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with hands, eternal in the heavens;" in which we shall be free from the inordinate desires and passions, to which we are more or less subject here; and that we shall be widely different at the beginning of the future life from what we are here; though we may not all be alike in character and attainments hereafter, and may continue to make progress in knowledge and culture for ever.
W. R. F.
Rawlinson's Herodotus: The Ancient Empires.
The History of Herodotus. A new English Version, edited with Copious Notes and Appendices, illustrating the History and Geography of Herodotus, from the most recent sources of information; and embodying the Chief Results, Historical and Ethnographical, which have been obtained in the progress of Cuneiform and Hieroglyphical Discovery. By George Rawlinson, M. A., assisted by Col. Sir Henry Rawlinson, K. C. B., and Sir J. G. Wilkinson, F. R. S. In four Volumes 8vo., with Maps and Illustrations. New York: D. Appleton & Co. 1860.
IT will not, we think, be questioned that in the noble volumes, the full title-page of which is given above, we have one of the great literary works of the age. We may assume, that however much open to criticism certain portions of it may be (and it would be a marvel indeed if a work of a nature so vast, so varied, and so complicated, could be executed in a way not to be open to criticism); whatever fallacies future investigations may detect; and whatever the degree of uncertainty that must be felt in the present stage of the interpretation of ancient inscriptions,there will be found enough of ingenious criticism, enough of probability in fresh statements of the early history of the early nations, and enough of reasonable certainty in at least a few particulars of vast importance in the world of curious archæology, to place Rawlinson's Herodotus high in the list of the literary achievements which are destined to live.
We cannot name the other historical work that promises as much as is here attempted. To do anything like justice VOL. Xviii.
to the early history of any one of the great nations of antiquity, is enough to employ a single author during an average life-time. Mr. Grote had been engaged full thirty years upon his history of Greece by the time his twelfth volume appeared. Dr. Arnold attempted a history of Rome in conjunction with other literary labors, and was able to leave but a fragment-an invaluable one indeed, as far as it goes. Mr. Rawlinson, in conjunction with his two colaborers, has attempted a history of all the ancient empires— Egypt, Chaldæa, Babylonia, Assyria, Lydia, Medea, Persia, Greece! The nine books of Herodotus indeed make but a small proportion of the work under notice. For every page from the Greek author his three modern annotators give at least five. A simple statement of the old historian is made the text for an extended and elaborate essay; in which all the research and scholarship of the age, so far as they bear upon the question, are brought into requisition. A few sentences tell us all Herodotus knew, and in some cases what he conjectured, relative to the early history of a now extinct empire; our modern authors supply a series of essays confirming or modifying, and in most cases adding to, the meagre sketch of their author. And in this way the new edition of the "Father of History" has reached the large proportions of four closely-printed octavos. But we must specify a few particulars of the distinctive character of the new work.
Mr. Rawlinson has evidently established the veracity of Herodotus; and he has done this by a critical examination. of the contents of his author, by confronting him with the testimony of other and nearly contemporary authors, and by comparing his statements with what in some cases may be deemed certain, and what in other and more numerous cases may be deemed simply probable, in the interpretations of recently discovered inscriptions on the ruins of ancient cities. No one at all familiar with the literature of ancient history need be reminded of the vacillating fortunes of Herodotus considered as an historical authority; at one period confidently quoted as if his statement admitted of no appeal; at another period treated with contempt as a dotard, remarkable only for his credulity and lack of critical judgment; once more re-instated as a respectable author, only to be ousted again when the new school of critics should come
into place; and so on through successive epochs of historical criticism. It has been Mr. Rawlinson's pleasant task to establish the complete veracity and the general reliability of the historian of Halicarnassus. It is indeed obvious that our modern author has, in this particular, an affection for his work; that his defence of the old historian sometimes reads more like the plea of an attorney than the cool decision of a judge; that his censures of the critical enemies of Herodotus, particularly of Col. Mure-foremost among these betray not a little of the warmth of impatience. Nevertheless, his careful reader must feel the force of his argument; and will afterwards read Herodotus with the conviction that he meant to be truthful, and that in all instances where he gives the fruit of his own observation, he is truthful.
In submitting a succint statement of the sources whence Herodotus derived the materials of his work, Mr. Rawlinson enables the unlearned reader to determine for himself, in very many instances, what portion of these materials is reliable, that is, on the supposition that the historian's veracity is conceded. Thus, we are informed, either by Herodotus himself or by his editor, when the authority for an alleged fact is that of personal observation, when tradition, when mythology, when that of some prior author whose value is also discussed. Hence, no reader need be perplexed because of the very marked credulity of the ancient author, of his numerous inconsistencies of statement, of his absurd notions in the matter of physical science, or of the very numerous geographical blunders which mar his narrative. On all such matters Herodotus merely tells what was told him, or what he had read; fortunately for his reputation, in none of these cases does he tell us what he himself saw or heard. When he tells what he himself witnessed, his narrative is uniformly within the limits of rational probability.
A very satisfactory chapter on the merits and defects of Herodotus as an historian and a writer, furnishes a valuable qualification for the prompt appreciation of the history. The very great industry of Herodotus," that unwearied spirit of research, which led him in disturbed and perilous times to undertake at his own cost a series of journeys over almost all parts of the known world-the aggregate of
which cannot have amounted to less than from ten to fifteen thousand miles-for the sole purpose of deriving, as far as possible," information from the fountain-head; his impartiality evidenced by examples of remarkable candor; his freedom from party bias-apparent in the fact (to name but one example) that though a devotee of democratic institutions, he points out instances wherein they have worked mischief; his rare merit of freedom from national vanity, whereby, though a Greek, he sees and commends the excellences of peoples not Greek; the picturesqueness, the dramatic charm, the humorous tinge, and the artistic concentration or unity of his pages;-with these and kindred excellences the reader is made acquainted, and so prepared to enjoy as well as profit by the work, at the very commencement of the task of reading it.
We come now to what is by many odds the most valuable feature to what, in fact, is the distinctive excellence of Rawlinson's Herodotus ;-we of course allude to the annotations and the supplementary chapters and essays based upon the recently discovered and interpreted inscriptions— the Hieroglyphs in Egypt and the Cuneiform inscriptions in the Mesopotamian valley of the Tigris and the Euphrates. It is to this feature of the work, therefore, that we now propose to give a more special and extended consideration.
In commencing the task thus specially designated, we may confess that we have a two-fold aim. While, on the one hand, we desire to do something of justice to the volumes we have had under review, by giving prominence to the feature on which their distinctive merit rests, we are glad to find that we can make the realization of this desire subserve another end. It is a commendable curiosity which leads mankind to cherish a desire to know somewhat of the history of their remote ancestry. The interest felt in the experiences-social, political, intellectual and religious-of the most ancient empires has always been profound. It has been with painful sensations that the reading world was debarred the privilege of exploring the realities of the early times. And he has ever been sure of the heartfelt gratitude of his fellows, who should succeed in opening to their gaze the once living realities of the first ages of the civilized habitable globe. The names which comprehensively represent these ages and empires of mystery are three,- Egypt, Babylonia, Assyria.
With regard to Egyptian matters, Mr. Rawlinson's work -we should rather say the portion contributed by Sir J. G. Wilkinson (perhaps first among living authorities on that special subject)-does at least proportionate justice; and the reader will look elsewhere in vain for as complete and satisfactory a statement, within the same limits, of the chronology and early history of Egypt. Nevertheless, the Egyptian department of Rawlinson's volumes has, necessarily, less of freshness and originality than the notes and essays which treat of the Chaldæan and Assyrian monarchies. The affairs of the ancient dynasties ruling in the valley of the Nile have indeed been shrouded in mystery, but not as much so as the dynasties of the Tigris and the Euphrates. The ancient historians are far more explicit as respects Egyptian than as respects Assyrian and Chaldæan antiquities. Herodotus, devoting but a few paragraphs to the latter, gives a whole book to the former. Again, the existing monuments and inscriptions of Egypt are far more numerous, and in a much better state of preservation than in the seats of the Asiatic empires; while the clue to the interpretation of the hieroglyphs (so far as we may claim to have a clue-which claim unfortunately time does not seem to strengthen) was discovered several years before much progress had been made in the discovery of Assyrian inscriptions even, to say nothing of progress in the interpretation of them. The result has been, that while, through the labors of Champollion, Young, Bunsen, Lepsius, Wilkinson and others, the reading community has for several years been in possession of nearly everthing that can claim to be authentic in Egyptian antiquities, it is comparatively very recent that anything at all corresponding has been developed respecting Chaldæa, Assyria and Later Babylonia. To nearly all persons outside the small circle of professional antiquarians, Rawlinson's disclosures respecting the last named empires, so far as predicated of interpreted inscriptions, will have all the novelty and freshness of
1 Herodotus makes several references to his proposed history of Assyria, probably as a separate work; which fact explains the scantiness of Assyrian materials in his extant history. If the Assyrian history was ever written, it must have perished early, as no succeeding ancient author, so far as we may reasonably know, makes any reference to it. See Rawlinson, Vol. i., pp. 23, 192, 249.