council was assembled to
receive them. The old men saluted the Roman ensigns, and bowed low to
the consuls, placing their hands upon their breasts. The orders of the
consuls, they said, had been obeyed. Was there anything more that their
lords had to command?

The senior consul rose up and said that there was something more. He was
instructed by the Roman Senate to inform the senators of Carthage that
the city must be destroyed, but that in accordance with the promise of
the Roman Senate their country, their laws, their sepulchres, their
liberties, and their estates would be preserved, and they might build
another city. Only it must be without walls, and at a distance of at
least ten miles from the sea.

The Carthaginians cast themselves upon the ground, and the whole
assembly fell into confusion. The consul explained that he could
exercise no choice: he had received his orders, and they must be carried
out. He requested them to return and apprise their fellow-townsmen. Some
of the senators remained in the Roman camp; others ventured to go back.
When they drew near the city the people came running out to meet them,
and asked them the news. They answered only by weeping and beating their
foreheads, and stretching out their hands and calling on the gods. They
went on to the senate house; the members were summoned; an enormous
crowd gathered in the market-place. Presently the doors opened; the
senators came forth, and the orders of the consuls were announced.

And then there rose in the air a fierce, despairing shriek, a yell of
agony and rage. The mob rushed through the city and tore limb from limb
the Italians who were living in the town. With one voice it was resolved
that the city should be defended to the last. They would not so tamely
give up their beautiful Carthage, their dear and venerable home beside
the sea. If it was to be burnt to ashes, their ashes should be mingled
with it, and their enemies' as well.

All the slaves were set free. Old and young, rich and poor, worked
together day and night forging arms. The public buildings were pulled
down to procure timber and metal. The women cut off their hair to make
strings for the catapults. A humble message was sent in true Oriental
style to the consul, praying for a little time. Days passed, and
Carthage gave no signs of life. Tired of waiting, the consul marched
towards the city, which he expected to enter like an open village. He
found, to his horror, the gates closed, and the battlements bristling
with artillery.

Carthage was strongly fortified, and it was held by men who had
abandoned hope. The siege lasted more than three years. Cato did not
live to see his darling wish fulfilled. Masinissa also died while the
siege was going on, and bitter was his end. The policy of the Romans had
been death to all his hopes. His dream of a great African empire was
dissolved. He sullenly refused to co-operate with the Romans--it was
his Carthage which they had decreed should be levelled to the ground.

There was a time when it seemed as if the great city would prove itself
to be impregnable; the siege was conducted with small skill or vigour by
the Roman generals. More than one reputation found its grave before the
walls of Carthage. But when Scipio Aemilianus obtained the command, he at
once displayed the genius of his house. Perceiving that it would be
impossible to subdue the city as long as smuggling traders could run
into the port with provisions, he constructed a stone mole across the
mouth of the harbour. Having thus cut off the city from the sea, he
pitched his camp on the neck of the isthmus--for Carthage was built on a
peninsula--and so cut it off completely from the land. For the first
time in the siege the blockade was complete: the city was enclosed in a
stone and iron cage. The Carthaginians in their fury brought forth the
prisoners whom they had taken in their sallies, and hurled them headlong
from the walls. There were many in the city who protested against this
outrage. They were denounced as traitors; a reign of terror commenced;
the men of the moderate party were crucified in the streets. The hideous
idol of Moloch found victims in that day; children were placed on its
outstretched and downward-sloping hands and rolled off them into the
fiery furnace which was burning at its feet. Nor were there wanting
patriots who sacrificed themselves upon the altars that the gods might
have compassion upon those who survived. But among these pestilence and
famine had begun to work, and the sentinels could scarcely stand to
their duty on the walls. Gangs of robbers went from house to house and
tortured people to make them give up their food; mothers fed upon their
children; a terrible disease broke out; corpses lay scattered in the
streets; men who were burying the dead fell dead upon them; others dug
their own graves and lay down in them to die; houses in which all had
perished were used as public sepulchres, and were quickly filled.

And then, as if the birds of the air had carried the news, it became
known all over Northern Africa that Carthage was about to fall. And then
from the dark and dismal corners of the land, from the wasted frontiers
of the desert, from the snow lairs, and caverns of the Atlas, there came
creeping and crawling to the coast the most abject of the human
race--black, naked, withered beings, their bodies covered with red
paint, their hair cut in strange fashions, their language composed of
muttering and whistling sounds. By day they prowled round the camp and
fought with the dogs for the offal and the bones. If they found a skin
they roasted it on ashes and danced round it in glee, wriggling their
bodies and uttering abominable cries. When the feast was over they
cowered together on their hams, and fixed their gloating eyes upon the
city, and expanded their blubber lips, and showed their white fangs.

At last the day came. The harbour walls were carried by assault, and the
Roman soldiers pressed into the narrow streets which led down to the
water side. The houses were six or seven storeys high, and each house
was a fortress which had to be stormed. Lean and haggard creatures, with
eyes of flame, defended their homesteads from room to room, onwards,
upwards, to the death struggle on the broad, flat roof.

Day followed day, and still that horrible music did not cease--the
shouts and songs of the besiegers, the yells and shrieks of the
besieged, the moans of the wounded, the feeble cries of children divided
by the sword. Night followed night, and still the deadly work went on;
there was no sleep and no darkness; the Romans lighted houses that they
might see to kill.

Six days passed thus, and only the citadel was left. It was a steep rock
in the middle of the town; a temple of the God of Healing crowned its

The rock was covered with people, who could be seen extending their arms
to heaven and uniting with one another in the last embrace. Their
piteous lamentations, like the cries of wounded animals, ascended in the
air, and behind the iron circle which enclosed them could be heard the
crackling of the fire and the dull boom of falling beams.

The soldiers were weary with smiting: they were filled with blood.
Nine-tenths of the inhabitants had been already killed. The people on the
rock were offered their lives; they descended with bare hands and passed
under the yoke. Some of them ended their days in prison; the greater
part were sold as slaves.

But in the temple on the summit of the rocky hill nine hundred Roman
deserters, for whom there could be no pardon, stood at bay. The trumpets
sounded; the soldiers, clashing their bucklers with their swords and
uttering the war-cry alala! alala! Advanced to the attack. Of a sudden
the sea of steel recoiled, the standards reeled; a long tongue of flame
sprang forth upon them through the temple door. The deserters had set
the building on fire that they might escape the ignominious death of
martial law.

A man dressed in purple rushed out of the temple with an olive branch in
his hand. This was Hasdrubal, the commander-in-chief, and the
Robespierre of the reign of terror. His life was given him; he would do
for the triumph. And as he bowed the knee before the consul a woman
appeared on the roof of the temple with two children in her arms. She
poured forth some scornful words upon her husband, and then plunged with
her children into the flames.

Carthage burned seventeen days before it was entirely consumed. Then the
plough was passed over the soil to put an end in legal form to the
existence of the city. House might never again be built, corn might
never again be sown, upon the ground where it had stood. A hundred years
afterwards Julius Caesar founded another Carthage and planted a Roman
colony therein. But it was not built upon the same spot. The old site
remained accursed; it was a browsing ground for cattle, a field of
blood. When recently the remains of the city walls were disinterred they
were found to be covered with a layer of ashes from four to five feet
deep. Filled with half-charred pieces of wood, fragments of iron, and

The possessions of the Carthaginians were formed into a Roman province
which was called Africa. The governor resided at Utica, which with the
other old Phoenician towns received municipal rights, but paid a fixed
stipend to the state exchequer. The territory of Carthage itself became
Roman domain land, and was let on lease. Italian merchants flocked to
Utica in great numbers and reopened the inland trade, but the famous sea
trade was not revived. The Britons of Cornwall might in vain gather on
high places and strain their eyes towards the west. The ships which had
brought them beads and purple cloth would come again no more.

A descendant of Masinissa, who inherited his genius, defied the Roman
power in a long war. He was finally conquered by Sylla and Marius,
caught, and carried off to Rome. Apparelled in barbaric splendour, he
was paraded through the streets. But when the triumph was over his
guards rushed upon him and struggled for the finery in which he had been
dressed. They tore the rings from his ears with such force that the
flesh came away; they cast him naked into a dungeon under ground. "O
Romans, you give me a cold bath!" were the last words of the valiant

The next Numidian prince who appeared at a triumph was the young Juba,
who had taken the side of Pompey against Caesar. "It proved to be a
happy captivity for him," says Plutarch, "for from a barbarous and
unlettered Numidian he became an historian worthy to be numbered amongst
the learned men of Greece."

When the empire became established the kingdoms of Numidia, of Cyrene,
and of Egypt were swept away. Africa was divided into seven fruitful
provinces ranging along the coast from Tripoli to Tangiers. Egypt was
made a province, with the tropical line for its southern frontier. The
oasis of Cyrene, with its fields of asafoetida, was a middle station
between the two. But still the history of Northern Africa and the
history of Egypt remain distinct. The Roman empire, though held together
for a time by strong and skilful hands, was divided by customs and modes
of thought arising out of language into the Greek and Latin worlds. In
the countries which had been civilised by the Romans Latin had been
introduced. In the countries which before the Roman conquest had been
conquered by Alexander, the Greek language maintained its ground.
Greece, Macedonia, Asia Minor, Syria, Egypt, and Cyrene belonged to the
Greek world; Italy Gaul, Spain, and Africa belonged to the Latin world.
Greek was never spoken in Roman Carthage except by a few merchants and
learned men. Latin was never spoken in Alexandria except in the law
courts and at Government House. Whenever there was a partition of the
empire Egypt was assigned to one emperor, Carthage to the other. In the
Church history of Africa the same phenomenon may be observed. The Church
of Africa was the daughter of the Church of Rome, and was chiefly
occupied with questions of discipline and law. The Church of Egypt was
essentially a Greek church; it was occupied entirely with definitions of
the undefinable and solutions of problems in theology.

In one respect, however, the histories of Egypt and Africa are the same.
They were both of them cornfields, and both of them were ruined by the
Romans. In the early days of the empire there was a noble reform in
provincial affairs resembling that which Clive accomplished in British
India when he visited that country for the last time. There was then an
end to that tyrant of prey who under the republic had contrived in a few
years to extort an enormous fortune from his proconsulate, and who was
often accompanied by a wife more rapacious than himself; who returned to
Rome with herds of slaves and cargoes of bullion and of works of art.
Governors were appointed with fixed salaries; the Roman law was
everywhere introduced; vast sums of money were expended on the public

Unhappily this did not last. Rome was devoured by a population of mean
whites, the result of foreign slavery, which invariably degrades labour.
This vast rabble was maintained by the state; rations of bread and oil
were served out to it every day. When the evil time came and the
exchequer was exhausted, the governors of Africa and Egypt were required
to send the usual quantity of grain all the same, and to obtain their
percentage as best they could. They were transformed into satraps or
pashas. The great landowners were accused of conspiracy, and their
estates escheated to the crown. The agriculturists were reduced to
serfdom. There might be a scarcity of food in Africa, but there must be
none in Rome. Every year were to be seen the huge ships lying in the
harbours of Alexandria and Carthage, and the mountains of corn piled
high upon the quays. When the seat of empire was transferred to the
Bosphorus the evil became greater still. Each province was forced to do
double work. There was now a populace in Constantinople which was fed
entirely by Egypt, and Africa supported the populace of Rome. While the
Egyptian fellah and the Moorish peasant were labouring in the fields,
the sturdy beggars of Byzantium and Rome were amusing themselves at the
circus or basking on marble in the sun.

But Africa was not only a plantation of corn and oil for their imperial
majesties the Italian lazzaroni. It also contained the preserves of
Rome. The lion was a royal beast; it was licensed to feed upon the flock
of the shepherds, and upon the shepherd himself if it preferred him. The
unfortunate Moor could not defend his life without a violation of the
game laws, which were quite as ferocious as the lion. It will easily be
imagined that the Roman rule was not agreeable to the native population.
They had fallen beneath a power compared with which that of the
Carthaginians was feeble and kind; which possessed the strength of
civilisation without its mercy. But when that power began to decline
they lifted up their heads and joined the foreign invaders as soon as
they appeared, as their fathers had joined the Romans in the ancient

These invaders were the Vandals, a tribe of Germans from the North who
had conquered Spain and who, now pouring over the Gibraltar Straits,
took Carthage and ruled there a hundred years. The Romans struggled hard
to regain their cornfields, and the old duel of Rome and Carthage was
resumed. This time it was Carthage that was triumphant. It repelled the
Romans when they invaded Africa. It became a naval power, scoured the
Mediterranean, re-conquered Sicily and Sardinia, plundered the shores of
Italy, and encamped beneath the mouldering walls of Rome. The gates of
the city were opened, and the bishop of Rome, attended by his clergy,
came forth in solemn procession to offer the submission of Rome, and to
pray for mercy to the churches and their captives. Doubtless in that
army of Germans and Moors by whom they were received there were men of
Phoenician descent who had read in history of a similar scene. Rome was
more fortunate than ancient Carthage: the city was sacked, but it was
not destroyed. Not long afterwards it was taken by the Goths. Kings
dressed in furs sat opposite each other on the thrones of Carthage and
of Rome.

The Emperor of the East sent the celebrated Belisarius against the
Carthaginian Vandals, who had become corrupted by luxury and whom he
speedily subdued. Thus Africa was restored to Rome, but it was a Greek
speaking Rome, and the citizens of Carthage still felt themselves to be
under foreign rule. Besides, the war had reduced the country to a
wilderness. One might travel for days without meeting a human being in
those fair coast lands which had once been filled with olive groves, and
vineyards, and fields of waving corn. The savage Berber tribes pressed
more and more fiercely on the cultivated territory which still remained.
It is probable that if the Arabs had not come the Moors would have
driven the Byzantines out of the land, or at least have forced them to
remain as prisoners behind their walls.

With the invasion of the Arabs the proper history of Africa begins. It
is now that we are able for the first time to leave the coasts of the
Mediterranean and the banks of the Nile, and to penetrate into that vast
and mysterious world of which the ancient geographers had but a faint
and incorrect idea.

It is evident enough from the facts which have been adduced in the
foregoing sketch that Egypt and Carthage contributed much to human
progress--Egypt by instructing Greece, Carthage by drawing forth Rome to
the conquest of the world.

But these countries did little for Africa itself. The ambition of Egypt
was with good reason turned towards Asia, that of Carthage towards
Europe. The influence of Carthage on the regions of the Niger was
similar to that of Egypt on the negro regions of the Nile. In each case
it became the fashion for the native chiefs to wear Egyptian linen or
the Tyrian purple, and to decorate their wives with beads which are
often discovered by the negroes of the present day in ancient and
forgotten graves. Elephants were hunted and gold pits were dug in
Central Africa, that these luxuries might be procured; but the chief
article of export was the slave, and this commodity was obtained by
means of war. The negroes have often been accused of rejecting the
civilisation of the Egyptians and Carthaginians, but they were never
brought into contact with those people. The intercourse between them was
conducted by the intermediate Berber tribes.

Those Berber tribes who inhabited the regions adjoining Egypt and Cyrene
appear to have been in some degree improved. But they were a roving
people, and civilisation can never ripen under tents. Something,
however, was accomplished among those who were settled in cities or the
regions of the coast. That the Berber race possesses a remarkable
capacity for culture has been amply proved. It is probable that Terence
was a Moor. It is certain that Juba, whose works have been unfortunately
lost, was of unmixed Berber blood. Reading and writing were common among
them, and they used a character of their own. When the Romans took
Carthage they gave the public library and archives to the Berber chiefs.
At one time it seemed as if Barbary was destined to become a civilised
province after the pattern of Spain and Gaul. Numidian princes adopted
the culture of the Greeks, and Juba was placed on his ancestral throne
that he might tame his wild subjects into Roman citizens. But this
movement soon perished, and the Moorish chiefs fell back into their
bandit life.

Roman Africa

The African Church has obtained imperishable fame. In the days of
suffering it brought forth martyrs whose fiery ardour and serene
endurance have never been surpassed. In the days of victory it brought
forth minds by whose imperial writings thousands of cultivated men have
been enslaved. But this church was for the most part confined to
the walled cities on the coast, to the farming villages in which the
Punic speech was still preserved, and to a few Moorish tribes who lived
under Roman rule. In the days of St. Augustine Christianity was in its
zenith, and St. Augustine complains that there were hundreds of Berber
chiefs who had never heard the name of Christ. Even in Roman Africa the
triumph of Christianity was not complete. In Carthage itself Astarte and
Moloch were still adored, and a bare-footed monk could not show himself
in the streets without being pelted by the populace. At a later date the
Moorish tribes became an heretical and hostile sect; the religious
persecutions of the Arian Vandals were succeeded by the persecutions of
the Byzantine Greeks. Christianity was divided and almost dead when the
Arabs appeared, and the Church which had withstood ten imperial
persecutions succumbed to the tax which the conquerors imposed on "the
people of the book."

The Arabs

The failure of Christianity in Africa was owing to the imperfection of
the Roman conquest. Their occupation was of a purely military kind, and
it did not embrace an extensive area. The Romans were entirely distinct
from the natives in manners and ideas. It was natural that the Berbers
should reject the religion of a people whose language they did not
understand, whose tyranny they detested, and whose power most of them
defied. But the Arabs were accustomed to deserts; they did not settle,
like the Romans and the Carthaginians, on the coast; they covered the
whole land; they penetrated into the recesses of the Atlas; they pursued
their enemies into the depths of the Sahara. But they also mingled
persuasion with force. They believed that the Berbers were Arabs like
themselves, and invited them as kinsmen to accept the mission of the
prophet. They married the daughters of the land; they gathered round
their standards the warriors whom they had defeated, and led them to the
glorious conquest of Spain. The two peoples became one; the language and
religion of the Arabs were accepted by the Moors.

With this event the biography of ancient Africa is closed, and the
history of Asiatic Africa begins. But I have in this work a twofold
story to unfold. I have to describe the Dark Continent: to show in what
way it is connected with universal history; what it has received and
what it has contributed to the development of man. And I have also to
sketch in broad outline the human history itself. This task has been
forced upon me in the course of my inquiries. It is impossible to
measure a tributary and to estimate its value with precision except by
comparing it with the other affluents, and by carefully mapping the main
stream. In writing a history of Africa I am compelled to write the
history of the world, in order that Africa's true position may be

And now, passing to the general questions discussed in this chapter, it
will be observed that war is the chief agent of civilisation in the
period which I have attempted to portray. It was war which drove the
Egyptians into those frightful deserts in the midst of which their Happy
Valley was discovered. It was war which under the Persians opened lands
which had been either closed against foreigners or jealously held ajar.
It was war which colonised Syria and Asia Minor with Greek ideas, and
which planted in Alexandria the experimental philosophy which will win
for us in time the dominion of the earth. It was war which united the
Greek and Latin worlds into a splendid harmony of empire. And when that
ancient world had been overcome by languor and had fallen into Oriental
sleep; when nothing was taught in the schools which had not been taught
a hundred years before; when the rapacity of tyrants had extinguished
the ambition of the rich and the industry of the poor; when the Church
also had become inert, and roused itself only to be cruel--then again
came war across the Rhine and the Danube and the Alps, and laid the
foundations of European life among the ruins of the Latin world. In the
same manner Asia awoke as if by magic, and won back from Europe the
lands which she had lost. But this latter conquest, though effected by
means of war, was preserved by means of religion, an element of history
which must be analysed with scientific care. In the next chapter I shall
explain the origin of the religious sentiment and theory in savage life.
I shall sketch the early career of the three great Semitic creeds and
the characters of three men--Moses, Jesus, and Mohammed--who, whatever
may have been their faults, are entitled to the eternal gratitude of the
human race. Then, resuming the history of Africa, I shall follow the
course of Islam over the Great Desert into the Sudan, and shall describe
its progress in that country by means of the sword and of the school,
something of which I have seen and studied under both forms.


The Natural History of Religion

When the poet invokes in his splendid frenzy the shining spheres of
heaven, the murmuring fountains, and the rushing streams; when he calls
upon the earth to hearken, and bids the wild sea listen to his song;
when he communes with the sweet secluded valleys and the haughty-headed
hills as if those inanimate objects were alive, as if those masses of
brute matter were endowed with sense and thought, we do not smile, we do
not sneer, we do not reason, but we feel. A secret chord is touched
within us: a slumbering sympathy is awakened into life. Who has not felt
an impulse of hatred, and perhaps expressed it in a senseless curse,
against a fiery stroke of sunlight or a sudden gust of wind? Who has not
felt a pang of pity for a flower torn and trampled in the dust, a shell
dashed to fragments by the waves? Such emotions or ideas last only for a
moment; they do not belong to us; they are the fossil fancies of a
bygone age; they are a heritage of thought from the childhood of our
race. For there was a time when they possessed the human mind. There was
a time when the phrases of modern poetry were the facts of ordinary
life. There was a time when man lived in fellowship with nature,
believing that all things which moved or changed had minds and bodies
kindred to his own.

To those primeval people the sun was a great being who brightened them
in his pleasure and who scorched then in his wrath. The earth was a
sleeping monster: sometimes it rose a little and turned itself in bed.
They walked upon its back when living; they were put into its belly when
they died. Fire was a savage animal which bit when it was touched. The
birds and beasts were foreigners possessing languages and customs of
their own. The plants were dumb creatures with characters good or bad,
sometimes gloomy in aspect, malignant in their fruit, sometimes
dispensing wholesome food and pleasant shade.

These various forms of nature they treated precisely as if they had been
men. They sometimes adorned a handsome tree with bracelets like a girl;
they offered up prayers to the fruit trees, and made them presents to
coax them to a liberal return. They forbade the destruction of certain
animals which they revered on account of their wisdom, or feared on
account of their fierceness, or valued on account of their utility. They
submitted to the tyranny of the more formidable beasts of prey, never
venturing to attack them for fear the nation or species should
retaliate, but making them propitiatory gifts. In the same manner they
offered sacrifices to avert the fury of the elements, or in gratitude
for blessings which had been bestowed. But often a courageous people,
when invaded, would go to war, not only with the tiger and the bear but
with powers which to them were not less human-like and real. They would
cut with their swords at the hot wind of the desert, hurl their spears
into the swollen river, stab the earth, flog the sea, shoot their arrows
at the flashing clouds, and build up towers to carry heaven by assault.

But when through the operation of the law of growth the intellectual
faculties of men become improved, they begin to observe their own
nature, and in course of time a curious discovery is made. They
ascertain that there is something which resides within them entirely
independent and distinct from the body in which it is contained. They
perceive that it is this mind, or soul, or genius, or spirit, which
thinks and desires and decides. It commands the body as the chief
commands the slave. While the body is asleep it is busy weaving thoughts
in the sleeper's brain, or wanders into other lands and converses with
people whom he, while awake, has never seen. They hear words of wisdom
issuing from the toothless mouth of a decrepit old man. It is evident
that this soul does not grow old, and therefore it does not die. The
body, it is clear, is only a garment which is in time destroyed, and
then where does its inmate go?

When a loved one has been taken she haunts the memory of him who weeps
till the image imprinted on the heart is reflected on the curtain of the
eye. Her vision appears not when he is quite asleep, as in an ordinary
dream, but as he is passing into sleep. He meets her in the twilight
land which divides the world of darkness from the world of day. He sees
her form distinctly; he clasps it in his arms; he hears the accents of
her sweet and gentle voice; he feels the pressure of her lips upon his
own. He awakes, and the illusion is dispelled; yet with some it is so
complete that they firmly believe it was a spirit whom they saw.

Among savages it is not love which can thus excite the imagination and
deceive the sense, but reverence and fear. The great chief is dead. His
vision appears in a half-waking dream: it threatens and it speaks. The
dreamer believes that the form and the voice are real, and therefore he
believes that the great chief still exists. It is thus that the grand
idea is born. There is life after death. When the house or garment of
the body is destroyed the soul wanders forth into the air. Like the wind
it is unseen; like the wind it can be soft and kind; like the wind it
can be terrible and cruel. The savage then believes that the pains of
sickness are inflicted by the hand which so often inflicted pain upon
him when it was in the flesh, and he also believes that in battle the
departed warrior is still fighting with unseen weapons at the head of
his own clan. In order to obtain the goodwill of the father-spirit,
prayers are offered up to him and food is placed beside his grave. He
is, in fact, still recognised as king, and to such phantom monarchs the
distinctive title of god is assigned. Each chief is deified and
worshipped when he dies. The offerings and prayers are established by
rule; the reigning chief becomes the family priest; he pretends to
receive communications from the dead, and issues laws in their name. The
deeds of valour which the chiefs performed in their lifetime are set to
song; their biographies descend from generation to generation, changing
in their course, and thus a regular religion and mythology are formed.

It is the nature of man to reason from himself outwards. The savage now
ascribes to the various forms of matter souls or spirits such as he
imagines that he has discovered in himself. The food which he places at
the grave has a soul or essence, and it is this which is eaten by the
spirit of the dead, while the body of the food remains unchanged. The
river is not mere water which may dry up and perish, but there dwells
within it a soul which never dies; and so with everything that lives and
moves, from the blade of grass which shivers in the wind to the star
which slowly moves across the sky. But as men become more and more
capable of general ideas, of classing facts into systems and of
arranging phenomena into groups, they believe in a god of the forests, a
god of the waters, and a god of the sky, instead of ascribing a separate
god to every tree, to every river, and to every star. Nature is placed
under the dominion of a federation of deities. In some cases the
ancestor gods are identified with these; in others their worship is kept
distinct. The trees and the animals, which were once worshipped for
themselves from love or fear, are now supposed to be objects of
affection to the gods, and are held sacred for their sake.

These gods are looked upon as kings. Their characters are human, and are
reflected from the minds of those who have created them. Whatever the
arithmetical arrangement of the gods may be--single or triune, dual or
plural--they are in all countries and in all times made by man in his
own image. In the plural period some of the gods are good and some are
bad, just as there are good and evil kings. The wicked gods can be
softened by flattery and presents, the good ones can be made fierce by
neglect. The wicked gods obtain the largest offerings and the longest
prayers, just as in despotic countries the wicked kings obtain the most
liberal presents--which are merely taxes in disguise.

The savage has been led by indigestion and by dreams to believe in the
existence of the soul after death--or, using simpler language, to
believe in ghosts. At first these souls or ghosts have no fixed abode;
they live among the graves. At a later period the savage invents a world
to which the ghosts depart and in which they reside. It is situated
underground. In that world the ghosts live precisely as they lived on
earth. There is no retribution and no reward for the actions of the
earthly life; that life is merely continued in another region of the
world. Death is in fact regarded as a migration in which, as in all
migrations, the emigrants preserve their relative positions. When a man
of importance dies his family furnish him with an outfit of slaves and
wives, and pack up in his grave his arms and ornaments and clothes, that
he may make his appearance in the under-world in a manner befitting his
rank and fortune. It is believed that the souls of the clothes, as well
as of the persons sacrificed, accompany him there, and it is sometimes
believed that all the clothes which he has worn in his life will then
have their resurrection day.

The under-world and the upper-world are governed by the same gods or
unseen kings. Man's life in the upper-world is short: his life in the
under-world is long. But as regards the existence of the worlds
themselves, both are eternal, without beginning and without end. This
idea is not a creation of the ripened intellect, as is usually supposed.
It is a product of limited experience, and expression of a seeming fact.
The savage did not see the world begin; therefore it had no beginning.
He has not seen it grow older; therefore it will have no end.

The two worlds adjoin each other, and the frontier between them is very
faintly marked. The gods often dress themselves in flesh and blood and
visit the earth to do evil or to do good--to make love to women, to
torment their enemies, to converse with their favourites and friends. On
the other hand there are men who possess the power of leaving their
bodies in their beds and of passing into the other world to obtain
divine poisons which they malignantly employ. The ghosts of the dead
often come and sit by their old firesides and eat what is set apart for
them. Sometimes a departed spirit will re-enter the family, assuming a
body which resembles in its features the one he previously wore.
Distinguished heroes and prophets are often supposed to be hybrids or
mulattoes, the result of a union between a woman and a god. Sometimes it
is believed that a god has come down on earth out of love for a certain
nation, to offer himself up as a sacrifice, and so to quench the
blood-thirst of some sullen and revengeful god who has that nation in
his power. Sometimes a savage people believe that their kings are gods
who have deigned to take upon them a perishable body for a time, and
there are countries in which a still more remarkable superstition
prevails. The royal body even is immortal. The king never eats, never
sleeps, and never dies. This kind of monarch is visible only to his
priests. When the people wish to present a petition he gives them
audience seated behind a curtain, from beneath which he thrusts out his
foot in token of assent. When he dies he is secretly buried by the
priests, and a new puppet is elected in his stead.

The savage lives in a strange world, a world of special providences and
divine interpositions, not happening at long intervals and for some
great end, but every day and almost at every hour. A pain, a dream, a
sensation of any kind, a stroke of good or bad luck--whatever, in short,
does not proceed from man, whatever we ascribe, for want of a better
word, to chance--is by him ascribed to the direct interference of the
gods. He knows nothing about the laws of nature. Death itself is not a
natural event. Sooner or later men make the gods angry and are killed.

It is difficult for those who have not lived among savages perfectly to
realise their faith. When told that his gods do not exist the savage
merely laughs in mild wonder at such an extraordinary observation being
made. It seems quite natural to him that his gods should be as his
parents and grandparents have described; he believes as he breathes,
without an effort; he feels that what he has been taught is true. His
creed is in harmony with his intellect, and cannot be changed until his
intellect is changed. If a god in a dream, or through the priests, has
made him a promise and the promise is broken, he does not on that
account doubt the existence of the god. He merely supposes that the god
has told a lie. Nor does it seem strange to him that a god should tell a
lie. His god is only a gigantic man, a sensual, despotic king who orders
his subjects to give him the first fruits of the fields, the firstlings
of the flock, virgins for his harem, human bodies for his cannibal
repasts. As for himself, he is the slave of that god or king; he prays,
that is to say, he begs; he sings hymns, that is to say, he flatters; he
sacrifices, that is to say, he pays tribute, chiefly out of fear, but
partly in the hope of getting something better in return--long life,
riches, and fruitful wives. He is usually afraid to say of the gods what
he thinks, or even to utter their real name. But sometimes he gives vent
to the hatred which is burning in his heart. Writhing on a bed of
sickness, he heaps curses on the god who he declares is "eating his
inside"; and when he is converted prematurely to a higher creed his god
is still to him the invisible but human king. "O Allah!" a Somali woman
was heard to say, "O Allah! May thy teeth ache like mine! O Allah! May
thy gums be sore as mine!" That Christian monarch the late King Peppel
once exclaimed, when he thought of his approaching end, that if he could
see God he would kill him at once because he made men die.

The arithmetical arrangement of the gods depends entirely upon the
intellectual faculties of the people concerned. In the period of
thing-worship, as it may be termed, every brook, tree, hill, and star is
itself a living creature, benevolent or malignant, asleep or awake. In
the next stage every object and phenomenon is inhabited or presided over
by a genius or spirit, and with some nations the virtues and the vices
are also endowed with personality. As the reasoning powers of men expand
their gods diminish in number and rule over larger areas, till finally
it is perceived that there is unity in nature, that everything which
exists is a part of one harmonious whole. It is then asserted that one
being manufactured the world and rules over it supreme. But at first the
Great Being is distant and indifferent, "a god sitting outside the
universe"; and the old gods become viceroys to whom he has deputed the
government of the world. They are afterwards degraded to the rank of
messengers or angels, and it is believed that God is everywhere present;
that he fills the earth and sky; that from him directly proceeds both
the evil and the good. In some systems of belief, however, he is
believed to be the author of good alone, and the dominion of evil is
assigned to a rebellious angel or a rival god.

So far as we have gone at present, there has been no question of
morality. All doctrines relating to the creation of the world, the
government of man by superior being, and his destiny after death, are
conjectures which have been given out as facts, handed down with many
adornments by tradition, and accepted by posterity as "revealed
religion." They are theories more or less rational which uncivilised men
have devised in order to explain the facts of life, and which civilised
men believe that they believe. These doctrines are not in themselves of
any moral value. It is of no consequence, morally speaking, whether a
man believes that the world has been made by one god or by twenty. A
savage is not of necessity a better man because he believes that he
lives under the dominion of invisible tyrants who will compel him some
day or other to migrate to another land.

There is a moral sentiment in the human breast which, like intelligence,
is born of obscure instincts, and which gradually becomes developed.
Since the gods of men are the reflected images of men, it is evident
that as men become developed in morality the character of their gods
will also be improved. The king of a savage land punishes only offences
against himself and his dependents. But when that people become more
civilised the king is regarded as the representative of public law. In
the same manner the gods of a savage people demand nothing from their
subjects but taxes and homage. They punish only heresy, which is
equivalent to treason; blasphemy, which is equivalent to insult; and the
withholding of tribute and adoration, which is equivalent to rebellion.
And these are the offences which even among civilised nations the gods
are supposed to punish most severely. But the civilised gods also
require that men shall act justly to one another. They are still
despots, for they order men to flatter them and to give them money. But
they are not mere selfish despots; they will reward those who do good,
they will punish those who do evil to their fellow-men.

That vice should be sometimes triumphant and virtue sometimes in
distress creates no difficulty to the savage mind. If a good man meets
with misfortune it is supposed that he is being punished for the sins of
an ancestor or a relation. In a certain stage of barbarism society is
composed not of individuals but of families. If a murder is committed
the avengers of blood kill the first man they meet belonging to the
guilty clan. If the life cannot be obtained in that generation the feud
passes on, for the family never dies. It is considered just and proper
that children should be punished for the sins of their fathers unto the
third and fourth generation.

In a higher state of society this family system disappears;
individualism becomes established. And as soon as this point is reached
the human mind takes a vast stride. It is discovered that the moral
government of this world is defective, and it is supposed that poetical
justice will be administered in the next. The doctrine of rewards and
punishments in a future state comes into vogue. The world of ghosts is
now divided into two compartments. One is the abode of malignant
spirits, the kingdom of darkness and of pain to which are condemned the
blasphemers and the rebels, the murderers and the thieves. The other is
the habitation of the gods, the kingdom of joy and light, to which
angels welcome the obedient and the good. They are dressed in white
robes and adorned with golden crowns; they dwell eternally in the royal
presence, gazing upon his lustrous countenance and singing his praises
in chorus round the throne.

To the active European mind such a prospect is not by any means
inviting; but heaven was invented in the East, and in the East to be a
courtier has always been regarded as the supreme felicity. The feelings
of men towards their god in the period at which we have now arrived are
precisely those of an Eastern subject towards his king. The Oriental
king is the lord of all the land; his subjects are his children and his
slaves. The man who is doomed to death kisses the fatal firman and
submits with reverence to his fate. The man who is robbed by the king of
all that he has earned will fold his hands and say "The king gave and
the king taketh away. Blessed be the name of the king!" The man who
lives in a distant province, who knows the king only by means of the
taxes which are collected in his name, will snatch up his arms if he
hears that his sacred person is in danger, and will defend him as he
defends his children and his home. He will sacrifice his life for one
whom he has never seen, and who has never done him anything but harm.

This kind of devotion is called loyalty when exhibited towards a king,
piety when exhibited towards a god. But in either case the sentiment is
precisely the same. It cannot be too often repeated that god is only a
special name for king; that religion is a form of government, its
precepts a code of laws; that priests are gatherers of divine taxes,
officers of divine police; that men resort to churches to fall on their
knees and to sing hymns from the same servile propensity which makes the
Oriental delight in prostrating himself before the throne; that the
noble enthusiasm which inspires men to devote themselves to the service
of their god, and to suffer death rather than deny his name, is
identical with the devotion of the faithful subject who, to serve his
royal master, gives up his fortune or his life without the faintest
prospect of reward. The religious sentiment, about which so much has
been said, has nothing distinctive in itself. Love and fear, self-denial
and devotion, existed before those phantoms were created which men call
gods, and men have merely applied to invisible kings the sentiments
which they had previously felt towards their earthly kings. If they are
a people in a savage state they hate both kings and gods within their
hearts, and obey them only out of fear. If they are a people in a higher
state love is mingled with their fear, producing an affectionate awe
which in itself is pleasing to the mind. That the worship of the unseen
king should survive the worship of the earthly king is natural enough,
but even that will not endure for ever; the time is coming when the
crowned idea will be cast aside and the despotic shadow disappear.

By thus translating, or by re-translating, god into king, piety into
loyalty, and so on; by bearing in mind that the gods were not abstract
ideas to our ancestors as they are to us, but bona fide men differing
only from men on earth in their invisibility and other magic powers; by
noting that the moral disposition of a god is an image of the moral
sense of those who worship him--their beau-ideal of what a king should
be; by observing that the number and arrangement of the gods depend
exclusively on the intellectual faculties of the people concerned, on
their knowledge of nature, and perhaps to some extent on the political
forms of government under which they live: above all by remembering that
there is a gradual development in supernatural ideas, the student of
comparative religion will be able to sift and classify with ease and
clearness dense masses of mythology. But he must understand that the
various stages overlap. Just as sailing vessels and four-horse coaches
are still used in this age of steam, and as stone implements were still
to be found in use long after the age of iron had set in, so in the
early period of god-belief thing-worship still to a certain extent
endured. In a treaty between Hannibal and Philip of Macedonia which
Polybius preserved, the contracting parties take oath with one another
"n the presence of Jupiter, Juno, and Apollo; in the presence of the
deity of the Carthaginians and of Hercules and of Iolaus; in the
presence of Mars, Triton, and Neptune; in the presence of all the gods
who are with us in the camp; and of the sun, the moon, and the earth;
the rivers, the lakes, and the waters." In the time of Socrates the
Athenians regarded the sun as an individual. Alexander, according to
Arian, sacrificed not only to the gods of the sea but "the sea itself
was honoured with is munificence." Even in Job, the purest of all
monotheistic works, the stars are supposed to be live creatures which
sing around the heavenly throne.

Again, in those countries where two distinct classes of men exist, the
one intellectual and learned, the other illiterate and degraded, there
will be in reality two religions, though nominally there may be only
one. Among the ancient Sabaeans the one class adored spirits who
inhabited the stars, the other class adored the stars themselves. Among
the worshippers of fire that element to one class was merely an emblem,
to the other an actual person. Wherever idols or images are used the
same phenomenon occurs. These idols are intended by the priests as aids
to devotion, as books for those who cannot read. But the savage believes
that his god inhabits the image, or even regards the image as itself a
god. His feelings towards it are those of a child towards her doll. She
knows that it is filled with sawdust and made of painted wood, and yet
she loves it as if it were alive. Such is precisely the illusion of the
savage, for he possesses the imagination of a child. He talks to his
idol fondly and washes its face with oil or rum, beats it if it will not
give him what he asks, and hides it in his waistcloth if he is going to
do something which he does not wish it to see.

There is one other point which it is necessary to observe. A god's moral
disposition, his ideas of right and wrong, are those of the people by
whom he is created. Wandering tribes do not as a rule consider it wrong
to rob outside the circle of their clan: their god is therefore a robber
like themselves. If they settle in a fertile country, pass into the
agricultural state, build towns, and become peaceful citizens with
property of their own they change their views respecting theft, and
accordingly their god forbids it in his laws. But it sometimes happens
that the sayings and doings of the tent-god are preserved in writings
which are accepted as revelation by the people of a later and better
age. Then may be observed the curious and by no means pleasing spectacle
of a people outgrowing their religion, and believing that their god
performed actions which would be punished with the gallows if they were
done by men.

The mind of an ordinary man is in so imperfect a condition that it
requires a creed--that is to say, a theory concerning the unknown and
the unknowable in which it may place its deluded faith and be at rest.
But whatever the creed may be, it should be one which is on a level with
the intellect, and which inquiry will strengthen not destroy.

As for minds of the highest order, they must ever remain in suspension
of judgement and in doubt. Not only do they reflect the absurd
traditions of the Jews, but also the most ingenious attempts which have
been made to explain on rational and moral grounds the origin and
purpose of the universe. Intense and long-continued labour reveals to
them this alone, that there are regions of thought so subtle and so
sublime that the human mine is unable therein to expand its wings, to
exercise its strength. But there is a wide speculative field in which
man is permitted to toil with the hope of rich reward, in which
observation and experience can supply materials to his imagination and
his reason. In this field two great discoveries have been already made.
First, that there is a unity of plan in nature, that the universe
resembles a body in which all the limbs and organs are connected with
one another; and second, that all phenomena, physical and moral, are
subject to laws as invariable as those which regulate the rising and
setting of the sun. It is in reality as foolish to pray for rain or a
fair wind as it would be to pray that the sun should set in the middle
of the day. It is as foolish to pray for the healing of a disease or for
daily bread as it is to pray for rain or a fair wind. It is as foolish
to pray for a pure heart or for mental repose as it is to pray for help
in sickness or misfortune. All the events which occur upon the earth
result from law: even those actions which are entirely dependent on the
caprices of the memory or the impulse of the passions are shown by
statistics to be, when taken in the gross entirely independent of the
human will. As a single atom man is an enigma: as a whole he is a
mathematical problem. As an individual he is a free agent, as a species
the offspring of necessity.

The unity of the universe is a scientific fact. To assert that it is the
operation of a single mind is a conjecture based upon analogy, and
analogy may be a deceptive guide. It is the most reasonable guess that
can be made, but still it is no more than a guess, and it is one by
which nothing after all is really gained. It tells us that the earth
rests upon the tortoise: it does not tell us on what the tortoise rests.
God issued the laws which manufactured the universe and which rule it in
its growth. But who made God? Theologians declare that he made himself,
materialists declare that matter made itself, and both utter barren
phrases, idle words. The whole subject is beyond the powers of the human
intellect in its present state. All that we can ascertain is this: that
we are governed by physical laws which it is our duty as scholars of
Nature to investigate, and by moral laws which it is our duty as
citizens of Nature to obey.

The dogma of a single deity who created the heavens and the earth may
therefore be regarded as an imperfect method of expressing an undoubted
truth. Of all religious creeds it is the least objectionable from a
scientific point of view. Yet it was not a Greek who first discovered or
invented the one god, but the wild Bedouin of the desert. At first sight
this appears a very extraordinary fact. How, in a matter which depended
entirely upon the intellect, could these barbarians have preceded the
Greeks, so far their superiors in every other respect? The anomaly,
however, can be easily explained. In the first theological epoch every
object and every phenomenon of Nature was supposed to be a creature, in
the second epoch the dwelling or expression of a god. It is evident that
the more numerous the objects and phenomena, the more numerous would be
the gods, the more difficult it would be to unravel Nature, to detect
the connection between phenomena, to discover the unity which underlies
them all. In Greece there is a remarkable variety of climate and
contour; hills, groves, and streams diversify the scene; rugged,
snow-covered peaks and warm coast lands with waving palms lie side by
side. But in the land of the Bedouins, Nature may be seen in the nude.
The sky is uncovered; the earth is stripped and bare. It is as difficult
for the inhabitants of such a country to believe that there are many
gods as for the people of such a land as Greece to believe that there is
only one. The earth and the wells and some uncouth stones, the sun, the
moon, and the stars are almost the only materials of superstition that
the Bedouin can employ; and that they were so employed we know. Stone
worship and star idolatry, with the adoration of ancestral shades,
prevailed within Arabia in ancient times, and even now are not extinct.
"The servant of the sun" was one of the titles of their ancient kings.
Certain honours are yet paid to the morning star. But in that country
the one-god belief was always that of the higher class of minds, at
least within historic time; it is therefore not incorrect to term it the
Arabian creed. We shall now proceed to show in what manner that belief,
having mingled with foreign elements, became a national religion, and
how from that religion sprang two other religions which overspread the

Long after the building of the Pyramids, but before the dawn of Greek
and Roman life, a Bedouin sheikh named Abraham, accompanied by his
nephew Lot, migrated from the plains which lie between the Tigris and
Euphrates, crossed over the Syro-Arabian desert, and entered Canaan, a
country about the size of Wales lying below Phoenicia between the desert
and the Mediterranean Sea. They found it inhabited by a people of
farmers and vine-dressers, living in walled cities and subsisting on the
produce of the soil. But only a portion of the country was under
cultivation: they discovered wide pastoral regions unoccupied by men,
and wandered at their pleasure from pasture to pasture and from plain to
plain. Their flocks and herds were nourished to the full, and multiplied
so fast that the Malthusian Law came into force; the herdsmen of Abraham
and Lot began to struggle for existence; the land could no longer bear
them both. It was therefore agreed that each should select a region for
himself. A similar arrangement was repeated more than once in the
lifetime of the patriarch. When his illegitimate sons grew up to man's
estate he gave them cattle and sent them off in the direction of the

At certain seasons of the year he encamped beneath the walls of cities,
and exchanged the wool of his flocks for flour, oil, and wine. He
established friendships with the native kings, and joined them in their
wars. He was honoured by them as a prince, for he could bring three
hundred armed slaves into the field, and his circle of tents might
fairly be regarded as a town. Before their canvas doors sat the women
spinning wool and singing the Mesopotamian airs, while the aged
patriarch in the Great Tent, which served as the forum and the
guesthouse, measured out the rations for the day, gave orders to the
young men about the stock, and sat in judgment on the cases which were
brought before him, as king and father to decide.

He bought from the people of the land a field and a cave, in which he
buried his wife and in which he was afterwards himself interred. He was
succeeded by Isaac as head of the family. Esau and Jacob, the two sons
of Isaac, appear to have been equally powerful and rich.

The Israelites

Up to this time the children of Abraham were Bedouin Arabs--nothing
more. They worshipped Eloah or Allah, sometimes erecting to him a rude
altar on which they sacrificed a ram or kid; sometimes a stone pillar on
which they poured a drink, and then smeared it with oil to his honour
and glory. Sometimes they planted a sacred tree. The life which they led
was precisely that of the wandering Arabs who pasture their flocks on
the outskirts of Palestine at the present day. Not only Ishmael, but
also Lot, Esau, and various Abrahamites of lesser note became the
fathers of Arabian tribes. The Beni-Israel did not differ in manners and
religion from the Beni-Ishmael and Beni-Esau, and Beni-Lot. It was the
settlement of the clan in a foreign country, the influence of foreign
institutions, which made the Israelites a peculiar people. It was the
sale of the shepherd boy--at first a house-slave, then a prisoner, then
a favourite of the Pharaoh--which created a destiny for the House of
Jacob, separated it from the Arab tribes, and educated it into a
nationality. When Joseph became a great man he obtained permission to
send for his father and his brethren. The clan of seventy persons, with
their women and their slaves, came across the desert by the route of the
Syrian caravan. The old Arab, in his coarse woollen gown and with his
staff in his hand, was ushered into the royal presence. He gave the king
his blessing in the solemn manner of the East, and after a short
conversation was dismissed with a splendid gift of land. When Jacob died
his embalmed corpse was carried up to Canaan with an Egyptian escort and
buried in the cave which Abraham had bought. Joseph had married the
daughter of a priest of Heliopolis, but his two sons did not become
Egyptians; they were formally admitted into the family by Jacob himself
before he died.

When Joseph also died the connection between the Israelites and the
court came to an end. They led the life of shepherds in the fertile
pasturelands which had been bestowed upon them by the king. In course of
time the twelve families expanded into twelve tribes, and the tribe
itself became a nation. The government of Memphis observed the rapid
increase of this people with alarm. The Israelites belonged to the same
race as the hated Hyksos or Shepherd Kings. With their long beards and
flowing robes they reminded the Egyptians of the old oppressors. It was
argued that the Bedouins might again invade Egypt, and in that case the
Israelites would take their side. By way of precaution the Israelites
were treated as prisoners of war, disarmed, and employed on the public
works. And as they still continued to increase it was ordered that all
their male children should be killed. It was doubtless the intention of
the government to marry the girls as they grew up to Egyptians, and so
to exterminate the race.

One day the king's daughter, as she went down with her girls to the Nile
to bathe, found a Hebrew child exposed on the waters in obedience to the
new decree. She adopted the boy and gave him an Egyptian name. He was
educated as a priest, and became a member of the University of
Heliopolis. But although his face was shaved and he wore the surplice,
Moses remained a Hebrew in his heart. He was so overcome by passion when
he saw an Egyptian ill-using an Israelite that he killed the man upon
the spot. The crime became known: there was a hue and cry; he escaped to
the peninsula of Sinai, and entered the family of an Arab sheikh.

The peninsula of Sinai lies clasped between two arms of the Red Sea. It
is a wilderness of mountains covered with a thin, almost transparent
coating of vegetation which serves as pasture to the Bedouin flocks.
There is one spot only--the oasis of Feiran--where the traveller can
tread on black, soft earth and hear the warbling of birds among the
trees, which stand so thickly together that he is obliged as he walks to
part the branches from his face. The peninsula had not escaped the
Egyptian arms; tablets may yet be seen on which are recorded in
paintings and hieroglyphics five thousand years old the victories of the
Pharaohs over the people of the land. They also worked mines of copper
in the mountains, and heaps of slag still remain. But most curious of all
are the Sinaitic inscriptions, as they are called--figures of animals
rudely scrawled on the upright surface of the black rocks and mysterious
sentences in an undeciphered tongue.

Among the hills which crown the high plateau there is one which at that
time was called the Mount of God. It was holy ground to the Egyptians,
and also to the Arabs, who ascended it as pilgrims and drew off their
sandals when they reached the top. Nor is it strange that Sinai should
have excited reverence and dread; it is indeed a weird and awful land.
Vast and stern stand the mountains, with their five granite peaks
pointing to the sky; avalanches like those of the Alps, but of sand, not
of snow, rush down their naked sides with a clear and tinkling sound
resembling convent bells; a peculiar property resides in the air; the
human voice can be heard at a surprising distance, and swells out into a
reverberating roar; and sometimes there rises from among the hills a
dull booming sound like the distant firing of heavy guns.

Let us attempt to realise what Moses must have felt when he was driven
out of Egypt into such a harsh and rugged land. Imagine this man, the
adopted son of a royal personage, the initiated priest, sometimes
turning the astrolabe towards the sky, perusing the papyrus scroll, or
watching the crucible and the alembic; sometimes at the great metropolis
enjoying the busy turmoil of the street, the splendid pageants of the
court, reclining in a carpeted gondola or staying with a noble at his
country house. In a moment all is changed. He is alone on the
mountain-side, a shepherd's crook in his hand. He is a man dwelling in a
tent; he is married to the daughter of a barbarian; his career is at an
end. Never more will he enter that palace where once he was received
with honour, where now his name is uttered only with contempt. Never
more will he discourse with grave and learned men in the peaceful
college gardens, beneath the willows that hang over the Fountain of the
Sun. Never more will he see the people of his tribe whom he loves so
dearly, and for whom he endures this miserable fate. They will suffer,
but he will not see them; they will mourn, but he will not hear them--or
only in his dreams. In his dreams he hears them and sees them, alas, too
well. He hears the whistling of the lash and the convulsive sobs and
groans. He sees the poor slaves toiling in the field, their hands brown
with the clammy clay. He sees the daughters of Israel carried off to the
harem with struggling arms and streaming hair, and then--O lamentable
sight!--the chamber of the woman in labour--the seated shuddering,
writhing form--the mother struggling against maternity--the tortured one
dreading her release--for the king's officer is standing by the door,
and as soon as the male child is born its life is at an end.

The Arabs with whom he was living were also children of Abraham, and
they related to him legends of the ancient days. They told him of the
patriarchs who lay buried in Canaan with their wives; they told him of
Eloah, whom his fathers had adored. Then, as one who returns to a long
lost home, the Egyptian priest returned to the simple faith of the
desert, to the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob. As he wandered on
the mountain heights he looked to the west and he saw a desert: beyond
it lay Egypt, the house of captivity, the land of bondage. He looked to
the east and he saw a desert: beyond it lay Canaan, the home of his
ancestors, a land of peace and soon to be a land of hope. For now new
ideas rose tumultuously within him. He began to see visions and to dream
dreams. He heard voices and beheld no form; he saw trees which blazed
with fire and yet were not consumed. He became a prophet; he entered the
ecstatic state.

Meanwhile the king had died; a new Pharaoh had mounted on the throne;
Moses was able to return to Egypt and to carry out the great design
which he had formed. He announced to the elders of the people, to the
heads of houses and the sheikhs of tribes, that Eloah, the God of
Abraham, had appeared to him in Sinai and had revealed his true name--it
was Jehovah--and had sent him to Egypt to bring away his people, to
carry them to Canaan. The elders believed in his mission and accepted
him as their chief. He went to Pharaoh and delivered the message of
Jehovah: the king received it as he would have received the message of
an Arab chief--gods were plentiful in Egypt. But whenever a public
calamity occurred Moses declared that Jehovah was its author, and there
were Egyptians who said that their own gods were angry with them for
detaining a people who were irreligious, filthy in their habits, and
affected with unpleasant diseases of the skin. The king gave them
permission to go and offer a sacrifice to their desert god. The
Israelites stole away, taking with them the mummy of Joseph and some
jewellery belonging to their masters. Guides marched in front bearing a
lighted apparatus like that which was used in Alexander's camp, which
gave a pillar of smoke by day and a flame by night. Moses led them by
way of Suez into Asia, and then along the weed-strewn, shell-strewn
shore of the Red Sea to the wilderness of Sinai and the Mount of God.
There with many solemn and imposing rites he delivered laws which he
said had been issued to him from the clouds. He assembled the elders to
represent the people, and drew up a contract between them and Jehovah.
It was agreed that they should obey the laws of Jehovah, and pay the
taxes which he might impose, while he engaged on his part to protect
them from danger in their march through the desert and to give them
possession of the Promised Land. An ark or chest of acacia-wood was made
in the Egyptian style, and the agreement was deposited therein with the
ten fundamental laws which Moses had engraved on stone. A tent of dyed
skins was prepared and fitted with church furniture by voluntary
subscription, partly out of stolen goods. This became the temple of the
people and the residence of Jehovah, who left his own dwelling above the
vaulted sky that he might be able to protect them on the way. Moses
appointed his brother Aaron and his sons to serve as priests; they wore
the surplice, but to distinguish them from Egyptian priests they were
ordered not to shave their heads. The men of Levi, to which tribe Moses
himself belonged, were set apart for the service of the sacred tent.
They were in reality his bodyguard, and by their means he put down a
mutiny at Sinai, slaughtering three thousand men.

When thus the nation had been organised the march began. At daybreak two
silver trumpets were blown, the tents were struck, the tribes assembled
under their respective banners, and the men who bore the ark went first
with the guides to show the road and to choose an encampment for the
night. The Israelites crossed a stony desert, suffering much on the way.
Water was scarce; they had no provisions, and were forced to subsist on
manna or angel's bread, a gummy substance which exudes from a desert
shrub and is a pleasant syrup and a mild purge, but not a nourishing
article of food.

As they drew near the land of Canaan the trees of the desert, the palm
and the acacia, disappeared. But the earth became carpeted with green
plants and spotted with red anemones like drops of blood. Here and there
might be seen a patch of corn, and at last in the distance rounded hills
with trees standing against the sky. They encamped, and a man from each
tribe was deputed to spy the land. In six weeks they returned bringing
with them a load of grapes. Two scouts only were in favour of invasion.
The other ten declared that the land was a good land, as the
fruits showed--a land flowing with milk and honey; but the people were
like giants; their cities were walled and very great; the Israelites
were as grasshoppers in comparison, and would not be able to prevail
against them.

This opinion was undoubtedly correct. The children of Israel were a
rabble of field slaves who had never taken a weapon in their hands. The
business before them was by no means to their taste, and it was not what
Moses had led them to expect. He had agreed on the part of Jehovah to
give them a land. They had expected to find it unoccupied and prepared
for their reception like a new house. They did not require a prophet to
inform them that a country should be theirs if they were strong enough
to take it by the sword, and this it was clear they could not do. So
they poured forth the vials of their anger and their grief. They lifted
up their voice and cried; they wept all the night. Would to God they had
died in the wilderness! Would to God they had died in Egypt! Jehovah had
brought them there that they might fall by the sword, and that their
wives and little ones might be a prey. They would choose another
captain; they would go back to Egypt. Joshua and Caleb, the two scouts
who had recommended invasion, tried to cheer them up, and were nearly
stoned to death for their pains. Next day the people of Canaan marched
out against them: a skirmish took place and the Israelites were
defeated. They went back to the desert, and wandered forty years in the
shepherd or Bedouin state.

And then there was an end of that miserable race who were always whining
under hardship, hankering after the fleshpots of the old slave life. In
their stead rose up a new generation--genuine children of the desert--
who could live on a few dates soaked in butter and a mouthful of milk a
day; who were practised from their childhood in predatory wars; to whom
rapine was a business, and massacre a sport. The conquest of Canaan was
an idea which they had imbibed at their mothers' breasts, and they were
now quite ready for the work. Moses before his death drew up a second
agreement between Jehovah and the people. It was to the same effect as
the covenant of Sinai. Loyalty and taxes were demanded by Jehovah; long
life, success in war, and fruitful crops were promised in return. Within
this contract was included a code of laws which Moses had enacted from
time to time, in addition to the ten commandments; and this second
agreement was binding not only on those who were present but on their
posterity as well.

Moses died; Joshua was made commander-in-chief, and the Israelites began
their march of war. This time they approached the land not from the
south but from the east.

The river Jordan rises in the Lebanon mountains, half way between Tyre
and Damascus; it runs due south, and ends its curling, twisting course
in the dismal waters of the Dead Sea. Its basin belongs to the desert,
for it does not overflow its banks.

Along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea, parallel to the valley of the
Jordan, lies a fertile strip of land without good harbours, but
otherwise resembling Phoenicia, from which it is divided by two large
promontories, the Tyrian Ladder and the White Cape.

And thirdly, between the naked valley of the Jordan and this
corn-producing line of coast there rises a tableland of limestone
formation, honeycombed with caves, watered by running streams of no
great size, and intersected by ravines and also by flat, extensive
valley plains.

The coast belonged to the Philistines, the basin of the Jordan and the
pastoral regions on the south to roving Arab tribes; the tableland was
inhabited by farmers whose towns and villages were always perched on the
tops of hills, and who cultivated the vine on terraces, each vineyard
being guarded by a watch tower and a wall; the valley plains were
inhabited by Canaanites or lowlanders, who possessed cavalry and iron
chariots of war.

The Israelites differed from other Bedouin tribes in one respect--they
were not mounted, and they were unable to stand their ground against the
horsemen of the plain. The Philistines, a warlike people probably of the
Aryan race, also retained their independence. The conquests of the
Israelites were confined to the land of the south, the Jordan valley and
the mountain regions, though even in the highlands the conquest under
Joshua was not complete.

However, the greater part of Palestine was taken and partitioned among
the Israelitish tribes. Some of these inclined to the pastoral and
others to the agricultural condition, and each was governed by its own
sheikh. During four hundred years Ephraim remained the dominant tribe,
and with Ephraim the high priest took up his abode. At a place called
Shiloh there was erected an enclosure of low stone walls over which the
sacred tent was drawn. This was the oracle establishment, or House of
God, to which all the tribes resorted three times a year to celebrate
the holy feasts with prayer and sacrifice, and psalmody, and the sacred

The Levites had no political power and no share in civil life, but they
had cities of their own, and they also travelled about like mendicant
friars from place to place performing certain functions of religion, and
supported by the alms of the devout.

It was owing to these two institutions, the oracle and the monkish
order, that the nationality of Israel was preserved. Yet though it
escaped extinction it did not retain its unity and strength. So far from
extending their conquests, after their first inroad under Joshua the
Israelites constantly lost ground. They were divided into twelve petty
states, always jealous of one another and often engaged in civil war.
The natives took advantage of these dissensions, and subdued them one by
one. Now and then a hero would arise, rouse them to a war of
independence, and rule over them as judge for a few years. Then again
they would fall apart, and again be conquered, sometimes paying tribute
as vassals, sometimes hiding in the mountain caves. However, at last
there came a change. The temporal and spiritual powers, united in the
hands of Moses, were divided at his death. Joshua became the general of
Jehovah; the high priest became his grand vizier. Joshua could do
nothing of importance without consulting the high priest, who read the
commands of the Divine Sheikh in the light and play of Urim and Thummim,
the oracular shining stones. On the other hand, the high priest could
not issue laws; he could only give decisions and replies. But now a
Nazarite or servant of the Church, named Samuel, usurped the office, or
at all events the powers, of high priest which belonged to the family of
Aaron, and also obtained the dignity of president or judge. He professed
to be the recipient of private instructions from Jehovah, issued laws in
his name, and went round on circuit judging the twelve tribes.

In his old age he delegated this office to his sons, who gave false
judgments and took bribes. The elders of the people came to Samuel and
asked him to appoint them a king.

Samuel had established a papacy, intending to make it hereditary in his
house, and now the evil conduct of his sons frustrated all his hopes. He
protested in the name of Jehovah against this change in the
constitution; he appealed to his own blameless life; he drew a vivid
picture of the horrors of despotism; but in vain. The people persisted
in their demand; they were at that time in the vassal state, and their
liege lords, the Philistines, did not permit them to have smiths lest
they should make weapons and rebel. Samuel himself had united the
tribes, and had inspired them with the sentiments of nationality. They
yearned to be free, and they observed that they lost battles because
their enemies were better officered than themselves. They saw that they
needed a military chief who would himself lead them to the charge,
instead of sacrificing a sucking lamb or kneeling on a neighbouring hill
with his hands up in the air.

Samuel, still protesting, elected Saul to the royal office. The young
man was gladly accepted by the people on account of his personal beauty,
and as he belonged to the poorest family of the poorest tribe in Israel,
Samuel hoped that he would be able to preserve the real power in his own
hands. But it so happened that Saul was not only a brave soldier and a
good general; he was also at times a "god-intoxicated man," and did not
require a third person to bring him the instructions of Jehovah. He made
himself the head of the Church, as well as of the state, and Samuel was
compelled to retire into private life. It is for this reason that Saul's
character has been so bitterly attacked by the priest-historians of the
Jews. For what after all are the crimes of which he was guilty? He
administered the battle-offering himself, and he spared the life of a
man whom Samuel had commanded him to kill as a human sacrifice to
Jehovah. Saul was by no means faultless, but his character was pure as
snow when compared with that of his successor. David was undoubtedly the
greater general of the two, yet it was Saul who laid the foundations of
the Jewish kingdom. It was Saul who conquered the Philistines and won
freedom for the nation with no better weapons than their mattocks and
their axes and their sharpened goads. Saul's persecution of David is the
worst stain upon his life, yet if it is true that David had been in
Saul's lifetime privately anointed king, he was guilty of treason and
deserved to die. But that story of the anointing might have been
invented afterwards to justify his succession to the throne.

At first David took refuge with the Philistines and fought against his
own countrymen. Next he turned brigand, and was joined by all the
criminals and outlaws of the land. The cave of Adullam was his lair,
whence he sallied forth to levy blackmail on the rich farmers and
graziers of the neighbourhood, cutting their throats when they refused
to pay. At the same time, he was a very religious man, and never went on
a plundering expedition without consulting a little image which revealed
to him the orders and wishes of Jehovah, just as the Bedouins always
pray to Allah before they commit a crime, and thank him for his
assistance when it has been successfully performed.

Saul was succeeded by his son Ishbosheth, who was accepted by eleven
tribes. But David, supported by his own tribe and by his band of
well-trained robbers, defied the nation and made war upon his lawful
king. He had not the shadow of a claim; however, with the help of
treason and assassination he finally obtained the crown. His military
genius had then full scope. He took Jerusalem, a pagan stronghold which
during four hundred years had maintained its independence. He conquered
the coast of the Philistines, the plains of Canaan, the great city of
Damascus, and the tribes of the desert far and near. He garrisoned
Arabia Petraea. He ruled from Euphrates to the Red Sea.

This man after God's own heart had a well-stocked harem, and the usual
intrigues took place. He disinherited his eldest son and left the
kingdom to the son of his favourite wife--a woman for whom he had
committed a crime which had offended the not over-delicate Jehovah. The
nation seemed taken by surprise, and Solomon, in order to preserve the
undivided affections of his people, at once killed his brother and his
party--a coronation ceremony not uncommon in the East.

The wisdom of Solomon has become proverbial. But whatever his
intellectual attainments may have been, he did not possess that kind of
wisdom which alone is worthy of a king. He did not attempt to make his
monarchy enduring, his people prosperous and content. He was a true
Oriental sultan, sleek and sensual, luxurious and magnificent,
short-sighted and unscrupulous, cutting down the tree to eat the fruit.
The capital of a despot is always favoured, and with the citizens of
Jerusalem he was popular enough. They were in a measure his guests and
companions, the inmates of his house. They saw their city encircled with
enormous walls, and paved with slabs of black and shining stone. Their
eyes were dazzled and their vanity delighted with the splendid buildings
which he raised--the ivory palace, the cedar palace, and the temple. The
pilgrims who thronged to the sanctuary from all quarters of the land,
and the travellers who came for the purposes of trade, brought wealth
into the city. Foreign commerce was a court monopoly, but the city was a
part of the court. Outside the city walls, however, or at least beyond
the circle of the city lands, it was a very different affair. The rural
districts were severely taxed, especially those at a distance from the
capital. The tribes of Israel, which but a few years before had been on
terms of complete equality among themselves, were now trampled underfoot
by this upstart of the House of Judah. The tribe of Ephraim, which had
so long enjoyed supremacy, became restless beneath the yoke. While
Solomon yet reigned the standard of revolt was raised; as soon as he
died this empire of a day dissolved. Damascus became again an
independent state. The Arabs cut the road to the Red Sea. The king of
Egypt, who had probably been Solomon's liege lord, dispatched an army to
fetch away the treasures of the temple and the palace. The ten tribes
seceded, and two distinct kingdoms were established.

The ten tribes of Israel, or the Kingdom of the North, extended over the
lands of Samaria and Galilee. Its capital was Shechem, its sanctuary
Mount Gerizim.

The Jews

Judah and Benjamin, the royal tribes, occupied the highlands of Judea.
Jerusalem was their capital; its temple was their sanctuary, and the
Levites, whom the Israelites had discarded, were their priests. It is
needless to relate the wars which were almost incessantly being waged
between these two miserable kingdoms. When the empire of the Tigris took
the place of Egypt as suzerain of Syria both Israel and Judah sent their
tribute to Nineveh; and as the cuneiform history relates, both of them
afterwards rebelled. Sennacherib marched against them and carried off
the ten tribes into captivity. Judea was more mountainous, and on that
account more difficult to conquer than the land of the North. The Jews,
as they may now be called, defended themselves stoutly, and a camp
plague broke up the army before Jerusalem. By this occurrence Egypt also
was preserved from conquest. At that time Sethos, the priest, was king,
and the soldiers, whose lands he had taken, refused to fight. Both the
Egyptians and the Jews ascribed their escape to a miracle performed by
their respective gods.

Great events now took place. The Assyrian empire fell to pieces, and
Nineveh was destroyed. The Medes inherited its power on the east of the
Euphrates; the Chaldeans inherited its power on the west. Egypt under
the Phil-Hellenes was again spreading into Asia, and a terrific duel
took place between the two powers. The Jews managed so well that when
the Egyptian star was in the ascendant they took the side of Babylon;
and when the Babylonians had won the battle of Carchemish the Jews
intrigued with the fallen nation. Nebuchadnezzar gave them repeated
warnings, but at last his patience was exhausted and he levelled the
rebellious city to the ground. Some of the citizens escaped to Egypt;
the aristocracy and priesthood were carried off to Babylon; the peasants
alone were left to cultivate the soil.

At Babylon there was a collection of captive kings, each of whom was
assigned his daily allowance and his throne. In this palace of shadows
the unfortunate Jehoiachin ended his days. But the Jewish people were
not treated as captives or as slaves, and they soon began to thrive.

When the ten tribes seceded they virtually abandoned their religion.
They withdrew from the temple which they had once acknowledged as the
dwelling of Jehovah; they had no hereditary priesthood; they had no holy
books; and so as soon as they ceased to possess a country they ceased to
exist as a race. But the Jews preserved their nationality intact.

Moses had been an Egyptian priest, and the unity of God was a
fundamental article of that religion. The unity of God was also the
tenet of the more intelligent Arabs of the desert. Whether therefore we
regard that great man as an Egyptian or as an Arab, it can scarcely be
doubted that the views which he held of the Deity were as truly
unitarian as those of Mohammed and Abdul-Wahhab. It is, however, quite
certain that to the people whom he led Jehovah was merely an invisible
Bedouin chief who travelled with them in a tent, who walked about the
camp at night and wanted it kept clean, who manoeuvred the troops in
battle, who delighted in massacres and human sacrifice, who murdered
people in sudden fits of rage, who changed his mind, who enjoyed petty
larceny and employed angels to tell lies--who, in short, possessed all
the vices of the Arab character. He also possessed their ideal virtues,
for he prohibited immorality and commanded them to be hospitable to the
stranger, to be charitable to the poor, and to treat with kindness the
domestic beast and the captive wife.

It was impossible for Moses to raise their minds to a nobler conception
of the Deity; it would have been as easy to make them see Roman noses
when they looked into a mirror. He therefore made use of their
superstition in order to rule them for their own good, and descended to
trumpetings and fire-tricks which chamber moralists may condemn with
virtuous indignation, but which those who have known what it is to
command a savage mob will not be inclined to criticise severely.

When the settlement in Canaan took place the course of events gave rise
to a theory about Jehovah which not only the Israelites held but also
the Philistines. It was believed that he was a mountain god and could
not fight on level ground. He was unlike the pagan gods in one respect,
namely, that he ordered his people to destroy the groves and idols of
his rivals, and threatened to punish them if they worshipped any god but
him. However, as might be supposed, although the Israelites were very
loyal on the mountains, they worshipped other gods when they fought upon
the plains. Whenever they won a battle they sang a song in honour of
Jehovah and declared that he was "a man of war," but when they lost a
battle they supposed that Baal or Dagon had trodden Jehovah under foot.
The result of this was a mixed religion: they worshipped Jehovah, but
they worshipped other gods as well. Solomon declared when he opened the
temple that Jehovah filled the sky, that there were no other gods but
he. But this was merely Oriental flattery. Solomon must have believed
that there were other gods because he worshipped other gods.

His temple was in fact a Pantheon, and altars were raised on the Mount
of Olives to Moloch and Astarte. After the reign of Solomon, however,
the Jews became a civilised people; a literary class arose. Jerusalem,
situated on the highway between the Euphrates and the Nile, obtained a
place in the Asiatic world. The minds of the citizens became elevated
and refined, and that reflection of their minds which they called
Jehovah assumed a pure and noble form: he was recognised as the one God,
the Creator of the world.

During all these years Moses had been forgotten, but now his code of
laws (so runs the legend) was discovered in a corner of the temple, and
laws of a higher kind adapted to a civilised people were issued under
his name. The idols were broken, the foreign priests were expelled. It
was in the midst of this great religious revival that Jerusalem was
destroyed, and it may well be that the law which forbade the Jews to
render homage to a foreign king was the chief cause of their contumacy
and their dispersal. It was certainly the cause of all their subsequent
calamities: it was their loyalty to Jehovah which provoked the
destruction of the city by the Romans: it was their fidelity to the law
which brought down upon them all the curses of the law.

The reformation in the first period had been by no means complete: there
had been many relapses and backslidings, and they therefore readily
believed that the captivity was a judgment upon them for their sins. By
the waters of Babylon they repented with bitter tears; in a strange land
they returned to the god of their fathers and never deserted him again.
Henceforth religion was their patriotism. Education became general:
divine worship was organised: schools and synagogues were established
wherever Jews were to be found.

And soon they were to be found in all the cities of the Eastern world.
They had no land, and therefore adopted commerce as their pursuit; they
became a trading and a travelling people, and the financial abilities
which they displayed obtained them employment in the households and
treasuries of kings.

The dispersion of the Jews must be dated from this period and not from
the second destruction of the city. When Cyrus conquered Babylon he
restored to the Jews their golden candlesticks and holy vessels, allowed
them to return home, and rendered them assistance partly from religious
sympathy--for the Jews made him believe that his coming had been
predicted by their prophets--and partly from motives of policy.
Palestine was the key to Egypt, against which Cyrus had designs, and it
was wise to plant in Palestine a people on whom he could rely. But not
all the Jews availed themselves of his decree. The merchants and
officials who were now making their fortunes by the waters of Babylon
were not inclined to return to the modest farmer life of Judea. Their
piety was warm and sincere, but it was no longer combined with a passion
for the soil. They began to regard Jerusalem as the Mohammedans regard
Mecca. The people who did return were chiefly the fanatics, the clergy,
and the paupers. The harvest, as we shall find was worthy of the seed.

Beneath the Persian yoke the Jews of Judea were content, and paid their
tribute with fidelity. They could do so without scruple, for they
identified Ormuzd with Jehovah, took lessons in theology from the
doctors of the Zend-Avesta, and recognised the Great King as God's
viceroy on earth. But when the Persian empire was broken up Palestine
was again tossed upon the waves. The Greek kings of Alexandria and
Antioch repeated the wars of Nebuchadnezzar and Necho. Again Egypt was
worsted, and Syria became a province of the Graeco-Asiatic empire. The
government encouraged emigration into the newly conquered lands, and
soon Palestine was covered with Greek towns and filled with Greek
settlers. Judea alone remained like an island in the flood. European
culture was detested by the doctors of the law, who inflicted the same
penalty for learning Greek as for eating pork. They therefore resisted
the spread of civilisation, and Jerusalem was closed against the Greeks.

In the Hellenic world toleration was the universal rule. An oracle at
Delphi had expressed the opinion of all when it declared that the proper
religion for each man was the religion of his fatherland. Governments,
therefore, did not interfere with the religious opinions of the people,
but on the other hand the religious opinions of the people did not
interfere with their civil duties. We allow the inhabitants of the holy
city of Benares to celebrate the rites of their pilgrimage in their own
manner, and to torture themselves in moderation, but we should at once
begin what they would call a religious persecution if they were to
purify the town by destroying the shops of the beef-butchers and
other institutions which are an abomination in their eyes. Antiochus
Epiphanes was by nature a humane and enlightened prince; he attempted to
Europeanise Jerusalem; he could do this only by abolishing the Jewish
laws; he could abolish their laws only by destroying their religion; and
thus he was gradually drawn into barbarous and useless crimes of which
he afterwards repented, but which have gained him the reputation of a

At first, however, it appeared as if he would succeed. The aristocratic
party of Jerusalem were won over to the cause. A gymnasium was erected,
and Jews with artificial foreskins appeared naked in the arena. Riots
broke out. Then royal edicts were issued forbidding circumcision, and
keeping of the Sabbath, and the use of the law. A pagan altar was set up
in the Holy of Holies, and swine were sacrificed upon it to the Olympian
Jove. The riots increased. Then a Greek regiment garrisoned the city;
all new-born children that were found to be circumcised were hurled with
their mothers from the walls; altar pork was offered as a test of
loyalty to the elders of the Church, and those who refused to eat were
put to death with tortures too horrible to be described. And now the
Jews no longer raised riots: they rebelled. The empire was at that time
in a state of weakness and disorder, and under the gallant Maccabees the
independence of Judea was achieved. Yet it is only in adversity that the
Jews can be admired. As soon as they obtained the power of
self-government they showed themselves unworthy to possess it, and in the
midst of a civil war they were enveloped by the Roman power, which had
extended them its protection in the period of the Maccabees. The Senate
placed Herod the great, an Arab price, upon the throne.

Herod was a man of the world, and his policy resembled that of the
Ptolemies in Egypt. He built the Temple at Jerusalem and a theatre at
Caesarea, in which city he preferred to dwell. The kingdom at his death
was divided between his three sons: they were merely rajahs under the
rule of Rome, and the one who governed Judea having been removed for
misbehaviour, that country was attached to the pro-consulate of Syria. A
lieutenant-governor was appointed to reside in the turbulent district to
collect the revenues and maintain order. The position of the first
commandant whom Russia sends to garrison Bokhara will resemble that of
the procurator who took up his winter quarters at Jerusalem.

Those Jews of Judea, those Hebrews of the Hebrews, regarded all the
Gentiles as enemies of God; they considered it a sin to live abroad, or
to speak a foreign language, or to rub their limbs with foreign oil. Of
all the trees, the Lord had chosen but one vine; and of all the flowers
but one lily; and of all the birds but one dove; and of all the cattle
but one lamb; and of all the builded cities only Sion; and among all the
multitude of peoples he had elected the Jews as a peculiar treasure, and
had made them a nation of priests and holy men. For their sake God had
made the world. On their account alone empires rose and fell. Babylon
had triumphed because God was angry with his people; Babylon had fallen
because he had forgiven them. It may be imagined that it was not easy to
govern such a race. They acknowledged no king but Jehovah, no laws but
the precepts of their holy books. In paying tribute they yielded to
absolute necessity, but the tax-gatherers were looked upon as unclean
creatures; no respectable men would eat with them or pray with them;
their evidence was not accepted in the courts of justice.

Their own government consisted of a Sanhedrin or Council of Elders,
presided over by the High Priest. They had power to administer their own
laws, but could not inflict the punishment of death without the
permission of the procurator. All persons of consideration devoted
themselves to the study of the law. Hebrew had become a dead language,
and some learning was therefore requisite for the exercise of this
profession, which was not the prerogative of a single class. It was a
rabbinical axiom that the crown of the kingdom was deposited in Judah,
and the crown of the priesthood in the seed of Aaron, but that the crown
of the law was common to all Israel. Those who gained distinction as
expounders of the sacred books were saluted with the title of rabbi, and
were called scribes and doctors of the law. The people were ruled by the
scribes, but the scribes were recruited from the people. It was not an
idle caste--an established Church--but an order which was filled and
refilled with the pious, the earnest, and the ambitious members of the

There were two great religious sects which were also political parties,
as must always be the case where law and religion are combined. The
Sadducees were the rich, the indolent, and the passive aristocrats; they
were the descendants of those who had belonged to the Greek party in the
reign of Antiochus, and it was said that they themselves were tainted
with the Greek philosophy. They professed, however, to belong to the
conservative Scripture and original Mosaic school. As the Protestants
reject the traditions of the ancient Church, some of which have
doubtless descended viva voce from apostolic times, so all traditions,
good and bad, were rejected by the Sadducees. As Protestants always
inquire respecting a custom or doctrine, "Is it in the Bible?" so the
Sadducees would accept nothing that could not be shown them in the law.
They did not believe in heaven and hell because there was nothing about
heaven and hell in the books of Moses. The morality which their doctors
preached was cold and pure, and adapted only for enlightened minds. They
taught that men should be virtuous without the fear of punishment and
without the hope of reward, and that such virtue alone is of any worth.

The Pharisees were mostly persons of low birth. They were the prominent
representatives of the popular belief, zealots in patriotism as well as
in religion--the teaching, the preaching, and the proselytising party.
Among them were to be found two kinds of men. Those Puritans of the
Commonwealth with lank hair and sour visage and upturned eyes, who wore
sombre garments, sniffled through their noses, and garnished their
discourse with Scripture texts, were an exact reproduction, so far as
the difference of place and period would allow, of certain Jerusalem
Pharisees who veiled their faces when they went abroad lest they should
behold a woman or some unclean thing; who strained the water which they
drank for fear they should swallow the forbidden gnat; who gave alms to
the sound of trumpet, and uttered long prayers in a loud voice; who wore
texts embroidered on their robes and bound upon their brows; who
followed minutely the observances of the ceremonial law; who added to it
with their traditions; who lengthened the hours and deepened the gloom
of the Sabbath day, and increased the taxes which it had been ordered
should be paid upon the altar.

On the other hand, there had been among the Puritans many men of pure
and gentle lives, and a similar class existed among the Pharisees. The
good Pharisee, says the Talmud, is he who obeys the law because he loves
the Lord. They addressed their god by the name of "Father" when they
prayed. "Do unto others as you would be done by" was an adage often on
their lips. That is the law, they said; all the rest is mere commentary.
To the Pharisees belonged all that was best and all that was worst in
the Hebrew religious life.

The traditions of the Pharisees related partly to ceremonial matters
which in the written law were already diffuse and intricate enough. But
it must also be remembered that without traditions the Hebrew theology
was barbarous and incomplete. Before the captivity the doctrine of
rewards and punishments in a future state had not been known. The Sheol
of the Jews was a land of shades in which there was neither joy nor
sorrow, in which all ghosts or souls dwelt promiscuously together. When
the Jews came in contact with the Persian priests they were made
acquainted with the heaven and hell of the Zend-Avesta. It is probable,
indeed, that without foreign assistance they would in time have
developed a similar doctrine for themselves. Already in the Psalms and
Book of Job are signs that the Hebrew mind was in a transition state.
When Ezekiel declared that the son should not be responsible for the
iniquity of the father nor the father for the iniquity of the son, that
the righteousness of the righteous should be upon him, and that the
wickedness of the wicked should be upon him, he was preparing the way
for a new system of ideas in regard to retribution. But as it was, the
Jews were indebted to the Zend-Avesta for their traditional theory of a
future life, and they also adopted the Persian ideas of the resurrection
of the body, the rivalry of the evil spirit, and the approaching
destruction and renovation of the world.

The Satan of Job is not a rebellious angel, still less a contending god:
he is merely a mischievous and malignant sprite. But the Satan of the
restored Jews was a powerful prince who went about like a roaring lion,
and to whom this world belonged. He was copied from Ahriman, the God of
Darkness, who was ever contending with Ormuzd, the God of Light. The
Persians believed that Ormuzd would finally triumph, and that a prophet
would be sent to announce the gospel or good tidings of his approaching
victory. Terrible calamities would then take place; the stars would fall
down from heaven; the earth itself would be destroyed. After which it
would come forth new from the hands of the Creator; a kind of Millennium
would be established; there would be one law, one language, and one
government for men, and universal peace would reign.

This theory became blended in the Jewish minds with certain expectations
of their own. In the days of captivity their prophets had predicted that
a Messiah or anointed king would be sent, that the kingdom of David
would be restored, and that Jerusalem would become the headquarters of
God on earth. All the nations would come to Jerusalem to keep the feast
of tabernacles and to worship God. Those who did not come should have no
rain; and as the Egyptians could do without rain, if they did not come
they should have the plague. The Jewish people would become one vast
priesthood, and all nations would pay them tithe. Their seed would
inherit the Gentiles. They would suck the milk of the Gentiles. They
would eat the riches of the Gentiles. These same unfortunate Gentiles
would be their ploughmen and their vine-dressers. Bowing down would come
those that afflicted Jerusalem, and would lick the dust off her feet.
Strangers would build up her walls, and kings would minister unto her.
Many people and strong nations would come to see the Lord of Hosts in
Jerusalem. Ten men in that day would lay hold of the skirt of a Jew
saying, "We will go with you, for we have heard that God is with you."
It was an idea worthy of the Jews that they should keep the Creator to
themselves in Jerusalem, and make their fortunes out of the monopoly.

In the meantime these prophecies had not been fulfilled, and the Jews
were in daily expectation of the Messiah--as they are still, and as they
are likely to be for some time to come. It was the belief of the vulgar
that this Messiah would be a man belonging to the family of David, who
would liberate them from the Romans and become their king; so they were
always on the watch, and whenever a remarkable man appeared they
concluded that he was the son of David, the Holy One of Israel, and were
ready at once to proclaim him king and to burst into rebellion. This
illusion gave rise to repeated riots or revolts, and at last brought
about the destruction of the city.

But among the higher class of minds the expectation of the Messiah,
though not less ardent, was of a more spiritual kind. They believed that
the Messiah was that prophet, often called the Son of Man who would be
send by God to proclaim the defeat of Satan and the renovation of the
world. They interpreted the prophets after a manner of their own: the
kingdom foretold was the kingdom of heaven, and the new Jerusalem was
not a Jerusalem on earth but a celestial city built of precious stones
and watered by the Stream of Life.

Such were the hopes of the Jews. The whole nation trembled with
excitement and suspense; the mob of Judea awaiting the Messiah or king
who should lead them to the conquest of the world; the more noble-minded
Jews of Palestine, and especially the foreign Jews, awaiting
the Messiah or Son of Man who should proclaim the approach of the most
terrible of all events. There were many pious men and women who withdrew
entirely from the cares of ordinary life, and passed their days in
watching and in prayer.

The Neo-Jewish or Persian-Hebrew religion, with its sublime theory of a
single god, with its clearly defined doctrine of rewards and
punishments, with its one grand duty of faith or allegiance to a divine
king, was so attractive to the mind on account of its simplicity that it
could not fail to conquer the discordant and jarring creeds of the pagan
world as soon as it should be propagated in the right manner. There is a
kind of natural selection in religion; the creed which is best adapted
to the mental world will invariably prevail, and the mental world is
being gradually prepared for the reception of higher and higher forms of
religious life. At this period Europe was ready for the reception of the
one-god species of belief, but it existed only in the Jewish area, and
was there confined by artificial checks. The Jews held the doctrine that
none but Jews could be saved, and most of them looked forward to the
eternal torture of Greek and Roman souls with equanimity, if not with
satisfaction. They were not in the least desirous to redeem them; they
hoarded up their religion as they did their money, and considered it a
heritage, a patrimony, a kind of entailed estate. There were some Jews
in foreign parts who esteemed it a work of piety to bring the Gentiles
to a knowledge of the true God, and as it was one of the popular
amusements of the Romans to attend the service at the synagogue a
convert was occasionally made. But such cases were very rare, for in
order to embrace the Jewish religion it was necessary to undergo a
dangerous operation and to abstain from eating with the pagans--in
short, to become a Jew. It was therefore indispensable for the success
of the Hebrew religion that it should be divested of its local customs.
But however much the Pharisees and Sadducees might differ on matters of
tradition, they were perfectly agreed on this point, that the ceremonial
laws were necessary for salvation. These laws could never be given up by
Jews unless they first became heretics, and this was what eventually
occurred. A schism arose among the Jews: the sectarians were defeated
and expelled. Foiled in their first object, they cast aside the law of
Moses and offered the Hebrew religion without the Hebrew ceremonies to
the Greek and Roman world. We shall now sketch the character of the man
who prepared the way for this remarkable event.

It was a custom in Israel for the members of each family to meet
together once a year that they might celebrate a sacred feast. A lamb
roasted whole was placed upon the table, and a cup of wine was filled.
Then the eldest son said, "Father, what is the meaning of this feast?"
And the father replied that it was held in memory of the sufferings of
their ancestors, and of the mercy of the Lord their God. For while they
were weeping and bleeding in the land of Egypt there came his voice unto
Moses and said that each father of a family should select a lamb without
blemish from his flock, and should kill it on the tenth day of the month
Abib, at the time of the setting of the sun; and should put the blood in
a basin, and should take a sprig of hyssop and sprinkle the door-posts
and lintel with the blood; and should then roast the lamb and eat it
with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. They should eat it as if in
haste, each one standing with his loins girt, his sandals on his feet,
and his staff in his hand. That night the angel of the Lord slew the
first born of the Egyptians, and that night Israel was delivered from her

When the father had thus spoken the lamb was eaten, and four cups of
wine were drunk, and the family sang a hymn. At this beautiful and
solemn festival all persons of the same kin endeavoured to meet
together, and Hebrew pilgrims from all parts of the world journeyed to
Jerusalem. When they came within sight of the Holy City and saw the
Temple shining in the distance like a mountain of snow, some clamoured
with cries of joy, some uttered low and painful sobs. Drawing closer
together, they advanced towards the gates singing the Psalms of David,
and offering up prayers for the restoration of Israel.

At this time the subscriptions from the various churches abroad were
brought to Jerusalem, and were carried to the Temple treasury in solemn
state; and at this time also the citizens of Jerusalem witnessed a
procession which they did not like so well. A company of Roman soldiers
escorted the lieutenant-governor, who came up from Caesarea for the
festival that he might give out the vestments of the High Priest, which,
being the insignia of government, the Romans kept under lock and key.

It was the nineteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar. Pontius
Pilate had taken up his quarters in the city, and the time of the
Passover was at hand. Not only Jerusalem, but also the neighbouring
villages, were filled with pilgrims, and many were obliged to encamp in
tents outside the walls.

It happened one day that a sound of shouting was heard; the men ran up
to the roofs of their houses, and the maidens peeped through their
latticed windows. A young man mounted on a donkey was riding towards the
city. A crowd streamed out to meet him, and a crowd followed him behind.
The people cast their mantles on the road before him, and also covered
it with green boughs. He rode through the city gates straight to the
Temple, dismounted, and entered the holy building.

In the outer courts there was a kind of bazaar in connection with the
Temple worship. Pure white lambs, pigeons, and other animals of the
requisite age and appearance were there sold, and money merchants,
sitting at their tables, changed the foreign coin with which the
pilgrims were provided. The young man at once proceeded to upset the
tables and to drive their astonished owners from the Temple, while the
crowd shouted and the little gamins, who were not the least active in
the riot, cried out, "Hurrah for the son of David!" Then people
suffering from diseases were brought to him, and he laid his hands upon
them and told them to have faith and they would be healed. When
strangers inquired the meaning of this disturbance they were told that
it was Joshua--or--as the Greek Jews called him, Jesus--the Prophet of
Nazareth. It was believed by the common people that he was the Messiah.
But the Pharisees did not acknowledge his mission. For Jesus belonged to
Galilee, and the natives of that country spoke a vile patois, and their
orthodoxy was in bad repute. "Out of Galilee," said the Pharisees with
scorn, "out of Galilee there cometh no prophet."

All persons of imaginative minds know what it is to be startled by a
thought; they know how ideas flash into the mind as if from without, and
what physical excitement they can at times produce. They also know what
it is to be possessed by a presentiment, a deep, overpowering conviction
of things to come. They know how often such presentiments are true, and
also how often they are false.

The Prophets

The prophet or seer is a man of strong imaginative powers which have not
been calmed by education. The ideas which occur to his mind often
present themselves to his eyes and ears in corresponding sights and
sounds. As one in a dream he hears voices and sees forms; his whole mien
is that of a man who is possessed; his face sometimes becomes
transfigured and appears to glow with light; but usually the symptoms
are of a more painful kind, such as foaming of the mouth, writhing of
the limbs, and a bubbling ebullition of the voice. He is sometimes
seized by these violent ideas against his will. But he can to a certain
extent produce them by long fasting and by long prayer, or in other
words by the continued concentration of the mind upon a single point; by
music, dancing, and fumigations. The disease is contagious, as is shown
by the anecdote of Saul among the prophets, and similar scenes have been
frequently witnessed by travellers in the East.

Prophets have existed in all countries and at all times, but the gift
becomes rare in the same proportion as people learn to read and write.
Second sight in the Highlands disappeared before the school, and so it
has been in other lands. Prophets were numerous in ancient Greece. In
the Homeric period they opposed the royal power and constituted another
authority by the grace of God. Herodotus alludes to men who went about
prophesying in hexameters. Thucydides says that while the Peloponnesians
were ravaging the lands of Athens there were prophets within the city
uttering all kinds of oracles, some for going out and some for remaining
in. It was a prophet who obtained the passing of that law under which
Socrates was afterwards condemned to death. In Greece, Egypt, and in
Israel the priests adopted and localised the prophetic power. The
oracles of Amon, Delphi, and Shiloh bore the same relation to individual
prophets as an Established Church to itinerant preachers. Syria was
especially fertile in prophets. Marius kept a Syrian prophetess named
Martha, who attended him in all his campaigns. It matters nothing what
the Syrian religion might be; the same phenomenon again and again
recurs. Balaam was a prophet before Israel was established. Then came
the prophets of the Jews, and they again have been succeeded by the
Christian cave saint and the Moslem dervish, whom the Arabs have always
regarded with equal veneration. But it was among the Jews from the time
of Samuel to the captivity that prophets or dervishes were most
abundant. They were then as plentiful as politicians--and politicians in
fact they were, and prophesied against each other. Some would be for
peace and some would be for war: some were partisans of Egypt, others
were partisans of Babylon. The prophetic ideas differ in no respect from
those of ordinary men except in the sublime or ridiculous effect which
they produce on the prophetic mind and body. Sometimes the predictions
of the Jewish prophets were fulfilled, and sometimes they were not. To
use the Greek phrase, their oracles were often of base metal, and in
such a case the unfortunate dervish was jeered at as a false prophet,
and would in his turn reproach the Lord for having made him a fool
before men.

The Jewish prophet was an extraordinary being. He was something more and
something less than a man. He spoke like an angel; he acted like a
beast. As soon as he received his mission he ceased to wash. He often
retired to the mountains, where he might be seen skipping from rock to
rock like a goat; or he wandered in the desert with a leather girdle
round his loins, eating roots and wild honey, or sometimes browsing on
grass and flowers. He always adapted his actions to the idea which he
desired to convey. He not only taught in parables but performed them.
For instance, Isaiah walked naked through the streets to show that the
Lord would strip Jerusalem, and make her bare. Ezekiel cut off his hair
and beard and weighed it in the scales: a third part he burnt with fire,
a third part he strewed about with a knife, and a third part he
scattered to the wind. This was also intended to illustrate the
calamities which would befall the Jews. Moreover he wore a rotten girdle
as a sign that their city would decay, and buttered his bread in a
manner we would rather not describe, as a sign that they would eat
defiled bread among the Gentiles. Jeremiah wore a wooden yoke as a sign
that they should be taken into captivity. As a sign that the Jews were
guilty of wantonness in worshipping idols, Hosea cohabited three years
with a woman of the town; and as a sign that they committed adultery in
turning from the Lord their God, he went and lived with another man's

Such is the ludicrous side of Jewish prophecy; yet it has also its
serious and noble side. The prophets were always the tribunes of the
people, the protectors of the poor. As the tyrant revelled in his palace
on the taxes extorted from industrious peasants, a strange figure would
descend from the mountains and, stalking to the throne, would stretch
forth a lean and swarthy arm and denounce him in the name of Jehovah,
and bid him repent, or the Lord's wrath should fall upon him and dogs
should drink his blood. In the first period of the Jewish life the
prophets exercised these functions of censor and of tribune, and
preached loyalty to the god who had brought them up out of Egypt with a
strong hand. They were also intensely fanatical, and published Jehovah's
wrath not only against the king who was guilty of idolatry and vice, but
also against the king who took a census, or imported horses, or made
treaties of friendship with his neighbours. In the second period the
prophets declared the unity of God and exposed the folly of
idol-worship. They did even more than this. They opposed the ceremonial
law, and preached the religion of the heart. They declared that God did
not care for their Sabbaths and their festivals, and their new moons,
and their prayers and church services and ablutions, and their
sacrifices of meat and oil and of incense from Arabia and of the sweet
cane from a far country. "Cease to do evil," said they; "learn to do
well; relieve the oppressed; judge the fatherless; plead for the widow."
It is certain that the doctrines of the great prophets were heretical.
Jeremiah flatly declared that in the day that God brought them from the
land of Egypt he did not command them concerning burnt offerings or
sacrifices, and this statement would be of historical value if prophets
always spoke the truth.

They were bitter adversaries of the kings and priests, and the consolers
of the oppressed. "The Lord hath appointed me," says one whose oracles
have been edited with those of Isaiah, but whose period was later and
whose true name is not known, "the Lord hath appointed me to preach good
tidings unto the meek; he that sent me to bind up the broken-hearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives, to give unto them that mourn beauty
for ashes, the oil of joy for lamentation, the garment of praise for the
spirit of heaviness."

The aristocracy who lived by the altar did not receive these attacks in
a spirit of submission. There was a law ascribed to Moses--like all the
other Jewish laws, but undoubtedly enacted by the priest party under the
kings--that false prophets should be put to death; and though it was
dangerous to touch prophets on account of the people, who were always on
their side, they were frequently subjected to persecution. Urijah fled
from King Jehoiakim to Egypt; armed men were sent after him; he was
arrested, brought back and killed. Zachariah was stoned to death in the
courts of the Temple. Jeremiah was formally tried and was acquitted, but
he had a narrow escape: he was led, as he remarked, like a sheep to the
slaughter. At another time he was imprisoned; at another time he was let
down by ropes into a dry well; and there is a tradition that he was
stoned to death by the Jews in Egypt after all. The nominal Isaiah
chants the requiem of such a martyr in a poem of exquisite beauty and
grandeur. The prophet is described as one of hideous appearance, so that
people hid their faces from him. "His visage was marred more than any
man, and his form more than the sons of men." The people rejected his
mission and refused to acknowledge him as a prophet. "He was despised
and rejected of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief." He was
arraigned on a charge of false prophecy; he made no defence, and he was
put to death. "He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he opened not his
mouth: he was brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before
her shearers is dumb, so he opened not his mouth. He was taken from the
prison to the judgment; he was cut off from the land of the living." It
was believed by the Jews that the death of such a man was accepted by
God as a human sacrifice, an atonement for the sins of the people, just
as the priest in the olden time heaped the sins of the people on the
scapegoat and sent him out into the wilderness. "He bare the sins of
many, and made intercession for the transgressors. The Lord hath laid on
him the iniquity of us all. Surely he hath borne our griefs and hath
carried our sorrows. His soul was made an offering for sin. He was
wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities, and
with his stripes we are healed."

There are many worthy people who think it a very extraordinary thing
that this poem can be used almost word for word to describe the rejected
mission and martyrdom of Jesus. But as the Hebrew prophets resembled one
another, and were tried before the same tribunal under the same law, the
coincidence is not surprising. A poetical description, in vague and
general terms, of the rebellion of the English people and the execution
of Charles the First would apply equally well to the rebellion of the
French people and the execution of the Louis the Sixteenth.

The Character of Jesus

The Prophet of Nazareth did not differ in temperament and character from
the noble prophets of the ancient period. He preached, as they did, the
religion of the heart; he attacked, as they did, the ceremonial laws; he
offered, as they did, consolation to the poor; he poured forth, as they
did, invectives against the rulers and the rich. But his predictions
were entirely different from theirs, for he lived, theologically
speaking, in another world. The old prophets could only urge men to do
good that the Lord might make them prosperous on earth, or at the most
that they might obtain an everlasting name. They could only promise to
the people the restoration of Jerusalem and the good things of the
Gentiles; the reconciliation of Judah and Ephraim, and the gathering of
the dispersed. The morality which Jesus preached was also supported by
promises and threats, but by promises and threats of a more exalted
kind: it was also based upon self-interest, but upon self-interest
applied to a future life. For this he was indebted to the age in which
he lived. He was superior as a prophet to Isaiah, as Newton as an
astronomer was superior to Kepler, Kepler to Copernicus, Copernicus to
Ptolemy, Ptolemy to Hipparchus, and Hipparchus to the unknown Egyptian
or Chaldean priest who first began to register eclipses and to catalogue
the stars. Jesus was a carpenter by trade, and was urged by a prophetic
call to leave his workshop and to go forth into the world, preaching the
gospel which he had received. The current fancies respecting the
approaching destruction of the world, the conquest of the Evil Power,
and the reign of God had fermented in his mind, and had made him the
subject of a remarkable hallucination. He believed that he was the
promised Messiah or Son of Man, who would be sent to prepare the world
for the kingdom of God, and who would be appointed to judge the souls of
men and to reign over them on earth. He was a man of the people, a
rustic and an artisan: he was also an imitator of the ancient prophets,
whose works he studied and whose words were always on his lips. Thus he
was led as man and prophet to take the part of the poor. He sympathised
deeply with the outcasts, the afflicted, and the oppressed. To children
and to women; to all who suffered and shed tears; to all from whom men
turned with loathing and contempt; to the girl of evil life who bemoaned
her shame; to the tax-gatherer who crouched before his God in humility
and woe; to the sorrowful in spirit and the weak in heart; to the weary
and the heavy laden, Jesus appeared as a shining angel with words sweet
as the honeycomb and bright as the golden day. He laid his hands on the
heads of the lowly; he bade the sorrowful be of good cheer, for the day
of their deliverance and their glory was at hand.

If we regard Jesus only in his relations with those whose brief and
bitter lives he purified from evil and illumined with ideal joys, we
might believe him to have been the perfect type of a meek and suffering
saint. But his character had two sides, and we must look at both. Such
is the imperfection of human nature that extreme love is counterbalanced
by extreme hate; every virtue has its attendant vice, which is excited
by the same stimulants, which is nourished by the same food. Martyrs and
persecutors resemble one another; their minds are composed of the same
materials. The man who will suffer death for his religious faith will
endeavour to enforce it even unto death. In fact, if Christianity were
true religious persecution would become a pious and charitable duty: if
God designs to punish men for their opinions it would be an act of mercy
to mankind to extinguish such opinions. By burning the bodies of those
who diffuse them many souls would be saved that would otherwise be lost,
and so there would be an economy of torment in the long run. It is
therefore not surprising that enthusiasts should be intolerant. Jesus
was not able to display the spirit of a persecutor in his deeds, but he
displayed it in his words. Believing that it was in his power to condemn
his fellow-creatures to eternal torture, he did so condemn by
anticipation all the rich and almost all the learned men among the Jews.
It was his belief that God reigned in heaven but that Satan reigned on
earth. In a few years God would invade and subdue the earth. It was
therefore his prayer, "Thy kingdom come; thy will be done in earth as it
is in heaven." God's will was not at that time done on earth, which was
in the possession of the Prince of Darkness. It was evident, therefore,
that all prosperous men were favourites of Satan, and that the
unfortunate were favourites of God. Those would go with their master to
eternal pain: these would be rewarded by their master with eternal joy.

He did not say that Dives was bad or that Lazarus was good, but merely
that Dives had received his good things on earth and Lazarus his evil
things on earth, that afterwards Lazarus was rewarded and Dives
tormented. Dives might have been as virtuous as the Archbishop of
Canterbury, who is also clothed in fine linen and who fares sumptuously
every day; Lazarus might have been as vicious as the Lambeth pauper who
prowls round the palace gates, and whose mind, like his body, is full of
sores. Not only the inoffensive rich were doomed by Jesus to hell-fire,
but also all those who did anything to merit the esteem of their
fellow-men. Even those that were happy and enjoyed life--unless it was
in his own company--were lost souls. "Woe unto you that are rich," said
he, "for ye have received your consolation. Woe unto you that are full,
for ye shall hunger. Woe unto you that laugh now, for ye shall mourn and
weep. Woe unto you when all men shall speak well of you, for so did
their fathers of the false prophets." He also pronounced eternal
punishment on all those who refused to join him. "He that believeth
and is baptised," said he, "shall be saved. He that believeth not shall
be damned."

He supposed that when the kingdom of God was established on earth he
would reign over it as viceroy. Those who wished to live under him in
that kingdom must renounce all the pleasures of Satan's world. They must
sell their property and give the proceeds to the poor, discard all
domestic ties, cultivate self-abasement, and do nothing which could
possibly raise them in the esteem of other people. For they could not
serve two masters: they could not be rewarded in the kingdom of this
world, which was ruled by Satan, and also in the new kingdom, which
would be ruled by God. If they gave a dinner they were not to ask their
rich friends lest they should be asked back to dinner, and thus lose
their reward. They must ask only the poor, and for that benevolent
action they would be recompensed thereafter. They were not to give alms
in public or to pray in public, and when they fasted, they were to
pretend to feast; for if it was perceived that they were devout men and
were praised for their devotion, they would lose their reward. Robbery
and violence they were not to resist. If a man smote them on one cheek
they were to offer him the other also; if he took their coat they were
to give him their shirt; if he forced them to go with him one mile they
were to go with him two. They were to love their enemies, to do good to
them that did them evil. And why? Not because it was good so to do, but
that they might be paid for the same with compound interest in a future

It might be supposed that as in the philosophy of Jesus poverty was
equivalent to virtue and misery a passport to eternal bliss, sickness
would be also a beatific state. But Jesus, like the other Jews, believed
that disease proceeded from sin. In Palestine it was always held that a
priest or a prophet was the best physician, and prayer, with the laying
on of hands, the most efficacious of all medicines. Among the sins of
Asa it is mentioned that, having sore feet, he went to a doctor instead
of to the Lord. Jesus informed those on whom he laid his hands that
their sins were forgiven them, and warned those he healed to sin no more
lest a worse thing should come upon them. Such theological practitioners
have always existed in the East, and exist there at the present day. A
text from the Koran written on a board and washed off into a cup of
water is considered God's own physic; and as the patient believes in it,
and as the mind can sometimes influence the body, the disease is
occasionally healed upon the spot. The exploits of the miracle doctor
are exaggerated in his lifetime, and after his death it is declared that
he restored sight to men that were born blind, cleansed the lepers, made
the lame to walk, cured the incurable, and raised the dead to life.

In Jerusalem the scribe had succeeded to the seer. The Jews had already
a proverb, "A scholar is greater than a prophet." The supernatural gift
was regarded with suspicion, and if successful with the vulgar excited
envy and indignation. In the East at the present day there is a
permanent hostility between the Mullah, or doctor of the law, and the
dervish, or illiterate "man of God." Jesus was, in point of fact, a
dervish, and the learned Pharisees were not inclined to admit the
authority of one who spoke a rustic patois and misplaced the aspirate,
and who was no doubt, like other prophets, uncouth in his appearance and
uncleanly in his garb. At Jerusalem Jesus completely failed, and this
failure appears to have stung him into bitter abuse of his successful
rivals the missionary Pharisees, and into the wildest extravagance of
speech. He called the learned doctors a generation of vipers, whited
sepulchres, and serpents; he declared that they should not escape the
damnation of hell. Because they had made the washing of hands before
dinner a religious ablution, Jesus, with equal bigotry, would not wash
his hands at all, though people eat with the hand in the East, and dip
their hands in the same dish. He told his disciples that if a man called
another a fool he would be in danger of hell-fire; and whoever spoke
against the Holy Ghost, it would not be forgiven him "neither in this
world nor in the world to come." He said that if a man had done anything
wrong with his hand or his eye, it were better for him to cut off his
guilty hand, or to pluck out his guilty eye, rather than to go with this
whole body into hell. He cursed a fig-tree because it bore no fruit,
although it was not the season of fruit--an action as rational as that
of Xerxes, who flogged the sea. He retorted to those who accused him of
breaking the Sabbath that he was above the Sabbath.

It is evident that a man who talked in such a manner--who believed that
it was in his power to abrogate the laws of the land, to forgive sins,
to bestow eternal happiness upon his friends, and to send all those who
differed from him to everlasting flames--would lay himself open to a
charge of blasphemy, and it is also evident that the "generation of
vipers" would not hesitate to take advantage of the circumstance. But
whatever share personal enmity might have had in the charges that were
made against him, he was lawfully condemned according to Bible law. He
declared in open court that they would see him descending in the clouds
at the right hand of the power of God. The High Priest tore his robes in
horror; false prophecy and blasphemy had been uttered to his face.

The Christians

After the execution of Jesus his disciples did not return to Galilee:
they waited at Jerusalem for his second coming. They believed that he
had died as a human sacrifice for the sins of the people, and that he
would speedily return with an army of angels to establish the kingdom of
God on earth. Already in his lifetime these simple creatures had begun
to dispute about the dignities which they should hold at court, and
Jesus, who was not less simple than themselves, had promised that they
should sit on twelve thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel. He had
assured them again and again, in the most positive language, that this
event would take place in their own lifetime. "Verily, verily," he said,
"there are some standing here who shall not taste of death till they see
the Son of Man coming in his kingdom." They therefore remained at
Jerusalem and scrupulously followed his commands. They established a
community of goods, or at least gave away their superfluities to the
poorer members of the Church, and had charitable arrangements for
relieving the sick. They admitted proselytes with the ceremony of
baptism. At the evening repast which they held together they broke bread
and drank wine in a certain solemn manner, as Jesus had been wont to do,
and as they especially remembered he did at the Last Supper. But in all
respects they were Jews, just as Jesus himself had been a Jew. They
attended divine service in the temple; they offered up the customary
sacrifices; they kept the Sabbath; they abstained from forbidden meats.
They held merely the one dogma that Jesus was the Messiah, and that he
would return in power and glory to judge the earth.

Jerusalem was frequented at the time of the pilgrimage by thousands of
Jews from the great cities of Europe, North Africa, and Asia Minor.
These pilgrims were of a very different class from the fishermen of
Galilee. They were Jews in religion but they were scarcely Jews in
nationality. They were members of great and flourishing municipalities;
they enjoyed political liberty and civil rights. They prayed in Greek
and read the Bible in a Greek translation. Their doctrine was tolerant
and latitudinarian. At Alexandria there was a school of Jews who had
mingled the metaphysics of Plato with their own theology. Many of these
Greek Jews became converted, and it is to them that Jesus owes his
reputation, Christianity its existence. The Palestine Jews desired to
reserve the Gospel to the Jews. They had no taste or sympathy for the
Gentiles, from whom they lived entirely apart, and who were associated
in their minds with the abominations of idolatry, the payment of taxes,
and the persecution of Antiochus. But these same Gentiles, these poor
benighted Greeks and Romans, were the compatriots and fellow-citizens of
the Hellenic Jews, who therefore entertained more liberal ideas upon the
subject. Two parties accordingly arose--the conservative or Jewish
party, who would receive no converts except according to the custom of
the orthodox Jews in such cases, and the Greek party, who agitated for
complete freedom from the law of Moses. The latter were headed by Paul,
an enthusiastic and ambitious man who refused to place himself under the
rule of the twelve apostles, but claimed a special revelation. A
conference was held at Jerusalem, and a compromise was arranged to the
effect that pagan converts should not be subjected to the rite of
circumcision, but that they should abstain from pork and oysters and
should eat no animals which had not been killed by the knife.

But the compromise did not last. The Church diverged in discipline and
dogma more and more widely from its ancient form, till in the second
century the Christians of Judea, who had faithfully followed the customs
and tenets of the twelve apostles, were informed that they were
heretics. During that interval a new religion had arisen. Christianity
had conquered paganism, and paganism had corrupted Christianity. The
legends which belonged to Osiris and Apollo had been applied to the life
of Jesus. The single Deity of the Jews had been exchanged for the
Trinity, which the Egyptians had invented and which Plato had idealised
into a philosophic system. The man who had said "Why callest thou me
good? There is none good but one, that is God," had now himself been
made a god--or the third part of one. The Hebrew element, however, had
not been entirely cast off. With some little inconsistency, the Jewish
sacred books were said to be inspired, and nearly all the injunctions
contained in them were disobeyed. It was heresy to deny that the Jews
were the chosen people, and it was heresy to assert that the Jews would
be saved.

The Christian religion was at first spread by Jews who, either as
missionaries or in the course of their ordinary avocations, made the
circuit of the Mediterranean world. In all large towns there was a
Ghetto or Jews' quarter, in which the traveller was received by the
people of his own race. There was no regular clergy among the Jews, and
it was their custom to allow, and even to invite, the stranger to preach
in their synagogue. Doctrines were not strictly defined, and they
listened without anger, and perhaps with some hope, to the statement
that Jesus of Nazareth was the Messiah, and that he would shortly return
to establish his kingdom upon earth. But when these Christians began to
preach that the eating of pork was not a deadly sin, and that God was
better pleased with a sprinkle than a slash, they were speedily
stigmatised as heretics, and all the Jewries in the world were closed
against them.

Those strange religious and commercial communities, those landless
colonies which an Oriental people had established all over the world,
from the Rhone and the Rhine to the Oxus and Jaxartes--which
corresponded regularly among themselves, and whose members recognised
each other, wherever they might be and in whatever garb, by the solemn
phrase, "Hear, Israel, there is one God!"--afforded a model for the
Christian churches of the early days. The primitive Christians did not
indeed live together in one quarter like the Jews, but they gathered
together for purposes of worship and administration in set places at
appointed times. They did not establish commercial relations with the
Christians in other towns, but they kept up an active social
correspondence, and hospitably entertained the foreign brother who
brought letters of introduction as credentials of his creed. Travelling,
though not always free from danger, was unobstructed in those days:
coasters sailed frequently from port to port, and the large towns were
connected by paved roads with a posting-house at every six-mile stage.
All inn-keepers spoke Greek: it was not necessary to learn Latin even in
order to reside at Rome.

And now we return to that magnificent city which was adorned with the
spoils of a hundred lands, into which streamed all the wealth, the
energy, and the ambition of East and West. Ostia-on-the-Sea, where the
ancient citizens had boiled their salt was now a great port in which the
grain from Egypt and Carthage was stored up in huge buildings, and to
which in the summer and autumn came ships from all parts of the world.
The road to Rome was fifteen miles in length, and was lined with villas
and with lofty tombs. Outside the city, on the neighbouring hills, were
gardens open to the public; and from these hills were conducted streams,
by subterranean pipes, into the town, where they were trained to run
like rivulets, making everywhere a pleasant murmur, here and there
reposing in artificial grottoes or dancing as fountains in the air. The
streets were narrow, and the tall houses buried them in deep shade. They
were lined with statues; there was a population of marble men. Flowers
glittered on roofs and balconies. Vast palaces of green and white and
golden tinted marble were surrounded by venerable trees. The Via Sacra
was the Regent Street of Rome, and was bordered with stalls where the
silks and spices of the East, the wool of Spain, the glass wares of
Alexandria, the smoked fish of the Black Sea, the wines of the Greek
isles, Cretan apples, Alpine cheese, the oysters of Britain, and the
veined wood of the Atlas were exposed for sale. In that splendid
thoroughfare a hundred languages might be heard at once, and as many
costumes were displayed as if the universe had been invited to a
fancy-dress ball. Sometimes a squadron of the Imperial Guard would ride
by--flaxen-haired, blue-eyed Germans covered with shining steel. Then a
procession of pale-faces, shaven Egyptian priests, bearing a statue of
Isis and singing melancholy hymns. A Greek philosopher would next pass
along with abstracted eyes and ragged cloak, followed by a boy with a
pile of books. Men from the East might be seen with white turbans and
flowing robes, or in sheep-skin mantles with high black caps; and
perhaps beside them a tattooed Briton gaping at the shops. Then would
come a palanquin with curtains half drawn, carried along at a swinging
pace by sturdy Cappadocian slaves, and within it the fashionable lady
with supercilious, half-closed eyes, holding a crystal ball between her
hands to keep them cool. Next a senator in white and purple robe,
receiving as he walked along the greetings and kisses of his friends and
clients, not always of the cleanest kind.

So crowded were the streets that carriages were not allowed to pass
through them in the day-time. The only vehicles that appeared were the
carts employed in the public works; and as they came rolling and
grinding along, bearing huge beams and blocks of stone, the driver
cracked his whip and pushed people against the wall, and there was much
squeezing and confusion, during which pickpockets, elegantly dressed,
their hands covered with rings, were busy at their work, pretending to
assist the ladies in the crowd. People from the country passed towards
the market, their mules or asses laden with panniers in which purple
grapes and golden fruits were piled up in profusion, and refreshed the
eye, which was dazzled by the stony glare. Hawkers went about offering
matches in exchange for broken glass, and the keepers of the cook-shops
called out in cheerful tones, "Smoking sausages!" "Sweet boiled peas!"
"Honey wine, O honey wine!" And then there was the crowd itself--the
bright-eyed, dark-browed Roman people, who played in the shade at dice
or mora like the old Egyptians; who lounged through the temples, which
were also the museums, to look at the curiosities; or who stood in
groups reading the advertisements on the walls, and the programmes which
announced that on such and such a day there would be a grand performance
in the circus and that all would be done in the best style. A blue
awning, with white stars in imitation of the sky, would shade them from
the sun; trees would be transplanted, and a forest would appear upon the
stage; giraffes, zebras, elephants, lions, ostriches, stags, and wild
boars would be hunted down and killed; armies of gladiators would
contend; and by way of after-piece the arena would be filled with water,
and a naval battle would be performed--ships, soldiers, wounds, agony,
and death being admirably real.

So passed the Roman street-life day, and with the first hours of
darkness the noise and the turmoil did not cease; for then the
travelling carriages rattled towards the gates, and carts filled with
dung--the only export of the city. The music of serenades rose softly in
the air, and sounds of laughter from the tavern. The night watch made
their rounds, their armour rattling as they passed. Lights were
extinguished, householders put up their shutters, to which bells were
fastened--for burglaries frequently occurred. And then for a time the
city would be almost still. Dogs, hated by the Romans, prowled about
sniffing for their food. Men or prey from the Pontine Marshes crept
stealthily along the black side of the street signalling to one another
with sharp whistles or hissing sounds. Sometimes torches would flash
against the walls as a knot of young gallants reeled home from a
debauch, breaking the noses of the street statues on their way. And at
such an hour there were men and women who stole forth from their various
houses, and with mantles covering their faces hastened to a lonely spot
in the suburbs, and entered the mouth of a dark cave. They passed
through long galleries, moist with damp and odorous of death--for
coffins were ranged on either side in tiers one above the other. But
soon sweet music sounded from the depths of the abyss; an open chamber
came to view, and a tomb covered with flowers, laid out with a repast,
encircled by men and women who were apparelled in white robes, and who
sang a psalm of joy. It was in the catacombs of Rome, where the dead had
been buried in the ancient times, that the Christians met to discourse
on the progress of the faith; to recount the trials which they suffered
in their homes; to confess to one another their sins and doubts, their
carnal presumption, or their lack of faith; and also to relate their
sweet visions of the night, the answers to their earnest prayers. They
listened to the exhortations of their elders, and perhaps to a letter
from one of the apostles. They then supped together as Jesus had supped
with his disciples, and kissed one another when the love feast was
concluded. At these meetings there was no distinction of rank; the
high-born lady embraced the slave whom she had once scarcely regarded as a
man. Humility and submission were the cardinal virtues of the early
Christians; slavery had not been forbidden by the apostles because it
was the doctrine of Jesus that those who were lowest in this world would
be highest in the next, his theory of heaven being earth turned upside
down. Slavery therefore was esteemed a state of grace, and some
Christians appear to have rejected the freeman's cap on religious
grounds, for Paul exhorts such persons to become free if they can
--advice which slaves do not usually require.

As time passed on, the belief of the first Christians that the end of
the world was near at hand became fainter and gradually died away. It
was then declared that God had favoured the earth with a respite of one
thousand years. In the meantime the gospel or good tidings which the
Christians announced was this. There was one God, the Creator of the
world. He had long been angry with men because they were what he had
made them. But he sent his only begotten son into a corner of Syria, and
because his son had been murdered his wrath had been partly appeased. He
would not torture to eternity all the souls that he had made; he would
spare at least one in every million that were born. Peace unto earth and
goodwill unto men if they would act in a certain manner; if not, fire
and brimstone and the noisome pit. He was the emperor of heaven, the
tyrant of the skies; the pagan gods were rebels, with whom he was at
war, although he was all-powerful, and whom he allowed to seduce the
souls of men although he was all-merciful. Those who joined the army of
the cross might entertain some hopes of being saved; those who followed
the faith of their fathers would follow their fathers to hell-fire. This
creed with the early Christians was not a matter of half-belief and
metaphysical debate, as it is at the present day, when Catholics and
Protestants discuss hell-fire with courtesy and comfort over filberts
and port wine. To those credulous and imaginative minds God was a live
king, hell a place in which real bodies were burnt with real flames,
which was filled with the sickening stench of roasted flesh, which
resounded with agonising shrieks. They saw their fathers and mothers,
their sisters and their dearest friends, hurrying onward to that fearful
pit unconscious of danger, laughing and singing, lured on by the fiends
whom they called the gods. They felt as we should feel were we to see a
blind man walking towards a river bank. Who would have the heart to turn
aside and say it was the business of the police to interfere? But what
was death, a mere momentary pain, compared with tortures that would have
no end? Who that could hope to save a soul by tears and supplications
would remain quiescent as men do now, shrugging their shoulders and
saying that it is not good taste to argue on religion, and that
conversion is the office of the clergy? The Christians of that period
felt more and did more than those of the present day, not because they
were better men but because they believed more; and they believed more
because they knew less. Doubt is the offspring of knowledge: the savage
never doubts at all.

In that age the Christians believed much, and their lives were rendered
beautiful by sympathy and love. The dark, deep river did not exist--it
was only a fancy of the brain: yet the impulse was not less real. The
heart-throb, the imploring cry, the swift leap, the trembling hand
out-reached to save; the transport of delight, the ecstasy of tears, the
sweet, calm joy that a man had been wrested from the jaws of death--are
these less beautiful, are these less real, because it afterwards
appeared that the man had been in no danger after all?

In that age every Christian was a missionary. The soldiers sought to win
recruits for the heavenly host; the prisoner of war discoursed to his
Persian jailer; the slave girl whispered the gospel in the ears of her
mistress as she built up the mass of towered hair; there stood men in
cloak and beard at street corners who, when the people, according to the
manners of the day, invited them to speak, preached not the doctrines of
the Painted Porch but the words of a new and strange philosophy; the
young wife threw her arms round her husband's neck and made him agree to
be baptised, that their souls might not be parted after death. How awful
were the threats of the heavenly despot; how sweet were the promises of
a life beyond the grave! The man who strove to obey the law which was
written on his heart, yet often fell for want of support, was now
promised a rich reward if he would persevere. The disconsolate woman
whose age of beauty and triumph had passed away was taught that if she
became a Christian her body in all the splendour of its youth would rise
again. The poor slave who sickened from weariness of a life in which
there was for him no hope, received the assurance of another life in
which he would find luxury and pleasure when death released him from his

Ah, sweet fallacious hopes of a barbarous and poetic age! Illusion still
cherished, for mankind is yet in its romantic youth! How easy it would
be to endure without repining the toils and troubles of this miserable
life if indeed we could believe that when its brief period was past we
should be united to those whom we have loved, to those whom death has
snatched away; or whom fate has parted from us by barriers cold and deep
and hopeless as the grave. If we could believe this the shortness of
life would comfort us--how quickly the time flies by!--and we should
welcome death. But we do not believe it, and so we cling to our tortured
lives, dreading the dark nothingness, dreading the dispersal of our
elements into cold, unconscious space. As drops in the ocean of water,
as atoms in the ocean of air, as sparks in the ocean of fire within the
earth, our minds do their appointed work and serve to build up the
strength and beauty of the one great human mind which grows from century
to century and from age to age, and is perhaps itself a mere molecule
within some higher mind.

Soon it was whispered that there was in Rome a secret society which
worshipped an unknown god. Its members wore no garlands on their brows;
they never entered the temples; they were governed by laws which strange
and fearful oaths bound them ever to obey; their speech was not as the
speech of ordinary men; they buried instead of burning the bodies of the
dead; they married, they educated their children after a manner of their
own. The politicians who regarded the established Church as essential to
the safety of the state became alarmed. Secret societies were forbidden
by law, and here was a society in which the tutelary gods of Rome were
denounced as rebels and usurpers. The Christians, it is true, preached
passive obedience and the divine right of kings, but they proclaimed
that all men were equal before God--a dangerous doctrine in a community
where more than half the men were slaves. The idle and superstitious
lazzaroni did not love the gods, but they believed in them, and they
feared lest the "atheists," as they called the Christians, would provoke
the vengeance of the whole divine federation against the city, and that
all would be involved in the common ruin. Soon there came a time when
every public calamity--an epidemic, a fire, a famine, or a flood--was
ascribed to the anger of the offended gods. And then arose imperial
edicts, popular commotions, and the terrible street-cry of Christiani ad

But the persecutions thus provoked were fitful and brief, and served
only to fan the flame. For to those who believed in heaven--not as men
now believe, with a slight tincture of perhaps unconscious doubt, but as
men believe in things which they see and hear and feel and know--death
was merely a surgical operation with the absolute certainty of
consequent release from pain and of entrance into unutterable bliss. The
Christians therefore encountered it with joy, and the sight of their
cheerful countenances as they were being led to execution induced many
to inquire what this belief might be which could thus rob death of its
dreadfulness and its despair.

But the great moralists and thinkers of the empire looked coldly down
upon this new religion. In their pure and noble writings they either
allude to Christianity with scorn or do not allude to it at all. This
circumstance has occasioned much surprise: it can, however, be easily
explained. The success of Christianity among the people, and its want of
success among the philosophers, were due to the same cause--the
superstition of the Christian teachers.

Among the missionaries of the present day there are many men who in
earnestness and self-devotion are not inferior to those of the apostolic
times. Yet they almost invariably fail--they are too enlightened for
their congregations. With respect to their own religion, indeed, that
charge cannot be justly brought against them. Set them talking on the
forbidden apple, Noah's ark, the sun standing still to facilitate
murder, the donkey preaching to its master, the whale swallowing and
ejecting Jonah, the miraculous conception, the water turned to wine, the
fig-tree withered by a curse, and they will reason like children, or in
other words they will not reason at all; they will merely repeat what
they have been taught by their mammas. But when they discourse to the
savage concerning his belief they use the logic of Voltaire, and deride
witches and men possessed in a style which Jesus and the twelve
apostles, the fathers of the Church, the popes of the Middle Ages, and
Martin Luther himself would have accounted blasphemous and contrary to
Scripture. Now it is impossible to persuade an adult savage that his
gods do not exist, and he considers those who deny their existence to be
ignorant foreigners unacquainted with the divine constitution of his
country. Hence he laughs in his sleeve at all that the missionaries say.
But the primitive Christians believed in gods and goddesses, satyrs and
nymphs, as implicitly as the pagans themselves. They did not deny and
they did not disbelieve the miracles performed in pagan temples. They
allowed that the gods had great power upon earth, but asserted that they
would have it only for a time; that it ceased beyond the grave; that
they were rebels, and that God was the rightful king. Here then were two
classes of men whose intellects were precisely on the same level. Each
had a theory, and the Christian theory was the better of the two. It had
definite promises and threats, and without being too high for the vulgar
comprehension, it reduced the scheme of the universe to order and
harmony, resembling that of the great empire under which they lived.

But to the philosophers of that period it was merely a new and noisy
form of superstition. Experience has amply proved that minds of the
highest order are sometimes unable to shake off the ideas which they
imbibed when they were children; but to those of whom we speak
Christianity was offered when their powers of reflection were matured,
and it was naturally rejected with contempt. They knew that the pagan
gods did not exist. Was it likely that they would sit at the feet of
those who still believed in them? They had long ago abandoned the
religious legends of their own country; they had shaken off the spell
which Homer with his splendid poetry had laid upon their minds. Was it
likely that they would believe in the old Arab traditions, or in these
tales of a god who took upon him the semblance of a Jew, and suffered
death upon the gallows for the redemption of mankind? They had obtained
by means of intellectual research a partial perception of the great
truth that events result from secondary laws. Was it likely that they
would join a crew of devotees who prayed to God to make the wind blow
this way or that way, to give them a dinner, or to cure them of a pain?
When the Tiber overflowed its banks the pagans declared that it was
owing to the wrath of the gods against the Christians: the Christians
retorted that it was owing to the wrath of God against the idolaters. To
a man like Pliny, who studied the phenomena with his notebook in his
hand, where was the difference between the two?

In the Greek world Christianity became a system of metaphysics as
abstract and abstruse as any son of Hellas could desire. But in the
Latin world it was never the religion of a scholar and a gentleman. It
was the creed of the uneducated people, who flung themselves into it
with passion. It was something which belonged to them and to them alone.
They were not acquainted with Cicero or Seneca: they had never tasted
intellectual delights, for the philosophers scorned to instruct the
vulgar crowd. And now the vulgar crowd found teachers who interpreted to
them the Jewish books, who composed for them a magnificent literature of
sermons and epistles and controversial treatises, a literature of
enthusiasts and martyrs written in blood and fire. The people had no
share in the politics of the empire, but now they had politics of their
own. The lower orders were enfranchised; women and slaves were not
excluded. The barbers gossiped theologically. Children played at church
in the streets. The Christians were no longer citizens of Rome. God was
their emperor, heaven was their fatherland. They despised the pleasures
of this life; they were as emigrants gathered on the shore waiting for a
wind to waft them to another world. They rendered unto Caesar the things
that were Caesar's, for so it was written they should do. They honoured
the king, for such had been the teaching of St. Paul. They regarded the
emperor as God's vice-regent upon earth, and disobeyed him only when his
commands were contrary to those of God. But this limitation, which it
was the business of the bishops to define, made the Christians a
dangerous party in the state. The Emperor Constantine, whose title was
unsound, entered into alliance with this powerful corporation. He made
Christianity the religion of the state and the bishops peers of the

In the days of tribulation it had often been predicted that when the
empire became Christian war would cease, and men would dwell in
brotherhood together. The Christian religion united the slave and his
master at the same table and in the same embrace. On the pavement of the
basilica men of all races and of all ranks knelt side by side. If any
one were in sickness and affliction it was sufficient for him to declare
himself a Christian: money was at once pressed into his hands:
compassionate matrons hastened to his bedside. Even at the time when the
pagans regarded the new sect with most abhorrence they were forced to
exclaim, "See how these Christians love one another!" It was reasonable
to suppose that the victory of this religion would be the victory of
love and peace. But what was the actual result? Shortly after the
establishment of Christianity as a state religion there was uproar and
dissension in every city of the Empire; then savage persecutions and
bloody wars, until a pagan historian could observe to the polished and
intellectual coterie for whom alone he wrote that now the hatred of the
Christians against one another surpassed the fury of savage beasts
against man.

It is evident that the virtues exhibited by those who gallantly fight
against desperate odds for an idea will not be invariably displayed by
those who when the idea is realised enjoy the spoil. It is evident that
bishops who possess large incomes and great authority will not always
possess the same qualities of mind as those spiritual peers who had no
distinction to expect except that of being burnt alive. In all great
movements of the mind there can be but one heroic age, and the heroic
age of Christianity was past. The Church became the state concubine;
Christianity lost its democratic character. The bishops who should have
been the tribunes of the people became the creatures of the Crown. Their
lives were not always of the most creditable kind, but their virtues
were perhaps more injurious to society than their vices. The mischief
was done not so much by those who intrigued for places and rioted on
tithes at Constantinople as by those who, often with the best
intentions, endeavoured to make all men think alike "according to the

It was the Christian theory that God was a king, and that he enacted
laws for the government of men on earth. Those laws were contained in
the Jewish books, but some of them had been repealed and some of them
were exceedingly obscure. Some were to be understood in a literal sense,
others were only metaphorical. Many cases might arise to which no text
or precept could be with any degree of certainty applied. What then was
to be done? How was God's will to be ascertained? The early Christians
were taught that by means of prayer and faith their questions would be
answered, their difficulties would be solved. They must pray earnestly
to God for help: and the ideas which came into their heads after prayer
would be emanations from the Holy Ghost.

In the first age of Christianity the Church was a republic. There was no
distinction between clergymen and laymen. Each member of the
congregation had a right to preach, and each consulted God on his own
account. The spiritus privatus everywhere prevailed. A committee of
presbyters or elders, with a bishop or chairman, administered the
affairs of the community.

The second period was marked by an important change. The bishop and
presbyters, though still elected by the congregation, had begun to
monopolise the pulpit; the distinction of clergy and laity was already
made. The bishops of various churches met together at councils or synods
to discuss questions of discipline and dogma, and to pass laws, but they
went as representatives of their respective congregations.

In the third period the change was more important still. The
congregation might now be appropriately termed a flock; the spiritus
privatus was extinct; the priests were possessed of traditions which
they did not impart to the laymen; the Water of Life was kept in a
sealed vessel; there was no salvation outside the Church: no man could
have God for a father unless he had also the Church for a mother, as
even Bossuet long afterwards declared; ex-communication was a sentence
of eternal death. Henceforth disputes were only between bishops and
bishops, the laymen following their spiritual leaders and often using
material weapons on their behalf. In the synods the bishops now met as
princes of their congregations, and under the influence of the Holy
Ghost [spiritu sancto suggerente] issued imperial decrees. The penalties
inflicted were of the most terrible nature to those who believed that
hell-fire and purgatory were at the disposal of the priesthood, while
those who entertained doubts upon the subject allowed themselves to be
cursed and damned with equanimity. But when the Church became united
with the state, the secular arm was at its disposal, and was vigorously

The bishops were all of them ignorant and superstitious men, but they
could not all of them think alike. And as if to ensure dissent they
proceeded to define that which had never existed, and which if it had
existed could never be defined. They described the topography of heaven.
They dissected the godhead and expounded the miraculous conception,
giving lectures on celestial impregnations and miraculous obstetrics.
They not only said that 3 was 1, and that 1 was 3: they professed to
explain how that curious arithmetical combination had been brought
about. The indivisible had been divided and yet was not divided: it was
divisible and yet it was indivisible; black was white and white was
black, and yet there were not two colours, but one colour; and whoever
did not believe it would be damned. In the midst of all this subtle
stuff, the dregs and rinsings of the Platonic school, Arius thundered
out the common-sense but heretical assertion that the Father had existed
before the Son. Two great parties were at once formed. A council of
bishops was convened at Nicaea to consult the Holy Ghost. The chair was
taken by a man who wore a wig of many colours and a silken robe
embroidered with golden thread. This was Constantine the great, patron
of Christianity, Nero of the Bosphorus, murderer of his wife and son.
The discussion was noisy and abusive, and the Arians lost the day. Yet
the matter did not end there. Constantius took up the Arian side. Arian
missionaries converted the Vandals and the Goths. Other emperors took up
the Catholics, and they converted the Franks. The court was divided by
spiritual eunuchs and theological intrigues: the provinces were laid
waste by theological wars which lasted three hundred years. What a world
of woe and desolation, what a deluge of blood, because the Greeks had a
taste for metaphysics!

The Arian difference did not stand alone; every province had its own
schism. Caste sympathy induced the emperors to protect the pagan
aristocracy from the fury of the bishops, but the heretics belonged
chiefly to the subject nationalities. The Nestorians were men of the
Semitic race, the Jacobites were Egyptians, the Donatists were Berbers.
Of such a nature was the treatment which these people received that they
were ready at any time to join the enemies of the empire, whoever they
might be. Difference of nationality occasioned difference in mode of
thought. Difference in mode of thought occasioned difference in
religious creed. Difference in religious creed occasioned controversy,
riots and persecution. Persecution intensified distinctions of
nationality. Such then was the state of religion in the Grecian world.
In the West the Church, overwhelmed by the barbarians, was displaying
virtues in adversity, and was laying the foundations of a majestic
kingdom. But as for the East, Christianity had lived in vain. In
Constantinople and in Greece it had done no good. In Asia, Barbary, and
Egypt it had done harm. Its peace was apathy: its activity was war.
Instead of healing the old wounds of conquest it opened them afresh. It
was not enough that the peasants of the ancient race, once masters of
the soil, should be crushed with taxes; a new instrument of torture was
invented; their priests were taken from them; their altars were
overthrown. But the day of vengeance was at hand. Soon they would enjoy,
under rulers of a different religion but of the same race, that freedom
of conscience which a Christian government refused.

The Byzantine empire in the seventh century included Greece and the
islands, with a part of Italy. In Asia and Africa its possessions were
those of the Turkish Empire before the cession of Algiers. There was a
Greek viceroy of Egypt: there were Greek governors in Egypt and Asia
Minor, Carthage, and Cyrene. The capital was fed with Egyptian corn and
enriched by silken manufactures--for two Nestorian monks had brought the
eggs of the silkworm from China in hollow canes. These eggs had been
hatched under lukewarm dung, and the culture of the cocoon had been
established for the first time on European soil. The eastern boundary of
the empire was sometimes the Tigris, sometimes the Euphrates; the land
of Mesopotamia, which lay between the rivers, was the subject of
continual war between the Byzantines and the Persians.

Alexander the Great had not been long dead before the Parthians, a race
of hardy mountaineers, occupied the lands to the east of the Euphrates,
made themselves famous in their wars with Rome, and established a wide
empire. In the third century it was broken up into petty principalities,
and a private citizen who claimed to be heir-at-law of the old Persian
kings headed a party, seized the crown, restored the Zoroastrian
religion, and raised the empire to a state of power and magnificence
scarcely inferior to that of the Great Kings. But the Greeks were still
in Asia Minor and Egypt, and it became the hereditary ambition of the
Persians to drive them back into their own country. In the seventh
century Chosroes the Second accomplished this idea, and restored the
frontiers of Cambyses and the first Darius. He conquered Asia Minor,
Syria, and Egypt. He carried his arms to Cryene, and extinguished the
last glimmer of culture in that ancient colony. Heraclius, the Byzantine
emperor, was in despair. While the Persians overran his provinces in
Asia a horde or Cossacks threatened him in Europe. Constantinople, he
feared, would soon be surrounded, and it already suffered famine from
the loss of Egypt, as Rome had formerly suffered when the Vandals
plundered it of Africa. He determined to migrate to Carthage, and had
already prepared to depart when the Patriarch persuaded him to change
his mind. He obtained peace from Persia by sending earth and water in
the old style, and by promising to pay as tribute a thousand talents of
gold, a thousand talents of silver, a thousand silk robes, a thousand
horses, and a thousand virgins. But instead of collecting these
commodities he collected an army, and suddenly dashed into the heart of
Persia. Chosroes recalled his troops from the newly conquered lands, but
was defeated by the Greeks, and was in his turn compelled to sue for
ignominious peace. In the midst of the triumphs which Heraclius
celebrated at Constantinople and Jerusalem, an obscure town on the
confines of Syria was pillaged by a band of Arab horsemen, who cut in
pieces some troops which advanced to its relief. This appeared a
trifling event, but it was the beginning of a mighty revolution. In the
last eight years of his reign Heraclius lost to the Saracens the
provinces which he had recovered from the Persians.


The peninsula of Arabia is almost as large as Hindustan, but does not
contain a single navigable river. It is for the most part a sterile
tableland furrowed by channels which in winter roar with violent and
muddy streams, and which in summer are completely dry. In these
stream-beds at a little depth below the surface there is sometimes a
stratum of water which, breaking out here and there into springs,
creates a habitable island in the waste. Such a fruitful wadi or oasis
is sometimes extensive enough to form a town, and each town is in itself
a kingdom. This stony, green-spotted land was divided into Arabia
Petraea on the north and Arabia Deserta on the south. The north supplied
Constantinople, and the south supplied Persia, with mercenary troops;
the leaders, on receiving their pay, established courts at home, and
rendered homage to their imperial masters. The princes of Arabia Deserta
ruled in the name of the Chosroes. The princes of Arabia Petraea were
proud to be called the lieutenants of the Caesars.

In the south-west corner of the peninsula there is a range of hills
sufficiently high to intercept the passing clouds and rain them down as
streams to the Indian Ocean and the Red Sea. This was the land of Yemen
or Sabaea, renowned for its groves of frankincense and for the wealth of
its merchant kings. Its forests in ancient times were inhabited by
squalid negro tribes who lived on platforms in the trees, and whose
savage stupor was ascribed to the drowsy influence of the scented air.
The country was afterwards colonised by men of the Arab race, who built
ships and established factories on the east coast of Africa, on the
coast of Malabar, and in the island of Ceylon. They did not navigate the
Red Sea, but dispatched the Indian goods, the African ivory and gold
dust, and their own fragrant produce by camel caravan to Egypt or to
Petra, a great market city in the north.

The Pharaohs and the Persian kings did not interfere with the merchant
princes of Yemen. In the days of the Ptolemies a few Greek ships made
the Indian voyage, but could not compete with the Arabs who had so long
been established in the trade. But the Roman occupation of Alexandria
ruined them completely. The just and moderate government of Augustus,
and the demand for Oriental luxuries at Rome, excited the enterprise of
the Alexandrine traders, and a Greek named Hippalus made a remarkable
discovery. He observed that the winds or monsoons of the Indian Ocean
regularly blew during six months from east to west and during six months
from west to east. He was bold enough to do what the Phoenicians
themselves had never done. He left the land and sailed right across the
ocean to the Indian shore with one monsoon, returning with the next to
the mouth of the Red Sea. By means of this ocean route the India voyage
could be made in half the time. The goods were thereby cheapened, the
demand was thereby increased, the Indian Ocean was covered with Greek
vessels, a commercial revolution was created, the coasting and caravan
trade of the Arabs came to an end, the Romans destroyed Aden, and Yemen
withered up and remained independent only because it was obscure.

Arabia had always been a land of refuge, for in its terrible deserts
security might always be found. To Arabia had fled the Priests of the Sun
after the victories of Alexander and the restoration of Babylonian
idolatry. To Arabia had fled thousands of Jews after the second
destruction of Jerusalem. To Arabia had fled thousands of Christians who
had been persecuted by pagan and still more by Christian emperors. The
land was divided among independent princes--many of them were
Christians and many of them were Jews. There is nothing more conducive
to an enlightened scepticism, and its attendant spirit toleration, than
the spectacle of various religious creeds each maintained by intelligent
and pious men. A king of Arabia, Felix, in the fourth century received an
embassy from the Byzantine emperor, with a request that Christians might
be allowed to settle in his kingdom, and also that he would make
Christianity the religion of the state. He assented to the first
proposition. With reference to the second he replied "I reign over men's
bodies, not over their opinions. I exact from my subjects obedience to
the government; as to their religious doctrine, the judge of that is the
great Creator."

But it came to pass that a king of the Jewish persuasion succeeded to
the throne: he persecuted his Christian subjects and made war on
Christian kings, burning houses, men, and gospels wherever he could find
them. A Christian Arab made his escape, travelled to Constantinople,
and, holding up a charred Testament before the throne, demanded help in
the name of the Redeemer. The emperor at once prepared for war, and
dispatched an envoy to his faithful ally the Negus of Abyssinia.

The old kingdom of Ethiopia had escaped Cambyses and Alexander, and had
lost its independence to the Ptolemies only for a time. The Romans made
an Abyssinian expedition with complete success, but withdrew from the
savage country in disdain. Ethiopia was left to its own devices, which
soon became of an Africanising nature. The priests kept the king shut up
in his palace and when it suited their convenience sent him word, in the
African style, that he must be tired and that it would be good for him
to sleep; upon which he migrated to the lower world with his favourite
wives and slaves. But there was once a king named Ergamenes who had
improved his mind by the study of Greek philosophy, and who, when he
received the message of the priests, soon gave them a proof that they
were quite mistaken, and that so far from being sleepy he was wide
awake. He ordered them to collect in the Golden Chapel, and then,
marching in with his guards, he put them all to death. From that time
Abyssinia became a military kingdom. As the princes of Numidia had used
elephants after the destruction of the Carthaginian republic, so the
Abyssinians used them in pageantry and war long after the days of the
Ptolemies, who had first shown them how the huge beasts might be
entrapped. Hindus were probably employed by the Ptolemies, as they were
by the Carthaginians, for the management of the elephantine stud. In the
fourth century two shipwrecked Christians converted the king and his
people to the new religion--a beneficial event, for thus they were
brought into connection with the Roman Empire. The Patriarch of
Alexandria was the Abyssinian pope, as he is at the present day, and
during all these years he has never ceased to send them their aboona or
archbishop. This ecclesiastic is regarded with much reverence; he costs
six thousand dollars; he is never allowed to smoke; and by way of
blessing he spits upon his congregation, who believe that the episcopal
virtue resides in the saliva, and not, as we think, in the fingers' ends.

Abyssinia had still its ancient seaport in Annesley Bay, and sent
trading vessels to the India coast. The Byzantine emperor, having made
his proposals through the Patriarch of Alexandria, and having received
from the Negus a favourable reply, dispatched a fleet of transports down
the Red Sea; the king filled them with his brigand troops; Yemen was
invaded and subdued, and now it was the Christians who began to
persecute. Another Arab prince ran off for help, and he went to the
Persian king, who at first refused to take the country as a gift, saying
it was too distant and too poor. However, at last he ordered the prisons
to be opened, and placed all the able-bodied convicts they contained at
the disposal of the prince. The Abyssinians were driven out, but they
returned and re-conquered the land. Chosroes then sent a regular army
with orders to kill all the men with black skins and curly hair. Thus
Yemen became a Persian province, and no less than three great
religions--that of Zoroaster, that of Moses, and that of Jesus--were
represented in Arabia.

Midway between Yemen and Egypt is a sandy valley two miles in length,
surrounded on all sides by naked hills. No gardens or fields are to be
seen; no trees except some low brushwood and the acacia of the desert.
On all sides are barren and sunburnt rocks. But in the midst of this
valley is a wonderful well. It is not that the water is unusually cool
and sweet--connoisseurs pronounce it "heavy" to the taste--but it
affords an inexhaustible supply. No matter what quantity may be drawn
up, the water in the well remains always at the same height. It is
probably fed by a perennial stream below.

This valley, on account of its well, was made the halting-place of the
India caravans, and there the goods changed carriers--the south
delivered them over to the north. As the north and south were frequently
at war, the valley was hallowed with solemn oaths for the protection of
the trade. A sanctuary was established; the well Zemzem became sacred;
its fame spread, and it was visited from all parts of the land by the
diseased and the devout. The tents of the valley tribe became a city of
importance, enriched by the customs receipts and dues of protection, and
by the carrier hire of the caravans. When the navigation of the Red Sea
put an end to the carrying trade by land the city was deserted; its
inhabitants returned to the wandering Bedouin life. In the fifth
century, however, it was restored by an enterprising man, and the shrine
was rebuilt. Mecca was no longer a wealthy town; it was no longer
situated on one of the highways of the world; but it manufactured a
celebrated leather, and sent out two caravans a year--one to Syria and
one to Abyssinia. Some of the Meccans were rich men; Byzantine gold
pieces and Persian copper coins circulated in abundance; the ladies
dressed themselves in silk, had Chinese looking-glasses, wore shoes of
perfumed leather, and made themselves odorous of musk. It was the fame
of Mecca as a holy place which brought this wealth into the town. The
citizens lived upon the pilgrims. However, they esteemed it a pious duty
to give hospitality if it was required to the "guests of God, who came
from distant cities on their lean and jaded camels, fatigued and
harassed with the dirt and squalor of the way." The poor pilgrims were
provided during six days with pottage of meat and bread and dates;
leather cisterns filled with water were also placed at their disposal.


During four months of the year there was a Truce of God, and the Arab
tribes, suspending their hostilities, journeyed towards Mecca. As soon
as they entered the Sacred Valley they put on their palmers' weeds,
proceeded at once to the Caaba or house of God, walked round it naked
seven times, kissed the black stone and drank of the waters of the
famous well. Then a kind of Eisteddfod was held. The young men combated
in martial games; poems were recited, and those which gained the prize
were copied with illuminated characters and hung up on the Caaba before
the golden-plated door.

There was no regular government in the holy city, no laws that could be
enforced, no compulsory courts of justice, and no public treasury. The
city was composed of several families or clans belonging to the tribe of
the Corayshites, by whom New Mecca had been founded. Each family
inhabited a cluster of houses surrounding a courtyard and well, the
whole enclosed by solid walls. Each family was able to go to war and to
sustain a siege. If a murder was committed the injured family took the
law into its own hands; sometimes it would accept a pecuniary
compensation--there was a regular tariff--but more frequently the money
was refused. They had a belief that if blood was not avenged by blood a
small winged insect issued from the skull of the murdered person and
fled screeching through the sky. It was also a point of honour on the
part of the guilty clan to protect the murderer and to adopt his cause.
Thus blood feuds rose easily and died hard.

The head of the family was a despot, and enjoyed the power of life and
death over the members of his own house. But he had also severe
responsibilities. It was his duty to protect those who dwelt within the
circle of his yard; all its inmates called him father; to all of them he
owed the duties of a parent. If his son was little better than a slave,
on the other hand his slave was almost equal to a son. It sometimes
happened that masterless men, travellers, or outcasts required his
protection. If it was granted, the stranger entered the family, and the
father was accountable for his debts, delicts, and torts. The body of
the delinquent might be tendered in lieu of fine or feud, but this
practice was condemned by public opinion, and in all semi-savage
communities public opinion has considerable power.

There was a town hall in which councils were held to discuss questions
relating to the common welfare of the federated families, but the
minority were not bound by the voice of the majority. If, for instance,
it was decided to make war, a single family could hold aloof. In this
town hall marriages were celebrated, circumcisions were performed, and
young girls were invested with the dress of womanhood. It was the
starting place of the militia and the caravans. It was near the Caaba
and opened towards it: in Mecca the Church was closely united to the

Throughout all time Mecca had preserved its independence and its
religion; the ancient idolatry had there a sacred home. The Meccans
recognised a single creator, Allah Taala, the Most High God, who
Abraham, and others before Abraham, had adored. But they believed that
the stars were live beings, daughters of the Deity, who acted as
intercessors on behalf of men; and to propitiate their favour idols were
made to represent them. Within the Caaba or around it were also images
of foreign deities and of celebrated men; a picture of Mary with the
child Jesus in her lap was painted on a column, and a portrait of
Abraham with a bundle of divining arrows in his hands upon the wall.

Among the Meccans there were many who regarded that idolatry with
abhorrence and contempt; yet to that idolatry their town owed all that
it possessed, its wealth and its glory, which extended round a crescent
of a thousand miles. They were therefore obliged as good citizens to
content themselves with seeking a simpler religion for themselves, and
those who did protest against the Caaba gods were persuaded to silence
by their families, or, if they would not be silent, were banished from
the town under penalty of death if they returned.

But there rose up a man whose convictions were too strong to be hushed
by the love of family or to be quelled by the fear of death. Partly
owing to his age and dignified position and unblemished name, partly
owing to the chivalrous nature of his patriarch or patron, he was
protected against his enemies, his life was saved. Had there been a
government at Mecca, he would unquestionably have been put to death, and
as it was he narrowly escaped.

The Character of Mohammed

Mohammed was a poor lad subject to a nervous disease which made him at
first unfit for anything except the despised occupation of the shepherd.

When he grew up he became a commercial traveller, acted as agent for a
rich widow twenty-five years older than himself, and obtained her hand.
They lived happily together for many years. They were both of them
exceedingly religious people, and in the Ramadan, a month held sacred by
the ancient Arabs, they used to live in a cave outside the town, passing
the time in prayer and meditation.

The disease of his childhood returned upon him in his middle age; it
affected his mind in a strange manner, and produced illusions of his
senses. He thought that he was haunted, that his body was the house of an
evil spirit. "I see a light," he said to his wife, "and I hear a sound.
I fear that I am one of the possessed." This idea was most distressing
to a pious man. He became pale and haggard; he wandered about on the
hill near Mecca, crying out to God for help. More than once he drew near
the edge of a cliff, and was tempted to hurl himself down and so put an
end to his misery at once.

And then a new idea possessed his mind. He lived much in the open air,
gazing on the stars, watching the dry ground grown green beneath the
gentle rain, surveying the firmly rooted mountains and the broad
expanded plain. He pondered also on the religious legends of the Jews
which he had heard related on his journeys, at noonday beneath the
palm-tree by the well mouth, at night by the camp fire; and as he looked
and thought, the darkness was dispelled, the clouds dispersed, and the
vision of God in solitary grandeur rose up within his mind. And there
came upon him an impulse to speak of God; there came upon him a belief
that he was a messenger of God sent on earth to restore the religion of
Abraham which the pagan Arabs had polluted with their idolatry, the
Christians in making Jesus a divinity, the Jews in corrupting their holy

In the brain of a poet stanzas will sometimes arise fully formed without
a conscious effort of the will, as once happened to Coleridge in a
dream; and so into Mohammed's half-dreaming mind there flew
golden-winged verses echoing to one another in harmonious sound. At the
same time he heard a Voice; and sometimes he saw a human figure; and
sometimes he felt a noise in his ears like the tinkling of bells, or a
low, deep hum as if bees were swarming round his head. At this period of
his life every chapter of the Koran was delivered in throes of pain. The
paroxysm was preceded by depression of spirits; his face became clouded;
his extremities turned cold; he shook like a man in an ague and called
for a covering. His face assumed an expression horrible to see; the vein
between his eyebrows became distended; his eyes were fixed; his head
moved to and fro, as if he was conversing; and then he gave forth the
oracle or sudra. Sometimes he would fall like a man intoxicated to the
ground, but the ordinary conclusion of the fit was a profuse
perspiration, by which he appeared to be relieved. His sufferings were
at times unusually severe--he used often to speak of the three terrific
sudras which had given him grey hairs.

His friends were alarmed at his state of mind. Some ascribed it to the
eccentricities of poetical genius; others declared that he was possessed
of an evil spirit; others said he was insane. When he began to preach
against the idols of the Caaba, the practice of female infanticide, and
other evil customs of the town; when he declared that there was no
divine being but God, and that he was the messenger of God; when he
related the ancient legends of the prophets which he said had been told
him by the angel Gabriel, there was a general outburst of merriment and
scorn. They said he had picked it all up from a Christian who kept a
jeweller's shop in the town. They requested him to perform miracles; the
poets composed comic ballads which the people sang when he began to
preach; the women pointed at him with the finger; it became an amusement
of the children to pelt Mohammed. This was perhaps the hardest season of
his life--ridicule is the most terrible of all weapons. But his wife
encouraged him to persevere, and so did the Voice, which came to him and
sang: "By the brightness of the morn that rises, and by the darkness of
the night that descends, thy God hath not forsaken thee, Mohammed. For
know that there is a life beyond the grave, and it will be better for
thee than thy present life; and thy Lord will give thee a rich reward.
Did he not find thee an orphan, and did he not care for thee? Did he not
find thee wandering in error, and hath he not guided thee to truth? Did
he not find thee needy, and hath he not enriched thee? Wherefore oppress
not the orphan, neither repulse the beggar, but declare the goodness of
the Lord."

This Voice was the echo of Mohammed's conscience and the expression of
his ideas. Owing to his peculiar constitution his thoughts became
audible as soon as they became intense. So long as his mind remained
pure, the Voice was that of a good angel; when afterwards guilty wishes
entered his heart, the voice became that of Mephistopheles.

Mohammed's family did not accept his mission: his converts were at first
chiefly made among the slaves. But soon these converts became so
numerous among all classes that the Meccans ceased to ridicule Mohammed
and began to hate him. Nor did he attempt to ingratiate himself in their
affections. "He called the living fools, the dead denizens of
hell-fire." The heads of families took counsel together. They went to
Abu Talib, the patriarch of the house to which Mohammed belonged, and
offered the price of blood, and then double the price of blood, and then
a stalwart young man for Mohammed's life, and then, being always
refused, went off declaring that there would be war. Abu Talib adjured
Mohammed not to ruin the family. The prophet's lip quivered: he burst
into tears, but he said he must go on. Abu Talib hinted that his
protection might be withdrawn. Then Mohammed declared that if the sun
came down on his right hand and the moon on his left he would not swerve
from the work which God had given him to do. Abu Talib, finding him
inflexible, assured him that his protection should never be withdrawn.
In the meantime the patriarchs returned and said, "What is it that you
want, Mohammed? Do you wish for riches? We will make you rich. Do you
wish for honour? We will make you the mayor of the town." Mohammed
replied with a chapter of the Koran. They then assembled in the town
hall and entered into a solemn league and covenant to keep apart from
the family of Abu Talib. It was sent to Coventry. None would buy with
them nor sell with them, eat with them nor drink with them. This lasted
for three years, but when as people passed by the house they heard the
cries of the starving children from behind the walls, they relented and
sold them grain. There was one member of the family, Abu Laheb, who
withdrew from it at that juncture and became Mohammed's most inveterate

Each family agreed also to punish its own Mohammedans. Many were exposed
to the glow of the midday sun on the scorching gravel outside the town,
and to the torments of thirst. A mulatto slave was tortured by a great
stone being placed on his chest, the while he cried out continually,
"There is only one God! There is only one God!" Mohammed recommended his
disciples to escape to Abyssinia, "a land of righteousness, a land where
none was wronged." They were kindly received by the Negus, who refused
to give them up in spite of the envoys with presents of red leather who
were sent to him from Mecca with that request.

During the period of the sacred months Mohammed used often to visit the
encampments of the pilgrims outside the town. He announced to them his
mission; he preached on the unity of God and on the terrors of the
judgment-day. "God has no daughters," said he, "for how can he have
daughters when he has no spouse? He begetteth not, neither is he
begotten. There is none but he. O beware, ye idolators, of the time that
is to come, when the sun shall be folded up, when the stars shall fall,
when the mountains shall be made to pass away, when the children's hair
shall grow white with anguish, when souls like locust swarms shall rise
from their graves, when the girl who hath been buried alive shall be
asked for what crime she was put to death, when the books shall be laid
open, when every soul shall know what it hath wrought! O the striking,
the striking, when men shall be scattered as moths in the wind! And then
Allah shall cry to Hell, Art thou filled full? And Hell shall cry to
Allah, More, give me more!"

But there followed him everywhere a squint-eyed man, fat, with flowing
locks on both sides of his head, and clothed in raiment of fine Aden
stuff. When Mohammed had finished his sermon he would say, "This
fellow's object is to draw you away from the gods to his fanciful ideas;
wherefore follow him not, O my brothers, neither listen to him." And who
should this be but his uncle, Abu Laheb! Whereupon the strangers would
reply, "Your own kinsmen ought to know you best. Why do they not believe
you if what you say is true?" In return for these kind offices Mohammed
promised his uncle that he should go down to be burned in flaming fire,
and that his wife should go too, bearing a load of wood, with a cord of
twisted palm fibres round her neck.

And now two great sorrows fell upon Mohammed. He lost almost at the same
time his beloved wife and the noble-hearted parent of his clan. The
successor of Abu Talib continued the protection, yet Mohammed felt
insecure. His religion also made but small progress. The fact is that he
failed at Mecca as Jesus had failed at Jerusalem. He had made a few
ardent disciples who spent the day at his feet, or in reading snatches
of the Koran scrawled on date leaves, shoulder-blades of sheep, camel
bones, scraps of parchment, or tablets of smooth white stone. But he had
not so much as shaken the ruling idolatry, which was firmly based on
custom and self-interest. No doubt his disciples would in course of time
have diffused his religion throughout Arabia. Islam was formed; Islam
was alive; but Mohammed himself would never have witnessed its triumph
had it not been for a curious accident which now occurred. The Arabs
belonging to that city which was afterwards called Medina had conquered
a tribe of Jews. These had consoled themselves for the bitterness of
their defeat by declaring that a great prophet, the Messiah, would soon
appear, and would avenge them upon all their foes. The Arabs believed
them and trembled, for they stood in great dread of the book which the
Jews possessed, and which they supposed to be a magical composition. So,
when certain pilgrims from Medina heard Mohammed announce that he was a
messenger from God, they took it for granted that he was the man, and
determined to steal a march upon the Jews by securing him for
themselves. At their request he sent a missionary to Medina; the
townsmen were converted, and invited him to come and live among them. In
a dark ravine near Mecca, at the midnight hour, his patriarch or father
delivered him solemnly into their hands. Mohammed was now no longer a
citizen of Mecca; he was no longer "protected"; he had changed his
nationality, and he was hunted like a deer before he arrived safely in
his new home.

Had Mohammed been killed in that celebrated flight he would have been
classed by historians among the glorious martyrs and the gentle saints.
His character before the Hegira resembled the character of Jesus. In
both of them we find the same sublime insanity, compounded of loyalty to
God, love for man, and inordinate self-conceit; both were subject to
savage fits of wrath, and having no weapons but their tongues, consigned
souls by wholesale to hell-fire. Both also humbled themselves before
God, preaching the religion of the heart, led pure, unblemished lives,
devoted themselves to a noble cause, and uttered maxims of charity and
love at strange variance with their occasional invectives. Of the life
of Jesus it is needless to speak; if he had any vices they have not been
recorded. But the conduct of Mohammed at Mecca was apparently not less
pure. He was married to an old woman; polygamy was a custom of the land;
his passions were strong, as was afterwards too plainly shown; yet he
did not take a second wife as long as his dear Khadijah was alive. He
never frequented the wine-shop or looked at the dancing girls or talked
abroad in the bazaars. He was more modest than a virgin behind the
curtain. When he met children he would stop and pat their cheeks; he
followed the bier that passed him in the street; he visited the sick; he
was kind to his inferiors; he would accept the invitation of a slave to
dinner; he was never the first to withdraw his hand when he shook hands;
he was humble, gentle, and kind; he waited always on himself, mending
his own clothes, milking his own goats; he never struck any one in his
life. When once asked to curse someone he said, "I have not been sent to
curse but to be a mercy to mankind." He reproached himself in the Koran
for having behaved unkindly to a beggar, and so immortalised his own
offence. He issued a text, "Use no violence in religion."

But this text, with many others, he afterwards expunged. When he arrived
at Medina he found himself at the head of a small army, and he began to
publish his gospel of the sword. Henceforth we may admire the statesman
or the general; the prophet is no more. It will hence be inferred that
Mohammed was hypocritical, or at least inconstant. But he was constant
throughout his life to the one object which he had in view--the spread
of his religion. At Mecca it could best be spread by means of the gentle
virtues; he therefore ordered his disciples to abstain from violence
which would only do them harm. At Medina he saw that the Caaba idolatry
could not be destroyed except by force; he therefore felt it his duty to
make use of force. He obeyed his conscience both at Mecca and Medina,
for the conscience is merely an organ of the intellect, and is altered,
improved, or vitiated according to the education which it receives and
the incidents which act upon it.

And now Mohammed's glory expanded, and at the same time his virtue
declined. He broke the Truce of God: he was not always true to his
plighted word. As Moses forbade the Israelites to marry with the pagans
and then took unto himself an Ethiopian wife, so Mohammed, broke his own
marriage laws, beginning the career of a voluptuary at fifty years of
age. His Koran sudras were now official manifestoes, legal regulations,
delivered in an extravagant and stilted style differing much from that
of his fervid oracles at Mecca. But whatever may have been his private
defects, when we regard him as a ruler and lawgiver we can only wonder
and admire. He established for the first time in history a united
Arabia. In the moral life of his countrymen he effected a remarkable
reform. He abolished drunkenness and gambling--vices to which the Arabs
had been specially addicted. He abolished the practice of infanticide,
and also succeeded in rendering its memory detestable. It is said that
Omar, the fierce apostle of Islam, shed but one tear in his life, and
that was when he remembered how in the days of darkness his child had
beat the dust off his beard with her little hand as he was laying her in
the grave. Polygamy and slavery he did not prohibit, but whatever laws
he made respecting women and slaves were made with the view of improving
their condition. He removed that facility of divorce by means of which
an Arab could at any time repudiate his wife: he enacted that no Moslem
should be made a slave, that the children of a slave girl by her master
should be free. Instead of repining that Mohammed did no more, we have
reason to be astonished that he did so much. His career is the best
example that can be given of the influence of the individual in human
history. That single man created the glory of his nation and spread his
language over half the earth. The words which he preached to jeering
crowds twelve hundred years ago are now being studied by scholars or by
devotees in London and Paris and Berlin; in Mecca, where he laboured, in
Medina, where he died; in Constantinople, in Cairo, in Fez, in Timbuktu,
in Jerusalem, in Damascus, in Basra, in Baghdad, in Bokhara, in Kabul,
in Calcutta, in Pekin; on the steppes of Central Asia, in the islands of
the Indian Archipelago, in lands which are as yet unmarked upon our
maps, in the oases of thirsty deserts, in obscure villages situated by
unknown streams. It was Mohammed who did all this, for he uttered the
book which carried the language, and he prepared the army which carried
the book. His disciples and successors were not mad fanatics but
resolute and sagacious men, who made shrewd friendship with the
malcontent Christians among the Greeks and with the persecuted Jews in
Spain, and who in a few years created an empire which extended from the
Pyrenees to the Hindu Kush.

This empire, it is true, was soon divided, and soon became weak in all
its parts. The Arabs could conquer, but they could not govern. Separate
sovereignties or caliphates were established in Babylonia, Egypt, and
Spain, while provinces such as Morocco or Bokhara frequently obtained
independence by rebellion. It is needless to describe at length the
history of the Caliphs and their successors--it is only the twice-told
tale of the Euphrates and the Nile. The caliphs were at first Commanders
of the Faithful in reality, but they were soon degraded both in Cairo
and Baghdad to the position of the Roman Pope at the present time. The
government was seized by the Praetorian Guards, who in Baghdad were
descended from Turkish prisoners or negroes imported from Zanzibar, and
in Egypt from Mamelukes or European slaves, brought in their boyhood
from the wild countries surrounding the Black Sea, and trained up from
tender years to the practice of arms--the sons of Christian parents, but
branded with a cross on the soles of their feet that they might never
cease to tread upon the emblem of their native creed.

However, by means of the Arab conquest the East was united as it had
never been before. The Euphrates was no longer a line of partition
between two worlds. Arab traders established their factories on both
sides of the Indian Ocean and along the Asiatic shores of the Pacific.
Men from all countries met at Mecca once a year. The religion of the
Arabs conquered nations whom the Arabs themselves had never seen. When
the Mohammedan Turks of Central Asia took Constantinople and reduced the
caliphates to provinces, although the people of Mohammed were driven
back to their wilderness the strength and glory of his religion was
increased. In the same manner the conquest of Hindustan was an
achievement of Islam in which the Arabs bore no part, and in Africa also
we shall find that the Koran reigns over extensive regions which the
Arabs visit only as travellers and merchants.

Once upon a time Morocco and Spain were one country, and Europe extended
to the Atlas mountains, which stood upon the shores of a great salt sea.
Beyond that ocean, to the south, lay the Dark Continent, surrounded on
all sides by water except on the north-east, where it was joined to Asia
near Aden by an isthmus. A geological revolution converted the African
ocean into a sandy plain, and the straits of Bab-el-Mandeb and
Gibraltar were torn open by the retreating waves. But the Sahara, though
no longer under water, is still in reality a sea; the true Africa begins
on its southern coast, and is entirely distinct from the European-like
countries between the Mediterranean and the Atlas, and from the strip of
garden land which is cast down every year in the desert by the Nile. The
Black Africa or Sudan is a gigantic tableland; its sides are built of
granite mountains which surround it with a parapet or brim, and which
send down rivers on the outside towards the sea, on the inside into the
plateau. The outside rivers are brief and swift: the inside rivers are
long and sluggish in their course, winding in all directions, collecting
into enormous lakes, and sometimes flowing forth through gaps in the
parapet to the Sahara or the sea.

Description of Africa

A tableland is seldom so uniform and smooth as the word denotes. The
African plateau is intersected by mountain ranges and ravines, juts into
volcanic isolated cones, and varies much in its climate, its aspect, its
productions, and its altitude above the sea. It may be divided into
platforms or river basins which are true geographical provinces, and
each of which should be labelled with the names of its explorers. There
is the platform of Abyssinai, which belongs to Bruce; the platform of
the White Nile, including the Lakes of Burton (Tanganyika), of Speke
(Victoria Nyanza), and of Baker (Albert Nyanza); the platform of the
Zambezi, with its lakes Nyasa and Ngami, discovered by Livingstone, the
greatest of African explorers; the platform of the Congo, including the
regions of Western Equatorial Africa, hitherto unexplored; the platform
of South Africa (below 20º S.), which enjoys an Australian climate, and
also Australian wealth in its treasure-filled mountains and its
wool-abounding plains; and lastly the platform of the Niger, which
deserves a place, as will be shown, in universal history. The
discoverers of the Niger in its upper are Park (who first saw the
Niger), Caillie, and myself: in its central and eastern parts Laing, who
first reached Timbuktu; Caillie, who first returned from it; Denham,
Clapperton, Lander, and Barth.

The original inhabitants of Africa were the Hottentots or Bushmen, a
dwarfish race who have restless, rambling, ape-like eyes, a click in
their speech, and bodies which are the wonder of anatomists. They are
now found only on the South African platform, or perhaps here and there
on the platform of the Congo. They have been driven southward by the
negroes, as the Eskimos in America were driven north by the Red Indians
and the Finns in Europe by the Celtic tribes, while the negroes
themselves have yielded in some parts of Africa to Asiatic tribes, as
the Celts in Gaul and Britain yielded to the Germans.

These negroes are sometimes of so deep a brown that the skin appears to
be quite black; sometimes their skin is as light as a mulatto's. The
average tint is a rich deep bronze. Their eyes are dark, though blue
eyes are occasionally seen; their hair is black, though sometimes of
rusty red, and is always of a woolly texture. To this rule there are no
exceptions--it is the one constant character, the one infallible sign by
which the race may be detected. Their lips are not invariably thick;
their noses are frequently well formed. In physical appearance they
differ widely from one another. The inhabitants of the swamps, the dark
forests and the mountains are flat-nosed, long armed, and thin-calved,
with mouths like mussles, broad splay feet, and projecting heels. It was
for the most part from this class that the American slave markets were
supplied; the negroes of the States and the West Indies represent the
African in the same manner as the people of the Pontine Marshes
represent the inhabitants of Italy. The negroes of South Africa stand at
the opposite extreme. Enjoying an excellent climate and a wholesome
supply of food, they are superior to most other people of their race.
Yet it is certain that they are negroes, for they have woolly hair, and
they do not differ in language or manners from the inhabitants of the
other platforms. When the Portuguese first traded on the African coasts
they gave the name Caffres (or pagans) to the negroes of Guinea, as well
as to those of the Cape and Mozambique. It is quite an accident that the
name has been retained for the latter tribes alone, yet such is the
power of a name that the Caffres and negroes are universally supposed to
be distinct. It is impossible, however, to draw any line between the
two. Pure negroes are born on the coast of Guinea and in the interior
with complexions as light, with limbs as symmetrical, and with features
as near to the European standard as can be found in all Caffraria.
Between the hideous being of the Nile and Niger deltas and the robust
shepherds of the south, or the aristocratic chieftains of the west,
there is a wide difference, no doubt but intermediate gradations exist.

There is also much variety among the negroes in respect to manners,
mental condition, political government, and mode of life. Some tribes
live only on the fruit of net and spear, eked out with insects and
berries and shells. Property is ill defined among them; if a man makes a
canoe the others use it when they please; if he builds a better house
than his neighbours they pull it down. Others, though still in the
hunting condition, have gardens of plantains and cassada. In this
condition the headman of the village has little power, but property is
secured by law. Other tribes are pastoral, and resemble the Arabs in
their laws and customs; the patriarchal system prevails among them.
There are regions in which the federal system prevails; many villages
are leagued together; and the headmen, acting as deputies of their
respective boroughs, meet in congress to debate questions of foreign
policy and to enact laws. Large empires exist in the Sudan. In some of
these the king is a despot who possesses a powerful bodyguard equivalent
to a standing army, a court with its regulations of etiquette, and a
well-ordered system of patronage and surveillance. In others he is
merely an instrument in the hands of priests or military nobles, and is
kept concealed, giving audience from behind a curtain to excite the
veneration of the vulgar. There are also thousands of large walled
cities resembling those of Europe in the Middle Ages, or of ancient
Greece, or of Italy before the supremacy of Rome, encircled by pastures
and by arable estates, and by farming villages to which the citizens
repair at harvest-time to superintend the labour of their slaves. But
such cities, with their villeggiatura, their municipal government, their
agora or forum, their fortified houses, their feuds and street frays of
Capulet and Montague, are not indigenous in Africa; their existence is
comparatively modern and is due to the influence of religion.

An African village (old style) is usually a street of huts, with walls
like hurdles, and the thatch projecting so that its owner may sit
beneath it in sun or rain. The door is low--one has to crawl in order to
go in. There are no windows. The house is a single room. In its midst
burns a fire which is never suffered to go out, for it is a light in
darkness, a servant, a companion, and a guardian angel; it purifies the
miasmatic air. The roof and walls are smoke-dried but clean; in one
corner is a pile of wood neatly cut up into billets, and in another is a
large earthen jar filled with water on which floats a gourd or calabash,
a vegetable bowl. Spears, bows, quivers, and nets hang from pegs upon
the walls. Let us suppose that it is night; four or five black forms are
lying in a circle with their feet toward the fire, and two dogs with
pricked-up ears creep close to the ashes which are becoming grey and

The day dawns; a dim light appears through the crevices and crannies of
the walls. The sleepers rise and roll up their mats, which are their
beds, and place on one side the round logs of wood which are their
pillows. The man takes down his bow and arrows from the wall, fastens
wooden rattles round his dogs' necks, and goes out into the bush. The
women replenish the fire, and lift up an inverted basket whence sally
forth a hen and her chickens which make at once for the open door to
find their daily bread for themselves outside. The women take hoes and
go to the plantation, or they take pitchers to fill at the brook. They
wear round the waist, before and behind, two little aprons made from a
certain bark, soaked and beaten until it is as flexible as leather.
Every man has a plantation of these cloth-trees round his hut. The
unmarried girls wear no clothes at all, but they are allowed to decorate
themselves with bracelets and anklets of iron, flowers in their ears,
necklaces of red berries like coral, girdles of white shells, hair oiled
and padded out with the chignon, and sometimes white ashes along the

The ladies fill their pitchers and take their morning bath, discussing
the merits or demerits of their husbands. The air is damp and cold, and
the trees and grass are heavy with dew; but presently the sun begins to
shine, the dewdrops fall heavy and large as drops of rain; the birds
chirp; the flowers expand their drowsy leaves and receive the morning
calls of butterflies and bees. The forest begins to buzz and hum like a
great factory awaking to its work.

When the sun is high, boys come from the bush with vegetable bottles
frothing over with palm wine. The cellar of the African, and his glass
and china shop, and his clothing warehouse, are in the trees. In the
midst of the village is a kind of shed, a roof supported on bare poles.
It is the palaver-house, in which at this hour the old men sit and
debate the affairs of state or decide lawsuits, each orator holding a
spear when he is speaking, and planting it in the ground before him as
he resumes his seat. Oratory is the African's one fine art. His delivery
is fluent; his harangues, though diffuse, are adorned with phrases of
wild poetry. That building is also the club house of the elders, and
there, when business is over, they pass the heat of the day, seated on
logs which are smooth and shiny from use. At the hour of noon their
wives or children bring them palm wine, and present it on their knees,
clapping their hands in a token of respect. And then all is still; it is
the hour of silence and tranquillity, the hour which the Portuguese call
"the calm." The sun sits enthroned on the summit of the sky; its white
light is poured upon the earth; the straw thatch shines like snow. The
forest is silent; all nature sleeps.

Then down, down, down sinks the sun, and its rays shoot slantwise
through the trees. The hunters return, and their friends run out and
greet them as if they had been gone for years, murmuring to them in a
kind of baby language, calling them by their names of love, shaking
their right hands, caressing their faces, patting them upon their
breasts, embracing them in all ways except with the lips--for the kiss
is unknown among the Africans. And so they toy and babble and laugh with
one another till the sun turns red, and the air turns dusky, and the
giant trees cast deep shadows across the street. Strange perfumes arise
from the earth; fireflies sparkle; grey parrots come forth from the
forest, and fly screaming round intending to roost in the neighbourhood
of man. The women bring their husbands the gourd dish of boiled
plantains or bush yams, made hot with red pepper, seasoned with fish or
venison sauce. And when this simple meal is ended, boom! boom! Goes the
big drum; the sweet reed flute pipes forth; the girls and lads
begin to sing. In a broad, clean-swept place they gather together,
jumping up and down with glee; the young men form in one row, the women
in another, and dance in two long lines, retreating and advancing with
graceful undulations of their bodies and arms waving in the air. And now
there is a squealing, wailing, unearthly sound, and out of the wood,
with a hop, skip, and jump, comes Mumbo Jumbo, a hideous mask on his
face and a scourge in his hand. Woe to the wife who would not cook her
husband's dinner, or who gave him saucy words, for Mumbo Jumbo is the
censor of female morals. Well the guilty ones know him as they run
screaming to their huts. Then again the dance goes on, and if there is a
moon it does not cease throughout the night.

Such is the picturesque part of savage life. But it is not savage
life--it merely lies upon the surface as paint lies upon the skin. Let
us take a walk through that same village on another day. Here in a hut
is a young man with one leg in the stocks, and with his right hand bound
to his neck by a cord. The palm wine, and the midnight dance, and the
furtive caresses of Asua overpowered his discretion; he was detected,
and now he is "put in log." If his relations do not pay the fine he will
be sold as a slave; or if there is no demand for slaves in that country
he will be killed. His friends reprove him for trying to steal what the
husband was willing to sell; and might he not have guessed that Asua was
a decoy?

Another day the palaver-house has the aspect of a Crockford's. An old
man who is one of the village grandees is spinning nuts for high stakes,
and has drunk too much to see that he is overmatched. He loses his mats,
his weapons, his goats, his fowls, his plantation, his house, his slaves
whom he took prisoners in his young and warlike days, his wives, his
children, and his aged mother who fed him at her breast--all are lost,
all are gone. And then, with flushed eyes and trembling hand, he begins
to gamble for himself. He stakes his right leg and loses it. He may not
move it until he has won it back or until it is redeemed. He loses both
legs; he stakes his body and loses that also, and becomes a
bond-servant, or is sold as a slave.

Let us give another scene. A young man of family has died; the whole
village is convulsed with grief and fear. It does not appear natural to
them that a man should die before he has grown old. Some malignant power
is at work among them. Is it an evil spirit whom they have unwittingly
offended and who is taking its revenge, or is it a witch? The great
fetish-man has been sent for, and soon he arrives, followed by his
disciples. He wears a cap waving with feathers and a parti-coloured
garment covered with charms--horns of gazelles, shells of snails, and a
piece of leopard's liver wrapped up in the leaves of a poison-giving
tree. His face is stained with the white juice from a dead man's brain.
He rings an iron bell as he enters the town, and at the same time the
drum begins to beat. The drum has its language, so that those who are
distant from the village understand what it is saying. With short,
lively sounds it summons to the dance; it thunders forth the alarm of
fire or war, loudly and quickly with no interval between the beats; and
now it tolls the hour of judgment and the day of death. The fetish-man
examines the dead man and says it is the work of a witch. He casts lots
with knotted cords; he mutters incantations; he passes round the
villagers and points out the guilty person, who is usually some old
woman whom popular opinion has previously suspected and is ready to
condemn. She is, however, allowed the benefit of an ordeal: a gourd
filled with the "red water" is given her to drink. If she is innocent it
acts as an emetic; if she is guilty it makes her fall senseless to the
ground. She is then put to death with a variety of tortures--burnt alive
or torn limb from limb; tied on the beach at low water to be drowned by
the rising tide; rubbed with honey and laid out in the sun; or buried in
an ant-hill, the most horrible death of all.

These examples are sufficient to show that the life of the savage is not
a happy one, and the existence of each clan or tribe is precarious in
the extreme. They are like the wild animals, engaged from day to night
in seeking food, and ever watchful against the foes by whom they are
surrounded. The men who go out hunting, the girls who go with their
pitchers to the village brook, are never sure that they will return, for
there is always war with some neighbouring village, and their method of
making war is by ambuscade. But besides these real and ordinary dangers,
the savage believes himself to be encompassed by evil spirits who may at
any moment spring upon him in the guise of a leopard, or cast down upon
him the dead branch of a tree. In order to propitiate these invisible
beings, his life is entangled with intricate rites; it is turned this
way and that way as oracles are delivered or as omens appear. It is
impossible to describe, or even to imagine, the tremulous condition of
the savage mind, yet the traveller can see from their aspect and manners
that they dwell in a state of never-ceasing dread.

Let us now suppose that a hundred years have passed, and let us visit
the village again. The place itself and the whole country around have
been transformed. The forest has disappeared, and in its stead are
fields covered with the glossy blades of the young rice, with the tall
red-tufted maize, with the millet and the Guinea corn, with the yellow
flowers of the tobacco plant growing in wide fields, and with large
shrubberies of cotton, the snowy wool peeping forth from the expanding
leaves. Before us stands a great town surrounded by walls of red clay
flanked by towers, and with heavy wooden gates. Day dawns, and the women
come forth to the brook decorously dressed in blue cotton robes passed
over the hair as a hood. Men ride forth on horseback, wearing white
turbans and swords suspended on their right shoulders by a crimson sash.
They are the unmixed descendants of the forest savage; their faces are
those of pure negroes, but the expression is not the same. Their manners
are grave and composed; they salute one another, saying in the Arabic
"Peace be with you." The palaver-house or town hall is also the mosque;
the parliamentary debates and the law trials which are there held have
all the dignity of a religious service; they are opened with prayer, and
the name of the creator is often solemnly invoked by the orator or
advocate, while all the elders touch their foreheads with their hands
and murmur in response, Amina! Amina! (Amen! Amen!). The town is
pervaded by a bovine smell, sweet to the nostrils of those who have
travelled long in the beefless lands of the people of the forest. Sounds
of industry may also be heard--not only the clinking of the blacksmith's
hammer, but also the rattling of the loom, the thumping of the
cloth-maker, and the song of the cordwainer as he sits cross-legged
making saddles or shoes. The women, with bow and distaff and spindle,
are turning the soft tree-wool into thread; the work in the fields is
done by slaves. The elders smoke or take snuff in their verandahs, and
sometimes study a page of the Koran. When the evening draws on there is
no sound of flute and drum. A bonfire of brushwood is lighted in the
market-place, and the boys of the town collect around it with wooden
boards in their hands, and bawl their lessons, swaying their bodies to
and fro, by which movement they imagine the memory is assisted. Then
rises a long, loud, harmonious cry, "Come to prayers, come to prayers!
Come to security! God is great! He liveth and he dieth not! Come to
prayers! O thou Bountiful!"

La ilah illa Allah: Mohammed Rasul Allah. Alahu Akbaru. Alahu Akbar.

Such towns as these may be less interesting to the traveller than the
pagan villages--he finds them merely a second-hand copy of Eastern life.
But though they are not so picturesque, their inhabitants are happier
and better men. Violent and dishonest deeds are no longer arranged by
pecuniary compensation. Husbands can no longer set wife-traps for their
friends; adultery is treated as a criminal offence. Men can no longer
squander away their relations at the gaming table, and stake their own
bodies on a throw. Men can no longer be tempted to vice and crime under
the influence of palm wine. Women can no longer be married by a great
chief in herds, and treated like beasts of burden and like slaves. Each
wife has an equal part of her husband's love by law; it is not permitted
to forsake and degrade the old wife for the sake of the young. Each wife
has her own house, and the husband may not enter until he has knocked at
the door and received the answer, Bismillah! [In the name of God!] Every
boy is taught to read and write in Arabic, which is the religious and
official language in the Sudan, as Latin was in Europe in the Middle
Ages; he also writes his own language with the Arabic character, as
we write ours with the Roman letter. In such countries the policy of
isolation is at an end; they are open to all the Moslems in the world,
and are thus connected with the lands of the East. Here there is a
remarkable change, and one that deserves a place in history. It is a
movement the more interesting since it is still actively going on. The
Mohammedan religion has already overspread a region of Negroland as
large as Europe. It is firmly established not only in the Africa of the
Mediterranean and the Nile and in the oases of the Sahara, but also
throughout that part of the continent which we have termed the platform
of the Niger.

In 1797 Mungo Park discovered the Niger in the heart of Africa, at a
point where it is as broad as the Thames at Westminster; in 1817 Rene
Caillie crossed it at a point considerably higher up; in 1822 Major
Laing attempted to reach it by striking inland from Sierra Leone, but
was forced by the natives to return when he was only fifty miles distant
from the river; and in 1869 I made the same attempt, was turned back at
the same place, but made a fresh expedition, and reached the river at a
higher point than Caillie and Park. But my success also was incomplete,
for native wars made it impossible for me to reach the source, though it
was near at hand; and that still remains a splendid prize for one who will
walk in my footsteps as I walked in those of Laing. The source of the
Niger, as given in the maps; was fixed by Laing from native information
which I ascertained to be correct. There is no doubt that this river
rises in the backwoods of Sierra Leone, at a distance of only two
hundred miles from the coast. It runs for some time as a foaming
hill-torrent bearing obscure and barbarous names, and at the point where
I found it glides into the broad, calm breast of the plateau, and
receives its illustrious name of the Joliba, or Great River.

It flows north-east, and enters the Sahara as if intending, like the
Nile, to pour its waters into the Mediterranean Sea. But suddenly it
turns towards the east, so that Herodotus, who heard of it when he was
at Memphis, supposed that it joined the Nile; and such was the
prevailing opinion not only among the Greeks but also among the Arabs in
the Middle Ages. They did not know that the eccentric river again wheels
round, flows towards the sea near which it rose, passes through the
latitude of its birth, and, having thus described three quarters of a
circle, debouches by many mouths into the Bight of Benin. So singular a
course might well baffle the speculations of geographers and the
investigations of explorers. The people who dwell on the banks of the
river do not know where it ends. I was told by some that it went to
Mecca, by others that it went to Jerusalem. Mungo Park's own theory was
ludicrously incorrect--he believed that the Congo was its mouth. Others
declared that it never reached the sea at all. It was Lander who
discovered the mouth of the Niger, at one time as mysterious as the
sources of the Nile, and so established the hypothesis which Reichard
had advanced and which Mannert had declared to be "contrary to nature."

The Niger platform or basin is flat, with here and there a line of
rolling hills containing gold. The vegetation consists of high, coarse
grass and trees of small stature, except on the banks of streams, where
they grow to a larger size. The palm-oil tree is not found on this
plateau, but the shea-butter or tallow tree abounds in natural
plantations which will some day prove a source of enormous wealth. As
the river flows on, these trees disappear; the plains widen and are
smoothed out, and the country assumes the character of the Sahara.

The negroes who inhabited the platform of the Niger lived chiefly on the
banks of the river, subsisting on lotus root and fish. Like all savages,
they were jealous and distrustful; their intercourse was that of war.
But nature, by means of a curious contrivance, has rendered it
impossible for men to remain eternally apart. Common salt is one of the
mineral constituents of the human body, and savages, who live chiefly on
vegetable food, are dependent upon it for their life. In Africa children
may be seen sucking it like sugar. "Come and eat with us today," says
the hospitable African; "we are going to have salt for dinner." It is
not in all countries that this mineral food is to be found, but the
saltless lands in the Sudan contain gold dust, ivory, and slaves, and so
a system of barter is arranged, and isolated tribes are brought into
contact with one another.

The two great magazines are the desert and the ocean. At the present day
the white, powdery English salt is carried on donkeys and slaves to the
upper waters of the Niger, and is driving back the crystalline salt of
the Sahara. In the ancient days the salt of the plateau came entirely
from the mines of Bilma and Toudeyni, in the desert, which were occupied
and worked by negro tribes. But at a period far remote, before the
foundations of Carthage were laid, a Berber nation, now called the
Tuaricks, overspread the desert and conquered the oases and the mines.
This terrible people are yet the scourge of the peaceful farmer and the
passing caravan. They camp in leather tents; they are armed with lance
and sword, and with shields on which is painted the image of a cross.
The Arabs call them "the muffled ones," for their mouths and noses are
covered with a bandage, sometimes black, sometimes white, above which
sit in deep sockets, like ant-lions in their pits, a pair of dark,
cruel, sinister looking eyes. They levy tolls on all travellers, and
murder those who have the reputation of unusual wealth--as they did Miss
Tinne, whose iron water tanks they imagined to be filled with gold. When
they poured down on the Sahara they were soon attracted by the rich
pastures and alluvial plains of the black country. In course of time
their raids were converted into conquests, and they established a line
of kingdoms from the Niger to the Nile, in the borderland between the
Sahara and the parallel 10º N. Timbuktu, Haoussa, Bornu, Bagirmi, Waday,
Darfur, and Kordofan were the names of these kingdoms; in all of them
Islam is now the religion of the state; all of them belong to the
Asiatic world.

The Tuaricks of the Sudan were merely the ruling castes, and were much
darkened by harem blood, but they communicated freely with their
brethren of the desert, who had dealings with the Berbers beyond the
Atlas. When the Andalusia of the Arabs became a polite civilised land
crowds of ingenious artisans, descended from the old Roman craftsmen or
from the Greek emigrants, or from their Arab apprentices, took
architecture over to North Africa. The city of Morocco was filled with
magnificent palaces and mosques; it became the metropolis of an
independent kingdom; it was called the Baghdad of the west; its doctors
were as learned as the doctors of Cordova, its musicians as skilful as
the musicians of Seville. A wealthy and powerful Morocco could not exist
without its influence being felt across the desert; the position of
Timbuktu in reference to Morocco was precisely that of Meroe to Memphis
or to Thebes. The Sahara, it is true, is much wider across from Morocco
to Timbuktu than from Egypt to Ethiopia, but the introduction of camels
brought the Atlas and the Niger near to one another. The Tuaricks, who
had previously lived on horses, under whose bellies they tied
water-bottles of leather when they went on a long journey, had been able
to cross the desert only at certain seasons of the year; but now, with the
aid of the camel, which they at once adopted and from which they bred
the famous Mehara strain, they could cross the Sahara at its widest part
in a few days. A regular trade was established between the two
countries, and was conducted by the Berbers. Arab merchants, desirous of
seeing with their own eyes the wondrous land of ivory and gold, took
passage in the caravans, crossed the yellow seas, sprang from their
camels upon the green shores of the Sudan, and kneeling on the banks of
the Niger with their faces turned towards Mecca, dipped their hands in
its waters and praised the name of the Lord. They journeyed from city to
city and from court to court, and composed works of travel which were
read with eager delight all over the Moslem world, from Spain to

The Arabs thronged to this newly discovered world. They built factories;
they established schools; they converted dynasties. They covered the
river with masted vessels; they built majestic temples with graceful
minaret and swelling dome. Theological colleges and public libraries
were founded; camels came across the desert laden with books; the
negroes swarmed to the lectures of the mullahs; Plato and Aristotle were
studied by the banks of the Niger, and the glories of Granada were
reflected at Timbuktu. That city became the refuge of political
fugitives and criminals from Morocco. In the sixteenth century the
Emperor dispatched across the desert a company of harquebusiers who,
with their strange, terrible weapons, everywhere triumphed like the
soldiers of Cortes and Pizarro in Mexico and Peru. These musketeers made
enormous conquests not for their master but for themselves. They
established an oligarchy of their own; it was afterwards dethroned by
the natives, but there yet exist men who, as Barth informs us, are
called the descendants of the musketeers and who wear a distinctive
dress. But that imperial expedition was the last exploit of the Moors.
After the conquest of Granada by the Christians and of Algeria by the
Turks, Morocco, encompassed by enemies, became a savage and isolated
land; Timbuktu, its commercial dependent, fell into decay, and is now
chiefly celebrated as a cathedral town.

The Arabs carried cotton and the art of its manufacture into the Sudan,
which is one of the largest cotton-growing areas in the world. Its
Manchester is Kano, which manufactures blue cloth and coloured plaids,
clothes a vast negro population, and even exports its goods to the lands
of the Mediterranean Sea. Denham and Clapperton, who first reached the
lands of Haoussa and Bornu, were astonished to find among the negroes
magnificent courts; regiments of cavalry, the horses caparisoned in silk
for gala days and clad in coats of mail for war; long trains of camels
laden with salt and natron and corn and cloth and cowrie shells--which
form the currency--and kola nuts, which the Arabs call "the coffee of
the negroes." They attended with wonder the gigantic fairs at which the
cotton goods of Manchester, the red cloth of Saxony, double-barrelled
guns, razors, tea and sugar, Nuremberg ware and writing-paper were
exhibited for sale. They also found merchants who offered to cash their
bills upon houses at Tripoli, and scholars acquainted with Avicenna,
Averroes, and the Greek philosophers.

The Mohammedans in Central Africa

The Mohammedan religion was spread in Central Africa to a great extent
by the travelling Arab merchants, who were welcomed everywhere at the
negro or semi-negro courts, and who frequently converted the pagan kings
by working miracles--that is to say, by means of events which
accidentally followed their solemn prayers, such as the healing of a
disease, rain in the midst of drought, or a victory in war. But the
chief instrument of conversion was the school. It is much to the credit
of the negroes that they keenly appreciate the advantages of education;
they appear to possess an instinctive veneration and affection for the
book. Wherever Mohammedans settled, the sons of chiefs were placed under
their tuition. A Mohammedan quarter was established; it was governed by
its own laws; its sheikh rivalled in power and finally surpassed the
native kings. The machinery of the old pagan court might still go on;
the negro chief might receive the magnificent title of sultan; he might
be surrounded by albinos and dwarfs and big-headed men and buffoons; he
might sit in a cage, or behind a curtain in a palace with seven gates,
and receive the ceremonial visits of his nobles, who stripped off a
garment at each gate and came into his presence naked, and cowered on
the ground, and clapped their hands, and sprinkled their heads with
dust, and then turned round and sat with their backs presented in
reverence towards him, as if they were unable to bear the sight of his
countenance shining like a well-blacked boot. But the Arab or Moorish
sheikh would be in reality the king, deciding all questions of foreign
policy, of peace and war, of laws and taxes and commercial regulations,
holding a position resembling that of the Gothic generals who placed
Libius Severus and Augustulus upon the throne--of the mayors of the
palace beside the Merovingian princes, of the Company's servants at the
court of the great Mogul. And when the Mohammedans had become numerous,
and a fitting season had arrived, the sheikh would point out a
well-known Koran text and would proclaim war against the surrounding
pagan kings. And so the movement which had been begun by the school
would be continued by the sword.

It may, however, be doubted whether the Arab merchants alone would have
spread Islam over the Niger plateau. On the east coast of Africa they
have possessed settlements from time immemorial. Before the Greeks of
Alexandria sailed into the Indian Ocean, before the Tyrian vessels, with
Jewish supercargoes, passed through the straits of Bab-el-Mandeb, the
Arabs of Yemen had established factories in Mozambique and on the
opposite coast of Malabar, and had carried on a trade between the two
lands, selling to the Indians ivory, ebony, slaves, bees-wax, and
gold dust brought down in quills from the interior by the negroes, to
whom they sold in return the sugar beads, and blue cotton goods of
Hindustan. In the period of the caliphs these settlements were
strengthened and increased, in consequence of civil war, by fugitive
tribes from Oman and other parts of the Arabian peninsula. The emigrants
made Africa their home; they built large towns which they surrounded
with orchards of the orange-tree and plantations of the date; they
introduced the culture of tobacco, sugar cane and cotton. They were
loved and revered by the negroes; they made long journeys into the
interior for the purposes of trade. Yet their religion has made no
progress, and they do not attempt to convert the blacks. Their towns
resemble those of the Europeans; they dwell apart from the natives, and
above them.

The Mohammedans who entered the Niger regions were not only the Arab
merchants but also the Berbers of the desert, who, driven by war or
instigated by ambition, poured into the Sudan by tribes, seized lands
and women, and formed mulatto nationalities. Of these the Fulahs are the
most famous. They were originally natives of Northern Africa; having
intermarried during many generations with the natives, they have often
the appearance of pure negroes, but they always call themselves white
men, however black their skins may seem to be. In the last century they
were dispersed in small and puny tribes. Some wandered as gipsies
selling wooden bowls; others were roaming shepherd clans, paying tribute
to the native kings and suffering much ill-treatment. In other parts
they lived a bandit life. Sometimes, but rarely, they resided in towns
which they had conquered, pursued commerce, and tilled the soil. Yet in
war they were far superior to the negroes: if only they could be united
the most powerful kingdoms would be unable to withstand them. And
finally their day arrived. A man of their own race returned from Mecca,
a pilgrim and a prophet, gathered them like wolves beneath his standard,
and poured them forth on the Sudan.

The pilgrimage to Mecca is incumbent only on those who can afford it,
but hundreds of devout negroes every year put on their shrouds and beg
their way across the continent to Massowah. There, taking out a few
grains of gold dust cunningly concealed between the leaves of their
Korans, they pay their passage across the Red Sea and tramp it from
Jidda to Mecca, feeding as they go on the bodies of the camels that have
been left to die, and whose meat is lawful if the throat is cut before
the animal expires. As soon as the negroes--or Takrouri, as they are
called--arrive in the Holy City they at once set to work, some as
porters and some as carriers of water in leather skins; others
manufacture baskets and mats of date leaves; others establish a market
for firewood, which they collect in the neighbouring hills. They inhabit
miserable huts or ruined houses in the quarter of the lower classes,
where the sellers of charcoal dwell and where locusts are sold by the
measure. Some of these poor and industrious creatures spread
their mats in the cloisters of the great Mosque, and stay all the time
beneath that sacred and hospitable roof. They are subject to the
exclamatory fits and pious convulsions so common among the negroes of
the Southern States. Often they may be seen prostrate on the pavement,
beating their foreheads against the stones, weeping bitterly, and
pouring forth the wildest ejaculations.

The Great Mosque at Mecca is a spacious square surrounded by a
colonnade. In the midst of the quadrangle is the small building called
the Caaba. It has no windows; its door, which is seldom opened, is
coated with silver; its padlock, once of pure gold, is now of silver
gilt. On its threshold are placed every night various small wax candles
and perfuming pans filled with aloeswood and musk. The walls of the
building are covered with a veil of black silk, tucked up on one side,
so as to leave exposed the famous Black Stone which is niched in the
wall outside. The veil is not fastened close to the building, so that
the least breath of air causes it to wave in slow, undulating movements,
hailed with prayer by the kneeling crowd around. They believe that it is
caused by the wings of guardian angels who will transport the Caaba to
paradise when the last trumpet sounds.

At a little distance from this building is the Zemzem well, and while
some of the pilgrims are standing by its mouth waiting to be served, or
walking round the Caaba, or stooping to kiss the stone, other scenes may
be observed in the cloisters and the square; and, as in the Temple at
Jerusalem, these are not all of the most edifying nature. Children are
playing at games, or feeding the wild pigeons whom long immunity has
rendered tame. Numerous schools are going on, the boys chanting in a
loud voice, and the master's baton sometimes falling on their backs. In
another corner a religious lecture is being delivered. Men of all
nations are clustered in separate groups--the Persian heretics, with
their caps mounting to heaven and their beards descending to the earth;
the Tartar, with oblique eyes and rounded limbs and light silk
handkerchief tied round his brow; Turks with shaven faces and in red
caps; the lean Indian pauper, begging with a miserable whine; and one or
two wealthy Hindu merchants not guiltless of dinners given to infidels,
and of iced champagne. At the same time an active business is being done
in sacred keepsakes--rosaries made of camel bone, bottles of Zemzem
water, dust collected from behind the veil, tooth-sticks made of a
fibrous root such as that which Mohammed himself was wont to use, and
coarsely executed pictures of the Caaba. Mecca itself, like most cities
frequented by strangers, whether pilgrims or mariners, is not an abode
of righteousness and virtue. As the Tartars say of it, "The Torch is
dark at its foot," and many a pilgrim might exclaim with the Arabian
Ovid; "I set out in the hopes of lightening my sins, And returned,
bringing home with me a fresh load of transgressions."

But the very wickedness of a holy city deepens real enthusiasm into
severity and wrath. When Abd-ul-Wahhab saw taverns opened in Mecca
itself, and the inhabitants alluring the pilgrims to every kind of vice;
when he found that the sacred places were made a show, that the mosque
was inhabited by guides and officials who were as greedy as beasts of
prey, that wealth, not piety, was the chief object of consideration in a
pilgrim, he felt as Luther felt at Rome. The disgust which was excited
in his mind by the manners of the day was extended also to the doctrines
that were in vogue. The prayers that were offered up to Mohammed and the
saints resembled the prayers that were once offered up to the Daughters
of Heaven, the intercessors of the ancient Arabs. The pilgrimages that
were made to the tombs of holy men were the old journeys to the
ancestral graves. The worship of one God, which Mohammed had been sent
to restore, had again become obscured; the days of darkness had
returned. He preached a Unitarian revival; he held up as his standard
and his guide the Koran, and nothing but the Koran; he founded a puritan
sect which is now a hundred years of age, and still remains an element
of power and disturbance in the East.

Othman Dan Fodio, the Black Prophet, also went out of Mecca, his soul
burning with zeal. He determined to reform the Sudan. He forbade, like
Abd-ul-Wahhab, the smoking of tobacco, the wearing of ornaments and
finery. But he had to contend with more gross abuses still. In many
negro lands which professed Islam, palm wine and millet beer were
largely consumed; the women did not veil their faces nor even their
bosoms; immodest dances were performed to the profane music of the drum;
learned men gained a livelihood by writing charms, the code of the Koran
was often supplanted by the old customary laws. Dan Fodio sent letters
to the great kings of Timbuktu, Haoussa, and Bornu, commanding them to
reform their own lives and those of their subjects, or he would chastise
them in the name of God. They received these instructions from an
unknown man, as the King of Kings received the letter of Mohammed, and
their fate resembled his. Dan Fodio united the Fulah tribes into an army
which he inspired with his own spirit. Thirsting for plunder and
paradise, the Fulahs swept over the Sudan; they marched into battle with
shouts of frenzied joy, singing hymns and waving their green flags on
which texts of the Koran were embroidered in letters of gold. The empire
which they established at the beginning of this century is now crumbling
away, but the fire is still burning on the frontiers. Wherever the
Fulahs are settled in the neighbourhood of pagan tribes they are
extending their power, and although the immediate effects are
disastrous--villages being laid in ashes, men slaughtered by thousands,
women and children sold as slaves--yet in the end these crusades are
productive of good. The villages are converted into towns; a new land is
brought within the sphere of commercial and religious intercourse, and
is added to the Asiatic world.

The phenomenon of a religious Tamerlane has been repeated more than once
in Central Africa. The last example was that of Oumar the Pilgrim, whose
capital was Segou, and whose conquests extended from Timbuktu to
Senegal, where he came into contact with French artillery and for ever
lost his prestige as a prophet. But we are taught by the science of
history that these military empires can never long endure. It is
probable that Mohammedan Sudan will in time become a province of the
Turks. Central Africa, as we have shown, received its civilisation not
from Egypt but from the grand Morocco of the Middle Ages. Egypt has
always lived with its back to Africa, its eyes and often its hands on
Syria and Arabia. Abyssinia was not subdued by the caliphs because it
was not coveted by them, and there was little communication between
Egypt and the Sudan. Mohammed Ali was the first to re-establish the
kingdom of the Pharaohs in Ethiopia, and to organise negro regiments.
Since his time the Turkish power has been gradually spreading towards
the interior, and the expedition of Baker Pasha, whatever may be its
immediate result, is the harbinger of great events to come. Should the
Turks be driven out of Europe, they would probably become the emperors
of Africa, which in the interests of civilisation would be a fortunate
occurrence. The Turkish government is undoubtedly defective in
comparison with the governments of Europe, but it is perfection itself
in comparison with the governments of Africa. If the Egyptians had been
allowed to conquer Abyssinia there would have been no need of an
Abyssinian expedition, and nothing but Egyptian occupation will put an
end to the wars which are always being waged and always have been waged
in that country between bandit chiefs. Those who are anxious that
Abyssinian Christianity should be preserved need surely not be alarmed,
for the Pope of Abyssinia is the Patriarch of Cairo, a Turkish subject,
and the aboona or archbishop has always been an Egyptian. But the Turks
no longer have it in their power to commit actions which Europeans would
condemn. They now belong to the civilised system; they are subject to
the law of opinion. Already they have been compelled by that mysterious
power to suppress the slave-making wars which were formerly waged every
year from Kordofan and Sennaar, and which are still being waged from the
independent kingdoms of Darfur, Waday, Bagirmi, and Bornu. Wherever the
Turks reign a European is allowed to travel; wherever a European travels
a word is spoken on behalf of the oppressed. That word enters the
newspapers, passes into a diplomatic remonstrance, becomes a firman, and
a governor or commandant in some sequestered province of an Oriental
empire suffers the penalty of his misdeeds. It should be the policy of
European Powers to aid the destruction of all savage kingdoms, or at
least never to interfere on their behalf.

It has now been shown that a vast region within the Dark Continent, the
world beyond the sandy ocean, is governed by Asiatic laws and has
attained an Asiatic civilisation. We must next pass to the Atlantic
side, and study the effects which have been produced among the negroes
by the intercourse of Europeans. It will be found that the transactions
on the coast of Guinea belong not only to the biography of Africa but
also to universal history, and that the domestication of the negro has
indirectly assisted the material progress of Europe and the development
of its morality. The programme of the next chapter will be as follows:
The rise of Europe out of darkness; the discovery of Western Africa by
the Portuguese; the institution of the slave-trade, and the history of
that great republican and philanthropic movement which won its first
victory in the abolition of the slave-trade in 1807, its last in the
taking of Richmond in 1865.


Ancient Europe

The history of Europe in ancient times is the history of those lands
which adjoin the Mediterranean Sea. Beyond the Alps lay a vast expanse
of marsh and forest, through which flowed the swift and gloomy Rhine. On
the right side of that river dwelt the Germans; on its left, the Celtic
Gauls. Both people, in manners and customs, resembled the Red Indians.
They lived in round wigwams, with a hole at the top to let out the
smoke. They hunted the white-maned bison and the brown bear, and trapped
the beaver, which then built its lodges by the side of every stream.
They passed their spare time in gambling, drunkenness, and torpor; while
their squaws cut the firewood, cultivated their garden-plots of grain,
tended the shaggy-headed cattle, and the hogs feeding on acorns and
beech-mast, obedient to the horn of the mistress, but savage to
strangers as a pack of wolves. At an early period, however, the Gauls
came into contact with the Phoenicians and the Greeks; they served in
the Carthaginian armies, and acquired a taste for trade; they learnt the
cultivation of the vine, and some of the metallic arts; their priests,
or learned men, employed the Greek characters in writing. But the Gauls
had a mania for martial glory, and often attacked the peaceful Greek
merchants of Marseilles. The Greeks at last called in the assistance of
the Romans, who not only made war on the hostile tribes, but on the
peaceful tribes as well. Thus began the conquest of Gaul. It was
completed by Caesar, who used that country as an exercise ground for his
soldiers, and prepared them, by a hundred battles, for the mighty combat
in which Pompey was overthrown.

Military roads were made across the Alps, Roman colonies were dispatched
into the newly conquered land, Italian farmers took up their abode in
the native towns, and the chiefs were required to send their sons to
school. Thus the Romans obtained hostages, and the Celts were pleased to
see their boys neatly dressed in white garments edged with purple,
displaying their proficiency on the waxen tablets and the counting
board. In a few generations the Celts had disappeared. On the banks of
the Rhone and the Seine magnificent cities arose, watered by aqueducts,
surrounded by gardens, adorned with libraries, temples, and public
schools. The inhabitants called themselves Romans, and spoke with
patriotic fervour of the glorious days of the Republic.

Meanwhile the barbarians beyond the Rhine remained in the savage state.
They often crossed the river to invade the land which had ripened into
wealth before their eyes: but the frontier was guarded by a chain of
camps; and the Germans, armed only with clumsy spears and wooden
shields, could not break the line of Roman soldiers, who were dressed in
steel, who were splendidly disciplined, and who had military engines.
The Gauls had once been a warlike people; they now abandoned the use of
arms. The empire insured them against invasion in return for the taxes
which they paid.

But there came a time when the tribute of the provinces no longer
returned to the provinces to be expended on the public buildings and the
frontier garrisons and the military roads. The rivers of gold which had
so long flowed into Rome at last dried up: the empire became poor, and
yet its expenses remained the same. The Praetorian Guards had still to
be paid; the mob of the capital had still to be rationed with bread, and
bacon, and wine, and oil, and costly shows. Accordingly the provinces
were made to suffer. Exorbitant taxes were imposed: the aldermen and
civil councillors of towns were compelled to pay enormous fees in virtue
of their office, and were forbidden to evade such expensive honours by
enlisting in the army, or by taking holy orders. The rich were accused of
crimes that their property might be seized: the crops in the fields were
gathered by the police. A blight fell upon the land. Men would no longer
labour, since the fruits of their toil might at any time be taken from
them. Cornfield and meadow were again covered with brambles and weeds;
the cities were deserted; grass grew in all the streets. The province of
Gaul was taxed to death, and then abandoned by the Romans. The
government could no longer afford to garrison the Rhine frontier: the
legions were withdrawn, and the Germans entered.

The German Invasion

The invading armies were composed of free men, who, under their
respective captains or heads of clans, had joined the standard of some
noted warrior chief. The spoil of the army belonged to the army, and was
divided according to stipulated rules. The king's share was large, but
more than his share he might not have. When the Germans, instead of
returning with their booty, remained upon the foreign soil, they
partitioned the land in the same manner as they partitioned the cattle
and the slaves, the gold crosses, the silver chalices; the vases, the
tapestry, the fine linen, and the purple robes. An immense region was
allotted to the king; other tracts of various sizes to the generals and
captains (or chiefs and chieftains) according to the number of men whom
they had brought into the field; and each private soldier received a
piece of ground. But the army, although disbanded, was not extinct; its
members remained under martial law the barons or generals were bound to
obey the king when he summoned them to war; the soldiers to obey their
ancient chiefs. Sometimes the king and the great barons gave lands to
favourites and friends on similar conditions, and at a later period
money was paid instead of military service, thus originating rent.

The nobles of Roman Gaul lived within the city except during the
villeggiatura in the autumn. The German lords preferred the country, and
either fortified the Roman villas or built new castles of their own.
They surrounded themselves with a bodyguard of personal retainers; their
prisoners of war were made to till the ground as serfs. And soon they
reduced to much the same condition the German soldiers, and seized their
humble lands. In that troubled age none could hold property except by
means of the strong arm. Men found it difficult to preserve their lives,
and often presented their bodies to some powerful lord in return for
protection, in return for daily bread. The power of the king was
nominal: sovereignty was broken and dispersed: Europe was divided among
castles: and in each castle was a prince who owned no authority above
his own, who held a high court of justice in his hall, issued laws to
his estates, lived by the court fees, by taxes levied on passing
caravans, and by ransoms for prisoners, sometimes obtained in fair war,
sometimes by falling upon peaceful travellers. Dark deeds were done
within those ivy-covered towers which now exist for the pleasure of
poets and pilgrims of the picturesque. Often from turret chambers and
grated windows arose the shrieks of violated maidens and the yells of
tortured Jews. Yet castle life had also its brighter side. To cheer the
solitude of the isolated house minstrels and poets and scholars were
courted by the barons, and were offered a peaceful chamber and a place
of honour at the board. In the towns of ancient Italy and Greece there
was no family: the home did not exist. The women and children dwelt
together in secluded chambers: the men lived a club life in the baths,
the porticoes, and the gymnasiums. But the castle lord had no companions
of his own rank except the members of his own family. On stormy days,
when he could not hunt, he found a pleasure in dancing his little ones
upon his knee, and in telling them tales of the wood and weald. Their
tender fondlings, and their merry laughs, their half formed voices,
which attempted to pronounce his name--all these were sweet to him.
And by the love of those in whom he saw his own image mirrored, in whom
his own childhood appeared to live again, he was drawn closer and closer
to his wife. She became his counsellor and friend; she softened his
rugged manners; she soothed his fierce wrath; she pleaded for the
prisoners and captives, and the men condemned to die. And when he was
absent, she became the sovereign lady of the house, ruled the vassals,
sat in the judgment-seat, and often defended the castle in time of
siege. A charge so august could not but elevate the female mind. Women
became queens. The Lady was created. Within the castle was formed that
grand manner of gentleness, mingled with hauteur, which art can never
stimulate, and which ages of dignity can alone confer.

The barons dwelt apart from one another, and were often engaged in
private war. Yet they had sons to educate and daughters to marry; and so
a singular kind of society arose. The king's house or court, and the
houses of the great barons, became academies to which the inferior
barons sent their boys and girls to school. The young lady became the
attendant of the Dame, and was instructed in the arts of playing on the
virginals, of preparing simples, and of healing wounds; of spinning,
sewing, and embroidery. The young gentleman was at first a page. He was
taught to manage a horse with grace and skill, to use bow and sword, to
sound the notes of venerie upon the horn, to carve at table, to ride
full tilt against the quintaine with his lance in rest, to brittle a
deer, to find his way through the forest by the stars in the sky and by
the moss upon the trees. It was also his duty to wait upon the ladies,
who tutored his youthful mind in other ways. He was trained to deport
himself with elegance; he was nurtured in all the accomplishments of
courtesy and love. He was encouraged to select a mistress among the
dames or demoiselles; to adore her in his heart, to serve her with
patience and fidelity, obeying her least commands; to be modest in her
presence; to be silent and discreet. The reward of all this devotion was
of no ethereal kind, but it was not quickly or easily bestowed; and vice
almost ceases to be vice when it can only be gratified by means of long
discipline in virtue. When the page had arrived at a certain age, he was
clad in a brown frock; a sword was fastened to his side, and he obtained
the title of Esquire. He attended his patron knight on military
expeditions, until he was old enough to be admitted to the order. Among
the ancient Germans of the forest, when a young man came of age, he was
solemnly invested with shield and spear. The ceremony of knighthood at
first was nothing more than this. Every man of gentle birth became a
knight, and then took an oath to be true to God and to the ladies and to
his plighted word; to be honourable in all his actions, to succour the
oppressed. Thus, within those castle-colleges arose the sentiment of
Honour, the institution of Chivalry, which, as an old poet wrote, made
women chaste and men brave. The women were worshipped as goddesses, the
men were revered as heroes. Each sex aspired to possess those qualities
which the other sex approved. Women admire, above all things, courage
and truth; and so the men became courageous and true. Men admire
modesty, virtue, and refinement; and so the women became virtuous, and
modest, and refined. A higher standard of propriety was required as time
went on: the manners and customs of the Dark Ages became the vices of a
later period; unchastity, which had once been regarded as the private
wrong of the husband, was stigmatised as a sin against society; and
society found a means of taking its revenge. At first the notorious
woman was insulted to her face at tournament and banquet; or knights
chalked an epithet upon her castle gates, and then rode on. In the next
age she was shunned by her own sex: the discipline of social life was
established as it exists at the present day. Though it might sometimes
be relaxed in a vicious court, at least the ideal of right was
preserved. But in the period of the Troubadours the fair sinners
resembled the pirates of the Homeric age. Their pursuits were of a
dangerous, but not of a dishonourable nature: they might sometimes lose
their lives; they never lost their reputation.

The Castle

We must now descend from ladies and gentlemen to the people in the
field, who are sometimes forgotten by historians. The castle was built
on the summit of a hill, and a village of serfs was clustered round its
foot. These poor peasants were often hardly treated by their lords.
Often they raised their brown and horny hands and cursed the cruel
castle which scowled upon them from above. Humbly they made obeisance,
and bitterly they gnawed their lips as the baron rode down the narrow
street on his great war-horse, which would always have its fill of corn,
when they would starve, followed by his beef-fed varlets with faces red
from beer, who gave them jeering looks, who called them by nicknames,
who contemptuously caressed their daughters before their eyes. Yet it
was not always thus: the lord was often a true nobleman, the parent of
their village, the god-father of their children, the guardian of their
happiness, the arbiter of their disputes. When there was sickness among
them, the ladies of the castle often came down, bringing them soups and
spiced morsels with their own white hands; and the castle was the home
of the good chaplain, who told them of the happier world beyond the
grave. It was there also that they enjoyed such pleasures as they had.
Sometimes they were called up to the castle to feast on beef and beer in
commemoration of a happy anniversary or a Christian feast. Sometimes
their lord brought home a caravan of merchants whom he had captured on
the road and while the strange guests were quaking for the safety of
their bales, the people were being amused with the songs of the
minstrels, and the tricks of the jugglers, and the antics of the
dancing bear. And sometimes a tournament was held: the lords and ladies
of the neighbourhood rode over to the castle; turf banks were set for
the serfs and a gallery was erected for the ladies, above whom sat
enthroned the one who was chosen as the Queen of Beauty and of Love.
Then the heralds shouted, "Love of ladies, splintering of lances! stand
forth, gallant knights; fair eyes look upon your deeds!" And the knights
took up their position in two lines fronting one another, and sat
motionless upon their horses like pillars of iron, with nothing to be
seen but their flaming eyes. The trumpets flourished: "Laissez aller!"
cried a voice; and the knights, with their long spears in rest, dashed
furiously against each other, and then plied battle-axe and sword, to
the great delight and contentment of the populace.

In times of war the castle was also the refuge of the poor, and the
villagers fled behind its walls when the enemy drew near. They did not
then reflect that it was the castle which had provoked the war; they
viewed it only as a hospitable fortress which had saved their lives. It
was therefore, in many cases, regarded by the people not only with awe
and veneration, but also with a sentiment of filial love. It was
associated with their pleasures and their security. But in course of
time a rival arose to alienate the affections, or to strengthen the
resentment of the castle serfs. It was the Town.

In the days of the Republic and in the first days of the Empire, all
kinds of skilled labour were in the hands of slaves: in every palace,
whatever was required for the household was manufactured on the
premises. But before the occupation of the Germans, a free class of
artisans had sprung up, in what manner is not precisely known; they were
probably the descendants of emancipated slaves. This class, divided into
guilds and corporations, continued to inhabit the towns: they
manufactured armour and clothes they travelled as pedlars about the
country, and thus acquired wealth, which they cautiously concealed, for
they were in complete subservience to the castle lord. They could not
leave their property by will, dispose of their daughters in marriage, or
perform a single business transaction without the permission of their
liege. But little by little their power increased. When war was being
waged, it became needful to fortify the town; for the town was the
baron's estate, and he did not wish his property to be destroyed. When
once the burghers were armed and their town walled they were able to
defy their lord. They obtained charters, sometimes by revolt, sometimes
by purchase, which gave them the town to do with it as they pleased; to
elect their own magistrates, to make their own laws, and to pay their
liege lord a fixed rent by the year instead of being subjected to loans
and benevolences, and loving contributions. The Roman Law, which had
never quite died out, was now revived; the old municipal institutions of
the Empire were restored. Unhappily the citizens often fought among
themselves, and towns joined barons in destroying towns. Yet their
influence rapidly increased, and the power of the castle was diminished.
Whenever a town received privileges from its lord, other towns demanded
that the same rights should be embodied in their charters, and rebelled
if their request was refused. Trade and industry expanded; the products
of burgher enterprise and skill were offered in the castle halls for
sale. The lady was tempted with silk and velvet; the lord, with chains
of gold, and Damascus blades, and suits of Milan steel; the children
clamoured for the sweet white powder which was brought from the
countries of the East. These new tastes and fancies impoverished the
nobles. They reduced their establishments; and the discarded retainers,
in no sweet temper, went over to the Town.

The Town

And there were others who went to the Town as well. In classical times
the slaves were unable to rebel with any prospect of success. In the
cities of Greece every citizen was a soldier: in Rome an enormous army
served as the slave police. But in the scattered castle states of
Europe, the serfs could rise against their lords, and often did so with
effect. And then the Town was always a place of refuge: the runaway
slave was there welcomed; his pursuers were duped or defied; the file
was applied to his collar; his blue blouse was taken off; his hair was
suffered to grow; he was made a burgher and a free man. Thus the serfs
had often the power to rebel, and always the power to escape; in
consequence of which they ceased to be serfs and became tenants. In our
own times we have seen emancipation presented to slaves by a victorious
party in the House of Commons, and by a victorious army in the United
States. It has, therefore, been inferred that slavery in Europe was
abolished in the same manner, and the honour of the movement has been
bestowed upon the Church. But this is reading history upside down. The
extinction of villeinage was not a donation but a conquest: it did not
descend from the court and the castle; it ascended from the village and
the town. The Church, however, may claim the merit of having mitigated
slavery in its worst days, when its horrors were increased by the pride
of conquest and the hostility of race. The clergy belonged to the
conquered people, whom they protected from harsh usage to the best of
their ability. They taught as the Moslem doctors also teach, and as even
the pagan Africans believe, that it is a pious action to emancipate a
slave. But there is no reason to suppose that they ever thought of
abolishing slavery, and they could not have done so had they wished.
Negro slavery was established by subjects of the Church in defiance of
the Church. Religion has little power when it works against the stream,
but it can give to streams a power which they otherwise would not
possess, and it can unite their scattered waters into one majestic

Rome was taken and sacked but never occupied by the barbarians. It still
belonged to the Romans: it still preserved the traditions and the genius
of empire. Whatever may have been the origin of British or Celtic
Christianity, it is certain that the English were converted by the
Papists; the first Archbishop of Canterbury was an Italian; his converts
became missionaries, entered the vast forests of pagan Germany, and
brought nations to the feet of Rome. The alliance of Pepin and the Roman
See placed also the French clergy under the dominion of the Pope, who
was acknowledged by Alcuin, the adherent of Charlemagne, to be the
"Pontiff of God, vicar of the apostles, heir of the fathers, prince of
the Church, guardian of the only dove without stain."

The Church

The ordinance of clerical celibacy increased the efficacy of the
priesthood and the power of the Pope. The ranks of the clergy were
recruited, generation after generation, from the most intelligent of the
lay men in the lower classes, and from those among the upper classes who
were more inclined to intellectual pursuits than to military life. These
men, divided as they were from family connections, ceased to be Germans,
Englishmen, or Frenchmen, and became catholic or universal-hearted men,
patriots of religion, children of the Church. And those enthusiastic
laymen who had adopted an ascetic isolated life, or had gathered
together in voluntary associations; those hermits and monks, who might
have been so dangerous to the Established Church, were welcomed as
allies. No mean jealousy in the Roman Church divided the priest and the
prophet, as among the ancient Jews; the mullah and the dervish, as in
the East at the present time. The monks were allowed to preach, and to
elect their own monastery priests; they were gradually formed into
regular orders, and brought within the discipline of ecclesiastic law.
The monks of the East, who could live on a handful of beans, passed
their lives in weaving baskets, in prayer and meditation. But the monks
of the West, who lived in a colder climate, required a different kind of
food; and as at first they had no money, they could obtain it only by
means of work. They laboured in the fields in order to live and that
which had arisen from necessity was continued as a part of the monastic
discipline. There were also begging friars, who journeyed from land to
land. These were the first travellers in Europe. Their sacred character
preserved their lives from all robbers, whether noble or plebeian, and
the same exemption was accorded to those who put on the pilgrim's garb.
The smaller pilgrimage was that to Rome the greater that to the Holy
Land, by which the palmers obtained remission of their sins, and also
were shown by the monks of Egypt, Sinai, and Palestine, many interesting
relics and vestiges of supernatural events. They were shown the barns
which Joseph had built, vulgarly called the Pyramids; the bush which had
burnt before Moses and was not consumed, and the cleft out of which he
peeped at the "back parts" of Jehovah; the pillar of salt which was once
Lot's wife, and which, though the sheep continually licked it out of
shape, was continually restored to its pristine form; the ruins of the
temple which Samson overthrew; the well where Jesus used to draw water
for his mother when he was a little boy, and where she used to wash his
clothes; the manger in which he was born, and the table on which he was
circumcised; the caves in which his disciples concealed themselves
during the crucifixion, and the cracks in the ground produced by the
earthquake, which followed that event; the tree on which Judas hanged
himself, and the house in which he resided, which was surrounded by the
Jews with a wall that it might not be injured by the Christians.

It was not only the rich who undertook this pilgrimage; many a poor man
begged his way to the Holy Land. When such a person was ready to depart,
the village pastor clad him in a cloak of coarse black serge, with a
broad hat upon his head, put a long staff in his hand, and hung round
him a scarf and script. He was conducted to the borders of the parish in
solemn procession, with cross and holy water the neighbours parted from
him there with tears and benedictions. He returned with cockle-shells
stitched in his hat, as a sign that he had been across the seas, and
with a branch of palm tied on to his staff, as a sign that he had been
to Jerusalem itself. He often brought also relics and beads; a bag of
dust to hang at the bedside of the sick; a phial of oil from the lamp
which hung over the Holy Sepulchre, and perhaps a splinter of the true

When the Saracens conquered Palestine and Egypt, they did not destroy
the memorials of Jesus, for they reverenced him as a prophet. Pious
Moslems made also the pilgrimage to Jerusalem; and the Christians were
surprised and edified to see the turbaned infidels removing their
sandals like Moses on Mount Sinai, and prostrating themselves upon the
pavement before the tomb. The caliphs were sufficiently enlightened to
encourage and protect the foreign enthusiasts who filled the land with
gold; and although the palmers were exempt from "passage" and "pontage"
and other kinds of blackmail levied by the barons on lay travellers,
they found it more easy and more safe to travel in Asia than in Europe.
The passion for the pilgrimage to Palestine, which had gradually
increased since the days of Helena and Jerome, burst forth as an
epidemic at the close of the tenth century. The thousand years assigned
in Revelation as the lifetime of the earth were about to expire. It was
believed that Jesus would appear in Jerusalem, and there hold a grand
assize: thousands bestowed their property upon the Church, and crowded
to the Holy Land.

While they thus lived at Jerusalem and waited for the second coming,
continually looking up at the sky and expecting it to open, there came
instead a host of men with yellow faces and oblique slit-shaped eyes,
who took the Holy City by assault, drove the Arabs out of Syria, killed
many pilgrims, stripped them of all their money, and if they found none
outside their bodies, probed them with daggers, or administered emetics
in the hope of finding some within. When the pilgrims returned, they
related their sufferings, and showed their scars. The anger of
Christendom was aroused. A crusade was preached, and the enthusiasm
which everywhere prevailed enabled the Church to exercise unusual
powers. The Pope decreed that the men of the cross should be hindered by
none. Creditor might not arrest; master might not detain. To those who
joined the army of the Church, absolution was given; and paradise was
promised in the Moslem style to those who died in the campaign. The
tidings flew from castle to castle, and from town to town; there was not
a land, however remote, which escaped the infection of the time. In the
homely language of the monk of Malmesbury, "the Welshman left his
hunting, the Scotch his fellowship with vermin, the Dane his drinking
party, the Norwegian his raw fish." Europe was torn up from its
foundations and hurled upon Asia. Society was dissolved. Monks, not
waiting for the permission of their superiors, cast off their black
gowns and put on the buff jerkin, the boots and the sword. The serf left
his plough in the furrow, the shepherd left his flock in the field. Men
servants and maid servants ran from the castle. Wives insisted upon
going with their husbands, and if their husbands refused to take them,
went with some one else. Murderers, robbers, and pirates declared that
they would wash out their sins in pagan blood. In some cases, the poor
rustic shod his oxen like horses, and placed his whole family in a cart,
and whenever he came to a castle or a town, inquired whether that was
Jerusalem. The barons sold or mortgaged their estates, indifferent about
the future, hoping to win the wealth of Eastern princes with the sword.
During two hundred years, the natives of Europe appeared to have no
other object than to conquer or to keep possession of the Holy Land.

The Christian knights were at length driven out of Asia; in the
meantime, Europe was transformed. The kings had taken no part in the
first crusades; the estates of the barons had been purchased partly by
them, and partly by the burghers. An alliance was made between Crown and
Town. The sovereignty of the castle was destroyed. Judges appointed by
the king travelled on circuit through the land; the Roman law, from
being municipal became national; the barons became a nobility residing
chiefly at the court; the middle class came into life. The burghers
acknowledged no sovereign but the king: they officered their own
trainbands; they collected their own taxes; they were represented in a
national assembly at the capital. New tastes came into vogue; both mind
and body were indulged with dainty foods. The man of talent, whatever
his station, might hope to be ennobled; the honour of knighthood was
reserved by the king, and bestowed upon civilians. The spices of the
East, the sugar of Egypt and Spain, the silk of Greece and the islands
were no longer occasional luxuries, but requirements of daily life. And
since it was considered unworthy of a gentleman to trade, the profits of
commerce were monopolised by the third estate. Education was required
for mercantile pursuits; it was at first given by the priests who had
previously taught laymen only to repeat the paternoster and the credo,
and to pay tithes. Schools were opened in the towns, and universities
became secular. The rich merchants took a pride in giving their sons the
best education that money could obtain, and these young men were not
always disposed to follow commercial pursuits. They adopted the study of
the law, cultivated the fine arts, made experiments in natural
philosophy, and were often sent by their parents to study in the land
beyond the Alps, where they saw something which was in itself an
education for the burgher mind--merchants dwelling in palaces, seated
upon thrones, governing great cities, commanding fleets and armies,
negotiating on equal terms with the proudest and most powerful monarchs
of the North.

Italy, protected by its mountain barrier, had not been so frequently
flooded by barbarians as the provinces of Gaul and Spain. The feudal
system was there established in a milder form, and the cities retained
more strength. Soon they were able to attack the castle lords, to make
them pull down their towers, and to live like peaceable citizens within
the walls. The Emperor had little power; Florence, Genoa, and Pisa grew
into powerful city-states resembling those of Italy before the rise of
ancient Rome, but possessing manufactures which, in the time of ancient
Italy, had been confined to Egypt, China, and Hindustan.


The origin of Venice was different from that of its sister states. In
the darkest days of Italy, when a horde of savage Huns, with scalps
dangling from the trappings of their horses, poured over the land, some
citizens of Padua and other adjoining towns took refuge in a cluster of
islands in the lagoons which were formed at the mouths of the
Adige and the Po. From Rialto, the chief of these islands, it was three
miles to the mainland; a mile and a half to the sandy breakwater which
divided the lagoons from the Adriatic. At high water the islands
appeared to be at sea; but when the tide declined, they rose up from the
midst of a dark green plain in which blue gashes were opened by the oar.
But even at high water the lagoons were too shallow to be entered by
ships--except through certain tortuous and secret channels; and even
at low water they were too deep to be passed on foot. Here, then, the
Venetians were secure from their foes, like the lake-dwellers of ancient

At first they were merely salt-boilers and fishermen, and were dependent
on the mainland for the materials of life. There was no seaport in the
neighbourhood to send its vessels for the salt which they prepared: they
were forced to fetch everything that they required for themselves. They
became seamen by necessity: they almost lived upon the water. As their
means improved, and as their wants expanded, they bought fields and
pastures on the mainland; they extended their commerce, and made long
voyages. They learnt in the dockyards of Constantinople the art of
building tall ships; they conquered the pirates of the Adriatic Sea. The
princes of Syria, Egypt, Barbary, and Spain were all of them merchants,
for commerce is an aristocratic occupation in the East. With them the
Venetians opened up a trade. At first they had only timber and slaves to
offer in exchange for the wondrous fabrics and rare spices of the East.
In raw produce Europe is no match for Asia. The Venetians, therefore,
were driven to invent; they manufactured furniture and woollen cloth,
armour, and glass. It is evident, from the old names of the streets,
that Venice formerly was one great workshop; it was also a great market
city. The crowds of pilgrims resorting to Rome to visit the tombs of the
martyrs, and to kiss the Pope's toe, had suggested to the Government the
idea of fairs which were held within the city at stated times. The
Venetians established a rival fair in honour of St. Mark, whose remains,
revered even by the Moslems, had been smuggled out of Alexandria in a
basket of pork. They took their materials, like Molière, wherever they
could find them--stole the corpse of a patriarch from Constantinople,
and the bones of a saint from Milan. They made religion subservient to
commerce: they declined to make commerce subservient to religion. The
Pope forbade them to trade with infidels: but the infidel, trade was
their life. Siamo Veneziani poi Cristiani, they replied. The Papal
nuncios arrived in Venice, and excommunicated two hundred of the leading
men. In return they were ordered to leave the town. The fleets of the
Venetians, like the Phoenicians of old, sailed in all the European
waters, from the wheat fields of the Crimea to the ice-creeks of the
Baltic. In that sea the pirates were at length extinct; a number of
cities along its shores were united in a league. Bruges in Flanders was
the emporium of the Northern trade, and was supplied by Venetian vessels
with the commodities of the South. The Venetians also travelled over
Europe, and established their financial colonies in all great towns. The
cash of Europe was in their hands; and the sign of three golden balls
declared that Lombards lent money within.

During the period of the Crusades, their trade with the East was
interrupted but it was exchanged for a commerce more profitable still.
The Venetians in their galleys conveyed the armies to the Holy Land, and
also supplied them with provisions. Besides the heavy sums which they
exacted for such services, they made other stipulations. Whenever a town
was taken by the Crusaders, a suburb or street was assigned to the
Venetians; and when the Christians were expelled, the Moslems consented
to continue the arrangement. In all the great Eastern cities, there was
a Venetian quarter containing a chapel, a bath-house, and a factory
ruled over by a magistrate or consul.

Constantinople, during the Crusades, had been taken by the Latins, with
the assistance of the Venetians, and had been recovered by the Greeks,
with the assistance of the Genoese. The Venetians were expelled from the
Black Sea, but obtained the Alexandria trade. In the fifteenth century
the Black Sea was ruined, for its caravan routes were stopped by the
Turkish wars. Egypt, which was supplied by sea, monopolised the India
trade, and the Venetians monopolised the trade of Egypt. Venice became
the nutmeg and pepper shop of Europe: not a single dish could be
seasoned, not a tankard of ale could be spiced, without adding to its
gains. The wealth of that city soon became enormous; its power, south of
the Alps, supreme.

Times had changed since those poor fugitives first crept in darkness and
sorrow on the islands of the wild lagoon, and drove stakes into the
sand, and spread the reeds of the ocean for their bed. Around them the
dark lone waters, sighing, soughing, and the sea-bird's melancholy cry.
Around them the dismal field of slime, the salt and sombre plain. On
that cluster of islands had arisen a city of surpassing loveliness and
splendour. Great ships lay at anchor in its marble streets; their yards
brushed sculptured balconies, and the walls of palaces as they swept
along. Branching off from the great thoroughfares, bustling with
commerce, magnificent with pomp, were sweet and silent lanes of water,
lined with summer palaces and with myrtle gardens, sloping downwards to
the shore. In the fashionable quarter was a lake-like space--the Park of
Venice--which every evening was covered with gondolas; and the
gondoliers in those days were slaves from the East, Saracens or Negroes,
who sang sadly as they rowed, the music of their homes--the camel-song
of the Sahara, or the soft minor airs of the Sudan.

The government of Venice was a rigid aristocracy. Venice therefore has
no Santa Croce; it can boast of few illustrious names. However, its
Aldine Press and its poems in colour were not unworthy contributions to
the revival of ancient learning and the creation of modern art. The
famous wanderings of Marco Polo had also excited among learned Venetians
a peculiar taste for the science of exploration. All over Europe they
corresponded with scholars of congenial tastes, and urged those princes
who had ships at their disposal to undertake voyages of enterprise and
discovery. Among their correspondents there was one who carried out
their ideas too well. Venice was not so much injured by the potentates
who assembled at Cambrai as by a single man who lived in a lonely spot
on the south-west coast of the Spanish peninsula.

Arab Spain

That country had been taken from the natives by the Carthaginians, from
the Carthaginians by the Romans, from the Romans by the Goths, from the
Goths by the Arabs and the Moors. It was the first province of the Holy
Empire of the Caliphs to shake itself free, and to crown a monarch of
its own. The Arabs raised Spain to a height of prosperity which it has
never since attained; they covered the land with palaces, mosques,
hospitals, and bridges; and with enormous aqueducts which, penetrating
the sides of mountains, or sweeping on lofty arches across valleys,
rivalled the monuments of ancient Rome. The Arabs imported various
tropical fruits and vegetables, the culture of which has departed with
them. They grew, prepared, and exported sugar. They discovered new mines
of gold and silver, quicksilver and lead. They extensively manufactured
silks, cottons, and merino woollen goods, which they despatched to
Constantinople by sea, and which were thence diffused through the valley
of the Danube over savage Christendom. When Italians began to navigate
the Mediterranean, a line of ports was opened to them from Tarragona to
Cadiz. The metropolis of this noble country was Cordova. It stood in the
midst of a fertile plain washed by the waters of the Guadalquivir. It
was encircled by suburban towns; there were ten miles of lighted
streets. The great mosque was one of the wonders of the mediaeval world;
its gates embossed with bronze; its myriads of lamps made out of
Christian bells; and its thousand columns of variegated marble
supporting a roof of richly carved and aromatic wood. At a time when
books were so rare in Europe that the man who possessed one often gave
it to a church, and placed it on the altar pro remedio animae suae, to
obtain remission of his sins; at a time when three or four hundred
parchment scrolls were considered a magnificent endowment for the
richest monastery: when scarcely a priest in England could translate
Latin into his mother tongue; and when even in Italy a monk who had
picked up a smattering of mathematics was looked upon as a magician,
here was a country in which every child was taught to read and write; in
which every town possessed a public library; in which book collecting
was a mania; in which cotton and afterwards linen paper was manufactured
in enormous quantities; in which ladies earned distinction as poets and
grammarians, and in which even the blind were often scholars; in which
men of science were making chemical experiments, using astrolabes in the
observatory, inventing flying machines, studying the astronomy and
algebra of Hindustan.

When the Goths conquered Spain they were reconquered by the clergy, who
established or revived the Roman Law. But to that excellent code they
added some special enactments relating to pagans, heretics, and Jews.
With nations as with individuals, the child is often the father of the
man; intolerance, which ruined the Spain of Philip, was also its vice,
in the Gothic days. On the other hand, the prosperity of Spain beneath
the Arabs was owing to the tolerant spirit of that people. Never was a
conquered nation so mercifully treated. The Christians were allowed by
the Arab laws free exercise of their religion. They were employed at
court; they held office; they served in the army. The caliph had a
bodyguard of twelve thousand men; picked troops, splendidly equipped;
and a third of these were Christians. But there were some ecclesiastics
who taught their congregations that it was sinful to be tolerated. There
were fanatics who, when they heard the cry of the muezzin, "There is no
God but God, and Mohammed is the messenger of God," would sign the cross
upon their foreheads and exclaim in a loud voice, "Keep not thou
silence, O God, for lo! thine enemies make a tumult, and they that hate
thee have lifted up the head"; and so they would rush into the mosque,
and disturb the public worship, and announce that Mohammed was one of
the false prophets whom Christ had foretold. And when such blasphemers
were put to death, which often happened on the spot, there was an
epidemic of martyr-suicide such as that which excited the wonder and
disgust of the younger Pliny. And soon both the contumacy of the
Christians and the evil passions of the Moslems, which that contumacy
excited, were increased by causes from without. When Spain had first
been conquered, a number of Gothic nobles, too proud to submit on any
terms, retreated to the Asturias, taking with them the sacred relics
from Toledo. They found a home in mountain ravines clothed with chestnut
woods, and divided by savage torrents foaming and gnashing on the
stones. Here the Christians established a kingdom, discovered the bones
of a saint which attracted pilgrims from all parts of Europe, and were
joined from time to time by foreign volunteers, and by the disaffected
from the Moorish towns.

The Caliph of Cordova was a Commander of the Faithful: he united the
spiritual and temporal powers in his own person: he was not the slave of
Mamelukes or Turkish guards. But he had the right of naming his
successor from a numerous progeny, and this custom gave rise, as usual,
to seraglio intrigue and civil war. The empire broke up into petty
states, which were engaged in continual feuds with one another. Thus the
Christians were enabled to invade the Moslem territory with success. At
first they made only plundering forays; next they took castles
by surprise or by storm and garrisoned them strongly; and then they began
slowly to advance upon the land. By the middle of the ninth century they
had reached the Douro and the Ebro. By the close of the eleventh they
had reached the Tagus under the banner of the Cid. In the thirteenth
century the kingdom of Granada alone was left. But that kingdom lasted
two hundred years. Its existence was preserved by causes similar to
those which had given the Christians their success. Portugal, Arragon,
Leon, and Castile were more jealous of one another than of the Moorish
kingdom. Granada was unaggressive; and at the same time it belonged to
the European family. There was a difference in language, religion, and
domestic institutions between Moslem and Christian Spain; yet the
manners and mode of thought in both countries were the same. The
cavaliers of Granada were acknowledged by the Spaniards to be
"gentlemen, though Moors." The Moslem knight cultivated the sciences of
courtesy and music, fought only with the foe on equal terms, esteemed it
a duty to side with the weak and to succour the distressed, mingled the
name of his mistress with his Allah Akbar! as the Christians cried, Ma
Dame et mon Dieu! wore in her remembrance an embroidered scarf or some
other gage of love, mingled with her in the graceful dance of the
Zambra, serenaded her by moonlight as she looked down from the balcony.
Granada was defended by a cavalry of gallant knights, and by an infantry
of sturdy mountaineers. But it came to its end at last. The marriage of
Ferdinand and Isabella united all the crowns of Spain. After eight
centuries of almost incessant war, after three thousand seven hundred
battles, the long crusade was ended; Spain became once more a Christian
land; and Boabdil, pausing on the Hill of Tears, looked down for the
last time on the beautiful Alhambra, on the city nestling among rose
gardens, and the dark cypress waving over Moslem tombs. His mother
reproached him for weeping as a woman for the kingdom he had not
defended as a man. He rode down to the sea and crossed over into Africa.
But that country also was soon to be invaded by the Christians.

The Portuguese Discoveries

That part of the Peninsula which is called Portugal preserved its
independence and its dialect from the encroachments of Castile. While
the kingdom of Granada was yet alive, the Portuguese monarch, having
driven the Moors from the banks of the Tagus, resolved to pursue them
into Africa. He possessed an excellent crusade machinery, and naturally
desired to apply it to some purpose. In Portugal were troops of military
monks, who had sworn to fight with none but unbelievers. In Portugal
were large revenues granted or bequeathed for that purpose alone. In
Portugal the passion of chivalry was at its height; the throne was
surrounded by knights panting for adventure. It is related that some
ladies of the English court had been grossly insulted by certain
cavaliers, and had been unable to find champions to redress their
wrongs. An equal number of Portuguese knights at once took ship, sailed
to London, flung down their gauntlets, overthrew their opponents in the
lists, and returned to Lisbon having received from the injured ladies
the tenderest proof of their gratitude and esteem.

It seems that already there had risen between Portugal and England that
diplomatic friendship which has lasted to the present day. A commerce of
wine for wool was established between the ports of the Tagus and the
Thames; and with this commerce the pirates of Ceuta continually
interfered. Ceuta was one of the pillars of Hercules: it sat opposite
Gibraltar, and commanded the straits. The King of Portugal prepared a
fleet; great war-galleys were built having batteries of mangonels or
huge crossbows, with winding gear, stationed in the bow; great beams,
like battering rams; swung aloft; and jars of quicklime and soft soap to
fling in the faces of the enemy. The fleet sailed forth, rustling with
flags, beating drums, and, blowing Saracen horns; the passage to Ceuta
was happily made; the troops were landed, and the pirate city taken by

Among those who distinguished themselves in this exploit was the Prince
Henry, a younger son of the king. He was not only a brave knight, but
also a distinguished scholar; his mind had been enriched by a study of
the works of Cicero, Seneca, and Pliny, and by the Latin translations of
the Greek geographers. He now stepped on that mysterious continent which
had been closed to Christians for several hundred years. He questioned
the prisoners respecting the interior. They described the rich and
learned cities of Morocco: the Atlas mountains, shining with snow and
the sandy desert on their southern side. It was there the ancients had
supposed all life came to an end. But now the Prince received the
astounding intelligence that beyond the Sahara was a land inhabited
entirely by negroes; covered with fields of corn and cotton watered by
majestic rivers, on the banks of which rose cities as large as Morocco,
or Lisbon, or Seville. In that country were gold mines of prodigious
wealth; it was also a granary of slaves. By land it could be reached in
a week from Morocco by a courier mounted on the swift dromedary of the
desert, which halted not by day or night. There were regular caravans or
camel fleets, which passed to and fro at certain seasons of the year.
The Black Country, as they called it, could also be reached by sea. If
ships sailed along the desert shore towards the south, they would arrive
at the mouths of wide rivers, which flowed down from the gold-bearing

This conversation decided Prince Henry's career. To discover this new
world beyond the desert became the object of his life. He was Grand
Master of the Order of Christ, and had ample revenues at his disposal
and he considered himself justified in expending them on this enterprise
which would result in the conversion of many thousand pagans to the
Christian faith. He retired to a castle near Cape St. Vincent, where the
sight of the ocean continually inflamed his thoughts. It was a cold,
bleak headland, with a few juniper trees scattered here and there: all
other vegetation had been withered by the spray. But Prince Henry was
not alone. He invited learned men from all countries to reside with him.
He established a court, in which weather-beaten pilots might discourse
with German mathematicians and Italian cosmographers. He built an
observatory, and founded a naval school. He collected a library, in
which might be read the manuscript of Marco Polo, which his elder
brother had brought from Venice; copies on vellum of the great work of
Ptolemy; and copies also of Herodotus, Strabo, and other Greek writers,
which were being rapidly translated into Latin under the auspices of the
Pope at Rome. He had also a collection of maps and sea-charts engraved
on marble or on metal tables, and painted upon parchment. At a little
distance from the castle were the harbour and town of Sagres, from which
the vessels of the Prince went forth with the cross of the order painted
on their sails.

They sailed down the coast of the Sahara; on their right was a sea of
darkness, on their left a land of fire. The gentlemen of the household
who commanded the ships did not believe in the country of green trees
beyond the ocean of sand. Instead of pushing rapidly along, they landed
as soon as they detected any signs of the natives--the old people of
Masinissa and Jugurtha--attacked them crying, Portugal! Portugal! and
having taken a few prisoners returned home. In every expedition the
commander made it a point of honour to go a little further than the
preceding expedition. Several years thus passed, and the Black Country
had not been found. The Canary Islands were already known to the
Spaniards: but the Portuguese discovered Porto Santo and Madeira. A
shipload of emigrants was despatched to the former island, and among
the passengers was a female rabbit in an interesting situation. She was
turned down with her young ones on the island, and, there being no
checks to rabbit population, they increased with such rapidity that they
devoured every green thing, and drove the colonists across into Madeira.
In that island the colonists were more fortunate; instead of importing
rabbits they introduced the vine from Cyprus, and the sugar cane from
Sicily; and soon Madeira wine and sugar were articles of export from
Lisbon to London and to other ports. In the meantime the expeditions to
Africa became exceedingly unpopular. The priests declared that the holy
money was being scandalously wasted on the dreams of a lonely madman.
That castle on the Atlantic shore, which will ever be revered as a
sacred place in the annals of mankind, was then regarded with abhorrence
and contempt. The common people believed it to be the den of a magician,
and crossed themselves in terror when they met in their walks a swarthy
strong-featured man, with a round barret cap on his head, wrapped in a
large mantle, and wearing black buskins with gilt spurs. Often they saw
him standing on the brink of the cliff, gazing earnestly towards the
sea, his eyes shaded by his hand. It was said that on fair nights he
might be seen for hours and hours on the tower of Babel which he had
built, holding a strange weapon in his hands, and turning it towards the
different quarters of the sky.

There was an orthodox geography at that period founded upon statements
in the Jewish writings, and in the Fathers of the Church. The earth was
in the centre of the universe; the sun and the moon and the stars humbly
revolving round it. Jerusalem was in the precise centre of the earth. In
Eastern India was the Terrestrial Paradise, situated on high ground, and
surrounded by a wall of fire, reaching to the sky. St. Augustine,
Lactantius, and Cosmas Indicopleustes opposed the Antipodes as being
contrary to Scripture; and there could not be people on the other side
of the earth, for how would they be able to see the Son of God
descending in his glory? It was also generally believed that there was a
torrid zone, an impassable belt on both sides of the equator, which
Providence had created for the lower animals, and in which no man could
live. It was to this fiery land that the Prince kept sending vessel
after vessel. The Portuguese did not see what would come of these
expeditions except to make widows and orphans. "The Prince seems to
think," said they, "that because he has discovered two desert islands he
has conferred a great blessing upon us but we have enough uncultivated
land without going across the seas for more. His own father, only a
little while ago, gave land to a nobleman of Germany, on condition that
he should people it with emigrants. But Dom Henry sends men out of
Portugal instead of asking them in. Let us keep to the country that God
has given us. It may be seen how much better suited those lands are for
beasts than men by what happened with the rabbits. And even if there are
in that unfound land as many people as the Prince pretends, we do not
know what sort of people they are; and if they are like those in the
Canaries who jump from rock to rock, and throw stones at Christian
heads, of what use is it to conquer a land so barren, and a people so

However, an incident occurred which produced a revolution in popular and
ecclesiastic feeling. The prisoners captured on the desert coast offered
a ransom for their release and this ransom consisted of negro slaves and
gold. The place where this metal first made its appearance was called
the Golden River. It was not in reality a river but an arm of the sea,
and the gold had been brought from the mines of Bambouk in the country
of the negroes. Its discovery created an intense excitement: the priests
acknowledged that it could not have been placed there for the use of the
wild animals. Companies were formed and were licensed by the Crown,
which assigned to the Prince a fifth part of the cargoes returned. He
himself cared little for the gold but the discovery of this precious
metal, of which India was proverbially the native land, suggested the
idea that by following the coast of Africa the Indies might be reached
by sea. Letters and maps which he received from his Venetian
correspondents encouraged him in this belief, and he obtained without
delay a Bull from the Pope granting to the Crown of Portugal all lands
that its subjects might discover as far as India inclusive, with license
to trade with infidels, and absolution for the souls of those that
perished in these semi-commercial, semi-crusading expeditions.

The practice of piracy was now partly given up: the Portuguese, like the
Phoenicians of old, traded in one place and kidnapped in another. The
commodities which they brought home were gold dust, seal skins, and
negroes. Yet still they did not reach the negro land, till at last a
merchant of Lagos, one time an equerry in the Prince's service, knowing
his old master had exploration at heart more than trade, determined to
push on, without loitering on the desert coast. He was rewarded with the
sight of trees growing on the banks of a great river, which Prince Henry
and his cosmographers supposed to be the Nile. On one side were the
brown men of the desert with long, tangled hair, lean, and fierce in
expression, living on milk, wandering with their camels from place to
place. On the other side were large, stout, comely men with hair like
wool, skins black as soot, living in villages and cultivating fields of

The Portuguese had now discovered the coast of Guinea, and they were
obliged to give up their predatory practices. Instead of an open plain
in which knights habited in armour and men dressed in quilted cotton
jackets could fight almost with impunity against naked Moors, they
entered rivers the banks of which were lined with impenetrable jungles.
The negroes, perched in trees, shot down upon them from above, or
attacked the ships' boats in mid-channel with their swift and light
canoes. The Portuguese had no firelocks, and the crossbow bolt was a
poor missile compared with the arrows which the negroes dipped in a
poison so subtle that as soon as the wounded man drank he died, the
blood bursting from his nose and ears. A system of barter was therefore
established, and the negroes showed themselves disposed to trade. The
Gold Coast was discovered: a fort and a chapel were built at Elmina,
where a commandant was appointed to reside. This ancient settlement has
just been ceded to the English by the Dutch. The ships carried out
copper bracelets, brass basins, knives, rattles, looking-glasses,
coloured silks, and woollen goods, green Rouen cloth, coral, figured
velvet, and dainty napkins of Flanders embroidered with gold brocade,
receiving chiefly gold dust in exchange. This trade was farmed out to a
company for five years, on condition that the company should each year
explore to a certain distance along the coast.

The excitement which followed the discovery of gold dust, and the
institution of the House of Mines, gradually died away. The noble Prince
Henry was no more. The men who went out to the coast were not of the
class who devote their lives to the chivalry of enterprise. An official
who had just returned from Elmina being presented to the king, His
Majesty asked him how it was that although he had lived in Africa his
face and hands were so white. The gentleman replied that he had worn a
mask and gloves during the whole period of his absence in that sultry
land; upon which the king told him what he thought he was fit for in
words too vigorous to be translated. This same king, John the second,
was a vigorous-minded man, and in him the ambition of Prince Henry was
revived. He found in a chest belonging to the late king a series of
letters from a Venetian gentleman giving much information about the
India trade, and earnestly advising him to prosecute his explorations
along the coast. The librarians of St. Mark had also sent maps in which
the termination of the continent was marked. The king sent out new
expeditions and fostered the science of nautical astronomy. A Jew named
Zacuto and the celebrated Martin Behem improved the mariner's compass
and modified the old Alexandrian astrolabe, so that it might be used at
sea. Wandering knights from distant lands volunteered for these
expeditions desiring to witness the tropical storms and the strange
manners of the New World, as it was called.

Many skilful mariners and pilots visited Lisbon, were encouraged to
remain, and became naturalised Portuguese. Among these was the glorious
Christopher Columbus, who made more than one voyage to the Gold Coast,
married a Portuguese lady, and lived for some time in the Azores. It was
his conviction that the eastern coast of Asia could be reached by
sailing due west across the ocean. It was his object not to discover a
new land, but to reach by sea the country which Marco Polo had visited
by land. He eventually sailed with letters to the Emperor of China in
his pockets and came back from the West India Islands thinking that he
had been to Japan. He made his proposals in the first place to the king,
who referred it to a council of learned men. There were now two plans
for sailing to India before the court: the one by following the African
coast, the other by sailing west across the ocean. But expeditions of
all kinds were at that time unpopular in Lisbon. The Guinea trade did
not pay, and it was strenuously urged at the council that the West
African Settlements should be abandoned. The friends of exploration were
obliged to stand on the defensive. They could not carry the proposal of
Columbus; it was all that they could do to save the African expeditions.
But when Columbus had won for Castile the east coast of Asia (as was
then supposed) the king perceived that if he wished to have an Indian
empire he must set to work at once. He accordingly conducted the naval
expeditions with such vigour that the Cape of Storms was discovered, was
then called the Cape of Good Hope, and, was then doubled, though without
immediate result, the sailors forcing their captain to return. The king
also sent a gentleman, named Covilham, to visit the countries of the
East by land. His instructions were to trace the Venetian trade in drugs
and spices to its source, and to find out Prester John.

Covilham went to Alexandria in the pilgrim's garb, but instead of
proceeding to the Holy Land, he passed on to Aden, and sailed round the
Indian Ocean or the Green Sea, that Lake of Wonder with the precious
ambergris floating on its waters and pearls strewed upon its bed,
whitened with the cotton sails of the Arab vessels, of the Gujrat
Indians, and even of the Chinese, whose four-masted junks were sometimes
to be seen lying in the Indian harbours with great wooden anchors
dangling from their bows. The east coast of Africa, as low down as
Madagascar, or the Island of the Moon, was lined with large towns in
which the Arabs resided as honoured strangers, or in which they ruled as
kings. On this coast Covilham obtained in formation respecting the Cape.
He then crossed over to the India shore; he sailed down the coast of
Malabar from city to city, and from port to port. He was astounded and
bewildered by what he saw: the activity and grandeur of the commerce;
the magnificence of the courts; the half-naked kings blazing with
jewels, saying their prayers on rosaries of precious stones, and using
golden goblets as spittoons; the elephants with pictures drawn in bright
colours on their ears, and with jugglers in towers on their backs; the
enormous temples filled with lovely girls; the idols of gold with ruby
eyes; the houses of red sandalwood; the scribes who wrote on palm
leaves with iron pens; the pilots who took observations with instruments
unknown to Europeans; the huge bundles of cinnamon or cassia in the
warehouses of the Arab merchants; the pepper vines trailing over trees;
and drugs, which were priceless in Europe, growing in the fields like

He returned to Cairo, and there found two Jews, Rabbi Abraham and Joseph
the Shoemaker, whom the king had sent to look after him. To them he gave
a letter for the king, in which he wrote that the ships which sailed
down the coast of Guinea might be sure of reaching the termination of
the continent by keeping on to the south; and that when they arrived in
the Eastern ocean, they must ask for Sofala and the Island of the Moon.
Covilham himself did not return. He had accomplished one part of his
mission; he had traced the Venetian commerce to its source; but he had
now to find out Prester John.

A fable had arisen, in the Dark Ages, of a great Christian king in
Central Asia; and when it was clearly ascertained that the Grand Khan
was not a Christian, and that none of the Tartar princes could possibly
be Christians, as they could not keep Lent, having no fish or vegetables
in their country, it was hoped that Prester John, as the myth was
called, might be found elsewhere. Certain pilgrims were met with at
Jerusalem who were almost negroes in appearance. Their baptism was of
three kinds of fire, of water, and of blood: they were sprinkled, they
were circumcised, they were seared on the forehead with a red-hot iron
in the form of a cross. Their king, they said, was a good Christian and
a hater of the Moslems, and was descended from the Queen of Sheba. This
swarthy king, the ancestor of Theodore, could be no other than Prester
John; and Covilham felt it his duty to bear him the greetings of his
master before he went home to enjoy that reputation which he had so
gloriously earned, and to take a part in the great discoveries that were
soon to be made.

But the king of Abyssinia wanted a tame white man. He gave his visitor
wife and lands; he treated him with honour; but he would not let him go.
This kind of complimentary captivity is a danger to which African
travellers are always exposed. It is the glory and pride of a savage
king to have a white man at his court. And so Covilham was detained, and
he died in Abyssinia. But he lived to hear that Portugal had risen in a
few years to be one of the great European powers, and that the flag he
loved was waving above those castles and cities which he had been the
first of his nation to behold. His letter arrived at the same time as
the ship of Dias, who had doubled the Cape. The king determined that a
final expedition should be sent, and that India should be reached by

It was a fête day in Lisbon. The flags were flying on every tower; the
fronts of the houses were clothed in gorgeous drapery, which swelled and
floated in the wind; stages were erected on which mysteries were
performed; bells were ringing, artillery boomed. Marble balconies were
crowded with ladies and cavaliers, and out of upper windows peeped forth
the faces of girls, who were kept in semi-Oriental seclusion. Presently
the sound of trumpets could be heard; and then came in view a thousand
friars, who chanted a litany, while behind them an immense crowd chanted
back in response. At the head of this procession rode a gentleman richly
dressed; he was followed by a hundred and forty-eight men in sailors'
clothes, but bare-footed, and carrying tapers in their hands. On they
went till they reached the quay where the boats, fastened to the shore,
swayed to and fro with the movement of the tide, and strained at the
rope as if striving to depart. The sailors knelt. A priest of venerable
appearance stood before them, and made a general confession, and
absolved them in the form of the Bull which Prince Henry had obtained.
Then the wives and mothers embraced their loved ones whom they bewailed
as men about to die. And all the people wept. And the children wept also,
though they knew not why.

Thirty-two months passed, and again the water-side was crowded, and the
guns fired, and the bells rang. Again Vasco da Gama marched in
procession through the streets; and behind him walked, with feeble
steps, but with triumph gleaming in their eyes, fifty-five men--the
rest were gone. But in that procession were not only Portuguese, but
also men with white turbans and brown faces; and sturdy blacks, who bore
a chest which was shown by their straining muscles to be of enormous
weight; and in his hand the Captain General held a letter which was
written with a pen of iron on a golden leaf, and which addressed the
king of Portugal and Guinea in these words: "Vasco da Gama, a gentleman
of thy house, came to my country, of whose coming I was glad. In my
country there is plenty of cinnamon, cloves, pepper, and precious
stones. The things which I am desirous to have out of thy country are
silver, gold, coral, and scarlet."

That night all the houses in Lisbon were illuminated; the gutters ran
with wine; the skies, for miles round, were reddened with the light of
bonfires. The king's men brought ten pounds of spices to each sailor's
wife, to give away to her gossips. The sailors themselves were
surrounded by crowds, who sat silent and open-mouthed, listening to the
tales of the great waters, and the marvellous lands where they had been.

They told of the wonders of the Guinea coast, and of the men near the
Cape, who rode on oxen and played sweet music on the flute; and of the
birds which looked like geese, and brayed like donkeys, and did not know
how to fly, but put up their wings like sails, and scudded along before
the wind. They told how as they sailed on towards the south, the north
star sank and sank, and grew fainter and fainter, until at last it
disappeared; and they entered a new world, and sailed beneath strange
skies; and how, when they had doubled the Cape, they again saw sails on
the horizon, and the north star again rose to view. They told of the
cities on the Eastern shore, and of their voyage across the Indian
Ocean, and of that joyful morning when, through the grey mists of early
dawn, they discerned the hills of Calicut.

And then they sank their voices, and their eyes grew grave and sad as
they told of the horrors of the voyage; of the long, long nights off the
stormy Cape when the wind roared, and the spray lashed through the
rigging, and the waves foamed over the bulwarks, and the stones that
were their cannon-shot crashed from side to side, and the ships like
live creatures groaned and creaked, and hour after hour the sailors were
forced to labour at the pumps till their bones ached, and their hands
were numbed by cold. They told of treacherous pilots in the Mozambique,
who plotted to run their ships ashore; and of the Indian pirates, the
gipsies of the sea, who sent their spies on board. They told of that new
and horrible disease which, when they had been long at sea, made their
bodies turn putrid and the teeth drop from their jaws. And as they told
of those things, and named the souls who had died at sea, there rose a
cry of lamentation, and widows in new garments fled weeping from the

That night, the Venetian ambassador sat down and wrote to his masters
that he had seen vessels enter Lisbon harbour laden with spices and with
India drugs. His next letter informed them that a strong fleet was being
prepared, and that Vasco da Gama intended to conquer India. The
Venetians saw that they were ruined. They wrote to their ally, the
Sultan of Egypt, and implored him to bestir himself. They gave him
artillery to send to the India princes. They offered to open the Suez
Canal at their own expense, that their ships might arrive in the Indian
Ocean before the Portuguese. On the other hand, came the terrible
Albuquerque, who told the Sultan to beware, or he would destroy Mecca
and Medina, and turn the Nile into the Red Sea. The Indian Ocean became
a Portuguese lake. There was scarcely a town upon its shores which had
not been saluted by the Portuguese bombardiers. Not a vessel could cross
its waters without a Portuguese passport. As a last resource, the
Venetians offered to take the India produce off the king's hands, and to
give him a fair price. This offer was declined, and Lisbon, instead of
Venice, became the market-place of the India trade. The great cities on
the Euphrates, the Tigris, and the Nile fell into decay; the caravan
trade of Central Asia declined; the throne of commerce was transferred
from the basin of the Mediterranean to the basin of the Atlantic; and
the oceanic powers, though rigidly excluded from the commerce
itself, were greatly benefited by the change. They had no longer to sail
through the straits of Gibraltar; Lisbon was almost at their doors.

The achievements of the Portuguese were stupendous--for a time. They
established a chain of forts all down the western coast of Africa, and
up the east coast to the Red Sea; then round the Persian Gulf, down the
coast of Malabar, up the coast of Coromandel, among the islands of the
Archipelago, along the shores of Siam and Burma to Canton and Shanghai.
With handfuls of men they defeated gigantic armies; with petty forts
they governed empires. But from first to last they were murderers and
robbers, without foresight, without compassion. Our eyes are at first
blinded to their vices by the glory of their deeds; but as the light
fades, their nakedness and horror are revealed. We read of Arabs who had
received safe conducts, and who made no resistance, being sewed up in
sails and cast into the sea, or being tortured in body and mind by hot
bacon being dropped upon their flesh; of crocodiles being fed with live
captives for the amusement of the soldiers, and being so well accustomed
to be fed that whenever a whistle was given they raised their heads
above the water. We read of the wretched natives taking refuge with the
tiger of the jungle and the panther of the hills; of mothers being
forced to pound their children to death in the rice mortars, and of
other children being danced on the point of spears, which it was said
was teaching the young cocks to crow. The generation of heroes passed
away; the generation of favourites began. Courtiers accepted offices in
the Indies with the view of extorting a fortune from the natives as
rapidly as could be done. It was remarked that humanity and justice were
virtues which were always left behind at the Cape of Good Hope by
passengers for India. It was remarked that the money which they brought
home was like excommunicated money, so quickly did it disappear. And as
for those who were content to love their country and to serve their
king, they made enemies of the others, and were ruined for their pains.
Old soldiers might be seen in Lisbon wandering through the streets in
rags, dying in the hospitals, and crouched before the palace which they
had filled with gold. Men whose names are now worshipped by their
countrymen were then despised. Minds which have won for themselves
immortality were darkened by sorrow and disgrace. In the island of
Macao, on the Chinese coast, there is a grove paved with soft green
velvet paths, and roofed with a dome of leaves which even the rays of a
tropical sun cannot pierce through. In the midst is a grotto of rocks,
round which the roots of gigantic trees clamber and coil; and in that
silent hermitage a poor exile sat and sang the glory of the land which
had cast him forth. That exile was Camoens; that song was the Lusiad.

The vast possessions of the Spaniards and Portuguese were united under
Philip the Second, who closed the port of Lisbon against the heretical
and rebellious natives of the Netherlands. The Dutch were not a people
to undertake long voyages out of curiosity, but when it became necessary
for them in the way of business to explore unknown seas they did so with
effect. Since they could not get cinnamon and ginger, nutmegs and cloves
at Lisbon, they determined to seek them in the lands where they were
grown. The English followed their example, and so did the French. There
was for a long period incessant war within the tropics. At last things
settled down. In the West and East Indies the Spaniards and Portuguese
still possessed an extensive empire; but they no longer ruled alone. The
Dutch, the English, and the French obtained settlements in North America
and the West India Islands, in the peninsula of Hindustan, and the
Indian Archipelago; and also on the coast of Guinea.

West Africa is divided by nature into pastoral regions, agricultural
regions, and dense forest, mountains, or dismal swamps, where the
natives remain in a savage and degraded state. The hills and fens are
the slave preserves of Africa, and are hunted every year by the pastoral
tribes, with whom war is a profession. The captives are bought by the
agricultural tribes, and are made to labour in the fields. This
indigenous slave-trade exists at the present time, and has existed
during hundreds of years.

The Tuaricks or Tawny Moors inhabiting the Sahara on the borders of the
Sudan, made frequent forays into that country for the purpose of
obtaining slaves, exacted them as tribute from conquered chiefs, or
sometimes bought them fairly with horses, salt, and woollen clothes.
When Barbary was inhabited by rich and luxurious people, such as the
Carthaginians, who on one occasion bought no less than five thousand
negroes for their galleys, these slaves must have been obtained in
prodigious numbers, for many die in the middle passage across the
desert, a journey which kills even a great number of the camels that are
employed. The negroes have at all times been highly prized as
domestic and ornamental slaves, on account of their docility and their
singular appearance. They were much used in ancient Egypt, as the
monumental pictures show: they were articles of fashion both in Greece
and Rome. Throughout the Middle Ages they were exported from the east
coast to India and Persia, and were formed into regiments by the Caliphs
of Baghdad. The Venetians bought them in Tripoli and Tunis, and sold them
to the Moors of Spain. When the Moors were expelled, the trade still
went on; negroes might still be seen in the markets of Seville. The
Portuguese discovered the slave-land itself, and imported ten thousand
negroes a year before the discovery of the New World. The Spaniards, who
had often negro slaves in their possession, set some of them to dig in
the mines at St. Domingo: it was found that a negro's work was as much
as four Indians', and arrangements were made for importing them from
Africa. When the Dutch, the English, and the French obtained plantations
in America, they also required negro labour, and made settlements in
Guinea in order to obtain it. Angola fed the Portuguese Brazil; Elmina
fed the Dutch Manhattan; Cape Coast Castle fed Barbados, Jamaica, and
Virginia; Senegal fed Louisiana and the French Antilles; even Denmark
had an island or two in the West Indies, and a fort or two upon the Gold
Coast. The Spaniards alone having no settlements in Guinea, were
supplied by a contract or assiento; which at one time was enjoyed by the
British Crown. We shall now enter into a more particular description of
this trade, and of the coast on which it was carried on.

Sailing through the Straits of Gibraltar, on the left hand for some
distance is the fertile country of Morocco watered by streams descending
from the Atlas range. Then comes a sandy shore, on which breaks a savage
surf; and when that is passed, a new scene comes to view. The ocean is
discoloured; a peculiar smell is detected in the air; trees appear as if
standing in the water; and small black specks, the canoes of fishermen,
are observed passing to and fro.

The first region, Senegambia, still partakes of the desert character.
With the exception of the palm and the gigantic Adansonia, the trees are
for the most part stunted in appearance. The country is open, and is
clothed with grass, where antelopes start up from their forms like
hares. Here and there are clumps of trees, and long avenues mark the
water courses, which are often dry, for there are only three months'
rain. The interior abounds with gum-trees, especially on the borders of
the desert. The people are Mohammedans, fight on horseback, and dwell in
towns fortified with walls and hedges of the cactus. In this country the
French are masters, and have laid the foundations of a military empire;
an Algeria on a smaller scale.

But as we pass towards the south, the true character of the coast
appears. A mountain wall runs parallel with the sea, and numberless
rivers leap down the hill slopes, and flow towards the Atlantic through
forest covered and alluvial lands, which they themselves have formed.
These rivers are tidal, and as soon as the salt water begins to mingle
with the fresh, their banks are lined with mangrove shrubberies, forming
an intricate bower-work of stems, which may be seen at low water
encrusted with oysters, thus said by sailors to grow on trees. The
mountain range is sometimes visible as a blue outline in the distance;
or the hills, which are shaped like an elephant's back, draw near the
shore: or rugged spurs jut down with their rocks of torn and tilted
granite to the sea. The shore is sculptured into curves; and all along
the coast runs a narrow line of beach, sometimes dazzling white,
sometimes orange yellow, and sometimes a deep cinnamon red.

This character of coast extends from Sierra Leone to the Volta, and
includes the Ivory Coast, the Pepper Coast, and the Gold Coast. Then the
country again flattens; the mountain range retires and gives place to a
gigantic swamp, through which the Niger debouches by many mouths into
the Bight of Benin, where, according to the old sailor adage, "few come
out, though many go in." It is indeed the unhealthiest region of an
unhealthy coast. A network of creeks and lagoons unite the various
branches of the Niger, and the marshes are filled with groves of
palm-oil trees, whose yellow bunches are as good as gold. But in the old
day the famous red oil was only used as food, and the sinister name of
the Slave Coast indicates the commodity which it then produced.

Again the hills approach the coast, and now they tower up as mountains.
The Peak of Cameroons is situated on the Line; it is nearly as high as
the Peak of Teneriffe; the flowers of Abyssinia adorn its upper sides,
and on its lofty summit the smoke of the volcano steals mist-like across
a sheet of snow.

A little lower down, the primeval forest of the Gorilla Country
resembles that of the opposite Brazil; but is less gorgeous in its
vegetation, less abundant in its life.

Farther yet to the south, and a brighter land appears. We now enter the
Portuguese province of Angola. The land, far into the interior, is
covered with farmhouses and coffee plantations, and smiling fields of
maize. San Paolo de Loanda is still a great city, though the colony has
decayed; though the convents have fallen into ruin, though oxen are
stalled in the college of the Jesuits. Below Angola, to the Cape of Good
Hope, is a waterless beach of sand. The west coast of Africa begins with
a desert inhabited by Moors; it ends with a desert inhabited by

The Slave Trade

In the eighteenth century, a trifling trade was done in ivory and gold;
but these were only accessories; the Guinea trade signified the trade in
slaves. At first the Europeans kidnapped the negroes whom they met on
the beach, or who came off to the ships in their canoes; but the
"treacherous natives" made reprisals; the practice was, therefore, given
up, and the trade was conducted upon equitable principles. It was found
that honesty was the best policy, and that it was cheaper to buy men
than to steal them. Besides the settlements which were made by
Europeans, there were many native ports upon the Slave Coast, and of
these Whydah, the seaport of Dahomey, was the most important. When a
slave vessel entered the roads, it fired a gun, the people crowded down
to the beach, the ship's boat landed through an ugly surf, and the
skipper made his way to a large tree in the vicinity of the
landing-place, where the governor of the town received him in state, and
regaled him with trade-gin, by no means the most agreeable of all
compounds. The capital was situated at a distance of sixty miles, and
the captain would be carried there in a hammock, taking with him some
handsome silks and other presents for the king. This monarch lived by
hunting his neighbours and by selling them to Europeans. There was a
regular war-season, and he went out once a year, sometimes in one
direction, sometimes in another. Kings in Africa have frequently a
bodyguard of women.

A certain king of Dahomey had developed this institution into female
regiments. These women are nominally the king's wives; they are in
reality old maids--the only specimens of the class upon the continent
of Africa; they are excellent soldiers--hardy, savage, and courageous.
In the siege of Abbeokuta, the other day, an Amazon climbed up the wall;
her right arm was cut clean off, and as she fell back she pistolled a
man with her left. When the king returned from his annual campaign, he
sent to all the white men at Whydah, who received the special title of
the "king's friends," and invited them up to witness his "customs" and
to purchase his slaves, In the first place, the king murdered a number
of his captives to send to his father as tokens of regard; and the
traders were mortified to see good flesh and blood being wasted on
religion. However, slaves were always in abundance. They were also
obtained from the settlements upon the coast. The Portuguese Angola
could alone be dignified with the name of colony. The Dutch, English,
and French settlements were merely fortified factories, half castle,
half shop, in which the agents lived, and in which the dry goods, rum,
tobacco, trade powder and muskets, were stored. There were native
traders, who received a quantity of such goods on trust, and travelled
into the interior till they came to a war-town. They then ordered so
many slaves; and laid down the goods. The chief ordered out the militia,
made a night march, attacked a village just before the dawn, killed
those who resisted, carried off the rest in irons manufactured at
Birmingham, and handed them over to the trader; who drove them down to
the coast. They were then warehoused in the fort dungeons, or in
buildings called "barracoons" prepared for their reception; and as soon
as a vessel was ready they were marked and shipped. On board they were
packed on the lower deck like herrings in a cask. The cargo supposed
that it also resembled herrings, in being exported as an article of

The slaves believed that all white men were cannibals; that the red caps
of the trade were dyed in negro blood, and that the white soap was made
of negro brains. So they often refused to eat; upon which their mouths
were forced open with an instrument known in surgery as speculum oris,
and used in cases of lockjaw; and by means of this ingenious
contrivance they breakfasted and dined against their will. Exercise also
being conducive to health, they were ordered to jump up and down in
their fetters; and if they declined to do so, the application of the cat
had the desired effect, and made them exercise not only their limbs, but
also their lungs, and so promoted the circulation of the blood and the
digestion of the horse-beans on which they were fed. Yet such was the
obstinacy of these savage creatures, that many of them sulked themselves
to death; and sometimes, when indulged with an airing on deck, the
ungrateful wretches would jump overboard, and, as they sank, waved their
hands in triumph at having made their escape. On reaching the West
Indies they were put into regular schools of labour, and gradually
broken in; and they then enjoyed the advantage of dwelling in a
Christian land. But their temporal happiness was not increased. If a
lady put her cook into the oven because the pie was overdone; if a
planter soused a slave in the boiling sugar; if the runaway was hunted
with bloodhounds, and then flogged to pieces and hung alive in chains;
if the poor old worn-out slave was turned adrift to die, the West Indian
laws did not interfere. The slave of a planter was "his money" it was
only when a man killed another person's slave that he was punished; and
then only by a fine. It may be said, without exaggeration, that dogs and
horses now receive more protection in the British dominions than negroes
received in the last century.

In order to understand how so great a moral revolution has been wrought
we must return for a moment to the Middle Ages. We left the burgher
class in alliance with the kings, possessing liberal charters, making
their own laws, levying their own taxes, commanding their own troops.
Their sons were not always merchants like themselves: they invaded the
intellectual dominions of the priests: they became lawyers, artists, and

Then another change took place. Standing armies were invented, and the
middle class were re-enslaved. Their municipal rights were taken from
them; troops were stationed in their towns; the nobles collected round
the king, who could now reward their loyalty with lucrative and
honourable posts, the command of a regiment, or the administration of a
province. Heavy taxes were imposed on the burghers and the peasants, and
these supported the nobles and clergy who were exempt. Aristocracy and
monarchy became fast friends, and the Crown was protected by the
thunders of the Church.

The rebellion of the German monk established an idol of ink and paper,
instead of an idol of painted wood or stone; the Protestant believed
that it was his duty to study the Bible for himself, and so education
was spread throughout the countries of the Reformed Religion. A desire
for knowledge became general, and the academies of the Jesuits were
founded in self-defence. The enlargement of the reading class gave the
Book that power which the pulpit once enjoyed, and in the hands of
Voltaire the Book began to preach. The fallacies of the Syrian religion
were exposed: and with that religion fell the doctrine of passive
obedience and divine right: the doctrine that unbelievers are the
enemies of God: the doctrine that men who adopt a particular profession
are invested with magical powers which stream into them from other men's
finger ends: the doctrine that a barbarous legal code was issued vivâ
voce by the Creator of the world. Such notions as these are still held
by thousands in private life, but they no longer enter into the policy
of states or dictate statutes of the realm.

Voltaire destroyed the authority of the Church and Rousseau prepared the
way for the destruction of the Crown. He believed in a dream-land of the
past which had never existed: he appealed to imaginary laws of Nature.
Yet these errors were beneficial in their day. He taught men to yearn
for an ideal state, which they with their own efforts might attain; he
inspired them with the sentiment of Liberty, and with a reverence for
the Law of Right. Virtuous principles, abstract ideas, the future
Deities of men were now for the first time lifted up to be adored. A
thousand hearts palpitated with excitement; a thousand pens were drawn;
the people that slumbered in sorrow and captivity heard a voice bidding
them arise; they strained, they struggled, and they burst their bonds.
Jacques Bonhomme, who had hitherto gone on all fours, discovered to his
surprise that he also was a biped; the world became more light; the
horizon widened; a new epoch opened for the human race.

Abolition in Europe

The anti-slavery movement, which we shall now briefly sketch, is merely
an episode in that great rebellion against authority which began in the
night of the Middle Ages; which sometimes assumed the form of religious
heresy, sometimes of serf revolt; which gradually established the
municipal cities, and raised the slave to the position of the tenant;
which gained great victories in the Protestant Reformation, the two
English Revolutions, the American Revolution, and the French Revolution;
which has destroyed the tyranny of governments in Europe, and which will
in time destroy the tyranny of religious creeds.

In the middle of the eighteenth century negro slavery, although it had
frequently been denounced in books, had not attracted the attention of
the English people. To them it was something in the abstract, something
which was done beyond the seas. But there rose an agitation which
brought up its distant horrors in vivid pictures before the mind, and
produced an outcry of anger and disgust.

It had been the custom of the Virginian or West Indian planter, when he
left his tobacco or sugar estate for a holiday in England, to wear very
broad hats and very wide trousers and to be accompanied by those slaves
who used to bring him his coffee in the early morning, to brush away the
blue-tailed fly from his siesta, and to mix him rum and water when
required. The existence of such attendants was some what anomalous in
this island, and friends would often observe with a knowing air it was
lucky for him that Sambo was not up to English law. That law, indeed,
was undefined. Slavery had existed in England and had died out of
itself, in what manner and at what time no one could precisely say. It
was, however, a popular impression that no man could be kept as a slave
if he were once baptised. The planters enjoyed the same kind of
reputation which the nabobs afterwards obtained: a yellow skin and a bad
heart were at one time always associated with each other. The negroes
were often encouraged to abscond, and to offer themselves before the
font. They obtained as sponsors respectable well-to-do men, who declared
that they would stand by their god-sons if it came to a case at law. The
planters were in much distress, and in order to know the worst went to
Messrs. York and Talbot, the Attorney and Solicitor General for the
time being, and requested an opinion. The opinion of York and Talbot was
this: that slaves breathing English air did not become free; that slaves
on being baptised did not become free; and that their masters could
force them back to the plantations when they pleased.

The planters, finding that the law was on their side, at once acted on
their opinion. Advertisements appeared in the newspapers offering
rewards for runaway slaves. Negroes might be seen being dragged along
the streets in open day: they were bought and sold at the Poultry
Compter, an old city jail. Free men of colour were no longer safe;
kidnapping became a regular pursuit.

There was a young man named Granville Sharp, whose benevolent heart was
touched to the quick by the abominable scenes which he had witnessed
more than once. He could not believe that such was really English law.
He examined the question for himself, and, after long search, discovered
precedents which overthrew the opinion of the two great lawyers. He
published a pamphlet in which he stated his case; and not content with
writing, he also acted in the cause, aiding and abetting negroes to
escape. On one occasion a Virginian had disposed of an unruly slave to a
skipper bound for the West Indies. The vessel was lying in the river;
the unfortunate negro was chained to the mast; when Granville Sharp
climbed over the side with a writ of Habeas Corpus in his hand. James
Somerset's body was given up, and with its panting, shuddering, hopeful,
fearful soul inside, was produced before a Court of Justice that Lord
Mansfield might decide to whom it belonged. The case was argued at three
sittings, and excited much interest throughout the land. It ended in the
liberation of the slave.

Several hundred negroes were at once bowed out by their masters into the
street, and wandered about, sleeping in glass-houses; seated on the
door-steps of their former homes, weeping, and cursing Granville Sharp.
It was resolved to do something for them, and a grant of land was
obtained from the native chiefs at the mouth of the Sierra Leone River:
a company was formed; four hundred destitute negroes were sent out; and,
as if there were no women in Africa, fifty "unfortunates" were sent out
with them. The society of these ladies was not conducive to the moral or
physical well-being of the emigrants, eighty-four of whom died before
they sighted land, and eighty-six in the first four months after
landing. The philanthropists thus produced a middle passage at which a
slave trader would have been aghast. In a short time the white women
were dead, and the Granvilles, as they are traditionally called upon the
coast, adopted savage life. But the settlement was re-peopled from
another source. In the American Revolutionary War, large numbers of
negroes had flocked to the royal standard, attracted by the
proclamations of the British generals. These runaway slaves were sent to
Nova Scotia, where they soon began to complain; the climate was not to
their taste, and they had not received the lands which had been promised
them. They were then shipped off to Sierra Leone. They landed singing
hymns, and pitched their tents on the site of the present town. The
settlement was afterwards recruited with negroes in thousands out of
slave ships; but the American element may yet be detected in the
architecture of the native houses and in the speech of the inhabitants.

In the meantime the slave-trade was being actively discussed. Among
those who felt most deeply on the question was Dr. Peckard, of St.
John's College, Cambridge, who, being in 1785 Vice-Chancellor, gave as a
subject for the Latin essay, "Anne liceat invitos in servitutem dare?"
[Is it right to make men slaves against their will?]

Among the candidates was a certain bachelor of arts, Mr. Thomas
Clarkson, who had gained the prize for the best Latin essay the year
before, and was desirous of keeping up his reputation. He therefore took
unusual pains to collect materials respecting the African slave-trade,
to which he knew Dr. Peckard's question referred. He borrowed the papers
of a deceased friend who had been in the trade, and conversed with
officers who had been stationed in the West Indies. He read Benezet's
Historical Account of Guinea, and was thence guided to the original
authorities, which are contained in the large folios of Hakluyt and
Purchas. These old voyages, written by men who were themselves slavers,
contain admirable descriptions of native customs, and also detailed
accounts of the way in which the man-trade was carried on. Clarkson
possessed a vivid imagination and a tender heart: these narratives
filled him with horror and alarm. The pleasure of research was swallowed
up in the pain that was excited by the facts before him. It was one
gloomy subject from morning to night. In the day-time he was uneasy; at
night he had little rest. Sometimes he never closed his eyes from grief.
It became not so much a trial for academical reputation as for the
production of a work which might be useful to injured Africa. He always
slept with a candle in the room that he might get up and put down
thoughts which suddenly occurred to him. At last he finished his painful
task, and obtained the prize. He went to Cambridge, and read his essay
in the Senate House. On his journey back to London the subject
continually engrossed his thoughts. "I became," he says, "very seriously
affected upon the road. I stopped my horse occasionally, and dismounted
and walked. I frequently tried to persuade myself, in these intervals,
that the contents of my essay could not be true. Coming in sight of
Wades Mill, in Hertfordshire, I sat down disconsolate on the turf by the
roadside and held my horse. Here a thought came into my mind, that if
the contents of the essay were true, it was time that some person should
see these calamities to their end."

On arriving in London he heard for the first time of the labours of
Granville Sharp and others. He determined to give up his intention of
entering the Church, and to devote himself entirely to the destruction
of the slave-trade. At this time a Committee was formed for the purpose
of preparing the public mind for abolition. Granville Sharp, to whom
more than to any other individual the abolition of the slave-trade is
due, became the president, and Clarkson was deputed to collect evidence.
He called on the leading men of the day and endeavoured to engage their
sympathies in the cause. His modest, subdued demeanour, the sad, almost
tearful expression of his face, which the painter of his portrait has
fortunately seized, the earnestness and passion with which he depicted
the atrocities of the slave-hunt in Africa and the miseries of the slave
hold at sea, secured him attention and respect from all; and among those
with whom he spoke was one whose fame is the purest and the best that
parliamentary history records.

William Wilberforce was the son of a rich merchant at Hull, and
inherited a large fortune. He went to Cambridge, and was afterwards
elected member for his native city, an honour which cost him £8,000. He
became a member of the fashionable clubs, and chiefly frequented
Brooks', where he became a votary of faro till his winnings cured him of
his taste for play. He soon obtained a reputation in the House and the
salon. He had an easy flow of language, and a voice which was melody
itself. He was a clever mimic and an accomplished musician. He possessed
the rare arts of polished raillery and courteous repartee. Madame de
Stael declared that he was the wittiest man in England. But presently he
withdrew from her society and that of her friends, because it was
brilliant and agreeable. He also took his name off all his clubs. He was
travelling on the Continent with Pitt, who was his bosom friend, when a
change came over him. In the days of his childhood he had been sent to
reside with an aunt who was a great admirer of Whitfield's preaching,
and kept up a friendly connection with the early Methodists. He was soon
infected with her ideas, and "there was remarked in him a rare and
pleasing character of piety in his twelfth year." This excited much
consternation among the other members of his family. His mother at once
came up to London and fetched him home. "If Billy turns Methodist," said
his grandfather, "he shall not have a sixpence of mine." We are informed
that theatrical diversions, card parties, and sumptuous suppers (at the
fashionable hour of six in the evening) obliterated these impressions
for a time. They were not, however, dead, for the perusal of Doddridge's
"Rise and Progress" was sufficient to revive them. This amiable and
excellent young man became the prey of a morbid superstition. Often in
the midst of enjoyment his conscience told him he was not in the true
sense of the word a Christian. "I laughed, I sang, I was apparently gay
and happy, but the thought would steal across me, What madness is all
this: to continue easy in a state in which a sudden call out of the
world would consign me to everlasting misery, and that when eternal
happiness is within my grasp?" The sinful worldling accordingly
reformed. He declined Sunday visits; he got up earlier in the morning;
he wrestled continually in prayer; he began to keep a common place book,
serious and profane, and a Christian duty paper. He opened himself
completely to Pitt, and said he believed the Spirit was in him. Mr. Pitt
was apparently of a different opinion, for he tried to reason him out of
his convictions. "The fact is," says Mr. Wilberforce, "he was so
absorbed in politics that he had never given himself time for due
reflection in religion. But amongst other things he declared to me that
Bishop Butler's work raised in his mind more doubts than it had
answered." Now if that was the character of Pitt's intellect we must
venture to think that the more he reflected on religion the less he
would have believed in it.

Superstition intensifies a man. It makes him more of what he was before.
An evil-natured person who takes fright at hell-fire becomes the most
malevolent of human beings. Nothing can more clearly prove the natural
beauty of Wilberforce's character than the fact that he preserved it
unimpaired in spite of his Methodistic principles. It would be unjust to
deny that after he became a Methodist he became a wiser and a better
man. His intellect was strengthened, his affections were sweetened, by a
faith the usual tendency of which is to harden the heart and to soften
the head. He endeavoured to control a human, and therefore sometimes
irritable, temper; he laid down for himself the rule to manifest rather
humility in himself than dissatisfaction at others; and so well did he
succeed that a female friend observed, "If this is madness I hope that
he will bite us all."

Yet there was a flaw in Wilberforce's brain, or he could never have
supposed that a man might be sent to hell for playing the piano. He soon
showed that in another age he might have been an excellent inquisitor;
and inquisitors there were not less pure-hearted, not less benevolent
in private life than Wilberforce himself. He desired to do something in
public for the glory of God, and he believed it was his mission to
reform the manners of the age. When a man of fashion was always a
gambler, and when all the clubs in St. James' Street were hells; when
speeches were often incoherent in the House after dinner; when comic
songs were composed against Mr. Pitt, not because he had a mistress, but
because he had none; when ladies called adultery "a little affair";
when the Prince of Wales was a young man about town, grazing on the
middle classes, it cannot be questioned that, from the Royal Family
downwards, there was room for improvement. The reader will perhaps feel
curious to learn in what manner Mr. Wilberforce commenced his laudable
but difficult crusade. He obtained a royal proclamation for the
discouragement of vice and immorality; and letters from the secretaries
of state to the lords-lieutenant, expressing his Majesty's pleasure,
that they recommend it to the justices throughout their several counties
to be active in the execution of the laws against immoralities. He also
started a society, to assist in the enforcement of the proclamation, as
a kind of amateur detective corps, to hunt up indecent and blasphemous
publications. And that was what he called reforming the manners of the

Happily, the slave-trade question began to be discussed, and Mr.
Wilberforce obtained a cause which was worthy of his noble nature. The
miseries of Africa had long attracted his attention: even in his boyhood
he had written on the subject for the daily journals. Lady Middleton,
who had heard from an eye-witness of the horrors of slavery, had begged
him to bring it before parliament. Mr. Pitt had also advised him to take
up the question, and he had agreed to do so whenever an opportunity
should occur. This happened before his acquaintance with Clarkson, to
whom he said at their first interview that abolition was a question near
his heart. A short time after, there was a dinner at Mr. Bennet
Langton's, at which Sir Joshua Reynolds, Boswell, Windham, and himself
were present. The conversation turned upon the African slave-trade, and
Clarkson exhibited some specimens of cotton cloth manufactured by the
natives in their own looms, the plant being grown in their own fields.
All the guests expressed themselves on the side of abolition, and Mr.
Wilberforce was asked if he would bring it forward in the House. He said
that he would have no objection to do so when he was better prepared for
it, providing no more proper person could be found.

The Committee now went to work in earnest, and held weekly meetings at
Mr. Wilberforce's house. Clarkson was sent to Bristol and Liverpool,
where he collected much information, though not without difficulty, and
even, as he thought, danger of his life. A commission was appointed by
the Lords of the Privy Council to collect evidence. It was stated by the
Liverpool and planter party that not only the colonial prosperity, but
the commercial existence of the nation was at stake; that the Guinea
trade was a nursery for British seamen; that the slaves offered for sale
were criminals and captives who would be eaten if they were not bought;
that the middle passage was the happiest period of a negro's life; that
the sleeping apartments on board were perfumed with frankincense; and
that the slaves were encouraged to disport themselves on deck with the
music and dances of their native land. On the other hand, the Committee
proved from the muster rolls which Clarkson had examined that the Guinea
trade was not the nursery of British seamen, but its grave; and they
published a picture of an African slaver, copied from a vessel which was
lying in the Mersey, and certain measurements were made, which, being
put into feet and inches, justified the statement of a member in the
House, that never was so much human suffering condensed into so small a

Lord Chancellor Thurlow and two other members of the Cabinet were
opposed to abolition, and therefore Mr. Pitt could not make it a
government measure; and so although it was called the battle between the
giants and the pigmies; although Pitt, Fox, Burke, Sheridan, Windham,
and Wilberforce, the greatest orators and statesmen of the day, were on
one side, and the two members for Liverpool on the other, the brute
votes went with the pigmies, and the bill was lost.

But now the nation was beginning to be moved. The Committee distributed
books, and hired columns in the newspapers. They sealed their letters
with a negro in chains kneeling, and the motto, "Am I not a man and a
brother?" Wedgwood made cameos with the same design; ladies wore them in
their bracelets or their hair-pins; gentlemen had them inlaid in gold on
the lids of their snuff boxes. Cowper sent to the Committee the
well-known poem, "Fleecy locks and black complexion"; the Committee printed
it on the finest hot-pressed paper, folded it up in a small and neat
form, gave it the appropriate title of "A subject for conversation at
the tea-table," and cast it forth by thousands upon the land. It was set
to music, and sung as a street ballad. People crowded at shop windows to
see the picture of the ship in which the poor negroes were packed like
herrings in a cask. A murmur arose, and grew louder and louder; three
hundred thousand persons gave up drinking sugar in their tea;
indignation meetings were held; and petitions were sent into Parliament
by the ton. Everything seemed to show that the nation had begun to
loathe the trade in flesh and blood, and would not be appeased till it
was done away. And then came events which made the sweet words Liberty,
Humanity, Equality, sound harsh and ungrateful to the ear: which caused
those who spoke much of philanthropy, and eternal justice, to be avoided
by their friends, and perhaps supervised by the police; which rendered
negroes and emancipation a subject to be discussed only with sneers and
shakings of the head. When the slave-trade question had first come up,
Mr. Pitt proposed to the French Government that the two nations should
unite in the cause of abolition. Now in France the peasantry themselves
were slaves; and the negro trade had been bitterly attacked in books
which had been burnt by the public executioner, and the authors of which
had been excommunicated by the Pope. Mr. Pitt's proposal was at once
declined by the coterie of the OEil de Boeuf. In the meantime it was
discovered that the French nation was heavily in debt; there was a loss
of nearly five million sterling every year; a fact by no means
surprising, for the nobles and clergy paid no taxes; each branch of
trade was an indolent monopoly; and poor Jacques Bonhomme bore the
weight of the court and army on his back. Chancellors of the Exchequer
one after, the other were appointed, and attempted in vain to grapple
with the difficulty. As a last resource, the House of Commons was
revived, that the debt of bankrupt despotism might be accepted by the
nation. A Parliament was opened at Versailles; lawyers and merchants
dressed in black walked in the same procession, and sat beneath the same
roof with the haughty nobles, rustling with feathers, shining with gold,
and wearing swords upon their thighs. But the commoners soon perceived
that they had only been summoned to vote away the money of the nation;
they were not to interfere with the laws. Their debates becoming
offensive to the king, the hall in which they met was closed against
them. They then gathered in a tennis court, called themselves the
National Assembly, and took an oath that they would not dissolve until
they had regenerated France. Troops were marched into Versailles; a coup
d'etat was evidently in the wind. And then the Parisians arose; the army
refused to fight against them; the Bastille was destroyed; the National
Assembly took the place of the OEil de Boeuf: democracy became the Mayor
of the Palace. A constitution was drawn up, and was accepted by the
king. The nobility were deprived of their feudal rights; church property
was resumed by the nation; taxes were imposed on the rich as well as on
the poor; the peasantry went out shooting every Sunday; the country
gentlemen fled from their chateaux to foreign courts, where wars began
to brew.

Such was the state of affairs in France when Wilberforce suggested that
Clarkson should be sent over to Paris to negotiate with the leading
members of the National Assembly. There was in Paris a Society called
the Friends of the Blacks; Condorcet and Brissot were among its
conductors. Clarkson, therefore, was sanguine of success; but it was
long before he could obtain a hearing. At last he was invited to dinner
at the house of the Bishop of Chartres, that he might there meet
Mirabeau and Seiyes, the Duc de Rochefoucauld, Pétion de Villeneuve, and
Bergasse, and talk the matter over. But when the guests met, a much more
interesting topic was in everybody's mouth. The king at that time lived
at Versailles, a little town inhabited entirely by his servants and his
bodyguards. The Parisians for some time had been uneasy; they feared
that he would escape to Metz; and that civil war would then break out.
There was a rumour of a bond signed by thousands of the aristocrats to
fight on the king's side. The Guards had certainly been doubled at
Versailles; and a Flanders regiment had marched into the town with two
pieces of cannon. Officers appeared in the streets in strange uniforms,
green faced with red; and they did not wear the tricolour cockade which
had already been adopted by the French nation. And while thus uneasy
looks were turned towards Versailles, an incident took place which
heightened the alarm. On October 1st a banquet had been given by the
Guards to the officers of the Flanders Regiment. The tables were spread
in the court theatre: the boxes were filled with spectators. After the
champagne was served, and the health of the royal family had been drunk,
the wine and the shouting turned all heads; swords were drawn and waved
naked in the air: the tricolour cockades were trampled under foot; the
band struck up the tender and beautiful ballad, "O Richard! O my King!
the world is all forsaking thee!"; the queen came in and walked round
the tables, bowing, and bestowing her sweetest smiles; the bugles
sounded the charge; the men from different regiments were brought in;
all swore aloud they would protect the king, as if he was just then in
danger of his life; and some young ensigns carried by assault certain
boxes which expressed dissent at these proceedings. This was the subject
of conversation at the dinner to which Clarkson was invited; and the
next day the women of Paris marched upon Versailles; the king was taken
to the Tuileries and the National Assembly became supreme--under
favour of the mob.

After several weeks Clarkson at last received a definite reply. The
Revolution, he was told, was of more importance than the abolition of
the slave-trade. In Bordeaux, Marseilles, Rouen, Nantes, and Havre,
there were many persons in favour of that trade. It would be said that
abolition would be making a sacrifice to England. The British parliament
had as yet done nothing, and people doubted the sincerity of Pitt. Mr.
Clarkson asked whether, if the question were postponed to the next
legislature, it would be more difficult to carry it then than now. "The
question produced much conversation, but the answer was unanimous--
that people would daily more and more admire their constitution, and
that by the constitution certain solid and fixed principles would be
established, which would inevitably lead to the abolition of the
slave-trade; and if the constitution were once fairly established, they
would not regard the murmurs of any town or province."

Clarkson was not the only envoy who was defeated by the planter interest
on French soil. In the flourishing colony of St. Domingo there were many
mulatto planters, free and wealthy men, but subject to degrading
disabilities. When they heard of the Revolution, they sent Ogé to Paris
with a large sum of money as a present to the National Assembly, and a
petition for equal rights. The president received him and his companions
with cordiality: he bid them take courage; the Assembly knew no
distinction between black and white; all men were created free and
equal. But soon the planters began to intrigue, the politicians to
prevaricate, and to postpone. Ogé's patience was at last worn out; he
declared to Clarkson that he did not care whether their petition was
granted them or not. "We can produce," he said, "as good soldiers on our
estates as those in France. If we are once forced to desperate measures,
it will be in vain to send thousands across the Atlantic to bring us
back to our former state." He finally returned to St. Domingo, armed his
slaves, was defeated and broken on the wheel. Then the slaves rose and
massacred the whites, and the cause of abolition was tarnished by their
crimes. In England the tide of feeling turned; a panic fell upon the
land. The practical disciples of Rousseau had formed a club in Paris,
the members of which met in a Jacobin church, whence they took their
name. This club became a kind of caucus for the arrangement of
elections, to decide the measures which should be brought forward in the
National Assembly, and to preach unto all men the gospel of liberty,
equality, and fraternity. It had four hundred daughter societies in
France; it corresponded with thousands of secret societies abroad; it
had missionaries in the army, spies in foreign lands. It desired to
create a universal republic; it grew in power, in ambition, and in
bravado; it cast at the feet of the kings of Europe the head of a king;
it offered the friendship and aid of France to all people who would rise
against their tyrants. Thomas Paine, who used to boast that he had
created the American Revolution with his pamphlet, "Common Sense," now
tried to create an English Revolution with his "Rights of Man." In the
loyal towns his effigy, with a rope round its neck, was flogged with a
cart whip, while the market-bell tolled, and the crowd sang the national
anthem, with three cheers after each verse. In other towns, "No King!
Liberty! Equality!" were scribbled on the walls. The soldiers were
everywhere tampered with, and the king was mobbed. Pitt, the projector
of Reform Bills, became a tyrant. Burke, the champion of the American
Revolution, became a Tory.

It was not a time to speak of abolition, which was regarded as a
revolutionary measure. And such in reality it was, though accidentally
associated in England with religion and philanthropy, on account of the
character of its leaders. It was pointed out that the atheist
philosophers had all of them begun by sympathising with the negroes; one
of Thomas Paine's first productions was an article against slavery. The
Committee was declared to be a nest of Jacobins, their publications were
denounced as poisonous. There was a time when the king had whispered at
a levee, "How go on your black clients, Mr. Wilberforce?"

But now the philanthropist was in disgrace at court. At this time poor
Clarkson's health gave way, and he was carried off the field. And then
from Paris there came terrible news; the people were at last avenged.
The long black night was followed by a blood-red dawn. The nobles who
had fled to foreign courts had returned with foreign troops; the kings
of Europe had fallen on the new republic, the common enemy of all. The
people feared that the old tyranny was about to be replaced, and by a
foreign hand; they had now tasted liberty; they knew how sweet it was;
they had learnt the joy of eating all the corn that they had sown; they
had known what it was to have their own firelocks and their own swords,
and to feel that they, the poor and hungry serfs, were the guardians of
their native land. They had learnt to kiss the tricolour; to say Vive la
nation! to look forward to a day when their boys, now growing up, might
harangue from the Tribune, or sit upon the Bench, or grasp the
field-marshal's baton. And should all this be undone? Should they be
made to return to their boiled grass and their stinging nettle soup?
Should the days of privilege and oppression be restored?

The nation arose and drove out the invaders. But there had been a panic,
and it bore its fruits. What the Jacobins were to Pitt, the aristocrats
were to Danton and Robespierre. Hundreds of royalists were guillotined,
but then, thousands had plotted the overthrow of the Republic, thousands
had intrigued that France might be a conquered land. Such at least was
the popular belief; The massacres of September, the execution of the
king and queen, were the result of fear. After which, it must be owned,
there came a period when suspicion and slaughter had become a habit;
when blood was shed to the sound of laughter; when heads, greeted with
roars of recognition, were popped out of the little national
sash-window, and tumbled into the sawdust, and then were displayed to
the gallery in the windows, and to the pit upon the square. The mere
brute energy which lay at the bottom of the social mass rose more and
more towards the top; and at length the leaders of the people were
hideous beings in red woollen caps, with scarcely an idea in their heads
or a feeling in their hearts; ardent lovers of liberty, it is true, and
zealots for the fatherland, scarcely taking enough from the treasury to
fill their bellies and to clothe their backs (Marat, when killed, had
elevenpence halfpenny in his possession), but mere senseless fanatics,
who crushed that liberty which they tried to nurse; who governed only by
the guillotine, which they considered a sovereign remedy for all
political disorders; who killed all the great men whom the Republic had
produced, and were finally guillotined themselves.

The death of Robespierre closed the Revolution; the last mob-rising was
extinguished by the artillery of Bonaparte. The Jacobins fell into
disrepute; there was a cry of "Down with the Jacoquins!"; stones were
hurled in through their windows; the orators were hustled and beaten as
they sallied forth, and the ladies who knitted in the gallery were
chastised in a manner scarcely suited for adults. The age of revolutions
for a time was past; Bonaparte became Dictator; Thomas Paine took to
drink; the English reign of terror was dispelled; the abolitionists
again raised their voices on behalf of the negro, and in 1807 the
slave-trade was abolished. That traffic, however, was only abolished so
far as English vessels and English markets were concerned, and
Government now commenced a long series of negotiations with foreign
powers. In course of time the other nations prohibited the slave-trade,
and conceded to Great Britain the police control of the Guinea coast,
and the right of search. A squadron of gunboats hovered round the mouths
of rivers, or sent up boating expeditions, or cruised to and fro a
little way out at sea, with a man always at the mast-head with a spy
glass in his hand, scanning the horizon for a sail. When a sail was
sighted, the gunboat got up steam, bore down upon the vessel, ordered
her to heave to, sent men on board, and overhauled her papers. If they
were not in order, or if slaves were on board, or even if the vessel was
fitted up in such a way as to have the appearance of a slaver, she was
taken as a prize; the sailors were landed at the first convenient spot;
the slaver was sold, and the money thereby obtained, with a bounty on
each captured slave, was divided among the officers and crew. The slaves
were discharged at Sierra Leone, where they formed themselves into
various townships according to their nationalities, spoke their own
language, elected their own chiefs, and governed themselves privately by
their own laws, opinion acting as the only method of coercion--a fact
deserving to be noted by those who study savage man. However, this was
only for a time. All these imported negroes were educated by the
missionaries, and they now support their own church; the native
languages and distinctions of nationality are gradually dying out; the
descendants of naked slaves are many of them clergymen, artisans,
shopkeepers, and merchants; they call themselves Englishmen, and such
they feel themselves to be. However ludicrous it may seem to hear a
negro boasting about Lord Nelson and Waterloo, and declaring that he
must go home to England for his health, it shows that he possesses a
kind of emulation, which, with proper guidance, will make him a true
citizen of his adopted country, and leave him nothing of the African
except his skin.

But the slave-trade was not extinguished by the "sentimental squadron."
The slavers could make a profit if they lost four cargoes in every five;
they could easily afford to use decoys. While the gunboat was giving
chase to some old tub with fifty diseased and used-up slaves on board, a
clipper with several hundreds in her holds would dash out from her
hiding-place among the mangroves and scud across the open sea to Cuba
and Brazil.

It was impossible to blockade a continent; but it was easy to inspect
estates. The negroes were purchased as plantation hands; a contraband
labourer was not a thing to be concealed. There were laws in Cuba and
Brazil against negro importation, but these existed only for the benefit
of the officials. The bribery practice was put an end to in Brazil about
1852; that great market was for ever closed. Slavers were ruined;
African chiefs became destitute of rum and this branch of commerce began
to look forlorn. Yet still Cuba cried, "More! Give me more!"; still the
profits were so large that the squadron was defeated and the man-supply
obtained. Half a million of money a year, and no small amount of men,
did that one island cost Great Britain. Yet still it might be hoped that
even Cuba would he filled full in time; that the public opinion of
Europe would act upon Madrid; that in time it would imitate Brazil. But
in 1861 there happened an event which made the Cubans turn their back on
Spain, and look with longing eyes the other way; and a beautiful vision
uprose before their minds. They dreamt of a New Empire to which Cuba
would belong, and to which slavery in a state of medieval beauty would
be restored. It was only a dream; it was quickly dispelled; they awoke
to find Liberty standing at their doors; and there now she stands
waiting for her time to come.

When Great Britain was teasing the colonies into resistance, it was
often predicted that they would not unite. There was little community of
feeling between the old Dutch families of New York, the Quakers of
Pennsylvania, the yeomen of New England, who were descended from
Roundheads, and the country gentlemen of Virginia, who were descended
from Cavaliers. But when the king closed Boston Port, and the vessels
mouldered in the docks, and the shops were closed, and the children of
fishermen and sailors began to cry for bread, the colonies did unite
with one heart and one hand to feed the hunger of the noble town; and
then to besiege it for its own sake, and to drive the red coats back
into their ships. Yet when the war was over, and the squirrel guns had
again been hung upon the wall, and the fire of the conflict had died
out, the old jealousy reappeared. A loose-jointed league was tried and
came to nought. The nation existed; the nation was in debt; union could
not be dispensed with. But each colony approached this Union as a free
and sovereign state. If one colony had chosen to remain apart, the
others would not have interfered; if one colony after entering the Union
had chosen to withdraw, its right to do so would not have been denied.
In European countries, republican or royal, the source of authority is
the nation; all powers not formally transferred reside with the Assembly
or the Crown. In America, however; it was precisely the reverse; all
powers not delivered to the central government were retained by the
contracting states.

Abolition in America

At the time of the Revolution, negro slavery existed in the colonies
without exception. But it did not enter the economy of Northern life.
Slavery will only pay when labour can be employed in gangs beneath an
overseer, and where work can be found for a large number of men without
cessation throughout the year. In the culture of rice, sugar, cotton,
and tobacco, these conditions exist; but in corn-growing lands labour is
scanty and dispersed, except at certain seasons of the year. Slaves in
the North were not employed as field hands, but only as domestic
servants in the houses of the rich. They could therefore be easily
dispensed with; and it was proposed by the Northern delegates, when the
Constitution was being prepared, that the African slave-trade should at
once be abolished, and that certain measures should be taken, with a
view to the gradual emancipation of the negro. Upon this question
Virginia appears to have been divided. But Georgia and the Carolinas at
once declared that they would not have the slave-trade abolished: they
wanted more slaves; and unless this species of property were guaranteed,
they would not enter the Union at all. They demanded that slavery should
be recognised and protected by the Constitution. The Northerners at once
gave in; they only requested that the words "slave" and "slavery" might
not appear. To this the Southerners agreed, and the contract was
delicately worded; but it was none the less stringent all the same. It
was made a clause of the Constitution that the slave-trade should not
be suppressed before the year 1808. It might then be made the subject of
debate and legislation--not before. It was made a clause of the
Constitution that, if the slaves of any state rebelled, the national
troops should be employed against them. It was made a clause of the
Constitution that, if a slave escaped to a free state, the authorities
of that state should be obliged to give him up. And lastly, slave-owners
were allowed to have votes in proportion to the number of their slaves.
Such was the price which the Northerners paid for nationality--a price
which their descendants found a hard and heavy one to pay. The fathers
of the country ate sour grapes, and the children's teeth were set on

But the Southerners had not finished yet. The colonies possessed,
according to their charters, certain regions in the wilderness out west,
and these they delivered to the nation. A special proviso was made,
however, by South Carolina and by Georgia, that at no future time should
slavery be forbidden in the territories which they gave up of their own
free will and these territories in time became slave states. It is
therefore evident that the South intended from the first to preserve,
and also to extend slavery. It must be confessed that their policy was
candid and consistent, and of a piece throughout. They refused to enter
the Union unless their property was guaranteed; they threatened to
withdraw from the Union whenever they thought that the guarantee was
about to be evaded or withdrawn. The clauses contained in the
Constitution were binding on the nation; but they might be revoked by
means of a constitutional amendment, which could be passed by the
consent of three-fourths of the states. Emigrants continually poured
into the North; and these again streamed out towards the West. It was
evident that in time new states would be formed, and that the original
slave states would be left in a minority. These states were purely
agricultural; they had no commerce; they had no manufactures. Indigo,
rice, and tobacco were the products on which they lived; and the markets
for these were in an ugly state. The East Indies had begun to compete
with them in rice and indigo; the demand for tobacco did not increase.
There was a general languor in the South; the young men did not know
what to do. Slavery is a wasteful and costly institution, and requires
large profits to keep it alive; it seemed on the point of dying in the
South, when there came a voice across the Atlantic crying for cotton in
loud and hungry tones; and the fortune of the South was made.

In the seventeenth century the town of Manchester was already known to
fame. It was a seat of the woollen manufacture, which was first
introduced from Flanders into England in the reign of Edward the Third.
It bought yarn from the Irish, and sent it back to them as linen. It
imported cotton from Cyprus and Smyrna, and worked it into fustians,
vermilions, and dimities. In the middle of the eighteenth century the
cotton industry had become important. In thousands of cottages
surrounding Manchester might be heard the rattle of the loom and the
humming of the one-thread wheel, which is now to be seen only in the
opera of Marta. Invention, as usual, arose from necessity; the weavers
could not get sufficient thread, and were entirely at the mercy of the
spinners. Spinning machines were accordingly invented: the water frame,
the spinning jenny, and the mule. And now the weavers had
more thread than they could use, and the power loom was invented to
preserve the equilibrium of supply and demand. Then steam was applied to
machinery; the factory system was established; hundred-handed engines
worked all the day: and yet more labourers were employed than had ever
been employed before; the soft white wool was carded, spun, and woven in
a trice; the cargoes from the East were speedily devoured; and now raw
material was chiefly in demand. The American cotton was the best in the
market; but the quantity received had hitherto been small. The picking
out of the small black seeds was a long and tedious operation. A single
person could not clean more than a pound a day. Here, then, was an
opening for Yankee ingenuity; and Whitney invented his famous saw-gin,
which tore out the seeds as quick as lightning with its iron teeth. Land
and slaves abounded in the South; the demand from Manchester became more
and more hungry--it has never yet been completely satisfied--and,
under King Cotton, the South entered upon a new era of wealth, vigour,
and prosperity as a slave plantation. The small holdings were unable to
compete with the large estates on which the slaves were marshalled and
drilled like convicts to their work; society in the South soon became
composed of the planters, the slaves, and the mean whites who were too
proud to work like niggers, and who led a kind of gipsy life.

While the intellect of the North was inventing machinery, opening new
lands, and laying the foundations of a literature, the Southerners were
devoted entirely to politics; and by means of their superior ability
they ruled at Washington for many years, and almost monopolised the
offices of state. When America commenced its national career there were
two great sects of politicians; those who were in favour of the central
power, and those who were in favour of state rights. In the course of
time the national sentiment increased, and with it the authority of the
President and Congress; but this centralising movement was resisted by a
certain party of the North whose patriotism could not pass beyond the
state house and the city hall. The Southerners were invariably
provincial in their feelings; they did not consider themselves as
belonging to a nation, but a league; they inherited the sentiments of
aversion and distrust with which their fathers had entered the Union;
threats and provisos were always on their lips. The executive, it was
true, was in their hands, but the House of Representatives belonged to
the North. In the Senate the states had equal powers, irrespective of
size and population. In the Lower House the states were merely sections
of the country; population was the standard of the voting power. The
South had a smaller population than the North; the Southerners were
therefore a natural minority, and only preserved their influence by
allying themselves with the states' rights party in the North. The free
states were divided: the slave states voted as one man.

In the North politics was a question of sentiment, and sentiments
naturally differ. In the South politics was a matter of life and death;
their bread depended on cotton; their cotton depended on slaves; their
slaves depended on the balance of power. The history of the South within
the Union is that of a people struggling for existence by means of
political devices against the spirit of the nation and the spirit of the
age. By annexation, purchase, and extension they kept pace with the
North in its rush towards the West. Free states and slave states ran
neck and neck towards the shores of the Pacific. The North obtained
Vermont, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Maine, Michigan, Iowa, Wisconsin, and
California. The South obtained Tennessee, Kentucky, Louisiana,
Mississippi, Alabama, Missouri, Arkansas, Florida, and Texas. Whenever a
territory became a state, the nation possessed the power of rejecting
and therefore of modifying its constitution. The Northern politicians
made an effort to prohibit slavery in all new states; the South as usual
threatened to secede, and the Union which had been manufactured by a
compromise was preserved by a compromise. It was agreed that a line
should be drawn to the Pacific along the parallel 36° 30'; that all the
states which should afterwards be made below the line should be
slave-holding; and all that were made above it should be free. But this
compromise was not, like the compromise of the constitution, binding on
the nation, and only to be set aside by a constitutional amendment. It
was simply a parliamentary measure, and as such could be repealed at any
future session. However, it satisfied the South; the North had many
things to think of; and all remained quiet for a time. But only for a

The mysterious principle which constitutes the law of progress produces
similar phenomena in various countries at the same time, and it was such
an active period of the human mind which produced about forty years ago
a Parisian Revolution, the great Reform Bill, and the American agitation
against slavery. There was a man in a Boston garret. He possessed some
paper, pens and ink, and little else besides; and even these he could
only use in a fashion of his own. He had not what is called a style; nor
had he that rude power which can cast a glow on jagged sentences and
uncouth words. This poor garretteer, a printer in his working hours,
relied chiefly on his type for light and shade, and had much recourse to
capital letters, italics and notes of exclamation, to sharpen his wit,
and to strengthen his tirades. But he had a cause, and his heart was in
that cause. When W. L. Garrison commenced his Liberator, the government
of Georgia set a price upon his head, he was mobbed in his native city,
and slavery was defended in Faneuil Hall itself, sacred to the memory of
men who cared not to live unless they could be free. The truth was, that
the Northerners disliked slavery, but nationality was dear to them and
they believed that an attack upon the "domestic institution" of the
South endangered the safety of the Union. But the abolitionists became a
sect; they increased in numbers and in talent; they would admit of no
compromise; they cared little for the country itself so long as it was
stained. They denounced the constitution as a covenant with death, and
an agreement with hell. No union with slave-holders! they cried. No
union with midnight robbers and assassins! Hitherto the war between the
two great sections of the country had been confined to politicians. The
Southerners had sent their boys to Northern colleges and schools.
Attended by a retinue of slaves they had passed the summer at Saratoga
or Newport, and sometimes the winter at New York. But now their sons
were insulted, their slaves decoyed from them by these new fanatics; and
the South went North no more.

Abolition societies were everywhere formed, and envoys were sent into
the slave states to distribute abolition tracts and to publish abolition
journals, and to excite, if they could, a St. Domingo insurrection. The
Northerners were shocked at these proceedings and protested angrily
against them. But soon there was a revulsion of feeling in their minds,
The wild beast temper arose in the South, and went forth lynching all it
met. Northerners were flogged and even killed. Negroes were burnt alive.
And so the meetings of abolitionists were no longer interrupted at the
North; mayors and select-men no longer refused them the use of public
halls. The sentiment of abolition was however not yet widely spread.
There were few Northerners who preferred to give up the Union rather
than live under a piebald constitution, or who considered it just to
break a solemn compact in obedience to an abstract law. But there now
arose a strong and resolute party who declared that slavery might stay
where it was, but that it must go no farther. The South must be content
with what it had. Not another yard of slave soil should be added to the
Union. On the other hand, the South could not accept such terms. Slavery
extension was necessary for their lives. More land they must have or
they could not exist. There was waste land in abundance in the South;
but it was dead. Their style of agriculture was precisely that which is
pursued in Central Africa. They took a tract from the wilderness and
planted it again and again with cotton and tobacco till it gave up the
ghost, and would yield no more. They then moved on and took in another
piece. Obliged to spend all their cash in buying prime slaves at two
hundred pounds a piece, they could not afford to use manure or to rotate
their crops; they could not afford to employ so costly a species of
labour on anything less lucrative than sugar, cotton, and tobacco.
Besides, if slavery were not to be extended they would be surrounded and
hemmed in by free states; the old contract would be annulled. Already the
South were in a minority. The free states and slave states might be
equal in number; but they were not equal in population and prosperity.
The Northerner who travelled down South was astonished to find that the
cities of the maps were villages, and the villages clusters of log huts.
Fields covered with weeds, and moss-grown ruins showed where farms once
flourishing had been. He rode through vast forests and cypress swamps,
where hundreds of mean whites lived like Red Indians, hunting and
fishing for their daily bread, eating clay to keep themselves alive,
prowling round plantations to obtain stolen food from the slaves. He saw
plantations in which the labour was conducted with the terrible
discipline of the prison and the hulks; and where as he galloped past
the line of hoeing slaves, so close that he splashed them with mud, they
hoed on, they toiled on, not daring to raise their eyes from the ground.
From early dawn to dusky eve it was so with these poor wretches: no
sound broke the silence of those fearful fields but the voice of the
overseer and the cracking of the whip. And out far away in the lone
western lands, by the side of dark rivers, among trees from which
drooped down the dull grey Spanish moss, the planters went forth to
hunt; there were well-known coverts where they were sure to find; and as
the traveller rode through the dismal swamp he might perhaps have the
fortune to see the game; a black animal on two legs running madly for
its life, and behind it the sounding of a horn, and the voices of hounds
in full cry--a chase more infernal than that of the Wild Huntsman who
sweeps through the forest with his spectral crew.

But the end of all this was at hand. Kansas, a tract of rich prairie
land, was about to become a territory, and would soon become a state. It
was situated above the 36° 30' line, and therefore belonged to the
North. But the Southerners coveted this Naboth's vineyard; their power
at Washington was great just then; they determined to strike out the
line which had been in the first place demanded by themselves. With much
show of justice and reason they alleged that it was not fair to
establish the domestic institutions of a country without consulting the
inhabitants themselves. They proposed that, for the future, the question
of slavery or free soil should be decided by a majority of votes among
the settlers on the spot. This proposal became law, and then commenced a
race for the soil. In Boston a political society was formed for the
exportation to Kansas of Northern men. In the slave state. Missouri,
blue lodges were formed for a similar purpose, and hundreds of
squatters, dressed in flannel shirts, and huge boots up to their knees,
and skin caps on their heads, bristling with revolvers and bowie knives,
stepped across the Border. For the first time the people of the North
and South met face to face. A guerrilla warfare soon broke out; the New
Englanders were robbed and driven back; they were murdered, and their
scalps paraded by Border ruffians upon poles. The whole country fell
into a distracted state. The Southerners pursued their slaves into
Boston itself, and dragged them back, according to the law. A mad
abolitionist invaded Virginia with a handful of men, shot a few peaceful
citizens, and was hanged. A time of terror fell upon the South; there
was neither liberty of print nor liberty of speech; the majority
reigned; and the man who spoke against it was lynched upon the spot. A
Southerner assaulted and battered a Northerner on the floor of the

The North at last was thoroughly aroused. The people itself began to
stir; a calm, patient, law-abiding race, slow to be moved, but when once
moved, swerving never till the thing was done. A presidential election
was at hand, and a Northerner was placed upon the throne. The South
understood that this was not a casual reverse, which might be redeemed
when the four years had passed away. It was to them a sign that the days
of their power had for ever passed. The temper of the North was not to
be mistaken. It had at last rebelled; it would suffer tyranny no more.
Mr. Lincoln's terms were conciliatory in the extreme. Had the South been
moderate in its demands, he would have been classed with those statesmen
who added compromise to compromise, and so postponed the evil but
inevitable day. He was not an abolitionist. He offered to give them any
guarantee they pleased--a constitutional amendment if they desired it
--that slavery as it stood should not be interfered with. He offered to
bring in a more stringent law, by which their fugitive slaves should be
restored. But on the matter of extension he was firm. The Southerners
demanded that a line should again be drawn to the Pacific; that all
south of that line should be made slave soil, and that slavery should be
more clearly recognised by the central government, and more firmly
guaranteed. These terms were not more extravagant than those which their
fathers had obtained. But times had changed: the sentiment of
nationality was now more fully formed; "Uncle Tom's Cabin" had been
written; the American people were heartily ashamed of slavery; they
refused to give it another lease. The ultimatum was declined; the South
seceded, and the North flew to arms, not to emancipate the negro, but to
preserve the existence of the nation. They would not indeed submit to
slavery extension; they preferred disunion to such a disgrace. But they
had no intention when they went to war of destroying slavery in the
states where it existed; they even took pains to prove to the South that
the war was not an anti-slavery crusade. The negroes were treated by the
Northern generals not as men, but as contraband of war; even Butler in
New Orleans did not emancipate the slaves; a general who issued a
proclamation of that nature was reprimanded by the government, although
he only followed the example of British generals in the Revolutionary
war. But as the contest became more severe and more prolonged, and all
hopes of reconciliation were at an end, slavery became identified with
the South in the Northern mind, and was itself regarded as a foe. The
astute and cautious statesman at the head of affairs perceived that the
time had come; the constitution was suspended during the war; and so, in
all legality and with due form, he set free in one day four million

It is impossible to view without compassion the misfortunes of men who
merely followed in the footsteps of their fathers, and were in no sense
more guilty than Washington and Jefferson, who remained slaveholders to
their dying day. It was easy for Great Britain to pay twenty millions;
it was easy for the Northern states to emancipate their slaves, who were
few in number, and not necessary to their life. But it was impossible
for the South to abandon slavery. The money of a planter was sunk in
flesh and blood. Yet the Southern politicians must be blamed for their
crazy ambition, and their blind ignorance of the world. Instead of
preparing as the Cuban planters are preparing now for those changes
which had been rendered inevitable by the progress of mankind, they
supposed that it was in their power to defy the spirit of the age, and
to establish an empire on the pattern of ancient Rome. They firmly
believed that, because they could not exist without selling cotton,
Great Britain could not exist without buying it from them; which is like
a shopkeeper supposing he could ruin his customers by putting up his

It may console those who yet lament the lost cause if we picture for
their benefit what the Southern empire would have been. There would have
been an aristocracy of planters, herds of slaves, a servile press, a
servile pulpit, and a rabble of mean whites formed into an army.
Abolition societies would have been established in the North, to
instigate slaves to rebel or run away; a cordon of posts with a system
of passports would have been established in the South. Border raids
would have been made by fanatics on the one side, and by desperadoes on
the other. Sooner or later there must have been a war. Filibustering
expeditions on Mexico and Cuba would have brought about a war with
Spain, and perhaps with France. It was the avowed intention of the
planters, when once their empire was established, to import labour from
Africa; to re-open the trade as in the good old times. But this, Great
Britain would certainly have not allowed; and thus, again, there would
have been war. Even if the planters would have displayed a little common
sense, which is exceedingly improbable, and so escaped extirpation from
without, their system of culture would have eaten up their lands. But
happily such hypotheses need no longer be discussed; a future of another
kind is in reserve for the Southern states. America can now pursue with
untarnished reputation her glorious career, and time will soften the
memories of a conflict, the original guilt of which must be ascribed to
the founders of the nation, or rather to the conditions by which those
great men were mastered and controlled.

Materials of Human History

I have now accomplished the task which I set myself to do. I have shown
to the best of my ability what kind of place in universal history Africa
deserves to hold. I have shown that not only Egypt has assisted the
development of man by educating Greece, Carthage by leading forth Rome
to conquest, but that even the obscure Sudan, or land of the negroes,
has also played its part in the drama of European life.

The slave-trade must be estimated as a war; though cruel and atrocious
in itself, it has, like most wars, been of service to mankind. I shall
leave it to others to trace cut in detail the influence of the negro in
the human progress. It will be sufficient to observe that the grandeur
of West Indian commerce in the last generation, and of the cotton
manufacture at the present time, could not have been obtained without
the assistance of the negro: and that the agitation on his behalf, which
was commenced by Granville Sharp, has assisted much to expand the
sympathies, and to educate the heart of the Anglo-Saxon people, who are
somewhat inclined to pride of colour and prejudice of race. Respecting
the prospects of the negro, it is difficult for me to form an opinion;
but what I have seen of the Africans in their native and semi-civilised
condition inclines me to take a hopeful view. The negroes are imitative
in an extraordinary degree, and imitation is the first principle of
progress. They are vain and ostentatious, ardent for praise, keenly
sensitive of blame. Their natural wants, indeed, are few; they inherit
the sober appetites of their fathers who lived on a few handfuls of rice
a day; but it will, I believe, be found that when they enjoy the same
inducements to work as other men, when they can hope to distinguish
themselves in the Parliament, the pulpit, or in social life, they will
become as we are, the slaves of an idea, and will work day and night to
obtain something which they desire, but do not positively need. Whether
the negroes are equal in average capacity to the white man, whether they
will ever produce a man of genius, is an idle and unimportant question;
they can at least gain their livelihood as labourers and artisans; they
are therefore of service to their country; let them have fair play, and
they will find their right place whatever it may be: As regards the
social question, they will no doubt, like the Jews, intermarry always
with their own race, and will thus remain apart. But it need not be
feared that they will become hostile to those with whom they reside.
Experience has shown that, whenever aliens are treated as citizens, they
become citizens, whatever may be their religion or their race, It is a
mistake to suppose that the civilised negro calls himself an African,
and pines to return to his ancestral land. If he is born in the States,
he calls himself an American he speaks with an American accent; he loves
and he hates with an American heart.

It is a question frequently asked of African travellers, What is the
future of that great continent? In the first place, with respect to the
West Coast, there is little prospect of great changes taking place for
many years to come. The commerce in palm oil is important, and will
increase. Cotton will be received in large quantities from the Sudan.
The East Coast of Africa, when its resources have been developed, will
be a copy of the West Coast. It is not probable that European colonies
will ever flourish in these golden but unwholesome lands. The educated
negroes will in time monopolise the trade, for they can live at less
expense than Europeans, and do not suffer from the climate. They may
perhaps at some future day possess both coasts, and thence spread with
Bible and musket into the interior. This prospect, however, is
uncertain, and in any case exceedingly remote.

That part of Africa which lies above the parallel 10° North belongs to
the Eastern Question. What ever may be the ultimate destiny of Egypt,
Algeria, and Morocco, will be shared by the regions of the central
Niger, from Haussa to Timbuctoo.

That part of the continent which lies below the parallel 20° South,
already belongs in part, and will in time entirely belong to settlers of
the Anglo-Saxon race. It resembles Australia, not only in its position
with respect to the Equator, but also in its natural productions. It is
a land of wool and mines, without great navigable rivers, interspersed
with sandy deserts, and enjoying a wholesome though sultry air. Whatever
may be the future of Australia will also be the future of Southern

Between these two lines intervenes a region inhabited for the most part
by pagan savages, thinly scattered over swamp and forest. This concealed
continent, this unknown world, will at some far-off day, if my surmises
prove correct, be invaded by three civilising streams; by the British
negroes from the coasts by the Mohammedan negroes in robe and turban
from the great empires of the Niger region; and by the farmers and
graziers and miners of South Africa.

When, therefore, we speculate on the future of Africa, we can do no more
than bring certain regions of that continent within the scope of two
general questions; the future of our colonies, and the future of the
East; and these lead us up to a greater question still, the future of
the European race.

Upon this subject I shall offer a few remarks; and it is obvious that in
order to form some conception of the future it is necessary to
understand the present and the past. I shall therefore endeavour to
ascertain what we have been and what we are. The monograph of Africa is
ended. I shall make my sketch of history complete, adding new features,
passing quickly over the parts that have been already drawn. I shall
search out the origin of man, determine his actual condition, speculate
upon his future destiny, and discuss the nature of his relations towards
that unknown Power of whom he is the offspring and the slave. I shall
examine this planet and its contents with the calm curiosity of one
whose sentiments and passions, whose predilections and antipathies,
whose hopes and fears, are not interested in the question. I shall
investigate without prejudice; I shall state the results without

What are the materials of human history? What are the earliest records
which throw light upon the origin of man? All written documents are
things of yesterday, whether penned on prepared skins, papyrus rolls, or
the soft inner bark of trees; whether stamped on terra-cotta tablets,
carved on granite obelisks, or engraved on the smooth surface of upright
rocks. Writing, even in its simplest picture form, is an art which can
be invented only when a people have become mature.

The oldest books are therefore comparatively modern, and the traditions
which they contain are either false or but little older than the books
themselves. All travellers who have collected traditions among a wild
people know how little that kind of evidence is worth. The savage
exaggerates whenever he repeats, and in a few generations the legend is

The evidence of language is of more value. It enables us to trace back
remotely divided nations to their common birth-place, and reveals the
amount of culture, the domestic institutions, and the religious ideas
which they possessed before they parted from one another. Yet languages
soon die, or rather become metamorphosed in structure as well as in
vocabulary; the oldest existing language can throw no light on the
condition of primeval man.

The archives of the earth also offer us their testimony: the graves give
up their dead, and teach us that man existed many thousand years ago, in
company with monstrous animals that have long since passed away; and
that those men were savages, using weapons and implements of stone, yet
possessing even then a taste for ornament and art, wearing shell
bracelets, and drawing rude figures upon horns and stones. The manners
and ideas of such early tribes can best be inferred by a study of
existing savages. The missionary who resides among such races as the
Bushmen of Africa or the Botocudos of Brazil may be said to live in pre
-historic times.

But as regards the origin of man, we have only one document to which we
can refer; and that is the body of man himself. There, in unmistakable
characters, are inscribed the annals of his early life. These
hieroglyphics are not to be fully deciphered without a special
preparation for the task: the alphabet of anatomy must first be
mastered, and the student must be expert in the language of all living
and fossil forms. One fact, however, can be submitted to the uninitiated
eye, and it will be sufficient for the purpose. Look at a skeleton and
you will see a little bone curled downwards between the legs, as if
trying to hide itself away. That bone is a relic of pre-human days, and
announces plainly whence our bodies come. We are all of us naked under
our clothes, and we are of all us tailed under our skins. But when we
descend to the man-like apes, we find that, with them as with us, the
tail is effete and in disuse; and so we follow it downwards and
downwards until we discover it in all its glory in the body of the fish;
being there present, not as a relic or rudimentary organ, as in man and
the apes; not a mere appendage, as in the fox; not a secondary
instrument, a spare hand, as in certain monkeys, or a fly-flapper, as in
the giraffe; but as a primary organ of the very first importance,
endowing the fish with its locomotive powers. Again, we examine the body
of the fish, and we find in it also rudimentary organs as useless and
incongruous as the tail in man; and thus we descend step by step, until
we arrive at the very bottom of the scale.

The method of development is still being actively discussed, but the
fact is placed beyond a doubt. Since The Origin of Species appeared,
philosophical naturalists no longer deny that the ancestors of man must
he sought for in the lower kingdom. And, apart from the evidence which
we carry with us in our own persons, which we read in the tail-bone of
the skeleton, in the hair which was once the clothing of our bodies, in
the nails which were once our weapons of defence, and in a hundred other
facts which the scalpel and the microscope disclose; apart from the
evidence of our own voices, our incoherent groans and cries, analogy
alone would lead us to believe that mankind had been developed from the
lowest forms of life. For what is the history of the individual man? He
begins life as an ambiguous speck of matter which can in no way be
distinguished from the original form of the lowest animal or plant. He
next becomes a cell; his life is precisely that of the animalcule. Cells
cluster round this primordial cell, and the man is so far advanced that
he might be mistaken for an undeveloped oyster; he grows still more, and
it is clear that he might even be a fish; he then passes into a stage
which is common to all quadrupeds, and next assumes a form which can
only belong to quadrupeds of the higher type. At last the hour of birth
approaches; coiled within, the dark womb he sits, the image of an ape; a
caricature and, a prophecy of the man that is to be. He is born, and for
some time he walks only on all-fours; he utters only inarticulate
sounds; and even in his boyhood his fondness for climbing trees would
seem to be a relic of the old arboreal life. Since, therefore, every man
has been himself in such a state that the most experienced observer
could not with the aid of the best microscopes have declared whether he
was going to be man or plant, man or animalcule, man or mollusc, man or
lobster, man or fish, man or reptile, man or bird, man or quadruped, man
or monkey; why should it appear strange that the whole race has also had
its animalcule and its reptile days? But whether it appears strange or
not, the public must endeavour to accustom its mind to the fact which is
now firmly, established, and will never be overthrown.

Not only are the bodies, but also the minds of man constructed on the
same pattern as those of the lower animals. To procure food; to obtain a
mate; and to rear offspring; such is the real business of life with us
as it is with them. If we look into ourselves we discover propensities
which declare that our intellects have arisen from a lower form; could
our minds be made visible we should find them tailed. And if we examine
the minds of the lower animals, we find in them the rudiments of our
talents and our virtues. As the beautiful yet imperfect human body has
been slowly developed from the base and hideous creatures of the water
and the earth, so the beautiful yet imperfect human mind has been slowly
developed from the instincts of the lower animals. All that is elevated,
all that is lovely in human nature has its origin in the lower kingdom.
The philosophic spirit of inquiry may be traced to brute
curiosity, and that to the habit of examining all things in search of
food. Artistic genius is an expansion of monkey imitativeness. Loyalty
and piety, the reverential virtues, are developed from filial love.
Benevolence and magnanimity, the generous virtues, from parental love.
The sense of decorum proceeds from the sense of cleanliness; and that
from the instinct of sexual display. The delicate and ardent love which
can become a religion of the heart, which can sanctify and soften a
man's whole life; the affection which is so noble, and so pure, and so
free from all sensual stain, is yet derived from that desire which
impels the male animal to seek a mate; and the sexual timidity which
makes the female flee from the male is finally transformed into that
maiden modesty which not only preserves from vice, but which conceals
beneath a chaste and honourable reticence the fiery love that burns
within; which compels the true woman to pine in sorrow, and perhaps to
languish into death, rather than betray a passion that is not returned.

There is a certain class of people who prefer to say that their fathers
came down in the world through their own follies rather than to boast
that they rose in the world through their own industry and talents. It
is the same shabby-genteel sentiment, the same vanity of birth which
makes men prefer to believe that they are degenerated angels, rather
than elevated apes. In scientific investigations such whims and fancies
must be set aside. It is the duty of the inquirer to ascertain the
truth, and then to state it as decisively and as clearly as he can.
People's prejudices must not be respected but destroyed. It may,
however, be worth while to observe, for the comfort of weak souls, that
in these new revelations of science human nature is not in any way
degraded. A woman's body is not less lovely because it was once a
hideous mass of flesh. A woman's modesty is not less noble because we
discover that it was once a mere propensity, dictated, perhaps, by the
fear of pain. The beauty of the mind is not less real than the beauty of
the body, and we need not be discouraged because we ascertain that it
has also passed through its embryonic stage. It is Nature's method to
take something which is in itself paltry, repulsive, and grotesque, and
thence to construct a masterpiece by means of general and gradual laws;
those laws themselves being often vile and cruel. This method is applied
not only to single individuals, but also to the whole animated world;
not only to physical but also to mental forms. And when it is fully
realised and understood that the genius of man has been developed along
a line of unbroken descent from the simple tendencies which inhabited
the primeval cell, and that in its later stages this development has
been assisted by the efforts of man himself, what a glorious futurity
will open to the human race! It may well be that our minds have not done
growing, and that we may rise as high above our present state as that
state is removed from the condition of the insect and the worm. For when
we examine the human mind we do not find it perfect and mature; but in a
transitional and amphibious condition. We live between two worlds; we
soar in the atmosphere; we creep upon the soil; we have the aspirations
of creators and the propensities of quadrupeds. There can be but one
explanation of this fact. We are passing from the animal into a higher
form; and the drama of this planet is in its second act. We shall now
endeavour to place the first upon the stage, and, then passing through
the second, shall proceed to speculate upon the third. The scene opens
with the solar system. Time uncertain; say, a thousand million years


Animal Period of the Earth

That region of the universe which is visible to mortal eyes has been
named the solar system: it is composed of innumerable stars, and each
star is a white hot sun, the centre and sovereign of a world. Our own
sun is attended by a company of cold, dark globes, revolving round it in
accordance with the law of gravitation; they also rotate like joints
before the fire, turning first one side, and then the other, to the
central light. The path that is traced by the outermost planet is the
limit of the sun's domain, which is too extensive to be measured into
miles. If a jockey mounted on a winner of the Derby had started when
Moses was born, and had galloped ever since at full speed, he would be
by this time about half the way across. Yet this world seems large to
us, only because we are so small. It is merely a drop in the ocean of
space. The stars which we see on a fine night are also suns as important
as our own; and so vast is the distance which separates their worlds
from ours, that a flash of lightning would be years upon the road. These
various solar systems are not independent of one another they are
members of the same community. They are sailing in order round a point
to us unknown. Our own sun, drawing with it the planets in its course,
is spinning furiously upon its axis, and dashing through space at four
miles a second. And not only is the solar system an organ of one
gigantic form; it has also grown to what it is, and may still be
considered in its youth. As the body of a plant or animal arises from a
fluid alike in all its parts, so this world of ours was once a floating
fiery cloud, a nebula or mist, the molecules of which were kept asunder
by excessive heat. But the universe is pervaded by movement and by
change; there came a period when the heat declined, and when the atoms
obeying their innate desires rushed to one another, and, concentrating,
formed the sun, which at first almost filled the solar world. But as it
cooled, and as it contracted, and as it rotated, and as it revolved, it
became a sphere in the centre of the world; and it cast off pieces which
became planets, satellites, attendant stars, and they also cast off
pieces which became satellites to them. Thus the earth is the child, and
the moon the grandchild of the sun. When our planet first came out into
the world it was merely a solar fragment, a chip of the old star, and
the other planets were in a similar condition. But these sunballs were
separated from one another, and from their parent form, by oceans of
ether, a kind of attenuated air, so cold that frost itself is fire in
comparison. The sun burning always in this icy air is gradually cooling
down; but it parts slowly with its heat on account of its enormous size.
Our little earth cooled quickly, shrank in size--it had once extended
to the moon--and finally went out. From a globe of glowing gas it
became a ball of liquid fire, enveloped in a smoky cloud. When first we
are able to restore its image and examine its construction, we find it
composed of zones or layers in a molten state, arranged according to
their weight; and above it we find an atmosphere also divided into
layers. Close over the surface vapour of salt was suspended in the air;
next, a layer of dark, smoky, carbonic acid gas; next, oxygen and
nitrogen, and vapour of water or common steam. Within the sphere, as it
cooled and changed, chemical bodies sprang from one another, rushed to
and fro, combined with terrible explosions; while in the variegated
atmosphere above, gas-hurricanes arose and flung the elements into
disorder. So sped the earth, roaring and flaming through the sky,
leaving behind it a fiery track, sweeping round the sun in its oval

Year followed year, century followed century, epoch followed epoch. Then
the globe began to cool upon its surface. Flakes of solid matter floated
on the molten sea, which rose and fell in flaming tides towards a hidden
and benighted moon. The flakes caked together, and covered the ball with
a solid sheet, which was upraised and cracked by the tidal waves
beneath, like thin ice upon the Arctic seas. In time it thickened and
became firm, but subterranean storms often ripped it open in vast
chasms, from which masses of liquid lava spouted in the air, and fell
back upon the hissing crust. Everywhere heaps of ashes were thus formed,
and the earth was seamed with scars and gaping wounds. When the burning
heat of the air had abated, the salt was condensed, and fell like snow
upon the earth, and covered it ten feet thick. The Atlantic and Pacific
Oceans, lying overhead in the form of steam, descended in one great
shower, and so the primeval sea was formed. It was dark, warm, and
intensely salt; at first it overspread the surface of the globe; then
volcanic islands were cast up; and as the earth cooled downwards to its
core, it shrivelled into folds as an apple in the winter when its pulp
dries up. These folds and wrinkles were mountain ranges, and continents
appearing above the level of the sea. Our planet was then divided into
land and water in the same proportions as exist at the present time. For
though land is always changing into water, and water is always changing
into land, their relative quantities remain the same. The air was black,
night was eternal, illumined only by lightning and volcanoes; the earth
was unconscious of the sun's existence; its heat was derived from the
fire within, and was uniform from pole to pole. But the crust thickened;
the inner heat could no longer be felt upon the surface; the atmosphere
brightened a little, and the sun's rays penetrated to the earth. From
the shape, the altitude, and the revolutions of our planet, resulted an
unequal distribution of solar heat, and to this inequality the earth is
indebted for the varied nature of its aspects and productions. Climate
was created: winds arose in the air; currents in the deep; the sun
sucked up the waters of the sea, leaving the salt behind; rain-clouds
were formed, and fresh water bestowed upon the land. The underground
fires assisted the planet's growth by transforming the soils into
crystalline structures, and by raising the rocks thus altered to the
surface; by producing volcanic eruptions, hot springs, and other fiery
phenomena. But the chief architect and decorator of this planet was the
sun. When the black veil of the earth was lifted, when the sunlight
entered the turbid waters of the primeval sea, "an interesting event"
took place. The earth became with young.

In water there are always floating about a multitude of specks which are
usually minute fragments of the soil. But now appeared certain specks
which, though they resembled the others, possessed certain properties of
a very peculiar kind. First, they brought forth little specks, precise
copies of themselves: they issued their own duplicates. And secondly,
they performed in their own persons an elaborate chemical operation.
Imbibing water and air, they manufactured those elements with the
assistance of the solar rays, into the compounds of which their own
bodies were composed, giving back to the water those components which
they did not require. And then appeared other little specks which
swallowed up the first, and manufactured them into the compounds more
complex still, of which they, the second comers, were composed. The
first were embryonic plants; the second were embryonic animals. They
were both alike in appearance; both repeated themselves, or reproduced,
in the same manner. The difference between them was this, that the
plants could live on raw air and water, the animals could live only on
those elements when prepared by sun light in the body of the plant. The
office of vegetation upon the earth is therefore of a culinary nature,
and the plant, when devoured, gives the animal that heat which is its
life, just as coal (a cake of fossil vegetation) gives heat to the
apartment in which it is consumed. But this heat, whether it lies hidden
in the green and growing plant, or in its black and stony corpse, was at
first acquired from the sun. Glorious Apollo is the parent of us all.
Animal heat is solar heat; a blush is a stray sunbeam; Life is bottled
sunshine, and Death the silent-footed butler who draws out the cork.

Origin and Early History of Man

Those dots of animated jelly, without definite form or figure, swimming
unconsciously in the primeval sea, were the ancestors of man. The
history of our race begins with them, and continues without an
interruption to the present day; a splendid narrative, the materials of
which it is for science to discover, the glories of which it is for
poets to portray.

Owing to the action of surrounding forces, the outer parts of the
original jelly-dot became harder and more solid than the parts within,
and so it assumed the shape of the cell or sphere. Its food consisted of
microscopic fragments of vegetable matter imbibed through its surface or
outer rind, such portions as were not "made up" being expelled or
excreted in the same manner as they were taken in. There was no
difference of parts, except that the outside was solid and the inside
soft. The creature's body was its hand, its stomach, and its mouth. When
it had lived a certain time it burst and died, liberating, as it did so,
a brood of cells which had slowly ripened within. But sometimes these
new cells, instead of being detached when they were born, remained
cohering to the parent cell, thus making the animal consist of several
cells instead of only one. In the first case the process is termed
reproduction; in the second case it is termed growth. But the two
operations are in reality the same. Growth is coherent reproduction;
reproduction is detached growth.

Time goes on. Our animal is now a cell-republic enclosed by a wrapper of
solidified and altered cells. Next, in this wrapper a further change
takes place. It protrudes into limbs; a gaping month appears. The limbs
or tentacles grasp the food and put it within the mouth; other limbs
sprout forth and carry their owner from place to place. In the meantime
the cells within are also changed; their partitions are removed; the
many-walled apartments are converted into galleries or tubes, along
which the food is conveyed from one part of the body to another. These
tubes are filled with blood, pumped backwards and forwards by the heart.
The muscles which move the outer limbs are equipped with nerves, the
movements of which are directed from centres in the spine and brain. The
functions of life are thus divided, and each department has an organ of
its own. The reproductive function is divided farther still. Two
separate elements are formed; one prepares and ejects the sperm-cell
which the other receives, and unites to the germ-cell. At a later period
in the history of life this arrangement is supplanted by another, more
complicated still. The two elements no longer co-exist in the same form,
and thus reproduction can only be effected by means of co-operation
between two distinct and independent individuals. How important a fact
is this will presently appear.

These various inventions of Nature, so far as we have gone; the limbs of
locomotion and prehension; the heart with its vessels; the brain with
its nerves; and the separation of the sexes, all occurred in the marine
period of the earth's life: in the dark deep sea womb.

Similar changes, but inferior in degree, occurred in the vegetable
world. The shapeless specks became one-celled: they were next strung
together like a chain of beads; they then grew into seaweed and aqueous
plants, which floated about, and finally obtained a footing on the land.
But they dwelt long ages on the earth before their sex appeared. There
were no flowers in that primeval world, for the flower is a sign of
love. Gigantic mosses and tree ferns clothed the earth, and reproduced
themselves by scattering cells around.

Animals followed their prey, the plants, from the water to the land and
became adapted for terrestrial life. At that period the atmosphere was
thickened with carbonic acid gas, and was more pestilential than the
Black Hole of Calcutta. Only reptiles, with sluggish and imperfect
respiratory organs, could breathe in such an air. But that fatal gas was
bread to the vegetable world, which took the carbon into its body, and
thus the atmosphere was purified in time. The vast masses of carbon
which the plants took out of the air in order to allow a higher class of
animal to appear upon the stage, were buried in the earth, hardened into
coal, and were brought in by the Author in the second act--now on.

The coal-matter being thus removed, the air was bright and pure; the sun
glowed with radiance and force; the reptiles were converted into birds
and quadrupeds of many kinds; insects rising from the land and from the
water hummed and sparkled in the air; the forests were adorned with
flowers, and cheered with song. And as the periods rolled on, the
inhabitants of the earth became more complex in their structure, more
symmetrical in form, and more advanced in mental power, till at last the
future lord of the planet himself appeared upon the stage. The first act
of the drama is here concluded: but the division is merely artificial;
in Nature there is no entr'acte; no curtain falls. Her scenes resemble
dissolving views; the lower animals pass into man by soft, slow,
insensible gradations.

We must now consider the question, How and why have these marvellous
changes taken place? How and why did the primeval jelly-dots assume the
form of the cell or sphere?

It has been already shown that continual changes occurred in the
primeval atmosphere and in the primeval sea. These changes acting upon
animal life produced changes in its composition. For as animals are the
result and expression of the conditions under which they are born, it is
natural to suppose that when these conditions are changed, the animals
should also change. When the conditions of life are abruptly altered and
instantaneously transformed, the animals are of course destroyed; but
when, as is usually the case, the changes are gradual, the animals are
slowly modified into harmony with the neighbouring conditions. The
primeval speck of life being acted upon by a variety of forces, became
varied in its structure and as these forces varied from period to
period, the organisms also varied. Complexity of parts results from
complexity of environment. Multiformity of circumstance produces
multiformity of species. The development of animal life from the
homogeneous to the heterogeneous, from the simple to the complex, from
uniformity to multiformity, is caused by the development of the earth
itself from a monotonous water-covered globe with one aspect, one
constitution, and one temperature to this varied earth on which we
dwell, where each foot of land differs in some respect from the one
beside it. The modifications on modifications of the animal are due to
the modifications on modifications of the medium in which and on which
it lived. And this operation of Nature is hastened and facilitated by a
law which in itself is murderous and cruel. The earth is over-populated
upon principle. Of the animals that are born, a few only can survive.
There is not enough food for all; Nature scrambles what there is among
the crowd. If any animal possesses an advantage, however slight, over
those with whom he competes in this food-scramble or struggle for
existence, he will certainly survive; and if he survives, then some one
else, so gentle Nature orders it, must die. This law of competition
becomes itself a force by developing slight variations along lines of
utility into widely different and specific forms.

But how is it that animals of the higher type prevail? Why should
species, with a tendency towards a complicated structure, generally
triumph over simple forms? The reason appears to be this, that whenever
a change takes place, it is almost invariably a change towards
complexity. Now it is an ascertained law that animals are invigorated by
a slight change; they are therefore improved by an approach towards
complexity. Let us take the most mysterious of all progressive
operations--the division of the sexes. The hermaphrodite can fertilise
itself, but its organs are so arranged that it can be fertilised by
another individual, the wind or the water acting as the go-between. The
offspring of such separate unions are always more vigorous than the
home-born progeny of the hermaphrodite. The latter are therefore killed
off by means of the struggle for existence, and sexual union, at first
the exception, becomes the rule. Just as a body of artisans can do more
work and better work when each man devotes his whole life to a single
department of the craft, so it is good for the animal that division of
labour should be established in its structure; that instead of the
creature being its own mouth, its own stomach, its own organ of
excretion, reproduction, and locomotion, it should be divided into
separate parts, one of which moves it, another part takes the food,
another part chews, another part digests, another part prepares the
blood, another part pumps the blood to and fro, another part reproduces
the species, another part nourishes the young, while over all presides
the brain.

But how is it that some animals have progressed while others have
remained at the bottom of the scale, and others again have advanced only
to a certain point? If all have grown out of such specks of animated
jelly as are still to be found within the sea, how is it that some have
remained throughout infinite periods of time unchanged; that others have
remained in the form of the sponge, rooted upon rocks; that others, like
the lobster, have never exchanged their jointed bodies for the more
perfect skeleton of the fish; that some fish have taken to the land, and
have been converted into reptiles, and then into birds or quadrupeds,
while others have remained in the aqueous condition; and lastly, that
one animal, namely Man, has contrived to distance all the others when,
as it is acknowledged, they all started fair?

In reply, let me ask those who admit the development of all civilised
people from the savage state--and that no geologist will now deny;
--let me ask them how it is that Europeans have advanced (this involving
a change in the structure of the brain), while others have remained in
the savage state, others in the pastoral condition, others fixed at a
certain point of culture, as the Hindus and the Chinese? The analogy is
perfect, and the answer is in either case the same. Those forms remain
stationary which are able to preserve their conditions of life
unchanged. The savages of the primeval forest, when the game is
exhausted in one region, migrate to another region where game exists.
They remain therefore in the hunting state. The shepherds of the
boundless plains, when one pasture is devoured by their flocks, migrate
to another pasture where they find grass and water in abundance. But
when, in a land like Egypt, the inhabitants are confined to a certain
tract of land they are unable to evade the famine of food produced by
the vicissitudes of nature and the law of population; they are compelled
to invent in order to subsist; new modes of life, new powers, new
desires, new sentiments arise; and the human animal is changed. Then a
second period of immobility arrives; by means of despotism, caste,
slavery, and infanticide, the status quo is preserved.

In the primeval sea the conditions of life were constantly changing, but
its inmates could usually keep them constant by migration. For instance,
let us imagine a species accustomed to dwell at the bottom of the sea,
feeding on the vegetable matter and oxygen gas which come down by liquid
diffusion from the waters of the surface. By elevation of the sea-bed,
or by the deposit of sediment from rivers, that part of the sea which
this species inhabits becomes gradually shallow and light. The animal
would migrate into deep dark water, and would therefore undergo no
change. But let us suppose that it is prevented from migrating by a wall
of rocks. It would then be exposed to light, and to other novel forces,
and it would either change or die.

Here progress is the result of absolute necessity, and such must always
be the case. Animals which inhabit the waters have no innate desire to
make acquaintance with the land; but it sometimes happens that they live
in shallow places, where they are left uncovered at low water for a
certain time, and so in the course of geological periods the species
becomes amphibious in habit; and then the hard struggle for life in the
water, with the abundance of food upon the land, leads them to adopt
terrestrial life. There are creatures now existing of whom it is not
easy to say whether they belong to the water or the land: there are
fishes which walk about on shore, and climb trees: It is not difficult
to imagine such animals as these deserting the water, and entirely
living upon land.

But the development of life, in its varied aspects, must always remain
incomprehensible to those who have not studied the noble science of
geology, or who at least have not made themselves acquainted with its
chief results. Unless the student understands what extraordinary
transformation scenes have taken place upon the globe, all that is now
land, having formerly been sea, and all that is now sea having formerly
been land, not only once, but again, and again, and again; unless he
understands that these changes have been produced by the same gradual,
and apparently insignificant, causes as those which are now at work
before our eyes; the sea gnawing away the cliff upon the shore; the
river carrying soil to the sea; the glacier gliding down the mountain
slope; the iceberg bearing huge boulders to mid ocean; the coralline
insects building archipelagoes; the internal fires suddenly spouting
forth stones and ashes, or slowly upheaving continents; unless he fully
understands how deliberate is Nature's method, how prodigal she is of
time, how irregular and capricious she is in all her operations--he
will never cease to wonder that allied forms should be distributed in
apparent disorder and confusion, instead of being arranged on a regular
ascending scale. And, moreover, unless he understands how Nature, like
the Sibyl, destroys her own books, he will never cease to wonder at
missing links.

For it is not one missing link, but millions, that we require. It would
however be just as reasonable to expect to find every book that ever was
written; every clay tablet that ever was baked in the printing ovens of
Chaldaea; every rock that was ever inscribed; every obelisk that was
ever engraved, every temple wall that was ever painted with
hieroglyphics, as to expect to find every fossil of importance. Where
are the missing links in literature, and where are the primeval forms?
Where are the ancient Sanskrit hymns that were written without ink on
palm leaves with an iron pen? Where are the thousands of Hebrew bibles
that were written before the tenth century A.D.? Where are the lost
books of the Romans and the Greeks? We know that many manuscripts have
been consumed in great fires; the fire of Alexandria in the time of
Julius Caesar, which no doubt destroyed papyri that could never be
replaced; the fire in the time of Omar; the fires lighted by Popes and
reverend Fathers of the Church; and the fire of Constantinople during
the Crusades, which robbed us for ever of Arian's history of the
successors of Alexander; Ctesias' history of Persia, and his description
of India; several books of Diodorus, Agatharcides, and Polybius; twenty
orations of Demosthenes, and the Odes of Sappho. But the material of
books, whether paper or parchment, bark, clay, or stone, is always of a
perishable nature, and, under ordinary circumstances, is destroyed
sooner or later by the action of the atmosphere. Were it not that books
can be copied, what would remain to us of the literature of the past?

In a rainless country such as Egypt, which is a museum of Nature, a
monumental land, not only painted and engraven records, but even paper
scrolls of an immense antiquity, have been preserved. But if we add to
these the rock inscriptions, the printed bricks, and inscribed cylinders
of Western Asia, how scanty and fortuitous are the remains! Let us now
remember that fossils cannot be copied; once destroyed, they are for
ever lost. Is it wonderful, therefore, that so few should be left? Fires
greater than those of Alexandria and Constantinople are ever burning
beneath our feet; at this very moment a precious library may be in
flames. Yet that is not the worst. The action of air and water is fatal
to the archives of Nature, which it is not part of Nature's plan to
preserve for our instruction. Those animals which have neither bones nor
shells are at once destroyed; and those which possess a solid framework
are only preserved under special and exceptional conditions. The marvel
is not that we find so little, but that we find so much. The development
of man from the lower animals is now an authenticated fact. We believe,
therefore, that connecting links between man and some ape-like animal
existed for the same reason that we believe the Second Decade of Livy
existed. It is not impossible that the missing books of Livy may be,
discovered at some future day beneath the Italian soil. It is not
impossible that forms intermediate between man and his ape-like
ancestors may be discovered in the unexplored strata of equatorial
Africa, or the Indian Archipelago. But either event is improbable in the
extreme; and the existence of such intermediate forms will be admitted
by the historians of the next generation, whether they are found or not.

We shall now proceed to describe the rise and progress of the mental
principle. The origin of mind is an inscrutable mystery, but so is the
origin of matter. If we go back to the beginning we find a world of gas,
the atoms of which were kept asunder by excessive heat. Where did those
atoms come from? How were they made? What were they made for? In reply
to these questions theology is garrulous, but science is dumb.

Mind is a property of matter. Matter is inhabited by mind. There can be
no mind without matter; there can be no matter without mind. When the
matter is simple in its composition, its mental tendencies are also
simple; the atoms merely tend to approach one another and to cohere; and
as matter under the influence of varied forces (evolved by the cooling o
the world) becomes more varied in its composition, its mental tendencies
become more and more numerous, more and more complex, more and more
elevated, till at last they are developed into the desires and
propensities of the animal, into the aspirations and emotions of the
man. But the various tendencies which inhabit the human mind, and which
devote it to ambition, to religion, or to love, are not in reality more
wonderful than the tendency which impels two ships to approach each
other in a calm. For what can be more wonderful than that which can
never be explained? The difference between the mind of the ship and the
mind of man is the difference between the acorn and the oak.

The simplest atoms are attracted to one another merely according to
distance and weight. That is the law of gravitation. But the compound
atoms, which are called elements, display a power of selection. A will
unite itself to C in preference to B; and if D passes by, will divorce
itself from C, and unite itself to D. Such compounds of a compound are
still more complex in their forms, and more varied in their minds.
Water, which is composed of two gases--oxygen and hydrogen--when
hot, becomes a vapour; when cold, becomes a crystal. In the latter case
it displays a structural capacity. Crystals assume particular forms
according to the substances of which they are composed; they may be
classed into species, and if their forms are injured by accident, they
have the power of repairing their structure by imbibing matter from
without. A live form is the result of matter subjected to certain
complex forces, the chief of which is the chemical power of the sun. It
is continually being injured by the wear and tear of its own activity;
it is continually darning and stitching its own life. After a certain
period of time it loses its self-mending power, and consequently dies.
The crystal grows from without by simple accretions or putting on of
coats. The plant or animal grows and re-grows from within by means of a
chemical operation. Moreover, the crystal is merely an individual; the
plant or animal is the member of a vast community; before it dies, and
usually as it dies, it produces a repetition of itself. The mental
forces which inhabit the primeval jelly-dot are more complex than those
which inhabit the crystal; but those of the crystal are more complex
than those of a gas, and those of a gas than those of the true
elementary atoms which know only two forces--attraction and repulsion
--the primeval "Pull and Push," which lie at the basis of all Nature's

The absorption of food and the repetition of form in the animal are not
at first to be distinguished from that chemical process which is termed
growth. Then from this principle of growth, the root of the human
flower, two separated instincts like twin seed-leaves arise. The first
is the propensity to preserve self-life by seeking food; from this
instinct of self-preservation our intellectual faculties have been
derived. The second is the propensity to preserve the life of the
species; and from this instinct of reproduction our moral faculties have
been derived.

The animal at first absorbs its food and unites with its mate as blindly
and as helplessly as the crystal shapes itself into its proper form, as
oxygen combines with hydrogen, or as ships roll towards each other in a
calm. How then can a line be drawn between the inorganic and the
organic, the lifeless and the alive? The cell that vibrates in the
water, and the crystal that forms in the frost, are each the result of
certain forces over which they have no control. But as the body of the
animal is developed in complexity, by the action of complex forces,
certain grey lumps of matter make their appearance within its structure,
and out of these rises a spirit which introduces the animal to himself,
which makes him conscious of his own existence. He becomes aware that he
is alive; that he has an appetite; and that other animals have an
appetite for him. His mind, though feeble and contracted, is improved by
experience. He devises stratagems to avoid his enemies, or to seize his
prey. At certain seasons he becomes conscious of his desire for a mate
and that which, with his ancestors, was a blind tendency, an inherited
part of growth, becomes with him a passion brightened by intelligence.

It is usually supposed that the transition of an ape-like animal into
man is the most remarkable event in the history of animated forms. But
this idea arises from human vanity and ignorance. The most remarkable
event, after the origin of life, is certainly that to which we now
allude; the first glimmering of consciousness and reason. Yet even here
we can draw no dividing line. The animal becomes conscious that he
desires food, and at certain periods, a mate; but the desires themselves
are not new; they existed and they ruled him long before. When developed
to a certain point, he begins to "take notice," as the nurses say; but
his nature remains the same, However, this intelligence becomes in time
itself a force, and gradually obtains to some extent the faculty of
directing the forces by which the animal was once despotically ruled. By
an effort of the human brain, for example, the reproductive force, or
tendency, or instinct, can be obliterated and suppressed.

What we have to say, then, respecting the origin of our early ancestors
is this: That when matter was subjected to a complicated play of forces,
chief among which was solar influence, plants and animals came into
life; and that when animals were subjected to an ever-increasing variety
of forces, they became varied in their structure; and that when their
structure had attained a certain measure of variety they became
conscious of their own existence; and that then Nature endowed them with
the faculty of preserving their lives and that of their species by means
of their own conscious efforts. Next, it will be shown that the
successful competitors in the struggle for existence not only obtained
the food and females for which they strove, but also, by means of the
efforts which they made in order to obtain them, raised themselves
unconsciously in the animated scale. And lastly, we shall find that men
who, in the savage state, are little better than the brutes, their lives
being absorbed in the business of self-preservation and reproduction,
are now in the civilised condition becoming conscious of the scheme of
Nature, and are beginning to assist her by the methodical improvement of
their mental powers.

The lower animals have a hard matter to earn their daily bread, and to
preserve their children from starvation; and with them the course of
true love does not by any means run smooth. Since only a few can succeed
in the scramble for food, and not all can obtain mates, for polygamy
frequently prevails, it follows as a matter of necessity that those
animals which are the strongest, the swiftest, and the most intelligent
will survive and leave offspring, and by the continued survival of the
fittest the animated world improves from generation to generation, and
rises in the scale. So far as strength and swiftness are concerned,
limits are placed upon improvement. But there are no limits to the
improvement of intelligence. We find in the lower kingdom muscular power
in its perfection; but the brain is always imperfect, always young,
always growing, always capable of being developed. In writing the
history of animal progress we must therefore concentrate our attention
upon the brain, and we shall find that the development of that organ is
in great measure due to the influence of the affections.

Whether Nature has placed pain at the portals of love throughout the
animal kingdom as she has at the portals of maternity, or whatever may
be the cause, it is certain that the female flees from the male at the
courting season, and that he captures her by means of his strength,
swiftness, dexterity, or cunning, in the same manner as he obtains his
prey. He is also obliged to fight duels in order to possess or to retain
her, and thus his courage is developed. But at a later period in animal
life a more peaceable kind of courtship comes into vogue. The females
become queens. They select their husbands from a crowd of admirers, who
strive to please them with their colours, their perfumes, or their
music. The cavaliers, adorned in their bright wedding suits, which they
wear only at the lovemaking season, display themselves before the
dames. Others serenade them with vocal song, or by means of an apparatus
fitted to the limbs, which corresponds to instrumental music. Rival
troubadours will sing before their lady, as she sits in her leafy bower
till one of them is compelled to yield from sheer exhaustion, and a
feathered hero has been known to sing till he dropped down dead. At this
period sexual timidity becomes a delicious coyness which arouses the
ardour of the male. Thus love is born: it is brought forth by the
association of ideas. The desire of an animal to satisfy a want grows
into an affection beyond and independent of the want.

In the same manner the love of the young for its parents grows out of
its liking for the food which the parents supply; and the love of
parents for the young, though more obscure, may perhaps also be
explained by association. The mother no doubt believes the offspring to
be part of herself, as it was in fact but a short time before, and thus
feels for it a kind of self-love. The affection of the offspring for the
parents, and of parents for the offspring, and of spouses for each
other, at first endures only for a season. But when the intelligence of
the animals has risen to a certain point, their powers of memory are
improved, they recognise their parents, their spouses, their young, long
after the business of the nest is over, and consort together to renew
their caresses and endearments. In this manner the flock is formed; it
is based upon domestic love. And soon experience teaches them the
advantages of union. They are the better able when in flocks to obtain
food, and to defend themselves against their foes. They accordingly
dwell together, and by means of their social habits their intelligence
is quickened, their affections are enlarged. The members of animal
societies possess in a marvellous degree the power of co-operation, the
sentiment of fidelity to the herd. By briefly describing what the lower
animals do, and what they feel, we shall show that they possess in a
dispersed and elementary condition all the materials of which human
nature is composed.

In their communities there is sometimes a regular form of government and
a division into castes. They have their monarch, their labourers, and
soldiers, who are sterile females like the Amazons of Dahomey. They have
slaves which they capture by means of military expeditions, attacking
the villages of their victims and carrying off the prisoners in their
mouths. They afterwards make the slaves carry them. They have domestic
animals which they milk. They form alliances with animals of a foreign
species or nationality and admit them into the community when it can be
profited thereby. They build houses or towns which are ingeniously
constructed, and which, in proportion to the size of the architects, are
greater than the Pyramids. They have clubhouses or salons which they
decorate with flowers and bright shells. They march in regular order;
when they feed they post sentries which utter alert cries from time to
time, just as our sentries cry "All's well." They combine to execute
punishment, expelling or killing an ill-conducted member of the tribe.
As among savages, the sick and the weakly are usually killed: though
sometimes they are kept alive by alms; even the blind being fed by
charitable persons. They labour incessantly for the welfare of the
community; they bear one another's burdens; they fight with indomitable
courage for the fatherland, and endeavour to rescue a comrade even
against overwhelming odds. The domestic virtues are strong among them.
Their conjugal love is often intense and pure; spouses have been known
to pine to death when parted from each other. But if they have human
virtues, they have also human vices; conjugal infidelity is known among
them; and some animals appear to be profligate by nature. They are
exceedingly jealous. They sport, and gamble, and frisk, and caress, and
kiss each other, putting mouth to mouth. They shed tears. They utter
musical sounds in tune. They are cleanly in their persons. They are
ostentatious and vain, proud of their personal appearance, bestowing
much time upon their toilet. They meditate and execute revenge, keeping
in memory those who have offended them. They dream. They are capable of
reflection and selection; they deliberate between two opposite desires.
They are inquisitive and often fall victims to their passion for
investigating every object which they have not seen before. They profit
by experience; they die wiser than they were born, and though their
stock of knowledge in great measure dies with them, their young ones
acquire some of it by means of inheritance and imitation.

These remarkable mental powers were acquired by the lower animals partly
through the struggle to obtain food, which sharpened their intelligence;
and partly through the struggle to obtain the favours of the females,
which developed their affections. In all cases, progress resulted from
necessity. Races change only that they may not die; they are developed,
so to speak, in self-defence. They have no inherent tendency to rise in
the organic scale as plants grow to their flower, as animals grow to
their prime. They have, however, a capacity for progress, and that is
called forth by circumstances acting upon them from without. The law of
growth in the lower kingdom is this, that all progress is preceded by
calamity, that all improvement is based upon defect. This law affords us
the clue to a phenomenon which at first is difficult to understand. That
animal which has triumphed over all the rest was exceedingly defective
in its physique. The race has not been to the swift, nor the battle to
the strong. But the very defects of that animal's body made it
exclusively rely upon its mind; and when the struggle for life became
severe, the mind was improved by natural selection, and the animal was
slowly developed into man.

Our ape-like ancestors were not unlike the existing gorilla, chimpanzee,
and orang-utang. They lived in large herds and were prolific; polygamy
was in vogue, and at the courting season love-duels were fought among
the males. They chiefly inhabited the ground, but ascended the trees in
search of fruit, and also built platforms of sticks and leaves, on which
the females were confined, and which were occasionally used as
sleeping-places, just as birds sometimes roost in old nests. These
animals went on all fours, rising to the upright posture now and then,
in order to see some object at a distance, but supporting that posture
with difficulty, holding on to a branch with one hand. They were slow in
their movements; their body was almost naked, so scantily was it clothed
with hair; the males had but poorly developed tusks, or canine teeth;
the ears were flattened from disuse, and had no longer the power of
being raised; the tail as in all great apes had disappeared beneath the
skin. This defenceless structure resulted from the favourable conditions
under which, during many ages, these animals had lived. They inhabited a
warm tropical land; they had few enemies, and abundant food; their
physical powers had been enfeebled by disuse, But nothing is ever lost
in nature. What had become of the force which had once been expended on
agility and strength? It had passed into the brain.

The chimpanzee is not so large a creature or so strong as the gorilla;
but, as I was informed by the natives in that country where the two
species exist together, the chimpanzee is the more intelligent of the
two. In the same manner our ape-like ancestors were inferior to the
chimpanzee in strength and activity, and its superior in mental powers.

All gregarious animals have a language, by means of which they
communicate with one another, Some times their language is that of
touch: cut off the antennae of the ant, and it is dumb. With most
animals the language is that of vocal sound, and its varied intonations
of anger, joy, or grief may be distinguished even by the human ear.
Animals have also their alarm-cries, their love-calls, and sweet
murmuring plaintive sounds, which are uttered only by mothers as they
fondle and nurse their young. The language of our progenitors consisted
of vocal sounds, and also movements of the hands. The activity of mind
and social affection developed in these animals through the Law of
Compensation, made them fond of babbling and gesturing to one another,
and thus their language was already of a complicated nature, when events
occurred which developed it still more. Owing to causes remotely
dependent on geological revolutions, dark days fell upon these
creatures. Food became scanty; enemies surrounded them. The continual
presence of danger, the habit of incessant combat, drew them more
closely together. Their defects of activity and strength made them rely
on one another for protection. Nothing now but their unexampled power of
combination could save their lives. This power of combination was
entirely dependent upon their language, which was developed and improved
until at length it passed into a new stage. The first stage of language
is that of intonation, in which the ideas are arranged on a chromatic
scale. We still use this language in conversing with our dogs, who
perfectly understand the difference between the curses, not loud but
deep, which are vented on their heads, and the caressing sounds, which
are usually uttered in falsetto; while we understand the growl, the
whine, and the excited yelp of joy.

The new stage of language was that of imitation. Impelled partly by
necessity, partly by social love, combined with mental activity, these
animals began to notify events to one another by imitative sounds,
gestures, and grimaces. For instance, when they wished to indicate the
neighbourhood of a wild beast, they gave a low growl; they pointed in a
certain direction; they shaped their features to resemble his; they
crawled stealthily along with their belly crouched to the ground. To
imitate water, they bubbled with their mouths; they grubbed with their
hands and pretended to eat, to show that they had discovered roots. The
pleasure and profit obtained from thus communicating their ideas to one
another led them to invent conversation. Language passed into its third
stage--the conventional or artificial. Certain objects were pointed
out, and certain sounds were uttered, and it was agreed that those
sounds should always signify the objects named. At first this
conventional language consisted only of substantives; each word
signified an object, and was a sentence in itself. Afterwards adjectives
and verbs were introduced; and lastly words, which had at first been
used for physical objects, were applied to the nomenclature of ideas.

Combination is a method of resistance; language is the instrument of
combination. Language, therefore, may be considered the first weapon of
our species, and was improved, as all weapons would be, by that long,
never-ceasing war, the battle of existence. Our second weapon was the
hand. With monkeys the hand is used as a foot, and the foot is
used as a hand. But when the hand began to be used for throwing
missiles, it was specialised more and more, and feet were required to do
all the work of locomotion. This separation of the foot and hand is the
last instance of the physiological division of labour; and when it was
effected, the human frame became complete. The erect posture was
assumed; that it is modern and unnatural is shown by the difficulty with
which it is maintained for any length of time. The centre of gravity
being thus shifted, certain alterations were produced in the physical
appearance of the species; since that time, however, the human body has
been but slightly changed, the distinctions which exist between the
races of men being unimportant and external. Such as they are, they have
been produced by differences of climate and food acting indirectly upon
the races throughout geological periods; and it is also possible that
these distinctions of hair and skin were chiefly acquired at a time when
man's intelligence being imperfectly developed, his physical
organisation was more easily moulded by external conditions than was
afterwards the case. For while with the lower animals the conditions by
which they are surrounded can produce alterations throughout their whole
structure, or in any part; with men, they can produce an alteration only
in the brain. For instance, a quadruped inhabits a region which, owing
to geological changes, is gradually assuming an Arctic character. In the
course of some hundreds or thousands of centuries the species puts on a
coat of warm fur, which is either white in colour, or which turns white
at the snowy period of the year. But when man is exposed to similar
conditions he builds a warm house and kills certain animals, that he may
wear their skins. By these means he evades the changed conditions so far
as his general structure is concerned. But his brain has been indirectly
altered by the climate. Courage, industry, and ingenuity have been
called forth by the struggle for existence; the brain is thereby
enlarged, and the face assumes a more intelligent expression.

Of such episodes the ancient history of man was composed. He was ever
contending with the forces of nature, with the wild beasts of the
forest, and with the members of his own species outside his clan. In
that long and varied struggle his intelligence was developed. His first
invention, as might be supposed, was an improvement in the art of
murder. The lower animals sharpen their claws and whet their tusks. It
was merely an extension of this instinct which taught the primeval men
to give point and edge to their sticks and stones; and out of this first
invention the first great discovery was made. While men were patiently
rubbing sticks to point them into arrows, a spark leapt forth and
ignited the wood-dust which had been scraped from the sticks. Thus fire
was found. By a series of accidents its uses were revealed. Its
possessors cooked their food, and so were improved in health and vigour
both of body and of mind. They altered the face of nature by burning
down forests. By burning the withered grass they favoured the growth of
the young crop, and thus attracted, in the prairie lands, thousands of
wild animals to their fresh green pastures. With the assistance of fire
they felled trees and hollowed logs into canoes. They hardened the
points of stakes in the embers; and with their new weapons were able to
attack the mammoth, thrusting their spears through his colossal throat.
They made pots. They employed their new servant in agriculture and in
metallurgy. They used it also as a weapon; they shot flaming arrows, or
hurled fiery javelins against the foe. Above all, they prepared, by
means of fire, the vegetable poison which they discovered in the woods;
and this invention must have created a revolution in the art of ancient
war. There is a custom in East Africa for the king to send fire to his
vassals, who extinguish all the fires on their hearths, and re-light
them from the brand which the envoy brings. It is possible that this may
be a relic of tribe subjection to the original fire tribe: it is certain
that the discovery of fire would give the tribes which possessed it an
immense advantage over all the others. War was continually being waged
among the primeval men, and tribes were continually driven, by battle or
hunger, to seek new lands. As hunters they required vast areas on which
to live, and so were speedily dispersed over the whole surface of the
globe, and adopted various habits and vocations according to the
localities in which they dwelt. But they took with them, from their
common home, the elements of those pursuits. The first period of human
history may be entitled forest-life. The forest was the womb of our
species, as the ocean was that of all our kind. In the dusky twilight of
the primeval woods the nations were obscurely born. While men were yet
in the hunting stage, while they were yet mere animals of prey, they
made those discoveries by means of which they were afterwards formed
into three great families--the pastoral, the maritime, and the

When a female animal is killed, the young one, fearing to be alone,
often follows the hunter home; it is tamed for sport, and when it is
discovered that animals can be made useful, domestication is
methodically pursued. While men were yet in the forest they tamed only
the dog to assist them in hunting, and perhaps the fowl as an article of

But when certain tribes, driven by enemies or by starvation from their
old haunts, entered the prairie land, clad in skins or bark-cloth,
taking with them their fire-sticks, and perhaps some blacksmith's tools,
they adopted breeding as their chief pursuit, and subdued to their
service the buffalo, the sheep, the goat, the camel, the horse, and the
ass. At first these animals were merely used as meat; next, their
milk-giving powers were developed, and so a daily food was obtained
without killing the animal itself; then they were broken in to carry
burdens, to assist their masters in the chase and in war; and clothes
and houses were manufactured from their skins.

The forest tribes who settled on the banks of rivers learnt to swim and
to make nets, fish-traps, rafts, and canoes. When they migrated they
followed the river, and so were carried to the sea. Then the ocean
became their fish-pond. They learnt to build large canoes, with mast and
matting sails; they followed the fish far away; lost the land at night,
or in a storm; discovered new shores, returned home, and again set out
as colonists, with their wives and families, to the lands which they had
found. By such means the various tribes were dispersed beyond the seas.

Thirdly, when the tribes were in the forest condition they lived partly
upon roots and berries, partly upon game. The men hunted, and the women
collected the vegetable food, upon which they subsisted exclusively
during the absence of their husbands. When the habitations of a clan
were fixed, it often happened that the supply of edible plants in the
neighbourhood would be exhausted, and starvation suggested the idea of
sowing and transplanting. Agriculture was probably a female invention;
it was certainly at first a female occupation. The bush was burnt down
to clear a place for the crop, and the women, being too idle to remove
the ashes from the soil, cast the seed upon them. The ashes acting as
manure, garden varieties of the eating plants appeared. Among the
pastoral people, the seed-bearing grasses were also cultivated into
large-grained corn. But as long as the tribes could migrate from one
region to another, agriculture was merely a secondary occupation, and
was left, for the most part, in female hands. It was when a tribe was
imprisoned in a valley with mountains or deserts all around that
agriculture became their main pursuit, as breeding was that of the
shepherd wanderers, and fishing that of the people on the shore.

The pastoral tribes had a surplus supply of meat, milk, wool, and the
rude products of the ancient loom. The marine tribes had salt and smoked
fish. The agricultural tribes had garden-roots and grain. Here, then, a
division of labour had arisen among the tribes; and if only they could
be blended together, a complete nation would be formed. But the butcher
tribes, the fishmonger tribes, and the baker tribes lived apart from one
another; they were timid, ferocious, and distrustful; their languages
were entirely distinct. They did not dare to communicate with one
another, except to carry on dumb barter, as it is called. A certain
tribe, for example, who desired salt approached the frontier of the
sea-coast people, lighted a fire as a signal, and laid down some meat or
flour. They then retired; the coast tribe came up, laid down salt, and
also retired. The meat or flour tribe again went to the spot; and if the
salt was sufficient, they took it away; if not, they left it untouched,
to indicate that they required more; and so they chaffered a
considerable time, each bid consisting of a promenade.

It is evident that such a system of trade might go on for ages without
the respective tribes becoming better acquainted with each other. It is
only by means of war and of religion that the tribes can be compressed
into the nation. The shepherd tribes had a natural aptitude for war.
They lived almost entirely on horseback; they attacked wild beasts in
hand-to-hand conflict on the open plain, and they often fought with one
another for a pasture or a well. They were attracted by the crops of the
agricultural people, whom they conquered with facility. Usually they
preferred their roaming life, and merely exacted a tribute of corn. But
sometimes a people worsted in war, exiled from their pastures, wandering
homeless through the sandy deserts, discovered a fruitful river plain,
in which they settled down, giving up their nomad habits, but keeping
their flocks and herds. They reduced the aborigines to slavery; made
some of them labourers in the fields; others were appointed to tend
the flocks; others were sent to the river or the coast to fish; others
were taught the arts of the distaff and the loom; others were made to
work as carpenters and smiths. The wives of the shepherd conquerors were
no longer obliged to milk the cows and camels, and to weave clothes and
tents; they became ladies, and were attended by domestic slaves. Their
husbands became either military nobles or learned priests; the
commander-in-chief or patriarch became the king. Foreign wars led to
foreign commerce, and the priest developed the resources of the country.
The simple fabrics of the old tent life were refined in texture and
beautified with dyes; the potter's clay was converted into fine
porcelain and glass, the blacksmith's shop became a manufactory of
ornamented arms; ingenious machines were devised for the irrigation of
the soil the arts and sciences were adopted by the government, and
employed in the service of the state.

Here then we have a nation manufactured by means of war. Religion is
afterwards useful as a means of keeping the conquered people in
subjection; but in this case it plays only a secondary part. In another
class of nationalities, however, religion operates as the prime agent.

When the human herd first wandered through the gloomy and gigantic
forest, sleeping on reed platforms in the trees, or burrowing in holes,
there was no government but that of force. The strongest man was the
leader, and ceased to be the leader when he ceased to be the strongest.
But as the minds of men became developed, the ruler was elected by the
members of the clan, who combined to depose him if he exceeded his
rightful powers; and chiefs were chosen not only for their strength, but
also sometimes for their beauty, and sometimes on account of their
intelligence. These chiefs possessed but little power; they merely
expressed and executed the voice of the majority. But when it was
believed that the soul was immortal, or, in other words, that there were
ghosts; when it was believed that the bodies of men were merely
garments, and that the true inmates were spirits, whom death stripped
bare of flesh and blood, but whom death was powerless to kill; when it
was believed that these souls or ghosts dwelt among the graves, haunted
their old homes, hovered round the scenes in which they had passed their
lives, and even took a part in human affairs, a theory arose that the
ghost of the departed chief was still the ruler of the clan, and that in
his spiritual state he could inflict terrible punishments on those by
whom he was offended, and could also bestow upon them good fortune in
hunting, in harvests, and in war. So then homage and gifts were rendered
to him at his grave. A child of his house became the master of the clan,
and professed to receive the commands of the deceased. For the first
time the chiefs were able to exercise power without employing force; but
this power had also its limits.

In the first place the chief feared he would be punished by the ghost if
he injured the people over whom he ruled, and there were always prophets
or seers who could see visions and dream dreams when the mind of the
people was excited against the chief. By means therefore of religion,
which at first consisted only in the fear of ghosts, the government of
the clan was improved; savage liberty or licence was restrained; the
young trembled before the old, whom previously they had eaten as soon as
they were useless. Religion was also of service in uniting separated
clans. In the forest, food was scanty; as soon as a clan expanded it was
forced to divide, and the separated part pursued an orbit of its own.
Savage dialects change almost day by day; the old people can always
speak a language which their grandchildren do not understand, and so, in
the course of a single generation, the two clans become foreigners and
foes to one another. But when ghost-worship had been established, the
members of the divided clans resorted to the holy graves at certain
seasons of the year to unite with the members of the parent clan in
sacrificing to the ancestral shades; the season of the pilgrimage was
made a Truce of God; a fair was held, at which trade and competitive
amusements were carried on. Yet still the clans or tribes had little
connection with one another, excepting at that single period of the
year. It was for war to continue the work which religion had begun. Some
times the tribes uniting invaded a foreign country, and founded an
empire of the kind which has already been described; then the army
became a nation, and the camp a town. In other cases the tribes, being
weaker than their neighbours, were compelled for their mutual protection
to draw together into towns, and to fortify themselves with walls.

In its original condition the town was a federation. Each family was a
little kingdom in itself, inhabiting a fortified cluster of dwellings,
having its own domestic religion, governed by its own laws. The
paterfamilias was king and priest; he could put to death any member of
his family. There was little distinction between the wives, the sons,
and the daughters, on the one hand, and the slaves, the oxen, and the
sheep on the other. These family fathers assembled in council, and
passed laws for their mutual convenience and protection. Yet these laws
were not national; they resembled treaties between foreign states; and
two houses would frequently go to war and fight pitched battles in the
streets without any interference from the commonwealth at large. If the
town progressed in power and intelligence, the advantages of
centralisation were perceived by all; the fathers were induced to
emancipate their children, and to delegate their royal power to a senate
or a king; each man was responsible for his own actions, and for them
alone; individualism was established. This important revolution, which,
as we have elsewhere shown, tends to produce the religious theory of
rewards and punishments in a future state, was itself in part produced
by the influence and teaching of the priests.

Besides the worship of the ancestral shades the ancient people adored
the great deities of nature who governed the woods and the waters, the
earth and the sky. When men died, it was supposed that they had been
killed by the gods; it was therefore believed that those who lived to a
good old age were special favourites of the divine beings. Many people
asked them by what means they had obtained the good graces of the gods.
With savages nothing is done gratis; the old men were paid for their
advice; and in course of time the oracle system was established. The old
men consulted the gods they at first advised, they next commanded what
gifts should be offered on the altar. They collected taxes, they issued
orders on the divine behalf. In the city of federated families the
priests formed a section entirely apart; they belonged not to this
house, or to that house, but to all; it was to their interest that the
families should be at peace; that a national religion should be
established; that the household gods or ancestral ghosts should be
degraded, that the despotism of the hearth should be destroyed. They
acted as peacemakers and arbitrators of disputes. They united the tribes
in the national sacrifice and the solemn dance. They preached the power
and grandeur of the gods. They became the tutors of the people; they
rendered splendid service to mankind. We are accustomed to look only at
the dark side of those ancient faiths; their frivolous and sanguinary
laws, their abominable offerings, their grotesque rites. Yet even the
pure and lofty religions of Confucius and Zoroaster; of Moses, and
Jesus, and Mohammed; of the Brahmins and the Buddhists, have not done so
much for man as those barbarous religions of the early days. They
established a tyranny, and tyranny was useful in the childhood of
mankind. The chiefs could only enact those laws which were indispensable
for the life of the community. But the priests were supposed to utter
the commands of invisible beings whose strange tempers could clearly be
read in the violent outbreaks and changing aspects of the sky. The more
irrational the laws of the priests appeared, the more evident it was
that they were not of man. Terror generated piety; wild savages were
tamed into obedience; they became the slaves of the unseen; they humbled
themselves before the priests, and implicitly followed their commands
that they might escape sickness, calamity, and sudden death; their minds
were subjected to a useful discipline; they acquired the habit of
self-denial, which like all habits can become a pleasure to the mind,
and can be transmitted as a tendency or instinct from generation to
generation. They were ordered to abstain from certain kinds of food; to
abstain from fishing and working in the fields on days sacred to the
gods of the waters and the earth; they were taught to give with
generosity not only in fear, but also in thanksgiving. Even the human
sacrifices which they made were sometimes acts of filial piety and of
tender love. They gave up the slaves whom they valued most to attend
their fathers in the under-world; or sent their souls as presents to the

But the chief benefit which religion conferred upon mankind, whether in
ancient or in modern times, was undoubtedly the oath. The priests taught
that if a promise was made in the name of the gods, and that promise was
broken, the gods would kill those who took their name in vain. Such is
the true meaning of the Third Commandment. Before that time treaties of
peace and contracts of every kind in which mutual confidence was
required could only be effected by the interchange of hostages. But now
by means of this purely theological device a verbal form became itself a
sacred pledge: men could at all times confide in one another; and
foreign tribes met freely together beneath the shelter of this useful
superstition which yet survives in our courts of law. In those days,
however, the oath required no law of perjury to sustain its terrors: as
Xenophon wrote, "He who breaks an oath defies the gods"; and it was
believed that the gods never failed sooner or later to take their

The priests, in order to increase their power, studied the properties of
plants, the movements of the stars; they cultivated music and the
imitative arts; reserving their knowledge to their own caste, they soon
surpassed in mental capacity the people whom they ruled. And being more
intelligent, they became also more moral, for the conscience is an organ
of the mind; it is strengthened and refined by the education of the
intellect. They learnt from Nature that there is unity in all her parts;
hence they believed that one god or man-like being had made the heavens
and the earth. At first this god was a despotic tithe-taker like
themselves; but as their own minds became more noble, and more pure; as
they began to feel towards the people a sentiment of paternity and love,
so God, the reflected image of their minds, rose into a majestic and
benignant being, and this idea reacted on their minds, as the
imagination of the artist is inspired by the masterpiece which he
himself has wrought. And, as the Venus of Milo and the Apollo
Belvedere have been endowed by man with a beauty more exquisite than can
be found on earth; a beauty that may well be termed divine; so the God
who is worshipped by elevated minds is a mental form endowed with power,
love, and virtue in perfection. The Venus and the Apollo are ideals of
the body; God is an ideal of the mind. Both are made by men; both are
superhuman in their beauty; both are human in their form. To worship the
image made of stone is to worship the work of the human hand. To worship
the image made of ideas is to worship the work of the human brain.
God-worship, therefore, is idolatry; but in the early ages of mankind
how fruitful of good was that error, how ennobling was that chimera of
the brain! For when the priests had sufficiently progressed in the
wisdom of morality to discover that men should act to others, as they
would have others act to them; and that they should never do in thought
what they would not do in deed; then these priests, the shepherds of the
people, desired to punish those who did evil, and to reward those who
did good to their fellow-men; and thus, always transferring their ideas
to the imaginary being whom they had created, and whom they adored, they
believed and they taught that God punished the guilty, that God rewarded
the good; and when they perceived that men are not requited in this
world according to their deeds, they believed and they taught that this
brief life is merely a preparation for another world; and that the souls
or ghosts will be condemned to eternal misery, or exalted to everlasting
bliss, according to the lives which they have led within the garment of
the flesh.

This belief, though not less erroneous than that on which the terrors of
the oath were based; this belief, though not less a delusion than the
faith in ghosts, of which, in fact, it is merely an extension; this
belief, though it will some day become pernicious to intellectual and
moral life, and has already plundered mankind of thousands and thousands
of valuable minds, exiling earnest and ardent beings from the
mainstream of humanity, entombing them in hermitage or cell, teaching
them to despise the gifts of the intellect which nature has bestowed,
teaching them to waste the precious years in barren contemplations and
in selfish prayers; this belief has yet undoubtedly assisted the
progress of the human race. In ancient life it exalted the imagination,
it purified the heart, it encouraged to virtue, it deterred from crime.
At the present day a tender sympathy for the unfortunate, a jealous care
for the principles of freedom, a severe public opinion, and a law
difficult to escape are the safeguards of society but there have been
periods in the history of man when the fear of hell was the only
restriction on the pleasure of the rulers; when the hope of heaven was
the only consolation in the misery of the ruled.

The doctrine of rewards and punishments in a future state is
comparatively modern; the authors of the Iliad, the authors of the
Pentateuch, had no conception of a heaven or a hell; they knew only
Hades or Scheol, where men dwelt as shadows, without pain, without joy;
where the wicked ceased from troubling and the weary were at rest. The
sublime conception of a single God was slowly and painfully attained by
a few civilised people in ancient times. The idea that God is a being of
virtue and of love has not been attained even in the present day except
by a cultivated few. Such is the frailty of the human heart that men,
even when they strive to imagine a perfect being, stain him with their
passions, and raise up an idol which is defective as a moral form. The
God of this country is called a God of love; but it is said that he
punishes the crimes and even the errors of a short and troubled life
with torture which will have no end. It is not even a man which
theologians create; for no man is quite without pity; no man, however
cruel he might be, could bear to gaze for ever on the horrors of the
fire and the rack; no man could listen for ever to voices shrieking with
pain, and ever crying out for mercy and forgiveness. And if such is the
character of the Christian God, if such is the idea which is worshipped
by compassionate and cultivated men, what are we to expect in a
barbarous age? The God of Job was a sultan of the skies, who, for a kind
of wager, allowed a faithful servant to be tortured, like that man who
performed vivisection on a favourite dog which licked his hand
throughout the operation. The Jehovah of the Pentateuch was a murderer
and bandit; he rejoiced in offerings of human flesh The gods of Homer
were lascivious and depraved. The gods of savages are merely savage

God, therefore, is an image of the mind, and that image is ennobled and
purified from generation to generation, as the mind becomes more noble
and more pure. Europeans believe in eternal punishment, partly because
it has been taught them in their childhood and because they have never
considered what it means; partly because their imaginations are
sluggish, and they are unable to realise its cruelty; and partly also,
it must be feared, because they have still the spirit of revenge and
persecution in their hearts. The author of Job created God in the image
of an Oriental king, and in the East it is believed that all men by
nature belong to the king, and that he can do no wrong.

The Bedouins of the desert abhorred incontinence as a deadly sin; but
brigandage and murder were not by them considered crimes. In the Homeric
period, piracy was a profession, and vices were the customs of the land.
The character of a god is that of the people who have made him. When,
therefore, I expose the crimes of Jehovah, I expose the defective
morality of Israel; and when I criticise the God of modern Europe, I
criticise the defective intellects of Europeans. The reader must
endeavour to bear this in mind, for, though he may think that his idea
of the creator is actually the Creator, that belief is not shared by me.

We shall now return to the forest and investigate the origin of
intellect; we shall first explain how the aptitude for science and for
art arose; and next how man first became gifted with the moral sense.

The desire to obtain food induces the animal to examine everything of
novel appearance which comes within its range of observation. The habit
is inherited and becomes an instinct, irrespective of utility. This
instinct is curiosity, which in many animals is so urgent a desire that
they will encounter danger rather than forego the examination of any
object which is new and strange. This propensity is inherited by man,
and again passes through a period of utility. When fire is first
discovered, experiments are made on all kinds of plants, with the view
of ascertaining what their qualities may be. The remarkable knowledge of
herbs which savages possess; their skill in preparing decoctions which
can act as medicines or as poisons, which can attract or repel wild
animals, is not the result of instinct but of experience; and, as with
the lower animals, the habit of food-seeking is developed into
curiosity, so the habit of searching for edibles, medicine, and poison
becomes the experimental spirit, the passion of inquiry which animates
the lifetime of the scientific man, and which makes him, even in his
last hours, observe his own symptoms with interest, and take notes on
death as it draws near. It has been said that genius is curiosity. That
instinct is at least an element of genius; it is the chief stimulant of
labour; it keeps the mind alive.

The artistic spirit is, in the same manner, developed from the imitative
instinct, the origin of which is more obscure than that of the
inquisitive propensity. However, its purpose is clear enough; the young
animal learns from its parent, by means of imitation, to feed, to
arrange its toilet with beak or tongue, and to perform all the other
offices of life. The hen, for instance, when she discovers food, pecks
the ground, not to eat, but to show her chickens how to eat, and they
follow her example. The young birds do not sing entirely by instinct,
they receive lessons from their parents. The instinct of imitation, so
essential to the young, remains more or less with the adult, and
outlives its original intent. Animals imitate one another, and with the
monkeys this propensity becomes a mania. It is inherited by men, with
whom even yet it is half an instinct, as is shown by the fact that all
persons, and especially the young, reflect, in spite of their own
efforts, the accent and the demeanour of those with whom they live. This
instinct, when adroitly managed, is a means of education; it is, in
fact, the first principle of progress. The Red Indians are not
imitative, and they have now nearly been destroyed; the negroes imitate
like monkeys, and what is the result? They are preachers, traders,
clerks, and artisans, all over the world, and there is no reason to
suppose that they will remain always in the imitative stage. With
respect to individuals it is the same. Paradoxical as it may appear, it
is only the imitative mind which can attain originality, the artist must
learn to copy before he can create. Mozart began by imitating Bach;
Beethoven began by copying Mozart. Molière mimicked the Greek dramatists
before he learnt to draw from the world. The many-sided character of
Goethe's mind, which has made him a marvel among men, was based upon his
imitative instincts; it has been said that he was like a chameleon,
taking the hue of the ground on which he fed. What, in fact, is
emulation but a noble form of imitativeness? Michaelangelo saw a man
modelling in clay in the garden of Lorenzo, and was seized with the
desire to become a sculptor; and most men who have chosen their own
vocation could trace its origin in the same way to some imitative

Among the primeval men this instinct, together with wonder and the taste
for beauty, explains the origin of art: The tendency to reproduce with
the hand whatever pleases and astonishes the mind, undoubtedly begins at
an early period in the history of man; pictures were drawn in the period
of the mammoth; I once saw a boy from a wild bush tribe look at a ship
with astonishment and then draw it on the sand with a stick. It
frequently happens in savage life, that a man is seized with a passion
for representing objects, and such a Giotto is always invited, and
perhaps, paid, to decorate walls and doors. With this wall-painting the
fine arts began. Next the outlines were engraved with a knife, making a
figure in relief. Next came a statue with the back adhering to the wall,
and lastly the sculptured figure was entirely detached. In the same
manner painting was also separated from the wall; and mural painting was
developed into another form of art. By means of a series of pictures a
story was told; the picture-writing was converted into hieroglyphics,
and thence into a system of alphabetical signs. Thus the statue, the
picture, and the book are all descended from such figures as those which
savages scrawl with charcoal on their hut walls, and which seldom bear
much resemblance to the thing portrayed. The genius of art and the
genius of science are developed by means of priesthoods and religion but
when a certain point has been attained, they must be divorced from
religion, or they will cease to progress.

And now, finally, with respect to music. There is a science of music;
but music is not a science. Nor is it an imitative art. It is a

Words at first were rather sung than spoken, and sentences were
rhythmical. The conversation of the primeval men was conducted in verse
and song; at a later period they invented prose; they used a method of
speech which was less pleasing to the ear, but better suited for the
communication of ideas. Poetry and music ceased to be speech, and became
an art, as pantomime, which once was a part of speech, is now an art
exhibited upon the stage. Poetry and music at first were one; the bard
was a minstrel, the minstrel was a bard. The same man was composer,
poet, vocalist, and instrumentalist, and instrument-maker. He wrote the
music and the air; as he sang he accompanied himself upon the harp, and
he also made the harp. When writing came into vogue the arts of the poet
and the musician were divided, and music again was divided into the
vocal and the instrumental, and finally instrument-making became a
distinct occupation, to which fact may partly be ascribed the
superiority of modern music to that of ancient times.

The human language of speech bears the same relation to the human
language of song as the varied bark of the civilised dog to its sonorous
howl. There seems little in common between the lady who sings at the
piano and the dog who chimes in with jaws opened and nose upraised; yet
each is making use of the primitive language of its race the wild dog
can only howl, the wild woman can only sing.

Gestures with us are still used as ornaments of speech, and some savage
languages are yet in so imperfect a condition that gestures are
requisite to elucidate the words. Gestures are relics of the primeval
language, and so are musical sounds. With the dog of the savage there is
much howl in its bark: its voice is in a transitional condition. The
peasants of all countries sing in their talk, and savages resemble the
people in the opera. Their conversation is of a "libretto" character; it
glitters with hyperbole and metaphor, and they frequently speak in
recitative, chanting or intoning, and ending every sentence in a
musically sounded O! Often also in the midst of conversation, if a man
happens to become excited, he will sing instead of speaking what he has
to say; the other also replies in song, while the company around, as if
touched by a musical wave, murmur a chorus in perfect unison, clapping
their hands, undulating their bodies, and perhaps breaking forth into a

Just as the articulate or conventional speech has been developed into
rich and varied tongues, by means of which abstract ideas and delicate
emotions can be expressed in appropriate terms, so the inarticulate or
musical speech, the true, the primitive language of our race, has been
developed with the aid of instruments into a rich and varied language of
sound in which poems can be composed. When we listen to the sublime and
mournful sonatas of Beethoven, when we listen to the tender melodies of
Bellini, we fall into a trance; the brain burns and swells; its doors
fly open; the mind sweeps forth into an unknown world where all is dim,
dusky, unutterably vast; gigantic ideas pass before us; we attempt to
seize them, to make them our own, but they vanish like shadows in our
arms. And then, as the music becomes soft and low, the mind returns and
nestles to the heart; the senses are steeped in languor; the eyes fill
with tears; the memories of the past take form; and a voluptuous sadness
permeates the soul, sweet as the sorrow of romantic youth when the real
bitterness of life was yet unknown.

What, then, is the secret of this power in music? And why should certain
sounds from wood and wire thus touch our very heart strings to their
tune? It is the voice of Nature which the great composers combine into
harmony and melody; let us follow it downwards and downwards in her deep
bosom, and there we discover music, the speech of passion, of sentiment,
of emotion, and of love; there we discover the divine language in its
elements; the sigh, the gasp, the melancholy moan, the plaintive note of
supplication, the caressing murmur of maternal love, the cry of
challenge or of triumph, the song of the lover as he serenades his mate.

The spirit of science arises from the habit of seeking food; the spirit
of art arises from the habit of imitation, by which the young animal
first learns to feed; the spirit of music arises from primeval speech,
by means of which males and females are attracted to each other. But the
true origin of these instincts cannot be ascertained: it is impossible
to account for primary phenomena. There are some who appear to suppose
that this world is a stage-play, and that if we pry into it too far, we
shall discover ropes and pulleys behind the scenes, and that so
agreeable illusions will be spoiled. But the great masters of modern
science are precisely those whom Nature inspires with most reverence and
awe. For as their minds are wafted by their wisdom into untravelled
worlds, they find new fields of knowledge expanding to the view; the
firmament ever expands, the abyss deepens, the horizon recedes. The
proximate Why may be discovered; the ultimate Why is unrevealed. Let us
take, for instance, a single law. A slight change invigorates the
animal; and so the offspring of the pair survive the offspring of the
single individual. Hence the separation of the sexes, desire, affection,
family love, combination, gregariousness, clan-love, the Golden Rule,
nationality, patriotism, and the religion of humanity, with all those
complex sentiments and emotions which arise from the fact that one
animal is dependent on another for the completion of its wants. But why
should a slight change invigorate the animal? And if that question could
be answered; we should find another why behind. Even when science shall
be so far advanced that all the faculties and feelings of men will be
traced with the precision of a mathematical demonstration to their
latent condition in the fiery cloud of the beginning, the luminous haze,
the nebula of the sublime Laplace: even then the origin and purpose of
creation, the How and the Why, will remain unsolved. Give me the
elementary atoms, the philosopher will exclaim; give me the primeval gas
and the law of gravitation, and I will show you how man was evolved,
body and soul, just as easily as I can explain the egg being hatched
into a chick. But, then, where did the egg come from? Who made the atoms
and endowed them with the impulse of attraction? Why was it so ordered
that reason should be born of refrigeration, and that a piece of
white-hot star should cool into a habitable world, and then be sunned
into an intellectual salon, as the earth will some day be? All that we
are doing, and all that we can do, is to investigate secondary laws; but
from these investigations will proceed discoveries by which human nature
will be elevated, purified, and finally transformed.

The ideas and sentiments, the faculties and the emotions, should be
divided into two classes; those which we have in common with the lower
animals, and which therefore we have derived from them; and those which
have been acquired in the human state. Filial, parental, and conjugal
affection, fellow-feeling and devotion to the welfare of the community,
are virtues which exist in every gregarious association. These
qualities, therefore, were possessed by the progenitors of man before
the development of language, before the separation of the foot and the
hand. Reproduction was once a part of growth: animals, therefore, desire
to perpetuate their species from a natural and innate tendency inherited
from their hermaphrodite and animalcule days. But owing to the
separation of the sexes, this instinct cannot be appeased except by
means of co-operation. In order that offspring may be produced, two
animals must enter into partnership; and in order that offspring may be
reared, this partnership must be continued for a considerable time. All
living creatures of the higher grade are memorials of conjugal affection
and parental care; they are born with a tendency to love, for it is
owing to love that they exist. Those animals that are deficient in
conjugal desire or parental love produce or bring up no offspring, and
are blotted out of the book of Nature. That parents and children should
consort together is natural enough; and the family is multiplied into
the herd. At first the sympathy by which the herd is united is founded
only on the pleasures of the breeding season and the duties of the nest.
It is based entirely on domestic life. But this sympathy is extended and
intensified by the struggle for existence; herd contends against herd,
community against community; that herd which best combines will
undoubtedly survive; and that herd in which sympathy is most developed
will most efficiently combine. Here, then, one herd destroys another,
not only by means of teeth and claws, but also by means of sympathy and
love. The affections, therefore, are weapons, and are developed
according to the Darwinian Law. Love is as cruel as the shark's jaw, as
terrible as the serpent's fang. The moral sense is founded on sympathy,
and sympathy is founded on self-preservation. With all gregarious
animals, including men, self-preservation is dependent on the
preservation of the herd. And so, in order that each may prosper, they
must all combine with affection and fidelity, or they will be
exterminated by their rivals.

In the first period of the human herd, co-operation was merely
instinctive, as it is in a herd of dog-faced baboons. But when the
intelligence of man was sufficiently developed, they realised the fact
that the welfare of each individual depended on the welfare of the clan,
and that the welfare of the clan depended on the welfare of each
efficient individual. They then endeavoured to support by laws the
interests of the association; and though, owing to their defective
understandings, they allowed, and even enjoined, many customs injurious
to their own welfare, yet, on the whole, they lived well and wisely
within the circle of their clan. It will now be seen that the moral laws
by which we are guided are all due to the law of self-preservation. It
was considered wicked and wrong to assault, to rob, to deceive, or in
any way to ill-treat or offend an able-bodied member of the clan; for,
if he were killed or disabled, his services were lost to the clan, and
if he were made discontented he might desert to another corporation. But
these vices were wrong, merely because they were injurious; even murder
in the abstract was not regarded by them as a sin. They killed their
sickly children, and dined upon their superannuated parents without
remorse; for the community was profited by their removal. This feeling
of fidelity to the clan, though, no doubt, often supported by arguments
addressed to the reason, was not with them a matter of calculation. It
was rooted in their hearts; it was a true instinct inherited from animal
and ancient days; it was with them an idea of duty, obedience to which
was prompted by an impulse, neglect of which was punished by remorse. In
all fables there is some fact; and the legends of the noble savage
possess this element of truth, that savages within their own communion
do live according to the Golden Rule, and would, in fact, be destroyed
by their enemies if they did not. But they are not in reality good men.
They have no conscience outside their clan. Their virtue after all is
only a kind of honour among thieves. They resemble those illustrious
criminals who were excellent husbands and fathers, and whose biographies
cannot be read without a shudder. Yet it is from these people that our
minds and our morals are descended. The history of morals is the
extension of the reciprocal or selfish virtues from the clan to the
tribe, from the tribe to the nation, from the nation to all communities
living under the same government, civil or religious, then to people of
the same colour, and finally to all mankind.

In the primitive period, the males contended at the courting season for
the possession of the females; polygamy prevailed, and thus the
strongest and most courageous males were the fathers of all the children
that were born; the males of the second class died "old maids." The
weakly members of the herd were also unable to obtain their share of
food. But when the period of brute force was succeeded by the period of
law, it was found that the men of sickly frames were often the most
intelligent, and that they could make themselves useful to the clan by
inventing weapons and traps, or at least by manufacturing them.

In return for their sedentary labour, they were given food; and as they
were too weak to obtain wives by force, females also were given them;
the system of love-duels was abolished; the women belonged to the
community, and were divided fairly, like the food. The existence of the
clan depended on the number of its fighting men, and therefore on the
number of children that were born. The birth of a male child was a
matter of rejoicing: the mother was honoured as a public benefactress.
Then breeding began to be studied as an art; young persons were
methodically paired. It was observed that children inherit the qualities
and inclinations of their parents, and so the brave and the intelligent
were selected to be sires.

If food was scarce and if children were difficult to rear, the new-born
infants were carefully examined, and those that did not promise well
were killed. Promiscuous intercourse on the part of the females was
found to result in sterility, and was forbidden. Cohabitation during the
suckling period, which lasted at least three years, was supposed to
injure the mother's milk, on which the savage baby is entirely
dependent; and during that period the woman was set apart. Premature
unions among children were forbidden, and sometimes prevented by
infibulation, but savages seldom seem to be aware that for the young to
marry as soon as the age of puberty has been attained is injurious to
the womb and to the offspring. The ancient Germans, however, had
excellent laws upon this subject.

Finally the breeders made a discovery from which has resulted one of the
most universal of moral laws, and one which of all laws has been the
least frequently infringed. Clans made war on foreign clans not only for
game preserves, and fish waters, and root, and berry grounds, but also
for the purpose of making female prisoners. A bachelor was expected to
catch a wild wife for his own benefit, and for that of the community. He
accordingly prowled round the village of the enemy, and when an eligible
person came down to the brook to fill her pitcher, or went into the bush
to gather sticks, he burst forth from his ambush, knocked her down with
his club, and carried her off in triumph to his own people. It was
observed that the foreign wives produced more children, and stronger
children, than the home-born wives, and, also that the nearer the
blood-relationship between husband and wife, the more weakly and the
less frequent were the offspring. On this account a law was passed
forbidding marriage between those who were closely related to one
another; sometimes even it was forbidden to marry within the tribe at
all; and all wives were obtained from foreign tribes by means of capture
or exchange. These laws relating to marriage, enacted by the elders, and
issued as orders of the gods, were at first obeyed by the young merely
out of fear; but in the second generation they were ingrained on the
minds of children, and were taken under the protection of the

When the clans or families first leagued together in order to form a
town, the conscience of each man was confined to his own circle. He left
it at home when he went out into the town. He considered it laudable to
cheat his fellow townsmen in a bargain, or to tell them clever lies. If
he committed a murder or a theft, his conscience uttered no reproach.
But each father was responsible for the crimes of the members of his
clan; he might inflict what punishment he chose on the actual offender;
but he himself was the culprit in the eyes of the law, and was condemned
to pay the fine. If the municipal government was not fully formed, the
injured family took its own revenge; it did not seek for the thief or
murderer himself; the individual did not exist; all the family to them
were one. No man, therefore, could break a law without exposing his
revered father and all the members of his family to expense, and even to
danger of their lives. No savage dares to be unpopular at home; the
weight of opprobrium is more than any man can bear. His happiness
depends on the approbation of those with whom he lives; there is no
world for him outside his clan. The town laws were, therefore, respected
by each man for the sake of his family, and then by a well-known mental
process they came to be respected for themselves, and were brought under
the moral law which was written on the heart. Men ceased to be clansmen;
they became citizens. They next learnt to cherish and protect those
foreigners who came to trade and who thus conferred a benefit upon the
town; and at last the great discovery was made. Offences against the
Golden Rule are wrong in themselves, and displeasing to the gods. It is
wicked for a man to do that which he would not wish a man to do to him;
it is wrong for a man to do that to a woman which he would not wish done
to his sister or his wife. Murder, theft, falsehood, and fraud, the
infliction of physical or mental pain, all these from time immemorial
had been regarded as crimes between clansmen and clansmen; they were now
regarded as crimes between man and man. And here we come to a singular
fact. The more men are sunk in brutality the less frequently they sin
against their conscience; and as men become more virtuous, they also
become more sinful. With the primeval man the conscience is an instinct;
it is never disobeyed. With the savage the conscience demands little;
that little it demands under pain of death; it is, therefore, seldom
disobeyed. The savage seldom does that which he feels to be wrong. But
he does not feel it wrong to commit incest, to eat "grandfather soup,"
to kill a sickly child like a kitten, to murder any one who lives
outside his village. In the next period, the matrimonial and religious
laws which have proceeded from the science of breeding and the fear of
ghosts place a frequent restraint upon his actions. He now begins to
break the moral law; he begins a career of sin; yet he is, on the whole,
a better man.

We finally arrive at the civilised man; he has refined sentiments and a
cultivated intellect; and now scarcely a day passes in which he does not
offend against his conscience. His life is passed in self-reproach. He
censures himself for an hour that he has wasted; for an unkind word that
he has said; for an impure thought which he has allowed to settle for a
moment on his mind. Such lighter sins do not indeed trouble ordinary
men, and there are few at present whose conscience reproaches them for
sins against the intellect. But the lives of all modern men are
tormented with desires which may not be satisfied; with propensities
which must be quelled. The virtues of man have originated in necessity;
but necessity developed the vices as well. It was essential for the
preservation of the clan that its members should love one another, and
live according to the Golden Rule; men, therefore, are born with an
instinct of virtue.

But it was also essential for the existence of the clan that its members
should be murderers and thieves, crafty and ferocious; fraudulent and
cruel. These qualities, therefore, are transmitted by inheritance. But
as the circle of the clan widens, these qualities are rarely useful to
their possessors, and finally are stigmatised as criminal propensities.
But because their origin was natural and necessary, their guilt is not
lessened an iota. All men are born with these propensities; all know
that they are evil; all can suppress them if they please. There are
some, indeed, who appear to be criminals by nature; who do not feel it
wrong to prey upon mankind. These are cases of reversion; they are
savages or wild beasts; they are the enemies of society, and deserve the
prison, to which sooner or later they are sure to come. But it is rare
indeed that these savage instincts resist a kind and judicious
education; they may all be stifled in the nursery. Life is full of hope
and consolation; we observe that crime is on the decrease, and that men
are becoming more humane. The virtues as well as the vices are
inherited; in every succeeding generation the old ferocious impulses of
our race will become fainter and fainter, and at length they will
finally die away.

There is one moral sentiment which cannot be ascribed to the law of
gregarious preservation, and which is therefore of too much importance
to be entirely passed over, though it cannot here be treated in detail.
The sense of decorum which is outraged at the exposure of the legs in
Europe is as artificial as that which is shocked at the exhibition of
the female face in the East: if the young lady of London thinks that the
absence of underclothing in the Arab peasant girl "looks rather odd," on
the other hand no Arab lady could look at her portrait in an evening
dress without a feeling of discomfort and surprise. Yet although the
minor details of nudity are entirely conventional; although complete
nudity prevails in some parts of Africa, where yet a petticoat grows on
every tree, and where the people are by no means indifferent to their
personal appearance, for they spend half their lives upon their
coiffure; although in most savage countries the unmarried girl is never
permitted to wear clothes; although decoration is everywhere antecedent
to dress, still the traveller does find that a sentiment of decency,
though not universal, is at least very common among savage people.

Self-interest here affords an explanation, but not in the human state;
we must trace back the sentiment to its remote and secret source in the
animal kingdom. Propriety grows out of cleanliness through the
association of ideas. Cleanliness is a virtue of the lower animals, and
is equivalent to decoration; it is nourished by vanity, which proceeds
from the love of sexual display, and that from the desire to obtain a
mate; and so here we do arrive at utility after all. It is a part of
animal cleanliness to deposit apart, and even to hide, whatever is
uncleanly; and men, going farther still, conceal whatever is a cause of
the uncleanly. The Tuaricks of the desert give this as their reason for
bandaging the mouth; it has, they say, the disgusting office of chewing
the food, and is therefore not fit to be seen. The custom probably
originated as a precaution against the poisonous wind and the sandy air;
yet the explanation of the people themselves, though incorrect, is not
without its value in affording a clue to the operations of the savage
mind. But the sense of decorum must not be used by writers on Mind to
distinguish man from the lower animals, for savages exist who are as
innocent of shame and decorum as the beasts and birds.

There is in women a peculiar timidity, which is due to nature alone, and
which has grown out of the mysterious terror attendant on the functions
of reproductive life. But the other qualities, physical or mental, which
we prize in women are the result of matrimonial selection. At first the
female was a chattel common to all, or belonging exclusively to one, who
was by brute force the despot of the herd. When property was divided and
secured by law, the women became the slaves of their husbands, hewing
the wood, drawing the water, working in the fields; while the men sewed
and washed the clothes, looked after the house, and idled at the toilet,
oiling their hair, and adorning it with flowers, arranging the chignon
or the wig of vegetable fibre, filing their teeth, boring their ears,
putting studs into their cheeks, staining their gums, tattooing fanciful
designs upon their skins, tying strings on their arms to give them a
rounded form, bathing their bodies in warm water, rubbing them with
lime-juice and oil, perfuming them with the powdered bark of an aromatic
tree. Decoration among the females was not allowed. It was then
considered unwomanly to engage in any but what are now regarded as
masculine occupations. Wives were selected only for their strength. They
were hard, coarse, ill-favoured creatures, as inferior to the men in
beauty as the females are to the males almost throughout the animal
kingdom. But when prisoners of war were tamed and broken in, the women
ceased to be drudges, and became the ornaments of life. Poor men select
their domestic animals for utility: rich men select them for appearance.
In the same manner, when husbands became rich they chose wives according
to their looks. At first the hair of women was no longer than that of
men, probably not so long. But long hair is universally admired. False
hair is in use all over the world, from the Eskimos of the Arctic circle
to the negroes of Gaboon. By the continued selection of long-haired
wives the flowing tresses of the sex have been produced. In the same
manner the elegance of the female form, its softness of complexion, its
gracefulness of curve are not less our creation than the symmetry and
speed of the racehorse, the magnificence of garden flowers, and the
flavour of orchard fruits. Even the reserved demeanour of women, their
refined sentiments, their native modesty, their sublime unselfishness,
and power of self-control are partly due to us.

The wife was at first a domestic animal like a dog or a horse. She could
not be used without the consent of the proprietor; but he was always
willing to let her out for hire. Among savages it is usually the duty of
the host to lend a wife to his stranger guest, and if the loan is
declined the husband considers himself insulted. Adultery is merely a
question of debt. The law of debt is terribly severe: the body of the
insolvent belongs to the creditor to sell or to kill. But no other
feelings are involved in the question. The injured husband is merely a
creditor, and is always pleased that the debt has been incurred.
Petitioner and co-respondent may often be seen smoking a friendly pipe
together after the case has been proved and the money has been paid.
However, as the intelligence expands and the sentiments become more
refined, marriage is hallowed by religion; adultery is regarded as a
shame to the husband, and a sin against the gods; and a new feeling--
Jealousy--enters for the first time the heart of man. The husband
desires to monopolise his wife, body and soul. He intercepts her
glances; he attempts to penetrate into her thoughts. He covers her with
clothes; he hides even her face from the public gaze. His jealousy, not
only anxious for the future, is extended over the, past. Thus women from
their earliest childhood are subjected by the selfishness of man to
severe but salutary laws. Chastity becomes the rule of female life. At
first it is preserved by force alone. Male slaves are appointed to guard
the women who, except sometimes from momentary pique, never betray one
another, and are allied against the men.

But as the minds of men are gradually elevated and refined through the
culture of the intellect, there rises within them a sentiment which is
unknown in savage life. They conceive a contempt for those pleasures
which they share with the lowest of mankind, and even with the brutes.
They feel that this instinct is degrading: they strive to resist it;
they endeavour to be pure. But that instinct is strong with the
accumulated power of innumerable generations; and the noble desire is
weak and newly born: it can seldom be sustained except by the hopes and
fears of religion, or by the nobler teaching of philosophy. But in women
this new virtue is assisted by laws and customs which were established,
long before, by the selfishness of men. Here, then, the abhorrence of
the impure, the sense of duty, the fear of punishment, all unite and
form a moral law which women themselves enforce, becoming the guardians
of their own honour, and treating as a traitor to her sex the woman who
betrays her trust. For her the most compassionate have no mercy: she has
broken those laws of honour on which society is founded. It is forbidden
to receive her; it is an insult to women to allude to her existence, to
pronounce her name. She is condemned without inquiry, as the officer is
condemned who has shown cowardice before the foe. For the life of women
is a battlefield: virtue is their courage, and peace of mind is their
reward. It is certainly an extraordinary fact that women should be
subjected to a severe social discipline, from which men are almost
entirely exempt. As we have shown, it is explained by history; it is due
to the ancient subjection of woman to the man. But it is not the women
who are to be pitied: it is they who alone are free; for by that
discipline they are preserved from the tyranny of vice. It would be well
for men if they also were ruled by a severe opinion. The passions are
always foes, but it is only when they have been encouraged that they are
able to become masters; it is only when they have allied themselves with
habit that their terrible power becomes known. They resemble wild beasts
which men feed and cherish until they are themselves devoured by their
playmates. What miseries they cause, how many intellects they paralyse,
how many families they ruin, how many innocent hearts they break
asunder, how many lives they poison, how many young corpses they carry
to the tomb! What fate can be more wretched than that of the man who
resigns himself to them?

As to the beautiful mind of Mendelssohn every sound, whatever it might
be--the bubbling of a brook, the rustling of the wind among the trees,
the voice of a bird, even the grating of a wheel--inspired a musical
idea, so--how melancholy is the contrast!--so--how deep is the
descent!--so to the mind that is steeped in sensuality every sight,
every sound, calls up an impure association. The voluptuary dreads to be
alone; his mind is a monster that exhibits foul pictures to his eyes:
his memories are temptations: he struggles, he resists, but it is all in
vain: the habits which once might so easily have been broken are now
harder than adamant, are now stronger than steel: his life is passed
between desire and remorse: when the desire is quenched he is tortured
by his conscience: he soothes it with a promise; and then the desire
comes again. He sinks lower and lower until indulgence gives him no
pleasure: and yet abstinence cannot be endured. To stimulate his jaded
senses he enters strange and tortuous paths which lead him to that awful
borderland where all is darkness, all is horror, where vice lies close
to crime. Yet there was a time when that man was as guileless as a girl:
he began by learning vice from the example of his companions, just as he
learnt to smoke. Had his education been more severe: had the earliest
inclinations been checked by the fear of ruin and disgrace, he would not
have acquired the most dangerous of all habits. That men should be
subjected to the same discipline as women is therefore to be wished for:
and although the day is far distant, there can be no doubt that it will
come: and the future historian of morals will record with surprise that
in the nineteenth-century society countenanced vices in men which it
punished in women with banishment for life.

Since men are in a transitional condition; since Nature ordains that the
existence of the race can only be preserved by means of gross appetites
inherited from our ancestors, the animals, it is obvious that men should
refine them so far as they are able. Thus the brute business of eating
and drinking is made in civilised life the opportunity of social
intercourse; the family, divided by the duties of the day, then assemble
and converse: men of talent are drawn together and interchange ideas.
Many a poem, many an invention, many a great enterprise, has been born
at the table; loves and friendships have originated there. In the same
manner the passions are sanctified by marriage. Blended with the pure
affections, their coarseness disappears: their violence is appeased: they
become the ministers of conjugal and parental love.

If we place exceptions aside, and look at men in the mass, we find that,
like the animals, they are actively employed from morning to night in
obtaining food for themselves and for their families. But when they have
satisfied their actual wants, they do not, like the animals, rest at
their ease: they continue their labour. Let us take the life of an
ordinary man. He adopts an occupation at first in order to get his
bread; and then that he may marry and have children; and these also he
has to feed. But that is not all. He soon desires to rise in his
profession, or to acquire such skill in his craft that he may he praised
by his superiors and by his companions. He desires to make money that he
may improve his social position. And lastly, he begins to love his
occupation for itself, whatever it may be: the poor labourer has this
feeling as well as the poet or the artist. When the pleasures of money
and fame have been exhausted: when nothing remains on earth that can
bribe the mind to turn from its accustomed path, it is labour itself
that is the joy; and aged men who have neither desires, nor illusions,
who are separated from the world, and who are drawing near to the grave,
who believe that with life all is ended, and that for them there is no
hereafter, yet continue to work with indefatigable zeal. This noble
condition of the mind which thus makes for itself a heaven upon earth
can be attained by those who have courage and resolution. It is merely
the effect of habit: labour is painful to all at first; but if the
student perseveres he will find it more and more easy, until at last he
will find it necessary, to his life. The toils which once were so hard
to endure are now sought and cherished for themselves: the mind becomes
uneasy when its chains are taken off.

The love of esteem is the second stimulant of labour; it follows the
period of necessity; it precedes the period of habit. It is founded on
that feeling of sympathy which unites the primeval herd, and which is
necessary to its life. The man who distinguishes himself in battle; the
man who brings home a deer, or a fish, or a store of honey, or a bundle
of roots is praised by his comrades; so he is encouraged to fresh
exertions, and so the emulation of others is excited. The actions of
savages are entirely directed by the desire to exist, and by the desire
to obtain the praises of their fellows. All African travellers have
suffered from the rapacity of chiefs, and yet those same chiefs are the
most open-handed of men. They plunder and beg from the white man his
cloth, in order to give it away; and they give it away in order to
obtain praise. A savage gentleman is always surrounded by a host of
clients, who come every morning to give him the salutation, who chant
his praises and devour him alive. The art of song had its origin in
flattery. Mendicant minstrels wander from town to town, and from chief
to chief, singing the praises of their patrons and satirising those who
have not been generous towards them. In Africa the accusation of
parsimony is a more bitter taunt than the accusation of cowardice.
Commerce first commenced in necessity. The inland people required
salt; the coast people required vegetables to eat with their fish. But
soon the desire of esteem induced men to contrive, and labour, and
imperil their lives in order to obtain ornaments or articles of clothing
which came from abroad. In Central Africa it is more fashionable to wear
a dirty rag of Manchester cloth, such as we use for a duster, than their
own beautiful aprons of woven grass. An African chief will often
commission a trader to buy him a handsome saddle, or some curious
article of furniture, on condition that he will not supply it to any one
else, just as connoisseurs will pay a higher price for a work of art
when the mould has been broken.

Both in civilised and in savage life the selfish desires of man are few,
and are quickly satisfied. Enormous sums are lavished upon cookery and
wines, but more from ostentation than from true gourmanderie. The love
of display, or the more noble desire to give pleasure to their friends,
has much to do with the enthusiasm of those who spend fortunes on works
of art and objects of virtue; and there are few amusements which can be
enjoyed alone. Nihil est homini amicum sine homine amico. All the
actions of men may therefore be traced first to the desire of preserving
life and continuing their species; secondly to the desire of esteem; and
thirdly to the effects of habit. In the religious conduct of man there
is nothing which cannot be thus explained. First, men sacrifice and pray
in order to escape sickness and death; or if they are a little more
advanced, that they may not be punished in a future state. Secondly,
they desire to win the esteem and affections of the gods; they are
ambitious of obtaining a heavenly reputation. And lastly, prayer and
praise, discipline and self-denial, become habits, and give pleasure to
the mind. The rough hair shirt, the hard bed, the cold cell, the meagre
food, the long vigil, the midnight prayer, are delights to the mind that
is inured to suffer; and as other men rejoice that they have found
something which can yield them pleasure, so the ascetic rejoices that he
has found something which can yield him pain.

Summary of Universal History

In the preceding sketch, which is taken from the writings of others, I
have told how a hot cloud vibrating in space, cooled into a sun rotating
on its axis, and revolving round a point, to us unknown; and how this
sun cast off a piece, which went out like a coal that leaps from the
fire, and sailed round the sun a cinder wrapped in smoke; and how, as it
cooled, strange forces worked within it, varied phenomena appeared upon
its surface; it was covered with a salt sea; the smoke cleared off; the
sunlight played upon the water; gelatinous plants and animals appeared
at first simple in their forms, becoming more complex as the forces
which acted on them increased in complexity; the earth wrinkled up; the
mountains and continents appeared; rain-water ascended from the sea, and
descended from the sky; lakes and rivers were created; the land was
covered with ferns, and gigantic mosses, and grasses tall as trees;
enormous reptiles crawled upon the earth, frogs as large as elephants,
which croaked like thunder; and the air, which was still poisonous and
cloudy, was cleared by the plants feeding on the coaly gas; the sun
shone brightly; sex was invented; love was born; flowers bloomed forth,
and birds sang; mammoths and mastodons revelled upon the infinity of
pastures the world became populous; the struggle for life became severe;
animals congregated together; male struggled against male for spouses,
herd struggled against herd for subsistence; a nation of apes,
possessing peculiar intelligence and sociability, were exposed to
peculiar dangers; as a means of resistance, they combined more closely;
as they combined more closely, their language was improved; as a means
of resistance, they threw missiles with their hands; thus using their
hands, they walked chiefly with their feet; the apes became almost man,
half walking, half crawling through the grim forests, jabbering and
gesticulating in an imitative manner, fighting furiously for their
females at the rutting season, their matted hair begrimed with dirt and
blood, fighting with all nature, even with their own kind, but remaining
true to their own herd; using the hand more and more as a weapon and a
tool, becoming more and more erect; expressing objects by conventional
sounds or words; delighting more and more to interchange ideas;
sharpening stones and pointing sticks, heading javelins with bone and
horn, inventing snares and traps; then fire was discovered, and, by a
series of accidents, its various uses were revealed; the arts of
agriculture, domestication, and river navigation were acquired: the
tribes migrating from the forests were scattered over the world; their
canoes of hollow trees skimmed the tepid waters of the Indian Ocean;
their coracles of skin dashed through the icy waves of the Arctic seas;
in valleys between mountains, or in fertile river plains, they nurtured
seed-bearing grasses into grain; over pastoral mountains, or sandy
deserts, or broad grassy steppes, they wandered with their flocks and
herds; these shepherd tribes poured down on the plains, subdued the
inhabitants and reduced them to serfdom; thus the nation was
established, and consisted at first of two great classes--the rulers
and the ruled.

The period thus rapidly described, which begins with the animal globules
preying on the plant globules in the primeval sea, and which ends with
the conquest by the carnivorous shepherds of the vegetable eaters in the
river plains, may be termed the Period of War. Throughout that period
mind was developed by necessity. The lower animals merely strive to
live, to procure females, and to rear their young. It is so ordered by
Nature, that by so striving to live they develop their physical
structure; they obtain faint glimmerings of reason; they think and
deliberate, they sympathise and love; they become Man. In the same way
the primeval men have no other object than to keep the clan alive. It is
so ordered by Nature, that, in striving to preserve the existence of the
clan, they not only acquire the arts of agriculture, domestication, and
navigation; they not only discover fire, and its uses in cooking, in
war, and in metallurgy; they not only detect the hidden properties of
plants, and apply them to save their own lives from disease, and to
destroy their enemies in battle; they not only learn to manipulate
Nature, and to distribute water by machinery; but they also, by means of
the long life-battle, are developed into moral beings: they live
according to the Golden Rule, in order that they may exist, or, in other
words, they do exist because they live according to the Golden Rule.
They have within them innate affections, which are as truly weapons as
the tiger's teeth and the serpent's fang; which belong, therefore, to
the Period of War. Their first laws, both social and religious, are
enacted only as war measures. The laws relating to marriage and property
are intended to increase the fertility and power of the clan; the laws
relating to religion are intended to preserve the clan from the fury of
the gods, against whom, at an earlier period, they actually went to war.
But out of this feeling of sympathy, which arose in necessity, arises a
secondary sentiment, the love of esteem; and hence wars, which at first
were waged merely in self-defence, or to win food-grounds and females
necessary for the subsistence and perpetuation of the clan, are now
waged for superfluities, power, and the love of glory; commerce, which
was founded in necessity, is continued for the acquisition of ornaments
and luxuries; science, which at first was a means of life, provides
wealth, and is pursued for fame; music and design, which were originally
instincts of the hand and voice, are developed into arts. It is
therefore natural for man to endeavour to better himself in life, that
he may obtain the admiration of his comrades. He desires to increase his
means or to win renown in the professions and the arts. Thus man presses
upon man, and the whole mass rises in knowledge, in power, and in
wealth. But owing to the division of classes resulting from war, and
also from the natural inequality of man, the greater part of the human
population could not obey their instinctive aspirations; they were
condemned to remain stationary and inert. By means of caste, slavery,
the system of privileged classes, and monopolies, the people were
forbidden to raise themselves in life; they were doomed to die as they
were born. But that they might not be altogether without hope, they were
taught by their rulers that they would be rewarded with honour and
happiness in a future state. The Egyptian fellah received the good
tidings that there was no caste after death; the Christian serf was
consoled with the text, that the poor would inherit the kingdom of
heaven. This long and gloomy period of the human race may be entitled
Religion. History is confined to the upper classes. All the discoveries,
and inventions, and exploits of ancient times are due to the efforts of
an aristocracy; not only the Persians and Hindus, but also the Greeks
and the Romans, were merely small societies of gentlemen reigning over a
multitude of slaves. The virtues of the lower classes were loyalty,
piety, obedience.

The third period is that of Liberty: it belongs only to Europe and to
modern times. A middle class of intelligence and wealth arises between
the aristocracy and the plebeians. They contend with the monopolies of
caste and birth; they demand power for themselves; they espouse the
cause of their poorer brethren; they will not admit that equality in
heaven is a valid reason for inequality on earth; they deny that the
aristocracy of priests know more of divine matters than other men; they
interpret the sacred books for themselves, and translate them into the
vulgar tongue; they separate religion from temporal government, and
reduce it to a system of metaphysics and morality. It is in this period
that we are at present. Loyalty to the king has been transformed into
patriotism; and piety, or the worship of God, will give way, to the
reverence of law and the love of mankind. Thus the mind will be
elevated, the affections deepened and enlarged; morality, ceasing to be
entangled with theology, will be applied exclusively to virtue.

It is difficult to find a title for the fourth period, as we have as yet
no word which expresses at the same time the utmost development of mind
and the utmost development of morals. I have chosen the word Intellect,
because by the education of the intellect the moral sense is of
necessity improved. In this last period the destiny of Man will be
fulfilled. He was not sent upon the earth to prepare himself for
existence in another world; he was sent upon earth that he might
beautify it as a dwelling, and subdue it to his use; that he might exalt
his intellectual and moral powers until he had attained perfection, and
had raised himself to that ideal which he now expresses by the name of
God, but which, however sublime it may appear to our weak and imperfect
minds, is far below the splendour and majesty of that power by whom the
universe was made.

We shall now leave the darkness of the primeval times, and enter the
theatre of history. The Old World is a huge body, with its head buried
in eternal snows; with the Atlantic on its left, the Pacific on its
right, the Indian Ocean between its legs. The left limb is sound and
whole; its foot is the Cape of Good Hope. The right limb has been broken
and scattered by the sea; Australia and the Archipelago are detached;
Asia has been amputated at the thigh. The lower extremities of this Old
World are covered for the most part with thorny thickets and with fiery
plains. The original natives were miserable creatures, living chiefly on
insects and shells, berries and roots; casting the boomerang and the
bone-pointed dart; abject, naked, brutish, and forlorn. We pass up the
body in its ancient state; through the marsh of Central Africa, with its
woolly-haired blacks upon the left, and through the jungles of India,
with its straight-haired blacks upon the right; through the sandy wastes
of the Sahara, and the broad Asiatic tablelands; through the forest of
Central Europe, the Russian steppes, and the Siberian plains, until we
arrive at the frozen shores of the open Polar Sea. The land is covered
with fields of snow, on which white bears may be seen in flocks like
sheep. Ice mountains tower in the air, and, as the summer approaches,
glide into the ocean and sail towards the south, The sky is brightened
by a rosy flame, which utters a crisp and crackling sound. All else is
silent, Nature is benumbed. The signs of human habitations are rare;
sometimes a tribe of Esquimaux may be perceived, dwelling in snow huts,
enveloped in furs, driving sledges with teams of dogs, tending their
herds of reindeer on the moss-grounds, or dashing over the cold waters
in their canoes to hunt the walrus and the seal.

This gloomy region, where the year is divided into one day and one
night, lies entirely outside the stream of history. We descend through
the land of the pine to the land of the oak and beech. Huge woods and
dismal fens covered Europe in the olden time; by the banks of dark and
sullen rivers the beavers built their villages; the bears and the wolves
were the aristocracy of Europe; men paid them tribute in flesh and
blood. A people, apparently of Tartar origin, had already streamed into
this continent from Asia; but the true aborigines were not extinct; they
inhabited huts built on piles in the lakes of Switzerland; they herded
together in mountain caves. They were armed only with stone weapons; but
they cultivated certain kinds of grain, and had tamed the reindeer, the
ox, the boar, and the dog. In ancient history Europe has no place. Even
the lands to the south of the Alps were inhabited by savages at a time
when Asia was in a civilised condition.

It is therefore Asia that we must first survey; it is there that the
history of books and monuments begins. The Tigris and Euphrates rise in
a tableland adjoining the Black Sea, and flow into the Persian Gulf. On
the right is a desert extending to the Nile; on the left, a chain of
hills. A shepherd people descended from the plateau, occupied the land
between the rivers, the plains between the Tigris and the hills, and the
alluvial regions at the lower course of the Euphrates. They wandered
over the Arabian desert with their flocks and herds, settled in Canaan
and Yemen, crossed over into Africa, extended along its northern shores
as far as the Atlantic, overspread the Sahara, and made border wars upon
the Sudan. In the course of many centuries the various branches of this
people diverged from one another. In Barbary and Sahara they were called
Berbers; in the valley of the Nile, Egyptians; Arabs, in the desert and
in Yemen; Canaanites, in Palestine; Assyrians, in Mesopotamia and the
upper regions of the Tigris; Chaldeans or Babylonians, in the lower
course of the Euphrates. The Canaanites, the Arabs of Yemen, and the
Berbers of Algeria adopted agricultural habits and lived in towns; the
Berbers of Sahara, the Bedouins of the Syro-Arabian desert and of the
waste regions in Assyria, remained a pastoral and wandering people. But
in Chaldea and in Egypt the colonists were placed under peculiar
conditions. Famines impelled the shepherds to make war on other tribes;
famines impelled the Chaldeans and Egyptians to contend with the
Euphrates and the Nile, to domesticate the waters, to store them in
reservoirs, and to distribute them, as required, upon the fields. It is
not improbable that the Egyptians were men of Babylonia driven by war or
by exile into the African deserts; that they were composed of two noble
classes, the priests and the military men; that they took with them some
knowledge of the arts and sciences, which they afterwards developed into
the peculiar Egyptian type; that they found the valley inhabited by a
negro race, fishing in papyrus canoes, living chiefly on the lotus root,
and perhaps growing doura corn; that they reduced those negroes to
slavery, divided them into castes, allowed them to retain in each
district the form of animal worship peculiar to the respective tribes,
making such worship emblematical, and blending it with their own exalted
creed; and finally, that they married the native women, which would thus
account for the dash of the "tar-brush" plainly to be read by the
practised eye in the portraits, though not in the conventional faces of
the monuments. On the other hand it may be held that Egypt was colonised
by a Berber tribe; that its civilisation was entirely indigenous; that
the distinction of classes arose from natural selection, and was
afterwards petrified by law, and that the negro traits in the Egyptian
physiognomy were due to the importation of Ethiopian girls, who have
always been favourites in the harems of the East. But whichever of these
hypotheses may be true, the essential point is this, that civilisation
commenced in the application of mechanics to the cultivation of the
fields, and that this science could only have been invented under
pressure of necessity.

Let us now pass beyond the Tigris and climb up the hills which bound it
on the left. We find ourselves on the steppes of Central Asia, in some
parts lying waste in salt and sandy plains, in others clothed with
fields of waving grass. Over these broad regions roamed the Turks or
Tartars, living on mares' milk, dwelling in houses upon wheels. Beyond
the steppes towards the east is another chain of hills, and beyond them
lies the Great Plain of China, watered by two majestic rivers, the
Yang-tse Kiang and the Hoang Ho. The people of the steppes and the
mountains poured down upon this country, subdued the savage aborigines,
covered the land with rice fields, irrigated by canals, and established
many kingdoms which were afterwards blended into one harmonious and
civilised empire.

To the right hand of the Tartar steppes, as you travel towards China, is
a lofty tableland, the region of the sources of the Oxus and Jaxartes.
Thence descended a people who called themselves the Aryas, or "the
noble"; they differed much in appearance from the slit-eyed,
smooth-faced, and fleshy-limbed Mongols; and little in appearance, but
widely in language, from the people of the tableland of the Tigris and
Euphrates. They poured forth in successive streams over Persia, Asia
Minor, Greece, Italy, and the whole of Europe from the Danube and the
Rhine to the shores of the Atlantic. They also descended on the Punjab,
or country of the Indus, where they established their first colony, and
thence spread to the region of the Ganges, and over the Deccan. They
intermarried much with the native women, but divided the men into
servile castes, and kept them in subjection partly by means of an armed
aristocracy, partly by means of religious terror.

These then are the elemental lands; China, India, Babylonia, and Egypt.
In these countries civilisation was invented; history begins with them.
The Egyptians manufactured linen goods, and beautiful glass wares, and
drew gold, ivory, and slaves from the Sudan. Babylonia manufactured
tapestry and carpets. These people were known to one another only by
their products; the wandering Bedouins carried the trade between the
Euphrates and the Nile. A caravan route was also opened between Babylon
and India via Bokhara or Balkh and Samarkand. India possessed much
wealth in precious stones, but the true resources of that country were
its vegetable products and the skilful manufactures of the natives.
India, to use their own expression, sells grass for gold. From one kind
of plant they extracted a beautiful blue dye: from another they boiled a
juice, which cooled into a crystal, delicate and luscious to the taste;
from another they obtained a kind of wool, which they spun, wove,
bleached, glazed, and dyed into fabrics transparent as the gossamer,
bright as the plumage of the jungle birds. And India was also the
half-way station between China, Ceylon, and the Spice Islands on the one
hand: and of the countries of Western Asia on the other. It was enriched
not only by its own industry and produce, but by the transit trade as

At an early epoch in history, the Chinese became a great navigating
people; they discovered America, at least so they say; they freighted
their junks with cargoes of the shining fibre, and with musk in
porcelain jars; they coasted along the shores of the Pacific,
established colonies in Burmah and Siam, developed the spice trade of
the Indian Archipelago and the resources of Ceylon, sailed up the shores
of Malabar, entered the Persian Gulf, and even coasted as far as Aden
and the Red Sea. It was probably from them that the Banians of Gujrat
and the Arabs of Yemen acquired the arts of shipbuilding and navigation.
The Indian Ocean became a basin of commerce; it was whitened by cotton
sails. The Phoenicians explored the desolate waters of the Mediterranean
Sea; with the bright red cloth, and the blue bugles, and the speckled
beads, they tempted the savages of Italy and Greece to trade; they
discovered the silver mines of Spain; they sailed forth through the
Straits of Gibraltar, they braved the storms of the Atlantic, opened the
tin trade of Cornwall, established the amber diggings of the Baltic.
Thus a long thread of commerce was stretched across the Old World from
England and Germany to China and Japan. Yet, still the great countries
in the central region dwelt in haughty isolation, knowing foreign lands
only by their products until the wide conquests and the superb
administration of the Persians made them members of the same community.
China alone remained outside. Egypt, Babylonia, and India were united by
royal roads with half-way stations in Palestine and Bokhara, and with
seaports in Phoenicia, and on the western coast of Asia Minor That
country is a tableland belted on all sides by mountains; but beneath
the wall of hills on the western side is a fruitful strip of coast, the
estuary land of four rivers which flow into the Mediterranean parallel
to one another. That coast is Ionia; and opposite to Ionia lies Greece.

The tableland was occupied by an Aryan or Arya nation, from whom bands
of emigrants went forth in two directions. The Dorians crossed the
Hellespont, and, passing through Thrace, settled in the hill cantons of
Northern Greece, and thence spread over the lower parts of the
peninsula. The Ionians descended to the fruitful western coast, and
thence migrated into Attica, which afterwards sent back colonies to its
ancient birth-place. These two people spoke the same language, and were
of the same descent; but their characters differed as widely as the cold
and barren mountains from the soft and smiling plains. The Dorians were
rude in their manners, and laconic in their speech, barbarous in their
virtues, morose in their joys. The Ionians lived among holidays, they
could do nothing without dance and song. The Dorians founded Sparta, a
republic which was in reality a camp, consisting of soldiers fed by
slaves. The girls were educated to be viragoes; the boys to bear
torture, like the Red Indians, with a smile. The wives were
breeding-machines, belonging to the state; a council of elders examined
the new-born children, and selected only the finer specimens, in order
to keep up the good old Spartan breed. They had no commerce and no arts;
they were as filthy in their persons as they were narrow in their minds.
But the Athenians were the true Greeks, as they exist at the present
day; intellectual, vivacious, inquisitive, shrewd, artistic, patriotic,
and dishonest; ready to die for their country, or to defraud it. The
Greeks received the first rudiments of knowledge from Phoenicia; the
alphabet was circulated throughout the country by means of the Olympian
fairs; colonies were sent forth all round the Mediterranean; and those
of Ionia and the Delta of the Nile obtained partial access to the arts
and sciences of Babylon and Memphis.

The Persian wars developed the genius of the Greeks. The Persian
conquests opened to them the University of Egypt. The immense area of
the Greek world, extending from the Crimea to the straits of Gibraltar,
for at one time the Greeks had cities in Morocco; the variety of ideas
which they thus gathered, and which they interchanged at the great
festival, where every kind of talent was honoured and rewarded the
spirit of noble rivalry, which made city contend with city, and citizen
with citizen, in order to obtain an Olympian reputation; the complete
freedom from theology in art; the tastes and manners of the land; the
adoration of beauty; the nudity of the gymnasium: all these sufficiently
explain the unexampled progress of the nation, and the origin of that
progress, as in all other cases, is to be found in physical geography.
Greece was divided into natural cantons; each state was a fortress;
while Egypt, Assyria, India, and China were wide and open plains, which
cavalry could sweep, and which peasants with their sickles could not
defend. But the rivalry of the Greeks among themselves, so useful to the
development of mental life, prevented them from combining into one great
nation; and Alexander, although he was a Greek by descent, for he had
the right of contending at the Olympian games, conquered the East with
an army of barbarians, his Greek troops being merely a contingent.

But the kingdoms of Asia and Egypt were Greek, and in Alexandria the
foundations of science were laid. The astrolabes which had been invented
by the Egyptians were improved by the Greeks and afterwards by the
Arabs, were adapted to purposes of navigation by the Portuguese, and
were developed to the sextant of the nineteenth century. The Egyptians
had invented the blow-pipe, the crucible, and the alembic; the
Alexandrines commenced or continued the pursuit of alchemy, which the
Arabs also preserved, and which has since grown into the science of
Lavoisier and Faraday. Hippocrates separated medicine from theology; his
successors dissected and experimented at Alexandria, learning something
no doubt from the Egyptian school; the Arabs followed in a servile manner
the medicine of the Greeks, and the modern Europeans obtained from the
Canon of Avicenna the first elements of a science which has made much
progress, but which is yet in its infancy, and which will some day
transform us into new beings. The mathematical studies of the
Alexandrines were also serviceable to mankind, and the work of one of
their professors is a text-book in this country; they discovered the
Precession of the Equinoxes; and the work which they did in Conic
Sections enabled Kepler to discover the true laws of the planetary
motions. But Alexandria did not possess that liberty which is the true
source of continued progress. With slaves below and with despots above,
the mind was starved in its roots, and stifled in its bud, dried and
ticketed in a museum. The land itself had begun to languish and decay,
when a new power arose in the West.

The foot of Italy was lined with Greek towns, and these had spread
culture through the peninsula, among a people of a kindred race. They
dwelt in cities, with municipal governments, public buildings, and
national schools. One Italian city, founded by desperadoes, adopted a
career of war; but the brigands were also industrious farmers and wise
politicians; they conciliated the cities whom they conquered. Rome
became a supreme republic, ruling a number of minor republics, whose
municipal prerogatives were left undisturbed, who paid no tribute save
military service. The wild Gauls of Lombardy were subdued. The Greeks on
the coast were the only foreigners who retained their freedom in the
land. They called over Pyrrhus to protect them from the Romans; but the
legion conquered the phalanx, the broadsword vanquished the Macedonian
spear. The Asiatic Carthaginians were masters of the sea; half Sicily
belonged to them; they were, therefore, neighbours of the Romans. They
had already menaced the cities of the southern coast; the Romans were
already jealous and distrustful; they had now a Monroe doctrine
concerning the peninsula: an opportunity occurred, and they stepped out
into the world. The first Punic War gave them Sicily, the second Punic
War gave them Spain, the third Punic War gave them Africa.

Rome also extended her power towards the East. She did not invade, she
did not conquer, she did not ask for presents and taxes, she merely
offered her friendship and protection. She made war, it is true, but
only on behalf of her allies. And so kingdom after kingdom, province
after province, fell into her vast and patient arms. She became at first
the arbiter and afterwards the mistress of the world. Her legions halted
only on the banks of the Euphrates, and on the shores of the Sahara,
where a wild waste of sand and a sea-horizon appeared to proclaim that
life was at an end. She entered the unknown world beyond the Alps,
established a chain of forts along the banks of the Danube and the Rhine
from the Black Sea to the Baltic, covered France with noble cities, and
made York a Roman town. The Latin language was planted in all the
countries which this people conquered, except in those where Alexander
had preceded them. The empire was therefore divided by language into the
Greek and Latin world. Greece, Asia Minor, Syria, and Egypt belonged to
the Greek world: Italy, Africa, Spain, and Gaul belonged to the Latin
world. But the Roman law was everywhere in force, though not to the
extinction of the native laws. In Egypt, for instance, the Romans
revived some of the wise enactments of the Pharaohs which had been
abrogated by the Ptolemies. The old courts of injustice were swept away.
Tribunals were established which resembled those of the English in
India. Men of all races, and of all religions, came before a judge of a
foreign race, who sat high above their schisms and dissensions, who
looked down upon them all with impartial contempt, and who reverenced
the law which was entrusted to his care. But the provinces were forced
to support not only a court but a city. As London is the market of
England, to which the best of all things find their way, so Rome was the
market of the Mediterranean world; but there was this difference between
the two, that in Rome the articles were not paid for. Money, indeed,
might be given, but it was money which had not been earned, and which
therefore would come to its end at last.

Rome lived upon its principal till ruin stared it in the face. Industry
is the only true source of wealth, and there was no industry in Rome. By
day the Ostia road was crowded with carts and muleteers, carrying to the
great city the silks and spices of the East, the marble of Asia Minor,
the timber of the Atlas, the grain of Africa and Egypt; and the carts
brought nothing out but loads of dung. That was their return cargo.
London turns dirt into gold. Rome turned gold into dirt. And how, it may
be asked, was the money spent? The answer is not difficult to give. Rome
kept open house. It gave a dinner party every day; the emperor and his
favourites dined upon nightingales and flamingo tongues, on oysters from
Britain, and on fishes from the Black Sea; the guards received their
rations; and bacon, wine, oil, and loaves were served out gratis to the
people. Sometimes entertainments were given in which a collection of
animals as costly as that in Regent's Park was killed for the amusement
of the people. Constantine transferred the capital to Constantinople;
and now two dinners were given every day. Egypt found the bread for
one, and Africa found it for the other. The governors became satraps,
the peasantry became serfs, the merchants and landowners were robbed
and ruined, the empire stopped payment, the legions of the frontier
marched on the metropolis, the dikes were deserted, and then came the

The empire had been already divided. There was an empire of the West, or
the Latin world; there was an empire of the East, or the Greek world.
The first was overrun by the Germans, the second by the Arabs. But
Constantinople remained unconquered throughout the Dark Ages; and Rome,
though taken and sacked, was never occupied by the barbarians. In these
two great cities the languages and laws of the classical times were
preserved; and from Rome religion was diffused throughout Europe; to
Rome a spiritual empire was restored.

The condition of the Roman world at one time bore a curious resemblance
to that of China. In each of these great empires, separated by a
continent, the principal feature was that of peace. Vast populations
dwelt harmoniously together, and were governed by admirable laws. The
frontiers of each were threatened by barbarians. The Chinese built a
wall along the outskirts of the steppes; the Romans built a wall along
the Danube and the Rhine. In China, a man dressed in yellow received
divine honours; in Rome, a man dressed in purple received divine
honours; in each country the religion was the religion of the state, and
the emperor was the representative of God. In each country, also, a
religious revolution occurred. A young Indian prince, named Sakya Muni,
afflicted by the miseries of human life which he beheld, cast aside his
wealth and his royal destiny, became a recluse, and devoted his life to
the study of religion. After long years of reading and reflection he
took the name of Buddha, or "the Awakened." He declared that the soul
after death migrates into another form, according to its deeds and
according to its thoughts. This was the philosophy of the Brahmins. But
he also proclaimed that all existence is passion, misery, and pain, and
that by subduing the evil emotions of the heart the soul will hereafter
finally obtain the calm of non-existence, the peaceful Nirvana, the
unalloyed, the unclouded Not to Be.

A religion so cheerless, a philosophy so sorrowful, could never have
succeeded with the masses of mankind if presented only as a system of
metaphysics. Buddhism owed its success to its catholic spirit and its
beautiful morality. The men who laboured in the fields had always been
taught that the Brahmins were the aristocracy of heaven, and would be as
high above them in a future state as they were upon the earth. The holy
books which God had revealed were not for them, the poor dark-skinned
labourers, to read; burning oil poured into their ears was the
punishment by law for so impious an act. And now came a man who told
them that those books had not been revealed at all, and that God was no
respecter of persons; that the happiness of men in a future state
depended, not upon their birth, but upon their actions and their
thoughts. Buddhism triumphed for a time in Hindustan, but its success
was greatest among the stranger natives in the north-west provinces, the
Indo-Scythians and the Greeks. Then came a period of patriotic feeling;
the Brahmins preached a war of independence; the new religion was
associated with the foreigners, and both were driven out together. But
Buddhism became the religion of Ceylon, Burmah, and Siam, and finally
entered the Chinese Empire. It suffered and survived bloody
persecutions. It became a licensed religion, and spread into the steppes
of Tartary among those barbarians by whom China was destined to be
conquered. The religion of the Buddhists was transformed; its founder
was worshipped as a god; there was a doctrine of the incarnation; they
had their own holy books, which they declared to have been revealed;
they established convents and nunneries, splendid temples, adorned with
images, and served by priests with shaven heads, who repeated prayers
upon rosaries, and who taught that happiness in a future state could
best be obtained by long prayers and by liberal presents to the Church.

At the period of the importation of Buddhism into China, a similar event
occurred in the Roman world. It was the pagan theory that each country
was governed by its own gods. The proper religion for each man, said an
oracle of Delphi, is the religion of his fatherland. Yet these gods were
cosmopolitan; they punished or rewarded foreigners. Imilkon, having
offended the Greek gods in the Sicilian wars, made atonement to them
when he returned to Carthage: he offered sacrifices in the Phoenician
temples, but according to the milder ceremonies of the Greeks. The
Philistines sent back the ark with a propitiatory present to Jehovah.
Alexander, in Asia Minor, offered sacrifices to the gods of the enemy.
The Romans, when they besieged a town, called upon its tutelary god by
name, and offered him bribes to give up the town. Rome waged war against
the world, but not against the gods; she did not dethrone them in their
own countries; she offered them the freedom of the city. Men of all
races came to live in Rome; they were allowed to worship their own gods;
the religions of the empire were regularly licensed; Egyptian temples
and Syrian chapels sprang up in all directions. But though the Romans
considered it right that Egyptians should worship Isis, and that
Alexandrines should worship Serapis, they justly considered it a kind of
treason for Romans to desert their tutelary gods. For this reason,
foreign religions were sometimes proscribed. It was also required from
the subjects of the empire that they should offer homage to the gods of
Rome, and to the genius or spirit of the emperor; not to the man, but to
the soul that dwelled within. The Jews alone were exempt from these
regulations. It was believed that they were a peculiar people, or rather
that they had a peculiar god. While the other potentates of the
celestial world lived in harmony together, Jehovah was a sullen and
solitary being, who separated his people from the rest of mankind,
forbade them to eat or drink with those who were not of their own race,
and threatened to punish them if they worshipped any gods but him. On
this account the Roman government, partly to preserve the lives of their
subjects, and partly out of fear for themselves, believing that Jehovah
like the other gods, had always an epidemic at his command, treated the
Jews with exceptional indulgence.

These people were scattered over all the world; they had their Ghetto or
Petticoat Lane in every great city of the empire; their religion, so
superior to that of the pagans, had attracted much attention from the
Gentiles. Ovid, in his "Art of Love," counsels the dandy who seeks a
mistress to frequent the theatre, or Temple of Isis, or the synagogue on
the Sabbath day. But the Jews in Rome, like the Jews in London, did not
attempt to make proselytes, and received them with reluctance and
distrust. Their sublime faith, divested of its Asiatic customs, was
offered to the Romans some Jewish heretics called Christians or

A young man named Joshua or Jesus, a carpenter by trade, believed that
the world belonged to the devil, and that God would shortly take it from
him, and that he the Christ or Anointed would be appointed by God to
judge the souls of men, and to reign over them on earth. In politics he
was a leveller and communist, in morals he was a monk; he believed that
only the poor and the despised would inherit the kingdom of God. All men
who had riches or reputations would follow their dethroned master into
everlasting pain. He attacked the church-going, sabbatarian
ever-praying Pharisees; he declared that piety was worthless if it were
praised on earth. It was his belief that earthly happiness was a gift
from Satan, and should therefore be refused. If a man was poor in this
world, that was good; he would be rich in the world to come. If he were
miserable and despised, he had reason to rejoice; he was out of favour
with the ruler of this world, namely Satan, and therefore he would be
favoured by the new dynasty. On the other hand, if a man were happy,
rich, esteemed, and applauded, he was for ever lost. He might have
acquired his riches by industry; he might have acquired his reputation
by benevolence, honesty, and devotion; but that did not matter; he had
received his reward. So Christ taught that men should sell all that they
had and give to the poor; that they should renounce all family ties;
that they should let to-morrow take care of itself; that they should not
trouble about clothes: did, not God adorn the flowers of the fields? He
would take care of them also if they would fold their hands together and
have faith, and abstain from the impiety of providing for the future.
The principles of Jesus were not conducive to the welfare of society; he
was put to death by the authorities; his disciples established a
commune; Greek Jews were converted by them, and carried the new
doctrines over all the world. The Christians in Rome were at first a
class of men resembling the Quakers. They called one another brother and
sister; they adopted a peculiar garb, and peculiar forms of speech; the
Church was at first composed of women, slaves, and illiterate artisans
but it soon became the religion of the people in the towns. All were
converted excepting the rustics (pagani) and the intellectual
free-thinkers, who formed the aristocracy. Christianity was at first a
republican religion; it proclaimed the equality of souls; the bishops
were the representatives of God, and the bishops were chosen by the
people. But when the emperor adopted Christianity and made it a religion
of the state, it became a part of imperial government, and the parable
of Dives was forgotten. The religion of the Christians was transformed;
its founder was worshipped as a god; there was a doctrine of the
incarnation; they had their own holy books, which they declared to have
been revealed; they established convents, and nunneries, and splendid
temples, adorned with images, and served by priests with shaven heads,
who repeated prayers upon rosaries, and who taught that happiness in a
future state could best be obtained by long prayers and by liberal
presents to the Church. In the Eastern or Greek world, Christianity in
no way assisted civilisation, but in the Latin world it softened the
fury of the conquerors, it aided the amalgamation of the races. The
Christian priests were reverenced by the barbarians, and these priests
belonged to the conquered people.

The Church, it is true, was divided by a schism; Ulphilas, the apostle
of The Goths, was an Arian; the dispute which had arisen in a
lecture-room at Alexandria, between a bishop and a presbyter, was
continued on a hundred battlefields. But the Franks were Catholics, and
the Franks became supreme. The Arians were worsted in the conflict of
swords as they had formerly been worsted in the conflict of words. The
Empire of the West was restored by Charlemagne, who spread Christianity
among the Saxons by the sword, and confirmed the spiritual supremacy of
Rome. He died, and his dominions were partitioned among kings who were
royal only in the name. Europe was divided into castle-states. Savage
isolation, irresponsible power: such was the order of the age. Yet still
there was a sovereign whom all acknowledged, and whom all to a certain
extent obeyed. That sovereign was the Pope of Rome. The men who wore his
livery might travel throughout Europe in safety, welcome alike at
cottage and castle, paying for their board and lodging with their
prayers. If there is a Great Being who listens with pleasure to the
prayers of men, it must have been in the Dark Ages that he looked down
upon the earth with most satisfaction. That period may be called The Age
of the Rosary. From the Shetland Islands to the shores of China, prayers
were being strung, and voices were being sonorously raised. The
Christian repeated his Paternosters and his credos on beads of holy clay
from Palestine; the Persian at Teheran, the negro at Timbuctoo; the
Afghan at Kabul, repeated the ninety-nine names of God on beads made of
camel bones from Mecca. The Indian prince by the waters of the Ganges
muttered his devotions on a rosary of precious stones. The pious
Buddhist in Ceylon, and in Ava, and in Pekin, had the beads ever between
his fingers, and a prayer ever between his lips.

By means of these great and cosmopolitan religions, all of which
possessed their sacred books, all of which enjoined a pure morality, all
of which united vast masses of men of different and even hostile
nationalities beneath the same religious laws, beneath the same sceptre
of an unseen king; all of which prescribed pilgrimage and travel as a
pious work, the circulation of life in the human body was promoted; men
congregated together at Rome, Jerusalem, Mecca, and Benares. Their minds
and morals were expanded. Religious enthusiasm united the scattered
princes of Europe into one great army, and poured it on the East. The
dukes and counts and barons were ruined; the castle system was
extinguished: and the castle serfs of necessity were free. The kings
allied themselves with the free and fortified cities, who lent troops to
the crown, but who officered those troops themselves; who paid taxes to
the crown, but who voted those taxes in constitutional assemblies, and
had the power to withhold them if they pleased. Those towns now became
not only abodes of industry and commerce, but of learning and the arts.
In Italy the ancient culture had been revived. In Italy the towns of the
Western Empire had never quite lost their municipal prerogatives. New
towns had also arisen, founded in despair and nurtured by calamity.
These towns had opened a trade with Constantinople, a great commercial
city in which the Arabs had a quarter and a mosque. The Italians were
thus led forth into a trade with the Mohammedans, which was interrupted
for a time by the Crusades only to be afterwards resumed with redoubled
vigour and success. For then new markets were opened for the spices of
the East. Pepper became a requisite of European life; and pepper could
be obtained from the Italians alone. The Indian trade was not
monopolised by a single man, as it was in the lands of the East. It was
distributed among an immense population. Wealth produced elegance,
leisure, and refinement. There came into existence a large and
active-minded class, craving for excitement, and desirous of new things.
They hungered and thirsted after knowledge; they were not content with
the sterile science of the priests. And when it was discovered that the
world of the ancients lay buried in their soil, they were seized with a
mania resembling that of treasure-seekers in the East, or of the
gold-hunters in the New World.

The elements of the Renaissance were preserved partly in Rome and the
cities of the West, partly in Constantinople, and partly in the East.
The Arabs, when they conquered Alexandria, had adopted the physical
science of the Greeks, and had added to it the algebra and arithmetic of
India. Plato and Aristotle, Galen and Hippocrates, Ptolemy and Euclid,
had been translated by the Eastern Christians into Syriac, and thence
into the Arabic. But the Arabs had not translated a single Greek
historian or poet. These were to be found at Constantinople, where the
Greek of the ancients was still spoken in its purity at the court and in
the convents though not by the people of the streets. The Greeks also
had preserved the arts of their forefathers; though destitute of genius,
they at least retained the art of laying on colours, of modelling in
clay, and of sculpturing in stone. The great towns of Italy, desirous to
emulate the beauties of St. Sophia, employed Greeks to build them
cathedrals, and to paint frescoes on their convent walls, and to make
them statues for their streets. These Greek strangers established
academies of art; and soon the masters were surpassed by their pupils.
The Italians disdained to reproduce the figures of the Greek school,
with their meagre hands, and sharp pointed feet, and staring eyes. Free
institutions made their influence felt even in the arts; the empire of
authority was shaken off. The fine arts spread beyond the Alps; they
were first adopted and nurtured by the Church, afterwards by the Town.
Oil-painting was invented in the North. Masterpieces of the ancients
were discovered in the South. Then the artists ceased to paint Madonnas,
and children, and saints, and crucifixions. They were touched with the
breath of antiquity; they widened their field; their hands were inspired
by poetical ideas. It is a significant fact that a Pope should himself
conceive the project of pulling down the ancient Basilica of St. Peter,
every stone of which was consecrated by a memory, and of erecting in its
stead a church on the model of a pagan temple.

The Pope was also urged to set on foot a crusade; not to rescue the
sepulchre from the hands of the infidels, but in the hope that the lost
writings of the Greeks and Romans might be discovered in the East. For
now had arrived the book-hunting age. In the depth of the Dark Ages
there had always been ecclesiastics who drew the fire of their genius
from the immortal works of the pagan writers. There were also monks who
had a passion for translating the writings of the Greeks into Latin; who
went to Constantinople and returned with chests full of books, and who,
if Greek manuscripts could not otherwise be procured, travelled into
Arab Spain, settled at Cordova, and translated the Greek from the Arabic
version, together with the works of Averroes and Avicenna. The Greeks,
frequently visiting Italy, were invited to give lectures on their
literature, and lessons in their language. The revival of Greek was
commenced by Boccacio, who copied out Homer with his own hand; and a
Greek academy was established at Florence. Petrarch revived the
literature of Rome he devoted his life to Cicero and Virgil; he wrote
the epitaph of Laura on the margin of the Aeneid; he died with his head
pillowed on a book. The Roman law was also revived; as Greeks lectured
on literature in Italy, so Italians lectured on law beyond the Alps.

And now began the search for the lost. Pilgrims of the antique wandered
through Europe, ransacking convents for the treasures of the past. At
this time whatever taste for learning had once existed among the monks
appears to have died away. The pilgrims were directed to look in lofts,
where rats burrowed under heaps of parchment; or to sift heaps of
rubbish lying in the cellar. In such receptacles were found many of
those works which are yet read by thousands with delight, and which are
endeared to us all by the associations of our boyhood. It was thus that
Quintilian was discovered, and, to use the language of the time, was
delivered from his long imprisonment in the dungeons of the barbarians.
Lucretius was disinterred in Germany; a fragment of Petronius in
Britain. Cosmo de' Medici imported books in all languages from all parts
of the world. A copyist became Pope, founded the Library of the Vatican,
and ordered the translation of the Greek historians and philosophers
into Latin. A great reading public now existed; the invention of
printing, which a hundred years before would have been useless, spread
like fire over Europe, and reduced, by four-fifths, the price of books.
The writings of the classical geographers inspired Prince Henry and
Columbus. The New World was discovered; the sea-route to India was
found. Cairo and Baghdad, the great broker cities between India and
Europe, were ruined. As the Indian Ocean, at first the centre of the
world, had yielded to the Mediterranean, so now the basin of the
Mediterranean was deserted, and the Atlantic became supreme. Italy
decayed; Spain and Portugal succeeded to the throne. But those countries
were ruined by religious bigotry and commercial monopolies. The trade of
Portugal did not belong to the country, but to the court. The trade of
Spain was also a monopoly shared between the Crown and certain cities of
Castile. The Dutch, the English, and the French obtained free access to
the tropical world, and bought the spices of the East with the silver of
Peru. And then the great movement for Liberty commenced. All people of
the Teutonic race; the Germans, the Swiss, the Dutch, the English and
the Scotch, the Danes and the Swedes, cast off the yoke of the Italian
supremacy, and some of the superstitions of the Italian creed.

But now a new kind of servitude arose. The kings reduced the burghers of
Europe to subjection. The constitutional monarchies of the Middle Ages
disappeared. In England alone, owing to its insular position, a standing
army was not required for the protection of the land. In England,
therefore, the encroachments of the Crown were resisted with success.
Two revolutions established the sovereignty of an elected parliament,
and saved England from the fate of France. For in that land tyranny had
struck its roots far down into the soil, and could not be torn up
without the whole land being rent in twain. In Spain, despotism might
rule in safety over ignorance; but the French had eaten of the Tree of
Knowledge, and they demanded to eat of the Tree of Life. A bread riot
became a rebellion; the rebellion became a revolution. Maddened by
resistance, frenzied with fear, they made their revolution a massacre.
Yet, in spite of mummeries and murders, and irreligious persecutions; in
spite of follies perpetrated in the name of Reason, and cruelties
committed in the name of Humanity, that revolution regenerated France,
and planted principles which spread over the continent of Europe, and
which are now bearing fruit in Italy and Spain. With the nineteenth
century, a new era of history begins.

Such then is the plain unvarnished story of the human race. We have
traced the stream of history to its source in the dark forest; we have
followed it downwards through the steppes of the shepherds and the
valleys of the great priest peoples; we have swept swiftly along, past
pyramids and pagodas, and the brick-piles of Babylon; past the temples
of Ionia, and the amphitheatres of Rome; past castles and cathedrals
lying opposite to mosques with graceful minaret and swelling dome; and
so, onwards and onwards, till towns rise on both sides of the stream;
towns sternly walled with sentinels before the gates; so, onwards and
onwards, till the stream widens and is covered with ships large as
palaces, and towering with sail; till the banks are lined with gardens
and villas; and huge cities, no longer walled, hum with industry, and
becloud the air; and deserts or barren hills are no longer to be seen;
and the banks recede and open out like arms, and the earth-shores
dissolve, and we faintly discern the glassy glimmering of the boundless
sea. We shall descend to the mouth of the river, we shall explore the
unknown waters which lie beyond the present, we shall survey the course
which man has yet to run. But before we attempt to navigate the future,
let us return for a moment to the past; let us endeavour to ascertain
the laws which direct the movements of the stream, and let us visit the
ruins which are scattered on its banks.

The progress of the human race is caused by the mental efforts which are
made at first from necessity to preserve life, and secondly from the
desire to obtain distinction. In a healthy nation, each class presses
into the class which lies above it; the blood flows upwards, and so the
whole mass, by the united movements of its single atoms, rises in the
scale. The progress of a nation is the sum-total of the progress of the
individuals composing it. If certain parts of the body politic are
stifled in their growth by means of artificial laws, it is evident that
the growth of the whole will be arrested; for the growth of each part is
dependent on the growth of all. It is usual to speak of Greece as a free
country; and so it was in comparison with Asia. But more than half its
inhabitants were slaves; labour was degraded; whatever could be done by
thought alone, and by delicate movements of the hands, was carried to
perfection; but in physical science the Greeks did little, because
little could be done without instruments, and instruments can seldom be
invented except by free and intelligent artisans. So the upper part of
the Greek body grew; the lower part remained in a base and brutal state,
discharging the offices of life, but without beauty and without
strength. The face was that of Hyperion; the legs were shrivelled and
hideous as those of a satyr. In Asia human laws have been still more
fatal to the human progress. In China there is no slavery, and there is
no caste; the poorest man may be exalted to the highest station; not
birth but ability is the criterion of distinction; appointments are open
to the nation, and are awarded by means of competitive examinations. But
the Chinese are schoolboys who never grow up; generals and statesmen who
incur the displeasure of the Crown are horsed and flagellated in the
Eton style, a bamboo being used instead of a birch. The patriarchal
system of the steppes has been transferred to the imperial plain. Just
as a Chinese town is merely a Tartar camp encircled by earthen walls;
just as a Chinese house is merely a Tartar tent, supported by wooden
posts and cased with brick, so it is with the government, domestic and
official, of that country. Every one is the slave of his father, as it
was in the old tent-life; every father is the slave of an official who
stands in the place of the old clan chief; and all are slaves of the
emperor, who is the viceroy of God. In China, therefore, senility is
supreme; nothing is respectable unless it has existed at least a
thousand years; foreigners are barbarians, and property is insecure.

In this one phrase the whole history of Asia is contained. In the
despotic lands of the East, the peasant who grows more corn than he
requires is at once an object of attention to the police; he is reported
to the governor, and a charge is laid against him, in order that his
grain may be seized. He not only loses the fruit of his toil, but he
also receives the bastinado. In the same manner, if a merchant, by means
of his enterprise, industry, and talents, amasses a large fortune; he also
is arrested and is put to death, that his estate may escheat to the
Crown. As the Chinese say, "The elephant is killed for his ivory." This,
then, is the secret of Asiatic apathy, and not the heat of the climate,
or the inherent qualities of race. Civilised Asia has been always
enthralled, because standing armies have always been required to resist
the attacks of those warlike barbarians who cover the deserts of Arabia
and Tartary, the highlands of Ethiopia and Kabul. Asia, therefore, soon
takes a secondary place, and Europe becomes the centre of the human
growth. Yet it should not be forgotten that Asia was civilised when
Europe was a forest and a swamp. Asia taught Europe its A B C; Asia
taught Europe to cipher and to draw; Asia taught Europe the language of
the skies, how to calculate eclipses, how to follow the courses of the
stars, how to measure time by means of an instrument which recorded with
its shadow the station of the sun; how to solve mathematical problems;
how to philosophise with abstract ideas. Let us not forget the school in
which we learnt to spell, and those venerable halls in which we acquired
the rudiments of science and of art.

The savage worships the shades of his ancestors chiefly from selfish
fear; the Asiatic follows, from blind prejudice, the wisdom of the
ancients, and rejects with contempt all knowledge which was unknown to
them. Yet within these superstitions a beautiful sentiment lies
concealed. We ought, indeed, to reverence the men of the past, who, by
their labours and their inventions, have made us what we are. This great
and glorious city in which we dwell, this mighty London, the metropolis
of the earth; these streets flowing with eager-minded life, and gleaming
with prodigious wealth; these forests of masts, these dark buildings,
turning refuse into gold, and giving bread to many thousand mouths;
these harnessed elements which whirl us along beneath the ground, and
which soon will convey us through the air; these spacious halls, adorned
with all that can exalt the imagination or fascinate the sense; these
temples of melody; these galleries, exhibiting excavated worlds; these
walls covered with books in which dwell the souls of the immortal dead,
which, when they are opened, transport us by a magic spell to lands
which are vanished and passed away, or to spheres created by the poet's
art; which make us walk with Plato beneath the plane trees, or descend
with Dante into the dolorous abyss--to whom do we owe all these? First,
to the poor savages, forgotten and despised, who, by rubbing sticks
together, discovered fire, who first tamed the timid fawn, and first
made the experiment of putting seeds into the ground. And, secondly, we
owe them to those enterprising warriors who established nationality, and
to those priests who devoted their lifetime to the culture of their

There is a land where the air is always tranquil, where Nature wears
always the same bright yet lifeless smile; and there, as in a vast
museum, are preserved the colossal achievements of the past. Let us
enter the sad and silent river; let us wander on its dusky shores.
Buried cities are beneath our feet; the ground on which we tread is the
pavement of a tomb. See the Pyramids towering to the sky; with men, like
insects, crawling round their base; and the Sphinx, couched in vast
repose, with a ruined temple between its paws. Since those great
monuments were raised, the very heavens have been changed. When the
architects of Egypt began their work, there was another polar star in
the northern sky, and the Southern Cross shone upon the Baltic shores.
How glorious are the memories of those ancient men, whose names are
forgotten, for they lived and laboured in the distant and unwritten
past. Too great to be known, they sit on the height of centuries and
look down on fame. The boat expands its white and pointed wings; the
sailors chaunt a plaintive song; the waters bubble around us as we glide
past the tombs and temples of the by-gone days. The men are dead, and
the gods are dead. Nought but their memories remain. Where now is
Osiris, who came down upon earth out of love for men, who was killed by
the malice of the Evil One, who rose again from the grave, and became
the Judge of the dead? Where now is Isis the mother, with the child
Horus on her lap? They are dead; they are gone to the land of the
shades. To-morrow, Jehovah, you and your son shall be with them!

Men die, and the ideas which they call gods die too; yet death is not
destruction, but only a kind of change. Those strange ethereal
secretions of the brain, those wondrously distilled thoughts of ours--do
they ever really die? They are embodied into words; and from these
words, spoken or written, new thoughts are born within the brains of
those who listen or who read. There was a town named Heliopolis; it had
a college garden, and a willow hanging over the Fountain of the Sun; and
there the professors lectured and discoursed on the Triune God, and the
creation of the world, and, the Serpent Evil, and the Tree of Life; and
on chaos and darkness, and the shining stars; and there the stone
quadrant was pointed to the heavens; and there the laboratory furnace
glowed. And in that college two foreign students were received, and went
forth learned in its lore. The first created a nation in the Egyptian
style; the second created a system of ideas; and, strange to say, on
Egyptian soil the two were reunited: the philosophy of Moses was joined
in Alexandria to the philosophy of Plato, not only by the Jews, but also
by the Christians; not only in Philo Judaeus, but also in the Gospel of
St. John.

Over the bright blue waters, under the soft and tender sky, with the
purple sails outspread and roses twining round the mast, with lute and
flute resounding from the prow, and red wine poured upon the sea, and
thanksgiving to the gods, we enter the Piraeus, and salute with our flag
the temple on the hill. Vessels sweep past us, outward bound, laden with
statues and paintings, for such are the manufactures of Athens, where
the milestones are masterpieces, and the streetwalkers poets and
philosophers. Imagine the transports of the young provincial who went to
Athens to commence a career of ambition, to make himself a name! What
raptures he must have felt as he passed through that City of the Violet
Crown with Homer in his bosom, and hopes of another united Greece within
his heart! What a banquet of delights, what varied treasures of the mind
were spread before him there! He listened first to a speech of Pericles
on political affairs, and then to a lecture by Anaxagoras. He was taken
to the studio of Phidias and of Polygnotus: he went to a theatre built
of Persian masts to see a new tragedy by Sophocles or Euripides, and
finished the evening at Aspasia's establishment, with odes of Sappho,
and ballads of Anacreon, and sweet-eyed musicians, and intellectual

So great are the achievements of the Greeks, so deep is the debt which
we owe to them, that criticism appears ungrateful or obtuse. It is
scarcely possible to indicate the vices and defects of this people
without seeming guilty of insensibility or affectation. It is curious to
observe how grave and sober minds accustomed to gather evidence with
care, and to utter decisions with impartiality, cease to be judicial
when Greece is brought before them. She unveils her beauty, and they can
only admire: they are unable to condemn. Those who devote themselves to
the study of the Greeks become nationalised in their literature, and
patriots of their domain. It is indeed impossible to read their works
without being impressed by their purity, their calmness, their exquisite
symmetry and finish resembling that which is bestowed upon a painting or
a statue. But it is not only in the Greek writings that the Greek spirit
is contained: it has entered the modern European mind it permeates the
world of thought; it inspires the ideas of those who have never read the
Greek authors, and who perhaps regard them with disdain. We do not see
the foundations of our minds: they are buried in the past. The great
books and the great discoveries of modern times are based upon the works
of Homer, Plato, Aristotle, and their disciples. All that we owe to Rome
we owe to Greece as well, for Italy was a child of Greece. The cities on
the southern coast bestowed on the rude natives the elements of culture,
and when Rome became famous it was colonised by Grecian philosophers and

To Rome we are indebted for those laws from which our jurisprudence is
descended, and to Rome we are indebted for something else besides. We
shall not now pause on the Rome, of the Republic, when every citizen was
a soldier, and worked in the fields with his own hands; when every
temple was the monument of a victory, and every statue the memorial of a
hero; when door-posts were adorned with the trophies of war, and halls
with the waxen images of ancestors; when the Romans were simple,
religious, and severe, and the vices of luxury were yet unknown, and
banquets were plain and sociable repasts, where the guests in turn sang
old ballads while the piper played. Nor shall we pause on the Rome of
Augustus, when East and West were united in peace and with equal rights
before the law; when the tyranny of petty princedoms, and the chicanery
of Grecian courts of law, and the blood-feuds of families had been
destroyed; and the empire was calm and not yet becalmed, and rested a
moment between tumult and decay. We shall pass on to a Rome more great
and more sublime; a Rome which ruled Europe, but not by arms; a Rome
which had no mercenary legions, no Praetorian Guards, and which yet
received the tribute of kings, and whose legates exercised the power of
proconsuls. In this Rome a man clad in the purple of the Caesars and
crowned with the tiara of the Pontifex sent forth his soldiers armed
with the crucifix, and they brought nations captive to his feet. Rome
became a city of God: she put on a spiritual crown. She cried to the
kings, Give! and gold was poured into her exchequers; she condemned a
man who had defied her, and he had no longer a place among mankind; she
proclaimed a Truce of God, and the swords of robber knights were
sheathed; she preached a crusade, and Europe was hurled into Asia. She
lowered the pride of the haughty, and she exalted the heart of the poor;
she softened the rage of the mighty, she consoled the despair of the
oppressed. She fed the hungry, and she clothed the naked; she took
children to her arms and signed them with the Cross; she administered
the sacraments to dying lips, and laid the cold body in the peaceful
grave. Her first word was to welcome, and her last word to forgive.

In the Dark Ages the European States were almost entirely severed from
one another; it was the Roman Church alone which gave them one sentiment
in common, and which united them within her fold. In those days of
violence and confusion, in those days of desolation and despair, when a
stranger was a thing which, like a leper or a madman, any one might
kill, when every gentleman was a highway robber, when the only kind of
lawsuit was a duel, hundreds of men dressed in gowns of coarse dark
stuff, with cords round their waists and bare feet, travelled with
impunity from castle to castle, preaching a doctrine of peace and good
will, holding up an emblem of humility and sorrow, receiving
confessions, pronouncing penance or absolutions, soothing the agonies of
a wounded conscience, awakening terror in the hardened mind. Parish
churches were built: the baron and his vassals chanted together the
Kyrie Eleison, and bowed their heads together when the bell sounded and
the Host was raised. Here and there in the sombre forest a band of those
holy men encamped, and cut down the trees and erected a building which
was not only a house of prayer, but also a kind of model farm. The monks
worked in the fields, and had their carpenters' and their blacksmiths'
shops. They copied out books in a fair hand: they painted Madonnas for
their chapel: they composed music for their choir: they illuminated
missals: they studied Arabic and Greek: they read Cicero and Virgil:
they preserved the Roman Law.

Bright, indeed, yet scanty are these gleams. In the long night of the
Dark Ages we look upon the earth, and only the convent and the castle
appear to be alive. In the convent the sound of honourable labour
mingles with the sound of prayer and praise. In the castle sits the
baron with his children on his lap, and his wife, leaning on his
shoulder: the troubadour sings, and the page and demoiselle exchange a
glance of love. The castle is the home of music and chivalry and family
affection. The convent is the home of religion and of art. But the
people cower in their wooden huts, half starved, half frozen, and wolves
sniff at them through the chinks in the walls. The convent prays, and
the castle sings: the cottage hungers, and groans, and dies. Such is the
dark night: here and there a star in the heaven: here and there a torch
upon the earth: all else is cloud and bitter wind. But now, behold the
light glowing in the East: it brightens, it broadens, the day is at
hand! The sun is rising, and will set no more: the castle and the
convent disappear: the world is illumined: freedom is restored. Italy is
a garden, and its blue sea shines with sails. New worlds are discovered,
new arts are invented: the merchants enrich Europe, and their sons set
her free. In a hall at Westminster, in a redoubt at Bunker Hill, in a
tennis court at Versailles, great victories are won, and liberty at last
descends even to the poor French peasant growing grey in his furrow,
even to the negro picking cotton in the fields. Yet after all, how
little has been done! The sun shines as yet only on a corner of the
earth: Asia and Africa are buried in the night. And even here in this
island, where liberty was born, where wealth is sustained by enterprise
and industry, and war comes seldom, and charity abounds, there are yet
dark places where the sunlight never enters, and where hope has never
been: where day follows day in never-changing toil, and where life leads
only to the prison, or the work house, or the grave. Yet a day will come
when the whole earth will be as civilised as Europe: a day will come
when these dark spots will pass away.

If we compare the present with the past, if we trace events at all
epochs to their causes, if we examine the elements of human growth, we
find that Nature has raised us to what we are, not by fixed laws, but by
provisional expedients, and that the principle which in one age effected
the advancement of a nation, in the next age retarded the mental
movement, or even destroyed it altogether. War, despotism, slavery, and
superstition are now injurious to the progress of Europe, but they were
once the agents by which progress was produced. By means of war the
animated life was slowly raised upward in the scale, and quadrupeds
passed into man. By means of war the human intelligence was brightened,
and the affections were made intense; weapons and tools were invented;
foreign wives were captured, and the marriages of blood relations were
forbidden; prisoners were tamed, and the women set free; prisoners were
exchanged, accompanied with presents; thus commerce was established, and
thus, by means of war, men were first brought into amicable relations
with one another. By war the tribes were dispersed all over the world,
and adopted various pursuits according to the conditions by which they
were surrounded. By war the tribes were compressed into the nation. It
was war which founded the Chinese Empire. It was war which had locked
Babylonia, and Egypt, and India. It was war which developed the genius
of Greece. It was war which planted the Greek language in Asia, and so
rendered possible the spread of Christianity. It was war which united
the world in peace from the Cheviot Hills to the Danube and the
Euphrates. It was war which saved Europe from the quietude of China. It
was war which made Mecca the centre of the East. It was war which
united the barons in the Crusades, and which destroyed the feudal system.

Even in recent times the action of war has been useful in condensing
scattered elements of nationality, and in liberating subject
populations. United Italy was formed directly or indirectly by the war
of 1859, 1866, and 1870. The last war realised the dreams of German
poets, and united the Teutonic nations more closely than the shrewdest
statesmen could have conceived to be possible a few years ago. That same
war, so calamitous for France, will yet regenerate that great country,
and make her more prosperous than she has ever been. The American War
emancipated four million men, and decided for ever the question as to
whether the Union was a nationality or a league. But the Crimean War was
injurious to civilisation; it retarded a useful and inevitable event.
Turkey will some day be covered with cornfields; Constantinople will
some day be a manufacturing town; but a generation has been lost.
Statesmen and journalists will learn in time that whatever is conquered
for civilisation is conquered for all. To preserve the Balance of Power
was an excellent policy in the Middle Ages, when war was the only
pursuit of a gentleman, and when conquest was the only ambition of
kings. It is now suited only for the highlands of Abyssinia. The
jealousy with which 'true Britons' regard the Russian success in Central
Asia is surely a very miserable feeling. That a vast region of the earth
should be opened, that robbery and rapine and slave-making raids should
be suppressed, that waste-lands should be cultivated, that new stores of
wealth should be discovered, that new markets should be established for
the products of European industry, our own among the rest, that Russia
should adjoin England in Asia as she adjoins Germany in Europe--what a
lamentable occurrence, what an ominous event! In Central Africa it often
happens that between two barbarous and distrustful nations there is a
wide neutral ground, inhabited by wild beasts, which prey upon the
flocks and herds on either side. Such is the policy which maintains the
existence of barbarous kingdoms between two civilised frontiers.

The great Turkish and Chinese Empires, the lands of Morocco, Abyssinia,
and Tibet, will be eventually filled with free, industrious, and
educated populations. But those people will never begin to advance until
their property is rendered secure, until they enjoy the rights of man;
and these they will never obtain except by means of European conquest.
In British India the peasant reaps the rice which he has sown; and the
merchant has no need to hide his gold beneath the ground. The young men
of the new generation are looking forward to the time when the civil
appointments of their country will he held by them. The Indian Mutiny
was a mutiny only, and not a rebellion; the industrial and mercantile
classes were on the English side. There is a sickly school of
politicians who declare that all countries belong to their inhabitants,
and that to take them is a crime. If any country in Asia did belong to
its inhabitants, there might be some force in this objection. But Asia
is possessed by a few kings and by their soldiers; these rulers are
usually foreigners; the masses of the people are invariably slaves. The
conquest of Asia by European Powers is therefore in reality
emancipation, and is the first step towards the establishment of
Oriental nationality. It is needless to say that Europe will never
engage in crusades to liberate servile populations; but the pride and
ignorance of military despots will provoke foreign wars, which will
prove fatal to their rule. Thus war will, for long years yet to come, be
required to prepare the way for freedom and progress in the East; and in
Europe itself, it is not probable that war will ever absolutely cease
until science discovers some destroying force, so simple in its
administration, so horrible in its effects, that all art, all gallantry,
will be at an end, and battles will be massacres which the feelings of
mankind will be unable to endure.

A second expedient of Nature is religion. Men believe in the existence
of beings who can punish and reward them in this life or in the next,
who are the true rulers of the world, and who have deputed certain men,
called priests, to collect tribute and to pass laws on their behalf. By
means of these erroneous ideas, a system of government is formed to
which kings themselves are subjected; the moral nature of man is
improved, the sciences and arts are developed, distinct and hostile
races are united. But error, like war, is only provisional. In Europe,
religion no longer exists as a political power, but it will probably yet
render service to civilisation in assisting to Europeanise the barbarous
nations whom events will in time bring under our control.

A third expedient of Nature is inequality of conditions. Sloth is the
natural state of man; prolonged and monotonous labour is hard for him to
bear. The savage can follow a trail through the forest, or can lie in
ambush for days at a time; this pertinacity and patience are native to
his mind; they belong to the animals from whom he is descended: but the
cultivation of the soil is a new kind of labour, and it is only followed
from compulsion. It is probable that when domestic slavery was invented,
a great service was rendered to mankind, and it has already been shown
that when prisoners of war were tamed and broken in, women were set
free, and became beautiful, long-haired, low-voiced, sweet-eyed
creatures, delicate in form, modest in demeanour, and refined in soul.
It was also by means of slavery that a system of superfluous labour was
established; for women, when slaves, are made only to labour for the
essentials of life. It was by means of slavery that leisure was created,
that the priests were enabled to make experiments, and to cultivate the
arts, that the great public buildings of the ancient lands were raised.
It was slavery which arrested the progress of Greece; but it was also
slavery which enabled all the free men of a Greek town to be sculptors,
poets, and philosophers. Slavery is now happily extinct, and can never
be revived under the sanction of civilised authority. But a European
Government, ought perhaps to introduce compulsory labour among the
barbarous races that acknowledge its sovereignty and occupy its land.
Children are ruled and schooled by force, and it is not an empty
metaphor to say that savages are children. If they were made to work,
not for the benefit of others, but for their own; if the rewards of
their labour were bestowed, not on their masters, but on themselves, the
habit of work would become with them a second nature, as it is with us,
and they would learn to require luxuries which industry only could
obtain. A man is not a slave in being compelled to work against his
will, but in being compelled to work without hope and without reward.
Enforced labour is undoubtedly a hardship, but it is one which at
present belongs to the lot of man, and is indispensable to progress.

The Future of Human Race

Mankind grows because men desire to better themselves in life, and this
desire proceeds from the inequality of conditions. A time will
undoubtedly arrive when all men and women will be equal, and when the
love of money, which is now the root of all industry, and which
therefore is now the root of all good, will cease to animate the human
mind. But changes so prodigious can only be effected in prodigious
periods of time. Human nature cannot be transformed by a coup d'etat, as
the Comtists and Communists imagine. It is a complete delusion to
suppose that wealth can be equalised and happiness impartially
distributed by any process of law, Act of Parliament, or revolutionary
measure. It is easy to compose a pathetic scene in a novel, or a loud
article in a magazine by contrasting Dives lunching on turtle at Birch's
with Lazarus feeding on garbage in a cellar. But the poor man loses
nothing, because another man is rich. The Communist might as well
denounce one man for enjoying excellent health, while another man is a
victim to consumption. Wealth, like health, is in the air; if a man
makes a fortune he draws money from Nature and gives it to the general
stock. Every millionaire enriches the community. It is undoubtedly the
duty of the government to mitigate so far as lies within its power, the
miseries which result from overpopulation. But as long as men continue
unequal in patience, industry, talent, and sobriety, so long there will
be rich men and poor men--men who roll in their carriages, and men who
die in the streets. If all the property of this country were divided,
things would soon return to their actual condition, unless some scheme
could also be devised for changing human nature; and as for the system
of the Commune, which makes it impossible for a man to rise or to fall,
it is merely the old caste system revived; if it could be put into
force, all industry would be disheartened, emulation would cease,
mankind would go to sleep.

It is not, however, strange that superficial writers should suppose that
the evils of social life can be altered by changes in government and
law. In the lands of the East, in the Spain and Portugal of the
sixteenth century, in the France of the eighteenth century, in the
American Colonies, and in England itself, whole classes were at one time
plunged by misgovernment into suffering of body and apathy of mind. But
a government can confer few benefits upon a people except by destroying
its own laws. The great reforms which followed the publication of "The
Wealth of Nations" may all be summed up in the word Repeal. Commerce was
regulated in former times by a number of paternal laws, which have since
been happily withdrawn. The government still pays with our money a
number of gentlemen to give us information respecting a future state,
and still requires that in certain business transactions a document
shall be drawn up with mysterious rites in a mediaeval jargon; but,
placing aside hereditary evils which, on account of vested interests, it
is impossible at once to remove, it may fairly be asserted that the
government of this country is as nearly perfect as any government can
be. Power rests upon public opinion, and is so beautifully poised that
it can be overthrown and replaced without the business of the state
being interrupted for a day. If the Executive is condemned by the
nation, the press acts with irresistible force upon the Commons; a vote
of censure is passed and the rulers of a great empire abdicate their
thrones. The House of Lords is also an admirable Upper Chamber; for if
it were filled with ambitious men elected by the people it would enter
into conflict with the Commons. And as for the Royal Image it costs
little and is useful as an emblem. The government of England possesses
at the same time the freedom which is only found in a republic, and the
loyalty which is only felt towards a monarch.

Some writers believe that this monarchy is injurious to the public and
argue as follows: There are no paupers in America, and America is a
republic. There are many paupers in England, and England is a monarchy.
Therefore England should imitate America. It may astonish these writers
to learn that America is in reality more of a monarchy than England.
Buckingham Palace is a private dwelling; but the White House, though it
has none of the pomp, has all the power of a Court. The king of America
has more to give away than any king of Great Britain since the time of
Charles the Second. He has the power to discharge of his own good
pleasure and mere motion every ambassador, every consul, every head of
department, every government employé, down to the clerk on two hundred
dollars a year, and to fill their places with his own friends. In
America the opinion of the public can with difficulty act upon the
government. The press has no dignity, and very little power. Practices
occur in the House of Representatives which have been unknown in England
since the days of Walpole. If the prosperity of a country depended on
its government, America would be less prosperous than England. But in
point of fact America is the happiest country in the world. There is not
a man in the vast land which lies between the oceans who, however humble
his occupation may be, does not hope to make a fortune before he dies.
The whole nation is possessed with the spirit which may be observed in
Fleet Street and Cheapside; the boys sharp-eyed and curious, the men
hastening eagerly along, even the women walking as if they had an object
in view. There are in America no dull-eyed heavy-footed labourers, who
slouch to and fro from their cottage to their work, from their work to
the beer-house, without a higher hope in life than a sixpence from the
squire when they open a gate. There are no girls of the milliner class
who prefer being the mistresses of gentlemen to marrying men of their
own station with a Cockney accent and red hands. The upper classes in
America have not that exquisite refinement which exists in the highest
circles of society in Europe. But if we take the whole people through
and through, we find them the most civilised nation on the earth. They,
preserve in a degree hitherto without example the dignity of human
nature unimpaired. Their nobleness of character results from prosperity;
and their prosperity is due to the nature of their land. Those who are
unable to earn a living in the east, have only to move towards the west.

This then is the reason that the English race in America is more happy,
more enlightened, and more thriving, than it is in the motherland.
Politically speaking, the emigrant gains nothing; he is as free in
England as he is in America; but he leaves a land where labour is
depreciated, and goes to a land where labour is in demand. That England
may become as prosperous as America, it must be placed under American
conditions; that is to say, food must be cheap, labour must be dear,
emigration must be easy. It is not by universal suffrage, it is not by
any Act of Parliament that these conditions can be created. It is
Science alone which can Americanise England; it is Science alone which
can ameliorate the condition of the human race.

When Man first wandered in the dark forest, he was Nature's serf; he
offered tribute and prayer to the winds, and the lightning, and the
rain, to the cave-lion, which seized his burrow for its lair, to the
mammoth, which devoured his scanty crops. But as time passed on, he
ventured, to rebel; he made stone his servant; he discovered fire and
vegetable poison; he domesticated iron; he slew the wild beasts or
subdued them; he made them feed him and give him clothes. He became a
chief surrounded by his slaves; the fire lay beside him with dull red
eye and yellow tongue waiting his instructions to prepare his dinner, or
to make him poison, or to go with him to the war, and fly on the houses
of the enemy, hissing, roaring, and consuming all. The trees of the
forest were his flock, he slaughtered them at his convenience; the earth
brought forth at his command. He struck iron upon wood or stone and
hewed out the fancies of his brain; he plucked shells, and flowers, and
the bright red berries, and twined them in his hair; he cut the pebble
to a sparkling gem, he made the dull clay a transparent stone. The river
which once he had worshipped as a god, or which he had vainly attacked
with sword and spear, he now conquered to his will. He made the winds
grind his corn and carry him across the waters; he made the stars serve him
as a guide. He obtained from salt and wood and sulphur a destroying force.
He drew from fire, and water, the awful power which produces the
volcano, and made it do the work of human hands. He made the sun paint
his portraits, and gave the lightning a situation in the post-office.

Thus Man has taken into his service, and modified to his use, the
animals, the plants, the earths and the stones, the waters and the
winds, and the more complex forces of heat, electricity, sunlight,
magnetism, with chemical powers of many kinds. By means of his
inventions and discoveries, by means of the arts and trades, and by
means of the industry resulting from them, he has raised himself from
the condition of a serf to the condition of a lord. His triumph, indeed,
is incomplete; his kingdom is not yet come. The Prince of Darkness is
still triumphant in many regions of the world; epidemics still rage,
death is yet victorious. But the God of Light, the Spirit of Knowledge,
the Divine Intellect, is gradually spreading over the planet and upwards
to the skies. The beautiful legend will yet come true; Ormuzd will
vanquish Ahriman; Satan will be overcome; Virtue will descend from
heaven, surrounded by her angels, and reign over the hearts of men.
Earth, which is now a purgatory, will be made a paradise, not by idle
prayers and supplications, but by the efforts of man himself, and by
means of mental achievements analogous to those which have raised him to
his present state. Those inventions and discoveries which have made him,
by the grace of God, king of the animals, lord of the elements, and
sovereign of steam and electricity, were all of them founded on
experiment and observation. We can conquer Nature only by obeying her
laws, and in order to obey her laws we must first learn what they are.
When we have ascertained, by means of Science, the method of Nature's
operations, we shall be able to take her place and to perform them for
ourselves. When we understand the laws which regulate the complex
phenomena of life, we shall be able to predict the future as we are
already able to predict comets and eclipses and the planetary movements.

Three inventions which perhaps may be long delayed, but which possibly
are near at hand, will give to this overcrowded island the prosperous
conditions of the United States. The first is the discovery of a motive
force which will take the place of steam, with its cumbrous fuel of oil
or coal; secondly, the invention of aerial locomotion which will
transport labour at a trifling cost of money and of time to any part of
the planet, and which, by annihilating distance, will speedily
extinguish national distinctions; and thirdly, the manufacture of flesh
and flour from the elements by a chemical process in the laboratory,
similar to that which is now performed within the bodies of the animals
and plants. Food will then be manufactured in unlimited quantities at a
trifling expense; and our enlightened posterity will look back upon us
who eat oxen and sheep just as we look back upon cannibals. Hunger and
starvation will then be unknown, and the best part of the human life
will no longer be wasted in the tedious process of cultivating the
fields. Population will mightily increase, and the earth will be a
garden. Governments will be conducted with the quietude and regularity
of club committees. The interest which is now felt in politics will be
transferred to science; the latest news from the laboratory of the
chemist, or the observatory of the astronomer, or the experimenting room
of the biologist will be eagerly discussed. Poetry and the fine arts
will take that place in the heart which religion now holds. Luxuries
will be cheapened and made common to all; none will be rich, and none
poor. Not only will Man subdue the forces of evil that are without; he
will also subdue those that are within. He will repress the base
instincts and propensities which he has inherited from the animals
below; he will obey the laws that are written on his heart; he will
worship the divinity within him. As our conscience forbids us to commit
actions which the conscience of the savage allows, so the moral sense of
our successors will stigmatise as crimes those offences against the
intellect which are sanctioned by ourselves. Idleness and stupidity will
be regarded with abhorrence. Women will become the companions of men,
and the tutors of their children. The whole world will be united by the
same sentiment which united the primeval clan, and which made its
members think, feel, and act as one. Men will look upon this star as
their fatherland; its progress will be their ambition; the gratitude of
others their reward. These bodies which now we: wear belong to the lower
animals; our minds have already outgrown them; already we look upon them
with contempt. A time will come when Science will transform them by
means which we cannot conjecture, and which, even if explained to us, we
could not now under stand, just as the savage cannot understand
electricity, magnetism, steam. Disease will be extirpated; the causes of
decay will be removed; immortality will be invented. And then, the earth
being small, mankind will migrate into space, and will cross the airless
Saharas which separate planet from planet, and sun from sun. The earth
will become a Holy Land which will be visited by pilgrims from all the
quarters of the universe. Finally, men will master the forces of Nature;
they will become themselves architects of systems, manufacturers of

Man then will be perfect; he will then be a creator; he will therefore
be what the vulgar worship as a god. But even then, he will in reality
be no nearer than he is at present to the First Cause, the Inscrutable
Mystery, the GOD. There is but a difference in degree between the
chemist who to-day arranges forces in his laboratory so that they
produce a gas, and the creator who arranges forces so that they produce
a world; between the gardener who plants a seed, and the creator who
plants a nebula. It is a question for us now to consider whether we have
any personal relations towards the Supreme Power; whether there exists
another world in which we shall be requited according to our actions.
Not only is this a grand problem of philosophy; it is of all questions
the most practical for us, the one in which our interests are most
vitally concerned. This life is short; and its pleasures are poor; when
we have obtained what we desire, it is nearly time to die. If it can be
shown that, by living in a certain manner, eternal happiness may be
obtained, then clearly no one except a fool or a madman would refuse to
live in such a manner. We shall therefore examine the current theory
respecting the nature of the Creator, the design of Creation; and the
future destiny of Man. But before we proceed to this inquiry, we must
first state that we intend to separate theology from morality. Whatever
may be the nature of the Deity, and whether there is a future life or
not, the great moral laws can be in no way changed. God is a purely
scientific question. Whether he is personal or impersonal, definable or
undefinable, our duties and responsibilities remain the same. The
existence of a heaven and a hell can affect our calculations, but,
cannot affect our moral liabilities.

The Religion of Reason and Love

The popular theory is this:--the world was made by a Great Being; he
created man in his own image; and therefore his mind is analogous to
that of man. But while our minds are imperfect, troubled by passions,
stained with sin, and limited in power, his mind is perfect in beauty,
perfect in power, perfect in love. He is omnipotent and omnipresent. He
loves men whom he has made, but he sorrows over their transgressions. He
has placed them on earth as a means of probation; those who have sinned
and repent, those who are contrite and humble, he will forgive, and on
them he will bestow everlasting happiness. Those who are wicked, and
stubborn, and hard of heart, those who deny and resist his authority, he
will punish according to his justice. This reward is bestowed, this
punishment is inflicted on the soul, a spirit which dwells within the
body during life. It is something entirely distinct from the intellect
or mind. The soul of the poorest creature in the streets and the souls
of the greatest philosopher or poet are equal before the Creator; he is
no respecter of person; souls are measured only by their sins. But the
sins of the ignorant will be forgiven; the sins of the more enlightened
will be more severely judged.

Now this appears a very reasonable theory as long as we do not examine
it closely, and as long as we do not carry out its propositions to their
full extent. But when we do so, we find that it conducts us to
absurdity, as we shall very quickly prove.

The souls of idiots not being responsible for their sins will go to
heaven; the souls of such men as Goethe and Rousseau are in danger of
hell-fire. Therefore it is better to be born an idiot than to be born a
Goethe or a Rousseau; and that is altogether absurd.

It is asserted that the doctrine of the immortality of the soul, and of
happiness in a future state, gives us a solution of that distressing
problem, the misery of the innocent on earth. But in reality it does
nothing of the kind, It does not explain the origin of evil, and it does
not justify the existence of evil. A poor helpless infant is thrust into
the world by a higher force; it has done no one any harm, yet it is
tortured in the most dreadful manner; it is nourished in vice, and
crime, and disease; it is allowed to suffer a certain time and then it
is murdered. It is all very well to say that afterwards it was taken to
everlasting bliss; but why was it not taken there direct? If a man has a
child and beats that child for no reason whatever, is it any palliation
of the crime to say that he afterwards gave it cake and wine?

This brings us to the character of the Creator. We must beg to observe
again that we describe, not the actual Creator, but the popular idea of
the Creator. It is said that the Supreme Power has a mind; this we deny,
and to show that our reasons for denying it are good, we shall proceed
to criticise this imaginary mind.

In the first place, we shall state as an incontrovertible maxim in
morality that a god has no right to create men except for their own
good. This may appear to the reader an extraordinary statement; but had
he lived in France at the time of Louis XIV, he would also have thought
it an extraordinary statement that kings existed for the good of the
people and not people for the good of kings. When the Duke of Burgundy
first propounded that axiom, St. Simon, by no means a servile courtier,
and an enlightened man for his age, was "delighted with the benevolence
of the saying, but startled by its novelty and terrified by its
boldness." Our proposition may appear very strange, but it certainly
cannot be refuted; for if it is said that the Creator is so great that
he is placed above our laws of morality, then what is that but placing
Might above Right? And if the maxim be admitted as correct, then how can
the phenomena of life be justified?

It is said that the Creator is omnipotent, and also that he is
benevolent. But one proposition contradicts the other. It is said that
he is perfect in power, and that he is also perfect in purity. We shall
show that he cannot possibly be both.

The conduct of a father towards his child appears to be cruel, but it is
not cruel in reality. He beats the child, but he does it for the child's
own good; he is not omnipotent; he is therefore obliged to choose
between two evils. But the Creator is omnipotent; he therefore chooses
cruelty as a means of education or development; he therefore has a
preference for cruelty or he would not choose it; he is therefore fond
of cruelty or he would not prefer it; he is therefore cruel, which is

Again, either sin entered the world against the will of the Creator, in
which case he is not omnipotent, or it entered with his permission, in
which case it is his agent, in which case he selects sin, in which case
he has a preference for sin, in which case he is fond of sin, in which
case he is sinful, which is an absurdity again.

The good in this world predominates over the bad; the good is ever
increasing, the bad is ever diminishing. But if God is Love why is there
any bad at all? Is the world like a novel in which the villains are put
in to make it more dramatic, and in which virtue only triumphs in the
third volume? It is certain that the feelings of the created have in no
way been considered. If indeed there were a judgment-day it would be for
man to appear at the bar not as criminal but as an accuser. What has he
done that he should be subjected to a life of torture and temptation?
God might have made us all happy, and he has made us all miserable. Is
that benevolence? God might have made us all pure, and he has made us
all sinful. Is that the perfection of morality? If I believed in the
existence of this man-created God, of this divine Nebuchadnezzar, I
would say, "You can make me live in your world, O Creator, but you
cannot make me admire it; you can load me with chains, but you cannot
make me flatter you; you can send me to hell-fire, but you can not
obtain my esteem. And if you condemn me, you condemn yourself. If I have
committed sins, you invented them, which is worse. If the watch you have
made does not go well, whose fault is that? Is it rational to damn the
wheels and the springs?"

But it is when we open the Book of Nature, that book inscribed in blood
and tears; it is when we study the laws regulating life, the laws
productive of development, that we see plainly how illusive is this
theory that God is Love. In all things there is cruel, profligate, and
abandoned waste. Of all the animals that are born a few only can
survive; and it is owing to this law that development takes place. The
law of Murder is the law of Growth. Life is one long tragedy; creation
is one great crime. And not only is there waste in animal and human
life, there is also waste in moral life. The instinct of love is planted
in the human breast, and that which to some is a solace is to others a
torture. How many hearts yearning for affection are blighted in solitude
and coldness! How many women seated by their lonely firesides are musing
of the days that might have been! How many eyes when they meet these
words which remind them of their sorrows will be filled with tears! O
cold, cruel, miserable life, how long are your pains, how brief are your
delights! What are joys but pretty children that grow into regrets? What
is happiness but a passing dream in which we seem to be asleep, and
which we know only to have been when it is past? Pain, grief, disease,
and death--are these the inventions of a loving God? That no animal
shall rise to excellence except by being fatal to the life of others--is
this the law of a kind Creator? It is useless to say that pain has its
benevolence, that massacre has its mercy. Why is it so ordained that bad
should be the raw material of good? Pain is not less pain because it is
useful; murder is not less murder because it is conducive to
development. Here is blood upon the hand still, and all the perfumes of
Arabia will not sweeten it.

To this then we are brought with the much-belauded theory of a
semi-human Providence, an anthropoid Deity, a Constructive Mind, a Deus
Paleyensis, a God created in the image of a watchmaker. What then are we
to infer? Why, simply this, that the current theory is false; that all
attempts to define the Creator bring us only to ridiculous conclusions;
that the Supreme Power is not a Mind, but something higher than a Mind;
not a Force, but something higher than a Force; not a Being, but
something higher than a Being; something for which we have no words,
something for which we have no ideas. We are to infer that Man is not
made in the image of his Maker, and that Man can no more understand his
Maker than the beetles and the worms can understand him. As men in the
days of ignorance endeavoured to discover perpetual motion and the
philosopher's stone, so now they endeavour to define God. But in time
also they will learn that the nature of the Deity is beyond the powers
of the human intellect to solve. The universe is anonymous; it is
published under secondary laws; these at least we are able to
investigate, and in these perhaps we may find a partial solution of the
great problem. The origin of evil cannot be explained, for we cannot
explain the origin of matter. But a careful and unprejudiced study of
Nature reveals an interesting fact and one that will be of value to

The earth resembles a picture, of which we, like insects which crawl
upon its surface, can form but a faint and incoherent idea. We see here
and there a glorious flash of colour; we have a dim conception that
there is union in all its parts; yet to us, because we are so near, the
tints appear to be blurred and confused. But let us expand our wings and
flutter off into the air; let us fly some distance backwards into Space
until we have reached the right point of view. And now the colours blend
and harmonise together, and we see that the picture represents One Man.

The body of a human individual is composed of cell-like bodies which are
called "physiological units." Each cell or atom has its own
individuality; it grows, it is nurtured, it brings forth young, and it
dies. It is in fact an animalcule. It has its own body and its own mind.
As the atoms are to the human unit, so the human units are to the human
whole. There is only One Man upon the earth; what we call men are not
individuals but components; what we call, death is merely the bursting
of a cell; wars and epidemics are merely inflammatory phenomena incident
on certain stages of growth. There is no such thing as a ghost or soul;
the intellects of men resemble those instincts which inhabit the
corpuscules, and which are dispersed when the corpuscule dies. Yet they
are not lost, they are preserved within the body and enter other forms.
Men therefore have no connection with Nature, except through the
organism to which they belong. Nature does not recognise their
individual existence. But each atom is conscious of its life; each atom
can improve itself in beauty and in strength; each atom can therefore,
in an infinitesimal degree, assist the development of the Human Mind. If
we take the life of a single atom, that is to say of a single man, or if
we look only at a single group, all appears to be cruelty and confusion;
but when we survey mankind as One, we find it becoming more and more
noble, more and more divine, slowly ripening towards perfection. We
belong to the minutiae of Nature, we are in her sight, as the rain-drop
in the sky; whether a man lives, or whether he dies, is as much a matter
of indifference to Nature as whether a rain-drop falls upon the field
and feeds a blade of grass, or falls upon a stone and is dried to death.
She does not supervise these small details. This discovery is by no
means flattering, but it enlarges our idea of the scheme of creation.
That universe must indeed be great in which human beings are so small!

The following facts result from our investigations: Supernatural
Christianity is false. God-worship is idolatry. Prayer is useless. The
soul is not immortal. There are no rewards and there are no punishments
in a future state.

It now remains to be considered whether it is right to say so. It will
doubtless be supposed that I shall make use of the plea that a writer is
always justified in publishing the truth, or what he conscientiously
believes to be the truth, and that if it does harm he is not to blame.
But I shall at once acknowledge that truth is only a means towards an
end--the welfare of the human race. If it can be shown that by speaking
the truth an injury is inflicted on mankind, then a stubborn adherence
to truth becomes merely a Pharisee virtue, a spiritual pride. But in
moral life Truth, though not infallible, is our safest guide, and those
who maintain that it should be repressed must be prepared to bring
forward irrefutable arguments in favour of their cause. If so much as
the shadow of a doubt remains, their client, Falsehood, is non-suited,
and Truth remains in possession of the conscience. Let us now hear what
the special pleaders have to say. The advocates for Christianity versus
Truth will speak first, and I shall reply; and then the advocates for
Deism will state their case. What they will endeavour to prove is this,
that even admitting the truth of my propositions, it is an immoral
action to give them to the world. On the other hand, I undertake to show
that the destruction of Christianity is essential to the interests of
civilisation; and also that man will never attain his full powers as a
moral being until he has ceased to believe in a personal God and in the
immortality of the soul.

"Christianity, we allow, is human in its origin, erroneous in its
theories, delusive in its threats and its rewards," say the advocates
for Christianity. "Jesus Christ was a man with all the faults and
imperfections of the prophetic character. The Bible is simply a
collection of Jewish writings. The miracles in the Old Testament deserve
no more attention from historians than the miracles in Homer. The
miracles in the gospels are like the miracles in Plutarch's Lives; they
do not lessen the value of the biography, and the value of the biography
does not lessen the absurdity of the miracles. So far we go with you.
But we assert that this religion with all its errors has rendered
inestimable services to civilisation, and that it is so inseparably
associated in the minds of men with purity of life, and the precepts of
morality, that it is impossible to attack Christianity without also
attacking all that is good, all that is pure, all that is lovely in
human nature. When you travelled in Africa did you not join in the
sacrifices of the pagans? Did you not always speak with respect of their
wood spirits and their water spirits, and their gods of the water and
the sky? And did you not take off your shoes when you entered the
mosque, and did you not, when they gave you the religious blessing,
return the religious reply? And since you could be so tolerant to
savages, surely you are bound to be more tolerant still to those who
belong to your own race, to those who possess a nobler religion, and
whose minds can be made by a careless word to suffer the most exquisite
pain. Yet you attack Christianity, and you attack it in the wrong way.
You ought, in the interests of your own cause, to write in such a manner
that minds might be gradually trained to reflection and decoyed to
doubt. It is not only heartless and inhuman, it is also unwise, it is
also unscientific, to say things which will shock and disgust those who
are beginning to inquire, and it is bad taste to jest on subjects which
if not sacred in themselves are held sacred in the, eyes of many
thoughtful and cultivated men. You ought to adopt a tone of reluctance
and to demonstrate, as it were against your will, the errors of the
popular religion. Believers at least have a right to demand that if you
discuss these questions upon which their hopes of eternal happiness are
based, you will do so with gravity and decorum."

To this I reply that the religion of the Africans, whether pagan or
Moslem, is suited to their intellects, and is therefore a true religion;
and the same may be said of Christianity among uneducated people. But
Christianity is not in accordance with the cultivated mind; it can only
be accepted or rather retained by suppressing doubts, and by denouncing
inquiry as sinful. It is therefore a superstition, and ought to be
destroyed. With respect to the services which it once rendered to
civilisation, I cheerfully acknowledge them, but the same argument might
once have been advanced in favour of the oracle at Delphi, without which
there would have been no Greek culture, and therefore no Christianity.
The question is not whether Christianity assisted the civilisation of
our ancestors, but whether it is now assisting our own. I am firmly
persuaded that whatever is injurious to the intellect is also injurious
to moral life; and on this conviction I base my conduct with respect to
Christianity. That religion is pernicious to the intellect; it demands
that the reason shall be sacrificed upon the altar; it orders civilised
men to believe in the legends of a savage race. It places a hideous
image, covered with dirt and blood, in the Holy of Holies; it rends the
sacred Veil of Truth in twain, It teaches that the Creator of the
Universe, that sublime, that inscrutable power, exhibited his back to
Moses, and ordered Hosea to commit adultery, and Ezekiel to eat dung.
There is no need to say anything more. Such a religion is blasphemous
and foul. Let those admire it who are able. I, for my part, feel it my
duty to set free from its chains as many as I can. Upon this point my
conscience speaks clearly, and it shall be obeyed. With respect to
manner and means, I shall use the arguments and the style best suited
for my purpose. There has been enough of writing by implication and by
innuendo; I do not believe in its utility, and I do not approve of its
disguise. There should be no deceit in matters of religion. In my future
assaults on Christianity I shall use the clearest language that I am
able to command.

Ridicule is a destructive instrument, and it is my intention to destroy.
If a man is cutting down a tree, it is useless asking him not to strike
so hard. But because I make use of ridicule, it does not follow that I
am writing merely for amusement; and because I tear up a belief by the
roots, it does not follow that I am indifferent to the pain which I
inflict. Great revolutions cannot be accomplished without much anguish
and some evil being caused. Did not the Roman women suffer when the
Christians came and robbed them of their gods, and raised their minds,
through pain and sorrow, to a higher faith? The religion which I teach
is as high above Christianity as that religion was superior to the
idolatry of Rome. And when, the relative civilisations of the two ages
are compared, this fetish of ink and paper, this Syrian book is, in
truth, not less an idol than those statues which obtained the adoration
of the Italians and the Greeks. The statues were beautiful as statues;
the book is admirable as a book; but the statues did not come down from
heaven; the book was not a magical composition; it bears the marks not
only of human genius, but also of human depravity and superstition.

As for the advocates of Deism they acknowledge that Christianity is
unsuited to the mental condition of the age; they acknowledge that the
Bible ought to be attacked as Xenophanes attacked Homer; they
acknowledge that the fables of a god impregnating a woman, of a god
living on the earth, are relics of pagan superstition; they acknowledge
that the doctrine of eternal punishment is incompatible with justice,
and is therefore incompatible with God. But they declare that
Christianity should not be destroyed but reformed; that its barbarous
elements should be expelled, and that then, as a pure God-worship, it
should be offered to the world. "It is true", they say, "that God is an
idol, an image made of human ideas which, to superior beings, would
appear as coarse and vile for such a purpose as the wood and the stone
of the savage appear to us. But this idolatry is conducive to the
morality of man. That exquisite form which he raises in his mind, and
before which he prostrates him self in prayer, that God of purity and
love, becomes his ideal and example. As the Greek women placed statues
of Apollo and Narcissus in their chambers that the beauty of the marble
form might enter their wombs through the windows of their eyes, so by
ever contemplating perfection the mind is ennobled, and the actions born
of it are divine. And surely it is a sweet and consoling faith that
there is above us a great and benignant Being who, when the sorrows of
this life are past, will take us to himself. How can it injure men to
believe that the righteous will he rewarded and that the wicked will be
punished in a future state? What good can be done by destroying a belief
so full of solace for the sorrowful, so full of promise for the
virtuous, so full of terror for the workers of iniquity? You do not deny
that 'much anguish and some evil will be caused' by the destruction of
this belief; and what have you to show on the other side? What will you
place in the balance? Consider what a dreadful thing it is to take even
from a single human being the hopes of a future life.

"All men cannot be philosophers; all cannot resign themselves with
fortitude and calm to the death-warrant of the soul. Annihilation has
perhaps more terrors for the mind than eternal punishment itself. O,
make not the heart an orphan, cast it not naked and weeping on the
world! Take it not away from its father, kill not its hopes of an
eternal home! There are mothers whose children have gone before them to
the grave, poor miserable women whose beauty is faded, who have none to
care for them on earth, whose only happiness is in the hope that when
their life is ended they will be joined again to those whom they have
lost. And will you take that hope away? There are men who have passed
their whole lives in discipline and self-restraint that they may be
rewarded in a future state; will you tell them that they have lived
under an illusion, that they would have done better to laugh, and to
feast, and to say 'Let us make merry, for to-morrow we shall die'? There
are men whom the fear of punishment in a future life deters from vice
and perhaps from crime. Will you dare to spread a doctrine which
unlooses all restraints, and leaves men to the fury of their passions?
It is true that we are not demoralised by this belief in the
impersonality of God and the extinction of the soul; but it would be a
dangerous belief for those who are exposed to strong temptations, and
whose minds have not been raised by culture to the religion of dignity
and self-control."

In the first place, I admit that the worship and contemplation of a
man-like but ideal Being must have, through the law of imitation, an
ennobling effect on the mind of the idolater, but only so long as the
belief in such a Being harmonises with the intellect. It has been shown
that this theory of a benignant God is contradicted by the laws of
Nature. We must judge of the tree by its fruits; we must judge of the
maker by that which he has made. The Author of the world invented not
only the good but also the evil in the world; he invented cruelty; he
invented sin. If he invented sin how can he be otherwise than sinful?
And if he invented cruelty how can he be otherwise than cruel? From this
inexorable logic we can only escape by giving up the hypothesis of a
personal Creator. Those who believe in a God of Love must close their
eyes to the phenomena of life, or garble the universe to suit their
theory. This, it is needless to say, is injurious to the intellect;
whatever is injurious to the intellect is injurious to morality; and,
therefore, the belief in a God of Love is injurious to morality.
God-worship must be classed with those provisional expedients, Famine,
War, Slavery, the Inequality of Conditions, the Desire of Gain, which
Nature employs for the development of man, and which she throws aside
when they have served her turn, as a carpenter changes his tools at the
various stages of his work.

The abolition of this ancient and elevated faith; the dethronement of
God; the extinction of piety as a personal feeling; the destruction of
an Image made of golden thoughts in the exquisite form of an Ideal Man,
and tenderly enshrined in the human heart--these appear to be evils,
and such undoubtedly they are. But the conduct of life is a choice of
evils. We can do nothing that is exclusively and absolutely good. Le
genre humain n'est pas place entre le bien et le mal, mais entre le mal
et le pire. No useful inventions can be introduced without some branch
of industry being killed and hundreds of worthy men being cast, without
an occupation, on the world. All mental revolutions are attended by
catastrophe. The mummeries and massacres of the German Reformation,
though known only to scholars, were scarcely less horrible than those of
Paris in 1793, and both periods illustrate the same law. I have facts in
my possession which would enable me to show that the abolition of the
slave-trade, that immortal and glorious event, caused the death of many
thousand slaves, who were therefore actually killed by Sharp, Clarkson,
Wilberforce, and their adherents. But by means of abolition millions of
lives have since been saved. The first generation suffered; prisoners
were captured to be sold, and the market having been suppressed, were
killed. This was undoubtedly an evil. But then the slave-making wars
came to an end, and there was peace. In the same manner I maintain that
even should the present generation be injured by the abolition of
existing faiths, yet abolition would be justified. Succeeding
generations would breathe an atmosphere of truth instead of being reared
in an atmosphere of falsehood, and we who are so deeply indebted to our
ancestors have incurred obligations towards our posterity. Let us
therefore purify the air, and if the light kills a few sickly plants
which have become acclimatised to impurity and darkness, we must console
ourselves with the reflection that in Nature it is always so, and that
of two evils we have chosen that which is the least.

But the dangers of the Truth are not so great as is commonly supposed.
It is often said that if the fears of hell-fire were suddenly removed
men would abandon themselves without restraint to their propensities and
appetites; that recklessness and despair would take possession of the
human race, and society would be dissolved. But I believe that the fears
of hell-fire have scarcely any power upon earth at all, and that when
they do act upon the human mind it is to make it pious, not to make it
good. A metaphysical theory cannot restrain the fury of the passions: as
well attempt to bind a lion with a cobweb. Prevention of crime it is
well known depends not on the severity but on the certainty of
retribution. Just as a criminal is often acquitted by the jury because
the penalties of the law are disproportioned to the magnitude of the
offence, so the diabolic laws which inflict an eternal punishment for
transitory sins have been tempered by a system of free pardons which
deprive them of any efficiency they might have once possessed. What
would be the use of laws against murder if the condemned criminal could
obtain his liberty by apologising to the Queen? Yet such is the
Christian system, which, though in one sense beautiful on account of its
mercy, is also immoral on account of its indulgence. The supposition
that the terrors of hell-fire are essential or even conducive to good
morals is contradicted by the facts of history. In the Dark Ages there
was not a man or a woman, from Scotland to Naples, who doubted that
sinners were sent to hell. The religion which they had was the same as
ours, with this exception, that everyone believed in it. The state of
Europe in that pious epoch need not be described.

Society is not maintained by the conjectures of theology, but by those
moral sentiments, those gregarious virtues, which elevated men above the
animals, which are now instinctive in our natures, and to which
intellectual culture is propitious. For, as we become more and more
enlightened, we perceive more and more clearly that it is with the
whole human population as it was with the primeval clan; the welfare of
every individual is dependent on the welfare of the community, and the
welfare of the community depends on the welfare of every individual. Our
conscience teaches us it is right, our reason teaches us it is useful,
that men should live according to the Golden Rule. This conduct of life
is therefore enjoined upon every man by his own instincts, and also by
the voice of popular opinion. Those cannot be happy who are detested and
despised by their fellow-men; and as for those, the outlaws of society,
who, like domestic animals run wild, herd together in secret places,
and, faithful only to their own gang, make war upon mankind, the Law,
which is seldom evaded, the Law, which never forgives, chases them from
den to den, and makes their lives as full of misery as they are full of

The current religion is indirectly adverse to morals, because it is
adverse to the freedom of the intellect. But it is also directly adverse
to morals by inventing spurious and bastard virtues. One fact must be
familiar to all those who have any experience of human nature--a
sincerely religious man is often an exceedingly bad man. Piety and vice
frequently live together in the same dwelling, occupying different
chambers, but remaining always on the most amicable terms. Nor is there
anything remarkable in this. Religion is merely loyalty: it is just as
irrational to expect a man to be virtuous because he goes to church, as
it would be to expect him to be virtuous because he went to court. His
king, it is true, forbids immorality and fraud. But the chief virtues
required are of the lickspittle denomination--what is called "a humble
and a contrite heart." When a Christian sins as a man, he makes
compensation as a courtier. When he has injured a fellow-creature, he
goes to church with more regularity, he offers up more prayers, he reads
a great number of chapters in the Bible, and so he believes that he has
cleared off the sins that are laid to his account. This, then, is the
immorality of religion as it now exists. It creates artificial virtues
and sets them off against actual vices. Children are taught to do this
and that, not because it is good, but to please the king. When
Christians are informed that not only our physical but our moral actions
are governed by unchangeable law, and that the evil treatment of the
mind, like the evil treatment of the body, is punished by a loss of
happiness and health, they cry out against a doctrine which is so just
and so severe. They are like the young Roman nobles who complained when
the Tarquins were expelled, saying, that a king was a human being, that
he could be angry and forgive, that there was room for favour and
kindness, but that the law was a deaf and inexorable thing--leges rem
surdam inexorabilem esse; that it allowed of no relaxation and
indulgence--nihil laxa-menti nec veniae habere, and that it was a
dangerous thing for weak and erring men to live by their integrity alone
--periculosum esse in tot humanis erroribus sola innocentia vivere.
Christians believe themselves to be the aristocracy of heaven upon
earth; they are admitted to the spiritual court, while millions of men
in foreign lands have never been presented. They bow their knees and say
that they are miserable sinners, and their hearts rankle with abominable
pride. Poor infatuated fools! Their servility is real, and their
insolence is real, but their king is a phantom and their palace is a

Even with Christians of comparatively blameless lives their religion is
injurious. It causes a waste of moral force. There are passionate
desires of virtue, yearnings for the good, which descend from time to
time like a holy spirit upon all cultivated minds, and from which,
strange as it may seem, not even free-thinkers are excluded. When such
an impulse animates the godless man he expends it in the service of
mankind; the Christian wastes it on the air; he fasts, he watches, and
he prays. And what is the object of all his petitions and salaams? He
will tell you that he is trying to save his soul. But the strangest
feature in the case is this. He not only thinks that it is prudent and
wise on his part to improve his prospects of happiness in a future
state; he considers it the noblest of all virtues. But there is no great
merit in taking care of one's own interests whether it be in this world
or the next. The man who leads a truly religious life in order to go to
heaven is not more to be admired than the man who leads a regular and
industrious life in order to make a fortune in the city; and the man who
endeavours to secure a celestial inheritance by going to church, and by
reading chapters in the Bible, and by having family prayers, and by
saying grace in falsetto with eyes hypocritically closed, is not above
the level of those who fawn and flatter at Oriental courts in order to
obtain a monopoly or an appointment.

The old proverb holds good in religious as in ordinary life, that
self-preservation is the first law of Nature. As long as men believe
that there is a god or king who will listen to their prayers and who
will change his mind at their request; as long as they believe that they
can obtain a mansion in the heavenly Belgravia, so long they will place
the duties of the courtier above the duties of the man, so long they
will believe that flattery is pleasing to the Most High, so
long they will believe that they can offend against the law and
escape the penalties of the law, so long they will believe that acts of
devotion may be balanced against acts of immorality, so long they will
make selfishness a virtue, and salvation of the soul a higher principle
of conduct than social love. But when the faith in a personal god is
extinguished; when prayer and praise are no longer to be heard; when the
belief is universal that with the body dies the soul, then the false
morals of theology will no longer lead the human mind astray. Piety and
virtue will become identical. The desire to do good which arose in
necessity, which was developed by the hopes of a heavenly reward, is now
an instinct of the human race. Those hopes and illusions served as the
scaffolding, and may now safely be removed.

There will always be enthusiasts for virtue as there are now, men who
adorn and purify their souls before the mirror of their conscience, and
who strive to attain an ideal excellence in their actions and their
thoughts. If from such men as these the hope of immortality is taken,
will their natures be transformed? Will they who are almost angels turn
straightway into beasts? Will the sober become drunkards? Will the
chaste become sensual? Will the honest become fraudulent? Will the
industrious become idle? Will the righteous love that which they have
learnt to loathe? Will they who have won by hard struggles the sober
happiness of virtue return to the miseries of vice by which few men have
not at one time or another been enthralled? No; they will pass through
some hours of affliction; they will bear another illusion to the grave;
not the first that they have buried, not the first they have bewailed.
And then, no longer able to hope for themselves, they will hope for the
future of the human race: unable to believe in an eared God who listens
to human supplications they will coin the gold of their hearts into
useful actions instead of burning it as incense before an imaginary

We do not wish to extirpate religion from the life of man; we wish him
to have a religion which will harmonise with his intellect, and which
inquiry will strengthen, not destroy. We wish, in fact, to give him a
religion, for now there are many who have none. We teach that there is a
God, but not a God of the anthropoid variety, not a God who is gratified
by compliments in prose and verse, and whose attributes can be
catalogued by theologians. God is so great that he cannot be defined by
us. God is so great that he does not deign to have personal relations
with us human atoms that are called men. Those who desire to worship
their Creator must worship him through mankind. Such it is plain is the
scheme of Nature. We are placed under secondary laws, and these we must
obey. To develop to the utmost our genius and our love, that is the only
true religion. To do that which deserves to be written, to write that
which deserves to be read, to tend the sick, to comfort the sorrowful,
to animate the weary, to keep the temple of the body pure, to cherish
the divinity within us, to be faithful to the intellect, to educate
those powers which have been entrusted to our charge and to employ them
in the service of humanity, that is all that we can do. Then our
elements shall be dispersed and all is at an end. All is at an end for
the unit, all is at an end for the atom, all is at an end for the speck
of flesh and blood with the little spark of instinct which it calls its
mind, but all is not at an end for the actual Man, the true Being, the
glorious One. We teach that the soul is immortal; we teach that there is
a future life; we teach that there is a Heaven in the ages far away; but
not for us single corpuscules, not for us dots of animated jelly, but
for the One of whom we are the elements, and who, though we perish,
never dies, but grows from period to period and by the united efforts of
single molecules called men, or of those cell-groups called nations, is
raised towards the Divine power which he will finally attain. Our
religion therefore is Virtue, our Hope is placed in the happiness of our
posterity; our Faith is the Perfectibility of Man.

A day will come when the European God of the nineteenth century will be
classed with the gods of Olympus and the Nile; when surplices and
sacramental plate will be exhibited in museums; when nurses will relate
to children the legends of the Christian mythology as they now tell them
fairy tales. A day will come when the current belief in property after
death (for is not existence property, and the dearest property of all? )
will be accounted a strange and selfish idea, just as we smile at the
savage chief who believes that his gentility will be continued in the
world beneath the ground, and that he will there be attended by his
concubines and slaves. A day will come when mankind will be as the
Family of the Forest, which lived faithfully within itself according to
the Golden Rule in order that it might not die. But Love not Fear will
unite the human race. The world will become a heavenly Commune to which
men will bring the inmost treasures of their hearts, in which they will
reserve for themselves not even a hope, not even the shadow of a joy,
but will give up all for all mankind. With one faith, with one desire,
they will labour together in the Sacred Cause--the extinction of
disease, the extinction of sin, the perfection of genius, the perfection
of love, the invention of immortality, the exploration of the infinite,
and the conquest of creation.

You blessed ones who shall inherit that future age of which we can only
dream; you pure and radiant beings who shall succeed us on the earth;
when you turn back your eyes on us poor savages, grubbing in the ground
for our daily bread, eating flesh and blood, dwelling in vile bodies
which degrade us every day to a level with the beasts, tortured by
pains, and by animal propensities, buried in gloomy superstitions,
ignorant of Nature which yet holds us in her bonds; when you read of us
in books, when you think of what we are, and compare us with yourselves,
remember that it is to us you owe the foundation of your happiness and
grandeur, to us who now in our libraries and laboratories and
star-towers and dissecting-rooms and work-shops are preparing the
materials of the human growth. And as for ourselves, if we are sometimes
inclined to regret that our lot is cast in these unhappy days, let us
remember how much more fortunate we are than those who lived before us a
few centuries ago. The working man enjoys more luxuries to-day than did
the King of England in the Anglo-Saxon times; and at his command are
intellectual delights, which but a little while ago the most learned in
the land could not obtain. All this we owe to the labours of other men.
Let us therefore remember them with gratitude; let us follow their
glorious example by adding something new to the knowledge of mankind;
let us pay to the future the debt which we owe to the past.

All men indeed cannot be poets, inventors, or philanthropists; but all
men can join in that gigantic and god-like work, the progress of
creation. Whoever improves his own nature improves the universe of which
he is a part. He who strives to subdue his evil passions--vile remnants
of the old four-footed life--and who cultivates the social affections:
he who endeavours to better his condition, and to make his children
wiser and happier than himself; whatever may be his motives, he will not
have lived in vain. But if he act thus not from mere prudence, not in
the vain hope of being rewarded in another world, but from a pure sense
of duty, as a citizen of Nature, as a patriot of the planet on which he
dwells, then our philosophy which once appeared to him so cold and
cheerless will become a religion of the heart, and will elevate him to
the skies; the virtues which were once for him mere abstract terms will
become endowed with life, and will hover round him like guardian angels,
conversing with him in his solitude, consoling him in his afflictions,
teaching him how to live, and how to die. But this condition is not to
be easily attained; as the saints and prophets were often forced to
practise long vigils and fastings and prayers before their ecstasies
would fall upon them and their visions would appear, so Virtue in its
purest and most exalted form can only be acquired by means of severe and
long-continued culture of the mind. Persons with feeble and untrained
intellects may live according to their conscience; but the conscience
itself will be defective. To cultivate the intellect is therefore a
religious duty; and when this truth is fairly recognised by men, the
religion which teaches that the intellect should be distrusted, and that
it should be subservient to faith, will inevitably fall.

We have written much about inventions and discoveries and
transformations of human nature which cannot possibly take place for
ages yet to come, because we think it good that the bright though
distant future should be ever present in the eyes of man. But we shall
now consider the existing generation, and we shall point out the work
which must be accomplished, and in which all enlightened men should take
a part. Christianity must be destroyed. The civilised world has outgrown
that religion, and is now in the condition of the Roman Empire in the
pagan days. A cold-hearted infidelity above, a sordid superstition
below, a school of Plutarchs who endeavour to reconcile the fables of a
barbarous people with the facts of science and the lofty conceptions of
philosophy; a multitude of augurs who sometimes smile when they meet,
but who more often feel inclined to sigh, for they are mostly serious
and worthy men. Entering the Church in their youth, before their minds
were formed, they discover too late what it is that they adore, and
since they cannot tell the truth, and let their wives and children
starve, they are forced to lead a life which is a lie. What a state of
society is this in which "free-thinker" is a term of abuse, and in which
doubt is regarded as a sin! Men have a Bluebeard's chamber in their
minds which they dare not open; they have a faith which they dare not
examine lest they should be forced to cast it from them in contempt.
Worship is a convention, churches are bonnet shows, places of
assignation, shabby-genteel salons where the parochial "at home" is
given, and respectable tradesmen exhibit their daughters in the wooden
stalls. O wondrous, awful, and divine religion! You elevate our hearts
from the cares of common life, you transport us into the unseen world,
you bear us upwards to that sublime temple of the skies where dwells the
Veiled God, whom mortal eye can never view, whom mortal mind
can never comprehend. How art thou fallen! How art thou degraded! But it
will be only for a time. We are now in the dreary desert which separates
two ages of Belief. A new era is at hand.

It is incorrect to say "theology is not a progressive science." The
worship of ancestral ghosts, the worship of pagan deities, the worship
of a single god, are successive periods of progress in the science of
Divinity. And in the history of that science, as in the history of all
others, a curious fact may be observed. Those who overthrow an
established system are compelled to attack its founders, and to show
that their method was unsound, that their reasoning was fallacious, that
their experiments were incomplete. And yet the men who create the
revolution are made in the likeness of the men whose doctrines they
subvert. The system of Ptolemy was supplanted by the system of
Copernicus, yet Copernicus was the Ptolemy of the sixteenth century. In
the same manner, we who assail the Christian faith are the true
successors of the early Christians, above whom we are raised by the
progress, of eighteen hundred years. As they preached against gods that
were made of stone, so we preach against gods that are made of ideas. As
they were called atheists and blasphemers so are we. And is our task
more difficult than theirs? We have not, it is true, the same stimulants
to offer. We cannot threaten that the world is about to be destroyed; we
cannot bribe our converts with a heaven, we cannot make them tremble
with a hell. But though our religion appears too pure, too unselfish for
mankind, it is not really so, for we live in a noble and enlightened
age. At the time of the Romans and the Greeks the Christian faith was
the highest to which the common people could attain. A faith such as
that of the Stoics and the Sadducees could only be embraced by
cultivated minds, and culture was then confined to a chosen few. But now
knowledge, freedom, and prosperity are covering the earth; for three
centuries past, human virtue has been steadily increasing, and mankind
is prepared to receive a higher faith. But in order to build we must
first destroy. Not only the Syrian superstition must be attacked, but
also the belief in a personal God, which engenders a slavish and
oriental condition of the mind; and the belief in a posthumous reward
which engenders a selfish and solitary condition of the heart. These
beliefs are, therefore, injurious to human nature. They lower its
dignity; they arrest its development; they isolate its affections.

We shall not deny that many beautiful sentiments are often mingled with
the faith in a personal Deity, and with the hopes of happiness in a
future state; yet we maintain that, however refined they may appear,
they are selfish at the core, and that if removed they will be replaced
by sentiments of a nobler and a purer kind. They cannot be removed
without some disturbance and distress; yet the sorrows thus caused are
salutary and sublime. The supreme and mysterious Power by whom the
universe has been created, and by whom it has been appointed to run its
course under fixed and invariable law; that awful One to whom it is
profanity to pray, of whom it is idle and irreverent to argue and
debate, of whom we should never presume to think save with humility and
awe; that Unknown God has ordained that mankind should be elevated by
misfortune, and that happiness should grow out of misery and pain.

I give to universal history a strange but true title--The Martyrdom of
Man. In each generation the human race has been tortured that their
children might profit by their woes. Our own prosperity is founded on
the agonies of the past. Is it therefore unjust that we also should
suffer for the benefit of those who are to come? Famine, pestilence, and
war are no longer essential for the advancement of the human race. But a
season of mental anguish is at hand, and through this we must pass in
order that our posterity may rise. The soul must be sacrificed; the hope
in immortality must die. A sweet and charming illusion must be taken
from the human race, as youth and beauty vanish never to return.


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