Imagens das páginas

they visited, that the crew of a ship, when followed by a foreign vessel that was sent to ascertain the point of their destination, preferred running ashore and being wrecked to gratifying the curiosity of their pursuers. When a trading factory picked up any luckless stray wight upon their shores, whether he had come by design or accident, they laid hold of him: if he knew any thing about the coast, they hanged him, lest he should divulge it, and if he had no knowledge, they hanged him lest he should acquire it. Moreover, the landmerchant of those times told as many lies as he could about foreign countries, and their giants, griflins, and burning mountains, in order to enhance the value of his goods, and keep competitors from his caravan. So that peace itself was not sure of diffusing knowledge.

At the same time, though Geography was late in attaining the rank of a regular science, its elements were scattered over the earliest periods of literature. Homer's poetry furnishes, if not a map of Greece, yet a considerable knowledge of its localities; and the Bible, though given for a higher purpose, is not to be neglected in the study of ancient Geography.

The Mosaic books make no attempt to explain the structure of the earth ; but their author, like Homer, seems to suppose it every where surrounded by water; and the Hebrew word pin Ahok, signifying a boundary, was in all probability the origin of the Greek word 'Nxeavòs, or ocean, by which the world was believed to be encircled.

Of the world as it was known to the Hebrews, we can only speak conjecturally as to the northern limits. The best geographer of the age has expressed to me his belief, that the Gomer of Scripture corresponds to Germany; but that enlightened individual is too candid to rate the most authoritative opinion on this subject much higher than conjecture. It is more clear that the isles of Javan were Greece and her isles; that Lubim meant Africa ; and Elam, a part of Persia. With the Babylonians and Assyrians, the poor Hebrews were but too well acquainted, as those Aramwan relatives paid them occasional visits for the punishment of their sins, and, dragging them into captivity, taught them more geography than they wished to learn. With the Phænicians who bought the produce of their farms, they had a pleasanter intercourse; but, upon the whole, the Jews had little connexion with other nations, and were as ignorant as they were incurious about the Gentile world.

Nevertheless they departed signally from this habit of national seclusion during the two reigns of Solomon and Jehoshaphat. Under both of those sovereigns they attempted extensive trade, and Solomon's fleets were eminently successful ; so that we hear of the ships of Tarshish, and of the ships that went to Ophir. David having conquered the Edomites, and put a garrison into Edom,ı left his successor the means of turning to advantage his possession of a harbour on the Arabian Gulf. Solomon found, indeed, neither ships nor sailors in Judæa, but with both of these he was furnished by his ally the king of Tyre ; and it was obviously a reciprocal advantage for the Tyrians to be admitted, for the first time, to trade in the Red Sea. I say, for the first tinie, for there is not a title of evidence in history that the Phænicians

11 Chronicles xviii, 13.


ever launched a single keel on the Arabian Gulf till the Hebrews gave them a haven on its shores at Eziongeber, and thus opened up to them a new world for their commercial enterprise. It is with no small surprise that I find Dr. Robertson, in his Dissertation on India, asserting that the Phænicians traded to that country before the time of Solomon, having, as the Doctor says, already wrested some commodious harbour from the Idumæans at the bottom of the Red Sea.”

By “ the bottom,” our historian, with an inaccuracy unlike himself, meant the north end of the Arabian Gulf; for it is seldom that commodious harbours are found at the bottom of a But where did Dr. Robertson find it related, that the Phænicians ever wrested a commodious harbour from the Idumeans? His very expression some harbour,” shows that he knew not where it was—

-It was, indeed, no where. The Phæricians never were a wresting people, nor a formidable land-power in the least likely to have marched their forces over warlike Edom; and we may challenge any man to produce a text from any writer, sacred or profane, who alludes to such a fact. There is no certainty that the Phoenicians ever traded to India at all by sea, and not a shadow of probability that they ever embarked on the Red Sea earlier than the time of Solomon.

That the Phænicians had some harbour on the Arabian Gulf before Solomon invited them to Eziongeber, is an imaginary fact, which I cannot account for so intelligent an inquirer as Dr. Robertson having assumed, except by supposing that he was puzzled, as many had been before him, to account for the fact of Hiram's ships having got from Tyre into the Arabian Gulf. To give the Phænicians a previous settlement on the Red Sea helped him out of this difficulty, and seeing no other mode of solving it, lie took the fancied settlement for granted. Other writers, however, who were not so good at assuming a fact, had Hiram's ships still left on their hands and were pitiably bewildered how to dispose of them. Tyre was on the Mediterranean, and Eziongeber, from whence the fleet in Solomon's service sailed to Ophir, was on the north-east corner of the Red Sea. How could it be brought from Tyre to Eziongeber? Never did a reel in a bottle puzzle the comprehension of children more than this question perplexed learned men. Could Hiram's people have built a fleet at Eziongeber ?- No. That part of Arabia never in the memory of man yielded materials for ship-building, and the idea of the ships having come round by Africa is preposterous. Another theory was broached, that Hiram's ships passed through Egypt from the Mediterranean to the Red Sea by that canal which Herodotus has mentioned. But, unhappily, Herodotus alludes only to an Egyptian canal that was projected, but never finished, by the monarch Necho; and that canal was not even projected till 400 years after Solomon's time; so that there is no getting a Phænician fleet through Egypt in this way. The case reminds me of an apology that was made by the people of a certain village in England to Queen Elizabeth, for not having rung their bells on her Majesty's entrance. They had nineteen reasons, they said, for not ringing their bells; the first of which was, that they had no bells to ring. In like manner it may be said that, besides other objections to this theory,

the primary obstacle to Hiram's ships sailing through this Egyptian "canal is, that there is no canal to sail through.

The difficulty however is not insoluble :- Monsieur Gosselin 1 has justly remarked, that the materials for a fleet, as well as its mariners, might have been very well transported from the Mediterranean to the Red Sea by land. In 1558, the sultan Solyman caused the timber, cannons, anchors, and every thing requisite for equipping seve

eventytwo large ships of war, to be conveyed on the backs of camels from Cairo to the Arabian shore. There the materials were put together ; and from thence the ships sailed to India. It was unquestionably in this manner that Hiram's fleet was brought to Eziongeber.

From that port the Phænician fleet hired by Solomon proceeded to Ophir. And where was Ophir ? In Bengal, says Gaspard Vererius ; in Sumatra and Ceylon, say others. Robertus Stephanus insists that it was in St. Domingo; whilst the learned Becanus puts in a word for its having been in Peru. With submission to those high authorities, the Ophir of Scripture can, by no rational arguments, be assigned either to the East or the West Indies. The geographer D'Anville saw that it was a hopeless task to shove it beyond the shores of the Arabian Gulf; but he took it over from Arabia to the African side of the Gulf, and placed it on Sofala, on the Eastern African coast. D'Anville's opinion, however, is opposed to that of the most respectable of the Arabian historians, who insist that Ophir was on the Arabian, and not on the African side of the Gulf. It is remarkable that a writer so generally accurate as D’Anville, should have, in this instance, misquoted Scripture. He says that the voyage to Ophir occupied three years :: nothing of the sort is said in the Bible; on the contrary, whilst we are told that the ships of Tarshish went and came back within three years, we have rather room to believe that the voyage to Ophir occupied only a single year. Monsieur Gosselin, who, in my humble conception, is the most correct inquirer into this subject, fixes Ophir at or near D'Ofir in Southern Arabia. Malte-Brun, the deservedly popular geographer, says, that there was one Ophir in the locality pointed out by Monsieur Gosselin, but that we should seek for another Ophir in India. This remark is unworthy of the general sagacity of Malte-Brun. Why should we seek for a second Ophir in India, if we can find one already on the Arabian Gulf? Whether we place it with D’Anville on the African, or with Gosselin on the Arabian side of the Gulf, it will be giving the traders of Solomon the most superfluous trouble to send them all the way round to India for the articles which they imported. From Ophir they imported gold, and precious stones, and almug-trees; all of which were to be found within the precincts of the Red Sea.

In their voyage to Ophir, the Hebrew Phænician traders appear to have occupied about a year; and if we suppose it to have lain near the southern end of the Red Sea coast, and if we consider the tedious and timid coasting navigation of antiquity, as well as the monsoons that blow six months of the year in the same direction, the time taken up voyage

to be unreasonable. The voyage to and from Tarshish occupied the better part of three

by their

will not

1 Recherches sur la Géographie des Anciens.

years,-a length of time which has determined antiquaries to lay the locality of Tarshish as far as possible from Eziongeber. Where was Tarshish? The Tarshish of Scripture, I believe with Gosselin, to mean merely the sea in general, — and no particular locality. The ships of Tarshish, I believe, to have simply meant those that were destined for deep-sea navigation, in contradistinction to the craft that plied upon rivers; and the voyage to Tarshish I conceive to have been the farthest sea voyage which the ships from Eziongeber performed, — namely, the periplus of the whole Arabian Gulf. That such a circumnavigation should have occupied more than two years, is no objection to our theory. The ships of Tarshish brought home a greater variety of imports than those from Ophir. They must have therefore coasted both sides of the Gulf. They must have been obliged to wait the convenience of the natives for completing their cargoes, to put in at many harbours for refreshments, and to delay for months together, wind-bound by the monsoons that change but once a year. For the time that they spent in their voyage we can therefore easily account. Nor did they bring home from Tarshish a single article that was not equally to be found with the gold of Ophir, within the straits of Babelmandel. Collectively speaking, the fleets of Solomon brought home from Ophir and Tarshish, gold, precious stones, spices, and scented wood, apes, and either parrots or peacocks,—for which of those birds is meant in the Hebrew text is a point yet unsettled by divines. But for none of those articles had the Jews any occasion to send to India. Within the precincts of the Red Sea they could have found mines of gold, · forests of spices, wildernesses of apes, and abundance both of parrots and peacocks. They had no need to go to India for a single article that they brought home. · But if they had wished, were they able to have doubled the


of Arabia ? The Greeks could not double those capes some seven hundred years later. Arrian expressly tells us, that all the efforts of Alexander the Great to get his ships brought round from the Persian Gulf to the Red Sea were unavailing. He adds, that no navigator had ever been known to perform the voyage. Is it likely that the Phænicians, in the age of Solomon, accomplished what the Greeks found impracticable in the days of Alexander ?

Monsieur Gosselin's idea, that the word Tarshish merely signifies the sea, is borrowed from St. Jerome and the Septuagint translators. After collating every Scriptural text in which the word Tarshish is mentioned, I cannot find one that contradicts St. Jerome's interpretation, nor one that obliges us to place it beyond the boundaries of the Red Sea. The learned men, who would not believe St. Jerome's interpretation, have been as much divided about the position of Tarshish as of Ophir ; some of them imagining a plurality of places so called; others supposing but one Tarshish, though assigning a dozen of different localities. I remember the time, when trusting to the profound erudition of Michaelis, I believed implicitly that Tarshish was the Tartessus of Spain, on the Guadalquiver. On further enquiry I am convinced that the resemblance of names is purely fortuitous; and I am more amazed at Michaelis's mistake than at my own belief, having been misled by his authority. What will Michaelis, or any one who will insist on Tarshish having been in Spain, say to the following text? In 2 Chronicles

chap. xx. we are told, that Jehoshaphat king of Judah joined himself with Ahaziah king of Samaria to make ships to go to Tarshish, and they made the ships in Eziongeber. Now that port, as I have said, was at the north-east end of the Arabian Gulf; and, if Tarshish was Spain, we have here a king of Judah building a fleet on the Red Sea that was destined for the Spanish shore. This unfortunate fleet, as we have seen that there is no getting through Egypt by a canal, must have proposed to double the south of Africa, and reach Tartessus by the Straits of Gibraltar. Credat Judæus Apella!

But our astonishment at the boldness of the Jews, if we launch them, like Michaelis, round the Cape of Good Hope, will be magnified if possible by this consideration,—that the Jewish monarch, all the while, had ports of his own in the Mediterranean, within not a great many days' sail of Spain. If Tarshish means only one place in Scripture, we have here a pretty plain proof that, wherever it was, it could not have been in Spain.

Other speculators will send the Jews and Phænicians out to some Tarshish in India, quite as unreasonably as they task them with sailing to an Indian Ophire And for this voyage, which is as perilous as it is unnecessary, they encourage the poor Hebrew-Phænician mariners by quoting Herodotus, and by proving from him that they need not be alarmed at its difficulty or distance, since the fleet of king Necho doubled the Cape of Good Hope, and circumnavigated Africa. At least, Herodotus was told so, though he disbelieved the story himself. Ah! but here, the Hebrew-Phænicians would have a right to object; “ Please to remember we are king Solomon's people. That voyage surmised by your author Herodotus, whether a fact or a fable, was performed 400 years after our time; so you must excuse us for having no Tarshish east of Arabia.” Nay, I further suspect, that even if Necho's men were alive, the more conscientious among them would decline swearing that they ever doubled the Cape of Good Hope. We can figure to ourselves, how the circumnavigation of the Red Sea might have been accomplished. Some parts of its coast, such as the dominions of the queen of Sheba, were inhabited by comparatively civilised tribes. At the ports of those people, the trading ships of Solomon would be supplied with refreshments. But the circumnavigation of Africa by men unacquainted with either the compass, or with the stars, to the south of the line, and the maintenance of a fleet in food and water, along the whole sweep of a coast so immense, and so strange and savage, are circumstances that appear to me unimaginable. Would any seaman at this day engage to take a ship round the south of Africa from Suez to Alexandria, without a compass, without a chart, without the assurance of a civilised colony at the Cape of Good Hope; with the obligation to be back in two years; and with no other means of revictualling his ship, than by landing and sowing, and reaping corn on the coast of Africa ? Yet, it is exactly under these circumstances, that Necho's voyagers are alleged to have sailed round a whole quarter of the globe. The Phænicians, no doubt, performed wonders in navigation, by keeping the Pole-star on the north in view ; but on the south side of the line they could not have seen the Bear, and must have steered by new constellations. No rumour of such new stars having been seen by the ancients, has come down to us; nothing that Hanno accomplished

« AnteriorContinuar »