« AnteriorContinuar »
Few, even amongst literary people, er amongst philosophical polyhistors, are aware of the true place occupied which is the nearest designation to by Herodotus in universal literature; that pf encyclopædist current in the secondly, scarce here and there a Greek literature. And yet is not this scholar up and down a century is led world encyclopædist much lower than to reflect upon the mulliplicity of his bis ancient name--father of history? relations to the whole range of civili- Doubtless it is no great distinction at zation. We endeavour in these words present to be an encyclopædist, which to catch, as in a net, the gross promi- is often but another name for book. nent faults of his appreciation ; on maker, craftsman, mechanic, journey. which account, first, we say pointed- man, in his meanest degeneration ; ly, universal literature, not Grecian- yet in those early days, when the since the primary error is, to regard timid muse of science had scarcely Herodotus merely in relation to the ventured sandal.deep into waters so literature of Greece ; secondly, on
unfathomable, it seems to us a great which account we notice the circuit, thing indeed, that one young man the numerical amount of his collisions should have founded an entire encywith science--because the second and clopædia for his countrymen, upon greater error is, to regard him exclu- those difficult problems which chalsively as an historian. But now, unlenged their primary attention, because der a juster allocation of his rank, as starting forward from the very roof, the general father of prose composi- the walls--the floor of that beautiful tion, Herodotus is nearly related to all theatre which they tenanted. The literature whatsoever, modern not less habitable world, oux ovplivn, was now than ancient ; and as the father of daily becoming better known to the what may be called ethnographical human race i but how? Chiefly geography, as a man who speculated through Herodotus. There are amu. most ably on all the humanities of sing evidences extant, of the profound sciencethat is, on all the scientific ignorance in which nations the most questions which naturally interest our enlightened had hitherto lived, as to all human sensibilities in this great tem- lands beyond their own and its frontier ple which we look up to, the pavilion adjacencies. But within the singlegeneof the sky, the sun, ihe moon, the at- ration (or the single half century) premosphere, with its climates and its vious to the birth of Herodotus, vast winds; or in this home which we in changes had taken place. The mere reberit
, the earth, with its hills and volutions consequent upon the foundarivers---Herodotus ought least of all tion of the Persian empire had approxito be classed amongst historians: mated the whole world of civilization. that is but a secondary title for him; First came the conquest of Egypt by he deserves to be rated as the lead- the second of the new emperors. This
VOL, LI. NO. CCCXY.
event, had it stood alone, was immea. name of Hellas, regions that geographi. surable in its effects for meeting curi- cally belong to Asia and even to Af. osity, and in its immediate excitement rica,) he seems by mere casual nofor prompting it. It brought the tices, now prompted by an historical whole vast chain of Persian depen. incident, now for the purpose of an ildencies, from the river Indus east- lustrative comparison, to have known wards to the Nile westwards, or even so familiarly, that Pausanias in after through Cyrene to the gates of Car- ages does not describe more minutely thage, under the unity of a single the local features to which he had sceptre. The world was open. Jea-' dedicated a life, than this extraordilous interdicts, inhospitable laws, na- nary traveller, for whom they did but tional hostilities, always in procinctu, point a period or circumstantiate a no longer fettered the feet of the mer- parenthesis. As a geographer, often chant, or neutralized the exploring in- as a hydrographer-witness his soundstincts of the philosophic traveller. ings thirty miles off the mouths of the Next came the restoration of the Nile-Herodotus was the first great Jewish people. Judea, no longer parent of discovery, as between nation weeping by the Euphrates, was again and nation he was the author of mutual sitting for another half millennium of revelation ; whatsoever any one nation divine probation under her ancient knew of its own little ring fence, palm-tree. Next after that came the through daily use and experience, or convulsions of Greece, earthquake had received by ancestral tradition, upon earthquake; the trampling my- that he published to all other nations. riads of Darius, but six years before He was the first central interpreter, the birth of Herodotus; the river- the common dragoman to the general draining millions of Xerxes in the fifth college of civilization that now belted year of his wondering infancy. Whilst the Mediterranean, holding up, in a the swell from this great storm was language already laying the foundayet angry, and hardly subsiding, (a tions of universality, one comprehenmetaphor used by Herodotus himself, sive mirror, reflecting to them all the ετι οιδεοντων πρηγματων,) whilst the scars separate chorography, habits, insti. of Greece were yet raw from the Per- tutions, and religious systems of sian scymitar, her towns and temples each. Nor was it in the facts merely, to the east of the Corinthian isthmus that he retraced the portraits of all smouldering ruins yet reeking from leading states; whatsoever in these the Persian torch, the young Herodo- facts was mysterious, for that he had tus bad wandered forth in a rapture a self-originated solution ; whatsoever of impassioned curiosity, to see, to was perplexing by equiponderant touch, to measure, all those great ob- counter-assumptions, for that he jects, whose names had been recently brought a determining impulse to the su rife in men's mouths. The luxuri. one side or the other; whatsoever ous Sardis, the nation of Babylon, seemed contradictory, for that he the Nilu, the oldest of rivers, Memphis, brought a reconciling hypothesis. and Thebes the hundred-gated, that Were it the annual rise of a river, were but amongst his youngest daugh- were it the formation of a famous ters, with the pyramids inscrutable as kingdom by alluvial depositions, were the heavens-all these he had visited. it the unexpected event of a battle, or As far up the Nile as Elephantine he the apparently capricious migration of had personally pushed his enquiries; a people--for all alike Herodotus had and far beyond that, by his obstinate such resources of knowledge as took the questions from all men presumably sting out of the marvellous, or such reequal to the answers. Tyre, even, he sources of ability as at least suggested made a separate voyage to explore. the plausible. Antiquities or mythoPalestine he had trodden with Grecian logy, martialinstitutions or pastoral, the feet; the mysterious Jerusalem he secret motives to a falsehood wbich lie had visited, and had computed her exposes, or the hidden nature of some proportions. . Finally, as to Greece truth which he deciphers—all alike continental, though not otherwise con. lay within the searching dissection of nected with it himself than by the this astonishing intellect, the most bond of language, and as the home of powerful lens by far that has ever been his lonian ancestors, (in which view brought to bear upon the mixed obhe often calls it by the great moral jects of a speculative traveller.