Infomotions, Inc.The Beginning of Civilizations / Van Loon, Hendrik Willem, 1882-1944



Author: Van Loon, Hendrik Willem, 1882-1944
Title: The Beginning of Civilizations
Publisher: Project Gutenberg
Tag(s): egypt; mesopotamia; nile; egyptian; egyptians; asia; jews; western asia; moses; ancient
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Title: Ancient Man
       The Beginning of Civilizations

Author: Hendrik Willem Van Loon

Release Date: February, 2006 [EBook #9991]
[Yes, we are more than one year ahead of schedule]
[This file was first posted on November 6, 2003]

Edition: 10

Language: English

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*** START OF THE PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK ANCIENT MAN ***




Produced by Charles Aldarondo, Sjaani and PG Distributed Proofreaders




ANCIENT MAN

THE BEGINNING OF CIVILIZATIONS

BY HENDRIK WILLEM VAN LOON

1922




DEDICATION To HANSJE AND WILLEM.

My darling boys,

You are twelve and eight years old. Soon you will be grown up. You will
leave home and begin your own lives. I have been thinking about that
day, wondering what I could do to help you. At last, I have had an idea.
The best compass is a thorough understanding of the growth and the
experience of the human race. Why should I not write a special
history for you?

So I took my faithful Corona and five bottles of ink and a box of
matches and a bale of paper and began to work upon the first volume. If
all goes well there will be eight more and they will tell you what you
ought to know of the last six thousand years.

But before you start to read let me explain what I intend to do.

I am not going to present you with a textbook. Neither will it be a
volume of pictures. It will not even be a regular history in the
accepted sense of the word.

I shall just take both of you by the hand and together we shall wander
forth to explore the intricate wilderness of the bygone ages.

I shall show you mysterious rivers which seem to come from nowhere and
which are doomed to reach no ultimate destination.

I shall bring you close to dangerous abysses, hidden carefully beneath a
thick overgrowth of pleasant but deceiving romance.

Here and there we shall leave the beaten track to scale a solitary and
lonely peak, towering high above the surrounding country.

Unless we are very lucky we shall sometimes lose ourselves in a sudden
and dense fog of ignorance.

Wherever we go we must carry our warm cloak of human sympathy and
understanding for vast tracts of land will prove to be a sterile
desert--swept by icy storms of popular prejudice and personal greed and
unless we come well prepared we shall forsake our faith in humanity and
that, dear boys, would be the worst thing that could happen to any
of us.

I shall not pretend to be an infallible guide. Whenever you have a
chance, take counsel with other travelers who have passed along the same
route before. Compare their observations with mine and if this leads you
to different conclusions, I shall certainly not be angry with you.

I have never preached to you in times gone by.

I am not going to preach to you today.

You know what the world expects of you--that you shall do your share of
the common task and shall do it bravely and cheerfully.

If these books can help you, so much the better.

And with all my love I dedicate these histories to you and to the boys
and girls who shall keep you company on the voyage through life.

HENDRIK WILLEM VAN LOON.

_Barrow Street, New York City. May 8, xx_.



CONTENTS

CHAPTER

I.    PREHISTORIC MAN
II.   THE WORLD GROWS COLD
III.  END OF THE STONE AGE
IV.   THE EARLIEST SCHOOL OF THE HUMAN RACE
V.    THE KEY OF STONE
VI.   THE LAND OF THE LIVING AND THE LAND OF THE DEAD
VII.  THE MAKING OF A STATE
VIII. THE RISE AND FALL OF EGYPT
IX.   MESOPOTAMIA--THE COUNTRY BETWEEN THE RIVERS
X.    THE SUMERIAN NAIL WRITERS
XI.   ASSYRIA AND BABYLONIA--THE GREAT SEMITIC MELTING-POT
XII.  THE STORY OF MOSES
XIII. JERUSALEM--THE CITY OF THE LAW
XIV.  DAMASCUS--THE CITY OF TRADE
XV.   THE PHOENICIANS WHO SAILED BEYOND THE HORIZON
XVI.  THE ALPHABET FOLLOWS THE TRADE
XVII. THE END OF THE ANCIENT WORLD



PREHISTORIC MAN

It took Columbus more than four weeks to sail from Spain to the West
Indian Islands. We on the other hand cross the ocean in sixteen hours in
a flying machine.

Five hundred years ago, three or four years were necessary to copy a
book by hand. We possess linotype machines and rotary presses and we can
print a new book in a couple of days.

We understand a great deal about anatomy and chemistry and mineralogy
and we are familiar with a thousand different branches of science of
which the very name was unknown to the people of the past.

In one respect, however, we are quite as ignorant as the most primitive
of men--we do not know where we came from. We do not know how or why or
when the human race began its career upon this Earth. With a million
facts at our disposal we are still obliged to follow the example of the
fairy-stories and begin in the old way:

  "Once upon a time there was a man."

This man lived hundreds of thousands of years ago.

What did he look like?

We do not know. We never saw his picture. Deep in the clay of an ancient
soil we have sometimes found a few pieces of his skeleton. They were
hidden amidst masses of bones of animals that have long since
disappeared from the face of the earth. We have taken these bones and
they allow us to reconstruct the strange creature who happens to be
our ancestor.

The great-great-grandfather of the human race was a very ugly and
unattractive mammal. He was quite small. The heat of the sun and the
biting wind of the cold winter had colored his skin a dark brown. His
head and most of his body were covered with long hair. He had very thin
but strong fingers which made his hands look like those of a monkey. His
forehead was low and his jaw was like the jaw of a wild animal which
uses its teeth both as fork and knife.

[Illustration: PREHISTORIC MAN.]

He wore no clothes. He had seen no fire except the flames of the
rumbling volcanoes which filled the earth with their smoke and
their lava.

He lived in the damp blackness of vast forests.

When he felt the pangs of hunger he ate raw leaves and the roots of
plants or he stole the eggs from the nest of an angry bird.

Once in a while, after a long and patient chase, he managed to catch a
sparrow or a small wild dog or perhaps a rabbit These he would eat raw,
for prehistoric man did not know that food could be cooked.

His teeth were large and looked like the teeth of many of our own
animals.

During the hours of day this primitive human being went about in search
of food for himself and his wife and his young.

At night, frightened by the noise of the beasts, who were in search of
prey, he would creep into a hollow tree or he would hide himself behind
a few big boulders, covered with moss and great, big spiders.

In summer he was exposed to the scorching rays of the sun.

During the winter he froze with cold.

When he hurt himself (and hunting animals are for ever breaking their
bones or spraining their ankles) he had no one to take care of him.

He had learned how to make certain sounds to warn his fellow-beings
whenever danger threatened. In this he resembled a dog who barks when a
stranger approaches. In many other respects he was far less attractive
than a well-bred house pet.

Altogether, early man was a miserable creature who lived in a world of
fright and hunger, who was surrounded by a thousand enemies and who was
for ever haunted by the vision of friends and relatives who had been
eaten up by wolves and bears and the terrible sabre-toothed tiger.

Of the earliest history of this man we know nothing. He had no tools and
he built no homes. He lived and died and left no traces of his
existence. We keep track of him through his bones and they tell us that
he lived more than two thousand centuries ago.

The rest is darkness.

Until we reach the time of the famous Stone Age, when man learned the
first rudimentary principles of what we call civilization.

Of this Stone Age I must tell you in some detail.



THE WORLD GROWS COLD

Something was the matter with the weather.

Early man did not know what "time" meant.

He kept no records of birthdays and wedding-anniversaries or the hour of
death.

He had no idea of days or weeks or years.

When the sun arose in the morning he did not say "Behold another day."
He said "It is Light" and he used the rays of the early sun to gather
food for his family.

When it grew dark, he returned to his wife and children, gave them part
of the day's catch (some berries and a few birds), stuffed himself full
with raw meat and went to sleep.

In a very general way he kept track of the seasons. Long experience had
taught him that the cold Winter was invariably followed by the mild
Spring--that Spring grew into the hot Summer when fruits ripened and the
wild ears of corn were ready to be plucked and eaten. The Summer ended
when gusts of wind swept the leaves from the trees and when a number of
animals crept into their holes to make ready for the long
hibernal sleep.

[Illustration: THE GLACIAL PERIOD.]

It had always been that way. Early man accepted these useful changes of
cold and warm but asked no questions. He lived and that was enough to
satisfy him.

Suddenly, however, something happened that worried him greatly.

The warm days of Summer had come very late. The fruits had not ripened
at all. The tops of the mountains which used to be covered with grass
lay deeply hidden under a heavy burden of snow.

Then one morning quite a number of wild people, different from the other
inhabitants of his valley had approached from the region of the
high peaks.

They muttered sounds which no one could understand. They looked lean and
appeared to be starving. Hunger and cold seemed to have driven them from
their former homes.

There was not enough food in the valley for both the old inhabitants and
the newcomers. When they tried to stay more than a few days there was a
terrible fight and whole families were killed. The others fled into the
woods and were not seen again.

For a long time nothing occurred of any importance.

But all the while, the days grew shorter and the nights were colder than
they ought to have been.

Finally, in a gap between the two high hills, there appeared a tiny
speck of greenish ice. It increased in size as the years went by. Very
slowly a gigantic glacier was sliding down the slopes of the mountain
ridge. Huge stones were being pushed into the valley. With the noise of
a dozen thunderstorms they suddenly tumbled among the frightened people
and killed them while they slept. Century-old trees were crushed into
kindling wood by the high walls of ice that knew of no mercy to either
man or beast.

At last, it began to snow.

It snowed for months and months and months.

[Illustration: THE CAVE-MAN.]

All the plants died. The animals fled in search of the southern sun. The
valley became uninhabitable. Man hoisted his children upon his back,
took the few pieces of stone which he had used as a weapon and went
forth to find a new home.

Why the world should have grown cold at that particular moment, we do
not know. We can not even guess at the cause.

The gradual lowering of the temperature, however, made a great
difference to the human race.

For a time it looked as if every one would die. But in the end this
period of suffering proved a real blessing. It killed all the weaker
people and forced the survivors to sharpen their wits lest they
perish, too.

Placed before the choice of hard thinking or quick dying the same brain
that had first turned a stone into a hatchet now solved difficulties
which had never faced the older generations.

In the first place, there was the question of clothing. It had grown
much too cold to do without some sort of artificial covering. Bears and
bisons and other animals who live in northern regions are protected
against snow and ice by a heavy coat of fur. Man possessed no such coat.
His skin was very delicate and he suffered greatly.

He solved his problem in a very simple fashion. He dug a hole and he
covered it with branches and leaves and a little grass. A bear came by
and fell into this artificial cave. Man waited until the creature was
weak from lack of food and then killed him with many blows of a big
stone. With a sharp piece of flint he cut the fur of the animal's back.
Then he dried it in the sparse rays of the sun, put it around his own
shoulders and enjoyed the same warmth that had formerly kept the bear
happy and comfortable.

Then there was the housing problem. Many animals were in the habit of
sleeping in a dark cave. Man followed their example and searched until
he found an empty grotto. He shared it with bats and all sorts of
creeping insects but this he did not mind. His new home kept him warm
and that was enough.

Often, during a thunderstorm a tree had been hit by lightning. Sometimes
the entire forest had been set on fire. Man had seen these forest-fires.
When he had come too near he had been driven away by the heat. He now
remembered that fire gave warmth.

Thus far, fire had been an enemy.

Now it became a friend.

A dead tree, dragged into a cave and lighted by means of smouldering
branches from a burning forest filled the room with unusual but very
pleasant heat.

Perhaps you will laugh. All these things seem so very simple. They are
very simple to us because some one, ages and ages ago, was clever enough
to think of them. But the first cave that was made comfortable by the
fire of an old log attracted more attention than the first house that
ever was lighted by electricity.

When at last, a specially brilliant fellow hit upon the idea of throwing
raw meat into the hot ashes before eating it, he added something to the
sum total of human knowledge which made the cave-man feel that the
height of civilization had been reached.

Nowadays, when we hear of another marvelous invention we are very proud.

"What more," we ask, "can the human brain accomplish?"

And we smile contentedly for we live in the most remarkable of all ages
and no one has ever performed such miracles as our engineers and
our chemists.

Forty thousand years ago when the world was on the point of freezing to
death, an unkempt and unwashed cave-man, pulling the feathers out of a
half-dead chicken with the help of his brown fingers and his big white
teeth--throwing the feathers and the bones upon the same floor that
served him and his family as a bed, felt just as happy and just as proud
when he was taught how the hot cinders of a fire would change raw meat
into a delicious meal.

"What a wonderful age," he would exclaim and he would lie down amidst
the decaying skeletons of the animals which had served him as his dinner
and he would dream of his own perfection while bats, as large as small
dogs, flew restlessly through the cave and while Prehistoric man lived
through at least four definite eras when the ice descended far down
into the valleys and covered the greater part of the European continent.

The last one of these periods came to an end almost thirty thousand
years ago.

From that moment on man left behind him concrete evidence of his
existence in the form of tools and arms and pictures and in a general
way we can say that history begins when the last cold period had become
a thing of the past.

The endless struggle for life had taught the survivors many things.

Stone and wooden implements had become as common as steel tools are in
our own days.

Gradually the rudely chipped flint axe had been replaced by one of
polished flint which was infinitely more practical. It allowed man to
attack many animals at whose mercy he had been since the beginning
of time.

The mammoth was no longer seen.

The musk-ox had retreated to the polar circle.

The tiger had left Europe for good.

The cave-bear no longer ate little children.

The powerful brain of the weakest and most helpless of all living
creatures--Man--had devised such terrible instruments of destruction
that he was now the master of all the other animals.

The first great victory over Nature had been gained but many others were
to follow.

Equipped with a full set of tools both for hunting and fishing, the
cave-dweller looked for new living quarters.

The shores of rivers and lakes offered the best opportunity for a
regular livelihood.

The old caves were deserted and the human race moved toward the water.

Now that man could handle heavy axes, the felling of trees no longer
offered any great difficulties.

For countless ages birds had been constructing comfortable houses out of
chips of wood and grass amidst the branches of trees.

Man followed their example.

He, too, built himself a nest and called it his "home."

He did not, except in a few parts of Asia, take to the trees which were
a bit too small and unsteady for his purpose.

He cut down a number of logs. These he drove firmly into the soft bottom
of a shallow lake. On top of them he constructed a wooden platform and
upon this platform he erected his first wooden house.

It offered many advantages over the old cave.

No wild animals could break into it and robbers could not enter it. The
lake itself was an inexhaustible store-room containing an endless supply
of fresh fish.

These houses built on piles were much healthier than the old caves and
they gave the children a chance to grow up into strong men. The
population increased steadily and man began to occupy vast tracts of
wilderness which had been unoccupied since the beginning of time.

And all the time new inventions were made which made life more
comfortable and less dangerous.

Often enough these innovations were not due to the cleverness of man's
brain.

He simply copied the animals.

You know of course that there are a large number of beasties who prepare
for the long winter by burying nuts and acorns and other food which is
abundant during the summer. Just think of the squirrels who are for ever
filling their larder in gardens and parks with supplies for the winter
and the early spring.

Early man, less intelligent in many respects than the squirrels, had not
known how to preserve anything for the future.

He ate until his hunger was stilled, but what he did not need right away
he allowed to rot. As a result he often went without his meals during
the cold period and many of his children died from hunger and want.

Until he followed the example of the animals and prepared for the future
by laying in sufficient stores when the harvest had been good and there
was an abundance of wheat and grain.

We do not know which genius first discovered the use of pottery but he
deserves a statue.

Very likely it was a woman who had got tired of the eternal chores of
the kitchen and wanted to make her household duties a little less
exacting. She noticed that chunks of clay, when exposed to the rays of
the sun, got baked into a hard substance.

If a flat piece of clay could be transformed into a brick, a slightly
curved piece of the same material must produce a similar result.

And behold, the brick grew into a piece of pottery and the human race
was able to save for the day of tomorrow.

If you think that my praises of this invention are exaggerated, look at
the breakfast table and see what pottery, in one form and the other,
means in your own life.

Your oatmeal is served in a dish.

The cream is served from a pitcher.

Your eggs are carried from the kitchen to the dining-room table on a
plate.

Your milk is brought to you in a china mug. Then go to the store-room
(if there is no store-room in your house go to the nearest Delicatessen
store). You will see how all the things which we are supposed to eat
tomorrow and next week and next year have been put away in jars and cans
and other artificial containers which Nature did not provide for us but
which man was forced to invent and perfect before he could be assured of
his regular meals all the year around.

Even a gas-tank is nothing but a large pitcher, made of iron because
iron does not break as easily as china and is less porous than clay. So
are barrels and bottles and pots and pans. They all serve the same
purpose--of providing us in the future with those things of which we
happen to have an abundance at the present moment.

And because he could preserve eatable things for the day of need, man
began to raise vegetables and grain and saved the surplus for future
consumption.

This explains why, during the late Stone Age, we find the first
wheat-fields and the first gardens, grouped around the settlements of
the early pile-dwellers.

It also tells us why man gave up his habit of wandering and settled down
in one fixed spot where he raised his children until the day of his
death when he was decently buried among his own people.

[Illustration: PREHISTORIC MAN IS DISCOVERED.]

It is safe to say that these earliest ancestors of ours would have given
up the ways of savages of their own accord if they had been left to
their fate.

But suddenly there was an end to their isolation.

Prehistoric man was discovered.

A traveler from the unknown south-land who had dared to cross the
turbulent sea and the forbidding mountain passes had found his way to
the wild people of Central Europe.

On his back he carried a pack.

When he had spread his wares before the gaping curiosity of the
bewildered natives, their eyes beheld wonders of which their minds had
never dared to dream.

They saw bronze hammers and axes and tools made of iron and helmets made
of copper and beautiful ornaments consisting of a strangely colored
substance which the foreign visitor called "glass."

And overnight the Age of Stone came to an end.

It was replaced by a new civilization which had discarded wooden and
stone implements centuries before and had laid the foundations for that
"Age of Metal" which has endured until our own day.

It is of this new civilization that I shall tell you in the rest of my
book and if you do not mind, we shall leave the northern continent for a
couple of thousand years and pay a visit to Egypt and to western Asia.

"But," you will say, "this is not fair. You promise to tell us about
prehistoric man and then, just when the story is going to be
interesting, you close the chapter and you jump to another part of the
world and we must jump with you whether we like it or not."

I know. It does not seem the right thing to do.

Unfortunately, history is not at all like mathematics.

When you solve a sum you go from "a" to "b" and from "b" to "c" and from
"c" to "d" and so on.

History on the other hand jumps from "a" to "z" and then back to "f" and
next to "m" without any apparent respect for neatness and order.

There is a good reason for this.

History is not exactly a science.

It tells the story of the human race and most people, however much we
may try to change their nature, refuse to behave with the regularity and
the precision of the tables of multiplication.

No two men ever do precisely the same thing.

No two human brains ever reach exactly the same conclusion.

You will notice that for yourself when you grow up.

It was not different a few hundred centuries ago.

Prehistoric man, as I just told you, was on a fair way to progress.

He had managed to survive the ice and the snow and the wild animals and
that in itself, was a great deal.

He had invented many useful things.

Suddenly, however, other people in a different part of the world entered
the race.

They rushed forward at a terrible speed and within a very short space of
time they reached a height of civilization which had never before been
seen upon our planet. Then they set forth to teach what they knew to the
others who had been less intelligent than themselves.

Now that I have explained this to you, does it not seem just to give the
Egyptians and the people of western Asia their full share of the
chapters of this book?



THE EARLIEST SCHOOL OF THE HUMAN RACE

We are the children of a practical age.

We travel from place to place in our own little locomotives which we
call automobiles.

When we wish to speak to a friend whose home is a thousand miles away,
we say "Hello" into a rubber tube and ask for a certain telephone number
in Chicago.

At night when the room grows dark we push a button and there is light.

If we happen to be cold we push another button and the electric stove
spreads its pleasant glow through our study.

On the other hand in summer when it is hot the same electric current
will start a small artificial storm (an electric fan) which keeps us
cool and comfortable.

We seem to be the masters of all the forces of nature and we make them
work for us as if they were our very obedient slaves.

But do not forget one thing when you pride yourself upon our splendid
achievements.

We have constructed the edifice of our modern civilization upon the
fundament of wisdom that had been built at great pains by the people of
the ancient world.

Do not be afraid of their strange names which you will meet upon every
page of the coming chapters.

Babylonians and Egyptians and Chaldeans and Sumerians are all dead and
gone, but they continue to influence our own lives in everything we do,
in the letters we write, in the language we use, in the complicated
mathematical problems which we must solve before we can build a bridge
or a skyscraper.

And they deserve our grateful respect as long as our planet continues to
race through the wide space of the high heavens.

These ancient people of whom I shall now tell you lived in three
definite spots.

Two of these were found along the banks of vast rivers.

The third was situated on the shores of the Mediterranean.

The oldest center of civilization developed in the valley of the Nile,
in a country which was called Egypt.

The second was located in the fertile plains between two big rivers of
western Asia, to which the ancients gave the name of Mesopotamia.

The third one which you will find along the shore of the Mediterranean,
was inhabited by the Phoenicians, the earliest of all colonizers and by
the Jews who bestowed upon the rest of the world the main principles of
their moral laws.

This third center of civilization is known by its ancient Babylonian
name of Suri, or as we pronounce it, Syria.

The history of the people who lived in these regions covers more than
five thousand years.

It is a very, very complicated story.

I can not give you many details.

I shall try and weave their adventures into a single fabric, which will
look like one of those marvelous rugs of which you read in the tales
which Scheherazade told to Harun the Just.



THE KEY OF STONE

Fifty years before the birth of Christ, the Romans conquered the land
along the eastern shores of the Mediterranean and among this newly
acquired territory was a country called Egypt.

The Romans, who are to play such a great role in our history, were a
race of practical men.

They built bridges, they constructed roads, and with a small but highly
trained army of soldiers and civil officers, they managed to rule the
greater part of Europe, of eastern Africa and western Asia.

As for art and the sciences, these did not interest them very much. They
regarded with suspicion a man who could play the lute or who could write
a poem about Spring and only thought him little better than the clever
fellow who could walk the tightrope or who had trained his poodle dog to
stand on its hind legs. They left such things to the Greeks and to the
Orientals, both of whom they despised, while they themselves spent their
days and nights keeping order among the thousand and one nations of
their vast empire.

When they first set foot in Egypt that country was already terribly old.

More than six thousand and five hundred years had gone by since the
history of the Egyptian people had begun.

Long before any one had dreamed of building a city amidst the swamps of
the river Tiber, the kings of Egypt had ruled far and wide and had made
their court the center of all civilization.

While the Romans were still savages who chased wolves and bears with
clumsy stone axes, the Egyptians were writing books, performing
intricate medical operations and teaching their children the tables of
multiplication.

This great progress they owed chiefly to one very wonderful invention,
to the art of preserving their spoken words and their ideas for the
benefit of their children and grandchildren.

We call this the art of writing.

We are so familiar with writing that we can not understand how people
ever managed to live without books and newspapers and magazines.

But they did and it was the main reason why they made such slow progress
during the first million years of their stay upon this planet.

They were like cats and dogs who can only teach their puppies and their
kittens a few simple things (barking at a stranger and climbing trees
and such things) and who, because they can not write, possess no way in
which they can use the experience of their countless ancestors.

This sounds almost funny, doesn't it?

And why make such a fuss about so simple a matter?

But did you ever stop to think what happens when you write a letter?

Suppose that you are taking a trip in the mountains and you have seen a
deer.

You want to tell this to your father who is in the city.

What do you do?

You put a lot of dots and dashes upon a piece of paper--you add a few
more dots and dashes upon an envelope and you carry your epistle to the
mailbox together with a two-cent stamp.

What have you really been doing?

You have changed a number of spoken words into a number of pothooks and
scrawls.

But how did you know how to make your curlycues in such a fashion that
both the postman and your father could retranslate them into
spoken words?

You knew, because some one had taught you how to draw the precise
figures which represented the sound of your spoken words.

Just take a few letters and see the way this game is played.

We make a guttural noise and write down a "G."

We let the air pass through our closed teeth and we write down "S."

We open our mouth wide and make a noise like a steam engine and the
sound is written down "H."

It took the human race hundreds of thousands of years to discover this
and the credit for it goes to the Egyptians.

Of course they did not use the letters which have been used to print
this book.

They had a system of their own.

It was much prettier than ours but not quite so simple.

It consisted of little figures and images of things around the house and
around the farm, of knives and plows and birds and pots and pans. These
little figures their scribes scratched and painted upon the wall of the
temples, upon the coffins of their dead kings and upon the dried leaves
of the papyrus plant which has given its name to our "paper."

But when the Romans entered this vast library they showed neither
enthusiasm nor interest.

They possessed a system of writing of their own which they thought
vastly superior.

[Illustration: THE KEY OF STONE]

They did not know that the Greeks (from whom they had learned their
alphabet) had in turn obtained theirs from the Phoenicians who had again
borrowed with great success from the old Egyptians. They did not know
and they did not care. In their schools the Roman alphabet was taught
exclusively and what was good enough for the Roman children was good
enough for everybody else.

You will understand that the Egyptian language did not long survive the
indifference and the opposition of the Roman governors. It was
forgotten. It died just as the languages of most of our Indian tribes
have become a thing of the past.

The Arabs and the Turks who succeeded the Romans as the rulers of Egypt
abhorred all writing that was not connected with their holy book,
the Koran.

At last in the middle of the sixteenth century a few western visitors
came to Egypt and showed a mild interest in these strange pictures.

But there was no one to explain their meaning and these first Europeans
were as wise as the Romans and the Turks had been before them.

Now it happened, late in the eighteenth century that a certain French
general by the name of Buonaparte visited Egypt. He did not go there to
study ancient history. He wanted to use the country as a starting point
for a military expedition against the British colonies in India. This
expedition failed completely but it helped solve the mysterious problem
of the ancient Egyptian writing.

Among the soldiers of Napoleon Buonaparte there was a young officer by
the name of Broussard. He was stationed at the fortress of St. Julien on
the western mouth of the Nile which is called the Rosetta river.

Broussard liked to rummage among the ruins of the lower Nile and one day
he found a stone which greatly puzzled him.

Like everything else in that neighborhood, it was covered with picture
writing.

But this slab of black basalt was different from anything that had ever
been discovered.

It carried three inscriptions and one of these (oh joy!) was in Greek.

The Greek language was known.

As it was almost certain that the Egyptian part contained a translation
of the Greek (or vice versa), the key to ancient Egyptian seemed to have
been discovered.

But it took more than thirty years of very hard work before the key had
been made to fit the lock.

Then the mysterious door was opened and the ancient treasure house of
Egypt was forced to surrender its secrets.

The man who gave his life to the task of deciphering this language was
Jean Francois Champollion--usually called Champollion Junior to
distinguish him from his older brother who was also a very learned man.

Champollion Junior was a baby when the French revolution broke out and
therefore he escaped serving in the armies of the General Buonaparte.

While his countrymen were marching from one glorious victory to another
(and back again as such Imperial armies are apt to do) Champollion
studied the language of the Copts, the native Christians of Egypt. At
the age of nineteen he was appointed a professor of History at one of
the smaller French universities and there he began his great work of
translating the pictures of the old Egyptian language.

For this purpose he used the famous black stone of Rosetta which
Broussard had discovered among the ruins near the mouth of the Nile.

The original stone was still in Egypt. Napoleon had been forced to
vacate the country in a hurry and he had left this curiosity behind.
When the English retook Alexandria in the year 1801 they found the stone
and carried it to London, where you may see it this very day in the
British Museum. The Inscriptions however had been copied and had been
taken to France, where they were used by Champollion.

The Greek text was quite clear. It contained the story of Ptolemy V and
his wife Cleopatra, the grandmother of that other Cleopatra about whom
Shakespeare wrote. The other two inscriptions, however, refused to
surrender their secrets.

One of them was in hieroglyphics, the name we give to the oldest known
Egyptian writing. The word Hieroglyphic is Greek and means "sacred
carving." It is a very good name for it fully describes the purpose and
nature of this script. The priests who had invented this art did not
want the common people to become too familiar with the deep mysteries of
preserving speech. They made writing a sacred business.

They surrounded it with much mystery and decreed that the carving of
hieroglyphics be regarded as a sacred art and forbade the people to
practice it for such a common purpose as business or commerce.

They could enforce this rule with success so long as the country was
inhabited by simple farmers who lived at home and grew everything they
needed upon their own fields. But gradually Egypt became a land of
traders and these traders needed a means of communication beyond the
spoken word. So they boldly took the little figures of the priests and
simplified them for their own purposes. Thereafter they wrote their
business letters in the new script which became known as the "popular
language" and which we call by its Greek name, the "Demotic language."

The Rosetta stone carried both the sacred and the popular translations
of the Greek text and upon these two Champollion centered his attack. He
collected every piece of Egyptian script which he could get and together
with the Rosetta stone he compared and studied them until after twenty
years of patient drudgery he understood the meaning of fourteen
little figures.

That means that he spent more than a whole year to decipher each single
picture.

Finally he went to Egypt and in the year 1823 he printed the first
scientific book upon the subject of the ancient hieroglyphics.

Nine years later he died from overwork, as a true martyr to the great
task which he had set himself as a boy.

His work, however, lived after him.

Others continued his studies and today Egyptologists can read
hieroglyphics as easily as we can read the printed pages of our
newspapers.

Fourteen pictures in twenty years seems very slow work. But let me tell
you something of Champollion's difficulties. Then you will understand,
and understanding, you will admire his courage.

The old Egyptians did not use a simple sign language. They had passed
beyond that stage.

Of course, you know what sign language is.

Every Indian story has a chapter about queer messages, written in the
form of little pictures. Hardly a boy but at some stage or other of his
life, as a buffalo hunter or an Indian fighter, has invented a sign
language of his own, and all Boy Scouts are familiar with it. But
Egyptian was something quite different and I must try and make this
clear to you with a few pictures. Suppose that you were Champollion and
that you were reading an old papyrus which told the story of a farmer
who lived somewhere along the banks of the river Nile.

Suddenly you came across a picture of a man with a saw.

[Illustration: saw]

"Very well," you said, "that means, of course, that the farmer went out
and cut a tree down." Most likely you had guessed correctly.

Next you took another page of hieroglyphics.

They told the story of a queen who had lived to be eighty-two years old.
Right in the middle of the text the same picture occurred. That was very
puzzling, to say the least. Queens do not go about cutting down trees.
They let other people do it for them. A young queen may saw wood for the
sake of exercise, but a queen of eighty-two stays at home with her cat
and her spinning wheel. Yet, the picture was there. The ancient priest
who drew it must have placed it there for a definite purpose.

What could he have meant?

That was the riddle which Champollion finally solved.

He discovered that the Egyptians were the first people to use what we
call "phonetic writing."

Like most other words which express a scientific idea, the word
"phonetic" is of Greek origin. It means the "science of the sound which
is made by our speech." You have seen the Greek word "phone," which
means the voice, before. It occurs in our word "telephone," the machine
which carries the voice to a distant point.

Ancient Egyptian was "phonetic" and it set man free from the narrow
limits of that sign language which in some primitive form had been used
ever since the cave-dweller began to scratch pictures of wild animals
upon the walls of his home.

Now let us return for a moment to the little fellow with his saw who
suddenly appeared in the story of the old queen. Evidently he had
something to do with a saw.

A "saw" is either a tool which you find in a carpenter shop or it means
the past tense of the verb "to see."

This is what had happened to the word during the course of many
centuries.

First of all it had meant a man with a saw.

Then it came to mean the sound which we reproduce by the three modern
letters, s, a and w. In the end the original meaning of carpentering was
lost entirely and the picture indicated the past tense of "to see."

A modern English sentence done into the images of ancient Egypt will
show you what I mean.

[Illustration: eye bee leaf eye saw giraffe]

The [Illustration: eye] means either these two round objects in your
head which allow you to see, or it means "I," the person who is talking
or writing.

A [Illustration: bee] is either an animal which gathers honey and pricks
you in the finger when you try to catch it, or it represents to verb "to
be," which is pronounced the same way and which means to "exist." Again
it may be the first part of a verb like "be-come" or "be-have." In this
case the bee is followed by a [Illustration: leaf] which represents the
sound which we find in the word "leave" or "leaf." Put your "bee" and
your "leaf" together and you have the two sounds which make the verb
"bee-leave" or "believe" as we write it nowadays.

The "eye" you know all about.

Finally you get a picture which looks like a giraffe. [Illustration:
Giraffe] It is a giraffe, and it is part of the old sign language, which
has been continued wherever it seemed most convenient.

Therefore you get the following sentence, "I believe I saw a giraffe."

This system, once invented, was developed during thousands of years.

Gradually the most important figures came to mean single letters or
short sounds like "fu" or "em" or "dee" or "zee," or as we write them, f
and m and d and z. And with the help of these, the Egyptians could write
anything they wanted upon every conceivable subject, and could preserve
the experience of one generation for the benefit of the next without the
slightest difficulty.

That, in a very general way, is what Champollion taught us after the
exhausting search which killed him when he was a young man.

That too, is the reason why today we know Egyptian history better than
that of any other ancient country.



THE LAND OF THE LIVING AND THE LAND OF THE DEAD

The History of Man is the record of a hungry creature in search of food.

Wherever food was plentiful and easily gathered, thither man travelled
to make his home.

The fame of the Nile valley must have spread at an early date. From far
and wide, wild people flocked to the banks of the river. Surrounded on
all sides by desert or sea, it was not easy to reach these fertile
fields and only the hardiest men and women survived.

We do not know who they were. Some came from the interior of Africa and
had woolly hair and thick lips.

Others, with a yellowish skin, came from the desert of Arabia and the
broad rivers of western Asia.

They fought each other for the possession of this wonderful land.

They built villages which their neighbors destroyed and they rebuilt
them with the bricks they had taken from other neighbors whom they in
turn had vanquished.

Gradually a new race developed. They called themselves "remi," which
means simply "the Men." There was a touch of pride in this name and they
used it in the same sense that we refer to America as "God's
own country."

Part of the year, during the annual flood of the Nile, they lived on
small islands within a country which itself was cut off from the rest of
the world by the sea and the desert. No wonder that these people were
what we call "insular," and had the habits of villagers who rarely come
in contact with their neighbors.

They liked their own ways best. They thought their own habits and
customs just a trifle better than those of anybody else. In the same
way, their own gods were considered more powerful than the gods of other
nations. They did not exactly despise foreigners, but they felt a mild
pity for them and if possible they kept them outside of the Egyptian
domains, lest their own people be corrupted by "foreign notions."

They were kind-hearted and rarely did anything that was cruel. They were
patient and in business dealings they were rather indifferent Life came
as an easy gift and they never became stingy and mean like northern
people who have to struggle for mere existence.

When the sun arose above the blood-red horizon of the distant desert,
they went forth to till their fields. When the last rays of light had
disappeared beyond the mountain ridges, they went to bed.

They worked hard, they plodded and they bore whatever happened with
stolid unconcern and profound patience.

They believed that this life was but a short preface to a new existence
which began the moment Death had entered the house. Until at last, the
life of the future came to be regarded as more important than the life
of the present and the people of Egypt turned their teeming land into
one vast shrine for the worship of the dead.

[Illustration: THE LAND OF THE DEAD.]

And as most of the papyrus-rolls of the ancient valley tell stories of a
religious nature we know with great accuracy just what gods the
Egyptians revered and how they tried to assure all possible happiness
and comfort to those who had entered upon the eternal sleep. In the
beginning each little village had possessed a god of its own.

Often this god was supposed to reside in a queerly shaped stone or in
the branch of a particularly large tree. It was well to be good friends
with him for he could do great harm and destroy the harvest and prolong
the period of drought until the people and the cattle had all died of
thirst. Therefore the villages made him presents--offered him things to
eat or a bunch of flowers.

When the Egyptians went forth to fight their enemies the god must needs
be taken along, until he became a sort of battle flag around which the
people rallied in time of danger.

But when the country grew older and better roads had been built and the
Egyptians had begun to travel, the old "fetishes," as such chunks of
stone and wood were called, lost their importance and were thrown away
or were left in a neglected corner or were used as doorsteps or chairs.

Their place was taken by new gods who were more powerful than the old
ones had been and who represented those forces of nature which
influenced the lives of the Egyptians of the entire valley.

First among these was the Sun which makes all things grow.

Next came the river Nile which tempered the heat of the day and brought
rich deposits of clay to refresh the fields and make them fertile.

Then there was the kindly Moon which at night rowed her little boat
across the arch of heaven and there was Thunder and there was Lightning
and there were any number of things which could make life happy or
miserable according to their pleasure and desire.

Ancient man, entirely at the mercy of these forces of nature, could not
get rid of them as easily as we do when we plant lightning rods upon our
houses or build reservoirs which keep us alive during the summer months
when there is no rain.

On the contrary they formed an intimate part of his daily life--they
accompanied him from the moment he was put into his cradle until the day
that his body was prepared for eternal rest.

Neither could he imagine that such vast and powerful phenomena as a bolt
of lightning or the flood of a river were mere impersonal things. Some
one--somewhere--must be their master and must direct them as the
engineer directs his engine or a captain steers his ship.

A God-in-Chief was therefore created, like the commanding general of an
army.

A number of lower officers were placed at his disposal.

Within their own territory each one could act independently.

In grave matters, however, which affected the happiness of all the
people, they must take orders from their master.

The Supreme Divine Ruler of the land of Egypt was called Osiris, and all
the little Egyptian children knew the story of his wonderful life.

Once upon a time, in the valley of the Nile, there lived a king called
Osiris.

He was a good man who taught his subjects how to till their fields and
who gave his country just laws. But he had a bad brother whose name
was Seth.

Now Seth envied Osiris because he was so virtuous and one day he invited
him to dinner and afterwards he said that he would like to show him
something. Curious Osiris asked what it was and Seth said that it was a
funnily shaped coffin which fitted one like a suit of clothes. Osiris
said that he would like to try it. So he lay down in the coffin but no
sooner was he inside when bang!--Seth shut the lid. Then he called for
his servants and ordered them to throw the coffin into the Nile.

Soon the news of his terrible deed spread throughout the land. Isis, the
wife of Osiris, who had loved her husband very dearly, went at once to
the banks of the Nile, and after a short while the waves threw the
coffin upon the shore. Then she went forth to tell her son Horus, who
ruled in another land, but no sooner had she left than Seth, the wicked
brother, broke into the palace and cut the body of Osiris into
fourteen pieces.

[Illustration: A PYRAMID.]

When Isis returned, she discovered what Seth had done. She took the
fourteen pieces of the dead body and sewed them together and then Osiris
came back to life and reigned for ever and ever as king of the lower
world to which the souls of men must travel after they have left
the body.

As for Seth, the Evil One, he tried to escape, but Horus, the son of
Osiris and Isis, who had been warned by his mother, caught him and
slew him.

This story of a faithful wife and a wicked brother and a dutiful son who
avenged his father and the final victory of virtue over wickedness
formed the basis of the religious life of the people of Egypt.

Osiris was regarded as the god of all living things which seemingly die
in the winter and yet return to renewed existence the next spring. As
ruler of the Life Hereafter, he was the final judge of the acts of men,
and woe unto him who had been cruel and unjust and had oppressed
the weak.

As for the world of the departed souls, it was situated beyond the high
mountains of the west (which was also the home of the young Nile) and
when an Egyptian wanted to say that someone had died, he said that he
"had gone west."

Isis shared the honors and the duties of Osiris with him. Their son
Horus, who was worshipped as the god of the Sun (hence the word
"horizon," the place where the sun sets) became the first of a new line
of Egyptian kings and all the Pharaohs of Egypt had Horus as their
middle name.

Of course, each little city and every small village continued to worship
a few divinities of their own. But generally speaking, all the people
recognized the sublime power of Osiris and tried to gain his favor.

This was no easy task, and led to many strange customs. In the first
place, the Egyptians came to believe that no soul could enter into the
realm of Osiris without the possession of the body which had been its
place of residence in this world.

[Illustration: HOW THE PYRAMIDS GREW.]

Whatever happened, the body must be preserved after death, and it must
be given a permanent and suitable home. Therefore as soon as a man had
died, his corpse was embalmed. This was a difficult and complicated
operation which was performed by an official who was half doctor and
half priest, with the help of an assistant whose duty it was to make the
incision through which the chest could be filled with cedar-tree pitch
and myrrh and cassia. This assistant belonged to a special class of
people who were counted among the most despised of men. The Egyptians
thought it a terrible thing to commit acts of violence upon a human
being, whether dead or living, and only the lowest of the low could be
hired to perform this unpopular task.

Afterwards the priest took the body again and for a period of ten weeks
he allowed it to be soaked in a solution of natron which was brought for
this purpose from the distant desert of Libya. Then the body had become
a "mummy" because it was filled with "Mumiai" or pitch. It was wrapped
in yards and yards of specially prepared linen and it was placed in a
beautifully decorated wooden coffin, ready to be removed to its final
home in the western desert.

The grave itself was a little stone room in the sand of the desert or a
cave in a hill-side.

After the coffin had been placed in the center the little room was well
supplied with cooking utensils and weapons and statues (of clay or wood)
representing bakers and butchers who were expected to wait upon their
dead master in case he needed anything. Flutes and fiddles were added to
give the occupant of the grave a chance to while away the long hours
which he must spend in this "house of eternity."

Then the roof was covered with sand and the dead Egyptian was left to
the peaceful rest of eternal sleep.

But the desert is full of wild creatures, hyenas and wolves, and they
dug their way through the wooden roof and the sand and ate up the mummy.

This was a terrible thing, for then the soul was doomed to wander
forever and suffer agonies of a man without a home. To assure the corpse
all possible safety a low wall of brick was built around the grave and
the open space was filled with sand and gravel. In this way a low
artificial hill was made which protected the mummy against wild animals
and robbers.

Then one day, an Egyptian who had just buried his Mother, of whom he had
been particularly fond, decided to give her a monument that should
surpass anything that had ever been built in the valley of the Nile.

He gathered his serfs and made them build an artificial mountain that
could be seen for miles around. The sides of this hill he covered with a
layer of bricks that the sand might not be blown away.

People liked the novelty of the idea.

Soon they were trying to outdo each other and the graves rose twenty and
thirty and forty feet above the ground.

At last a rich nobleman ordered a burial chamber made of solid stone.

On top of the actual grave where the mummy rested, he constructed a pile
of bricks which rose several hundred feet into the air. A small
passage-way gave entrance to the vault and when this passage was closed
with a heavy slab of granite the mummy was safe from all intrusion.

The King of course could not allow one of his subjects to outdo him in
such a matter. He was the most powerful man of all Egypt who lived in
the biggest house and therefore he was entitled to the best grave.

What others had done in brick he could do with the help of more costly
materials.

Pharaoh sent his officers far and wide to gather workmen. He constructed
roads. He built barracks in which the workmen could live and sleep (you
may see those barracks this very day). Then he set to work and made
himself a grave which was to endure for all time.

We call this great pile of masonry a "pyramid."

The origin of the word is a curious one.

When the Greeks visited Egypt the Pyramids were already several thousand
years old.

[Illustration: THE MUMMY]

Of course the Egyptians took their guests into the desert to see these
wondrous sights just as we take foreigners to gaze at the Wool-worth
Tower and Brooklyn Bridge.

The Greek guest, lost in admiration, waved his hands and asked what the
strange mountains might be.

His guide thought that he referred to the extraordinary height and said
"Yes, they are very high indeed."

The Egyptian word for height was "pir-em-us."

The Greek must have thought that this was the name of the whole
structure and giving it a Greek ending he called it a "pyramis."

We have changed the "s" into a "d" but we still use the same Egyptian
word when we talk of the stone graves along the banks of the Nile.

The biggest of these many pyramids, which was built fifty centuries ago,
was five hundred feet high.

At the base it was seven hundred and fifty-five feet wide.

It covered more than thirteen acres of desert, which is three times as
much space as that occupied by the church of Saint Peter, the largest
edifice of the Christian world.

During twenty years, over a hundred thousand men were used to carry the
stones from the distant peninsula of Sinai--to ferry them across the
Nile (how they ever managed to do this we do not understand)--to drag
them halfway across the desert and finally hoist them into their
correct position.

But so well did Pharaoh's architects and engineers perform their task
that the narrow passage-way which leads to the royal tomb in the heart
of the pyramid has never yet been pushed out of shape by the terrific
weight of those thousands and thousands of tons of stone which press
upon it from all sides.



THE MAKING OF A STATE

Nowadays we all are members of a "state."

We may be Frenchmen or Chinamen or Russians; we may live in the furthest
corner of Indonesia (do you know where that is?), but in some way or
other we belong to that curious combination of people which is called
the "state."

It does not matter whether we recognize a king or an emperor or a
president as our ruler. We are born and we die as a small part of this
large Whole and no one can escape this fate.

The "state," as a matter of fact, is quite a recent invention.

The earliest inhabitants of the world did not know what it was.

Every family lived and hunted and worked and died for and by itself.
Sometimes it happened that a few of these families, for the sake of
greater protection against the wild animals and against other wild
people, formed a loose alliance which was called a tribe or a clan. But
as soon as the danger was past, these groups of people acted again by
and for themselves and if the weak could not defend their own cave, they
were left to the mercies of the hyena and the tiger and nobody was very
sorry if they were killed.

In short, each person was a nation unto himself and he felt no
responsibility for the happiness and safety of his neighbor. Very, very
slowly this was changed and Egypt was the first country where the people
were organized into a well-regulated empire.

The Nile was directly responsible for this useful development. I have
told you how in the summer of each year the greater part of the Nile
valley and the Nile delta is turned into a vast inland sea. To derive
the greatest benefit from this water and yet survive the flood, it had
been necessary at certain points to build dykes and small islands which
would offer shelter for man and beast during the months of August and
September. The construction of these little artificial islands however
had not been simple.

[Illustration: THE YOUNG NILE.]

A single man or a single family or even a small tribe could not
construct a river-dam without the help of others.

However much a farmer might dislike his neighbors he disliked getting
drowned even more and he was obliged to call upon the entire
country-side when the water of the river began to rise and threatened
him and his wife and his children and his cattle with destruction.

Necessity forced the people to forget their small differences and soon
the entire valley of the Nile was covered with little combinations of
people who constantly worked together for a common purpose and who
depended upon each other for life and prosperity.

Out of such small beginnings grew the first powerful State.

It was a great step forward along the road of progress.

It made the land of Egypt a truly inhabitable place. It meant the end of
lawless murder. It assured the people greater safety than ever before
and gave the weaker members of the tribe a chance to survive. Nowadays,
when conditions of absolute disorder exist only in the jungles of
Africa, it is hard to imagine a world without laws and policemen and
judges and health officers and hospitals and schools.

But five thousand years ago, Egypt stood alone as an organized state and
was greatly envied by those of her neighbors who were obliged to face
the difficulties of life single-handedly.

A state, however, is not only composed of citizens.

There must be a few men who execute the laws and who, in case of an
emergency, take command of the entire community. Therefore no country
has ever been able to endure without a single head, be he called a King
or an Emperor or a Shah (as in Persia) or a President, as he is called
in our own land.

[Illustration: THE FERTILE VALLEY.]

In ancient Egypt, every village recognized the authority of the
Village-Elders, who were old men and possessed greater experience than
the young ones. These Elders selected a strong man to command their
soldiers in case of war and to tell them what to do when there was a
flood. They gave him a title which distinguished him from the others.
They called him a King or a prince and obeyed his orders for their own
common benefit.

Therefore in the oldest days of Egyptian history, we find the following
division among the people:

The majority are peasants.

All of them are equally rich and equally poor.

They are ruled by a powerful man who is the commander-in-chief of their
armies and who appoints their judges and causes roads to be built for
the common benefit and comfort.

He also is the chief of the police force and catches the thieves.

In return for these valuable services he receives a certain amount of
everybody's money which is called a tax. The greater part of these
taxes, however, do not belong to the King personally. They are money
entrusted to him to be used for the common good.

But after a short while a new class of people, neither peasants nor
king, begins to develop. This new class, commonly called the nobles,
stands between the ruler and his subjects.

Since those early days it has made its appearance in the history of
every country and it has played a great role in the development of
every nation.

I must try and explain to you how this class of nobles developed out of
the most commonplace circumstances of everyday life and why it has
maintained itself to this very day, against every form of opposition.

To make my story quite clear, I have drawn a picture.

It shows you five Egyptian farms. The original owners of these farms had
moved into Egypt years and years ago. Each had taken a piece of
unoccupied land and had settled down upon it to raise grain and cows and
pigs and do whatever was necessary to keep themselves and their children
alive. Apparently they had the same chance in life.

How then did it happen that one became the ruler of his neighbors and
got hold of all their fields and barns without breaking a single law?

[Illustration: THE ORIGINS OF THE FEUDAL SYSTEM.]

One day after the harvest, Mr. Fish (you see his name in hieroglyphics
on the map) sent his boat loaded with grain to the town of Memphis to
sell the cargo to the inhabitants of central Egypt. It happened to have
been a good year for the farmer and Fish got a great deal of money for
his wheat. After ten days the boat returned to the homestead and the
captain handed the money which he had received to his employer.

A few weeks later, Mr. Sparrow, whose farm was next to that of Fish,
sent his wheat to the nearest market. Poor Sparrow had not been very
lucky for the last few years. But he hoped to make up for his recent
losses by a profitable sale of his grain. Therefore he had waited until
the price of wheat in Memphis should have gone a little higher.

That morning a rumor had reached the village of a famine in the island
of Crete. As a result the grain in the Egyptian markets had greatly
increased in value.

Sparrow hoped to profit through this unexpected turn of the market and
he bade his skipper to hurry.

The skipper handled the rudder of his craft so clumsily that the boat
struck a rock and sank, drowning the mate who was caught under the sail.

Sparrow not only lost all his grain and his ship but he was also forced
to pay the widow of his drowned mate ten pieces of gold to make up for
the loss of her husband.

These disasters occurred at the very moment when Sparrow could not
afford another loss.

Winter was near and he had no money to buy cloaks for his children. He
had put off buying new hoes and spades for such a long time that the old
ones were completely worn out. He had no seeds for his fields. He was in
a desperate plight.

He did not like his neighbor, Mr. Fish, any too well but there was no
way out. He must go and humbly he must ask for the loan of a small
sum of money.

He called on Fish. The latter said that he would gladly let him have
whatever he needed but could Sparrow put up any sort of guaranty?

Sparrow said, "Yes." He would offer his own farm as a pledge of good
faith.

Unfortunately Fish knew all about that farm. It had belonged to the
Sparrow family for many generations. But the Father of the present owner
had allowed himself to be terribly cheated by a Phoenician trader who
had sold him a couple of "Phrygian Oxen" (nobody knew what the name
meant) which were said to be of a very fine breed, which needed little
food and performed twice as much labor as the common Egyptian oxen. The
old farmer had believed the solemn words of the impostor. He had bought
the wonderful beasts, greatly envied by all his neighbors.

They had not proved a success.

They were very stupid and very slow and exceedingly lazy and within
three weeks they had died from a mysterious disease.

The old farmer was so angry that he suffered a stroke and the management
of his estate was left to the son, who worked hard but without
much result.

The loss of his grain and his vessel were the last straw.

Young Sparrow must either starve or ask his neighbor to help him with a
loan.

Fish who was familiar with the lives of all his neighbors (he was that
kind of person, not because he loved gossip but one never knew how such
information might come in handy) and who knew to a penny the state of
affairs in the Sparrow household, felt strong enough to insist upon
certain terms. Sparrow could have all the money he needed upon the
following condition. He must promise to work for Fish six weeks of every
year and he must allow him free access to his grounds at all times.

Sparrow did not like these terms, but the days were growing shorter and
winter was coming on fast and his family were without food.

He was forced to accept and from that time on, he and his sons and
daughters were no longer quite as free as they had been before.

They did not exactly become the servants or the slaves of their
neighbor, but they were dependent upon his kindness for their own
livelihood. When they met Fish in the road they stepped aside and said
"Good morning, sir." And he answered them--or not--as the case might be.

He now owned a great deal of water-front, twice as much as before.

He had more land and more laborers and he could raise more grain than in
the past years. The nearby villagers talked of the new house he was
building and in a general way, he was regarded as a man of growing
wealth and importance.

Late that summer an unheard-of-thing happened.

It rained.

The oldest inhabitants could not remember such a thing, but it rained
hard and steadily for two whole days. A little brook, the existence of
which everybody had forgotten, was suddenly turned into a wild torrent.
In the middle of the night it came thundering down from the mountains
and destroyed the harvest of the farmer who occupied the rocky ground at
the foot of the hills. His name was Cup and he too had inherited his
land from a hundred other Cups who had gone before. The damage was
almost irreparable. Cup needed new seed grain and he needed it at once.
He had heard Sparrow's story. He too hated to ask a favor of Fish who
was known far and wide as a shrewd dealer. But in the end, he found his
way to the Fishs' homestead and humbly begged for the loan of a few
bushels of wheat. He got them but not until he had agreed to work two
whole months of each year on the farm of Fish.

Fish was now doing very well. His new house was ready and he thought the
time had come to establish himself as the head of a household.

Just across the way, there lived a farmer who had a young daughter. The
name of this farmer was Knife. He was a happy-go-lucky person and he
could not give his child a large dowry.

Fish called on Knife and told him that he did not care for money. He was
rich and he was willing to take the daughter without a single penny.
Knife, however, must promise to leave his land to his son-in-law in
case he died.

This was done.

The will was duly drawn up before a notary, the wedding took place and
Fish now possessed (or was about to possess) the greater part of
four farms.

It is true there was a fifth farm situated right in between the others.
But its owner, by the name of Sickle, could not carry his wheat to the
market without crossing the lands over which Fish held sway. Besides,
Sickle was not very energetic and he willingly hired himself out to Fish
on condition that he and his old wife be given a room and food and
clothes for the rest of their days. They had no children and this
settlement assured them a peaceful old age. When Sickle died, a distant
nephew appeared who claimed a right to his uncle's farm. Fish had the
dogs turned loose on him and the fellow was never seen again.

These transactions had covered a period of twenty years.

The younger generations of the Cup and

Sickle and Sparrow families accepted their situation in life without
questioning. They knew old Fish as "the Squire" upon whose good-will
they were more or less dependent if they wanted to succeed in life.

When the old man died he left his son many wide acres and a position of
great influence among his immediate neighbors.

Young Fish resembled his father. He was very able and had a great deal
of ambition. When the king of Upper Egypt went to war against the wild
Berber tribes, he volunteered his services.

He fought so bravely that the king appointed him Collector of the Royal
Revenue for three hundred villages.

Often it happened that certain farmers could not pay their tax.

Then young Fish offered to give them a small loan.

Before they knew it, they were working for the Royal Tax Gatherer, to
repay both the money which they had borrowed and the interest on
the loan.

The years went by and the Fish family reigned supreme in the land of
their birth. The old home was no longer good enough for such
important people.

A noble hall was built (after the pattern of the Royal Banqueting Hall
of Thebes). A high wall was erected to keep the crowd at a respectful
distance and Fish never went out without a bodyguard of armed soldiers.

Twice a year he travelled to Thebes to be with his King, who lived in
the largest palace of all Egypt and who was therefore known as
"Pharaoh," the owner of the "Big House."

Upon one of his visits, he took Fish the Third, grandson of the founder
of the family, who was a handsome young fellow.

The daughter of Pharaoh saw the youth and desired him for her husband.
The wedding cost Fish most of his fortune, but he was still Collector of
the Royal Revenue and by treating the people without mercy he was able
to fill his strong-box in less than three years.

When he died he was buried in a small Pyramid, just as if he had been a
member of the Royal Family, and a daughter of Pharaoh wept over
his grave.

That is my story which begins somewhere along the banks of the Nile and
which in the course of three generations lifts a farmer from the ranks
of his own humble ancestors and drops him outside the gate but near the
throne-room of the King's palace.

What happened to Fish, happened to a large number of equally energetic
and resourceful men.

They formed a class apart.

They married each other's daughters and in this way they kept the family
fortunes in the hands of a small number of people.

They served the King faithfully as officers in his army and as
collectors of his taxes.

They looked after the safety of the roads and the waterways.

They performed many useful tasks and among themselves they obeyed the
laws of a very strict code of honor.

If the Kings were bad, the nobles were apt to be bad too.

When the Kings were weak the nobles often managed to get hold of the
State.

Then it often happened that the people arose in their wrath and
destroyed those who oppressed them.

Many of the old nobles were killed and a new division of the land took
place which gave everybody an equal chance.

But after a short while the old story repeated itself.

This time it was perhaps a member of the Sparrow family who used his
greater shrewdness and industry to make himself master of the
countryside while the descendants of Fish (of glorious memory!) were
reduced to poverty.

Otherwise very little was changed.

The faithful peasants continued to work and pay taxes.

The equally faithful tax gatherers continued to gather wealth.

But the old Nile, indifferent to the ambitions of men, flowed as
placidly as ever between its age-worn banks and bestowed its fertile
blessings upon the poor and upon the rich with the impartial justice
which is found only in the forces of nature.



THE RISE AND FALL OF EGYPT

We often hear it said that "civilization travels westward." What we mean
is that hardy pioneers have crossed the Atlantic Ocean and settled along
the shores of New England and New Netherland--that their children have
crossed the vast prairies--that their great-grandchildren have moved
into California--and that the present generation hopes to turn the vast
Pacific into the most important sea of the ages.

As a matter of fact, "civilization" never remains long in the same spot.
It is always going somewhere but it does not always move westward by any
means. Sometimes its course points towards the east or the south. Often
it zigzags across the map. But it keeps moving. After two or three
hundred years, civilization seems to say, "Well, I have been keeping
company with these particular people long enough," and it packs its
books and its science and its art and its music, and wanders forth in
search of new domains. But no one knows whither it is bound, and that is
what makes life so interesting.

[Illustration: THE SOIL OF THE FERTILE VALLEY.]

In the case of Egypt, the center of civilization moved northward and
southward, along the banks of the Nile. First of all, as I told you,
people from all over Africa and western Asia moved into the valley and
settled down. Thereupon they formed small villages and townships and
accepted the rule of a Commander-in-Chief, who was called Pharaoh, and
who had his capital in Memphis, in the lower part of Egypt.

After a couple of thousand years, the rulers of this ancient house
became too weak to maintain themselves. A new family from the town of
Thebes, 350 miles towards the south in Upper Egypt, tried to make itself
master of the entire valley. In the year 2400 B.C. they succeeded. As
rulers of both Upper and Lower Egypt, they set forth to conquer the rest
of the world. They marched towards the sources of the Nile (which they
never reached) and conquered black Ethiopia. Next they crossed the
desert of Sinai and invaded Syria where they made their name feared by
the Babylonians and Assyrians. The possession of these outlying
districts assured the safety of Egypt and they could set to work to turn
the valley into a happy home, for as many of the people as could find
room there. They built many new dikes and dams and a vast reservoir in
the desert which they filled with water from the Nile to be kept and
used in case of a prolonged drought. They encouraged people to devote
themselves to the study of mathematics and astronomy so that they might
determine the time when the floods of the Nile were to be expected.
Since for this purpose it was necessary to have a handy method by which
time could be measured, they established the year of 365 days, which
they divided into twelve months.

Contrary to the old tradition which made the Egyptians keep away from
all things foreign, they allowed the exchange of Egyptian merchandise
for goods which had been carried to their harbors from elsewhere.

They traded with the Greeks of Crete and with the Arabs of western Asia
and they got spices from the Indies and they imported gold and silk
from China.

But all human institutions are subject to certain definite laws of
progress and decline and a State or a dynasty is no exception. After
four hundred years of prosperity, these mighty kings showed signs of
growing tired. Rather than ride a camel at the head of their army, the
rulers of the great Egyptian Empire stayed within the gates of their
palace and listened to the music of the harp or the flute.

One day there came rumors to the town of Thebes that wild tribes of
horsemen had been pillaging along the frontiers. An army was sent to
drive them away. This army moved into the desert. To the last man it was
killed by the fierce Arabs, who now marched towards the Nile, bringing
their flocks of sheep and their household goods.

Another army was told to stop their progress. The battle was disastrous
for the Egyptians and the valley of the Nile was open to the invaders.

They rode fleet horses and they used bows and arrows. Within a short
time they had made themselves master of the entire country. For five
centuries they ruled the land of Egypt. They removed the old capital to
the Delta of the Nile.

They oppressed the Egyptian peasants.

They treated the men cruelly and they killed the children and they were
rude to the ancient gods. They did not like to live in the cities but
stayed with their flocks in the open fields and therefore they were
called the Hyksos, which means the Shepherd Kings.

At last their rule grew unbearable.

A noble family from the city of Thebes placed itself at the head of a
national revolution against the foreign usurpers. It was a desperate
fight but the Egyptians won. The Hyksos were driven out of the country,
and they went back to the desert whence they had come. The experience
had been a warning to the Egyptian people. Their five hundred years of
foreign slavery had been a terrible experience. Such a thing must never
happen again. The frontier of the fatherland must be made so strong that
no one dare to attack the holy soil.

A new Theban king, called Tethmosis, invaded Asia and never stopped
until he reached the plains of Mesopotamia. He watered his oxen in the
river Euphrates, and Babylon and Nineveh trembled at the mention of his
name. Wherever he went, he built strong fortresses, which were connected
by excellent roads. Tethmosis, having built a barrier against future
invasions, went home and died. But his daughter, Hatshepsut, continued
his good work. She rebuilt the temples which the Hyksos had destroyed
and she founded a strong state in which soldiers and merchants worked
together for a common purpose and which was called the New Empire, and
lasted from 1600 to 1300 B.C.

Military nations, however, never last very long. The larger the empire,
the more men are needed for its defense and the more men there are in
the army, the fewer can stay at home to work the farms and attend to the
demands of trade. Within a few years, the Egyptian state had become
top-heavy and the army, which was meant to be a bulwark against foreign
invasion, dragged the country into ruin from sheer lack of both men
and money.

Without interruption, wild people from Asia were attacking those strong
walls behind which Egypt was hoarding the riches of the entire
civilized world.

At first the Egyptian garrisons could hold their own.

One day, however, in distant Mesopotamia, there arose a new military
empire which was called Assyria. It cared for neither art nor science,
but it could fight. The Assyrians marched against the Egyptians and
defeated them in battle. For more than twenty years they ruled the land
of the Nile. To Egypt this meant the beginning of the end.

A few times, for short periods, the people managed to regain their
independence. But they were an old race, and they were worn out by
centuries of hard work.

The time had come for them to disappear from the stage of history and
surrender their leadership as the most civilized people of the world.
Greek merchants were swarming down upon the cities at the mouth of
the Nile.

A new capital was built at Sais, near the mouth of the Nile, and Egypt
became a purely commercial state, the half-way house for the trade
between western Asia and eastern Europe.

After the Greeks came the Persians, who conquered all of northern
Africa.

Two centuries later, Alexander the Great turned the ancient land of the
Pharaoh? into a Greek province. When he died, one of his generals,
Ptolemy by name, established himself as the independent king of a new
Egyptian state.

The Ptolemy family continued to rule for two hundred years.

In the year 30 B.C., Cleopatra, the last of the Ptolemys, killed
herself, rather than become a prisoner of the victorious Roman general,
Octavianus.

That was the end.

Egypt became part of the Roman Empire and her life as an independent
state ceased for all time.



MESOPOTAMIA, THE COUNTRY BETWEEN THE RIVERS

I am going to take you to the top of the highest pyramid.

It is a good deal of a climb.

The casing of fine stones which in the beginning covered the rough
granite blocks which were used to construct this artificial mountain,
has long since worn off or has been stolen to help build new Roman
cities. A goat would have a fine time scaling this strange peak. But
with the help of a few Arab boys, we can get to the top after a few
hours of hard work, and there we can rest and look far into the next
chapter of the history of the human race.

Way, way off, in the distance, far beyond the yellow sands of the vast
desert, through which the old Nile had cut herself a way to the sea, you
will (if you have the eyes of a hawk), see something shimmering
and green.

It is a valley situated between two big rivers.

It is the most interesting spot of the ancient map.

It is the Paradise of the Old Testament.

It is the old land of mystery and wonder which the Greeks called
Mesopotamia.

The word "Mesos" means "middle" or "in between" and "potomos" is the
Greek expression for river. (Just think of the Hippopotamus, the horse
or "hippos" that lives in the rivers.) Mesopotamia, therefore, meant a
stretch of land "between the rivers." The two rivers in this case were
the Euphrates which the Babylonians called the "Purattu" and the Tigris,
which the Babylonians called the "Diklat." You will see them both upon
the map. They begin their course amidst the snows of the northern
mountains of Armenia and slowly they flow through the southern plain
until they reach the muddy banks of the Persian Gulf. But before they
have lost themselves amidst the waves of this branch of the Indian
Ocean, they have performed a great and useful task.

They have turned an otherwise arid and dry region into the only fertile
spot of western Asia.

That fact will explain to you why Mesopotamia was so very popular with
the inhabitants of the northern mountains and the southern desert.

It is a well-known fact that all living beings like to be comfortable.
When it rains, the cat hastens to a place of shelter.

When it is cold, the dog finds a spot in front of the stove. When a
certain part of the sea becomes more salty than it has been before (or
less, for that matter) myriads of little fishes swim hastily to another
part of the wide ocean. As for the birds, a great many of them move from
one place to another regularly once a year. When the cold weather sets
in, the geese depart, and when the first swallow returns, we know that
summer is about to smile upon us.

Man is no exception to this rule. He likes the warm stove much better
than the cold wind. Whenever he has the choice between a good dinner and
a crust of bread, he prefers the dinner. He will live in the desert or
in the snow of the arctic zone if it is absolutely necessary. But offer
him a more agreeable place of residence and he will accept without a
moment's hesitation. This desire to improve his condition, which really
means a desire to make life more comfortable and less wearisome, has
been a very good thing for the progress of the world.

It has driven the white people of Europe to the ends of the earth.

It has populated the mountains and the plains of our own country.

It has made many millions of men travel ceaselessly from east to west
and from south to north until they have found the climate and the living
conditions which suit them best.

In the western part of Asia this instinct which compels living beings to
seek the greatest amount of comfort possible with the smallest
expenditure of labor forced both the inhabitants of the cold and
inhospitable mountains and the people of the parched desert to look for
a new dwelling place in the happy valley of Mesopotamia.

It caused them to fight for the sole possession of this Paradise upon
Earth.

It forced them to exercise their highest power of inventiveness and
their noblest courage to defend their homes and farms and their wives
and children against the newcomers, who century after century were
attracted by the fame of this pleasant spot.

This constant rivalry was the cause of an everlasting struggle between
the old and established tribes and the others who clamored for their
share of the soil.

Those who were weak and those who did not have a great deal of energy
had little chance of success.

Only the most intelligent and the bravest survived. That will explain to
you why Mesopotamia became the home of a strong race of men, capable of
creating that state of civilization which was to be of such enormous
benefit to all later generations.



THE SUMERIAN NAIL WRITERS

In the year 1472, a short time before Columbus discovered America, a
certain Venetian, by the name of Josaphat Barbaro, traveling through
Persia, crossed the hills near Shiraz and saw something which puzzled
him. The hills of Shiraz were covered with old temples which had been
cut into the rock of the mountainside. The ancient worshippers had
disappeared centuries before and the temples were in a state of great
decay. But clearly visible upon their walls, Barbara noticed long
legends written in a curious script which looked like a series of
scratches made by a sharp nail.

When he returned he mentioned his discovery to his fellow-townsmen, but
just then the Turks were threatening Europe with an invasion and people
were too busy to bother about a new and unknown alphabet, somewhere in
the heart of western Asia. The Persian inscriptions therefore were
promptly forgotten.

Two and a half centuries later, a noble young Roman by the name of
Pietro della Valle visited the same hillsides of Shiraz which Barbaro
had passed two hundred years before. He, too, was puzzled by the strange
inscriptions on the ruins and being a painstaking young fellow, he
copied them carefully and sent his report together with some remarks
about the trip to a friend of his, Doctor Schipano, who practiced
medicine in Naples and who besides took an interest in matters
of learning.

Schipano copied the funny little figures and brought them to the
attention of other scientific men. Unfortunately Europe was again
occupied with other matters.

The terrible wars between the Protestants and Catholics had broken out
and people were busily killing those who disagreed with them upon
certain points of a religious nature.

Another century was to pass before the study of the wedge-shaped
inscriptions could be taken up seriously.

The eighteenth century--a delightful age for people of an active and
curious mind--loved scientific puzzles. Therefore when King Frederick V
of Denmark asked for men of learning to join an expedition which he was
going to send to western Asia, he found no end of volunteers. His
expedition, which left Copenhagen in 1761, lasted six years. During this
period all of the members died except one, by the name of Karsten
Niebuhr, who had begun life as a German peasant and could stand greater
hardships than the professors who had spent their days amidst the stuffy
books of their libraries.

This Niebuhr, who was a surveyor by profession, was a young man who
deserves our admiration.

He continued his voyage all alone until he reached the ruins of
Persepolis where he spent a month copying every inscription that was to
be found upon the walls of the ruined palaces and temples.

After his return to Denmark he published his discoveries for the benefit
of the scientific world and seriously tried to read some meaning into
his own texts.

He was not successful.

But this does not astonish us when we understand the difficulties which
he was obliged to solve.

When Champollion tackled the ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics he was able
to make his studies from little pictures.

The writing of Persepolis did not show any pictures at all.

They consisted of v-shaped figures that were repeated endlessly and
suggested nothing at all to the European eye.

Nowadays, when the puzzle has been solved we know that the original
script of the Sumerians had been a picture-language, quite as much as
that of the Egyptians.

But whereas the Egyptians at a very early date had discovered the
papyrus plant and had been able to paint their images upon a smooth
surface, the inhabitants of Mesopotamia had been forced to carve their
words into the hard rock of a mountain side or into a soft brick
of clay.

[Illustration: THE ROCKS OF BEHISTUN.]

Driven by necessity they had gradually simplified the original pictures
until they devised a system of more than five hundred different
letter-combinations which were necessary for their needs.

Let me give you a few examples. In the beginning, a star, when drawn
with a nail into a brick looked as follows. [Illustration: Star]

But after a time the star shape was discarded as being too cumbersome
and the figure was given this shape. [Illustration: Asterisk]

After a while the meaning of "heaven" was added to that of "star," and
the picture was simplified in this way [Illustration: Odd Cross] which
made it still more of a puzzle.

In the same way an ox changed from [Illustration: Ox Head] into
[Illustration: Pattern]

A fish changed from [Illustration: Fish] into [Illustration: Fish
Scales] The sun, which was originally a plain circle, became
[Illustration: Diamond] and if we were using the Sumerian script today
we would make an [Illustration: Bike] look like this [Illustration:
Pattern].

You will understand how difficult it was to guess at the meaning of
these figures but the patient labors of a German schoolmaster by the
name of Grotefend was at last rewarded and thirty years after the first
publication of Niebuhr's texts and three centuries after the first
discovery of the wedge-formed pictures, four letters had been
deciphered.

These four letters were the D, the A, the R and the Sh.

They formed the name of Darheush the King, whom we call Darius.

Then occurred one of those events which were only possible in those
happy days before the telegraph-wire and the mail-steamer had turned the
entire world into one large city.

While patient European professors were burning the midnight candles in
their attempt to solve the new Asiatic mystery, young Henry Rawlinson
was serving his time as a cadet of the British East Indian Company.

He used his spare hours to learn Persian and when the Shah of Persia
asked the English government for the loan of a few officers to train his
native army, Rawlinson was ordered to go to Teheran. He travelled all
over Persia and one day he happened to visit the village of Behistun.
The Persians called it Bagistana which means the "dwellingplace of
the Gods."

Centuries before the main road from Mesopotamia to Iran (the early home
of the Persians) had run through this village and the Persian King
Darius had used the steep walls of the high cliffs to tell all the world
what a great man he was.

High above the roadside he had engraved an account of his glorious
deeds.

The inscription had been made in the Persian language, in Babylonian and
in the dialect of the city of Susa. To make the story plain to those who
could not read at all, a fine piece of sculpture had been added showing
the King of Persia placing his triumphant foot upon the body of Gaumata,
the usurper who had tried to steal the throne away from the legitimate
rulers. For good measure a dozen followers of Gaumata had been added.
They stood in the background. Their hands were tied and they were to be
executed in a few moments.

The picture and the three texts were several hundred feet above the road
but Rawlinson scaled the walls of the rock at great danger to life and
limb and copied the entire text.

His discovery was of the greatest importance. The Rock of Behistun
became as famous as the Stone of Rosetta and Rawlinson shared the honors
of deciphering the old nail-writing with Grotefend.

Although they had never seen each other or heard each other's names, the
German schoolmaster and the British officer worked together for a common
purpose as all good scientific men should do.

Their copies of the old text were reprinted in every land and by the
middle of the nineteenth century, the cuneiform language (so called
because the letters were wedge-shaped and "cuneus" is the Latin name for
wedge) had given up its secrets. Another human mystery had been solved.

[Illustration: A TOWER OF BABEL.]

But about the people who had invented this clever way of writing, we
have never been able to learn very much.

They were a white race and they were called the Sumerians.

They lived in a land which we call Shomer and which they themselves
called Kengi, which means the "country of the reeds" and which shows us
that they had dwelt among the marshy parts of the Mesopotamian valley.
Originally the Sumerians had been mountaineers, but the fertile fields
had tempted them away from the hills. But while they had left their
ancient homes amidst the peaks of western Asia they had not given up
their old habits and one of these is of particular interest to us.

Living amidst the peaks of western Asia, they had worshipped their Gods
upon altars erected on the tops of rocks. In their new home, among the
flat plains, there were no such rocks and it was impossible to construct
their shrines in the old fashion. The Sumerians did not like this.

All Asiatic people have a deep respect for tradition and the Sumerian
tradition demanded that an altar be plainly visible for miles around.

To overcome this difficulty and keep their peace with the Gods of their
Fathers, the Sumerians had built a number of low towers (resembling
little hills) on the top of which they had lighted their sacred fires in
honor of the old divinities.

When the Jews visited the town of Bab-Illi (which we call Babylon) many
centuries after the last of the Sumerians had died, they had been much
impressed by the strange-looking towers which stood high amidst the
green fields of Mesopotamia. The Tower of Babel of which we hear so much
in the Old Testament was nothing but the ruin of an artificial peak,
built hundreds of years before by a band of devout Sumerians. It was a
curious contraption.

The Sumerians had not known how to construct stairs.

They had surrounded their tower with a sloping gallery which slowly
carried people from the bottom to the top.

A few years ago it was found necessary to build a new railroad station
in the heart of New York City in such a way that thousands of travelers
could be brought from the lower to the higher levels at the same moment.

It was not thought safe to use a staircase for in case of a rush or a
panic people might have tumbled and that would have meant a terrible
catastrophe.

To solve their problem the engineers borrowed an idea from the
Sumerians.

And the Grand Central Station is provided with the same ascending
galleries which had first been introduced into the plains of
Mesopotamia, three thousand years ago.



ASSYRIA AND BABYLONIA--THE GREAT SEMITIC MELTING-POT

We often call America the "Melting-pot." When we use this term we mean
that many races from all over the earth have gathered along the banks of
the Atlantic and the Pacific Oceans to find a new home and begin a new
career amidst more favorable surroundings than were to be found in the
country of their birth. It is true, Mesopotamia was much smaller than
our own country. But the fertile valley was the most extraordinary
"melting-pot" the world has ever seen and it continued to absorb new
tribes for almost two thousand years. The story of each new people,
clamoring for homesteads along the banks of the Tigris and the Euphrates
is interesting in itself but we can give you only a very short record of
their adventures.

[Illustration: HAMMURAPI.]

The Sumerians whom we met in the previous chapter, scratching their
history upon rocks and bits of clay (and who did not belong to the
Semitic race) had been the first nomads to wander into Mesopotamia.
Nomads are people who have no settled homes and no grain fields and no
vegetable gardens but who live in tents and keep sheep and goats and
cows and who move from pasture to pasture, taking their flocks and their
tents wherever the grass is green and the water abundant.

Far and wide their mud huts had covered the plains. They were good
fighters and for a long time they were able to hold their own against
all invaders.

But four thousand years ago a tribe of Semitic desert people called the
Akkadians left Arabia, defeated the Sumerians and conquered Mesopotamia.
The most famous king of these Akkadians was called Sargon.

He taught his people how to write their own Semitic language in the
alphabet of the Sumerians whose territory they had just occupied. He
ruled so wisely that soon the differences between the original settlers
and the invaders disappeared and they became fast friends and lived
together in peace and harmony.

The fame of his empire spread rapidly throughout western Asia and
others, hearing of this success, were tempted to try their own luck.

A new tribe of desert nomads, called the Amorites, broke up camp and
moved northward.

Thereupon the valley was the scene of a great turmoil until an Amorite
chieftain by the name of Hammurapi (or Hammurabi, as you please)
established himself in the town of Bab-Illi (which means the Gate of the
God) and made himself the ruler of a great Bab-Illian or
Babylonian Empire.

This Hammurapi, who lived twenty-one centuries before the birth of
Christ, was a very interesting man. He made Babylon the most important
town of the ancient world, where learned priests administered the laws
which their great Ruler had received from the Sun God himself and where
the merchant loved to trade because he was treated fairly and honorably.

Indeed if it were not for the lack of space (these laws of Hammurapi
would cover fully forty of these pages if I were to give them to you in
detail) I would be able to show you that this ancient Babylonian State
was in many respects better managed and that the people were happier and
that law and order was maintained more carefully and that there was
greater freedom of speech and thought than in many of our modern
countries.

But our world was never meant to be too perfect and soon other hordes of
rough and murderous men descended from the northern mountains and
destroyed the work of Hammurapi's genius.

The name of these new invaders was the Hittites. Of these Hittites I can
tell you even less than of the Sumerians. The Bible mentions them. Ruins
of their civilization have been found far and wide. They used a strange
sort of hieroglyphics but no one has as yet been able to decipher these
and read their meaning. They were not greatly gifted as administrators.
They ruled only a few years and then their domains fell to pieces.

Of all their glory there remains nothing but a mysterious name and the
reputation of having destroyed many things which other people had built
up with great pain and care.

Then came another invasion which was of a very different nature.

A fierce tribe of desert wanderers, who murdered and pillaged in the
name of their great God Assur, left Arabia and marched northward until
they reached the slopes of the mountains. Then they turned eastward and
along the banks of the Euphrates they built a city which they called
Ninua, a name which has come down to us in the Greek form of Nineveh. At
once these new-comers, who are generally known as the Assyrians, began a
slow but terrible warfare upon all the other inhabitants of Mesopotamia.

In the twelfth century before Christ they made a first attempt to
destroy Babylon but after a first success on the part of their King,
Tiglath Pileser, they were defeated and forced to return to their
own country.

Five hundred years later they tried again. An adventurous general by the
name of Bulu made himself master of the Assyrian throne. He assumed the
name of old Tiglath Pileser, who was considered the national hero of the
Assyrians and announced his intention of conquering the whole world.

[Illustration: NINEVEH.]

He was as good as his word.

Asia Minor and Armenia and Egypt and Northern Arabia and Western Persia
and Babylonia became Assyrian provinces. They were ruled by Assyrian
governors, who collected the taxes and forced all the young men to serve
as soldiers in the Assyrian armies and who made themselves thoroughly
hated and despised both for their greed and their cruelty.

Fortunately the Assyrian Empire at its greatest height did not last very
long. It was like a ship with too many masts and sails and too small a
hull. There were too many soldiers and not enough farmers--too many
generals and not enough business men.

The King and the nobles grew very rich but the masses lived in squalor
and poverty. Never for a moment was the country at peace. It was for
ever fighting someone, somewhere, for causes which did not interest the
subjects at all. Until, through this continuous and exhausting warfare,
most of the Assyrian soldiers had been killed or maimed and it became
necessary to allow foreigners to enter the army. These foreigners had
little love for their brutal masters who had destroyed their homes and
had stolen their children and therefore they fought badly.

Life along the Assyrian frontier was no longer safe.

Strange new tribes were constantly attacking the northern boundaries.
One of these was called the Cimmerians. The Cimmerians, when we first
hear of them, inhabited the vast plain beyond the northern mountains.
Homer describes their country in his account of the voyage of Odysseus
and he tells us that it was a place "for ever steeped in darkness." They
were a race of white men and they had been driven out of their former
homes by still another group of Asiatic wanderers, the Scythians.

The Scythians were the ancestors of the modern Cossacks, and even in
those remote days they were famous for their horsemanship.

[Illustration: NINEVEH DESTROYED.]

The Cimmerians, hard pressed by the Scythians, crossed from Europe into
Asia and conquered the land of the Hittites. Then they left the
mountains of Asia Minor and descended into the valley of Mesopotamia,
where they wrought terrible havoc among the impoverished people of the
Assyrian Empire.

Nineveh called for volunteers to stop this invasion. Her worn-out
regiments marched northward when news came of a more immediate and
formidable danger.

For many years a small tribe of Semitic nomads, called the Chaldeans,
had been living peacefully in the south-eastern part of the fertile
valley, in the country called Ur. Suddenly these Chaldeans had gone upon
the war-path and had begun a regular campaign against the Assyrians.

Attacked from all sides, the Assyrian State, which had never gained the
good-will of a single neighbor, was doomed to perish.

When Nineveh fell and this forbidding treasure house, filled with the
plunder of centuries, was at last destroyed, there was joy in every hut
and hamlet from the Persian Gulf to the Nile.

And when the Greeks visited the Euphrates a few generations later and
asked what these vast ruins, covered with shrubs and trees might be,
there was no one to tell them.

The people had hastened to forget the very name of the city that had
been such a cruel master and had so miserably oppressed them.

Babylon, on the other hand, which had ruled its subjects in a very
different way, came back to life.

During the long reign of the wise King Nebuchadnezzar the ancient
temples were rebuilt. Vast palaces were erected within a short space of
time. New canals were dug all over the valley to help irrigate the
fields. Quarrelsome neighbors were severely punished.

Egypt was reduced to a mere frontier-province and Jerusalem, the capital
of the Jews, was destroyed. The Holy Books of Moses were taken to
Babylon and several thousand Jews were forced to follow the Babylonian
King to his capital as hostages for the good behavior of those who
remained behind in Palestine.

But Babylon was made into one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.

Trees were planted along the banks of the Euphrates.

Flowers were made to grow upon the many walls of the city and after a
few years it seemed that a thousand gardens were hanging from the roofs
of the ancient town.

As soon as the Chaldeans had made their capital the show-place of the
world they devoted their attention to matters of the mind and of
the spirit.

Like all desert folk they were deeply interested in the stars which at
night had guided them safely through the trackless desert.

They studied the heavens and named the twelve signs of the Zodiak.

They made maps of the sky and they discovered the first five planets. To
these they gave the names of their Gods. When the Romans conquered
Mesopotamia they translated the Chaldean names into Latin and that
explains why today we talk of Jupiter and Venus and Mars and Mercury
and Saturn.

They divided the equator into three hundred and sixty degrees and they
divided the day into twenty-four hours and the hour into sixty minutes
and no modern man has ever been able to improve upon this old Babylonian
invention. They possessed no watches but they measured time by the
shadow of the sun-dial.

They learned to use both the decimal and the duodecimal systems
(nowadays we use only the decimal system, which is a great pity). The
duodecimal system (ask your father what the word means), accounts for
the sixty minutes and the sixty seconds and the twenty-four hours which
seem to have so little in common with our modern world which would have
divided day and night into twenty hours and the hour into fifty minutes
and the minute into fifty seconds according to the rules of the
restricted decimal system.

The Chaldeans also were the first people to recognize the necessity of a
regular day of rest.

When they divided the year into weeks they ordered that six days of
labor should be followed by one day, devoted to the "peace of the soul."

[Illustration: THE CHALDEANS.]

It was a great pity that the center of so much intelligence and industry
could not exist for ever. But not even the genius of a number of very
wise Kings could save the ancient people of Mesopotamia from their
ultimate fate.

The Semitic world was growing old.

It was time for a new race of men.

In the fifth century before Christ, an Indo-European people called the
Persians (I shall tell you about them later) left its pastures amidst
the high mountains of Iran and conquered the fertile valley.

The city of Babylon was captured without a struggle.

Nabonidus, the last Babylonian king, who had been more interested in
religious problems than in defending his own country, fled.

A few days later his small son, who had remained behind, died.

Cyrus, the Persian King, buried the child with great honor and then
proclaimed himself the legitimate successor of the old rulers of
Babylonia.

Mesopotamia ceased to be an independent State.

It became a Persian province ruled by a Persian "Satrap" or Governor.

As for Babylon, when the Kings no longer used the city as their
residence it soon lost all importance and became a mere country village.

In the fourth century before Christ it enjoyed another spell of glory.

It was in the year 331 B.C. that Alexander the Great, the young Greek
who had just conquered Persia and India and Egypt and every other place,
visited the ancient city of sacred memories. He wanted to use the old
city as a background for his own newly-acquired glory. He began to
rebuild the palace and ordered that the rubbish be removed from
the temples.

Unfortunately he died quite suddenly in the Banqueting Hall of
Nebuchadnezzar and after that nothing on earth could save Babylon
from her ruin.

As soon as one of Alexander's generals, Seleucus Nicator, had perfected
the plans for a new city at the mouth of the great canal which united
the Tigris and the Euphrates, the fate of Babylon was sealed.

A tablet of the year 275 B.C. tells us how the last of the Babylonians
were forced to leave their home and move into this new settlement which
had been called Seleucia.

Even then, a few of the faithful continued to visit the holy places
which were now inhabited by wolves and jackals.

The majority of the people, little interested in those half-forgotten
divinities of a bygone age, made a more practical use of their
former home.

They used it as a stone-quarry.

For almost thirty centuries Babylon had been the great spiritual and
intellectual center of the Semitic world and a hundred generations had
regarded the city as the most perfect expression of their
people's genius.

It was the Paris and London and New York of the ancient world.

At present three large mounds show us where the ruins lie buried beneath
the sand of the ever-encroaching desert.



THIS IS THE STORY OF MOSES

High above the thin line of the distant horizon there appeared a small
cloud of dust. The Babylonian peasant, working his poor farm on the
outskirts of the fertile lands, noticed it.

"Another tribe is trying to break into our land," he said to himself.
"They will not get far. The King's soldiers will drive them away."

He was right. The frontier guards welcomed the new arrivals with drawn
swords and bade them try their luck elsewhere.

They moved westward following the borders of the land of Babylon and
they wandered until they reached the shores of the Mediterranean.

There they settled down and tended their flocks and lived the simple
lives of their earliest ancestors who had dwelt in the land of Ur.

Then there came a time when the rain ceased to fall and there was not
enough to eat for man or beast and it became necessary to look for new
pastures or perish on the spot.

Once more the shepherds (who were called the Hebrews) moved their
families into a new home which they found along the banks of the Red Sea
near the land of Egypt.

But hunger and want had followed them upon their voyage and they were
forced to go to the Egyptian officials and beg for food that they might
not starve.

The Egyptians had long expected a famine. They had built large
store-houses and these were all filled with the surplus wheat of the
last seven years. This wheat was now being distributed among the people
and a food-dictator had been appointed to deal it out equally to the
rich and to the poor. His name was Joseph and he belonged to the tribe
of the Hebrews.

As a mere boy he had run away from his own family. It was said that he
had escaped to save himself from the anger of his brethren who envied
him because he was the favorite of their Father.

Whatever the truth, Joseph had gone to Egypt and he had found favor in
the eyes of the Hyksos Kings who had just conquered the country and who
used this bright young man to assist them in administering their new
possessions.

As soon as the hungry Hebrews appeared before Joseph with their request
for help, Joseph recognized his relatives.

But he was a generous man and all meanness of spirit was foreign to his
soul.

He did not revenge himself upon those who had wronged him but he gave
them wheat and allowed them to settle in the land of Egypt, they and
their children and their flocks--and be happy.

For many years the Hebrews (who are more commonly known as the Jews)
lived in the eastern part of their adopted country and all was well
with them.

Then a great change took place.

A sudden revolution deprived the Hyksos Kings of their power and forced
them to leave the country. Once more the Egyptians were masters within
their own house. They had never liked foreigners any too well. Three
hundred years of oppression by a band of Arab shepherds had greatly
increased this feeling of loathing for everything that was alien.

[Illustration: MOSES.]

The Jews on the other hand had been on friendly terms with the Hyksos
who were related to them by blood and by race. This was enough to make
them traitors in the eyes of the Egyptians.

Joseph no longer lived to protect his people.

After a short struggle they were taken away from their old homes, they
were driven into the heart of the country and they were treated
like slaves.

For many years they performed the dreary tasks of common laborers,
carrying stones for the building of pyramids, making bricks for public
buildings, constructing roads, and digging canals to carry the water of
the Nile to the distant Egyptian farms.

Their suffering was great but they never lost courage and help was near.

There lived a certain young man whose name was Moses. He was very
intelligent and he had received a good education because the Egyptians
had decided that he should enter the service of Pharaoh.

If nothing had happened to arouse his anger, Moses would have ended his
days peacefully as the governor of a small province or the collector of
taxes of an outlying district.

But the Egyptians, as I have told you before, despised those who did not
look like themselves nor dress in true Egyptian fashion and they were
apt to insult such people because they were "different."

And because the foreigners were in the minority they could not well
defend themselves. Nor did it serve any good purpose to carry their
complaints before a tribunal for the Judge did not smile upon the
grievances of a man who refused to worship the Egyptian gods and who
pleaded his case with a strong foreign accent.

Now it occurred one day that Moses was taking a walk with a few of his
Egyptian friends and one of these said something particularly
disagreeable about the Jews and even threatened to lay hands on them.

Moses, who was a hot-headed youth hit him.

The blow was a bit too severe and the Egyptian fell down dead.

To kill a native was a terrible thing and the Egyptian laws were not as
wise as those of Hammurapi, the good Babylonian King, who recognized the
difference between a premeditated murder and the killing of a man whose
insults had brought his opponent to a point of unreasoning rage.

Moses fled.

He escaped into the land of his ancestors, into the Midian desert, along
the eastern bank of the Red Sea, where his tribe had tended their sheep
several hundred years before.

A kind priest by the name of Jethro received him in his house and gave
him one of his seven daughters, Zipporah, as his wife.

There Moses lived for a long time and there he pondered upon many deep
subjects. He had left the luxury and the comfort of the palace of
Pharaoh to share the rough and simple life of a desert priest.

In the olden days, before the Jewish people had moved into Egypt, they
too had been wanderers among the endless plains of Arabia. They had
lived in tents and they had eaten plain food, but they had been honest
men and faithful women, contented with few possessions but proud of the
righteousness of their mind.

All this had been changed after they had become exposed to the
civilization of Egypt. They had taken to the ways of the comfort-loving
Egyptians. They had allowed another race to rule them and they had not
cared to fight for their independence.

Instead of the old gods of the wind-swept desert they had begun to
worship strange divinities who lived in the glimmering splendors of the
dark Egyptian temples.

Moses felt that it was his duty to go forth and save his people from
their fate and bring them back to the simple Truth of the olden days.

And so he sent messengers to his relatives and suggested that they leave
the land of slavery and join him in the desert.

But the Egyptians heard of this and guarded the Jews more carefully than
ever before.

It seemed that the plans of Moses were doomed to failure when suddenly
an epidemic broke out among the people of the Nile Valley.

The Jews who had always obeyed certain very strict laws of health (which
they had learned in the hardy days of their desert life) escaped the
disease while the weaker Egyptians died by the hundreds of thousands.

Amidst the confusion and the panic which followed this Silent Death, the
Jews packed their belongings and hastily fled from the land which had
promised them so much and which had given them so little.

As soon as the flight became known the Egyptians tried to follow them
with their armies but their soldiers met with disaster and the
Jews escaped.

They were safe and they were free and they moved eastward into the waste
spaces which are situated at the foot of Mount Sinai, the peak which has
been called after Sin, the Babylonian God of the Moon.

There Moses took command of his fellow-tribesmen and commenced upon his
great task of reform.

In those days, the Jews, like all other people, worshipped many gods.
During their stay in Egypt they had even learned to do homage to those
animals which the Egyptians held in such high honor that they built holy
shrines for their special benefit. Moses on the other hand, during his
long and lonely life amidst the sandy hills of the peninsula, had
learned to revere the strength and the power of the great God of the
Storm and the Thunder, who ruled the high heavens and upon whose
good-will the wanderer in the desert depended for life and light
and breath.

This God was called Jehovah and he was a mighty Being who was held in
trembling respect by all the Semitic people of western Asia.

Through the teaching of Moses he was to become the sole Master of the
Jewish race.

One day Moses disappeared from the camp of the Hebrews. He took with him
two tablets of rough-hewn stone. It was whispered that he had gone to
seek the solitude of Mount Sinai's highest peak.

That afternoon, the top of the mountain was lost to sight.

The darkness of a terrible storm hid it from the eye of man.

But when Moses returned, behold! ... there stood engraved upon the
tablets the words which Jehovah himself had spoken amidst the crash of
his thunder and the blinding flashes of his lightning.

From that moment on, no Jew dared to question the authority of Moses.

When he told his people that Jehovah commanded them to continue their
wanderings, they obeyed with eagerness.

For many years they lived amidst the trackless hills of the desert.

They suffered great hardships and almost perished from lack of food and
water.

But Moses kept high their hopes of a Promised Land which would offer a
lasting home to the true followers of Jehovah.

At last they reached a more fertile region.

They crossed the river Jordan and, carrying the Holy Tablets of Law,
they made ready to occupy the pastures which stretch from Dan to
Beersheba.

As for Moses, he was no longer their leader.

He had grown old and he was very tired.

He had been allowed to see the distant ridges of the Palestine Mountains
among which the Jews were to find a Fatherland.

Then he had closed his wise eyes for all time.

He had accomplished the task which he had set himself in his youth.

He had led his people out of foreign slavery into the new freedom of an
independent life.

He had united them and he had made them the first of all nations to
worship a single God.



JERUSALEM--THE CITY OF THE LAW

Palestine is a small strip of land between the mountains of Syria and
the green waters of the Mediterranean. It has been inhabited since time
immemorial, but we do not know very much about the first settlers,
although we have given them the name of Canaanites.

The Canaanites belonged to the Semitic race. Their ancestors, like those
of the Jews and the Babylonians, had been a desert folk. But when the
Jews entered Palestine, the Canaanites lived in towns and villages. They
were no longer shepherds but traders. Indeed, in the Jewish language,
Canaanite and merchant came to mean the same thing.

They had built themselves strong cities, surrounded by high walls and
they did not allow the Jews to enter their gates, but they forced them
to keep to the open country and make their home amidst the grassy lands
of the valleys.

After a time, however, the Jews and the Canaanites became friends. This
was not so very difficult for they both belonged to the same race.
Besides they feared a common enemy and only their united strength could
defend their country against these dangerous neighbors, who were called
the Philistines and who belonged to an entirely different race.

The Philistines really had no business in Asia. They were Europeans, and
their earliest home had been in the Isle of Crete. At what age they had
settled along the shores of the Mediterranean is quite uncertain because
we do not know when the Indo-European invaders had driven them from
their island home. But even the Egyptians, who called them Purasati, had
feared them greatly and when the Philistines (who wore a headdress of
feathers just like our Indians) went upon the war-path, all the people
of western Asia sent large armies to protect their frontiers.

[Illustration: JERUSALEM.]

As for the war between the Philistines and the Jews, it never came to an
end. For although David slew Goliath (who wore a suit of armor which was
a great curiosity in those days and had been no doubt imported from the
island of Cyprus where the copper mines of the ancient world were found)
and although Samson killed the Philistines wholesale when he buried
himself and his enemies beneath the temple of Dagon, the Philistines
always proved themselves more than a match for the Jews and never
allowed the Hebrew people to get hold of any of the harbors of the
Mediterranean.

The Jews therefore were obliged by fate to content themselves with the
valleys of eastern Palestine and there, on the top of a barren hill,
they erected their capital.

The name of this city was Jerusalem and for thirty centuries it has been
one of the most holy spots of the western world.

In the dim ages of the unknown past, Jerusalem, the Home of Peace, had
been a little fortified outpost of the Egyptians who had built many
small fortifications and castles along the mountain ridges of Palestine,
to defend their outlying frontier against attacks from the East.

After the downfall of the Egyptian Empire, a native tribe, the
Jebusites, had moved into the deserted city. Then came the Jews who
captured the town after a long struggle and made it the residence of
their King David.

At last, after many years of wandering the Tables of the Law seemed to
have reached a place of enduring rest. Solomon, the Wise, decided to
provide them with a magnificent home. Far and wide his messengers
travelled to ransack the world for rare woods and precious metals. The
entire nation was asked to offer its wealth to make the House of God
worthy of its holy name. Higher and higher the walls of the temple arose
guarding the sacred Laws of Jehovah for all the ages.

Alas, the expected eternity proved to be of short duration. Themselves
intruders among hostile neighbors, surrounded by enemies on all sides,
harassed by the Philistines, the Jews did not maintain their
independence for very long.

They fought well and bravely. But their little state, weakened by petty
jealousies, was easily overpowered by the Assyrians and the Egyptians
and the Chaldeans and when Nebuchadnezzar, the King of Babylon, took
Jerusalem in the year 586 before the birth of Christ, he destroyed the
city and the temple, and the Tablets of Stone went up in the general
conflagration.

At once the Jews set to work to rebuild their holy shrine. But the days
of Solomon's glory were gone. The Jews were the subjects of a foreign
race and money was scarce. It took seventy years to reconstruct the old
edifice. It stood securely for three hundred years but then a second
invasion took place and once more the red flames of the burning temple
brightened the skies of Palestine.

When it was rebuilt for the third time, it was surrounded by two high
walls with narrow gates and several inner courts were added to make
sudden invasion in the future an impossibility.

But ill-luck pursued the city of Jerusalem.

In the sixty-fifth year before the birth of Christ, the Romans under
their general Pompey took possession of the Jewish capital. Their
practical sense did not take kindly to an old city with crooked and dark
streets and many unhealthy alley-ways. They cleaned up this old rubbish
(as they considered it) and built new barracks and large public
buildings and swimming-pools and athletic parks and they forced their
modern improvements upon an unwilling populace.

The temple which served no practical purposes (as far as they could see)
was neglected until the days of Herod, who was King of the Jews by the
Grace of the Roman sword and whose vanity wished to renew the ancient
splendor of the bygone ages. In a half-hearted manner the oppressed
people set to work to obey the orders of a master who was not of their
own choosing.

When the last stone had been placed in its proper position another
revolution broke out against the merciless Roman tax gatherers. The
temple was the first victim of this rioting. The soldiers of the Emperor
Titus promptly set fire to this center of the old Jewish faith. But the
city of Jerusalem was spared.

Palestine however continued to be the scene of unrest.

The Romans who were familiar with all sorts of races of men and who
ruled countries where a thousand different divinities were worshipped
did not know how to handle the Jews. They did not understand the Jewish
character at all. Extreme tolerance (based upon indifference) was the
foundation upon which Rome had constructed her very successful Empire.
Roman governors never interfered with the religious belief of subject
tribes. They demanded that a picture or a statue of the Emperor be
placed in the temples of the people who inhabited the outlying parts of
the Roman domains. This was a mere formality and it did not have any
deep significance. But to the Jews such a thing seemed highly
sacrilegious and they would not desecrate their Holiest of Holies by the
carven image of a Roman potentate.

They refused.

The Romans insisted.

In itself a matter of small importance, a misunderstanding of this sort
was bound to grow and cause further ill-feeling. Fifty-two years after
the revolt under the Emperor Titus the Jews once more rebelled. This
time the Romans decided to be thorough in their work of destruction.

Jerusalem was destroyed.

The temple was burned down.

A new Roman city, called Aelia Capitolina was erected upon the ruins of
the old city of Solomon.

A heathenish temple devoted to the worship of Jupiter was built upon the
site where the faithful had worshipped Jehovah for almost a
thousand years.

The Jews themselves were expelled from their capital and thousands of
them were driven away from the home of their ancestors.

From that moment on they became wanderers upon the face of the Earth.

But the Holy Laws no longer needed the safe shelter of a royal shrine.

Their influence had long since passed beyond the narrow confines of the
land of Judah. They had become a living symbol of Justice wherever
honorable people tried to live a righteous life.



DAMASCUS--THE CITY OF TRADE

The old cities of Egypt have disappeared from the face of the earth.
Nineveh and Babylon are deserted mounds of dust and brick. The ancient
temple of Jerusalem lies buried beneath the blackened ruins of its
own glory.

One city alone has survived the ages.

It is called Damascus.

Within its four great gates and its strong walls a busy people has
followed its daily occupations for five thousand consecutive years and
the "Street called Straight" which is the city's main artery of
commerce, has seen the coming and going of one hundred and fifty
generations.

Humbly Damascus began its career as a fortified frontier town of the
Amorites, those famous desert folk who had given birth to the great King
Hammurapi. When the Amorites moved further eastward into the valley of
Mesopotamia to found the Kingdom of Babylon, Damascus had been continued
as a trading post with the wild Hittites who inhabited the mountains of
Asia Minor.

In due course of time the earliest inhabitants had been absorbed by
another Semitic tribe, called the Aramaeans. The city itself however had
not changed its character. It remained throughout these many changes an
important center of commerce.

It was situated upon the main road from Egypt to Mesopotamia and it was
within a week's distance from the harbors on the Mediterranean. It
produced no great generals and statesmen and no famous Kings. It did not
conquer a single mile of neighboring territory. It traded with all the
world and offered a safe home to the merchant and to the artisan.
Incidentally it bestowed its language upon the greater part of
western Asia.

Commerce has always demanded quick and practical ways of communication
between different nations. The elaborate system of nail-writing of the
ancient Sumerians was too involved for the Aramaean business man. He
invented a new alphabet which could be written much faster than the old
wedge-shaped figures of Babylon.

The spoken language of the Aramaeans followed their business
correspondence.

Aramaean became the English of the ancient world. In most parts of
Mesopotamia it was understood as readily as the native tongue. In some
countries it actually took the place of the old tribal dialect.

And when Christ preached to the multitudes, he did not use the ancient
Jewish speech in which Moses had explained the Laws unto his fellow
wanderers.

He spoke in Aramaean, the language of the merchant, which had become the
language of the simple people of the old Mediterranean world.



THE PHOENICIANS WHO SAILED BEYOND THE HORIZON

A pioneer is a brave fellow, with the courage of his own curiosity.

Perhaps he lives at the foot of a high mountain.

So do thousands of other people. They are quite contented to leave the
mountain alone.

But the pioneer feels unhappy. He wants to know what mysteries this
mountain hides from his eyes. Is there another mountain behind it, or a
plain? Does it suddenly arise with its steep cliffs from the dark waves
of the ocean or does it overlook a desert?

One fine day the true pioneer leaves his family and the safe comfort of
his home to go and find out. Perhaps he will come back and tell his
experience to his indifferent relatives. Or he will be killed by falling
stones or a treacherous blizzard. In that case he does not return at all
and the good neighbors shake their heads and say, "He got what he
deserved. Why did he not stay at home like the rest of us?"

[Illustration: THE DISTANT HORIZON]

But the world needs such men and after they have been dead for many
years and others have reaped the benefits of their discoveries, they
always receive a statue with a fitting inscription.

More terrifying than the highest mountain is the thin line of the
distant horizon. It seems to be the end of the world itself. Heaven have
mercy upon those who pass beyond this meeting-place of sky and water,
where all is black despair and death.

And for centuries and centuries after man had built his first clumsy
boats, he remained within the pleasant sight of one familiar shore and
kept away from the horizon.

Then came the Phoenicians who knew no such fears. They passed beyond the
sight of land. Suddenly the forbidding ocean was turned into a peaceful
highway of commerce and the dangerous menace of the horizon became
a myth.

These Phoenician navigators were Semites. Their ancestors had lived in
the desert of Arabia together with the Babylonians, the Jews and all the
others. But when the Jews occupied Palestine, the cities of the
Phoenicians were already old with the age of many centuries.

There were two Phoenician centers of trade.

One was called Tyre and the other was called Sidon. They were built upon
high cliffs and rumor had it that no enemy could take them. Far and wide
their ships sailed to gather the products of the Mediterranean for the
benefit of the people of Mesopotamia.

At first the sailors only visited the distant shores of France and Spain
to barter with the natives and hastened home with their grain and metal.
Later they had built fortified trading posts along the coasts of Spain
and Italy and Greece and the far-off Scilly Islands where the valuable
tin was found.

[Illustration: THE PHOENICIANS.]

To the uncivilized savages of Europe, such a trading post appeared as a
dream of beauty and luxury. They asked to be allowed to live close to
its walls, to see the wonderful sights when the boats of many sails
entered the harbor, carrying the much-desired merchandise of the unknown
east. Gradually they left their huts to build themselves small wooden
houses around the Phoenician fortresses. In this way many a trading post
had grown into a market place for all the people of the entire
neighborhood.

Today such big cities as Marseilles and Cadiz are proud of their
Phoenician origin, but their ancient mothers, Tyre and Sidon, have been
dead and forgotten for over two thousand years and of the Phoenicians
themselves, none have survived.

This is a sad fate but it was fully deserved.

The Phoenicians had grown rich without great effort, but they had not
known how to use their wealth wisely. They had never cared for books or
learning. They had only cared for money.

They had bought and sold slaves all over the world. They had forced the
foreign immigrants to work in their factories. They cheated their
neighbors whenever they had a chance and they had made themselves
detested by all the other people of the Mediterranean.

They were brave and energetic navigators, but they showed themselves
cowards whenever they were obliged to choose between honorable dealing
and an immediate profit, obtained through fraudulent and shrewd trading.

As long as they had been the only sailors in the world who could handle
large ships, all other nations had been in need of their services. As
soon as the others too had learned how to handle a rudder and a set of
sails, they at once got rid of the tricky Phoenician merchant.

From that moment on, Tyre and Sidon had lost their old hold upon the
commercial world of Asia. They had never encouraged art or science. They
had known how to explore the seven seas and turn their ventures into
profitable investments. No state, however, can be safely built upon
material possessions alone.

The land of Phoenicia had always been a counting-house without a soul.

It perished because it had honored a well-filled treasure chest as the
highest ideal of civic pride.



THE ALPHABET FOLLOWS THE TRADE

I have told you how the Egyptians preserved speech by means of little
figures. I have described the wedge-shaped signs which served the people
of Mesopotamia as a handy means of transacting business at home
and abroad.

But how about our own alphabet? From whence came those compact little
letters which follow us throughout our life, from the date on our birth
certificate to the last word of our funeral notice? Are they Egyptian or
Babylonian or Aramaic or are they something entirely different? They are
a little bit of everything, as I shall now tell you.

Our modern alphabet is not a very satisfactory instrument for the
purpose of reproducing our speech. Some day a genius will invent a new
system of writing which shall give each one of our sounds a little
picture of its own. But with all its many imperfections the letters of
our modern alphabet perform their daily task quite nicely and fully as
well as their very accurate and precise cousins, the numerals, who
wandered into Europe from distant India, almost ten centuries after the
first invasion of the alphabet. The earliest history of these letters,
however, is a deep mystery and it will take many years of painstaking
investigation before we can solve it.

This much we know--that our alphabet was not suddenly invented by a
bright young scribe. It developed and grew during hundreds of years out
of a number of older and more complicated systems.

In my last chapter I have told you of the language of the intelligent
Aramaean traders which spread throughout western Asia, as an
international means of communication. The language of the Phoenicians
was never very popular among their neighbors. Except for a very few
words we do not know what sort of tongue it was. Their system of
writing, however, was carried into every corner of the vast
Mediterranean and every Phoenician colony became a center for its
further distribution.

It remains to be explained why the Phoenicians, who did nothing to
further either art or science, hit upon such a compact and handy system
of writing, while other and superior nations remained faithful to the
old clumsy scribbling.

The Phoenicians, before all else, were practical business men. They did
not travel abroad to admire the scenery. They went upon their perilous
voyages to distant parts of Europe and more distant parts of Africa in
search of wealth. Time was money in Tyre and Sidon and commercial
documents written in hieroglyphics or Sumerian wasted useful hours of
busy clerks who might be employed upon more useful errands.

When our modern business world decided that the old-fashioned way of
dictating letters was too slow for the hurry of modern life, a clever
man devised a simple system of dots and dashes which could follow the
spoken word as closely as a hound follows a hare.

This system we call "shorthand."

The Phoenician traders did the same thing.

They borrowed a few pictures from the Egyptian hieroglyphics and
simplified a number of wedge-shaped figures from the Babylonians.

They sacrificed the pretty looks of the older system for the benefit of
speed and they reduced the thousands of images of the ancient world to a
short and handy alphabet of only twenty-two letters. They tried it out
at home and when it proved a success, they carried it abroad.

Among the Egyptians and the Babylonians, writing had been a very serious
affair--something almost holy. Many improvements had been proposed but
these had been invariably discarded as sacrilegious innovations. The
Phoenicians who were not interested in piety succeeded where the others
had failed. They could not introduce their script into Mesopotamia and
Egypt, but among the people of the Mediterranean, who were totally
ignorant of the art of writing, the Phoenician alphabet was a great
success and in all nooks and corners of that vast sea we find vases and
pillars and ruins covered with Phoenician inscriptions.

The Indo-European Greeks who had migrated to the many islands of the
Aegean Sea at once applied this foreign alphabet to their own language.
Certain Greek sounds, unknown to the ears of the Semitic Phoenicians,
needed letters of their own. These were invented and added to
the others.

But the Greeks did not stop at this.

They improved the whole system of speech-recording.

All the systems of writing of the ancient people of Asia had one thing
in common.

The consonants were reproduced but the reader was forced to guess at the
vowels.

This is not as difficult as it seems.

We often omit the vowels in advertisements and in announcements which
are printed in our newspapers. Journalists and telegraph operators, too,
are apt to invent languages of their own which do away with all the
superfluous vowels and use only such consonants as are necessary to
provide a skeleton around which the vowels can be draped when the story
is rewritten.

But such an imperfect scheme of writing can never become popular, and
the Greeks, with their sense of order, added a number of extra signs to
reproduce the "a" and the "e" and the "i" and the "o" and the "u." When
this had been done, they possessed an alphabet which allowed them to
write everything in almost every language.

Five centuries before the birth of Christ these letters crossed the
Adriatic and wandered from Athens to Rome.

The Roman soldiers carried them to the furthest corners of western
Europe and taught our own ancestors the use of the little
Phoenician signs.

Twelve centuries later, the missionaries of Byzantine took the alphabet
into the dreary wilderness of the dark Russian plain.

Today more than half of the people of the world use this Asiatic
alphabet to keep a record of their thoughts and to preserve a record of
their knowledge for the benefit of their children and their
grandchildren.



THE END OF THE ANCIENT WORLD

So far, the story of ancient man has been the record of a wonderful
achievement. Along the banks of the river Nile, in Mesopotamia and on
the shores of the Mediterranean, people had accomplished great things
and wise rulers had performed mighty deeds. There, for the first time in
history, man had ceased to be a roving animal. He had built himself
houses and villages and vast cities.

He had formed states.

He had learned the art of constructing and navigating swift-sailing
boats.

He had explored the heavens and within his own soul he had discovered
certain great moral laws which made him akin to the divinities which he
worshipped. He had laid the foundations for all our further knowledge
and our science and our art and those things that tend to make life
sublime beyond the mere grubbing for food and lodging.

Most important of all he had devised a system of recording sound which
gave unto his children and unto his children's children the benefit of
their ancestors' experience and allowed them to accumulate such a store
of information that they could make themselves the masters of the forces
of nature.

But together with these many virtues, ancient man had one great failing.

He was too much a slave of tradition.

He did not ask enough questions.

He reasoned "My father did such and such a thing before me and my
grandfather did it before my father and they both fared well and
therefore this thing ought to be good for me too and I must not change
it." He forgot that this patient acceptance of facts would never have
lifted us above the common herd of animals.

Once upon a time there must have been a man of genius who refused any
longer to swing from tree to tree with the help of his long, curly tail
(as all his people had done before him) and who began to walk on
his feet.

But ancient man had lost sight of this fact and continued to use the
wooden plow of his earliest ancestors and continued to believe in the
same gods that had been worshipped ten thousand years before and taught
his children to do likewise.

Instead of going forward he stood still and this was fatal.

For a new and more energetic race appeared upon the horizon and the
ancient world was doomed.

We call these new people the Indo-Europeans. They were white men like
you and me, and they spoke a language which was the common ancestor of
all our European languages with the exception of Hungarian, Finnish and
the Basque of Northern Spain.

When we first hear of them they had for many centuries made their home
along the banks of the Caspian Sea. But one day (for reasons which are
totally unknown to us) they packed their belongings on the backs of the
horses which they had trained and they gathered their cows and dogs and
goats and began to wander in search of distant happiness and food. Some
of them moved into the mountains of central Asia and for a long time
they lived amidst the peaks of the plateau of Iran, whence they are
called the Iranians or Aryans. Others slowly followed the setting sun
and took possession of the vast plains of western Europe.

They were almost as uncivilized as those prehistoric men who made their
appearance within the first pages of this book. But they were a hardy
race and good fighters and without difficulty they seem to have occupied
the hunting grounds and the pastures of the men of the stone age.

They were as yet quite ignorant but thanks to a happy Fate they were
curious. The wisdom of the ancient world, which was carried to them by
the traders of the Mediterranean, they very soon made their own.

But the age-old learning of Egypt and Babylonia and Chaldea they merely
used as a stepping-stone to something higher and better. For
"tradition," as such, meant nothing to them and they considered that the
Universe was theirs to explore and to exploit as they saw fit and that
it was their duty to submit all experience to the acid test of human
intelligence.

[Illustration: A COLONY.]

Soon therefore they passed beyond those boundaries which the ancient
world had accepted as impassable barriers--a sort of spiritual Mountains
of the Moon. Then they turned against their former masters and within a
short time a new and vigorous civilization replaced the out-worn
structure of the ancient Asiatic world.

But of these Indo-Europeans and their adventures I give you a detailed
account in "The Story of Mankind," which tells you about the Greeks and
the Romans and all the other races in the world.



A FEW DATES CONNECTED WITH THE PEOPLE OF THE ANCIENT WORLD

I can not give you any positive dates connected with Prehistoric Man.
The early Europeans who appear in the first chapters of this book began
their career about fifty thousand years ago.


THE EGYPTIANS

The earliest civilization in the Nile Valley
developed forty centuries before the birth of
Christ.

3400 B.C.    The Old Egyptian Empire is
             founded. Memphis is the capital.

2800--2700   B.C. The Pyramids are built.

2000 B.C.    The Old Empire is destroyed by
             the Arab shepherds, called the "Hyksos."

1800 B.C.    Thebes delivers Egypt from the
             Hyksos and becomes the center
             of the New Egyptian Empire.

1350 B.C.    King Rameses conquers Eastern Asia.

1300 B.C.    The Jews leave Egypt.

1000 B.C.    Egypt begins to decline.

700 B.C.     Egypt becomes an Assyrian province.

650 B.C.     Egypt regains her independence
             and a new State is founded with
             Sais in the Delta as its capital.
             Foreigners, especially Greeks,
             begin to dominate the country.

525 B.C.     Egypt becomes a Persian province.

300 B.C.     Egypt becomes an independent
             Kingdom ruled by one of Alexander
             the Great's generals, called Ptolemy.

30 B.C.      Cleopatra, the last princess of the
             Ptolemy dynasty, kills herself and
             Egypt becomes part of the Roman Empire.


THE JEWS


2000         B.C. Abraham moves away from the
             land of Ur in eastern Babylonia
             and looks for a new home in the
             western part of Asia.

1550 B.C.    The Jews occupy the land of
             Goshen in Egypt.

1300 B.C.    Moses leads the Jews out of
             Egypt and gives them the Law.

1250 B.C.    The Jews have crossed the river
             Jordan and have occupied Palestine.

1055 B.C.    Saul is King of the Jews.

1025 B.C.    David is King of a powerful Jewish state.

1000 B.C.    Solomon builds the Great Temple
             of Jerusalem.

950 B.C.     The Jewish state divided into two
             Kingdoms, that of Judah and that of Israel.

900-600 B.C. The age of the great Prophets.

722 B.C.     The Assyrians conquer Palestine.

586 B.C.     Nebuchadnezzar conquers Palestine.
             The Babylonian captivity.

537 B.C.     Cyrus, King of the Persians, allows
             the Jews to return to Palestine.

167-130 B.C. Last period of Jewish independence
             under the Maccabees.

63 B.C.      Pompeius makes Palestine part
             of the Roman Empire.

40 B.C.      Herod King of the Jews.

70 A.D.      The Emperor Titus destroys Jerusalem.


MESOPOTAMIA

4000 B.C.    The Sumerians take possession of
             the land between the Tigris and
             the Euphrates.

2200 B.C.    Hammurapi, King of Babylon, gives
             his people a famous code of law.

1900 B.C.    Beginning of the Assyrian State,
             with Nineveh as its capital.

950-650 B.C. Assyria becomes the master of
             western Asia.

700 B.C.     Sargon, the ruler of the Assyrians,
             conquers Palestine, Egypt and Arabia.

640 B.C.     The Medes revolt against the
             Assyrian rule.

530 B.C.     The Scythians attack Assyria.
             There are revolutions all over
             the Kingdom.

608 B.C.     Nineveh is destroyed. Assyria
             disappears from the map.

608-538 B.C. The Chaldeans reestablish the
             Babylonian Kingdom.

604-561 B.C. Nebuchadnezzar destroys Jerusalem,
             takes Phoenicia and makes
             Babylon the center of civilization.

538 B.C.     Mesopotamia becomes a Persian province.

330 B.C.     Alexander the Great conquers Mesopotamia.


THE PHOENICIANS


1500-1200 B.C. The city of Sklon is the chief
               Phoenician center of trade.

1100-950 B.C.  Tyre becomes the commercial
               center of Phoenicia.

1000-600 B.C.  Development of the Phoenician
               colonial Empire.

850 B.C.       Carthage is founded.

586-573 B.C.   Siege of Tyre by Nebuchadnezzar.
               The city is captured and destroyed.

538 B.C.       Phoenicia becomes a Persian province.

60 B.C.        Phoenicia becomes part of the Roman Empire.


[Illustration: A Persian altar]

THE PERSIANS


At an unknown date the Indo-European
people began their march into Europe and
into India.

The year 1000 B.C. is usually given for
Zarathustra, the great teacher of the Persians,
who gave an excellent moral law.
650-B.C. The Indo-European Medes found
a state along the eastern boundaries
of Babylonia.

550-330 B.C.   The Kingdom of the Persians.
               Beginning of the struggle
               between Indo-Europeans and Semites.

525-8.C.       Cambyses, King of the Persians, takes Egypt.

520-485 B.C.   Rule of Darius, King of the
               Persians, who conquers Babylon
               and attacks Greece.

485-465 B.C.   Rule of King Xerxes, who tries to establish
               himself in eastern Europe but fails.

330 B.C.       The Greek, Alexander the Great,
               conquers all of western Asia and
               Egypt and Persia becomes a
               Greek Province.

The ancient world which was dominated by Semitic peoples lasted almost
forty centuries. In the fourth century before the birth of Christ it
died of old age.

Western Asia and Egypt had been the teachers of the Indo-Europeans who
had occupied Europe at an unknown date.

In the fourth century before Christ, the Indo-European pupils had so far
surpassed their teachers that they could begin their conquest of
the world.

The famous expedition of Alexander the Great in 330 B.C. made an end to
the civilizations of Egypt and Mesopotamia and established the supremacy
of Greek (that is European) culture.





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