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Among all the inquiries which have been pursued by the curious and inquisitive, there is none more worthy the search of a learned head, than the source from whence we derive those arts and sciences, which raise us so far above the vulgar, the countries in which they rose, and the channels by which they have been conveyed. As those who first brought them amongst us attained them by travelling into the remotest parts of the earth, I may boast of some advantages by the same means, since I write this from the deserts of Æthiopia, from those plains of sand, which have buried the pride of invading armies, with my foot perhaps at this instant ten fathom over the grave of Cambyses; a solitude to which neither Pythagoras nor Apollonius ever penetrated.
It is universally agreed that arts and sciences were
This treatise on the origin of the sciences, from the monkeys in Æthiopia, was written by Mr. Pope, Dean Parnell, and Dr. Arbuthnot. Spence's Anec. p. 201. Singer's Ed.
The design of it was to ridicule such as build general assertions upon two or three loose quotations from the ancients. Ib. p. 168.
derived to us from the Egyptians and Indians; but from whom they first received them is yet a secret. The highest period of time to which the learned attempt to trace them, is the beginning of the Assyrian monarchy, when their inventors were worshipped as gods. It is therefore necessary to go backward into times even more remote, and to gain some knowledge of their history, from whatever dark and broken hints may any way be found in ancient authors concerning them.
Nor Troy nor Thebes were the first empires; we have mention, though not histories, of an earlier warlike people, called the Pygmæans. I cannot but persuade myself, from those accounts in Homer?, Aristotle, and others, of their history, wars, and revolutions, and from the very air in which those authors speak of them as of things known, that they were then a part of the study of the learned. And though all we directly hear is of their military achievements in the brave defence of their country, from the annual invasions of a powerful enemy; yet I cannot doubt but that they excelled as much in the arts of peaceful government, though there remain no traces of their civil institutions. Empires as great have been swallowed up in the wreck of time; and such sudden periods have been put to them as occasion a total ignorance of their story. And if I should conjecture that the like happened to this nation from a general extirpation of the people by those flocks of monstrous birds, wherewith antiquity agrees they were continually infested, it ought not to seem more incredible than that once the Baleares was wasted by rabbits, Smynthe : by mice, and of late Bermudas + almost depopulated by rats. Nothing is more natural to imagine, than that the few survivors of that empire retired into the depths of their deserts, where they lived undisturbed, till they were found out by Osiris, in his travels to instruct mankind.
U. iii. Hom.
3 Eustat, in Hom. Iliad. i. 4 Specd, in Bermudas.
“He met," says Diodorus ”, “ in Æthiopia, a sort of little satyrs, who were hairy one half of their body, and whose leader, Pan, accompanied him in his expedition for the civilizing of mankind.” Now of this great personage Pan we have a very particular description in the ancient writers, who unanimously agree to represent him shaggy-bearded, hairy all over, half a man, and half a beast, and walking erect with a staf (the posture in which his race do to this day appear among us); and since the chief thing to which he applied himself was the civilizing of mankind, it should seem that the first principle of science must be received from that nation to which the gods were by Homer said to resort twelve days every year for the conversation of its wise and just inhabitants.
If from Egypt we proceed to take a view of India, we shall find that their knowledge also derived itself from the same source. To that country did these noble creatures accompany Bacchus, in his expedition under the conduct of Silenus, who is also described to us with the same marks and qualifications. “ Mankind is ignorant,” saith Diodorus“, “ whence Silenus derived his birth, through his great antiquity; but he had a tail on his loins, as likewise had all his progeny in sign of their descent.” Here then they settled a colony, which to this day subsists with the same tails. From this time they seem to have communicated themselves only to those men, who retired from the converse of their own species to a more uninterrupted
5 Diod. 1. i. c. 18.
6 Diod. 1. iii. c. 69.
life of contemplation. I am much inclined to believe, that in the midst of those solitudes they instituted the so much celebrated order of Gymnosophists. For whoever observes the scene and manner of their life, will easily find them to have imitated, with all exactness imaginable, the manners and customs of their masters and instructors. They are said to dwell in the thickest woods, to go naked, to suffer their bodies to be over-run with hair, and their nails to grow to a prodigious length. Plutarch' says, “they eat what they could get in the fields, their drink was water, and their bed made of leaves or moss." And Herodotus & tells us, “ that they esteemed it a great exploit to kill very many ants or creeping things.”
Hence we see that the nations, which contend for the origin of learning, are the same that have ever most abounded with this ingenious race. Though they have contended which was first blest with the rise of science, yet they have conspired in being grateful to their common masters. Egypt is well known to have worshipped them of old in their own images; and India may be credibly supposed to have done the same from that adoration which they paid in latter times to the tooth of one of these hairy philosophers, in just gratitude, as it should seem, to the mouth from which they received their knowledge. Pass we now over into Greece; where we find Orpheus returning out of Egypt, with the same intent as Osiris and Bacchus made in their expeditions. From this period it was that Greece first heard the name of Satyrs, or owned them for Semidei ; and hence it is surely reasonable to conclude, that he brought some of this wonderful species along with him, who also had a
7 Plutarch in his Orat. on Alexander's Fortune. 8 Herodot. 1. i.
leader of the line of Pan, of the same name, and expressly called king by Theocritus“. If thus much be allowed, we easily account for two of the strangest reports in all antiquity: one is, that of the beasts following the music of Orpheus; which has been interpreted of his taming savage tempers; but will thus have a literal application. The other, which we must insist upon, is the fabulous story of the Gods compressing women in woods, under bestial appearances; which will be solved by the love these sages are known to bear to the females of our kind. I am sensible it may be objected, that they are said to have been compressed in the shape of different animals; but to this we answer, that women under such apprehensions hardly know what shape they have to deal with.
From what has been said, it is highly credible, that to this ancient and generous race the world is indebted, if not for the heroes, at least for the acutest wits of antiquity. One of the most remarkable instances is that great mimic genius Æsop ', for whose extraction from those Sylvestres homines we may gather an argument from Psanudes, who says that Æsop signifies the same thing as Æthiop, the original nation of our people. For a second argument, we may offer the description of his person, which was short, deformed, and almost savage, insomuch that he might have lived in the woods, had not the benevolence of his temper made him rather adapt himself to our manners, and come to court in wearing-apparel. The third proof is his acute and satyrical wit; and lastly, his great knowledge in the nature of beasts, together with the natural pleasure he took to speak of them upon all occasions. The
9 Mãy "Avať. Theocr. Id. i.
| Vid. Æsop. initio.