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in exploring the coast of Africa would lead us to believe that the Phænicians had sailed all round it: no collateral evidence supports the tradition, and it is every way improbable.
The Tarshish of Scripture, as I have said, could not have been Spain ; nor do I believe that the ancient Jews had any intercourse at all with hat country. The Phænicians must have been simpletons indeed, if they had invited foreigners into their mines of gold and silver. It is true, that they helped the Hebrews to navigate the Red Sea; but, in so doing, they were manifest gainers by obtaining a new outlet for their commerce. How could the Phænicians have got a haven on the Arabian Gulf but by Solomon's alliance? Had they applied to Egypt, the Egyptians, who at that time held seamen and sea-traffic in abomination, would have probably wished them in the Red Sea after the manner in which Pharoah got into it. By sharing in the trade from Eziongeber, the Phænicians arrived at shores on the Arabian Gulf, which they could not have reached but by circuitously traversing wastes more perilous than the ocean. But Spain was their own, they could trade to it without Solomon's permission; and there is not a shadow of likelihood that they admitted foreigners into that paradise of their own treasures.
The Greeks called Homer the father of their Geography. Homer is a mighty painter in song; his tablet embraces heaven, earth, and hell—the habitations of gods and men, of the living and the dead. He is, therefore, better than a geographer ; but still we can scarcely hail him as a patriarch of science. His chorographic fidelity is, no doubt, striking in portions of Asia, and in the whole of Proper Greece; but it relaxes very much when he gets out of the limits of Greece, and beyond the Asiatic territories of the Trojan allies. He represents Italy as an island, he shows no acquaintance with the Caspian Sea, and he makes so gratuitous a coinage of strange countries in the Odyssey, that the antiquaries disputing about some of their localities, remind me of a person who, when he was told that Napper Tandy had been taken, desired anxiously to be informed whereabouts Napper Tandy lay. He was told that the object of his enquiry was apt to shift its latitude and longitude, and was at that time probably floating at sea. The same thing may be said in countries that only floated in Homer's imagination.
The Homeric cosmography exhibits human credulity in its simplest state-I mean not that Homer's contemporaries believed all that he said about the universe. The Thessalians must have gone far enough up Mount Olympus, to see that it had no gods upon it. But still Homer's ideas in general must have accorded with the popular belief. He imagines a world highly poetical and picturesque; it has some inconsistencies no doubt, and it presents some questions of grave mentous interest. One of these about which the learned men of Germany are at this moment infinitely more concerned than about the issue of affairs in Poland, is,- Whether the gods of Homer actually inhabited an etherial Olympus that was above their terrestrial abode of the same name, or sojourned on that Grecian mountain, and had no higher and more celestial home.
Let us pot be too hasty in deciding on so serious a topic. Many are the learned heads which still believe that the Homeric divinities had their 'OXúria Súuara, their principal habitations in the etherial
heaven, and that they came down to Olympus in Greece only occasionally, and, as it were, to lodgings at a watering-place. But on the fullest reflection, I must conscientiously side with those who believe that Homer's gods, goddesses, and muses, lived in splendid palaces made by Vulcan on the top of the Thessalian mount Olympus, that that Olympus was called heaven because it rose into the heavens, and that there was no abode of the celestials above it. Important, however, as this article in our classical creed may be, I suspect that you will prefer my simple confession of faith to any detailed argumentation on the subject.
Homer imagined the world to be encircled by the ocean, as may be seen by his description of the sculpture on Achilles's shield. The Sun, according to Homer, issued every morning from a beautiful eastern bay in the ocean, in a chariot drawn by four horses, and having crossed the ether, and reached the opposite oceanic streamfor it does not appear that the poet imagined the ocean to be boundless-Apollo there bathed his horses at night and baited for a time. It is plain that he could not have stopt the live-long night, as he had to be back in time to mount bis coach in the morning; but in what manner he got back Homer has not explained. The moon we are left to suppose performed the same evolution. As to the constellations, Homer speaks of their bathing themselves in the ocean; but he particularly excepts from this general rule of refreshment the Greater Bear, who had a surly aversion to take the water, much to the advantage of mariners, to whom Bruin served in the place of a compass. Over all this Homeric world was placed the Oupavòs or canopy of heaven, like a covered dish above a flat circular plate. This roof of the universe is represented as bright, solid, and resembling metal.
Under this canopy the Greeks supposed their own country to be the centre of the universe, and themselves to be the greatest favorites of the gods. With Greece and her islands, from Lemnos to Crete and Cyprus, inclusively, Homer, it is evident, was intimately acquainted, as well as with the shores of Asia Minor, and with the whole circle of nations that surrounded the Phrygians. He also knew something of Egypt; he had heard of Phænicia, of eastern and western Ethiopia, of Lybia, and of the river Triton; and, from his mention of the Hippomolgi or Mare-milkers, it is evident that rumors had reached him respecting the ancestors of the Tartars; but still his mention of those countries indicates no minute acquaintance with them; and in other quarters of his map he is as imaginative as Gulliver. I can see no proof that he knew anything of the dependence of climate on northern or southern position. Altogether, if he was the father of Geography, he left the child in a very infantile state.
The beautiful country that gave birth to Homer, produced a few centuries later the father of Ionian philosophy, Thales. That this school had no influence in raising geography to the rank of a regular science cannot be affirmed; for it certainly introduced into Greece the sun-dial, and the first map of the world which we hear of: it was engraved on brass. But the Ionian philosophers, as far as their obscure history can be judged of, were rather speculative students of nature, than proficients in the certain sciences.
Of Thales the founder of the Ionian school, Aristotle himself speaks with an evident air of mere conjecture, and he might well do so, as
the Milesian philosopher left not one scrap of writing behind him, and all that the Stagyrite could hear of him was by oral tradition, According to one statement of that tradition, Thales went to Egypt, and there learnt mathematics; according to another, he taught the Egyptian priests how to measure the pyramids by their shadows. If both stories be genuine, the scholar and his teachers must have been well matched in point of knowledge. But if it be true that Pythagoras, who unquestionably flourished after Thales, prided himself on discovering one of the simplest of mathematical theorems, the mathematics which Thales learned in Egypt must have been scanty indeed.
Nevertheless, tradition, as if it meant to puzzle us, sends us word, through Herodotus, of Thales having predicted that famous eclipse of the sun which separated the combating armies of the Medes and Lydians at Halys.
Delambre, the French historian of astronomy, utterly disbelieves this tradition. He even impugns the certainty of the eclipse. Against the credibility of Thales having possessed the knowledge necessary for predicting it, he argues thus: “Such knowledge existed not in " the times of Thales, nor for centuries after him. The knowledge
requisite for predicting a solar eclipse, can be traced no higher " than Hipparchus, an Alexandrian astronomer, about 160 years “ before the Christian era, who first gave the Greeks a full system of
trigonometry, fixed more exactly the duration of the lunar month “ and of the solar year, and was able to determine the parallax of “ the moon to the earth, and her distance from it. In vain should “ we seek for that knowledge in Aristarchus, Archimedes, or Eu“ clid.” To this he adds; “ Aucun de ces Geometres fameux ne savait resoudre un triangle même rectangle, autrement que par
des operations graphiques.” Unless we can suppose Delambre, a man in the foremost, rank of science, to have made such an assertion at random, it certainly hits hard on the probability of the Thalesian prediction. If the founder of the Ionian school had possessed a knowledge of mathematics, unknown to even the Alexandrian school before Hipparchus, what became of all that knowledge ? Where did the Ionians hide it? The prediction may be called incredible.
Your philosophers are generally hard-hearted persons towards those poetical shows of things, which, as Bacon says, are accommodated to the wishes of the mind.” Here with a few startling sentences, Delambre broke up all one's pleasant dreams about the antiquity of Biilesian science; and what was worse, he threatened the reality even of that eclipse which separated two fighting armies, one of the finest traditions in my opinion that antiquity contains: Let us imagine, as the eclipse grew deeper, the looks of the combatants distracted between martial agitation and superstitious fear; the fushed brow of the intrepid warrior looking up to the halfdarkened sun, and the paleness of the dying, made more ghastly by nature's frown. I wish some of our artists would make it the subject of a picture.
From Delambre I turned anxiously to the works of Ideler the astronomer royal of Berlin, to see if he would, at least, save so fine an eclipse. Well, he has kindly done so.—The French astronomer objects to Herodotus's anecdote, that the eclipse could not have
May, 1831.–VOL. I. NO. I.
been so great as to have separated armies -- Ideler shows that it aniounted to a total eclipse within only an 80th part of the sun's disk.
But it is plain that the existence of the eclipse does not amount entirely to a proof that Thales predicted it. About the latter point I am still obliged to be a sceptic. Ideler no where says, that he believes Thales to have foretold the phenomenon, though he authenticates its time and place. Moreover he makes, in his “ Technical Chronology," certain remarks on the dialling of the ancients, which I shall by-and-bye quote, and from which I think it is impossible to draw any other conclusion, than that the astronomy of the Greeks must have been perfectly infantile in the time of Thales. In the age after Thales, dialling was introduced into Greece, but in so rude a state, as to show that no such astronomy could have then existed, as to enable a man to predict a solar eclipse.
From the list of philosophers who damp our romance in the antiquity of astronomy, Bailly is to be excepted. But, unfortunately, Bailly goes too far the other way. One of his chapters is headed “ Antediluvian Astronomy:"—and of that antediluvian astronomy he conceives Chaldean astronomy to have been a vestige. But where is there a passage in the Old Testament that would
the Patriarchs to have been astronomers? If astronomy had been perfected in the age of Noah, is it credible that he would have preserved none of its instruments? The Bible seems to show positively the study of astronomy to have been post-diluvian. The Babylonians wished to build a tower up to heaven, in order to save themselves from a second flood. If they had been in earnest to get the highest point of the earth, they would have never built upon a plain. But by their wishing to get to heaven, we must merely understand their wish to study astronomy. Still, however, I shall be reminded of Pythagoras, and asked—what say you to his travels in the east--to his scientific discoveries, and to his anticipation of the Pythagorean system? On the first point I answer, that we have no proof of his travels having been extensive. On the second point we are equally without proof that he added importantly to physical knowledge. Philolaus of the school of Crotona, it is equally true and strange, surmised truths, which Copernicus afterwards promulgated. The fact is proved by Cicero's words, and does high honour to that seat of philosophy. But let us not confound this merely sagacious happy guess of the Pythagorean school with the real discovery and demonstration of the Copernican system. The Pythagorean school never proved it--they never brought it into general notice,--they merely conjectured and imagined it. To suppose that they reached it by mathematical knowledge, or by instruments that were lost in the Italian massacres of the Pythagoreans, is as wild an idea as that of antediluvian telescopes.
It seems admitted on all hands that the Greeks received the rudiments of their astronomy from the East; but it has long been questioned whether those simple rudiments sprang up earliest in Egypt, or in Babylon. The fact that the Alexandrian astronomers, when they wanted an account of the oldest recorded eclipses, applied to the Babylonians, shows that in their opinion the latter people were the oldest astronomers. Whether the extreme antiquity of their observations may not have been exaggerated, admits of a doubt. Sim
plicius, a commentator on Aristotle, tells us that Callisthenes sent home to the Stagyrite the record of a series of eclipses, that went back 1903 years beyond the capture of the Babylonish capital by Alexander, which was 331 years before our era. This anecdote has long passed as currently as the coin of the realm; so that I can scarcely blame Dr. Blair for putting it down in his Tables of Chronology; but he should not have inserted it as a fact equally indubitable with Holy Writ. When he assures us that Adam and Eve were created on Friday, the 23rd of October—which is more than the Bible does, he brings Archbishop Usher to depone to the date. But for the stupendous antiquity of Chaldæan astronomy, he gives no authority at all. The truth is, that Simplicius, by his own account, appears to have got the story from Porphyry, not from Aristotle ; and Porphyry's work is now lost. It may be true ; but the total disappearance of the record, and the circumstance of its being unknown to the astronomers of the Alexandrian Musæum—who, if it had been to be found in Greece, would assuredly have never sent to Babylon for accounts of eclipses of much less antiquity-makes its transmission to Aristotle, and its very existence, seem a little questionable. There is perfect evidence, nevertheless, that the Chaldæan observation of eclipses was very ancient. The imagination unwillingly parts with a certain reverential feeling for those Babylonish astronomical priests, when we conceive them on the high tower of Belus with the fragrant gardens of Babylon beneath them, and the heavens all serenity around them, watching the rising and the setting of the stars, and computing the time of their courses. The
very simplicity of their apparatus, and mode of computing that time, which was only by the lapse of water from one urn into another, if it does not affect the imagination, at least touches our interest. I have sometimes thought to myself, but for these simple patriarchs of science, and their brazen urns, who koows but that Herschel might have erected less perfect telescopes ?
The idea, however, I mean you to understand as nothing more than a passing fancy. I confess it filed panic-struck from my mind when I read the pages of Delambre, who denies Chaldæan astronomy the very name of science; and though Ideler, an equally high authority, seems to rescue it from the extreme contempt of the French academician, by arguing the astonishing accuracy of its observations, yet I have not resumed courage to meditate so devoutly as I once did about the Chaldæan sages.
Delambre rates the obligation of the Greeks to the orientals very cheaply indeed.
If we admit,” he says, “ that they drew from Egypt or Asia those vague notions with which they contented them“selves for several ages, it was not because it would have been very “ difficult for them to have found them out for themselves." With unfeigned submission to Delambre, it seems ungenerous to the poor orientals to deny the debt simply because it was small, or borrowed without necessity. If a man had borrowed a shilling from you a long time ago, if he had turned the shilling to a pound, and by going into trade turned the pound into a plum, you would think but little of his gratitude, if instead of hailing you as his first benefactor, he sneered at the shabbiness of the loan, and alleged that he could have got the