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to the nineteenth. Sir Cornewall Lewis may well ask what we should think
• If a new school of writers on the history of France, entitling themselves Francologists, were to arise, in which one of the leading critics were to deny that Louis XIV. lived in the seventeenth century, and were to identify him with Hercules, or Romulus, or Cyrus, or Alexander the Great, or Cæsar, or Charlemagne ; while another leading critic of the same school, agreeing in the rejection of the received hypothesis as to his being the successor of Louis XIII., were to identify him with Napoleon I. or Louis Napoleon.' (Astronomy, p. 370.)
After all, the eagles are fighting over dry bones.
The Egyptian dynasties of Manetho are a mere bead-roll or string of names, accompanied, at rare intervals, with a notice of some fabulous event. Such naked lists, even if they were founded on contemporary registration, would be valueless for historical purposes. We should gain nothing from a list of victors at the Olympic Games, if nothing else was preserved to us of Greek antiquity. To be told that Saites, Bnon, Pachnan, Staan, Archles, and Aphobis were the six kings of the fifteenth dynasty, and reigned over Egypt from 2607 to 2324 B. C., conveys no available information. We should learn as much from an authentic account of the succession of a breed of crocodiles or hippopotami in the Nile, or of a series of sacred apes in a temple, for the same period.' (Astronomy, p. 358.)
With some astonishment and a sincere pity for great powers wasted and labour thrown away, we survey the huge and illcemented fabric which the Egyptologists have raised with so much ingenuity and so much patience. The question resolves
* The method in which the recent interpreters of cuneiform writing have treated the early history of Assyria differs in no material respects from that of Egyptologists. The system of cuneiform writing is less intricate than that of the hieroglyphics. The tradition of the old Persian language stands on a very different footing from that of the literary dialect of the old Egyptians, and a marked distinction must be drawn between the Persian and Assyrian inscriptions. But even if it be granted that all the cuneiform inscriptions hitherto found have been rightly deciphered, the discovery has not been followed by any substantial results. Professor Rawlinson affirms, indeed, that each fresh discovery has tended to authenticate the chronology of Berosus (Herodotus, vol. i. p. 433.); but the narrative of Berosus is only one of many versions which might just as reasonably be thought to relate to different times and countries; and his historical method is stamped by the fact that he assigned 432,000 years to the antediluvian kings. Sir Cornewall Lewis has also remarked, that even the scientific doctrines of Berosus were founded on a fabulous basis, for his astronomical writings are itself into first principles; the controversy hinges on the very nature of historical truth. To reject, or at least to suspend our judgment on, the most plausible narrative, unless it comes before us with a sufficient attestation, is a plain and homely rule, the observance of which would be fatal to all reconstructions of
given in the form of a translation from a work of the primitive king Belus. Like the Egyptologists, then, the readers of inscribed bricks are thrown back on the accounts of Herodotus, Ctesias, and the other writers who treated of Assyrian history. Their contradictions are quite as great as those which are encountered by Bunsen ; and the same machinery is employed to reconcile them. Here also we have no right to assume the existence of any authentic materials at the time when Herodotus or Ctesias drew up their history in the absence of any positive evidence from the inscriptions. Sir Cornewall Lewis has shown that there are no grounds whatever for thinking that Babylon and Nineveh were the capitals of independent contemporary kingdoms. The only trace of a distinction between the
two is to be found in Herodotus, who describes Cyaxares as taking Nineveh, and reducing all the Assyrians with the exception of Babylon and its district, in 606 B. C. He seems to have supposed that Babylon retained its independence, as head of a fragment of the * Assyrian Empire, until 538 B. C., when it was taken by Cyrus. His 'narrative, however, excludes the idea that Nineveh and Babylon were ever at the same time the seats of independent kingdoms.' (Astronomy, p. 424.) The celebrated inscription of Bebistun has been invested with a greater historical authority than at the most it can be proved to possess. It is a document belonging undoubtedly to a time closely bordering on contemporary history. We may make use of it to correct or to reject some passages in Herodotus ; but we have no means of testing its accuracy as a general narrative of events during the earlier years of the reign of Darius. To the Herodotean account of the conspiracy which overthrew the Magian usurpers, it gives a summary contradiction. But that the subsequent wars and conquests are accurately represented, is at best å presumption. Revolts rapidly succeeding each other are enumerated with apparent candour, and the energy of Darius seems to have been as severely taxed as that of a man who has fallen into a nest of hornets; but, while we have no means of testing his assertions, it would be an extreme rashness to place any absolute trust in a long catalogue of victories couched in the usual strain of Oriental self-laudation. It is possible, however, that for these statements further confirmation may be discovered ; and the statements themselves are not intrinsically improbable. But when Sir H. Rawlinson settles a date in Berosus by one which Clinton assigns to Phoroneus, he resorts to the chronological arithmetic of Bunsen. (Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, vol. xv. p. 222.) Phoroneus is as historical as the god whom Hecatæus claimed as his progenitor in the sixteenth generation.
history. To treat as certainties things which at the most can be but probable, still more to draw out a detailed chronology for events which are described with infinite contradictions, is to inflict a wound on our sense of truth, from which it cannot easily recover. The task of decomposing and recombining narratives for which we can have no contemporary evidence, may give room for a display of learning; but the process is essentially unsound. Sir Cornewall Lewis has shown its worthlessness as applied by Niebuhr to the early history of Rome; but Bunsen's method is unsound in his treatment not only of history but of mythology and language. His process is one not of experimental analysis but of induction from arbitrary assumptions. In his eyes the statements of an inscription assume an authority which must not be questioned; and a building declares its own date, because it reveals its builder's name. No amount of inconsistency or contradiction can convince him that he is dealing with that which may be a fair subject for speculation, but is certainly no part of authentic history. Sir Cornewall Lewis holds that insoluble difficulties must present themselves when chronology is dissociated from history, handed down by conflicting authorities and reduced to an • arithmetical puzzle.'* In Bunsen's eyes a chronological inquiry . becomes simply confusing when mixed up with bistorical dis
cussions.' In his hands it is converted into a machine, which to one skilled in its use will readily yield any result required. He fearlessly begins the reconstruction of the chronology between Menes and Alexander with the question whether, if we had lists of the Roman emperors from Severus to Theodosius, unaccompanied by historical illustrations, we should be justified in making the sum of their reigns tally with the real time which elapsed between the two emperors. (vol. i. p. 84.) This, he sees, would involve serious error; but, instead of admitting that the lists would then be useless, he takes refuge in the poor assumptions that some reigns may have been reckoned conjointly, and a historical key annexed by which the real duration of each reign might be ascertained. The assumption that Egypt was for many centuries split up into independent nomes leads him to the belief that Menes created in the Egyptians a sense of their national unity. A similar argument would invest with a historical personality the shadowy forms of Theseus and of Numa. Menes, again, we are told drained the site of Memphis by means of a dyke, and so was enabled to lay the foundations of the city. (vol. ii. p. 49.) There would be but
* Astronomy, p. 374.
† Egypt's Place, vol. iii. p. 98.
little boldness, by comparison with this, in fixing the day on which the Etruscan Tarquin laid the first stone of the great cloaca at Rome.
It is the same with his speculations on the origin of language, mythology, and theogony: When, after a minute analysis of language, Professor Max Müller finds that the primary predicative roots are all the expression of general ideas, and from this infers that the power of framing such ideas is the essential distinction between man and brute and the explanation of the faculty of speech, he arrives at a conclusion which may be wrong, but which at least is based on the evidence before him. When from the fact that the Homeric Zeus appears in the Vedic poems as the impersonal Dyaus or Heaven, that Leto is still the night, and Procris still the morning dew, he infers that mythology is the petrification of primæval language, and that all theogonies are the later results of this petrifying process, his reasoning is strictly in unison with his premisses. Professor Max Müller's view represents the original condition of man as exhibiting a strict analogy to childhood ; and the evidence of language and comparative mythology fully bears him out in so doing. But it is either unintelligible or untrue to say that the
coining of a word into a noun must from its nature be considered as the act implying a personal God, and the expression of the copula connecting subject and predicate, the formation of the verb substantive especially, is an unconscious assertion of the existence of God.' (vol. iv. p. 450.) The root of cave, we are told, is ku or sku, and this root expresses the general idea of hiding or shelter; but how does it express the knowledge of God or a consciousness of causation ? What Baron Bunsen may mean by saying that 'a noun of an intellectual • kind, such as the lightning or the thundering, is a mytholo'gical art in the garb of language,' we do not profess to understand.
Beyond the confines of contemporary history there yet lies a wide field for legitimate research and patient thought. But that field can never be surveyed or examined to good purpose, unless we remember that we cannot convert probable conclusions into historical certainties. We can no more doubt the existence of the civilisation of which the Homeric poems are a picture, than we can doubt the existence of our own. We cannot bring ourselves to think that the mythical tales of patrician and plebeian struggles at Rome, or of Hycsos invasions in Egypt, have no reference to actual facts. We do not hesitate to believe that before the construction of a systematic theogony, human thought expressed itself in simple phrases which were
afterwards hardened into mythical language.
Doubtless all these things had their eras. Doubtless there was a real time when men thought and spoke like Agamemnon and Odysseus, and a real society in which women like Nausicaa and Andromache rose high above the degradation of Athenian women in the days of Pericles. These things tell us of a past which was really present; but we do not presume to map it out with the exactness of the Annual Register. Sir Cornewall Lewis has well remarked that exaggeration in numbers is the sign of a barren and inactive rather than of a lively and inventive imagination. In an equal degree, the wish to assign dates to events on grounds of mere probability betrays a historical sense which is dangerously weak. It may be hard to abandon the house which we have built on sand, but the sum of human knowledge is increased by the confession of ignorance or uncertainty, where these are unavoidable. The development of language may be traced in successive stages, and each of these stages must have had its period; but the time which appears needed for them in the judgment of some, seems either too long or too short in that of others. In the misty and conflicting traditions of ancient Egypt we may discern the outlines of events which must have taken place in a certain order; but we have no means of determining what that order was, and we gain nothing by fixing the polarisation of Sinism in the eleventh millennium before the Christian era. We add nothing to our knowledge by distinguishing Sesostris the Lawgiver from Sesostris the Conqueror, or by attributing to Egyptian priests a learning which they never possessed. It would end a needless strife of words to confess that their history is as uncertain as their science was worthless.