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Full text of "Outline of History"

Outline of History 




Parti 



1.0 The Earth in Space and Time 



Part II 



31.0 Muhammad and Islam 



Outline of History 

Being a Plain History of Life and Mankind 
By H. G. Wells 

Dedication 

This work is dedicated to the Public Domain by Norman M. Wolcott. 

http://ftp.metalab.unc.edu/pub/docs/books/sherwoodAVells-Outline/Outlineo/History.htm 

THE OUTLINE OF HISTORY 



By H.G.Wells 

BEING A PLAIN HISTORY OF LIFE AND MANKIND 

By H. G. Wells 

WRITTEN ORIGINALLY WITH THE ADVICE AND EDITORIAL HELP OF MR. ERNEST BARKER, 
SIR H. H. JOHSTON, SIR E. RAY. LANKESTER, AND PROFESSOR GILBERT MURRAY, AND 
ILLUSTRATED BY J. F. HORRABIN 

COMPLETE IN ONE VOLUME 

Containing all maps, charts, illustrations, diagrams, etc. 1200 pages 

GARDEN CITY PUBLISHING CO., INC. 

GARDEN CITY, NEW YORK 

(c) 1920 by H. G.Wells 

Table of Contents 

1.0 The Earth in Space and Time 

2.0 The Record of the Rocks 

2.1 The First Living Things 

2.2 How Old is the World 

3.0 Natural Selection and Changes of Species 

4.0 The Invasion of the Dry Land by Life 

4. 1 Life and Water 

4.2 The Earliest Animals 

5.0 The Age of Reptiles 

5.1 The Age of Lowland Life 

5.2 Flying Dragons 

5.3 The First Birds 

5.4 An Age of Hardship and Death 

5.5 The First Appearance of Fur and Feathers 

6.0 The Age of Mammals 

6.1 A New Age of Life 



By H.G.Wells 

6.2 Tradition Comes Into the World 

6.3 An Age of Brain Growth 

6.4 The World Grows Hard Again 

7.0 The Ancestry of Man 

7.1 Man Descended From a Walking Ape 

7.2 First Traces of Man-like Creatures 

7.3 The Heidelberg Sub-Man 

7.4 The Piltdown Sub-Man 

8.0 The Neanderthal Man, an Extinct Race 

8.1 The World 50,000 Years Ago 

8.2 The Daily Life of the First Men 

9.0 The Later Postglacial Paleolithic Men, the First True Men (Later Paleolithic Age) 

9.1 The Coming of Men Like Ourselves 

9.2 Hunters Give Place to Herdsmen 

9.3 No Sub-men in America 

10.0 Neolithic Man in Europe 

10.1 The Age of Cultivation Begins 

10.2 Where did the Neolithic Culture Arise 

10.3 Everyday Neolithic Life 

10.4 Primitive Trade 

10.5 The Flooding of the Mediterranean Valley 

11.0 Early Thought 

11.1 Primitive Philosophy 

1 1 .2 The Old Man in Religion 

11.3 Fear and Hope in Religion 

11.4 Stars and Seasons 



By H.G.Wells 

11.5 Story-telling and Myth-making 

11.6 Complex Origins of Religion 

12.0 The Races of Mankind 

12.1 Is Mankind Still Differentiating? 

12.2 The Main Races of Mankind 

12.3 The Heliolithic Culture of Brunet Peoples 

13.0 The Languages of Mankind 

13.1 No One Primitive Language 

13.2 The Aryan Languages 

13.3 The Semitic Languages 

13.4 The Hamitic Languages 

13.5 The Ural-Altaic Languages 

13.6 The Chinese Languages 

13.7 Other Language Groups 

13.8 A Possible Primitive Language Group 

13.9 Some Isolated Languages 

14.0 The First Civilizations 

14.1 Early Cities and Early Nomads 

14.2 Early Civilizations 

14.2.1 The Sumerians 

14.2.2 The Empire of Sargon the First 

14.2.3 The Empire of Hammurabi 

14.2.4 The Assyrians and their Empire 

14.2.5 The Chaldean Empire 

14.3 The Early History of Egypt 

14.4 The Early Civilization of India 



By H.G.Wells 

14.5 The Early History of China 

14.6 While the Civilizations were Growing 

15.0 Sea Peoples and Trading Peoples 

15.1 The Earliest Ships and Sailors 

15.2 The Aegean Cities before History 

15.3 The First Voyages of Exploration 

15.4 Early Traders 

15.5 Early Travellers 

16.0 Writing 

16.1 Picture Writing 

16.2 Syllable Writing 

16.3 Alphabet Writing 

16.4 The Place of Writing in Human Life 

17.0 Gods and Stars, Priests and Kings 

17.1 The Priest Comes into History 

17.2 Priests and the Stars 

17.3 Priests and the Dawn of Learning 

17.4 Kings Against Priests 

17.5 How Bel-Marduk Struggled Against the Kings 

17.6 The God-Kings of Egypt 

17.7 Shi Hwang-ti Destroys the Books 

18.0 Serfs, Slaves, Social Classes and Free Individuals 

18.1 The Common Man in Ancient Times 

18.2 The Earliest Slaves 

18.3 The First Independent Persons 

18.4 Social Classes Three Thousand Years Ago 



By H.G.Wells 

18.5 Classes Hardening into Castes 

18.6 Caste in India 

18.7 The System of the Mandarins 

18.8 A Summary of Five Thousand Years 

19.0 The Hebrew Scriptures and the Prophets 

19.1 The Place of the Israelites in History 

19.2 Saul, David, and Solomon 

19.3 The Jews a People of Mixed Origin 

19.4 The Importance of the Hebrew Prophets 

20.0 The Aryan-speaking Peoples in Prehistoric Times 

20.1 The Spreading of the Aryan Speakers 

20.2 Primitive Aryan Life 

20.3 Early Daily Aryan Life 

21.0 The Greeks and the Persians 

21.1 The Hellenic Peoples 

21.2 Distinctive Features of Hellenic Civilization 

21.3 Monarchy, Aristocracy and Democracy in Greece 

21.4 The Kingdom of Lydia 

21.5 The Rise of the Persians in the East 

21.6 The Story of Croesus 

21.7 Darius Invades Russia 

21.8 The Battle of Marathon 

21.9 Thermopylae and Salamis 

21.10 Plataea and Mycale 

22.0 Greek Thought in Relation to Human Society 

22.1 The Athens of Pericles 



By H.G.Wells 

22.2 Socrates 

22.3 Plato and the Academy 

22.4 Aristotle and the Lyceum 

22.5 Philosophy Becomes Unworldly 

22.6 The Quality and Limitations of Greek Thought 

23.0 The Career of Alexander the Great 

23.1 Philip of Macedonia 

23.2 The Murder of King Philip 

23.3 Alexander's First Conquests 

23.4 The Wanderings of Alexander 

23.5 Was Alexander Indeed Great? 

23.6 The Successors of Alexander 

23.7 Pergamum, A Refuge of Culture 

23.8 Alexander as a Portent of World Unity 

24.0 Science and Religion at Alexandria 

24.1 The Science of Alexandria 

24.2 The Philosphy of Alexandria 

24.3 Alexandria as a Factory of Religions 

25.0 The Rise and Spread of Buddhism 

25.1 The Story of Gautama 

25.2 Teaching and Legend in Conflict 

25.3 The Gospel of Gautama Buddha 

25.4 Buddhism and Asoka 

25.5 Two Great Chinese Teachers 

25.6 The Corruptions of Buddhism 

25.7 The Present Range of Buddhism 



By H.G.Wells 

26.0 The Two Western Republics 

26.1 The Beginnings of the Latins 

26.2 A New Sort of State 

26.3 The Carthaginian Republic of Rich Men 

26.4 The First Punic War 

26.5 Cato the Elder and the Spirit of Cato 

26.6 The Second Punic War 

26.7 The Third Punic War 

26.8 How the Punic War Undermined Roman Liberty 

26.9 Comparison of the Roman Republic with a Modern State 

27.0 From Tiberius Gracchus to the God-Emperor in Rome 

27.1 The Science of Thwarting the Common Man 

27.2 Finance in the Roman State 

27.3 The Last Years of Republican Politics 

27.4 The Era of the Adventurer Generals 

27.5 The End of the Republic 

27.6 The Coming of the Princeps 

27.7 Why the Roman Republic Failed 

28.0 The Csars between the Sea and the Great Plains of the Old World 

28.1 A Short Catalogue of Emperors 

28.2 Roman Civilization at its Zenith 

28.3 Limitations of the Roman Mind 

28.4 The Stir of the Great Plains 

28.5 The Western (true Roman) Empire Crumples Up 

28.6 The Eastern (revived Hellenic) Empire 

29.0 The Beginnings, the Rise and the Divisions of Christianity 



By H.G.Wells 

29.1 Judea at the Christian Era 

29.2 The Teachings of Jesus of Nazareth 

29.3 The Universal Religions 

29.4 The Crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth 

29.5 Doctrines Added to the Teachings of Jesus 

29.6 The Struggles and Persecutions of Christianity 

29.7 Constantine the Great 

29.8 The Establishment of Official Christianity 

29.9 The Map of Europe, A.D. 500 

29.10 The Salvation of Learning by Christianity 

30.0 Seven Centuries in Asia (Circa 50 B.C. to A.D. 650) 

30.1 Justinian the Great 

30.2 The Sassanid Empire in Persia 

30.3 The Decay of Syria under the Sassanids 

30.4 The First Message from Islam 

30.5 Zoroaster and Mani 

30.6 Hunnish Peoples in Central Asia and India 

30.7 The Great Age of China 

30.8 Intellectual Fetters of China 

30.9 The Travels of Yuan Chang 

31.0 Muhammad and Islam 

31.1 Arabia before Muhammad 

31.2 Life of Muhammad to the Hegira 

31.3 Muhammad becomes a Fighting Prophet 

31.4 The Teachings of Islam 

31.5 The Caliphs Abu, Bekr, Omar 



By H.G.Wells 10 

31.6 The Great Days of Omayyada 

31.7 The Decay of Islam under Abbasids 

31.8 The Intellectual Life of Arab Islam 

32.0 Christendom and the Crusades 

32.1 The Western World at its Lowest Ebb 

32.2 The Feudal System 

32.3 The Frankish Kingdom of the Merovigians 

32.4 The Christianization of the Western Barbarians 

32.5 Charlemagne becomes Emperor of the West 

32.6 The Personality of Charlemagne 

32.7 The French and the Germans Become Distinct 

32.8 The Normans, the Saracens, the Hungarians and the Seljuk Turks 

32.9 How Constantinople Appealed to Rome 

32.10 The Crusades 

32.11 The Crusades, a Test of Christianity 

32.12 The Emperor Frederick II 

32.13 Defects and Limitations of the Papacy 

32.14 A List of Leading Popes 

33.0 The Great Empire of Jengis Khan and Its Successors 

33.1 Asia at the End of the Twelfth Century 

33.2 The Rise and Victories of the Mongols 

33.3 The Travels of Marco Polo 

33.4 The Ottoman Turks and Constantinople 

33.5 Why the Mongols were not Christianized 

33.5.1 Kublai Khan Founds the Yuan Dynasty 

33.5.2 The Mongols Revert to Tribalism 



By H.G.Wells 11 

33.5.3 The Kipchak Empire and the Tsar of Muscovy 

33.5.4 Timurlane 

33.5.5 The Mongol Empire of India 

33.5.6 The Mongols and the Gypsies 

34.0 Renascence of Western Civilizationl 

34. 1 Christianity and Popular Education 

34.2 Europe Begins to Think for Itself 

34.3 The Great Plague and the Dawn of Communism 

34.4 How Paper Liberated the Human Mind 

34.5 Protestantism of the Princes and Protestantism of the Peoples 

34.6 The Reawakening of Science 

34.7 The New Growth of European Towns 

34.8 America Comes into History 

34.9 What Machiavelli Thought of the World 

34.10 The Republic of Switzerland 

34.11 Protestants 

34. 1 1 . 1 The Life of Emperor Charles V 

34. 1 1 .2 Protestants if the Prince Wills it 

34.11.3 The Intellectual Undertow 

35.0 Princes Parliaments and Powers 

35.1 Princes and Foreign Policy 

35.2 The Dutch Republic 

35.3 The English Republic 

35.4 The Break-up and Disorder of Germany 

35.5 The Splendours of Grand Monarchy in Europe 

35.6 The Growth of the Idea of Great Powers 



By H.G.Wells 12 

35.7 The Crowned Republic of Poland and its Fate 

35.8 The First Scramble for Empire Overseas 

35.9 Britain Dominates India 

35.10 Russia's Ride to the Pacific 

35.1 1 What Gibbon Thought of the World in 1780 

35.12 The Social Truce Draws to an End 

36.0 The New Democratic Republics of America and France 

36.1 Inconveniences of the Great Power System 

36.2 The Thirteen Colonies Before their Revolt 

36.3 Civil War is Forced Upon the Colonies 

36.4 The War of Independence 

36.5 The Constitution of the United States 

36.6 Primitive Features of the United States Constitution 

36.7 Revolutionary Ideas in France 

36.8 The Revolution of the Year 1789 

36.9 The French Crowned Republic of 1789-1791 

36.10 The Revolution of the Jacobins 

36.11 The Jacobin Republic 1792-1794 

36.12 The Directory 

36.13 The Pause in Reconstruction and the Dawn of Modern Socialism 

37.0 The Career of Napoleon Bonaparte 

37.1 The Bonaparte Family in Corsica 

37.2 Bonaparte as a Republican General 

37.3 Napoleon First Consul, 1799-1804 

37.4 Napoleon I, Emperor, 1804-1814 

37.5 The Hundred Days 



By H.G.Wells 13 

37.6 The Map of Europe in 1815 

38.0 The Realities and Imaginations of the Nineteenth Century 

38.1 The Mechanical Revolution 

38.2 Relation of the Mechanical to the Industrail Revolution 

38.3 The Fermentation of Ideas, 1848 

38.4 The Development of the Idea of Socialism 

38.5 Shortcoming of Socialism as a Scheme of Human Society 

38.6 How Darwinism Affected Religious and Policial Ideas 

38.7 The Idea of Nationalism 

38.8 Europe Between 1848 and 1878 

38.9 The (Second) Scramble for Overseas Empires 

38.10 The Indian Precedent in Asia 

38.11 The History of Japan 

38.12 Close of the Period of Overseas Expansion 

38.13 The British Empire in 1914 

39.0 The International Catastrophe of 1914 

39.1 The Armed Peace before the Great War 

39.2 Imperial Germany 

39.3 The Spirit of Imperialism in Britain and Ireland 

39.4 Imperialiism in France, Italy and the Balkans 

39.5 Russia Still a Grand Monarchy in 1914 

39.6 The United States and the Imperial Idea 

39.7 The Immediate Causes of the great War 

39.8 A Summary of the Great War up to 1917 

39.9 The Great War from the Russian Collapse to the Armistice 

39.10 The Political, Economic, and Social Disorganization Caused by the Great War 



Parti 14 

39. 1 1 President Wilson and the problems of Versailles 

39.12 Summary of the First Covenant of the League of Nations 

39.13 A General Outline of the Treaties of 1919 and 1920 

39. 14 A Forecast of the Next War 

40.0 The Next Stage of History 

40.1 The Possible Unification of Men's Wills in Political Matters 

40.2 How a Federal World Government May Come About 

40.3 Some Fundamental Characteristics of a Modern World State 

40.4 What this World Might be were it under One Law and Justice 
41.0 Chronological Table from 800 B.C. to 1920 



Parti 



1.0 The Earth in Space and Time 

The earth on which we live is a spinning globe. Vast though it seems to us, it is a mere speck of matter in the 
greater vastness of space. 

Space is, for the most part, emptiness. At great intervals there are in this emptiness flaring centres of heat and 
light, the fixed stars. They are all moving about in space, notwithstanding that they are called fixed stars, but 
for a long time men did not realize their motion. They are so vast and at such tremendous distances that their 
motion is not perceived. Only in the course of many thousands of years is it appreciable. These fixed stars are 
so far off that, for all their immensity, they seem to be, even when we look at them through the most powerful 
telescopes, mere points of light, brighter or less bright. A few, however, when we turn a telescope upon them, 
are seen to be whirls and clouds of shining vapour which we call nebulae. They are so fax off that a movement 
of millions of miles would be imperceptible. 

One star, however, is so near to us that it is like a great ball of flame. This one is the sun. The sun is itself in 
its nature like a fixed star, but it differs from the other fixed stars in appearance because it is beyond 
comparison nearer than they are; and because it is nearer men have been able to learn something of its nature. 
Its mean distance from the earth is ninety-three million miles. It is a mass of flaming matter, having a 
diameter of 866,000 miles. Its bulk is a million and a quarter times the bulk of our earth. 

These are difficult figures for the imagination. If a bullet fired from a Maxim gun at the sun kept its muzzle 
velocity unimpaired, it would take seven years to reach the sun. And yet we say the sun is near, measured by 
the scale of the stars. If the earth were a small ball, one inch in diameter, the sun would be a globe of nine feet 
diameter; it would fill a small bedroom. It is spinning round on its axis, but since it is an incandescent fluid, 
its polar regions do not travel with the same velocity as its equator, the surface of which rotates in about 
twenty-five days. The surface visible to us consists of clouds of incandescent metallic vapour. At what lies 
below we can only guess. So hot is the sun's atmosphere, that iron, nickel, copper, and tin are present in it in a 



Parti 15 

gaseous state. About it at great distances circle not only our earth, but certain kindred bodies called the 
planets. These shine in the sky because they reflect the light of the sun; they are near enough for us to note 
their movements quite easily. Night by night their positions change with regard to the fixed stars. 

It is well to understand how empty is space. If, as we have said, the sun were a ball nine feet across, our earth 
would, in proportion, be the size of a one-inch ball, and. at a distance of 323 yards from the sun. The moon 
would be a speck the size of a small pea, thirty inches from the earth. Nearer to the sun than the earth would 
be two other very similar specks, the planets Mercury and Venus, at a distance of 125 and 250 yards 
respectively. Beyond the earth would come the planets Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune, at 
distances of 500, 1,680, 3,000, 6,000, and 9,500 yards respectively. There would also be a certain number of 
very much smaller specks, flying about amongst these planets, more particularly a number called the asteroids 
circling between Mars and Jupiter, and occasionally a little puff of more or less luminous vapour and dust 
would drift into the system from the almost limitless emptiness beyond. Such a puff is what we call a comet. 
All the rest of the space about us and around us and for unfathomable distances beyond is cold, lifeless, and 
void. The nearest fixed star to us, on this, minute scale be it remembered" the earth as a one -inch ball, and the 
moon a little pea"would be over 40,000 miles, away. Most of the fixed stars we see would still be scores and 
hundreds of millions of miles away. 

The science that tells of these things and how men have come to know about them is Astronomy, and to books 
of astronomy the reader must go to learn more about the sun and stars. The science and description of the 
world on which we live are called respectively Geology and Geography. 

The diameter of our world is a little under 8,000 miles. Its surface is rough, the more projecting parts of the 
roughness are mountains, and in the hollows of its surface there is a film of water, the oceans and seas. This 
film of water is about five miles thick at its deepest parf'that is to say, the deepest oceans have a depth of five 
miles. This is very little in comparison with the bulk of the world. 

About this sphere is a thin covering of air, the atmosphere. As we ascend in a balloon or go up a mountain 
from the level of the sea-shore the air is continually less dense, until at last it becomes so thin that it cannot 
support life. At a height of twenty miles there is scarcely any air at all"not one hundredth part of the density of 
air at the surface of the sea. The highest point to which a bird can fly is about four miles up"the condor, it is 
said, can struggle up to that; but most small birds and insects which are carried up by aeroplanes or balloons 
drop off insensible at a much lower level, and the greatest height to which any mountaineer has ever climbed 
is under five miles. Men have flown in aeroplanes to a height of over four miles, and balloons with men in 
them have reached very nearly seven miles, but at the cost of considerable physical suffering. Small 
experimental balloons, containing not men, but recording instruments, have gone as high as twenty-two miles. 

It is in the upper few hundred feet of the crust of the earth, in the sea, and in the lower levels of the air below 
four miles that life is found. We do not know of any life at all except in these, films of air and water upon our 
planet. So far as we know, all the rest of space is as yet without life. Scientific men have discussed the 
possibility of life, or of some process of a similar kind, occurring upon such kindred bodies as the planets 
Venus and Mars. But they point merely to questionable possibilities. 

Astronomers and geologists and those who study physics have been able to tell us something of the origin and 
history of the earth. They consider that, vast ages ago, the sun was a spinning, flaring mass of matter, not yet 
concentrated into a compast centre of heat and light, considerably larger than it is now, and spinning very 
much faster, and that as it whirled, a series of fragments detached themselves from it, which became the 
planets. Our earth is one of these planets. The flaring mass that was the material of the earth broke into two 
masses as it spun; a larger, the earth itself, and a smaller, which is now the dead, still moon. Astronomers give 
us convincing reasons for supposing that sun and earth and moon and all that system were then whirling about 
at a speed much greater than the speed at which they are moving to-day, and that at first our earth was a 
flaming thing upon which no life could live. The way in which they have reached these conclusions is by a 



Parti 16 

very beautiful and interesting series of observations and, reasoning, too long and elaborate for us to deal with 
here. But they oblige us to believe that the sun, incandescent though it is, is now much -cooler than it was, and 
that it spins more slowly now than it did, and that it continues to cool and slow down. And they also show that 
the rate at which the earth spins is diminishing and continues to diminish"that is to say, that our day is 
growing longer and longer, and that the heat at the centre of the earth wastes slowly. There was a time when 
the day was not a half and not a third of what it is to-day; when a blazing hot sun, much greater than it is now, 
must have moved visibly"had there been an eye to mark if'from its rise to its setting across the skies. There 
will be a time when the day will be as long as a year is now, and the cooling sun, shorn of its beams, will hang 
motionless in the heavens. 

It must have been in days of a much hotter sun, a far swifter day and night, high tides, great heat, tremendous 
storms and. earthquakes, that life, of which we are a part, began upon the world. The moon also was nearer 
and brighter in those days and had a changing face. 

2.0 The Record of the Rocks 

2.1 The First Living Things 

2.2 How Old is the World? 
2.1 The First Living Things 

We do not know how life began upon the earth. [1] 

Biologists, that is to say, students of life, have made guesses about these beginnings, but we will not discuss 
them here. Let us only note that they all agree that life began where the tides of those swift days spread and 
receded over the steaming beaches of mud and sand. 

The atmosphere was much denser then, usually great cloud masses obscured the sun, frequent storms 
darkened the heavens. The land of those days, upheaved by violent volcanic forces, was a barren land, without 
vegetation, without soil. The almost incessant rain-storms swept down upon it, and rivers and torrents carried 
great loads of sediment out to sea, to become muds that hardened later into slates and shales, and sands that 
became sandstones. The geologists have studied the whole accumulation of these sediments as it remains 
today, from those of the earliest ages to the most recent. Of course the oldest deposits are the most distorted 
and changed and worn, and in them there is now no certain trace to be found of life at all. Probably the earliest 
forms of life were small and soft, leaving no evidence of their existence behindthem. It was only when some 
of these, living things developed skeletons and shells of lime and such-like hard material that they left fossil 
vestiges after they died, and so put themselves on record for examination. 

The literature of geology isvery largely an account of the fossils that are found in the rocks, and of the order in 
which layers after layers of rocks lie one on another. The very oldest rocks must have been formed before 
there was any sea at all, when the earth was too, hot for a sea, to exist, and when the water that is now sea was 
an atmosphere of steam mixed with the air. Its higher levels were dense with clouds, from which a hot rain fell 
towards the rocks below, to be converted again into steam long before it reached their incandescence. Below 
this steam atmosphere the molten world-stuff solidified as the first rocks. These first rocks must have 
solidified as a cake over glowing liquid material beneath, much as cooling lava does. They must have 
appeared first as crusts and clinkers. They must have been constantly remelted and recrystallized before any 
thickness of them became permanently solid. The name of Fundamental Gneiss is given to a great underlying 
system of crystalline rocks which probably formed age by age as this hot youth of the world drew to its close. 
The scenery of the world in the days when the Fundamental Gneiss was formed must have been more like the 
interior of a furnace than anything else to be found upon earth at the present time. 



Parti 17 

After long ages the steam in the atmosphere began also to condense and. fall right down to earth, pouring at 
last over these warm primordial rocks in rivulets of hot water and gathering in depressions as pools and lakes 
and the first seas. Into those seas the streams that poured over the rocks brought with them dust and particles 
to form a sediment, and this sediment accumulated in layers, or as geologists call them, strata, and formed the 
first Sedimentary Rocks. Those earliest sedimentary rocks sank into depressions and were covered by others; 
they were bent, tilted up, and torn by great volcanic disturbances and by tidal strains that swept through the 
rocky crust of the earth. We find these first sedimentary rocks still coming to the surface of the land here and 
there, either not covered by later strata or exposed after vast ages of concealment by the wearing off of the 
rock that covered them later"there are great surfaces of them in Canada especially; they are cleft and bent, 
partially remelted, recrystallized, hardened and compressed, but recognizable for what-they are. And they 
contain no single certain trace of life at all. They are frequently called Azoic (lifeless) Rocks. But since in 
some of these earliest sedimentary rocks a substance called graphite (black lead) occurs, and also red and 
black oxide of iron, and since it is asserted that these substances need the activity of living things for their 
production, which may or may not be the case, some geologists prefer to call these earliest sedimentary rocks 
Archaeozoic (primordial life). They suppose that the first life was soft living matter that had no shells or 
skeletons or any such structure that could remain as a recognizable fossil after its death, and that its chemical 
influence caused the deposition of graphite and iron oxide. This is pure guessing, of course, and there is at 
least an equal probability that in the time of formation of the Azoic Rocks, life had not yet begun. 

Overlying or overlapping these Azoic or Archaeozoic rocks come others, manifestly also very ancient and 
worn, which do contain traces of life. These first remains are of the simplest description; they are the vestiges 
of simple plants called algae or marks like the tracks made by worms in the sea mud. There are also the 
skeletons of the microscopic creatures called Radiolaria. This second, series of rocks is called the Proterozoic 
(beginning of life) series, and marks a long age in the world's history. Lying over and above the Proterozoic 
rocks is a third series, which is found to contain a considerable number and variety of traces of living things. 
First comes the evidence of a diversity of shellfish, crabs, and such-like crawling things, worms, seaweeds, 
and the like; then of a multitude of fishes and, of the beginnings of land plants and land creatures. These rocks 
are called the Palaeozoic (ancient life) rocks. They mark a vast era, during which life was slowly spreading, 
increasing, and developing in the seas of our world. Through long ages, through the earliest Palaeozoic time, 
it was no more than a proliferation of such swimming and creeping things in the water. There were creatures 
called trilobites; they were crawling things like big sea woodlice that were probably related to the American 
king-crab of today. There were also sea scorpions, the prefects of that early world. The individuals of certain 
species of these were nine feet long. These were the very highest sorts of life. There were abundant different 
sorts of an order of shellfish called brachiopods. There were plant animals, rooted and joined together like 
plants, and loose weeds that waved in the waters. 

It was not a display of life to excite our imaginations. There was nothing that ran or flew or even swam swiftly 
or skillfully. Except for the size of some of the creatures, it was not very different from, and rather less 
various than, the kind of life a student would gather from any summer-time ditch nowadays for microscopic 
examination. Such was the life of the shallow seas through a hundred million years or more in the early 
Palaeozoic period. The land during that time was apparently absolutely barren. We find no trace nor hint of 
land life. Everything that lived in those days lived, under water for most or all of its life. 

Between the formation of these Lower Palaeozoic rocks in which the sea scorpion and trilobite ruled, and our 
own time, there have intervened almost immeasurable ages, represented by layers and masses of sedimentary 
rocks. There are first the Upper Palaeozoic rocks, and above these the geologists, distinguish two great 
divisions. Next above the Palaeozoic come the Mesozoic (middle life) rocks, a second vast system of 
fossilbearing rocks, representing perhaps a hundred millions of swift years, and containing a wonderful array 
of fossil remains, bones of giant reptiles and the like, which we will presently describe; and above these again 
are the Cainozoic (recent life) rocks, a third great volume in the history of life, an unfinished volume of which 
the sand and mud that was carried out to sea yesterday by the rivers of the world, to bury the bones and scales 
and bodies and tracks that will become at last fossils of the things of to-day, constitute the last written leaf. 



Parti 18 

[Fig 0009 Life in the Early Paleozoic] 

[Fig 0009] 

These markings and fossils in the rocks and the rooks themselves are our first historical documents. The 
history of life that men have puzzled out and are still puzzling out from them is called the Record of the 
Rocks. By studying this record men are slowly piecing together a story of life's beginnings, and of the 
beginnings of our kind, of which our ancestors a century or so ago had no suspicion. But when we call these 
rocks and the fossils a record and a history, it must not be supposed that there is anysign of an orderly keeping 
of a record. It is merely that whatever happens leaves some trace, if only we are intelligent enough to detect 
the meaning of that trace. Nor are the rocks of the world in orderly layers one above the other, convenient for 
men to read. They are not like the books and pages of a library. They are torn, disrupted, interrupted, flung 
about, defaced, like a carelessly arranged office after it has experienced in succession a bombardment, a 
hostile military occupation, looting, an earthquake, riots, and a fire. And so it is that for countless generations 
this Record of the Rocks lay unsuspected beneath the feet of men. Fossils were known to the Ionian Greeks in 
the sixth century B.C., they were discussed at Alexandria by Eratosthenes and others in the third century B.C., 
a discussion which is summarised in Strabo's Geography ( ?20-10 B.C.). They were known to the Latin poet 
Ovid, but he did not understand their nature. He thought they were the first rude efforts of creative power. 
They were noted by Arabic writers in the tenth century. Leonardo da Vinci, who lived so recently as the 
opening of the sixteenth century (1452-1519), was one of the first Europeans to grasp the real significance of 
fossils, and it has been only within the last century and a half that man has begun the serious and sustained 
deciphering of these long-neglected early pages of his world's history. 

2.2 How Old is the World? 

Speculations about geological time vary enormously. Estimates of the age of the oldest rocks by geologists 
and astronomers starting from different standpoints have varied between 1,600,000,000, and 25,000,000. That 
the period of time has been vast, that it is to be counted by scores and possibly by hundreds of millions of 
years, is the utmost that can be said with certainty in the matter. It is, quite open to the reader to divide every 
number in the appended time diagram by ten or multiply it by two; no one can gainsay him. Of the relative 
amount of time as between one age and another we have, however, stronger evidence; if the reader cuts down 
the 800,000,000 we have given here to 400,000,000, then he must reduce the 40,000,000 of the Cainozoic to 
20,000,000. And be it noted that whatever the total sum may be, most geologists are in agreement that half or 
more than half of the whole of geological time had passed before life had developed to the Later Palozoic 
level. The reader reading quickly through these opening chapters may be apt to think of them as a mere swift 
prelude of preparation to the apparently much longer history that follows, but in reality that subsequent history 
is longer only because it is more detailed and more interesting to us. It looms larger in perspective. For ages 
that stagger the imagination this earth spun hot and lifeless, and again for ages of equal vastness it held no life 
above the level of the animalcul in a drop of ditch-water. 

Not only is Space from the point of view of life and humanity empty, but Time is empty also. Life is like, a 
little glow, scarcely kindled yet, in these void immensities. 

[Fig 001 1 Time Chart from earliest life to present age] 

[Fig 0011] 

3.0 Natural Selection and Changes of Species 

Now here it will be well to put plainly certain general facts about this new thing, life, that was creeping in the 
shallow waters and intertidal muds of the early Palaeozoic period, and which is perhaps confined to our planet 
alone in all the immensity of space. 



Parti 19 

Life differs from all things whatever that are without life in certain general aspects. There are the most 
wonderful differences among living things to-day, but all living things past and present agree in possessing a 
certain power of growth, all living things take nourishment, all living things move about as they feed and 
grow, though the movement be no more than the spread of roots through the soil, or of branches in the air. 
Moreover, living things reproduce; they give rise to other living things, either by growing and then dividing or 
by means of seeds or spores or eggs or other ways of producing young. Reproduction is a characteristic of life. 

No living thing goes on living for ever. There seems to be a limit of growth for every kind of living thing. 
Among very small and simple living things, such as that microscopic blob of living matter the Amoeba, an 
individual may grow and then divide completely into two new individuals, which again may divide in their 
turn. Many other microscopic creatures live actively for a time, grow, and then become quiet and inactive, 
enclose themselves in an outer covering and break up wholly into a number of still smaller things, spores, 
which are released and scattered and again grow into the likeness of their parent. Among more complex 
creatures the reproduction is not usually such simple division, though division does occur even in the case of 
many creatures big enough to be visible to the unassisted eye. But the rule with almost all larger beings is that 
the individual grows up to a certain limit of size. Then, before it becomes unwieldy, its growth declines and 
stops. As it reaches its full size it matures, it begins to produce young, which are either born alive or hatched 
from eggs. But all of its body does not produce young. Only a special part does that. After the individual has 
lived and produced offspring for some time, it ages, and dies. It does so by a sort of necessity. There is a 
practical limit to its life as well as to its growth. These things are as true of plants as they are of animals. And 
they are not true of things that do not live. Non-living things, such as crystals, grow, but they have no set 
limits of growth or size, they do not move of their own accord and there is no, stir within them. Crystals once 
formed may last unchanged for millions of years. There is no reproduction for any non-living thing. 

This growth and dying and reproduction of living things leads to some very wonderful consequences. The 
young which a living thing produces are either directly, or after some intermediate stages and changes (such 
as the changes of a caterpillar and butterfly), like the parent living thing. But they are never exactly like it or 
like each other. There is always a slight difference, which we speak of as individuality. A thousand butterflies 
this year may produce two or three thousand next year; these latter will look to us almost exactly like their 
predecessors, but each one will have just that slight difference. It is hard for us to see individuality in 
butterflies because we do not observe them very closely, but it is easy for us to see it in men. All the men and 
women in the world now are descended from the men and women of A.D. 1800, but not one of us now is 
exactly the same as one of that vanished generation. And what is true of men and butterflies is true of every 
sort of living thing, of plants as of animals. Every species changes all its individualities in each generation. 
That is true of all the minute creatures that swarmed and reproduced and died in the Archaeozoic and 
Proterozoic seas, as it is of men to-day. 

Every species of living things is continually dying and being born again, as a, multitude of fresh individuals. 

Consider, then, what must happen to a new-born generation of living things of any species. Some of the 
individuals will be stronger or sturdier or better suited to succeed in life in some way than the rest, many 
individuals will be weaker or less suited. In particular single cases any sort of luck or accident may occur, but 
on the whole the better equipped individuals will live and grow up and reproduce themselves and the weaker 
will as a rule go under. The latter will be less able to get food, to fight their enemies and pull through. So that 
in each generation there is as it were a picking over of a species, a picking out of most of the weak or 
unsuitable and a preference for the strong and suitable. This process is called Natural Selection or the Survival 
of the Fittest. [1] 

It follows, therefore, from the fact that living things grow and breed and die, that every species, so long as the 
conditions under which it lives remain the same, becomes more and more perfectly fitted to those conditions 
in every generation. 



Part I 20 

But now suppose those conditions change, then the sort of individual that used to succeed may now fail to 
succeed and a sort of individual that could not get on at all under the old conditions may now find its 
opportunity. These species will change, therefore, generation by generation; the old sort of individual that 
used to prosper and dominate will fail and die out and the new sort of individual will become the rule, "until 
the general character of the species changes. 

Suppose, for example, there is some little furry whitey brown animal living in a bitterly cold land which is 
usually under snow. Such individuals as have the thickest, whitest fur will be least hurt by the cold, less seen 
by their enemies, and less conspicuous as they seek their prey. The fur of this species will thicken and its 
whiteness increase with every generation, until there is no advantage in carrying any more fur. 

Imagine now a change of climate that brings warmth into the land, sweeps away the snows, makes white 
creatures glaringly, visible during the greater part of the year and thick fur an encumbrance. Then every 
individual with a touch of brown in its colouring and a thinner fur will find itself at an advantage, and very 
white and heavy fur will be a handicap. There will be a weeding out of the white in favour of the brown in 
each generation. If this change of climate come about too quickly, it may of course exterminate the species 
altogether; but if it come about gradually, the species, although it may have a hard time, may yet be able to 
change itself and adapt itself generation by generation. This change and adaptation is called the Modification 
of Species. 

[Fig 0016 Life in the Later Paleozoic Age] 

[Fig 0016] 

Perhaps this change of climate does not occur all over the lands inhabited by the species, maybe it occurs only 
on one side of some great arm of the sea or some great mountain range or such-like divide, and not on the 
other. A warm ocean current like the Gulf Stream may be deflected, and flow so as to warm one side of the 
barrier, leaving the other still cold. Then on the cold side this species will still be going on to its utmost 
possible furriness and whiteness and on the other side it will be modifying towards brownness and a thinner 
coat. At the same time there will probably be other changes going on; a difference in the paws perhaps, 
because one half of the species will be frequently scratching through snow for its food, while the other will be 
scampering over brown earth. Probably also the difference of climate will mean differences in the sort of food 
available, and that may produce differences in the teeth and the digestive organs. And there may be changes in 
the sweat and oil glands of the skin due to the changes in the fur, and these will affect the excretory, organs 
and all the internal chemistry of the body. And so through all the structure of the creature. A time will come 
when the two separated varieties of this formerly single species will become so unlike each other as to be 
recognizably different species. Such a splitting up of a species in the course of generations into two or more 
species is called the Differentiation of Species. 

And it should be clear to the reader that given these elemental facts of life, given growth and death and 
reproduction with individual variation in a world that changes, life must change in this way, modification and 
differentiation must occur, old species must disappear, and new ones appear. We have chosen for our instance 
here a familiar sort of animal, but what is true of furry beasts in snow and ice is true of all life, and equally 
true of the soft jellies and simple beginnings, that flowed and crawled for hundreds of millions of years 
between the tidal levels and in the shallow, warm waters of the Proterozoic seas. 

The early life of the early world when the blazing sun rose and set in only a quarter of the time it now takes, 
when the warm seas poured in great tides over the sandy and muddy shores of the rocky lands and the air was 
full of clouds and steam, must have been modified and varied and species must have developed at a great 
pace. Life was probably as swift and short as the days and years; the generations, which natural selection 
picked over, followed one another in rapid succession. 



Part I 21 

Natural selection is a slower process with man than with any other creature. It takes twenty years or more 
before an ordinary human being in western Europe grows up and reproduces. In the case of most animals the 
new generation is on trial in a year or less. With such simple and lowly beings, however, as first appeared in 
the primordial seas, growth and reproduction was probably a matter of a few brief hours or even of a few brief 
minutes. Modification and differentiation of species must accordingly have been extremely rapid, and life had 
already developed a great variety of widely contrasted forms before it began to leave traces in the rocks. The 
Record of the Rocks does not begin, therefore, with any group of closely related forms from which all 
subsequent and existing creatures are descended. It begins in the midst of the game, with nearly every main 
division of the animal kingdom already represented. Plants are already plants, and animals animals. The 
curtain rises on a drama in the sea that has already begun, and has been going on for some time. The 
brachiopods are discovered already in their shells, accepting and consuming much the same sort of food that 
oysters and mussels do now; the great water scorpions crawl among the seaweeds, the trilobites roll up into 
balls, and unroll and scuttle away. In that ancient mud and among those early weeds there was probably as 
rich and abundant and active a life of infusoria and the like as one finds in a drop of ditchwater to-day. In the 
ocean waters, too, down to the utmost downward limit to which light could filter, then as now, there was an 
abundance of minute and translucent, and in many cases phosphorescent, beings. 

But though the ocean and intertidal waters already swarmed with life, the land above the high-tide line was 
still, so far as we can guess, a stony wilderness without a trace of life. 

4.0 The Invasion of the Dry Land by Life 

4. 1 Life and Water 

4.2 The Earliest Animals 

4. 1 Life and Water 

Wherever the shore line ran there was life, and that life went on in and by and with water as its home, its 
medium, and its fundamental necessity. 

The first jelly-like beginnings of life must have perished whenever they got out of the water, as jelly-fish dry 
up and perish on our beaches to-day. Drying up was the fatal thing for life in those days, against which at first 
it had no protection. But in a world of rain-pools and shallow seas and tides, any variation that enabled a 
living thing to hold out and keep its moisture during hours of low tide or drought met with every 
encouragement in the circumstances of the time. There must have been a constant risk of stranding. And, on 
the other hand, life had to keep rather near the shore and beaches in the shallows because it had need of air 
(dissolved of course in the water) and light. 

No creature can breathe, no creature can digest its food, without water. We talk of breathing air, but what all 
living things really do is to breathe oxygen dissolved in water. The air we ourselves breathe must first be 
dissolved in our lungs; and all our food must be liquefied before it can be assimilated. Water- living creatures 
which are always under water, wave the freely exposed gills by which they breathe in that water, and extract 
the air dissolved in it. But a creature that is to be exposed for any time out of the water must have its body and 
its breathing apparatus protected from drying up. Before the seaweeds could creep up out of the Early 
Palaeozoic seas into the intertidal line of the beach, they had to develop a tougher outer skin to hold their 
moisture. 

Before the ancestor of the sea scorpion could survive being left by the tide it had to develop its casing and 
armour. The trilobites probably developed their tough covering and rolled up into balls, far less as a protection 
against each other and any other enemies they may have possessed, than as a precaution against drying. And 
when presently, as we ascend the Palaeozoic rocks, the fish appear, first of all the back-boned or vertebrated 



Part I 22 

animals, it is evident that a number of them are already adapted by the protection of their gills with gill covers 
and by a sort of primitive lung swimming-bladder, to face the same risk of temporary stranding. 

Now the weeds and plants that were adapting themselves to intertidal conditions were also bringing 
themselves into a region of brighter light, and light is very necessary and precious to all plants. Any 
development of structure that would stiffen them and hold them up to the light, so that instead of crumping 
and flopping when the waters receded, they would stand up outspread, was a great advantage. And so we find 
them developing fibre and support, and the beginning of woody fibre in them. The early plants reproduced by 
soft spores, or half-animal gametes, that were released in water, were distributed by water and could only 
germinate under water. The early plants were tied, and most lowly plants today are tied, by the conditions of 
their life cycle, to water. But here again there was a great advantage to be got by the development of some 
protection of the spores from drought that would enable reproduction to occur without submergence. So soon 
as a species could do that, it could live and reproduce and spread above the, high-water mark, bathed in light 
and out of reach of the beating and distress of the waves. The main classificatory divisions of the larger plants 
mark stages in the release of plant life, from the necessity of submergence by the development of woody 
support and of a method of reproduction that is more and more defiant of drying up. The lower plants are still 
the prisoner attendants of water. The lower mosses must live in damp, and even the development of the spore 
of the ferns demands at certain stages extreme wetness. The highest plants have carried freedom from water so 
far that they can live and reproduce if only there is some moisture in the soil below them. They have solved 
their problem of living out of water altogether. 

The essentials of that problem were worked out through the vast aeons of the Proterozoic Age and the early 
Palaeozoic Age by nature's method of experiment and trial. Then slowly, but in great abundance, a variety of 
new plants began to swarm away from the sea and over the lower lands, still keeping to swamp and lagoon 
and water-course as they spread. 

4.2 The Earliest Animals 

And after the plants came the animal life. 

There is no sort of land animal in the world, as there is no sort of land plant, whose structure is not primarily 
that of a water-inhabiting being which has been adapted through the modification and differentiation of 
species to life out of the water. This adaptation is attained in various ways. In the case of the land scorpion the 
gill-plates of the primitive sea scorpion are sunken into the body so as to make the lungbooks secure from 
rapid evaporation. The gills of crustaceans, such as the crabs which run about in the air, are protected by the 
gill-cover extensions of the back shell or carapace. The ancestors of the insects developed a system of air 
pouches and air tubes, the tracheal tubes, which carry the air all over the body before it is dissolved. In the 
case of the vertebrated land animals, the gills of the ancestral fish were first supplemented and then replaced 
by a bag-like growth from the throat, the primitive lung swimming-bladder. To this day there survive certain 
mudfish which enable us to understand very clearly the method by which the vertebrated land animals worked 
their way out of the water. These creatures (e.g. the African lung fish) are found in tropical regions in which 
there is a rainy full season and a dry season, during which the rivers become mere ditches of baked mud. 
During the rainy season these fish swim about and breathe by gills like any other fish. As the waters of the 
river evaporate, these fish bury themselves in the mud, their gills go out of action, and the creature keeps, 
itself alive until the waters return by swallowing air, which passes into its swimming-bladder. The Australian 
lung fish, when it is caught by the drying up of the river in stagnant pools, and the water has become 
deaerated and foul, rises to the surface and gulps air. A newt in a pond does exactly the same thing. These 
creatures still remain at the transition stage, the stage at which the ancestors of the higher vertebrated animals 
were released from their restriction to an under-water life. 

[Fig 0022 Australian Lung Fish] 



Part I 23 

[Fig 0022] 

The amphibia (frogs, newts, tritons, etc.) still show in their life history all the stages in the process of this 
liberation. They are still dependent on water for their reproduction; their eggs must be laid in sunlit water, and 
there they must develop. The young tadpole has branching external gills that wave in the water; then a gill 
cover grows back over them and forms a gill chamber. 

Then as the creature's legs appear and its tail is absorbed, it begins to use its lungs, and its gills dwindle and 
vanish. The adult frog can live all the rest of its days in the air, but it can be drowned if it is kept steadfastly 
below water. When we come to the reptile, however, we find an egg which is protected from evaporation by a 
tough egg case, and this egg produces young which breathe by lungs from the very moment of hatching. The 
reptile is on all fours with the seeding plant in its freedom from the necessity to pass any stage of its life cycle 
in water. 

The later Palaeozoic Rocks of the northern hemisphere give us the materials for a series of pictures of this 
slow spreading of life over the land. Geographically, all round the northern half of the World it was an age of 
lagoons and shallow seas very favourable to this invasion. The new plants, now that they had acquired the 
power to live this new aerial life, developed with an extraordinary richness and variety. 

There were as yet no true flowering plants [1] no grasses nor trees that shed their leaves in winter; [2] the first 
flora consisted of great tree ferns, gigantic equisetums, cycad ferns, and kindred vegetation. Many of these 
plants took the form of huge-stemmed trees, of which great multitudes of trunks survive fossilized to this day. 
Some of these trees were over a hundred feet high, of orders and classes now vanished from the world. They 
stood with their sterns in the water, in which no doubt there was a thick tangle of soft mosses and green slime 
and fungoid growths that left few plain vestiges behind them. The abundant remains of these first swamp 
forests constitute the main coal measures of the world to-day. 

[Fig 0023 Some Reptiles of the Later Palaeozoic Age] 

[Fig 0023] 

Amidst this luxuriant primitive vegetation crawled and glided and flew the first insects. They were 
rigid-winged, four-winged creatures, often very big, some of them having wings measuring a foot in length. 
There were numerous dragon flies"one found in the Belgian coal-measures had a wing span of twenty-nine 
inches! There were also a great variety of flying cockroaches. Scorpions abounded, and a number of early 
spiders, which, however, had no spinnerets for web making. Land snails appeared. So, too, did the first known 
step of our own ancestry upon land, the amphibia. As we ascend the higher levels of the Later Palaeozoic 
record, we find the process of air adaptation has gone as far as the appearance of true reptiles amidst the 
abundant and various amphibia. 

The land life of the Upper Palaeozoic Age was the life of a green swamp forest without flowers or birds or the 
noises of modern insects. There were no big land beasts at all; wallowing amphibia, and primitive reptiles 
were the very highest creatures that life had so far produced. Whatever land lay away from the water or high 
above the water was still altogether barren and lifeless. But steadfastly, generation by generation, life was 
creeping away from the shallow sea-water of its beginning. 

5.0 The Age of Reptiles 

5.1 The Age of Lowland Life 

5.2 Flying Dragons 



Part I 24 

5.3 The First Birds 

5.4 An Age of Hardship and Death 

5.5 The First Appearance of Fur and Feathers 

5.1 The Age of Lowland Life 

We know that for hundreds of thousands of years the wetness and warmth, the shallow lagoon conditions that 
made possible the vast accumulations of vegetable matter which, compressed and mummified, [1] are now 
coal, prevailed over most of the world. There were some cold intervals, it is true; but they did not last long 
enough to destroy the growths. Then that long ago age of luxuriant low-grade vegetation drew to its end, and 
for a time life on the earth seems to have undergone a period of world-wide bleakness. 

We cannot discuss fully here the changes that have gone on and are going on in the climate of the earth. A 
great variety of causes, astronomical movements, changes in the sun and changes upon and within the earth, 
combine to produce a ceaseless fluctuation of the conditions under which life exists. As these conditions 
change, life, too, must change or perish. 

When the story resumes again after this arrest at the end of the Palaeozoic period we find life entering upon a 
fresh phase of richness and expansion. Vegetation has made great advances in the art of living out of water. 
While the Palaeozoic plants of the coal measures probably grew with swamp water flowing over their roots, 
the Mesozoic flora from its very outset included palm-like cycads and low-grown conifers that were distinctly 
land plants growing on soil above the water level. 

The lower levels of the Mesozoic land were no doubt covered by great fern brakes and shrubby bush and a 
kind of jungle growth of trees. But there existed as yet no grass, no small flowering plants, no turf nor 
greensward. Probably the Mesozoic was not an age of very brightly coloured vegetation. It must have had a 
flora green in the wet season and brown and. purple in the dry. There were no gay flowers, no bright autumn 
tints before the fall of the leaf, because there was as yet no fall of the leaf. And beyond the lower levels the 
world was still barren, still unclothed, still exposed without any mitigation to the wear and tear of the wind 
and rain. 

When one speaks of conifers in the Mesozoic the reader must not think of the pines and firs that clothe the 
high mountain slopes of our time. He must think of low-growing evergreens. The mountains were still as bare 
and lifeless as ever. The only colour effects among the mountains were the colour effects of naked rock, such 
colours as make the landscape of Colorado so marvellous to-day. 

Amidst this spreading vegetation of the lower plains the reptiles were increasing mightily in multitude and 
variety. They were now in many cases absolutely land animals. There are numerous anatomical points of 
distinction between a reptile and an amphibian; they held good between such reptiles and amphibians as 
prevailed in the carboniferous time of the Upper Palaeozoic; but the fundamental difference between reptiles 
and amphibia which matters in this history is that the amphibian must go back to the water to lay its eggs, and 
that in the early stages of its life it must live in and under water. The reptile, on the other hand, has cut out all 
the tadpole stages from its life cycle, or, to be more exact, its tadpole stages are got through before the young 
leave the egg case. The reptile has come out of the water altogether. Some had gone back to it again, just as 
the hippopotamus and. the otter among mammals have gone back, but that is a further extension of the story to 
which we cannot give much attention in this Outline. 

[Fig 0027 Some Mesozoic Reptiles] 

[Fig 0027] 



Part I 25 

In the Palaeozoic period, as we have said, life had not spread beyond the swampy river valleys and the borders 
of sea lagoons and the like; but in the Mesozoic, life was growing ever more accustomed to the thinner 
medium of the air, was sweeping boldly up over the plains and towards the hill-sides. It is well for the student 
of human history and the human future to note that. If a disembodied intelligence with no knowledge of the 
future had come to earth and studied life during the early Paloeozoic age, he might very reasonably have 
concluded that life was absolutely confined to the water, and that it could never spread over the land. It found 
a way. In the Later Paloeozoic Period that visitant might have been equally sure that life could not go beyond 
the edge of a swamp. The Mesozoic Period would still have found him setting bounds to life far more limited 
than the bounds that are set to-day. And so to-day, though we mark how life and, man are still limited to five 
miles of air and a depth of perhaps a mile or so of sea, we must not conclude from that present limitation that 
life, through man, may not presently spread out and up and down to a range of living as yet inconceivable. 

The earliest known reptiles were beasts with great bellies and not very powerful legs, very like their kindred 
amphibia, wallowing as the crocodile wallows to this day; but, in the Mesozoic they soon began to stand up 
and go stoutly on all fours, and several great sections of them began to balance themselves on tail and 
hind-legs, rather as the kangaroos do now, in order to release the fore limbs for grasping food. The bones of 
one notable division of reptiles which retained a quadrupedal habit, a division of which many remains have 
been found in South African and Russian Early Mesozoic deposits, display a number of characters which 
approach those of the mammalian skeleton, and because of this resemblance to the mammals (beasts) this 
division is called the Theriomorpha (beastlike). Another division was the crocodile branch, and, another 
developed towards the tortoises and turtles. The Plesiosaurs and lchthyosaurs were two groups which have left 
no living representatives; they were huge reptiles returning to a whale-like life in the sea. Pliosaurus, one of 
the largest plesiosaurs, measured thirty feet from snout to tail tip"of which half was neck. The Mosasaurs were 
a third group of great porpoise-like marine lizards. But the largest and most diversified group of these 
Mesozoic reptiles was the group we have spoken of as kangaroo-like, the Dinosaurs, many of which attained, 
enormous proportions. In bigness these greater Dinosaurs have never been exceeded, although the sea can still 
show in the whales creatures as great. Some of these, and the largest among them, were herbivorous animals; 
they browsed on the rushy vegetation and among the ferns and bushes, or they stood up and grasped trees with 
their fore-legs while they devoured the foliage. Among the browsers, for example, were the Diplodocus 
carnegii, which measured eighty-four feet in length, and the Atlarlosaurus. The Gigantosaurs, disinterred by a 
German expedition in 1912 from rocks in East Africa, was still more colossal. It measured well over a 
hundred feet! These greater monsters had legs, and they are usually figured as standing up on them; but it is 
very doubtful if they could, have supported their weight in this way, out of water. Buoyed up by water or mud, 
they may have got along. Another noteworthy type we have figured is the Triceratops. There were also a 
number of great flesh-eaters who preyed upon these herbivores. Of these, Tyrannosaurus seems almost the last 
word in frightfulness among living things. Some species of this genus measured forty feet from snout to tail. 
Apparently it carried this vast body kangaroo, fashion on its tail and hindlegs. Probably it reared itself up. 
Some authorities even suppose that it leapt through the air. If so, it possessed muscles of a quite miraculous 
quality. A leaping elephant would be a far less astounding idea. Much more probably it waded half submerged 
in pursuit of the herbivorous river saurians. 

5.2 Flying Dragons 

One special development of the dinosaurian type of reptile was a light, hopping, climbing group of creatures 
which developed a bat-like web between the fifth finger and the side of the body, which was used in gliding 
from tree to tree after the fashion of the flying squirrels. These bat-lizards were the Pterodactyls. They are 
often described as flying reptiles, and pictures are drawn of Mesozoic scenery in which they are seen soaring 
and swooping about. But their breastbone has no keel such as the breastbone of a bird has for the attachment 
of muscles strong enough for long sustained flying. They must have flitted about like bats. They must have 
had a grotesque resemblance to heraldic dragons, and. they played the part of bat- like birds in the Mesozoic 
jungles. But bird-like though they were, they were not birds nor the ancestors of birds. The structure of their 
wings was altogether different from that of birds. The structure of their wings was that of a hand with one 



Part I 26 

long finger and a web; the wing of a bird is like an arm with feathers projecting from its hind edge. And, these 
Pterodactyls had no feathers. 

[Fig 0030 Later Mesozoic Reptiles] 

[Fig 0030] 

5.3 The First Birds 

Far less prevalent at this time were certain other truly birdlike creatures, of which the earlier sorts also hopped 
and clambered and the later sorts skimmed and flew. These were at firsf'by all the standards of 
classification"Reptiles. They developed into true birds as they developed wings and as their reptilian scales 
became long and complicated, fronds rather than scales, and so at last, by much spreading and splitting, 
feathers. Feathers are the distinctive covering of birds, and they give a power of resisting heat and, cold far 
greater than that of any other integumentary covering except perhaps the thickest fur. At a very early stage 
this novel covering of feathers, this new heat-proof contrivance that life had chanced upon, enabled many 
species of birds to invade a province for which the pterodactyl was ill equipped. They took to sea fishing"if 
indeed they did not begin with it" and spread to the north and south polewards beyond the temperature limits 
set to the true reptiles. The earliest birds seem to have been carnivorous divers and water birds. To this day 
some of the most primitive bird forms are found among the sea birds of the Arctic and Antarctic seas, and it is 
among these sea birds that zoologists still find lingering traces of teeth, which have otherwise vanished 
completely from the beak of the bird. 

[Fig 0031 Pterodactyls and Archaeopteryx] 

[Fig 0031] 

The earliest known bird (the Archaeopteryx) had no beak; it had a row of teeth in a jaw like a reptile's. It had 
three claws at the forward corner of its wing. Its tail, too, was peculiar. All modern birds have their tail 
feathers set in a short compact bony rump; the Archaopteryx had a long bony tail with a row of feathers along 
each side. 

5.4 An Age of Hardship and Death 

This great period of Mesozoic life, this second volume of the book of life, is indeed an amazing story of 
reptilian life proliferating and developing. But the most striking of all the story remains to be told. Right up to 
the latest Mesozoic Rocks we find all these reptilian orders we have enumerated still flourishing 
unchallenged. There is no hint of an enemy or competitor to them in the relics we find of their world. Then the 
record is broken. We do not know how long a time the break represents; many pages may be missing here, 
pages that may represent some great cataclysmal climatic change. When next we find abundant traces of the 
land plants and the land animals of the earth, this great multitude of reptile species had gone. For the most part 
they have left no descendants. They have been wiped out. The pterodactyls have gone absolutely, of the 
plesiosaurs and ichthyosaurs none is alive; the mosasaurs have gone; of the lizards a few remain, the monitors 
of the Dutch East Indies are the largest; all the multitude and diversity of the dinosaurs have vanished. Only 
the crocodiles and the turtles and tortoises carry on in any quantity into Cainozoic times. The place of all these 
types in the picture that the Cainozoic fossils presently unfold to us is taken by other animals not closely 
related to the Mesozoic reptiles and certainly not descended from any of their ruling types. A new kind of life 
is in possession of the world. 

This apparently abrupt ending up of the reptiles is, beyond all question, the most striking revolution in the 
whole history of the earth before the coming of mankind. It is probably connected with the close of a vast 
period of equable warm conditions and the onset of a new austerer age, in which the winters were bitterer and 



Part I 27 

the summers brief but hot. The Mesozoic life, animal and vegetable alike, was adapted to warm conditions 
and capable of little resistance to cold. The new life, on the other hand, was before all things capable of 
resisting great changes of temperature. 

Whatever it was that led to the extinction of the Mesozoic reptile, it was probably some very far-reaching 
change indeed, for the life of the seas did at the same time undergo a similar catastrophic alteration. The 
crescendo and ending of the Reptiles on land was paralleled by the crescendo and ending of the Ammonites, a 
division of creatures like squids with coiled shells which swarmed in those ancient seas. All though the rocky 
record of this Mesozoic period there is a vast multitude and variety of these coiled, shells; there are hundreds 
of species, and towards the end of the Mesozoic period they increased in diversity and produced exaggerated 
types. When the record resumes these, too, have gone. So far as the reptiles are con c erned, people may 
perhaps be inclined to argue that they were exterminated because the Mammals that replaced them, competed 
with them, and were more fitted to survive; but nothing of the sort can be true of the Ammonites, because to 
this day their place has not been taken. Simply they are gone. Unknown conditions made it possible for them 
to live in the Mesozoic seas, and then some unknown change made life impossible for them. No genus of 
Ammonite survives to-day of all that vast variety, but there still exists one insolated genus very closely related 
to the Ammonites, the Pearly Nautilus. It is found, it is to be noted, in the warm waters of the Indian and 
Pacific oceans. 

And as for the Mammals competing with and ousting the less fit reptiles, a struggle of which people talk at 
times, there is not a scrap of evidence of any such direct competition. To judge by the Record of the Rocks as 
we know it to-day, there is much more reason for believing that first the reptiles in some inexplicable way 
perished, and then that later on, after a very hard, time for all life upon the earth, the mammals, as conditions 
became more genial again, developed and spread to fill the vacant world. 

5.5 The First Appearance of Fur and Feathers 

Were there mammals in the Mesozoic period? 

This is a question not yet to be answered precisely. Patiently and steadily the geologist's gather fresh evidence 
and reason out completer conclusions. At any time some new deposit may reveal fossils that will illuminate 
this question. Certainly either mammals, or the ancestors of the mammals, must have lived throughout the 
Mesozoic period. In the very opening chapter of the Mesozoic volume of the Record there were those 
Theriomorphous Reptiles to which we have already alluded, and in the later Mesozoic a number of small 
jawbones are found, entirely mammalian in character. But there is not a scrap, not a bone, to suggest that there 
lived any Mesozoic Mammal which could look a dinosaur in the face. The Mesozoic mammals or 
mammal-like reptiles"for we do not know clearly which they were"seem to have been All obscure little beasts 
of the size of mice and rats, more like a downtrodden order of reptiles than a distinct class; probably they still 
laid eggs and were developing only slowly their distinctive covering of hair. They lived away from big waters, 
and perhaps in the desolate uplands, as marmots do now; probably they lived there beyond the pursuit of the 
carnivorous dinosaurs. Some perhaps went on all fours, some chiefly went on their hind-legs and clambered 
with their fore limbs. They became fossils only so occasionally that chance has not yet revealed a single 
complete skeleton in the whole vast record of the Mesozoic rocks by which to check these guesses. 

These little Theriomorphs, these ancestral mammals, developed hair. Hairs, like feathers, are long and 
elaborately specialized scales. Hair is perhaps the clue to, the salvation of the early mammals. Leading lives 
upon the margin of existence, away from the marshes and the warmth, they developed an outer covering only 
second in its warmth-holding (or heat-resisting) powers to the down and. feathers of the Arctic seabirds. And 
so they held out through the age of hardship between the Mesozoic and Cainozoic ages, to which most of the 
true reptiles succumbed. 

[Fig 0035 Hesperornis] 



Part I 28 

[Fig 0035] 

All the main characteristics of this flora and sea and land fauna that came to an end with the end of the 
Mesozoic age were such as were adapted to an equable climate and to shallow and swampy regions. But in the 
case of their Cainozoic successors, both hair and feathers gave a power of resistance to variable temperatures 
such as no reptile possessed, and with it gave a range far greater than any animal had hitherto attained. 

The range of life of the Lower Palaeozoic Period was confined to warm water. 

The range of life of the Upper Palaeozoic Period was confined to warm water or to warm swamps and wet 
ground. 

The range of life of the Mesozoic Period as we know it was confined to water and fairly low-lying valley 
regions under equable conditions. 

Meanwhile in each of these periods there were types involuntarily extending the range of life beyond the 
limits prevailing in that period; and when ages of extreme, conditions prevailed, it was these marginal types 
which survived to inherit the depopulated world. 

That perhaps is the most general statement we can make about the story of the geological record; it is a story 
of widening range. Classes, genera, and species of animals appear and disappear, but the range widens. It 
widens always. Life has never had so great a range as it has to-day. Life to-day, in the form of man, goes 
higher in the air than it has ever done before; man's geographical range is from pole to pole, he goes under the 
water in submarines, he sounds the cold, lifeless darkness of the deepest seas, he burrows into virgin levels of 
the rocks, and in thought and knowledge he pierces to the centre of the earth and reaches out to the uttermost 
star. Yet in all the relics of the Mesozoic time we find no certain memorials of his ancestry. His ancestors, like 
the ancestors of all the kindred mammals, must have been creatures so rare, so obscure, and so remote that 
they have left scarcely a trace amidst the abundant vestiges of the monsters that wallowed rejoicing in the 
steamy air and lush vegetation of the Mesozoic lagoons, or crawled or hopped or fluttered over the great river 
plains of that time. 

6.0 The Age of Mammals 

6.1 A New Age of Life 

6.2 Tradition Comes Into the World 

6.3 An Age of Brain Growth 

6.4 The World Grows Hard Again 

6.1 A New Age of Life 

The third great division of the geological record, the Cainozoic opens with a world already physically very 
like the world we live in to-day. Probably the day was at first still perceptibly shorter, but the scenery had 
become very modern in it character. Climate was, of course, undergoing, age by age, its incessant and 
irregular variations; lands that are temperate to-day have passed, since the Cainozoic age began, through 
phases of great warmth, intense cold, and extreme dryness; but the landscape, if it altered, altered to nothing 
that cannot still be paralleled to-day in some part of the world or other. In the place of the cycads, sequoias, 
and strange conifers of the Mesozoic, the plant names that now appear in the lists of fossils include birch, 
beech, holly, tulip trees, ivy, sweet gum, bread-fruit trees. Flowers had developed concurrently with bees and 
butterflies. Palms were now very important. Such plants had already been in evidence in the later levels of the 



Part I 29 

(American Cretaceous,) Mesozoic, but now they dominated the scene altogether. Grass was becoming a great 
fact in the world. Certain grasses, too, had appeared in the later Mesozoic, but only with the Cainozoic period 
came grass plains and turf spreading wide over a world that was once barren stone. 

The period opened with a long phase of considerable warmth; then the world cooled. And in the opening of 
this third part of the record, this Cainozoic period, a gigantic crumpling of the earth's crust and an upheaval of 
mountain ranges was in progress. The Alps, the Andes, the Himalayas, are all Cainozoic mountain ranges; the 
background of an early Cainozoic scene to be typical should display an active, volcano or so. It must have 
been an age of great earthquakes. 

Geologists make certain main divisions of the Cainozoic period, and it will be convenient to name them here 
and to indicate their climate. First comes the Eocene (dawn of recent life), an age of exceptional warmth in the 
world's history, subdivided into an older and newer Eocene; then the Oligocene, (but little of recent life), in 
which the climate was still equable. The Miocene (with living species still in a minority) was the great age of 
mountain building, and the general temperature was falling. In the Pliocene (more living than extinct species), 
climate was very much as its present phase; but with the Pleistocene (a great majority of living species) there 
set in a long period of extreme conditions-it was the Great Ice Age. Glaciers spread from the poles towards the 
equator, until England to the Thames was covered in ice. Thereafter to our own time came a period of partial 
recovery. We may be moving now towards a warmer phase. Half a million years hence this may be a much 
sunnier and pleasanter world to live in than it is to-day. 

6.2 Tradition Comes Into the World 

In the forests and. following the grass over the Eocene plains there appeared for the first time a variety and 
abundance of mammals. Before we proceed to any description of these mammals, it may be well to note in 
general terms what a mammal is. 

From the appearance of the, vertebrated animals in the Lower Palaeozoic Age, when the fish first swarmed 
out into the sea, there has been a steady progressive development of vertebrated creatures. A fish is a 
vertebrated animal that breathes by gills and can live only in water. An amphibian may be described as a fish 
that has added to its gill-breathing the power of breathing air with its swimming-bladder in adult life, and that 
has also developed limbs with five toes to them in place of the fins of a fish. A tadpole is for a time, a fish, it 
becomes a land creature as it develops. A reptile is a further stage in this detachment from water; it is an 
amphibian that is no longer amphibious; it passes through its tadpole stage its fish stage that is in an egg. 
From the beginning it must breathe in air; it can never breathe under water as a tadpole can do. 

[Fig 0039 Some Oligocene Mammals] 

[Fig 0039] 

Now a modern mammal is really a sort of reptile that has developed a peculiarly effective protective covering, 
hair; and that also retains its eggs in the body until they hatch so that it brings forth living young (viviparous), 
and even after birth it cares for them and feeds them by its mammae for a longer or shorter period. Some 
reptiles, some vipers for example, are viviparous, but none stand by their young as the real mammals do. Both 
the birds and the, mammals, which escaped whatever destructive forces made an end to the Mesozoic reptiles, 
and which survived to dominate the Cainozoic world, have these two things in common; first, a, far more 
effective protection against changes of temperature than any other variation of the reptile type ever produced, 
and, secondly, a peculiar care for their eggs, the bird by incubation and the mammal by retention, and a 
disposition to look after the young for a, certain period after hatching or birth. There is by comparison the 
greatest carelessness about offspring in the reptile. 

Hair was evidently the earliest distinction of the mammals from the rest of the reptiles. It is doubtful if the 



Part I 30 

particular Theriodont reptiles who were developing hair in the early Mesozoic were viviparous. Two 
mammals survive, to this day which not only do not suckle their young, [1] but which lay eggs, the 
Ornithorhynchus and the Echidna, and in the Eocene there were a number of allied forms. They are the 
survivors of what was probably a much larger number and variety of small egg-laying hairy creatures, hairy 
reptiles, hoppers, climbers, and runners, which included the Mesozoic ancestors of all existing mammals up to 
and including man. 

[Fig 0041 Miocene Mammals] 

[Fig 0041] 

Now we may put the essential facts about mammalian reproduction in another way. The mammal is a family 
animal. And the family habit involved the possibility of a new sort of continuity of experience in the world. 
Compare the completely closed-in life of an individual lizard with the life of even a quite lowly mammal of 
almost any kind. The former has no mental continuity with anything beyond itself; it is a little self-contained 
globe, of experience that, serves its purpose and ends; but the latter picks up from its mother, and bands on to 
its offspring. All the mammals, except for the two genera we have named, had already before the lower 
Eocene age arrived at this stage of pre-adult dependence and imitation. 

They were all more or less imitative in youth and capable of a certain modicum of education; they all, as a 
part of their development, received a certain amount of care and example and even direction from their 
mother. This is as true of the hyaena and rhinoceros as it is of the dog or man; the difference of educability is 
enormous, but the fact of protection and educability in the young stage is undeniable. So far as the vertebrated 
animals go, these new mammals, with their viviparous, young-protecting disposition, and these new birds, 
with their incubating, young-protecting disposition, introduce at the opening of the Cainozoic period a fresh 
thing into the expanding story of life, namely, social association, the addition to hard and inflexible instinct of 
tradition, and the nervous organisation necessary to receive tradition. 

All the innovations that come into the history of life begin very humbly. The supply of blood-vessels in the 
swimming-bladder of the mudfish in the lower Palaeozoic torrent-river, that enabled it to pull through a 
season of drought, would have seemed at that time to that bodiless visitant to our planet we have already 
imagined, a very unimportant side fact in that ancient world of great sharks and plated fishes, sea scorpions, 
and coral reefs and seaweed; but it opened the narrow way by which the land vertebrates arose to 
predominance. The mudfish would have seemed then a poor refugee from the too crowded and aggressive life 
of the sea. But once lungs were launched into the world, every line of descent that had lungs went on 
improving them. So, too, in the upper Palaeozoic, the fact that some of the Amphibia were losing their 
amphibiousness by a retardation of hatching of their eggs, would have appeared a mere response to the 
distressful dangers that threatened the young tadpole. Yet that prepared the conquest of the dry land for the 
triumphant multitude of the Mesozoic reptiles. It opened a new direction towards a free and vigorous land-life 
along which all the reptilian animals moved. And this viviparous, young- tending training that the ancestral 
mammalia underwent during that age of inferiority and hardship for them, set going in the world a new 
continuity of perception, of which even man to-day only begins to appreciate the significance. 

6.3 An Age of Brain Growth 

A number of types of mammal already appear in the Eocene. Some are differentiating in one direction, and 
some in another, some are perfecting themselves as herbivorous quadrupeds, some leap and climb among the 
trees, some turn back to the water to swim, but all types are unconsciously exploiting and developing the brain 
which is the instrument of this new power of acquisition and educability. In the Eocene rocks are found small 
early predecessors of the horse (Eohippus), tiny camels, pigs, early tapirs, early hedgehogs, monkeys and 
lemurs, opossums and carnivores. Now, all these were more or less ancestral to living forms, and all have 
brains relatively much smaller than their living representatives. There is, for instance, an early, rhinoceros-like 



Part I 31 

beast, Titanotherium, with a brain not one-tenth the size of that of the existing rhinoceros. The latter is by no 
means a perfect type of the attentive and submissive student, but even so it is ten times more observant and 
teachable than its predecessor. This sort of thing is true of all the orders and families that survive until to-day. 
All the Cainozoic mammals were doing this one thing in common under the urgency of a common necessity; 
they were all growing brain. It was a parallel advance. In the same order or family to-day, the brain is usually 
from six to ten times what it was in the Eocene ancestor. 

The Eocene period displayed a series of herbivorous brutes of which no representative survives to-day. Such 
were the Uintatheres and the Titanotheres. They were ousted by more specialized graminivorous forms as 
grass spread over the world. In pursuit of such beasts came great swarms of primitive dogs, some as big as 
bears, and the first cats, one in particular ( Smi-lodon), a small fierce-looking creature with big knife-like 
canines, the first sabre-toothed tiger, which was to develop into greater things. American deposits in the 
Miocene display a great variety of camels, giraffe camels with long necks, gazelle camels, llamas, and true 
camels. North America, throughout most of the Cainozoic period, appears to have been in open and easy 
continuation with Asia, and when at last the glaciers of the Great Ice Age, and then the Bering Strait, came to 
separate the two great continental regions, the last camels were left in the old world and the llamas in the new. 

In the Eocene the first ancestors of the elephants appear in northern Africa as snouted creatures; the elephant's 
trunk dawned on the world in the Miocene. 

One group of creatures is of peculiar interest in a history that is mainly to be the story of mankind. We find 
fossils in the Eocene of monkeys and lemurs, but of one particular creature we have as yet not a single bone. It 
must have been a creature half ape, half monkey; it clambered about the trees and ran, and probably ran well, 
on its bind-legs upon the ground. It was small-brained by our present standards, but it had clever hands with 
which it handled fruits and beat nuts upon the rocks and caught up sticks and stones to smite its fellows. Spite 
of the lack of material evidence, the facts of biological science almost compel us to believe that such a 
creature existed, the common ancestor of the anthropoid apes and the two species of men we will describe in 
the next chapter. 

6.4 The World Grows Hard Again 

Through millions of simian generations the spinning world circled about the sun; slowly its orbit, which may 
have been nearly circular during the equable days of the early Eocene, was drawn by the attraction of the 
circling outer planets into a more elliptical form. Its axis of rotation, which had always heeled over to the 
plane of its orbit, as the mast of a yacht under sail heels over to the level of the water, heeled over by 
imperceptible degrees a little more and a little more. And each year its summer point shifted a little further 
from perihelion round its path. These were small changes to happen to a one-inch ball, circling at a distance of 
330 yards from a flaming sun nine feet across, in the course of a few million years. They were changes an 
immortal astronomer in Neptune, watching the earth from age to age, would have found almost imperceptible. 
But from the point of view of the surviving mammalian life of the Miocene, they mattered profoundly. Age by 
age the winters grew on the whole colder and harder and a few hours longer relatively to the summers in a 
thousand years; age by age the summers grew briefer. On an average the winter snow lay a little later in the 
spring in each century, and the glaciers in the northern mountains gained an inch this year, receded half an 
inch next, came on again a few inches. . . . 

The Record of the Rocks tells of the increasing chill. The Pliocene was a temperate time, and many of the 
warmth-loving plants and animals had gone. Then, rather less deliberately, some feet or some inches every 
year, the ice came on. 

An arctic fauna, musk ox, woolly mammoth, woolly rhinoceros, lemming, ushers in the Pleistocene. Over 
North America, and Europe and Asia alike, the ice advanced. For thousands of years it advanced, and then for 
thousands of years it receded, to advance again. Europe down to the Baltic shores, Britain down to the 



Part I 32 

Thames, North America down to New England, and more centrally as far south as Ohio, lay for ages under the 
glaciers. Enormous volumes of water were withdrawn from the ocean and locked up in those stupendous ice 
caps so as to cause a world-wide change in the relative levels of land and sea. Vast areas were exposed that 
are now again sea bottom. 

The world to-day is still coming slowly out of the last of four great waves of cold. It is not growing warmer 
steadily. There have been fluctuations. Remains of bog oaks, for example, which grew two or three thousand 
years ago, are found in Scotland at latitudes in which not even a stunted oak will grow at the present time. 
And it is amidst this crescendo and diminuendo of frost and snow that we first recognize forms that are like 
the forms of men. The Age of Mammals culminated in ice and hardship and man. 

7.0 The Ancestry of Man 

7.1 Man Descended From a Walking Ape 

7.2 First Traces of Man-like Creatures 

7.3 The Heidelberg Sub-Man 

7.4 The Piltdown Sub-Man 

7.1 Man Descended From a Walking Ape 

The origin of man is still very obscure. It is commonly asserted that he is descended from some man-like ape 
such as the chimpanzee, the orang-utang, or the gorilla, but that of course is as reasonable as saying that I am 
descended from some Hottentot or Esquimau as young or younger than myself. Others, alive to this objection, 
say that man is descended from the common ancestor of the chimpanzee, the orang-utang, and the gorilla. 
Some anthropologists have even indulged in a speculation whether mankind may not have a double or treble 
origin; the negro being descended from a gorilla-like ancestor, the Chinese from a chimpanzee-like ancestor, 
and so on. These are very fanciful ideas, to be mentioned only to be dismissed. It was formerly assumed that 
the human ancestor was probably arboreal, but the current idea among those who are qualified to form an 
opinion seems to be that he was a ground ape, and that the existing apes have developed in the arboreal 
direction. 

Of course if one puts the skeleton of a man and the skeleton of a gorilla side by side, their general 
resemblance is so great that it is easy to jump to the conclusion that the former is derived from such a type as 
the latter by a process of brain growth and general refinement. But if one examines closely into one or two 
differences, the gap widens. Particular stress has recently been laid uponthe tread of the foot. Man walks 

[Fig. 0047 Time Diagram Of The Glacial Ages.] 

[The reader should compare this diagram carefully with our first time diagram, Chapter 1 1 , sec 2, p. 11. That 
diagram, if it were on the same scale as this one, would be between 41 and 410 feet long. The position of the 
Eoanthropus is very uncertain; it may be as early as the Pliocene.] 

on his toe and his heel; his great toe is his chief lever in walking, as the reader may see for himself if he 
examines his own footprints on the bathroom floor and notes where the pressure falls as the footprints become 
fainter. His great toe is the king of his toes. 

[Fig 0048 Early Pleistocene Animals, contemporary with Earliest Man] 



Part I 33 

Among all the apes and monkeys, the only group that have theirgreat toes developed on anything like the 
same fashion as man are some of the lemurs. The baboon walks on a flat foot and all his toes, using his middle 
toe as his chief throw-off, much as the bear does. And the three great apes all walk on the outer side of the 
foot in a very different manner from the walking of man. 

The great apes are forest dwellers; their walking even now is incidental; they are at their happiest among trees. 
They have very distinctive methods of climbing; they swing by the arms much more than the monkeys do, and 
do not, like the latter, take off with a spring from the feet. They have a specially developed climbing style of 
their own. But man walks so well and runssoswiftly as to suggest a very long ancestry upon the ground. Also, 
he does not climb well now; he climbs with caution and hesitation. His ancestors may have been running 
creatures for long ages. Moreover, it is to be noted that he does not swim naturally; he has to learn to swim, 
and that seems to point to a long-standing separation from rivers and lakes and the sea. Almost certainly that 
ancestor was a smaller and slighter creature than its human descendants. Conceivably the human ancestor at 
the opening of the Cainozoic. period was a running ape living chiefly on the ground, hiding among rocks 
rather than trees. It could still climb trees well and hold things between its great toe and its second toe (as the 
Japanese can to this day), but it was already coming down to the ground again from a still remoter, a 
Mesozoic arboreal ancestry. It is quite understandable that such a creature would very rarely die in water in 
such circumstances as to leave bones to become fossilized. 

[Fig 0049 The Sub-Man Pithecanthropus] 

It must always be borne in mind that among its many other imperfections the Geological Record necessarily 
contains abundant traces only of water or marsh creatures or of creatures easily and frequently drowned. The 
same reasons that make any traces of the ancestors of the mammals rare and relatively unprocurable in the 
Mesozoic rocks, probably make the traces of possible human ancestors rare and relatively unprocurable in the 
Cainozoic rocks. Such knowledge as we have of the earliest men, for example, is almost entirely got from a 
few eaves, into which they went and in which they left their traces. Until the hard Pleistocene times they lived 
and died in the open, and their bodies were consumed or decayed altogether. 

But it is well to bear in mind also that the record of the rocks has still to be thoroughly examined. It has been 
studied only for a few generations, and by only a few men in each generation. Most men have been too busy 
making war, making profits out of their neighbours, toiling at work that machinery could do for them in a 
tenth of the time, or simply playing about, to give any attention to these more interesting things. There may 
be, there probably are, thousands of deposits still untouched containing countless fragments and vestiges of 
man and his progenitors. In Asia particularly, in India or the East Indies, there may be hidden the most 
illuminating clues. What we know to-day of early men is the merest scrap of what will presently be known. 

The apes and monkeys already appear to have been differentiated at the beginning of the Cainozoic Age, and 
there are a number of Oligocene and Miocene apes whose relations to one another and to the human line have 
still to be made out. Among these we may mention Dryopithecus of the Miocene Age, with a very 
human-looking jaw. In the Siwalik Hills of northern India remains of some very interesting apes have been 
found, of which Sivapithecus and Palaeopithecus were possibly related closely to the human ancestor. 
Possibly these animals already used implements. Charles Darwin represents baboons as opening nuts by 
breaking them with stones, using stakes to prise up rocks in the hunt for insects, and striking blows with sticks 
and stones. The chimpanzee makes itself a sort of tree hut by intertwining branches. Stones apparently 
chipped for use have been found in strata of Oligocene Age at Boncelles in Belgium. Possibly the 
implement-using disposition was already present in the Mesozoic ancestry from which we are descended. 

7.2 First Traces of Man-like Creatures 

Among the earliest evidences of some creature, either human or at least more manlike than any living ape 
upon earth, are a number of flints and stones very roughly chipped and shaped so as to be held in the hand. 



Part I 34 

These were probably used as handaxes. These early implements (Eoliths) are often so crude and simple that 
there was for a long time a controversy whether they were to be regarded as natural or artificial productions. 
The date of the earliest of them is put by geologists as Pliocene"that is to say, before the First Glacial Age. 
They occur also throughout the First Interglacial period. We know of no bones or other remains in Europe or 
America of the quasi-human beings of half a million years ago, who made and used these implements. They 
used them to hammer with, perhaps they used them to fight with, and perhaps they used bits of wood for 
similar purposes. [1] 

But at Trinil, in Java, in strata which are said to correspond either to the later Pliocene or to the American and 
European First Ice Age, there have been found some scattered bones of a creature, such as the makers of these 
early implements may have been. The top of a skull, some teeth, and a thigh-bone have been found. The skull 
shows a brain-case about half-way in size between that of the chimpanzee and man, but the thigh-bone is that 
of a creature as well adapted to standing and running as a man, and as free, therefore, to use its hands. The 
creature was not a man, nor was it an arboreal ape like the chimpanzee. It was a walking ape. It has been 
named by naturalists Pithecanthropus erectus (the walking ape-man). We cannot say that it is a direct human 
ancestor, but we may guess that the creatures who scattered these first stone toolsover the world must have 
been closelysimilar and kindred, and that ourancestor was a beast of like kind. This little trayful of bony 
fragments from Trinil is, at present, apart from stone implements, the oldest relic of early humanity, or of the 
close blood relations of early humanity, that is known. 

While these early men or sub-men were running about Europe four or five hundred thousand years ago, there 
were mammoths, rhinoceroses, a huge hippopotamus, a giant beaver, and a bison and wild cattle in their 
world. There were also wild horses, and the sabre-toothed tiger still abounded. There are no traces of lions or 
true tigers at that time in Europe, but there were bears, otters, wolves, and a wild boar, it may be that the early 
sub-man sometimes played jackal to the sabre-toothed tiger, and finished up the bodies on which the latter had 
gorged itself. 

7.3 The Heidelberg Sub-Man 

After this first glimpse of something at least sub-human in the record of geology, there is not another fragment 
of human or man-like bone yet known from that record for an interval of hundreds of thousands of years. It is 
not until we reach deposits which are stated to be of the Second Interglacial period, 200,000 years later, 
200,000 or 250,000 years ago, that another little scrap of bone comes to hand. Then we find a jaw-bone. 

This jaw-bone was found in a sand-pit near Heidelberg, at a depth of eighty feet from the surface, and it is not 
the jawbone of a man as we understand man, but it is man-like in every respect, except that it has absolutely 
no trace of a chin; it is more massive than a man's, and its narrowness behind could not, it is thought, have 
given the tongue sufficient play for articulate speech. It is not an ape's jaw-bone; the teeth are human. The 
owner of this jaw-bone, has been variously named Homo Heidelbergensis and Paleoanthropus 
Heidelbergensis, according to the estimate formed of his humanity or sub-humanity by various authorities. He 
lived in a world not remotely unlike the world of the still earlier sub- man of the first implements; the deposits 
in which it is found show that there were elephants, horses, rhinoceroses, bison, a moose, and so forth with it 
in the world, but the sabre-toothed tiger was declining and the lion was spreading over Europe. The 
implements of this period (known as the Chellean period) are a very considerable advance upon those of the 
Pliocene Age. They are well made butvery much bigger than any truly human implements. The Heidelberg 
man may have had a very big body and large fore limbs. He may have been a woolly, strange-looking 
creature. 

7.4 The Piltdown Sub-Man 

We must turn over the Record for, it may be, another 100,000 years for the next remains of anything human or 
sub-human. Then in a deposit ascribed to the Third Interglacial period, which may have begun 100,000 years 



Part I 35 

ago and lasted 50,000 years, the smashed pieces of a whole skull turn up. The deposit is a gravel which may 
have been derived from the washing out of still earlier gravel strata, and this skull fragment may be in reality 
as old as the First Glacial Period. The bony remains discovered at Piltdown in Sussex display a creature still 
ascending only very gradually from the sub-human. 

The first scraps of this skull were found in an excavation for road gravel in Sussex. Bit by bit other fragments 
of this skull were hunted out from the quarry heaps until most of it could be pieced together. It is a thick skull, 
thicker than that of any living race of men, and. it has a brain capacity intermediate between that of 
Pithecanthropus and man. This creature has been named Eoanthropus, the dawn man. In the same gravel-pits 
were found teeth of rhinoceros, hippopotamus, and the leg-bone of a deer with marks upon it that may be cuts. 
A curious bat-shaped instrument of elephant bone has also been found. 

There was moreover a jaw-bone among these scattered remains, which was at first assumed naturally enough 
to belong to Eoanthropus, but which it was afterwards suggested was probably that of a chimpanzee. It is 
extraordinarily like that of a chimpanzee, but Dr. Keith, one of the greatest authorities in these questions, 
assigns it, after an exhaustive analysis in his Antiquity of Man (1915), to the skull with which it is found. It is, 
as a jaw- bone, far less human in character than the jaw of the much more ancient Homo Heidelbergensis, but 
the teeth are in some respects more like those of living men. 

Dr. Keith, swayed by the jaw-bone, does not think that Eoanthropus, in spite of its name, is a creature in the 
direct ancestry of man. Much less is it an intermediate form between the Heidelberg man and the Neanderthal 
man we shall presently describe. It was only related to the true ancestor of man as the orang is related to the 
chimpanzee. It was one of a number of sub-human running apes of more than ape-like intelligence, and if it 
was not on the line royal, it was at any rate a very close collateral. 

After this glimpse of a skull, the Record for very many centuries gives nothing but flint implements, which 
improve steadily in quality. A very characteristic form is shaped like a sole, with one flat side stricken off at 
one blow and the other side worked. The archaeologists, as the Record continues, are presently able to 
distinguish scrapers, borers, knives, darts, throwing tones, and the like. Progress is now more rapid; in a few 
centuries the shape of the hand-axe shows distinct and recognizable improvements. And then comes quite a 
number of remains. The Fourth Glacial Ago is rising towards its maximum. Man is taking to eaves and 
leaving vestiges there; at Krapina in Croatia, at Neanderthal near Duesseldorf, at Spy, human remains have 
been found, skulls and bones of a creature that is certainly a man. Somewhen about 50,000 years ago, if not 
earlier, appeared Homo Neanderthalensis (also called Homo antiquus and Homo primigenius), a quite 
passable human being. His thumb was not quite equal in flexibility and, usefulness to a, human thumb, he 
stooped forward and could not hold his head erect, as all living men do, he was chinless and perhaps incapable 
of speech, there were curious differences about the enamel and the roots of his teeth from those of all living 
men, he was very thick-set, he was, indeed, not quite of the human species; but there is no dispute about his 
attribution to the genus Homo. He was certainly not descended from Eoanthropus, but his jaw-bone is so like 
the Heidelberg jaw-bone, as to make it possible that the clumsier and heavier Homo Heidelberqensis, a 
thousand centuries before him, was of his blood and race. 

8.0 The Neanderthal Man, an Extinct Race 
(The Early Palolithic Age [1]) 

8.1 The World 50,000 Years Ago 

8.2 The Daily Life of the First Men 
8.1 The World 50,000 Years Ago 



Part I 36 

In the time of the Third Interglacial period the outline of Europe and Western Asia was very different from 
what it is to-day. Vast areas to the west and north-west which are now under the Atlantic waters were then dry 
land; the Irish Sea and the North Sea were river valleys. Over these northern areas there spread and receded 
and spread again a great ice cap such as covers central Greenland to-day (see Map on p. 56). This vast ice cap, 
which covered both polar regions of the earth, withdrew huge masses of water from the ocean, and the 
sea-level consequently fell, exposing great areas of land that are now submerged again. The Mediterranean 
area was probably a great valley below the general sea-level, containing two inland seas cut off from the 
general ocean. The climate of this Mediterranean basin was perhaps cold temperate, and the region of the 
Sahara to the south was not then a desert of baked rock and blown sand, but a well-watered and fertile 
country. Between the ice sheets to the north and the Alps and Mediterranean valley to the south stretched a 
bleak wilderness whose climate changed from harshness to. a mild kindliness and then hardened again for the 
Fourth Glacial Age. 

[Fig. 0056 Map of Europe and Western Asia 50,000 years Ago] 

[THIS MAP REPRESENTS THE PRESENT STATE OF OUR KNOWLEDGE OF THE GEOGRAPHY OF 
EUROPE AND WESTERN ASIA AT A PERIOD WHICH WE GUESS TO BE ABOUT 50,000 YEARS 
AGO, THE NEANDERTHALER AGE. Much of this map is of course speculative, but its broad outlines must 
be fairly like those of the world in which men first became men.] 

Across this wilderness, which is now the great plain of Europe, wandered a various fauna. At first there were 
hippopotami, rhinoceroses, mammoths, and elephants. The sabre toothed tiger was diminishing towards 
extinction. Then, as the air chilled, the hippopotamus, and then other warmth-loving creatures, ceased to come 
so far north, and the sabre-toothed tiger disappeared altogether. The woolly mammoth, the woolly rhinoceros, 
the musk ox, the bison, the aurochs, and the reindeer became prevalent, and the temperate vegetation gave 
place to plants of a more arctic type. The glaciers, spread southward to the maximum of the Fourth Glacial 
Age (about 50,000 years ago), and then receded again. In the earlier phase, the Third Interglacial period, a 
certain number of small family groups of men (Homo Neanderthalensis) and probably of sub-men 
(Eoanthropus) wandered over the land, leaving nothing but their flint implements to witness to their presence. 
They probably used a multitude and variety of wooden implements also; they had probably learnt much about 
the shapes of objects and the use of different shapes from wood, knowledge which they afterwards applied to 
stone; but none of this wooden material has survived; we can only speculate about its, forms and uses. As the 
weather hardened to its maximum of severity, the Neanderthal men, already it would seem acquainted with 
the use of fire, began to seek shelter under rock ledges and in caves"and so leave remains behind them. 
Hitherto they had been accustomed to squat in the open about the fire, and near their water supply. But they 
were sufficiently intelligent to adapt themselves to the new and harder conditions. (As for the sub men, they 
seem to have succumbed to the stresses of this Fourth Glacial Age altogether. At any rate, the rudest type of 
Palolithic implements presently disappears.) 

Not merely man was taking to the caves. This period also had a cave lion, a cave bear, and a cave hyaena. 
These creatures had to be driven out of the caves and kept out of the caves in which these early men wanted to 
squat and hide; and no, doubt fire was an effective method of eviction and protection. Probably early men did 
not go deeply into the caves, because they had no means of lighting their recesses. They got in far enough to 
be out of the weather, and stored wood and food in odd corners. Perhaps they barricaded the cave mouths. 
Their only available light for going deeply into the caverns would be torches. 

[Fig. 0058 Neanderthal Man]] 

What did these Neanderthal men hunt? Their only possible weapons for killing such giant creatures as the 
mammoth or the cave bear, or even the reindeer, were spears of wood, wooden clubs, and those big pieces of 
flint they left behind them, the Chellean and Mousterian implements; [2] and probably their usual quarry was 
smaller game. But they did certainly eat the flesh of the big beasts when they had a chance, and perhaps they 



Part I 37 

followed them when sick or when wounded by combats, or took advantage of them when they were bogged or 
in trouble with ice or water. (The Labrador Indians still kill the caribou with spears at awkward river 
crossings.) At Dewlish, in Dorset, an artificial trench has been found which is supposed to have been a 
Palolithic trap for elephants. [3] We know that the Neanderthalers partly ate their kill where it fell; but they 
brought back the big narrow bones to the cave to crack and eat at leisure, because few ribs and vertebrae are 
found in the caves, but great quantities of cracked and splitlong bones. They used skins to wrap about them, 
and the women probably dressed the skins. 

We know also that they were right-handed like modern men, because the left side of the brain (which serves 
the right side of the body) is bigger than the right. But while the back parts of the brain -which deal with sight 
and touch and. the energy of the body are, well developed, the front parts, which are connected with thought 
and speech, are comparatively small. It was as big a brain as ours, but different. This species of Homo had 
certainly a very different mentality from ours; its individuals were not merely simpler and lower than we are, 
they were on another line. It may be they did not speak at all, or very sparingly. They had nothing that we 
should call a language. 

8.2 The Daily Life of the First Men 

In Worthington Smith's Man the Primeval Savage there is a very vividly written description of early Palolithic 
life, from which much of the following account is borrowed. In the original, Mr. Worthington Smith assumes 
a more extensive social life, a larger community, and a more definite division of labour among its members 
than is altogether justifiable in the face of such subsequent writings as J. J. Atkinson's memorable essay on 
Primal Law. [4] For the little tribe Mr. Worthington Smith described, there has been substituted, therefore, a 
family group under the leadership of one Old Man, and the suggestions of Mr. Atkinson as to the behaviour of 
the Old Man have been worked into the sketch. 

Mr. Worthington Smith describes a squatting-place near a stream, because primitive man, having no pots or 
other vessels, must needs have kept close to a water supply, and with some chalk cliffs adjacent from which 
flints could be got to work. The air was bleak, and the fire was of great importance, because fires once out 
were not easily relit in those days. When not required to blaze it was probably banked down with ashes. The 
most probable way in which fires were started was by backing a bit of iron pyrites with a flint amidst dry dead 
leaves; concretions of iron pyrites and flints are found together in England where the gault and chalk approach 
each other. [5] The little group of people would be squatting about amidst a litter of fern, moss, and such like 
dry material. Some of the women and children would need to be continually gathering fuel to keep up the 
fires. It would be a tradition that had grown up. 

[Fig. 0060 Early Stone Implements] 

[EARLY STONE IMPLEMENTS. 

The Mousterian Age implements, and all above it, are those of Neanderthal men or, possibly in the case of the 
rostro-carinates, of sub-men. The lower row (Reindeer Age) are the work of true men. The student should 
compare this diagram with the time diagram attached to Chapter VII, 1, and he should note the relatively large 
size of pre-human implements.] 

The young would imitate their elders in this task. Perhaps there would be rude wind shelters of boughs on one 
side of the encampment. The Old Man, the father and master of the group, would perhaps be engaged in 
hammering flints beside the fire. The children would imitate him and learn to use the sharpened fragments. 
Probably some of the women would hunt good flints; they would fish them out of the chalk with sticks and 
bring them to the squatting-place. 

There would be skins about. It seems probable that at a very early time primitive men took to using skins. 



Part I 38 

Probably they were wrapped about the children, and used to lie upon when the ground was damp and cold. A 
woman would perhaps, be preparing a skin. The inside of the skin would be well scraped free of superfluous 
flesh with trimmed flints, and then strained and pulled and pegged out flat on the grass, and dried in the rays 
of the sun. 

Away from the fire other members of the family group prowl in search of food, but at night they all gather 
closely round the fire and build it up, for it is their protection against the wandering bear and such-like beasts 
of prey. The Old Man is the only fully adult male in the little group. There are women, boys and girls, but so 
soon as the boys are big enough to rouse the Old Man's jealousy, he will fall foul of them and either drive 
them off or kill them. Some girls may perhaps go off with these exiles, or two or three of these youths may 
keep, together for a time, wandering until they come upon some other group, from which they may try to steal 
a mate. Then they would probably fall out among themselves. Some day, when he is forty years old perhaps or 
even older, and his teeth are worn down and his energy abating, some younger male will stand up to the Old 
Man and kill him and reign in his stead. There is probably short shrift for the old at the squatting place. So 
soon as they grow weak and bad-tempered, trouble and death come upon them. 

What did they eat at the squatting -place? 

Primeval man is commonly described as a hunter of the great hairy mammoth, of the bear, and the lion, but it 
is in the highest degree improbable that the human savage ever hunted animals much larger than the hare, the 
rabbit, and the rat. Man was probably the hunted rather than the hunter. 

The primeval savage was both herbivorous and carnivorous. He had for food hazel-nuts, beech-nuts, sweet 
chestnuts, earthnuts, and acorns. He had crab-apples, wild pears, wild cherries, wild gooseberries, bullaces, 
sorbs, sloes, blackberries, yewberries, hips and haws, watercress, fungi, the larger and softer leafbuds, Nostoc 
(the vegetable substance called 'fallen stars' by countryfolk), the fleshy, juicy, asparagus -like rhizomes or 
subterranean sterns of the Labiatoe and like plants, as well as other delicacies of the vegetable kingdom. He 
had birds eggs, young birds, and the honey and honeycomb of wild bees. He had newts, snails, and frogs"the 
two latter delicacies are still highly esteemed in Normandy and Brittany. He had fish, dead and alive, and 
fresh-water mussels; he could easily catch fish with his hands and paddle and dive for and trap them. By the 
seaside he would have fish, mollusca, and seaweed. He would have many of the larger birds and smaller 
mammals, which he could easily secure by throwing stones and sticks, or by setting simple snares. He would 
have the snake, the slow worm, and the crayfish. He would have various grubs and insects, the large larvae of 
beetles and various caterpillars. The taste for caterpillars still survives in China, where they are sold in dried 
bundles in the markets. A chief and highly nourishing object of food would doubtlessly be bones smashed up 
into a stiff and gritty paste. 

[Fig. 0062 Australia and the Western Pacific in the Glacial Age] 

A fact of great importance is this "primeval man would not be particular about having his flesh food 
over-fresh. He would constantly find it in a dead state, and, if semi-putrid, he would relish it none the less"the 
taste for high or half -putrid game still survives. If driven by hunger and hard pressed, he would perhaps 
sometimes eat his weaker companions or unhealthy children who happened to be feeble or unsightly or 
burthensome. The larger animals in a weak and dying state would no doubt be much sought for; when these 
were not forthcoming, dead and half-rotten examples would be made to suffice. An unpleasant odour would 
not be objected to, it is not objected to now in many continental hotels. 

The savages sat huddled close together round their fire, with fruits, bones, and half-putrid flesh. We can 
imagine the old man and his women twitching the skin of their shoulders, brows, and muzzles as they were 
annoyed or bitten by flies or other insects, We can imagine the large human nostrils, indicative of keen scent, 
giving rapidly repeated sniffs at the foul meat before it was consumed; the bad odour of the meat, and the 
various other disgusting odours belonging to, a haunt of savages, being not in the least disapproved. 



Part I 39 

Man at that time was not a degraded animal, for he had never been higher; he was therefore an exalted animal, 
and, low as we esteem him now, he yet represented the highest stage of development of the animal kingdom 
of his time. 

That is at least an acceptable sketch of a Neanderthal squatting-place. But before extinction overtook them, 
even the Neanderthalers learnt much and went far. 

Whatever the older Palolithic men did with their dead, there is reason to suppose that the later Homo 
Neanderthalensis buried some individuals at least with respect and ceremony. One of the best-known 
Neanderthal skeletons is that of a youth who apparently had been deliberately interred. He had been placed in 
a sleeping posture, bead on the right fore-arm. The head lay on a number of flint fragments, carefully piled 
together pillow fashion. A big hand-axe lay near his head, and around him were numerous charred and split ox 
bones, as though there had been a feast or an offering. 

To this appearance of burial during the later Neanderthal age we shall return when we are considering the 
ideas that were inside the heads of primitive men. 

This sort of men may have wandered, squatted about their fires, and died in Europe for a period extending 
over 100,000 years, if we assume, that is, that the Heidelberg jaw-bone belongs to a member of the species, a 
period so vast that all the subsequent history of our race becomes a thing of yesterday. Along its own line this 
species of men was accumulating a dim tradition, and working out its limited possibilities. Its thick skull 
imprisoned its brain, and to the end it was low-browed and brutish. 

9.0 The Later Postglacial Palolithic Men, the First True Men 
(Later Palolithic Age) 

9.1 The Coming of Men Like Ourselves 

9.2 Hunters Give Place to Herdsmen 

9.3 No Sub-men in America 

9.1 The Coming of Men Like Ourselves 

The Neanderthal type of man prevailed in Europe at least for tens of thousands of years. For ages that make 
all history seem a thing of yesterday, these nearly human creatures prevailed. If the Heidelberg jaw was that of 
a Neanderthaler, and if there is no error in the estimate of the age of that jaw, then the Neanderthal Race lasted 
out for more than 200,000 years! Finally, between 40,000 and 25,000 years ago, as the Fourth Glacial Age 
softened towards more temperate conditions (see Map on p. 68), a different human type came upon the scene, 
and, it would seem, exterminated Homo Neanderthalensis. [1] This new type was probably developed in 
South Asia or North Africa, or in lands now submerged in the Mediterranean basin, and, as more remains are 
collected and evidence accumulates, men will learn more of their early stages. At present we can only guess 
where and how through the slow ages, parallel with the Neanderthal cousin, these first true men arose out of 
some more ape-like progenitor. For hundreds of centuries they were acquiring skill of hand and limb, and 
power and bulk of brain, in that still unknown environment. They were already far above the Neanderthal 
level of achievement and intelligence, when first they come into our ken, and they had already split into two 
or more very distinctive races. 

[Fig. 0066 Cromagnon Man] 



Part I 40 

These newcomers did not migrate into Europe in the strict sense of the word, but rather, as century by century 
the climate ameliorated, they followed the food and plants to which they were accustomed, as those spread 
into the new realms that opened to them. The ice was receding, vegetation was increasing, big game of all 
sorts was becoming more abundant. Steppe like conditions, conditions of pasture and shrub, were bringing 
with them vast herds of wild horse. Ethnologists (students of race) class these new human races in one same 
species as ourselves, and with all human races subsequent to them, under one common specific name of 
Homo sapiens. 

They had quite human brain cases and hands. Their teeth and their necks were anatomically as ours are. 

We know of two distinct sorts of skeletal remains in this period, the first of these known as the Cro-Magnon 
race, and the second the Grimaldi race; but the great bulk of the human traces and appliances we find are 
either without human bones or with insufficient bones for us to define their associated physical type. There 
may have been many more distinct races than these two. There may have been intermediate types. In the 
grotto of Cro-Magnon it was that complete skeletons of one main type of these Newer Palolithic men, these 
true men, were first found, and so it is that they are, spoken of as Cro-Magnards. 

These Cro-Magnards were a tall people with very broad faces, prominent noses, and all things considered, 
atonishingly big brains. The brain capacity of the woman in the Cro-Magnon cave exceeded that of the 
average male to-day. Her head had been smashed by a heavy blow. There were also in the same cave with her 
the complete skeleton of an older man, nearly six feet high, the fragments of a, child's skeleton, and the 
skeletons of two young men. There were, also flint implements and perforated sea-shells, used no doubt as 
ornaments. Such is one sample of the earliest true men. But at the Grimaldi cave, near Mentone, were 
discovered two skeletons also of the later Palolithic Period, but of a widely contrasted type, with negroid 
characteristics that point rather to the negroid type. There can be no doubt that we have to deal in this period 
with at least two, and probably more, highly divergent races of true men. They may have overlapped in time, 
or Cro-Magnards may have followed the Grimaldi race, and either or, both may have been contemporary with 
the late Neanderthal men. Various authorities have very strong opinions upon these points, but they are, at 
most, opinions. 

[Fig. 0068 Europe and Western Asia in the Later Palaeolithic Age] 

[MAP SHOWING EUROPE AND WESTERN ASIA ABOUT THE TIME TRUE MEN WERE 
REPLACING THE NEANDERTHALERS IN WESTERN EUROPE.] 

The appearance of these truly human postglacial Palolithic peoples was certainly an enormous leap forward in 
the history of mankind. Both of these main races had a human fore -brain, a human hand, an intelligence very 
like our own. They dispossessed Homo Neanderthalensis from his caverns and his stone quarries. And they 
agreed with modern ethuologists, it would seem, in regarding him as a different species. Unlike most savage 
conquerors, who take the women of the defeated side for their own and interbreed with them, it would seem 
that the true men would have nothing to do with the Neanderthal race, women or men. There is no trace of any 
intermixture between the races, in spite of the fact that the newcomers, being also flint users, were 
establishing themselves in the very same spots that their predecessors had occupied. We know nothing of the 
appearance of the Neanderthal man, but this absence of intermixture seems to suggest an extreme hairiness, an 
ugliness, or a repulsive strangeness in his appearance over and above his low forehead, his beetle brows, his 
ape neck, and his inferior stature. Or he"and she"may have been too fierce to tame. Says Sir Harry Johnston, 
in a survey of the rise of modern man in his Views and Reviews: The dim racial remembrance of such 
gorilla-like monsters, with cunning brains, shambling gait, hairy bodies, strong teeth, and possibly 
cannibalistic tendencies, may he the germ of the ogre in folklore. . .. 

[Fig. 0069 Reindeer Age Articles] 



Part I 41 

These true men of the Palolithic Age, who replaced the Neanderthalers, were coming into a milder climate, 
and although they used the caves and shelters of their predecessors, they lived largely in the open. They were 
hunting peoples, and some or all of them appear to have hunted the mammoth and the wild horse as well as 
the reindeer, bison, and aurochs. They ate much horse. At a great open-air camp at Solutre, where they seem 
to have had annual gatherings for many centuries, it is estimated that there are the bones of 100,000 horses, 
besides reindeer, mammoth, and bison bones. They probably followed herds of horses, the little bearded 
ponies of that age, as these moved after pasture. They hung about on the flanks of the herd, and became very 
wise about its habits and disposition. A large part of these men's lives must have been spent in watching 
animals. 

Whether they tamed and domesticated the horse is still an open question. Perhaps they learnt to do so by 
degrees as the centuries passed. At any rate, we find late Palolithic drawings of horses with marks about the 
heads that are strongly suggestive of bridles, and there exists a carving of a horse's head showing what is 
perhaps a rope of twisted skin or tendon. But even if they tamed the horse, it is still more doubtful whether 
they rode it or had much use for it when it was tamed. The horse they knew was a wild pony with a beard 
under its chin, not up to carrying a man for any distance. It is improbable that these men had yet learnt the 
rather unnatural use of animal's milk as food. If they tamed the horse at last, it was the only animal they seem 
to have tamed. They had no dogs, and they had little to do with any sort of domesticated sheep or cattle. 

It greatly aids us to realize their common humanity that these earliest true men could draw. Both races, it, 
would seem, drew astonishingly well. They were by all standards savages, but they were artistic savages. 
They drew better than any of their successors down to the beginnings of history. They drew and painted on the 
cliffs, and cave walls that they had wrested from the Neanderthal men. And the surviving drawings come to, 
the ethnologist, puzzling over bones and scraps, with the effect of a plain message shining through guesswork 
and darkness. They drew on bones and antlers; they carved little figures. 

These later Palolithic people not only drew remarkably well for our information, and with an increasing skill 
as the centuries passed, but they have also left us other information about their lives in their graves. They 
buried. They buried their dead, often with ornaments, weapons, and food; they used a lot of colour in the 
burial, and evidently painted the body. From that one may infer that they painted their bodies during life. Paint 
was a big fact in their lives. They were inveterate painters; they used black, brown, red, yellow, and white 
pigments, and the pigments they used endure to this day in the eaves of France and Spain. Of all modern 
races, none have shown so pictorial a disposition; the nearest approach to it has been among the American 
Indians. 

These drawings and paintings of the later Palolithic people went on through a long period of time, and present 
wide fluctuations in artistic merit. We give here some early sketches, from which we learn of the interest 
taken by these early men in the bison, horse, ibex, cave bear, and reindeer. In its early stages the drawing is 
often primitive like the drawing of clever children; quadrupeds are usually drawn with one hind-leg and one 
fore-leg, as children draw them to this day. The legs on the other side were too much for the artist's technique. 
Possibly the first drawings began as children's drawings begin, out of idle scratchings. The savage scratched 
with a. flint on a smooth rock surface, and was reminded of some line or gesture. But their solid carvings are 
at least as old as their first pictures. The earlier drawings betray a complete incapacity to group animals. As 
the centuries progressed, more skilful artists appeared. The representation of beasts became at last 
astonishingly vivid and like. But even at the crest of their artistic time they still drew in profile as children do; 
perspective and the fore-shortening needed for back and front views were too much for them. [2] They rarely 
drew themselves. The vast majority of their drawings represent animals. The mammoth and the horse are 
among the commonest themes. Some of the people, whether Grimaldi people or Cro-Magnon people, also 
made little ivory and soapstone statuettes, and among these are some very fat female figures. These latter 
suggest the physique of Grimaldi rather than of Cro-Magnon artists. They are like Bushmen women. The 
human sculpture of the earlier times inclined to caricature, and generally such human figures as they represent 
are far below the animal studies in vigour and veracity. 



Part I 42 

[Fig. 0072 A Reindeer Age Masterpiece] 

Later on there was more grace and less coarseness in the human representations. One little ivory head 
discovered is that of a girl with an elaborate coiffure. These people at a later stage also scratched and engraved 
designs on ivory and bone. Some of the most interesting groups of figures are carved, very curiously round 
bone, and especially round rods of deer bone, so that it is impossible to see the entire design altogether. 
Figures have also been found modelled in clay, although no Palolithic people made any use of pottery. 

[Fig. 0073 Reindeer Age Engravings and Carvings] 

Many of the paintings are found in the depths of unlit caves. They are often difficult of access. The artists 
must have employed lamps to do their work, and shallow soapstone lamps in which fat could have been burnt 
have been found. Whether the seeing of these cavern paintings was in some way ceremonial or under what 
circumstances they were seen, we are now altogether at a loss to imagine. 

At last it would seem that circumstances began to turn altogether against these hunting Newer Palolithic 
people who had flourished for so long in Europe. They disappeared. New kinds of men appeared in Europe, 
replacing them. These latter seem to have brought in bow and arrows; they had, domesticated animals and 
cultivated the soil. A new way of living, the Neolithic way of living, spread over the European area; and the 
life of the Reindeer Age and of the races, of Reindeer men, the Later Palolithic men, after a reign vastly 
greater than the time between ourselves and the very earliest beginnings of recorded history, passed off the 
European stage. 

9.2 Hunters Give Place to Herdsmen 

It was about 12,000 or fewer years ago that, with the spread of forests and a great change of the fauna, the 
long prevalence of the hunting life in Europe drew to its end. Reindeer vanished. Changing conditions 
frequently bring with them new diseases. There may have been prehistoric pestilences. For many centuries 
there may have been no men in Britain or Central Europe (Wright). For a time there were in Southern Europe 
drifting communities of some little known people who are called the Azilians. [3] They may have been 
transition generations; they may have been a different race. We do not know. Some authorities incline to the 
view that the Azilians were the first wave of a race which, as we shall see later, has played a great part in 
populating Europe, the dark-white or Mediterranean or Iberian race. These Azilian people have left behind 
them a multitude of pebbles, roughly daubed with markings of an unknown purport (see illus. p. 73). The use 
or significance of these Azilian pebbles is still a profound mystery. Was this some sort of token writing? Were 
they counters in some game? Did the Azilians play with these pebbles or tell a story with them, as imaginative 
children will do with bits, of wood and, stone nowadays? At present we are unable to cope with any of these 
questions. 

We will not deal here with the other various peoples who left their scanty traces in the world during the close 
of the New Palolithic period, the spread of the forests where formerly there had been steppes, and the wane of 
the hunters, some 10,000 or 12,000 years ago. We will go on to describe the new sort of human community 
that was now spreading over the northern hemisphere, whose appearance marks what is called the Neolithic 
Age. The map of the world was assuming something like its present outlines, the landscape and the flora and 
fauna were taking on their existing characteristics. The prevailing animals in the spreading woods of Europe 
were the royal stag, the great ox, and the bison; the mammoth and the musk ox had gone. The great ox, or 
aurochs, is now extinct, but it survived in the German forests up to the time of the Roman Empire. It was 
never domesticated. [4] It stood eleven feet high at the shoulder, as high as an elephant. There were still lions 
in the Balkan peninsula, and they remained there until about 1,000 or 1,200 B.C. The lions of Wurtemberg 
and South Germany in those days were twice the size of the modern lion. South Russia and Central Asia were 
thickly wooded then, and there were elephants in Mesopotamia and Syria, and a fauna in Algeria that was 
tropical African in character. 



Part I 43 

Hitherto men in Europe had never gone farther north than the Baltic Sea or the British Isles, but now the 
Scandinavian peninsula and perhaps Great Russia were becoming possible regions for human occupation. 
There are no Palolithic remains in Sweden or Norway. Man, when he entered these countries, was apparently 
already at the Neolithic stage of social development. 

9.3 No Sub-men in America 

Nor is there any convincing evidence of man in America before the end of the Pleistocene. [5] The same 
relaxation of the climate that permitted the retreat of the reindeer hunters into Russia and Siberia, as the 
Neolithic tribes advanced, may have allowed them to wander across the land, that is now cut by Bering Strait, 
and so reach the American continent. 

They spread thence southward, age by-age. When they reached South America, they found the giant sloth (the 
Megatherium), the glyptodon, and many other extinct creatures, still flourishing. The glyptodon was a 
monstrous South American armadillo, and a human skeleton has been found by Roth buried beneath its huge 
tortoise-like shell. [6] 

All the human remains in America, even the earliest, it is to be noted, are of an Amer-Indian character. In 
America there does not seem to have been any preceding races of submen. Man was fully man when he 
entered America. The old world was the nursery of the sub-races of mankind. 

10.0 Neolithic Man in Europe 

10.1 The Age of Cultivation Begins 

10.2 Where did the Neolithic Culture Arise 

10.3 Everyday Neolithic Life 

10.4 Primitive Trade 

10.5 The Flooding of the Mediterranean Valley 

10.1 The Age of Cultivation Begins 

The Neolithic phase of human affairs began in Europe about 10,000 or 12,000 years ago. But probably men 
had reached the Neolithic stage elsewhere some thousands of years earlier. Neolithic men came slowly into 
Europe from the south or south-east as the reindeer and the open steppes gave way to forest and modern 
European conditions. 

The Neolithic stage in culture is characterized by: (1) the presence of polished stone implements, and in 
particular the stone axe, which was perforated so as to be the more effectually fastened to a wooden handle, 
and which was probably used rather for working wood than in conflict. There are also abundant arrow-heads. 
The fact that some implements are polished does not preclude the presence of great quantities of implements 
of unpolished stone. But there are differences in the make between even the unpolished tools of the Neolithic 
and of the Palolithic Period. (2) The beginning of a sort of agriculture, and the use of plants and seeds. But at 
first there are abundant evidences that hunting was still of great; importance in the Neolithic Age. Neolithic 
man did not at first sit down to his agriculture. He took snatch crops. He settled later. (3) Pottery and proper 
cooking. The horse is no longer eaten. (4). Domesticated animals. The dog appears very early. The Neolithic 
man had domesticated cattle, sheep, goats, and pigs. He was a huntsman turned herdsman of the herds he once 
hunted. (5) Plaiting and weaving. 



Part I 44 

These Neolithic people probably migrated into Europe, in the same way that the Reindeer Men had migrated 
before them; that is to say, generation by generation and century by century, as the climate changed, they 
spread after their accustomed food. They were not nomads. Nomadism, like civilization, had still to be 
developed. At present we are quite unable to estimate how far the Neolithic peoples were new-comers and 
how far their arts were developed or acquired by the descendants of some of the hunters and fishers of the 
Later Palolithic Age. 

Whatever our conclusions in that matter, this much we may say with certainty; there is no great break, no 
further sweeping away of one kind of man and replacement by another kind between the appearance of the 
Neolithic way of living and our own time. There are invasions, conquests, extensive emigrations and 
intermixtures, but the races as a whole carry on and continue to adapt themselves to the areas into which they 
began to settle in the opening of the Neolithic Age. The Neolithic men of Europe were white men ancestral to 
the modern Europeans. They may have been of a darker complexion than many of their descendants; of that 
we cannot speak with certainty. But there is no real break in culture from their time onward until we reach the 
age of coal, steam, and power-driven machinery that began in the eighteenth century. 

[Fig. 0079 Neolithic Implements] 

After a long time gold, the first known of the metals, appears among the bone ornaments with jet and amber. 
Irish Neolithic remains are particularly rich in gold. Then, perhaps 6,000 or 7,000 years ago in Europe, 
Neolithic people began to use copper in certain centres, making out of it implements of much the same pattern 
as their stone ones. They cast the copper in moulds made to the shape of the stone implements. Possibly they 
first found native copper and hammered it into shape. [1] Later" we will not venture upon figures-men had 
found out how to get copper from its ore. Perhaps, as Lord Avebury suggested, they discovered the secret of 
smelting by the chance putting of lumps of copper ore among the ordinary stones with which they built the 
fire pits they used for cooking. In China, Hungary, Cornwall, and elsewhere copper ore and tinstone occur in 
the same veins; it is a very common association, and so, rather through dirtiness than skill, the ancient 
smelters, it may be, hit upon the harder and better bronze, which is an alloy of copper and tin. Bronze is not 
only harder than copper, but the mixture of tin and copper is more fusible and easier, to reduce. The so-called 
pure-copper implements usually contain a small proportion of tin, and there are no tin implements known, nor 
very much evidence to, show that early men knew of tin as a separate metal. [2] [3] The plant of a prehistoric 
copper smelter has been found in Spain, and the material of bronze foundries in various localities. The method 
of smelting revealed by these finds carries out Lord Avebury's suggestion. In India, where zinc and copper ore 
occur together, brass (which is an alloy of the two metals) was similarly hit upon. 

So slight was the change in fashions and methods produced by the appearance of bronze, that for a long time 
such bronze axes and so forth as were made were cast in moulds to the shape of the stone, implements they 
were superseding. 

Finally, perhaps as early as 3,000 years ago in Europe, and even earlier in Asia Minor, men began to, smelt 
iron. Once smelting was known to men, there is no great marvel in the finding of iron. They, smelted iron by 
blowing up a charcoal fire, and wrought it by heating and hammering. They produced it at first in 
comparatively small pieces; [4] its appearance, worked a gradual revolution in weapons and implements; but 
it did not suffice to change the general character of men's surroundings. Much the same daily life that was 
being led by the more settled Neolithic men 10,000 years ago, was being led by peasants in out- of-the-way 
places all over Europe at the beginning of the eighteenth century. 

People talk of the Stone Age, the Bronze Age, and the Iron Age in Europe, but it is misleading to put these 
ages as if they were of equal importance in history. Much truer is it to say that there was: 

(1) An Early Palolithic Age, of vast duration; 



Part I 45 

(2) A Later Palolithic Age, that lasted not a tithe of the time; and 

(3) The Age of Cultivation, the age of the white men in Europe, which began 10,000 or at most 12,000 years 
ago, of which the Neolithic Period was the beginning, and which is still going on. 

10.2 Where did the Neolithic Culture Arise 

We do not know yet the region in which the ancestors of the brownish Neolithic peoples worked their way up 
from the Palolithic stage of human development. Probably it was somewhere about south-western Asia, or in 
some region now submerged beneath the Mediterranean Sea or the Indian Ocean, that, while the Neanderthal 
men still lived their hard lives in the bleak climate of a glaciated Europe, the ancestors, of the white men 
developed the rude arts of their Later Palolithic period. But they do not seem to have developed the artistic 
skill of their more northerly kindred, the European Later Palolithic races. And through the hundred centuries 
or so while Reindeer men were living under comparatively unprogressive conditions upon the steppes of 
France, Germany, and Spain, these more favoured and progressive people to the south were mastering 
agriculture, learning to develop their appliances, taming the dog, domesticating cattle, and, as the climate to 
the north mitigated and the equatorial climate grew more tropical, spreading northward. All these early 
chapters of our story have yet to be disinterred. They will probably be found in Asia Minor, Persia, Arabia, 
India, or North Africa, or they lie beneath the Mediterranean waters. Twelve thousand years ago, or 
thereabouts "we are still too early for anything but the roughest chronology"Neolithic peoples were scattered 
all over Europe, north Africa, and Asia. They were peoples at about the level of many of the Polynesian 
islanders of the last century, and they were the most advanced peoples in the world. 

10.3 Everyday Neolithic Life 

It will be of interest here to give a brief account of the life of the European Neolithic people before the 
appearance of metals. We get our light upon that life, from various sources. They scattered their refuse about, 
and in some places (e.g. on the Danish coast) it accumulated in great heaps, known as the kitchen-middens. 
They buried some of their people but not the common herd with great care and distinction, and made huge 
heaps of earth over their sepulchres; these heaps are the barrows or dolmens which contribute a feature to the 
European, Indian, and American scenery in many districts to this day. In connection with these mounds, or 
independently of them, they set up great stones (megaliths), either singly or in groups, of which Stonehenge in 
Wiltshire and Carnac in Brittany axe among the best-known examples. In various places their villages are still 
traceable. 

[Fig. 0082 Pottery from Lake Dwellings] 

One fruitful source of knowledge about Neolithic life comes from Switzerland, and was first revealed by the 
very dry winter of 1854, when the water level of one of the lakes, sinking to an unheard-of lowness, revealed 
the foundations of prehistoric pile dwellings of the Neolithic and early Bronze Ages, built out over the water 
after the fashion of similar homes that exist to-day in Celebes and elsewhere. 

Not only were the timbers of those ancient platforms preserved, but a great multitude of wooden, bone, stone, 
and earthenware utensils and ornaments, remains of food and the like, were found in the, peaty accumulations 
below them. Even pieces of net and garments have been recovered. Similar lake, dwellings existed in 
Scotland, Ireland, and elsewhere"there are well-known remains at Glastonbury in Somersetshire; in Ireland 
lake dwellings were in habited from prehistoric times up to, the days when O'Neil of Tyrone was fighting 
against the English before the plantation of Scotch colonists to replace the Irish in Ulster in the reign of James 
I of England. These lake villages had considerable defensive value, and there was a sanitary advantage in 
living over flowing water. 

Probably these Neolithic Swiss pile dwellings did not shelter the largest communities that existed in those 



Part I 46 

days. They were the homes of small patriarchal groups. Elsewhere upon fertile plains and in more open 
country there were probably already much larger assemblies of homes than in those mountain valleys. There 
are traces of such a large community of families in Wiltshire in England, for example; the remains of the stone 
circle of Avebury near Silbury mound were once the finest megalithic ruin in Europe. It consisted of two 
circles of stones surrounded by a larger circle and a ditch, and covering altogether twenty-eight and a half 
acres. From it two avenues of stones, each a mile and a half long, ran west and south on either side of Silbury 
Hill. Silbury Hill is the largest prehistoric artificial mound in England. The dimensions of this centre of a faith 
and a social life now forgotten altogether by men indicate the concerted efforts and interests of a very large 
number of people, widely scattered though they may have been over the west and south and centre of 
England. Possibly they assembled at some particular season of the year in a primitive sort of fair. The whole 
community lent a hand in building the mounds and hauling the stones. The Swiss pile dwellers, on the 
contrary, seem to have lived in practically self-contained villages. 

These lake-village people were considerably more advanced in methods and knowledge, and, probably much 
later in time than the early Neolithic people who accumulated the shell mounds, known as kitchen-middens, 
on the Danish and Scotch coasts. These kitchen-midden folk may have been as early as 10,000 B.C. or earlier; 
the lake dwellings were probably occupied continuously from 5,000 or 4,000 B.C. down almost to historic 
times. Those early kitchen-midden people were among the most barbaric of Neolithic peoples, their stone axes 
were rough, and they had no domesticated animal except the dog, The lake dwellers, on the other hand, had, in 
addition to the dog, which was of a medium-sized breed, oxen, goats, and sheep. Later on, as they were 
approaching the Bronze Age, they got swine. The remains of cattle and goats prevail in their debris and, 
having regard to the climate and country about them, it seems probable that these beasts were sheltered in the 
buildings upon the piles in winter, and that fodder was stored for them. Probably the beasts lived in the same 
houses with the people, as the men and beasts do now in Swiss chalets. The people in the houses possibly 
milked the cows and goats, and milk perhaps played as important a part in their economy as it does in that of 
the mountain Swiss of to-day. But of that we are not sure at present. Milk is not a natural food for adults; it 
must have seemed queer stuff to take at first; and it may have been only after much breeding that a continuous 
supply of milk was secured from cows and goats. Some people think that the use of milk, cheese, butter, and 
other milk products came later into human life when men became nomadic. The writer is, however, disposed 
to give the Neolithic men credit for having discovered milking. The milk, if they did use it (and, no doubt, in 
that case sour curdled milk also, but not well made cheese and butter), they must have kept in earthenware 
pots, for they had pottery, though it was roughly hand-made pottery and not the shapely product of the potter's 
wheel. They eked out this food supply by hunting. They killed and ate red deer and roe deer, bison and wild 
boar. And they ate the fox, a rather high-flavoured meat, and not what any one would eat in a world of plenty. 
Oddly enough, they do not seem to have eaten the hare, although it was available as food. They are supposed 
to have avoided eating it, as some savages are said to avoid eating it to this day, because they feared that the 
flesh of so timid a creature might make them, by a sort of infection, cowardly. [5] 

Of their agricultural methods we know very little. No ploughs and no hoes have been found. They were of 
wood and have perished. Neolithic men cultivated and ate wheat, barley and millet, but they knew nothing of 
oats or rye. Their grain they roasted, ground between stones and stored in pots, to be, eaten when needed. And 
they made exceedingly solid and heavy bread, because round flat slabs of it have been got out of these 
deposits. Apparently they had no yeast. If they had no yeast, then they had no fermented drink. One sort of 
barley that they had is the sort that was cultivated by the ancient Greeks, Romans, and Egyptians, and they 
also had an Egyptian variety of wheat, showing that their ancestors had brought or derived this cultivation 
from the south-east. The centre of diffusion of wheat was somewhere in the eastern Mediterranean region. A 
wild form is still found in the neighbourhood of Mt. Hermon (see Footnote to Chap. XIV, sec 1). When the 
lake dwellers sowed their little patches of wheat in Switzerland, they were already following the immemorial 
practice of mankind. The seed must have been brought age by age from that distant centre of diffusion. In the 
ancestral lands of the south-east men had already been sowing wheat perhaps for thousands of years. [6] 
Those lake dwellers also ate peas, and crab-apples "the only apples that then existed in the world. Cultivation 
and selection had not yet produced the apple of to-day. 



Part I 47 

They dressed chiefly in skins, but they also made a rough cloth of flax. Fragments of that flaxen cloth have 
been discovered. Their nets were made of flax; they had as yet no knowledge of hemp and hempen rope. With 
the coming of bronze, their pins and ornaments increased in number. There is reason to believe they set great 
store upon their hair, wearing it in large shocks with pins of bone and afterwards of metal. To judge from the 
absence of realistic carvings or engravings or paintings, they either did not decorate their garments or 
decorated them with plaids, spots, interlacing designs, or similar conventional ornament. Before the coming of 
bronze there is no evidence of stools or tables; the Neolithic people probably squatted on their clay floors. 
There were no cats, in these lake dwellings; no mice or rats had yet adapted themselves to human dwellings; 
the cluck of the hen was not as yet added to the sounds of human life, nor the domestic egg to its diet. [7] 

[Fig. 0086 Hut Urns] 

[Hut urns, the first probably presenting a lake-dwelling... After Lubbock.] 

The chief tool and weapon of Neolithic man was his axe; his next the bow and arrow. His arrow-heads were 
of flint, beautifully made, and he lashed them tightly to their shafts. Probably he prepared the ground for his 
sowing with a pole, or a pole upon which he had stuck a stag's horn. Fish he hooked or harpooned. These 
implements no doubt stood about in the interior of the house, from the walls of which hung his fowling-nets. 
On the floor, which was of clay or trodden cowdung (after the fashion of hut floors in India to-day), stood pots 
and jars and woven baskets containing grain, milk, and such-like food. Some of the pots and pans hung by 
rope loops to the walls. At one end of the room, and helping to, keep it warm in winter by their animal heat, 
stabled the beasts. The children took the cows and, goats out to graze, and brought them in at night before the 
wolves and bears came prowling. 

Since Neolithic man had the bow, he probably also had stringed instruments, bow string seems almost 
inevitably to lead to that. He also had earthenware drums across which skins were stretched; perhaps also he 
made drums by stretching skins over hollow tree stems. [8] We do not know when man began to sing, but 
evidently he was making music, and since he had words, songs were no doubt being made. To begin with, 
perhaps, he just let his voice loose as one may hear Italian peasants now behind their ploughs singing songs 
without words. After dark in the winter he sat in his house and talked and sang and made implements by touch 
rather than sight. 

His lighting must have been poor, and chiefly firelight, but there was probably always some fire in the village, 
summer or winter. Fire was too troublesome to make for men to be willing to let it out readily. Sometimes a 
great disaster happened to those pile villages, the fire got free, and they were burnt out. The Swiss deposits 
contain clear evidence of such catastrophes. 

All this we gather from the remains of the Swiss pile dwellings, and such was the character of the human life 
that spread over Europe, coming from the south and from the east with the forests as, 10,000 or 12,000 years 
ago, the reindeer and the Reindeer men passed away. It is evident that we: have here a way of life already 
separated by a great gap of thousands of years of intervention from its original Palolithic stage. The steps by 
which it rose from that condition we can only guess at. From being a hunter hovering upon the outskirts of 
flocks and herds of wild cattle and sheep, and from being a co-hunter with the dog, man by insensible degrees 
may have developed a sense of proprietorship in the beasts and struck up a friendship with his canine 
competitor. He learnt to turn the cattle when they wandered too far; he brought his better brain to bear to 
guide them to fresh pasture. He hemmed the beasts into valleys and enclosures where he could be sure to find 
them again. He fed them when they starved, and so slowly he tamed them. Perhaps his agriculture began with 
the storage of fodder. He reaped, no doubt, before he sowed. The Palolithic ancestor away in that unknown 
land of origin to the south-east first supplemented the precarious meat supply of the hunter by eating roots and 
fruits and wild grain. Man storing graminiferous grasses for his cattle might easily come to beat out the grain 
for himself. 



Part I 48 

10.4 Primitive Trade 

All these early beginnings must have taken place far back in time, and in regions of the world that have still to 
be effectively explored by the archaeologists. They were probably going on in Asia or Africa, in what is now 
the bed of the Mediterranean, or in the region of the Indian Ocean, while the Reindeer man was developing 
his art in Europe. The Neolithic men who drifted over Europe and Western Asia 12,000 or 10,000 years ago 
were long past these beginnings; they were already close, a few thousand years, to the dawn of written 
tradition and the remembered history of mankind. Without any very great shock or break, bronze came at last 
into human life, giving a great advantage in warfare to those tribes who first obtained it. Written history had 
already began before weapons of iron came into Europe to supersede bronze. 

Already in those days a sort of primitive trade had sprung up. Bronze and bronze weapons, and such rare and 
hard stones as jade, gold because of its plastic and ornamental possibilities, and skins and flax-net and cloth, 
were being swapped and stolen and passed from hand to hand over great stretches of country. Salt also was 
probably being traded. On a meat dietary men can live without salt, but grain-consuming people need it just as 
herbivorous animals need it. Hopf says that bitter tribal wars have been carried on by the desert tribes of the 
Soudan in recent years for the possession of the salt deposits between Fezzan and Murzuk. To begin with, 
barter, blackmail, tribute, and robbery by violence passed into each other by insensible degrees. Men got what 
they wanted, by such means as they could. 

10.5 The Flooding of the Mediterranean Valley 

So far we have been telling of a history without events, a history of ages and periods and stages in 
development. But before we conclude this portion of the human story, we must record what was probably an 
event of primary importance and at first perhaps of tragic importance to developing mankind, and that was the 
breaking in of the Atlantic waters to the great Mediterranean valley. 

The reader must keep in mind that we are endeavouring to give him plain statements that he can take hold of 
comfortably. But both in the matter of our time charts and the three maps we have given of prehistoric 
geography there is necessarily much speculative matter. We have dated the last Glacial Age and the 
appearance of the true men as about 40,000 or 35,000 years ago. Please bear that about in mind. The truth may 
be 60,000 or 20,000. But it is no good saying a very long time or ages ago, because then the reader will not 
know whether we mean centuries or millions of years. And similarly in these maps we give, they represent not 
the truth, but something like the truth. The outline of the land was some such outline. 

There were such seas and such land masses. But both Mr. Horrabin, who has drawn these maps, and I, who 
have incited him to do so, have preferred to err on the timid side. We are not geologists enough to launch out 
into original research in these matters, and so we have stuck to the 40-fathom line and the recent deposits as 
our guides for our postglacial map and for the map of, 12,000 to 10,000 B.C. But in one matter we have gone 
beyond these guides. It is practically certain that at the end of the last Glacial Mediterranean was a couple of 
land-locked sea basins, not connected-or only connected by a torrential overflow river. The eastern basin was 
the fresher; it was fed by the Nile, the Adriatic river, the Red-Sea river, and perhaps by a river that poured, 
down amidst the mountains that are now the Greek Archipelago from the very much bigger Sea of Central 
Asia that then existed. Almost certainly human beings, and possibly even Neolithic men, wandered over that 
now lost Mediterranean valley. 

The reasons for believing this are very good and plain. To this day the Mediterranean is a sea of evaporation. 
The rivers that flow into it do not make up for the evaporation from its surface. There is a constant current of 
water pouring into the Mediterranean from the Atlantic, and another current streaming in from the Bosporus 
and Black Sea. For the Black Sea gets more water than it needs from the big rivers that flow into it; it is an 
overflowing sea, while the Mediterranean is a thirsty sea. From which it must be plain that when the 
Mediterranean was cut off both from the Atlantic Ocean and the Black Sea it must have been a shrinking sea 



Part I 49 

with its waters sinking to a much lower level than those of the ocean outside. This is the case of the Caspian 
Sea to-day. Still more so is it the case with the Dead Sea. 

But if this reasoning is sound, then where to-day roll the blue waters of the Mediterranean there must once 
have been great areas of land, and land with a very agreeable climate. This was probably the case during the 
last Glacial Age, and we do not know how near it was to our time when the change occurred that brought back 
the ocean waters into the Mediterranean basin. Certainly there must have been Grimaldi people, and perhaps 
even Azilian and Neolithic people going about in the valleys and forests of these regions that are now 
submerged. The Neolithic Dark Whites, the people of the Mediterranean race, may have gone far towards the 
beginnings of settlement and, civilization in that great lost Mediterranean valley. 

Mr. W. B. Wright [9] gives us some very stimulating suggestions here. He suggests that in the Mediterranean 
basin there were two lakes, one a fresh-water lake, in the eastern depression, which drained into the other in 
the western depression. It is interesting to think what must have happened when the ocean level rose once 
more as a. result of the dissipation of the ice-sheets, and its waters began to pour over into, the Mediterranean 
area. The inflow, small at first, must have ultimately increased to enormous dimensions, as the channel was 
slowly lowered by erosion and the ocean level slowly rose. If there were any unconsolidated materials on the 
sill of the Strait, the result must have been a, genuine debacle, and if we consider the length of time which 
even an enormous torrent would take to fill such a basin as that of the Mediterranean, we must conclude that 
this result was likely to have been attained in any case. Now, this may seem all the wildest speculation, but it 
is not entirely so, for if we examine a submarine contour map of the Straits of Gibraltar, we find there is an 
enormous valley running up from the Mediterranean deep, right through the Straits, and trenching some 
distance out on to the Atlantic shelf. This valley or gorge is probably the work of the inflowing waters of the 
ocean at the termination of the period of interior drainage. 

This refilling of the Mediterranean, which by the rough chronology we are employing in this book may have 
happened somewhen between 30,000 and 10,000 B.C., must have been one of the greatest single events in the 
pre -history our race. If the later date is the truer, then, as the reader will see plainly enough after reading the 
next two chapters, the crude beginnings of civilization, the first lake dwellings and the first cultivation, were 
probably round that eastern Levantine Lake into which there flowed not only the Nile, but the two great rivers 
that are now the Adriatic and the Red Sea. Suddenly the ocean waters began to break through over the 
westward hills and to pour in upon these primitive peoples-the lake that had been their home and friend 
became their enemy; its waters rose and never abated; their settlements were submerged; the waters pursued 
them in their flight. Day by day and year by year the waters spread up the valleys and drove mankind before 
them. Many must have been surrounded and caught by the continually rising salt flood. It knew no check; it 
came faster and faster; it rose over the tree-tops, over the hills, until it had filled the whole basin of the present 
Mediterranean and until it lapped the mountain cliffs of Arabia and Africa. Far away, long before the dawn of 
history, this catastrophe occurred. 

11.0 Early Thought 

11.1 Primitive Philosophy 

1 1 .2 The Old Man in Religion 

11.3 Fear and Hope in Religion 

11.4 Stars and Seasons 

11.5 Story-telling and Myth-making 

11.6 Complex Origins of Religion 



Part I 50 

11.1 Primitive Philosophy 

Before we go on to tell how 6,000 or 7,000 years ago men began to gather into the first towns and to develop 
something more than the loose-knit tribes that had hitherto been their highest political association, something 
must be said about the things that were going on inside these brains of which we have traced the growth and 
development through a period of 500,000 years from the ape-man stage. 

What was man thinking about himself and, about the world in those remote days? 

At first he thought very little about anything but immediate things. At first he was busy thinking such things 
as: Here is a bear; what shall I do? Or There is a squirrel; how can I get it? Until language had developed to 
some extent there could have been little thinking beyond the range of actual experience, for language is the 
instrument of thought as bookkeeping is the instrument of business. It records and fixes and enables thought 
to get on to more and more complex ideas. It is the hand of the mind to hold and keep. Primordial man, before 
he could talk, probably saw very vividly, mimicked very cleverly, gestured, laughed, danced, and lived, 
without much speculation about whence he came or why he lived. He feared the dark, no doubt, and, 
thunderstorms and big animals and queer things and whatever he dreamt about, and no doubt lie did things to 
propitiate what be feared or to change his luck and please the imaginary powers in rock and beast and river. 
He made no clear, distinction between animate and inanimate things; if a stick hurt him, he kicked it; if the 
river foamed and flooded, he thought it was hostile. His thought was probably very much at the level of a 
bright little contemporary boy of four or five. He had the same subtle unreasonableness of transition and the 
same limitations. But since he had little or no speech he would do little to pass on the fancies that came to 
him, and develop any tradition or concerted acts about them. 

The drawings even of Late Palolithic man do not suggest that he paid any attention to sun or moon or stars or 
trees. He was preoccupied only with animals and men. Probably he took day and night, sun and stars, trees 
and mountains, as being in the nature of things"as a child takes its meal times and its nursery staircase for 
granted.. So far as we can judge, he drew no fantasies, no ghosts or anything of that sort. The Reindeer men's 
drawings are fearless familiar things, with no hint about them of any religious or occult feelings. There is 
scarcely anything that we can suppose to be a religious or mystical symbol at all in his productions. No doubt 
he had a certain amount of what is called fetishism in his life; he did things we should now think unreasonable 
to produce desired ends, for that is all fetishism amounts to; it is only incorrect science based on guess-work 
or false analogy, and entirely different in its nature from religion. No doubt he was excited by his dreams, and 
his dreams mixed up at times in his mind with his waking impressions and puzzled him. Since he buried his 
dead, and since even the later Neanderthal men seem to have buried their dead, and apparently with food and 
weapons, it has been argued that he had a belief in a future life. But it is just as reasonable to suppose that 
early men buried their dead with food and weapons because they doubted if they were dead, which is not the 
same thing as believing them to have immortal spirits, and that their belief in their continuing vitality was 
reinforced by dreams of the departed. They may have ascribed a sort of were-wolf existence to the dead, and 
wished to propitiate them. The Reindeer man, we feel, was too intelligent and too like ourselves not to have 
had some speech, but quite probably it was not very serviceable for anything beyond direct statement or 
matter-of-fact narrative. He lived in a larger community than the Neanderthaler, but how large we do not 
know. Except when game is swarming, hunting communities must not keep together in large bodies or they 
will starve. The Indians who depend upon the caribou in Labrador must be living under circumstances rather 
like those of the Reindeer men. They scatter in small family groups, as the caribou scatter in search of food; 
but when the deer collect for the seasonal migration, the Indians also collect. That is the time for trade and 
feasts and marriages. The simplest American Indian is 10,000 years more sophisticated than the Reindeer 
man, but probably that sort of gathering and dispersal was also the way of Reindeer men. At Solutre in France 
there are traces of a great camping and feasting place. There was no doubt an exchange of news there, but one 
may doubt if there was anything like an exchange of ideas. One sees no scope in such a life for theology or 
philosophy or superstition or speculation. Fears, yes; but unsystematic fears; fancies and freaks of the 
imagination, but personal and transitory freaks and fancies. 



Part I 51 

Perhaps there was a certain power of suggestion in these encounters. A fear really felt needs few words for its 
transmission; a value set upon something may be very simply conveyed. 

In these questions of primitive thought and religion, we must remember that the lowly and savage peoples of 
to-day probably throw very little light on the mental state of men before the days of fully developed language. 
Primordial man could have had little or no tradition before the development of speech. All savage and. 
primitive peoples of to-day, on the contrary, are soaked in tradition"the tradition of thousands of generations. 
They may have weapons like their remote ancestors and methods like them, but what were slight and shallow 
impressions on the minds of their predecessors are now deep and intricate grooves worn throughout the 
intervening centuries generation by generation. 

1 1 .2 The Old Man in Religion 

Certain very fundamental things there may have been in men's minds long before the coming of speech. Chief 
among these must have been fear of the Old Man of the tribe. The young of the primitive squatting-place grew 
up under that fear. Objects associated with him were probably forbidden. Every one was forbidden to touch 
his spear or to sit in his place, just as to-day little boys must not touch father's pipe or sit in his chair. He was 
probably the master of all the women. The youths of the little community had to remember that. The idea of 
something forbidden, the idea of things being, as it is called, tabu, not to be touched, not to be looked at, may 
thus have got well into the human mind at a very early stage indeed. J. J. Atkinson, in his Primal Law, an 
ingenious analysis of these primitive tabus which are found among savage peoples all over the world, the 
tabus that separate brother and sister, the tabus that make a man run and hide from his step-mother traces them 
to such a fundamental cause as this. Only by respecting this primal law could the young male hope to escape 
the Old Man's wrath. And the Old Man must have been an actor in many a primordial nightmare. A 
disposition to propitiate him even after he was dead is quite understandable. One was not sure that he was 
dead. He might only be asleep or shamming. Long after an Old Man was dead, when there was nothing to 
present him but a mound and a megalith, the women would convey to their children how awful and wonderful 
he was. And being still a terror to his own little tribe, it was easy to go on to hoping that he would be a terror 
to other and hostile people. In his life he had fought for his tribe, even if be had bullied it. Why not when he 
was dead? One sees that the Old Man idea was an idea very natural to the primitive mind and capable of great 
development. And opposed to the Old Man, more human and kindlier, was the Mother, who helped and 
sheltered and advised. The psycho-analysis of Freud and Jung has done much to help us to realize how great a 
part Father fear and Mother love still play in the adaptation of the human mind to social needs. They have 
made an exhaustive study of childish and youthful dreams and imaginations, a study which has done much to 
help in the imaginative reconstruction of the soul of primitive man. It was, as it were, the soul of a powerful 
child. He saw the universe in terms of the family herd. His feat of, his abjection before, the Old Man mingled 
with his fear of the dangerous animals about him. But the women goddesses were kindlier and more subtle. 
They helped, they protected, they gratified and consoled. Yet at the same time there was something about 
them less comprehensible than the direct brutality of the Old Man, a greater mystery. So that the Woman also 
had her vestiture of fear for him. 

11.3 Fear and Hope in Religion 

Another idea probably arose early out of the mysterious visitation of infectious diseases, and that was the idea 
of uncleanness and of being accurst. From that, too, there may have come an idea of avoiding particular places 
and persons, and persons in particular phases of health. Here was the root of another set of tabus. Then man, 
from the very dawn of his mental life, may have had a feeling of the sinister about places and things. Animals 
who dread traps, have that feeling. A tiger will abandon its usual jungle route at the sight of a few threads of 
cotton. [1] Like most young animals, young human beings are easily made fearful of this or that by their 
nurses and seniors. Here is another set of ideas, ideas of repulsion and avoidance, that sprang up almost 
inevitably in men. 



Part I 52 

As soon as speech began to develop, it must have got to work upon such fundamental feelings and begun to 
systematize them, and keep them in mind. By talking together men would reinforce each other's fears and 
establish a common tradition of tabus of things forbidden and of things unclean. With the idea of, uncleanness 
would come ideas of cleansing and of removing a curse. The cleansing would be conducted through the 
advice and with the aid of wise old men or wise old women, and in such, cleansing would lie the germ of the 
earliest priestcraft and witchcraft. 

Speech from the first would be a powerful supplement to the merely imitative education and to the education 
of cuffs and blows conducted by a speechless parent. Mothers would tell their young and scold their young. 
As speech developed, men would find they had experiences and persuasions that gave them or seemed to give 
them power. They would make secrets of these things. There is a double streak in the human mind, a streak 
cunning secretiveness and a streak perhaps, of later origin that makes us all anxious to tell and astonish and 
impress each other. Many people make secrets in order to have secrets to tell. These secrets of early men they 
would convey to younger, more impressionable people, more or less honestly and impressively in some 
process of initiation. Moreover, the pedagogic spirit overflows in the human mind; most people like telling 
other, people not to. Extensive arbitrary prohibitions for the boys, for the girls, for the women, also probably 
came very early into human history. 

Then the idea of the sinister has for its correlative the idea of the propitious, and from that to the idea of 
making things propitious by ceremonies is an easy step. 

11.4 Stars and Seasons 

Out of such ideas and a jumble of kindred ones grew the first quasi-religious elements in human life. With 
every development of speech it became possible to intensify and develop the tradition of tabus and restraints 
and ceremonies. There is not a savage or barbaric race today that is not held in a net of such tradition. And 
with the coming of the primitive herdsman there would be a considerable broadening out of all this sort of 
practice. Things hitherto unheeded would be found of importance in human affairs. Neolithic man was 
nomadic in a different spirit from the mere daylight drift after food of the primordial hunter. He was a 
herdsman upon whose mind a sense of direction and the lie of the land had been forced. He watched his flock 
by night as well as by day. The sun by day and presently the stars by night helped to guide his migrations; he 
began to find after many ages that the stars are steadier guides than the sun. He would begin to note particular 
stars and star groups, and to distinguish any individual thing was, for primitive man, to believe it 
individualized and personal. He would begin to think of the chief stars as persons, very shining and dignified 
and trustworthy persons looking at him like bright eyes in the night. His primitive tillage strengthened his 
sense of the seasons. Particular stars ruled his heavens when seedtime was due. Up to a certain point, a 
mountain peak or what not, a bright star moved, night after night. It stopped there, and then night after night 
receded. Surely this was a sign, a silent, marvellous warning to the wise. The beginnings of agriculture, we 
must remember, were in the sub-tropical zone, or even nearer the equator, where stars of the first magnitude 
shine with a splendour unknown in more temperate latitudes. 

[Fig. 0098 A Menhir of the Neolithic Period] 

[A CARVED STATUE (MENHIR) OF THE NEOLITHIC PERIOD-A CONTRAST TO THE FREEDOM 
AND VIGOUR OF PALOLITHIC ART.] 

And Neolithic man was counting, and falling under the spell of numbers. There are savage languages that 
have no, word for any number above five. Some peoples cannot go above two. But Neolithic man in the lands 
of his origin in Asia, and Africa even more than in Europe was already counting his accumulating 
possessions. He was beginning to use tallies, and wondering at the triangularity of three and the squareness of 
four, and why some quantities like twelve were easy to divide in all sorts of ways, and others, like thirteen, 
impossible. Twelve became a noble, generous, and familiar number to him, and thirteen rather an outcast and 



Part I 53 

disreputable one. 

Probably man began reckoning time by the clock of the full and new moons. Moonlight is an important thing 
to herdsmen who no longer merely hunt their herds, but watch and guard them. Moonlight, too, was, perhaps, 
his time for love-making, as indeed it may have been for primordial man and the ground ape ancestor before 
him. But from the phases man's attitude would go on to the greater cycle of the seasons. 

Primordial man probably only drifted before the winter as the days grew cold. Neolithic man knew surely that 
the winter would come, and stored his fodder and presently his grain. He had to fix a seedtime, a propitious 
seedtime, or his sowing was a failure. The earliest recorded reckoning is by moons and by generations of men. 
The former seems to be the case in the Book of Genesis, where, if one reads the great ages of the patriarchs 
who lived before the flood as lunar months instead of years, Methusaleh and the others are reduced to a 
credible length of life. But with agriculture began the difficult task of squaring the lunar month with the solar 
year; a task which has left its scars on our calendar to-day. Easter shifts uneasily from year to year, to the 
great discomfort of holiday-makers; it is now inconveniently early and now late in the season because of this 
ancient reference of time to the moon. 

And when men began to move with set intention from place to place with their animal and other possessions, 
then they would begin to develop the idea of other places in which they were not, and to think of what might 
be in those other places. And in any valley where they lingered for a time, they would, remembering how they 
got there, ask, How did this or that other thing get here? They would begin to wonder what was beyond the 
mountains, and where the sun went when it set, and what was above the clouds. 

11.5 Story-telling and Myth-making 

The capacity for telling things increased with their vocabulary. The simple individual fancies, the 
unsystematic fetish tricks and fundamental tabus of Palolithic man began to be handed on and made into a 
more consistent system. Men began to tell stories about themselves, about the tribe, about its tabus and why 
they had to be, about the world and the why for the world. A tribal mind came into existence, a tradition. 
Palolithic man was certainly more of a free individualist, more of an artist, as well as more of a savage than 
Neolithic man. Neolithic man was coming under prescription; he could be trained from his youth and told to 
do things and not to do things; he was not so free to form independent ideas of his own about things. He had 
thoughts given to him; he was under a new power of suggestion. And to have more words and to attend more 
to words is not simply to increase mental power; words themselves are powerful things and, dangerous things. 
Palolithic man's words, perhaps, were chiefly just names. He used them for what they were. But Neolithic 
man was thinking about these words, he was thinking about a number of things with a great deal of verbal 
confusion, and getting to some odd conclusions. In speech he had woven a net to bind his race together, but 
also it was a net about his feet. Man was binding himself into new and larger and more efficient combinations 
indeed, but at a price. One of the most notable things about the Neolithic Age is the total absence of that free, 
direct artistic impulse which was the supreme quality of later Palaeoithic man. We find much industry, much 
skill, polished implements pottery with conventional designs, co-operation upon all sorts of things, but no 
evidence of personal creativeness. [2] Self-suppression is beginning for men. Man has entered upon the long 
and tortuous and difficult path towards a life for the common good, with all its sacrifice of personal impulse, 
which he is still treading to-day. 

Certain things appear in the mythology of mankind again and again. Neolithic man was enormously 
impressed by serpents"and he no longer took the sun for granted. Nearly everywhere that Neolithic culture 
went, there went a disposition to associate the sun and the serpent in decoration and worship. This primitive 
serpent worship spread ultimately far beyond the regions where the snake is of serious practical importance in 
human life. 

11.6 Complex Origins of Religion 



Part I 54 

With the beginnings of agriculture a fresh set of ideas arose in men's minds. We have already indicated how 
easily and naturally men may have come to associate the idea of sowing with a burial. Sir J. G. Frazer has 
pursued the development of this association in the human mind, linking up with it the conception of special 
sacrificial persons who are killed at seedtime, the conception of a specially purified class of people to kill 
these sacrifices, the first priests, and the conception of a sacrament, a ceremonial feast in which the tribe eats 
portions of the body of the victim in order to share in the sacrificial benefits. 

[Fig. 0101 Age Implements] 

Out of all these factors, out of the Old Man tradition, out of the emotions that surround Women for men and 
Men for women, out of the desire to escape infection and uncleanness, out of the desire for power and success 
through magic, out of the sacrificial tradition of seedtime, and out of a number of like beliefs and mental 
experiments and misconceptions, a complex something was growing up in the lives of men which was 
beginning to bind them together mentally and emotionally in a common life and action. 

This something we may call religion (Lat. religare, to bind [3]). It was not a simple, or logical some thing, it 
was as a tangle of ideas about commanding beings and spirits, about gods, about all sorts of musts and 
must-nots. Like all other human matters, religion has grown. It must be clear from what has gone before that 
primitive man"much less his ancestral apes and his ancestral Mesozoic mammals"could have had no idea of 
God or Religion; only very slowly did his brain and his powers of comprehension become capable of such 
general conceptions. Religion is something that has grown up with and through human association, and God 
has been and is still being discovered by man. 

This book is not a theological book, and it is not for us to embark upon theological discussion; but it is a part, 
a necessary and central part, of the history of man to describe the dawn and development of his religious ideas 
and their influence upon his activities. All these factors we have noted must have contributed to this 
development, and various writers have laid most stress upon one or other of them. Sir J. G. Frazer has been 
the leading student of the derivation of sacraments from magic sacrifices. Grant Allen, following Herbert 
Spencer, in his Evolution of the Idea of God, laid stress chiefly on the posthumous worship of the Old Man. 
Sir E. B. Tutor (Primitive Culture) gave his attention mainly to the disposition of primitive man to ascribe a 
soul to every object animate and inanimate. Mr. A. E. Crawley, in The Tree of Life, has called attention to 
other centres of impulse and emotion, and particularly to sex as a source of deep excitement. The thing we 
have to bear in mind is that Neolithic man was still mentally undeveloped, he could be confused and illogical 
to a degree quite impossible to an educated modern person. Conflicting and contradictory ideas could lie in his 
mind without challenging one another; now one thing ruled his thoughts intensely and vividly and now 
another; his fears, his acts, were still disconnected as children's are. 

[Fig. 0103 Diagram showing the Duration of the Neolithic Period ] 

[TIME DIAGRAM SHOWING THE GENERAL DURATION OF THE NEOLITHIC PERIOD IN WHICH 
EARLY THOUGHT DEVELOPED. 

By this scale, the diagram on p. 47 of the period since the earliest subhuman traces would be 12 feet long, and 
the diagram of geological time (ch. ii, sec 2) somewhere between 1,500 feet and three miles.] 

Confusedly under the stimulus of the need and possibility of co-operation and a combined life, Neolithic 
mankind was feeling out for guidance and knowledge. Men were becoming aware that personally they needed 
protection and direction, cleansing from impurity, power beyond their own strength. 

Confusedly in response to that demand, bold men, wise men, shrewd and cunning men were arising to become 
magicians, priests, chiefs, and Kings. 



Part I 55 

They are not to be thought of as cheats or usurpers of power, nor the rest of mankind as their dupes. All men 
seek ascendancy over other men, but not all such motives are base or bad. The magicians usually believed 
more or less in their own magic, the priests in their ceremonies, the chiefs in their right. The history of 
mankind henceforth is a history of more or less blind endeavours to conceive, a common purpose in relation 
to which all men may live happily, and to create and develop a common consciousness and a common stock 
of knowledge which may serve and illuminate that purpose. In a vast variety of forms this is appearance of 
kings and priests and magic men was happening all over the world under Neolithic conditions. Everywhere 
mankind was seeking where knowledge and mastery and magic power might reside; everywhere individual 
men were willing, honestly or dishonestly, to rule, to direct, or to be the magic beings who would reconcile 
the confusions of the community. Another queer development of the later Palolithic and Neolithic ages was 
the development of self-mutilation. Men began to cut themselves about, to excise noses, ears, fingers, teeth 
and the like, and to attach all sorts of superstitious ideas to these acts. Many children to-day pass through a 
similar phase in their mental development. There is a phase in the life of most little girls when they are not to 
be left alone with a pair of scissors for fear that they will cut off their hair. No animal does anything of this 
sort. 

In many ways the simplicity, directness, and, detachment of a later Palolithic rock-painter appeal more to 
modern sympathies than does the state of mind of these Neolithic men, full of the fear of some ancient Old 
Man who had developed into a tribal God obsessed by ideas of sacrificial propitiations mutilations, and magic 
murder. No doubt the reindeer hunter was a ruthless hunter and a combative and passionate creature, but be 
killed for reasons we can still understand; Neolithic man, under the sway of talk and a confused thought 
process, killed on theory, he killed for monstrous and now incredible ideas, he killed those he loved through 
fear and under direction. Those Neolithic men not only made human sacrifices at seedtime there is every 
reason to suppose they sacrificed wives and slaves at the burial of their chieftains; they killed men, women, 
and children whenever they were under adversity and thought the gods were athirst. They practised 
infanticide. All these things passed on into the, Bronze Age. 

Hitherto a social consciousness had been asleep and not even dreaming in human history. Before it awakened 
it produced nightmares. 

Away beyond the dawn of history, 3,000 or 4,000 years ago, one thinks of the Wiltshire uplands in the 
twilight of a midsummer day's morning. The torches pale in the growing light. One has a dim apprehension of 
a procession through the avenue of stone, of priests, perhaps fantastically dressed with skins and horns and 
horrible painted masks"not the robed, and bearded dignitaries our artists represent the Druids to have been"of 
chiefs in skins adorned with necklaces of teeth and bearing spears and axes, their great heads of hair held up 
with pins of bone, of women in skins or flaxen robes, of a great peering crowd of shock-headed men and 
naked children. They have assembled from many distant places; the ground between the avenues and Silbury 
Hill is dotted with their encampments. A certain festive cheerfulness prevails. And amidst the throng march 
the appointed human victims, submissive, helpless, staring towards the distant smoking altar at which they are 
to die that the harvests may be good and the tribe increase. ... To that had life progressed 3,000 or 4,000 
years ago from its starting-place in the slime of the tidal beaches. 

12.0 The Races of Mankind 

12.1 Is Mankind Still Differentiating? 

12.2 The Main Races of Mankind 

12.3 The Heliolithic Culture of Brunet Peoples 
12.1 Is Mankind Still Differentiating? 



Part I 56 

It is necessary now to discuss plainly what is meant by a phrase, used often very carelessly, The Races of 
Mankind. 

It must be evident from what has already been explained in Chapter III that man, so widely spread and 
subjected therefore to great differences of climate, consuming very different food in different regions, 
attacked by different enemies, must always have been undergoing considerable local modification and 
differentiation. Man, like every other species of living thing, has constantly been tending to differentiate into 
several species; wherever a body of men has been cut off, in islands or oceans or by deserts or mountains, 
from the rest of humanity, it must have begun very soon to develop special characteristics, specially adapted 
to the local conditions. But, on the other hand, man is usually a wandering and enterprising animal for whom 
there exist few insurmountable barriers. Men imitate men, fight and conquer them, interbreed, one people with 
another. Concurrently for thousands of years there have been two sets of forces at work, one tending to 
separate men into a multitude of local varieties, and another to remix and blend these varieties together before 
a separate series has been established. 

These two sets of forces may have fluctuated in this relative effect in the past. Palolithic man, for instance, 
may have been more of a wanderer, he may have drifted about over a much greater area, than later Neolithic 
man; he was less fixed to any sort of home or lair, he was tied by fewer possessions. Being a hunter, he was 
obliged to follow the migrations of his ordinary quarry. A few bad seasons may have shifted him hundreds of 
miles. He may therefore have mixed very widely and developed few varieties over the greater part of the 
world. 

The appearance of agriculture tended to tie those communities of mankind that took it up to the region in 
which it was most conveniently carried on, and so to favour differentiation. Mixing or differentiation is not 
dependent upon a higher or lower stage of civilization; many savage tribes wander now for hundreds of miles; 
many English villagers in the eighteenth century, on the other hand, had never been more than eight or ten 
miles from their villages, neither they nor their fathers nor grandfathers before them. Hunting peoples often 
have enormous range. The Labrador country, for instance, is inhabited by a few thousand Indians, who follow 
the one great herd of caribou: as it wanders yearly north and then south again in pursuit of food. This mere 
handful of people covers a territory as large as France. Nomad peoples also range very widely. Some 
Kalmuck tribes are said to travel nearly a thousand - miles between summer and winter pasture. 

It carries out this suggestion, that Palolithic man ranged widely and was distributed thinly indeed but 
uniformly throughout the world, that the Palolithic remains we find are everywhere astonishingly uniform. To 
quote Sir John Evans, The implements in distant lands are so identical in form and character with the British 
specimens that they might have been manufactured by the same hands. On the banks of the Nile, many 
hundreds of feet above its present level, implements of the European types have been discovered; while in 
Somaliland, in an ancient river-valley at a great elevation above the sea, Sir H. W. Seton-Karr has collected a 
large number of implements formed of flint and quartzite, which, judging from their form and character, 
might have been dug out of the drift deposits of the Somme and the Seine, the Thames or the ancient Solent. 

Phases of spreading and intermixture have probably alternated with phases of settlement and specialization in 
the history of mankind. But up to a few hundred years ago it is probable that since the days of the Paloeolithic 
Age at least mankind has on the whole been differentiating. The species has differentiated in that period into a 
very great number of varieties, many of which have reblended with others, which have spread and undergone 
further differentiation or become, extinct. Wherever there has been a strongly marked local difference of 
conditions and a check upon intermixture, there one is almost obliged to assume a variety of mankind must 
have appeared. Of such local varieties there must have been a great multitude. 

In one remote corner of the world, Tasmania, a little cutoff population of people remained in the early 
Palolithic stage until the discovery of that island by the Dutch in 1642. They are now, unhappily, extinct. The 
last Tasmanian died in 1877. They may have been cut off from the rest of mankind for 15,000 or 20,000 or 



Part I 57 

25,000 years. 

But among the numerous obstacles and interruptions to intermixture there have been certain main barriers, 
such as the Atlantic Ocean, the highlands, once higher, and the now vanished seas of Central Asia and the 
like, which have cut off great groups of varieties from other great, groups of varieties over long periods of 
time. These separated groups of varieties developed very early certain broad resemblances and differences. 
Most of the varieties of men in eastern Asia and America, but not all, have now this in common, that they 
have yellowish buff skins, straight black hair, and often high cheek-bones. Most of the native peoples of 
Africa south of the Sahara, but not all, have black, or blackish skins, flat noses, thick lips, and frizzy hair. In 
north and western Europe a great number of peoples have fair hair, blue eyes, and ruddy complexions; and 
about the Mediterranean there is a prevalence of white-skinned peoples with dark eyes and black hair. The 
black hair of many of these dark whites is straight, but never so strong and waveless as the hair of the yellow 
peoples. It is straighter in the east than in the west. In southern India we find brownish and darker peoples 
with straight black hair, and these as we pass eastward give place to more distinctly yellow peoples. In 
scattered islands and in Papua and New Guinea we find another series of black and brownish peoples of a 
more lowly type with frizzy hair. 

[Fig. 0109 Heads of Australoid Types] 

But it must be borne in mind that these are very loosefitting generalizations. Some of the areas and isolated 
pockets of mankind in the Asiatic area may have been under conditions more like those in the European area; 
some of the African areas are of a more Asiatic and less distinctively African type. We find a wavy-haired, 
fairish, hairy-skinned race, the Ainu, in Japan. They are more like the Europeans in their facial type than the 
surrounding yellow Japanese. They may be a drifted patch of the whites or they may be a quite distinct 
people. We find primitive black people in the Andaman Islands far away from Australia and far away from 
Africa. There is a streak of very negroid blood traceable in south Persia and some parts of India. These are the 
Asiatic negroids. There is little or no proof that all black people, the Australians, the Asiatic negroids, and the 
negroes, derive from one origin, but only that they have lived for vast periods under similar conditions. 

We must not assume that human beings in the eastern Asiatic area were all differentiating in one direction and 
all the human beings in Africa in another. There were great currents of tendency, it is true, but there were also 
backwaters eddies, admixtures, readmixtures, and leakages from one main area to the other. A coloured map 
of the world to show the races: would not present just four great areas of colour it would have to be dabbed 
over with a multitude of tints and intermediate shades, simple here mixed and overlapping there. 

In the early Neolithic Period in Europe"it may be 10,000 or 12,000 years ago or so"man was differentiating all 
over the world, and be had already differentiate to a number of varieties, but he has never differentiated into 
different species . A species, we must remember, in biological language is distinguished from a variety by the 
fact that varieties can interbreed, while species either do not do so or produce, offspring which, like mules, are 
sterile. All mankind can interbreed freely, can learn to understand the same speech, can adapt itself to 
cooperation. And in the present age, man is probably no longer undergoing differentiation at all. Readmixture 
is now a far stronger force than differentiation. Men mingle more and more. Mankind from the view of a 
biologist is an animal species in a state of arrested differentiation and possible readmixture. 

12.2 The Main Races of Mankind 

It is only in the last fifty or sixty years that the varieties of men came to be regarded in this light, as a tangle of 
differentiations, recently arrested or still in, progress. Before that time students of mankind, influenced, 
consciously or unconsciously, by the story of Noah and the Ark and his three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japhet, 
were inclined, to classify men into, three or four great races and they were disposed to regard these races as 
having always been separate things, descended from originally separate ancestors. They ignored the great 
possibilities of blended races and of special local isolations and variations. The classification has varied 



Part I 58 

considerably, but there has been rather too much readiness to assume that mankind must be completely 
divisible into three or four main groups. Ethnologists (students of race) have fallen into grievous disputes 
about a multitude of minor peoples, as to whether they were of this or that primary race or mixed, or strayed 
early forms, or what not. But all races are more or less mixed. There are, no doubt, four main groups, but each 
is a miscellany, and there are little groups that will not go into any of the four main divisions. 

Subject to these reservations, when it is clearly understood that when we speak of these main divisions we 
mean not simple and pure races, but groups of races, then they have a certain convenience in discussion. Over 
the European and Mediterranean area and western Asia there are, and have been for many thousand years, 
white peoples, usually called the CAUCASIANS, subdivided into two or three subdivisions, the northern 
blonds or Nordic race, an alleged intermediate race about which many authorities are doubtful, the so-called 
Alpine race, and the southern dark whites, the Mediterranean or Iberian race; over eastern Asia and America a 
second group of races prevails, the MONGOLIANS, generally with yellow skins, straight black hair, and 
sturdy bodies; over Africa, the NEGROES, and in the region of Australia and New Guinea the black, 
primitive AUSTRALOIDS. These are convenient terms, provided the student bears in mind that they are not 
exactly defined terms. They represent only the common characteristics of certain main groups of races; they 
leave out a number of little peoples who belong properly to none of these divisions, and they disregard the 
perpetual mixing where the main groups overlap. 

12.3 The Heliolithic Culture of Brunet Peoples 

The Mediterranean or Iberian division of the Caucasian face had a wider range in early times, and was a less 
specialized and distinctive type than the Nordic. It is very hard to define its southward boundaries from the 
Negro, or to mark off its early traces in Central Asia from those of early Mongolians. Wilfred Scawen Blunt 
[1] says that Huxley had long suspected a common origin of the Egyptians and the Dravidians of India, 
perhaps a, long belt of brown-skinned men from India to Spain in very early days. 

It is possible that this belt of Huxley's of dark-white and brown-skinned men, this race of brunet-brown folk, 
ultimately spread even farther than India; that they reached to the shores of the 'Pacific, and that they were 
everywhere the original possessors of the Neolithic culture and the beginners of what we call civilization. It is 
possible that these Brunet peoples are so to speak the basic peoples of our modern world. The Nordic and the 
Mongolian peoples may have been but northwestern and northeastern branches from this more fundamental 
stem. Or the Nordic race may have been a branch, while the Mongolian like the Negro, may have been 
another equal and distinct stem with which the brunet-browns met and mingled in South China. Or the Nordic 
peoples also may have developed separately from a palolithic stage. 

[Fig. 0112 Negro Types] 

At some period in human history (see Elliot Smith's Migra tions of Early Culture) there seems to have been a 
special type of Neolithic culture widely distributed in the world which had a group of features so curious and 
so unlikely to have been independently developed in different regions, of the earth, as to compel us to believe 
that it was in effect one culture. It reached through all the regions inhabited by the brunet Mediterranean race, 
and beyond through India, further India, up the Pacific coast of China, and it spread at last across the Pacific 
and to Mexico and Peru. It was a coastal culture not reaching deeply inland. 

[Fig. 01 13a Mongolian Types] 

This peculiar development of the Neolithic culture, which Elliot Smith called the heliolithic [2] culture, 
included many or all of the following odd practices: (1) circumcision, (2) the very queer custom of sending 
the father to bed when a child is born, known as the couvade, (3) the practice of massage, (4) the making of 
mummies, (5) megalithic monuments [3](e.g. Stonehenge), (6) artificial deformation of the heads of the young 
by bandages, (7) tattooing, (8) religious association of the sun and the serpent, and (9) the use of the symbol 



Part I 59 

known as the swastika (see figure) for good luck. This odd little symbol spins gaily round the world; it seems 
incredible that men would have invented and made a pet of it twice over. 

[Fig. 0113b Caucasian Types] 

Elliot Smith traces these associated practices in a sort of constellation all over this great Mediterranean-India 
Ocean-Pacific area. Where one occurs, most of the others occur. They link Brittany with Borneo and Peru. 
But this constellation of practices does not crop up in the primitive homes of Nordic or Mongolian peoples, 
nor does it extend southward much beyond equatorial Africa. 

[Fig. 0114 Map of Europe, Asia, Africa, 15,000 Years ago] 

For thousands of years, from 15,000 to 10,000 B.C., such a heolithic culture and its brownish possessors may 
have been oozing round the world through the warmer regions of the world, drifting by canoes often across 
wide stretches of sea. It was then the highest culture in the world; it sustained the largest, most highly 
developed communities. And its region of origin may have been, as Elliot Smith suggests, the Mediterranean 
and North African region. It migrated slowly age by age. It must have been spreading up the Pacific Coast and 
across the island stepping-stones to America, long after it had passed on into other developments in its areas 
of origin. 

Many of the peoples of the East Indies, Melanesia and Polynesia were still in this heliolithic stage of 
development when they were discovered by European navigators in the eighteenth century. The first 
civilizations in Egypt and the Euphrates- Tigris valley probably developed directly out of this widespread 
culture. We will discuss later whether the Chinese civilization had a different origin. The Semitic nomads of 
the Arabian desert seem also to have had a heliolithic stage. 

[Fig. 0115 The Swastika] 

[Fig. 0116 Relationship of Human Races (Diagrammatic Summary)] 

13.0 The Languages of Mankind 

13.1 No One Primitive Language 

13.2 The Aryan Languages 

13.3 The Semitic Languages 

13.4 The Hamitic Languages 

13.5 The Ural-Altaic Languages 

13.6 The Chinese Languages 

13.7 Other Language Groups 

13.8 A Possible Primitive Language Group 

13.9 Some Isolated Languages 
13.1 No One Primitive Language 



Part I 60 

It is improbable that there was ever such a thing as a common human language. We know nothing of the 
language of Palolithic man; we do not even know whether Palolithic man talked freely. 

We know that Palolithic man had a keen sense of form and attitude, because of his drawings; and it has been 
suggested that he communicated his ideas very largely by gesture. Probably such words as the earlier men 
used were mainly cries of alarm or passion or names for concrete things, and in many cases they were 
probably imitative sounds made by or associated with the things named. [1] 

The first languages were probably small collections of such words; they consisted of interjections and nouns. 
Probably the nouns were said in different intonations to convey different meanings. If Palolithic man had a 
word for horse or bear, he probably showed by tone or gesture whether he meant bear is coming, bear is 
going, bear is to be hunted, dead bear, bear has been here, bear did this, and so on. Only very slowly did the 
human mind develop methods of indicating action and relationship in a formal manner. 

Modern languages contain many thousands of words, but the earlier languages could have consisted only of a 
few hundred. It is said that even modern European peasants can get along with something less than a thousand 
words, and it is quite conceivable that so late as the Early Neolithic Period that was the limit of the available 
vocabulary. Probably men did not indulge in those days in conversation or description. For narrative purposes 
they danced and acted rather than told. They had no method of counting beyond a method of indicating two by 
a dual number, and some way of expressing many. The growth of speech was at first a very slow process 
indeed, and grammatical forms and the expression of abstract ideas may have come very late in human 
history, perhaps only 400 or 500 generations ago. 

13.2 The Aryan Languages 

The students of languages (philologists) tell us that they are unable to trace with certainty any common 
features in all the languages of mankind. They cannot even find any elements common to all the Caucasian 
languages. They find over great areas groups of languages which have similar root words and similar ways of 
expressing the same idea, but then they find in other areas languages which appear to be dissimilar down to 
their fundamental structure, which express action and relation by entirely dissimilar devices, and have an 
altogether different grammatical scheme. One great group of languages, for example, now covers nearly all 
Europe and stretches out to India; it includes English, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Greek, Russian, 
Armenian, Persian, and various Indian tongues. It is called the Indo-European or ARYAN family. The same 
fundamental roots, the same grammatical ideas, are traceable through all this family. Compare, for example, 
English father, mother, German vater, mutter, Latin pater, mater, Greek pater, meter, French pre, mre, 
Armenian hair, mair, Sanscrit pitar, matar, etc., etc. In a similar manner the Aryan languages ring the changes 
on a great number of fundamental words, fin the Germania languages becoming p in Latin, and so on. They 
follow a law of variation called Grimm's Law. These languages are not different things, they are variations of 
one thing. The people who use these languages think in the same way. 

At one time in the remote past, in the Neolithic Age, that is to say 6,000 years or more ago, there may have 
been one simple original speech from which all these Aryan languages have differentiated. Somewhere 
between Central Europe and Western Asia there must have wandered a number of tribes sufficiently 
intermingled to develop and use one tongue. It is convenient here to call them the Aryan peoples. Sir H. H. 
Johnston has called them Aryan Russians. They belonged mostly to the Caucasian group of races and to the 
blond and northern subdivision of the group, to the Nordic race that is. 

Here one must sound a note of warning. There was a time when the philologists were disposed to confuse 
languages and races, and to suppose that people who once all spoke the same tongue must be all of the same 
blood. That, however, is not the case, as the reader will understand if he will think of the negroes of the 
United States who now all speak English, or of the Irish, who"except for purposes of political demonstration 
"no longer speak the old Erse language but English, or of the Cornish people, who have lost their ancient 



Part I 61 

Keltic speech. But what a common language does do, is to show that a common intercourse has existed, and 
the possibility of intermixture; and if it does not point to a common origin, it points at least to a common 
future. 

But even this original Aryan language, which was a spoken speech perhaps 4,000 or 3,000 B.C., was by no 
means a primordial language or the language of a savage race. Its earliest speakers were in or past the 
Neolithic stage of civilization. It had grammatical forms and verbal devices of some complexity. The vanished 
methods of expression of the later Palolithic peoples of the Azilians, or of the early Neolithic kitchen midden 
people for instance, were probably much cruder than the most elementary form of Aryan. 

Probably the Aryan group of languages became distinct in a wide region of which the Danube, Dnieper, Don, 
and Volga were the main rivers, a region that extended eastward beyond the Ural mountains north of the 
Caspian Sea. The area over which the Aryan speakers roamed probably did not for a long time reach to the 
Atlantic or to the south of the Black Sea beyond Asia Minor. There was no effectual separation of Europe 
from Asia then at the Bosporus. The Danube flowed eastward to a great sea that extended across the Volga 
region of south-eastern Russia right into Turkestan, and included the Black, Caspian, and Aral Seas of to-day. 
Perhaps, it sent out arms to the Arctic Ocean. It must have been a pretty effective barrier between the Aryan 
speakers and the people in northeastern Asia. South of this sea stretched a continuous shore from the Balkans 
to Afghanistan. North-west of it a region of swamps and lagoons reached to the Baltic. 

13.3 The Semitic Languages 

Next to Aryan, philologists distinguish another group of languages which seem to have been made quite 
separately from the Aryan languages, the Semitic. Hebrew and Arabic are kindred, but they seem to have even 
a different set of root words from the Aryan tongues; they express their ideas of relationship in a different 
way; the fundamental ideas of their grammars are generally different. They were in all probability made by 
human communities quite out of touch with the Aryans, separately and independently. Hebrew, Arabic, 
Abyssinian, ancient Assyrian, ancient-Phoenician, and a number of associated tongues are put together, 
therefore, as being derived from a second primary language, which is called the SEMITIC. In the very 
beginnings of recorded history we find Aryan-speaking peoples and Semitic-speaking peoples carrying on the 
liveliest intercourse of war and trade round and about the eastern end of the Mediterranean, but the 
fundamental differences of the primary Aryan and primary Semitic languages oblige us to believe that in early 
Neolithic times, before the historical period, there must for thousands of years have been an almost complete 
separation of the Aryan-speaking and the Semitic-speaking peoples. The latter seem to have lived either in 
south Arabia or in north-east Africa. In the opening centuries, of the Neolithic Age the original Aryan 
speakers and the original Semitic speakers were probably living, so to speak, in different worlds with a 
minimum of intercourse. Racially, it would seem, they had a remote common origin; both Aryan speakers and 
Semites are classed as Caucasians; but while the original Aryan speakers seem to have been of Nordic race, 
the original Semites were rather of the Mediterranean type. 

13.4 The Hamitic Languages 

Philologists speak with less unanimity of a third group of languages, the HAMITIC, which some declare to be 
distinct from, and others allied to, the Semitic. The weight of opinion inclines new towards the idea of some 
primordial connection of these two groups. The Hamitic group is certainly a much wider and more various 
language group than the Semitic or the Aryan, and the Semitic tongues are more of a family, have more of a 
common likeness, than the Aryan. The Semitic languages may have arisen as some specialized proto-Hamitic 
group, just as the birds arose from a special group of reptiles (Chap. IV). It is a tempting speculation, but one 
for which there is really no basis of justifying fact, to suppose that the rude primordial ancestor group of the 
Aryan tongues branched off from the proto-Hamitic speech forms at some still earlier date than the separation 
and specialization of Semitic. The Hamitic speakers to-day, like the Semitic speakers, are mainly of the 
Mediterranean Caucasian race. Among the Hamitic languages are the ancient Egyptian and Coptic, the Berber 



Part I 62 

languages (of the mountain people of North Africa, the Masked Tuaregs, and other such peoples), and what 
are called the Ethiopic group of African languages in eastern Africa, including the speech of the Gallas and 
the Somalis. The general grouping of these various tongues suggests that they originated over some great area 
to the west, as the primitive Semitic may have arisen to the east, of the Red Sea divide. That divide was 
probably much more effective in Pleistocene times; the sea extended across to the west of the Isthmus of 
Suez, and a great part of lower Egypt was under water. Long before the dawn of history, however, Asia and 
Africa had joined at Suez, and these two language systems were in contact in that region. And if Asia and 
Africa were separated then at Suez, they may, on the other hand, have been joined by way of Arabia and 
Abyssinia. 

These Hamitic languages may have radiated from a centre on the African coast of the Mediterranean, and they 
may have extended over the then existing land connections very widely into western Europe. 

[Fig. 0122 Possible Relationship of Languages] 

All these three great groups of languages, it may be noted, the Aryan, Semitic, and Hamitic have one feature 
in common which they do not share with any other language, and that is grammatical gender; but whether that 
has much weight as evidence of a remote common origin of Aryan, Semitic, and Hamitic, is a question for the 
philologist rather than for the general student. It does not affect the clear evidence of a very long and very 
ancient prehistoric separation of the speakers of these three diverse groups of tongues. 

The bulk of the Semitic and Hamitic-speaking peoples are put by ethnologists with the Aryans among the 
Caucasian group of races. They are white. The Semitic and Nordic races have a much more distinctive 
physiognomy; they seem, like their characteristic languages, to be more marked and specialized than the 
Hamitic-speaking peoples. 

13.5 The Ural-Altaic Languages 

Across to the north-east of the Aryan and Semitic areas there must once have spread a further distinct 
language system which is now represented by a group of languages known as the TURANIAN, or 
URAL-ALTAIC group. This includes the Lappish of Lapland and the Samoyed speech of Siberia, the Finnish 
language Magyar, Turkish or Tartar, Manchu and Mongol; it has not as a group been so exhaustively studied 
by European philologists, and there is insufficient evidence yet whether it does or does not include the Korean 
and Japanese languages. H. B. Hulbert has issued a comparative grammar of Korean and certain of the 
Dravidian languages of India to demonstrate the close affinity he finds between them. 

13.6 The Chinese Languages 

A fifth region of language formation was south-eastern Asia, where there still prevails a group of languages 
consisting of monosyllables without any inflections, in which the tone used in uttering a word determines its 
meaning. This may be called the Chinese or MONOSYLLABIC group, and it includes Chinese, Burmese, 
Siamese, and Tibetan. The difference between any of these Chinese tongues and the more western languages 
is profound. In the Pekinese form of Chinese there are only about 420 primary monosyllables, and 
consequently each of these has to do duty for a great number of things, and the different meanings, are 
indicated either by the context or by saying the word in a distinctive tone. The relations of these words to, 
each other are expressed by quite different methods from the Aryan methods; Chinese grammar is a thing 
different in nature from English grammar; it is a separate and different invention. Many writers declare there 
is no Chinese grammar at all, and that is true if we mean by grammar anything in the European sense of 
inflections and concords. Consequently any such thing as a literal translation from Chinese into English is an 
impossibility. The very method of the thought is different. [2] Their philosophy remains still largely a sealed 
book to the European on this account and vice versa, because of the different nature of the expressions. 



Part I 63 

13.7 Other Language Groups 

In addition, the following other great language families are distinguished by the philologist. All the 
American-Indian languages, which vary widely among themselves, are separable from any Old World group. 
Here we may lump them together not so much as a family as a miscellany. There is one great group of 
languages in Africa, from a little way north of the equator to its southern extremity, the BANTU and in 
addition a complex of other languages across the centre of the continent about which we will not trouble here. 
There are also two probably separate groups, the DR A VIDIAN in South India, and the .MALAY- 
POLYNESIAN stretched over Polynesia, and also now including Indian tongues. 

Now it seems reasonable to conclude from these fundamental differences that about the time when men were 
beginning to form rather larger communities than the family tribe, when they were beginning to tell each other 
long stories and argue and exchange ideas, human beings were distributed about the world in a number of 
areas which communicated very little with each other. They were separated, by oceans, seas, thick forests, 
deserts or mountains from one another. There may have been in that remote time, it may be 15,000 years ago 
or more, Aryan, Semitic, Hamitic, Turanian, American and Chinese-speaking tribes and families, wandering 
over their several areas of hunting and pasture, all at very much the same stage of culture, and each 
developing its linguistic instrument in its own way. Probably each of these original tribes was not more 
numerous altogether than the Indians in Hudson Bay Territory to-day. Systematic agriculture was barely 
beginning then, and until agriculture made a denser population possible men may have been almost as rare as 
the great apes have always been. If agriculture was becoming at all important in human life at that time, and if 
population was anywhere denser, it was probably in the Mediterranean region and possibly in areas now 
submerged. 

In addition to these Neolithic tribes, there must have been various still more primitive forest folks in Africa 
and in India. Central Africa, from the Upper Nile, was then a vast forest, impenetrable to ordinary human life, 
a forest of which the Congo forests of to-day are the last shrunken remains. 

Possibly the spread of men of a race higher than primitive Australoids into the East Indies, [3] and the 
development of the languages of the Malay -Polynesian type came later in time than the origination of these 
other language groups. 

The language divisions of the philologist do tally, it is manifest, in a broad sort of way with the main race 
classes of the ethnologist, and they carry out the same idea of age-long separations between great divisions of 
mankind. In the Glacial Age, ice, or at least a climate too severe for the free spreading of peoples, extended 
from the north pole into Central Europe and across Russia and Siberia to the great tablelands of Central Asia. 
After the last Glacial Age, this cold north mitigated its severities very slowly, and was for long without any 
other population than the wandering hunters who spread eastward and across Bering Strait. North and Central 
Europe and Asia did not become sufficiently temperate for agriculture until quite recent times, times that is 
within the limit of 12,000 or possibly even 10,000 years, and a dense forest period intervened between the age 
of the hunter and the agricultural clearings. 

This forest period was also a very wet period. It has been called the Pluvial or Lacustrine Age, the rain or 
pond period. It has to be remembered that the outlines of the land of the world have changed greatly even in 
the last hundred, centuries. Across European Russia, from the Baltic to the Caspian Sea, as the ice receded 
there certainly spread much water and many impassable swamps; the Caspian Sea and, the Sea of Aral and 
parts of the Desert of Turkestan, are the vestiges of a great extent of sea that reached far up to the Volga 
valley and sent an arm westward to join the Black Sea. Mountain barriers much higher than they are now, and 
the arm of the sea that is now the region of the Indus, completed the separation of the early Nordic races from 
the Mongolians and the Dravidians, and made the broad racial differentiation of those groups possible. 

Again the blown-sand Desert of Sahara"it is not a dried-up sea, but a wind desert, and was once fertile and 



Part I 64 

rich in life"becoming more and more dry and sandy, cut the Caucasians off from the sparse primitive Negro 
population in the central forest region of Africa. 

The Persian Gulf extended very far to the north of its present head, and combined with the Syrian desert to cut 
off the Semitic peoples from the eastern areas, while on the other hand the south of Arabia, much more fertile 
than it is to-day, may have reached across what is now the Gulf of Aden towards Abyssinia and Somaliland. 
The Mediterranean and Red Sea may even have been fertile valleys containing a string of freshwater lakes 
during the Pluvial Age. The Himalayas and the higher and vaster massif of Central Asia and the northward 
extension of the Bay of Bengal up to the present Ganges valley divided off the Dravidians from the 
Mongolians, the canoe was the chief link between Dravidian and Southern Mongol, and the Gobi system of 
seas and lakes which presently became the Gobi desert, and the great system of mountain chains which follow 
one another across Asia from the centre to the northeast, split the Mongolian races into the Chinese and the 
Ural-Altaic language groups. 

Bering Strait, when this came into existence, before or after the Pluvial Period, isolated the Amerindians. 

We are not suggesting here, be it noted, that these ancient separations were absolute separations, but that they 
were effectual enough at least to prevent any great intermixture of blood or any great intermixture of speech in 
those days of man's social beginnings. There was, nevertheless, some, amount of meeting and exchange even 
then, some drift of knowledge that spread the crude patterns and use of various implements, and the seeds of a 
primitive agriculture about the world. 

13.8 A Possible Primitive Language Group 

The fundamental tongues of these nine main language groups we have noted were not by any means all the 
human speech beginnings of the Neolithic Age. They are the latest languages, the survivors, which have 
ousted their more primitive predecessors. There may have been other, and possibly many other, ineffective 
centres of speech which were afterwards overrun by the speakers of still surviving tongues, and of elementary 
languages which faded out. We find strange little patches of speech still in the world which do not seem to be 
connected with any other language about them. Sometimes, however, an exhaustive inquiry seems to affiliate 
these disconnected patches, seems to open out to us tantalizing glimpses of some simpler, wider, and more 
fundamental and universal form of human speech. One language group that has been keenly discussed is the 
Basque group of dialects. The Basques live now on the north and south slopes of the Pyrenees; they number 
perhaps 600,000 altogether in Europe, and to this day they are a very sturdy and independent-spirited people. 
Their language, as it exists to-day, is a fully developed one. But it is developed upon lines absolutely different 
from those of the Aryan languages about it. Basque newspapers have been published in the Argentine and in 
the United States to supply groups of prosperous emigrants. The earliest French settlers in Canada were 
Basque, and Basque names are frequent among the French Canadians to this day. Ancient remains point to a 
much wider distribution of the Basque speech and people over Spain. For a long time this Basque language 
was a profound perplexity to scholars and its structural character led to the suggestion that it might be related 
to some Amerindian tongue. A. H. Keane, in Man, Past and Present, assembles, reasons for linking if'though 
remotely"with the Berber language of North Africa, and through the Berber with the general body of Hamitic 
languages, but this relationship is questioned by other philologists. They find Basque more akin to certain 
similarly stranded vestiges of speech found in the Caucasian Mountains, and they are disposed to regard it as a 
last surviving member, much changed and specialized of a very widely extended group of pre-Hamitic 
languages, otherwise extinct, spoken chiefly by peoples of that brunet Mediterranean race which once 
occupied most of western and southern Europe and western Asia, and which may have been very closely 
related to the Dravidians of India and the peoples with a heliolithic culture who spread eastward, thence 
through the East Indies to Polynesia and beyond. 

[Fig. 0128 Racial Types (after Champollion)] 



Part I 65 

It is quite possible that over western and southern Europe language groups extended eight or ten thousand 
years ago that have completely vanished before Aryan tongues. Later on we shall note, in passing, the 
possibility of three lost language groups represented by (1) Ancient Cretan, Lydian, and the like (though these 
may have belonged, says Sir H. H. Johnston, to the Basque"Caucasian"Dravidian [!] group), (2) Sumerian, 
and (3) Elamite. The suggestion has been made "it is a mere guess"that ancient Sumerian may have been a 
linking language between the early Basque"Caucasian and early Mongolian groups. If this is true, then we 
have in this Basque-Caucasian-Dravidian-Sumerian-proto-Mongolian group a still more ancient and more 
ancestral system of speech than the fundamental Hamitic. We have something more like the linguistic missing 
link, more like an ancestral language than anything else we can imagine at the present time. It may have been 
related to the Aryan and Semitic and Hamitic languages much as the primitive lizards of later Palaeozoic 
times were related to the mammals, birds, and dinosaurs respectively. 

13.9 Some Isolated Languages 

The Hottentot language is said to have affinities with the Hamitic tongues, from which it is separated by the 
whole breadth of Bantu-speaking Central Africa. A Hottentot-like language with Bushman affinities is still 
spoken in equatorial East Africa, and this strengthens the idea that the whole of East Africa was once 
Hamitic-speaking. The Bantu languages and peoples spread, in comparatively recent times, from some centre 
of origin in West Central Africa and cut off the Hottentots from the other Hamitic peoples. But it is at least 
equally probable that the Hottentot is a separate language group. 

Among other remote and isolated little patches of language are the Papuan speech of New Guinea and the 
native Australian. The now extinct Tasmanian language is but little known. What we do know of it is in 
support of what we have guessed about the comparative speechlessness of Palolithic man. 

We may quote a passage from Hutchinson's Living Races of Mankind upon this matter:" 

The language of the natives is irretrievably lost, only imperfect indications of its structure and a small 
proportion of its words having been preserved. In the absence of sibilants and some other features, their 
dialects resembled the Australian, but were of ruder, of less developed structure, and so imperfect that, 
according to Joseph Milligan, our best authority on the subject, they observed no settled order or arrangement 
of words in the construction of their sentences, but conveyed in a supplementary fashion by tone, manner, and 
gesture those modifications of meaning which we express by mood, tense, number, etc. Abstract terms were 
rare; for every variety of gum-tree or wattle-tree there was a name, but no word, for 'tree' in general, nor for 
qualities such as hard, soft, warm, cold, long, short, round, etc. Anything hard was 'like a stone,' anything 
round 'like the moon,' and so on, usually suiting the action to the word and confirming by some sign the 
meaning to be understood. 

14.0 The First Civilizations 

14.1 Early Cities and Early Nomads 

14.2 Early Civilizations 

14.2.1 The Sumerians 

14.2.2 The Empire of Sargon the First 

14.2.3 The Empire of Hammurabi 

14.2.4 The Assyrians and their Empire 



Part I 66 

14.2.5 The Chaldean Empire 

14.3 The Early History of Egypt 

14.4 The Early Civilization of India 

14.5 The Early History of China 

14.6 While the Civilizations were Growing 

14.1 Early Cities and Early Nomads 

It was out of the so-called heliolithic, culture we have described in Chapter XII that the first beginnings of 
anything that we can call a civilization arose. It is still doubtful whether we are to consider Mesopotamia or 
Egypt the earlier scene of the two parallel beginnings of settled communities living in towns. By 4,000 B.C., 
in both these regions of the earth, such communities existed, and had been going on for a very considerable 
time. The excavations of the American expedition at Nippur have unearthed evidence of a city community 
existing there at least as early as 5,000 B.C., and probably as early as 6,000 B.C., an earlier date than anything 
we know of in Egypt. The late Mr. Aaron Aaronson found a real wild wheat upon the slopes of Mt. Hermon, 
and it must be that somewhere in that part of the world its cultivation began. It may be that from the western 
end of the Mediteranean, possibly in some region now submerged, as a centre that the cultivation of wheat 
spread over the entire eastern hemisphere. But cultivation is not civilization; the growing of wheat had spread 
from the Atlantic to the Pacific coast with the distribution of the Neolithic culture by perhaps 15,000 or 
10,000 B.C., before the beginnings of civilization. Civilization is something more than the occasional seasonal 
growing of wheat. It is the settlement of men upon an area continuously cultivated and possessed, who live in 
buildings continuously inhabited with a common rule and a common city or citadel. For a long time 
civilization may quite possibly have developed in Mesopotamia without any relations with the parallel 
beginnings in Egypt. The two settlements may have been quite independent, arising separately out of the 
widely diffused Heliolithic Neolithic culture. Or they may have had a common origin in the region of the 
Mediterranean, the Red Sea, and southern Arabia. 

The first condition necessary to a real settling down of Neolithic men, as distinguished from a mere temporary 
settlement among abundant food, was of course a trustworthy all-the-year round supply of water, fodder for 
the animals, food for themselves, and building material for their homes. There had to be everything they could 
need at any season, and no want that would tempt them to wander further. This was a possible state of affairs, 
no doubt, in many European and Asiatic valleys; and in many such valleys, as in the case of the Swiss lake 
dwellings, men settled from a very early date indeed; but nowhere, of any countries now known to us, were 
these favourable conditions found upon such a scale, and nowhere did they hold good so surely year in and 
year out as in Egypt and in the country between the upper waters of the Euphrates and Tigris and the Persian 
Gulf. [1] Here was a constant water supply under enduring sunlight; trustworthy harvests year by year; in 
Mesopotamia wheat yielded, says Herodotus, two hundredfold to the sower; Pliny says that it was cut twice 
and afterwards yielded good fodder for sheep; there were abundant palms and many sorts of fruits; and as for 
building material, in Egypt there was clay and easily worked stone, and in Mesopotamia a clay that becomes a 
brick in the sunshine. In such countries men would cease to wander and settle down almost unawares; they 
would multiply and discover themselves numerous and by their numbers safe from any casual assailant. They 
multiplied, producing a denser human population than the earth had ever known before; their houses became 
more substantial, wild beasts were exterminated over great areas, the security of life increased so that ordinary 
men went about in the towns and fields without encumbering themselves with weapons, and among 
themselves, at least, they became peaceful peoples. Men took root as man had never taken root before. 

[Fig. 0133 The Cradle of Western Civilization] 



Part I 67 

But in the less fertile and more seasonal lands outside these favoured areas, in the forests of Europe, the 
Arabian deserts, and the seasonal pastures of Central Asia, there developed on the other hand a thinner, more 
active population of peoples, the primitive nomadic peoples. In contrast with the settled folk, the 
agriculturists, these nomads lived freely and dangerously. They were in comparison lean and hungry men. 
Their herding was still blended with hunting; they fought constantly for their pastures against hostile families. 
The discoveries in the elaboration of implements and the use of metals made by the settled peoples spread to 
them and improved their weapons. They followed the settled folk from Neolithic phase to Bronze phase. It is 
possible that in the case of iron, the first users were nomadic. They became more warlike with better arms, 
and more capable of rapid movements with the improvement of their transport. One must not think of a 
nomadic stage as a predecessor of a settled stage in human affairs. To begin with, man was a slow drifter, 
following food. Then one sort of men began to settle down, and another sort became more distinctly nomadic. 
The settled sort began to rely more and more upon grain for food; the nomad began to make a greater use of 
milk for food. He bred his cows for milk. The two ways of life specialized in opposite directions. It was 
inevitable that nomad folk and the settled folk should clash, that the nomads should seem hard barbarians to 
the settled peoples, and the settled peoples soft and effeminate and very good plunder to the nomad peoples. 
Along the fringes of the developing civilizations there must have been a constant raiding and bickering 
between hardy nomad tribes and mountain tribes and the more numerous and less warlike peoples in the 
towns and villages. 

For the most part this was a mere raiding of the borders. The settled folk had the weight of numbers on their 
side; the herdsmen might raid and loot, but they could not stay. That sort of mutual friction might go on for 
many generations. But ever and again we find some leader or some tribe amidst the disorder of free and 
independent nomads, powerful enough to force a sort of unity upon its kindred tribes, and then woe betide the 
nearest civilization. Down pour the united nomads on the unwarlike, unarmed plains, and there ensues a war 
of conquest. Instead of carrying off the booty, the conquerors settle down on the conquered land, which 
becomes all booty for them; the villagers and townsmen are reduced to servitude and tribute paying, they 
become hewers of wood and drawers of water, and the leaders of the nomads become kings and princes, 
masters and aristocrats. They, too, settle down, they learn many of the arts and refinements of the conquered, 
they cease to be lean and hungry, but for many generations they retain traces of their old nomadic habits, they 
hunt and indulge in open-air sports, they drive and race chariots, they regard work, especially agricultural 
work, as the lot of an inferior race and class. 

This in a thousand variations has been one of the main stories in history for the last seventy centuries or more. 
In the first history that we can clearly decipher we find already in all the civilized regions a distinction 
between a non-working ruler class and the working mass of the population. And we find, too, that after some 
generations, the aristocrat, having settled down, begins to respect the arts and refinements and lawabidingness, 
of settlement, and to lose something of his original hardihood. He intermarries, he patches up a sort of 
toleration between conqueror and conquered; he exchanges religious ideas and learns the lessons upon which 
soil and climate insist. He becomes a part of the civilization he has captured; and as he does so, events gather 
towards a, fresh invasion by the free adventurers of the outer world. 

14.2 Early Civilizations 

14.2.1 The Sumerians 

This alternation of settlement, conquest, refinement, fresh conquest, refinement, is particularly to be noted in 
the region of the Euphrates and Tigris, which lay open in every direction to great areas which are not arid 
enough to be complete deserts, but which were not fertile enough to support civilized populations. Perhaps the 
earliest people to form real cities in this part of the, world, or indeed in any part of the world, were a people of 
mysterious origin called the Sumerians. They were probably brunets of Iberian or Dravidian affinities. They 
used a kind of writing which they scratched upon clay, and their language has been deciphered. [2] It was a 
language more like the unclassified Caucasic language groups than any others that now exist. These languages 



Part I 68 

may be connected with Basque, and may represent what was once a widespread primitive language group 
extending from Spain and western Europe to eastern India, and reaching south wards to Central Africa. 

These people shaved their heads and wore simple tunic-like garments of wool. They settled first on the lower 
courses of the great river and not very far from the Persian Gulf, which in those days ran up for a hundred and 
thirty miles [3] and more beyond its present head. They fertilized their fields by letting water run through 
irrigation trenches, and they gradually became very skilful hydraulic engineers; they had cattle, asses, sheep, 
and goats, but no horses; their collections of mud huts grew into towns, and their religion raised up tower- like 
temple buildings. 

[Fig. 0136 Sumerian Warriors in Phalanx] 

Clay, dried in the sun, was a very great fact in the lives of these people. This lower country of the 
Euphrates-Tigris valleys had little or no stone. 

They built of brick, they made pottery and earthenware images, and they drew and presently wrote, upon thin 
tile-like cakes of clay. They do not seem to have had paper or to have used parchment. Their books and 
memoranda, even their letters, were potsherds. 

At Nippur they built a great tower of brick to their chief god, El-lil (Enlil), the memory of which is supposed 
to be preserved in the story of the Tower of Babel. They seem to have been divided up into city states, which 
warred among, themselves and maintained for many centuries their military capacity. Their soldiers carried 
long spears and shields, and fought in close formation. Sumerians conquered Sumerians. Sumeria remained 
unconquered by any stranger race for a, very long period of time indeed. 

They developed their civilization, their writing, and their shipping, through a period that may be twice as long 
as the whole period from the Christian era to the present time. 

The first of all known empires was that founded by the high priest of the god of the Sumerian city of Erech. It 
reached, says an inscription at Nippur, from the Lower (Persian Gulf) to the Upper (Mediterranean or Red?) 
Sea. Among the mud heaps of the Euphrates-Tigris valley the record of that vast period of history, that first 
half of the Age of Cultivation, is buried. There flourished the first temples and the first priest-rulers that we 
know of among mankind. 

14.2.2 The Empire of Sargon the First 

Upon the western edge of this country appeared nomadic tribes of Semitic-speaking peoples who traded, 
raided, and fought with the Sumerians for many generations. Then arose at last a great leader among these 
Semites, Sargon (2,750 B.C.), who united them, and not only conquered the Sumerians, but extended his rule 
from beyond the Persian Gulf on the east to the Mediterranean on the west. His own people were called the 
Akkadians and his empire is called the Sumerian Akkadian empire. It endured for over two hundred years. 

But though the Semites conquered and gave a king to the Sumerian cities, it was the Sumerian civilization 
which prevailed over the simpler Semitic culture. The newcomers learnt the Sumerian writing (the cuneiform 
writing) and the Sumerian language; they set up no Semitic writing of their own. The Sumerian language 
became for these barbarians the language of knowledge and power, as Latin was the language of knowledge 
and power among the barbaric peoples of the middle ages in Europe. This Sumerian learning had a very great 
vitality. It was destined to survive through a long series of conquests and changes that now began in the valley 
of the two rivers. 

14.2.3 The Empire of Hammurabi 



Part I 69 

As the people of the Sumerian Akkadian empire lost their political and military vigour, fresh inundations of a 
warlike people began from the east, the Elamites, [4] while from the west came the Semitic Amorites, 
pinching the Sumerian Akkadian empire between them. The Amorites settled in what was at first a small 
up-river town, named Babylon; and after a hundred years of warfare became masters of all Mesopotamia 
under a great king, Hammurabi (2,100 B.C.), who founded the first Babylonian empire. 

Again came peace and security and a decline in aggressive prowess, and in another hundred years fresh 
nomads from the east were invading Babylonia, bringing with them the horse and the war chariot, and setting 
up their own king in Babylon. . . 

14.2.4 The Assyrians and their Empire 

Higher up the Tigris, above the clay lands and with easy supplies of workable stone, a Semitic people, the 
Assyrians, while the Sumerians were still unconquered by the Semites, were settling about a number of cities 
of which Assur and Nineveh were the chief. Their peculiar physiognomy, the long nose and thick lips, was 
very like that of the commoner type of Polish Jew to-day. They wore great beards and ringletted long hair, tall 
caps and long robes. They were constantly engaged in mutual raiding with the Hittites to the west; they were 
conquered by Sargon I and became free again; a certain Tushratta, King of Mitanni, to the north-west, 
captured and held their capital, Nineveh, for a time; they intrigued with Egypt against Babylon and were in the 
pay of Egypt; they developed the military art to a very high pitch, and became mighty raiders and exacters of 
tribute; and at last, adopting the horse and the war chariot, they settled accounts for a time with the Hittites, 
and then, under Tiglath Pileser 1, conquered Babylon for themselves (about 1,100 B.C.). But their hold on the 
lower, older, and more civilized land was not secure, and Nineveh, the stone city, as distinguished from 
Babylon, the brick city, remained their capital. For many centuries power swayed between Nineveh and 
Babylon, and sometimes it was an Assyrian and sometimes a Babylonian who claimed to be king of the 
world. 



[Fig. 0139 Assyrian Warrior temp. Sargon II] 



For four centuries Assyria was restrained from expansion towards Egypt by a fresh northward thrust and 
settlement of another group of Semitic peoples, the Arameans, whose chief city was Damascus, and whose 
descendants are the Syrians of to-day. (There is, we may note, no connection whatever between the words 
Assyrian and Syrian. It is an accidental similarity.) Across these Syrians the Assyrian kings fought for power 
and expansion south-westward. In 745 B.C. arose another Tiglath Pileser, Tiglath Pileser III, the Tiglath 
Pileser of the Bible. [5] He not only directed the transfer of the Israelites to Media (the Lost Ten Tribes whose 
ultimate fate has exercised so many curious minds) but he conquered and ruled Babylon, so founding what 
historians know as the New Assyrian Empire. His son, Shalmaneser IV, [6] died during the siege of Samaria, 
and was succeeded by a usurper, who, no doubt to flatter Babylonian susceptibilities, took the ancient 
Akkadian Sumerian name of Sargon, Sargon II. He seems to have armed the Assyrian forces for the first time 
with iron weapons. It was probably Sargon II who actually carried out the deportation of the Ten Tribes. 

Such shiftings, about of population became a very distinctive part of the political methods of the, Assyrian 
new empire. Whole nations who were difficult to control in their native country would be shifted en masse to 
unaccustomed regions and amidst strange neighbours, where their only hope of survival would lie in 
obedience to the supreme power. 

Sargon's son, Sennacherib, led the Assyrian hosts to the borders of Egypt. There Sennacherib's army was 
smitten by a pestilence, a disaster described in the nineteenth chapter of the Second Book of Kings. 

And it came to pass that night, that the angel of the Lord went out, and smote in the camp of the Assyrians an 
hundred fourscore and five thousand: and when they arose early in the morning, behold, they were all dead 
corpses. So Sennacherib king of Assyria departed, and went and returned, and dwelt at Nineveh. [7] 



Part I 70 

Sennacherib's grandson, Assurbanipal (called by the Greeks Sardanapalus), did succeed in conquering and for 
a time holding lower Egypt. 

14.2.5 The Chaldean Empire 

The Assyrian empire lasted only a hundred and fifty years after Sargon II. Fresh nomadic Semites coming 
from the south cast, the Chaldeans, assisted by two Aryan-speaking peoples from the north, the Medes and 
Persians, combined against it, and took Nineveh in 606 B.C. 

The Chaldean Empire, with its capital at Babylon (Second Babylonian Empire), lasted under Nebuchadnezzar 
the Great (Nebuchadnezzar II) and his successors until 539 B.C. when it collapsed before the attack of Cyrus, 
the founder of the Persian power. . . . 

So the story goes on. In 330, B.C. as we shall tell later in some detail, a Greek conqueror, Alexander the 
Great, is looking on the murdered body of the last of the Persian rulers. 

The story of the Tigris and Euphrates civilizations, of which we have given as yet only the bare outline, is a 
story of conquest following after conquest, and each conquest replaces old rulers and ruling classes by new; 
races like the Sumerian and the Elamite are swallowed up, their languages vanish, they interbreed and are lost, 
the Assyrian melts away into Chaldean and Syrian, the Hittites become Aryanized and lose distinction, the 
Semites who swallowed up the Sumerians give place to Aryan rulers, Medes and Persians appear in the place 
of the Elamites the Aryan Persian language dominates the empire until the Aryan Greek ousts it from official 
life. Meanwhile the plough does its work year by year, the harvests are gathered, the builders build as they are 
told, the tradesmen work and acquire fresh devices; the knowledge of writing spreads, novel things, the horse 
and wheeled vehicles and iron, are introduced and become part of the permanent inheritance of mankind; the 
volume of trade upon sea and desert increases, men's ideas widen, and knowledge grows. There are set-backs, 
massacres, pestilence; but the story is, on the whole, one of enlargement. For four thousand years this new 
thing, civilization, which had set its root into the soil of the two rivers, grew as a tree grows; now losing a 
limb, now stripped by a storm, but always growing and resuming its growth. After four thousand years the 
warriors and conquerors were still going to, and fro over this growing thing they did not understand, but men 
had now (330 B.C.) got iron, horses, writing and computation, money, a greater variety of foods and textiles, a 
wider knowledge of their world. 

The time that elapsed between the empire of Sargon I and the conquest of Babylon by Alexander the Great 
was as long, be it noted, at the least estimate, as the time from Alexander the Great to the present day. And 
before the time of Sargon, men had been settled in the Sumerian land, living in towns, worshipping in 
temples, following an orderly Neolithic agricultural life in an organized community for at least as long again. 
Eridu, Lagash, Ur, Uruk, Larsa, have already an immemorial past when first they appear in history. [8] 

One of the most difficult things for both the writer and student of history is to sustain the sense, of these 
time-intervals and prevent these ages becoming shortened by perspective in his imagination. Half the duration 
of human civilization and the keys to all its chief institutions are to be found before Sargon I. Moreover, the 
reader cannot too often compare the scale of the dates in these latter fuller pages of man's history with the 
succession of countless generations to which the time diagrams given on pages 1 1 and 47, bear witness. 

14.3 The Early History of Egypt 

Parallel with the ancient beginnings of civilization in Sumeria, a parallel process was going on in Egypt. It is 
still a matter of discussion which was the most ancient of these two beginnings, or how far they had a 
common origin or derived one from the other. 

[Fig. 0142 Time Chart 6000 B.C. to A.D.] 



Part I 71 

The story of the Nile valley from the dawn of its traceable history until the time of Alexander the Great is not 
very dissimilar from that of Babylonia; but while Babylonia lay open on every side to invasion, Egypt was 
protected by desert to the west and by desert and sea to the east, while to the south she had only negro 
peoples. Consequently her history is less broken by the invasions of strange races than is the history of 
Assyria and Babylon, and until towards the eighth century B.C. when she fell under an Ethiopian dynasty, 
whenever a conqueror did come into her story, he came in from Asia by way of the Isthmus of Suez. 

[Fig. 0143 Egyptian Hippopatamus Goddess] 

The Stone Age remains in Egypt are of very uncertain date; there are Palolithic and then Neolithic remains. It 
is not certain whether the Neolithic pastoral people who left those remains were the direct ancestors of the 
later Egyptians. In many respects they differed entirely from their successors. They buried their dead, but 
before they buried them they cut up the bodies and apparently ate portions of the flesh. They seem to have 
done this out of a feeling of reverence for the departed; the dead were eaten with honour according to the 
phrase of Mr. Flinders Petrie. It may have been that the survivors hoped to retain thereby some vestige of the 
strength and virtue that had died. Traces of similar savage customs have been found in the long barrows that 
were scattered over western Europe before the spreading of the Aryan peoples, and they have pervaded negro, 
Africa, where they are only dying out at the present time. 

About 5,000 B.C., or earlier, the traces of these primitive peoples cease, and the true Egyptians appear on the 
scene. The former people were hut builders and at a comparatively low stage of Neolithic culture, the latter 
were already a civilized Neolithic people; they used brick and wood buildings instead of their predecessors' 
hovels, and they were working stone. Very soon they passed into the Bronze Age. They possessed a system of 
picture writing almost as developed as the contemporary writing of the Sumerians, but quite different in 
character. Possibly there was an irruption from southern Arabia by way of Aden, of a fresh people, who came 
into upper Egypt and descended slowly towards the delta of the Nile. Dr. Wallis Budge writes of them as 
conquerors from the East. But their gods and their ways, like their picture writing, were very different indeed 
from the Sumerian. One of the earliest known figures of a deity is that of a hippopotamus goddess, and so 
very distinctively African. 

The clay of the Nile is not so fine and plastic as the Sumerian clay, and the Egyptians made no use of it for 
writing. But they early resorted to strips of the papyrus reed fastened together, from whose name comes our 
word paper. 

The broad outline of the history of Egypt is simpler than the history of Mesopotamia. It has long been the 
custom to divide the rulers of Egypt into a succession of Dynasties, and in speaking of the periods of, 
Egyptian history it is usual to speak of the first, fourth, fourteenth, and so on, Dynasty. The Egyptians were 
ultimately conquered by the Persians after their establishment in Babylon, and when finally Egypt fell to 
Alexander the Great in 332 B.C., it was Dynasty XXXI that came to an end. In that long history of over 4,000 
years, a much longer period than that between the career of Alexander the Great and the present day, certain 
broad phases of development may be noted here. There was a phase known as the old kingdom, which 
culminated in the IV th Dynasty; this Dynasty marks a period of wealth and splendour, and its monarchs were 
obsessed by such a passion for making monuments for themselves as no men have ever before or since had a 
chance to display and gratify. It was Cheops [9] and Chephren and Mycerinus of this IV th Dynasty who raised 
the vast piles of the great and the second and the third pyramids at Gizeh. 

These unmeaning sepulchral piles, of an almost incredible vastness, [10] erected in an age when engineering 
science had scarcely begun, exhausted the resources of Egypt through three long reigns, and left her wasted as 
if by a war. 

The story of Egypt from the IV th to the XVth Dynasty is a story of conflicts between alternative capitals and 
competing religions, of separations into several kingdoms and reunions. It is, so to speak, an internal history. 



Part I 72 

Here we can name only one of that long series of Pharaohs, Pepi II, who reigned ninety years, the longest 
reign in history, and left a great abundance of inscriptions and buildings. At last there happened to Egypt what 
happened so frequently to the civilizations of Mesopotamia. Egypt was conquered by nomadic Semites, who 
founded a shepherd dynasty, the Hyksos (XVIth), which was finally expelled by native Egyptians. This 
invasion probably happened while that first Babylonian Empire which Hammurabi founded was flourishing, 
but the exact correspondences of dates between early Egypt and Babylonia are still very doubtful. Only after a 
long period of servitude did a popular uprising expel these foreigners again. 

After the war of liberation (circa 1,600 B.C.) there followed a period of great prosperity in Egypt, the New 
Empire. Egypt became a great and united military state, and pushed her expeditions at last as far as the 
Euphrates, and so the ago-long struggle between the Egyptian and Babylonian-Assyrian power began. 

For a time Egypt was the ascendant power. Thothmes III [1 1] and Amenophis III (XVIIIth Dynasty) ruled 
from Ethiopia to the Euphrates in the fifteenth century B.C. 

For various reasons these names stand out with unusual distinctness in the Egyptian record. They were great 
builders, and left many monuments and inscriptions. Amenophis III founded Luxor, and added greatly to 
Karnak. At Tel-el-Amarna a mass of letters has been found, the royal correspondence with Babylonian and 
Hittite and other monarchs, including that Tushratta who took Nineveh, throwing a flood of light upon the 
political and social affairs of this particular age. Of Amenophis IV we shall have more to tell later, but of one, 
the, most extraordinary and able of Egyptian monarchs, Queen Hatasu, we have no space to tell. She is 
represented upon her monuments in masculine garb, and with a long beard as a symbol of wisdom. 

Thereafter there was a brief Syrian conquest of Egypt, a series of changing dynasties, among which we may 
note the XlXth, which included Rameses II, a great builder of temples, who reigned seventy-seven years 
(about 1,317 to 1,250 B.C.), and who is supposed by some to have been the Pharaoh of Moses, and the 
XXIInd, which included Shishak, who plundered Solomon's temple (circa 930 B.C.). An Ethiopian conqueror 
from the Upper Nile founded the XXVth Dynasty, a foreign dynasty, which went down (670 B.C.) before the 
new Assyrian Empire created by Tiglath Pileser III, Sargon II, and Sennacherib, of which we have already 
made mention. 

The days of any Egyptian predominance over foreign nations were drawing to an end. For a time under 
Psammetichus I of the XXVIth Dynasty (664-610 B.C.) native rule was restored, and Necho II recovered for a 
time the old Egyptian possessions in Syria up to the Euphrates while the Medes and Chaldeans were attacking 
Nineveh. From those gains Necho II was routed out again after the fall of Nineveh and the Assyrians by 
Nebuchadnezzar II, the great Chaldean king, the Nebuchadnezzar of the Bible. The Jews, who had been the 
allies of Necho II, were taken into captivity by Nebuchadnezzar to Babylon. 

When, in the sixth century B.C. Chaldea fell to the Persians, Egypt followed suit, a rebellion later made Egypt 
independent once more for sixty years, and in 332 B.C. she welcomed Alexander the Great as her conqueror, 
to be ruled thereafter by foreigners, first by Greeks, then by Romans, then in succession by Arabs, Turks, and 
British, until the present day. 

Such briefly is the history of Egypt from its beginnings; a history first of isolation and then of increasing 
entanglement with the affairs of other nations, as increasing facilities of communication drew the peoples of 
the world into closer and closer interaction. 

14.4 The Early Civilization of India 

The history we need to tell here of India is simpler even than this brief record of Egypt. The Dravidian 
peoples in the Ganges valley developed upon parallel lines to the Sumerian and Egyptian societies. But it is 
doubtful if they ever got to so high a stage of social development; they have left few monuments, and they 



Part I 73 

never achieved any form of writing. 

Somewhere about the time of Hammurabi or later, a branch of the Aryan-speaking people who then occupied 
North Persia and Afghanistan pushed down the north-west passes into India. They conquered their way until 
they prevailed over all the darker populations of North India, and spread their rule or influence over the whole 
peninsula. They never achieved any unity in India; their history is a history of warring kings and republics. 

The Persian empire, in the days of its expansion after the capture of Babylon, pushed its boundaries beyond 
the Indus, and later Alexander the Great marched as far as the border of the desert that separates the Punjab 
from the Ganges valley. But with this bare statement we will for a time leave the history of India. 

14.5 The Early History of China 

Meanwhile, as this triple system of White Man civilization developed in India and in the lands about the 
meeting-places of Asia, Africa, and Europe, another and quite distinct civilization was developing and 
spreading out from the then fertile but now dry and desolate valley of the Tarim and from the slopes of the 
Kuen-lun mountains in two directions down the course of the Hwang-ho, and later into the valley of the 
Yangtse-kiang. We know practically nothing as yet of the archaeology of China, we do not know anything of 
the Stone Age in that part of the world, and at present our ideas of this early civilization are derived from the 
still very imperfectly explored Chinese literature. It has evidently been from the first and throughout a 
Mongolian civilization. Until after the, time of Alexander the Great there are few traces of any Aryan or 
Semitic, much less of Hamitic influence. All such influences were still in another world, separated by 
mountains, deserts, and wild nomadic tribes until that time. The Chinese seem to have made their civilization 
spontaneously and unassisted. Some recent writers suppose indeed a connection with ancient Sumeria. Of 
course both China and Sumeria arose on the basis of the almost, world-wide early Neolithic culture, but the 
Tarim valley and the lower Euphrates are separated by such vast obstacles of mountain and desert as to forbid 
the idea of any migration or interchange of people who had once settled down. Perhaps the movement from 
the north met another movement of culture coming from the south. 

[Fig. 0149 The Cradle of Chinese Civilization (Map)] 

Though the civilization of China is wholly Mongolian (as we have defined Mongolian), it does not follow that 
the northern roots are the only ones from which it grew. If it grew first in the Tarim valley, then unlike all 
other civilizations (including the Mexican and Peruvian) it did not grow out of the heliolithic culture. We 
Europeans know very little as yet of the ethnology and pre-history of southern China. There the Chinese 
mingle, with such kindred peoples as the Siamese and Burmese, and seem to bridge over towards the darker 
Dravidian peoples and towards the Malays. It is quite clear from the Chinese records that there were southern 
as well as northern beginnings of a civilization, and that the Chinese civilization that comes into history 2,000 
years B.C. is the result of a long process of conflicts, minglings and interchanges between a southern and a 
northern culture of which the southern may have been the earlier and more highly developed. The southern 
Chinese perhaps played the role towards the northern Chinese that the Hamites or Sumerians played to the 
Aryan and Semitic peoples in the west; or that the settled Dravidians played towards the Aryans in India. 
They may have been the first agriculturists and the first temple builders. But so little is known as yet of this 
attractive chapter in pre-history that we cannot dwell upon it further here. 

The chief foreigners mentioned in the early annals of China were a Ural-Altaic people on the north-east 
frontier, the Huns, against whom certain of the earlier emperors made war. 

Chinese history is still very little known to European students, and our accounts of the early records are 
particularly unsatisfactory. About 2,700 to 2,400 B.C. reigned five emperors, who seem to have been almost 
incredibly exemplary beings. 



Part I 74 

There follows upon these first five emperors a series of dynasties, of which the accounts become more and 
more exact and convincing as they become more recent. China has to tell a long history of border warfare and 
of graver struggles between the settled and nomad peoples. To begin with, China, like Sumer and like Egypt, 
was a land of city states. The government was at first a government of numerous kings; they became loosely 
feudal under an emperor, as the Egyptians did; and then later, as with the Egyptians, came a centralizing 
empire. Shang (1,750 to 1,125 B.C.) and Chow (1,125 to 250 B.C.) are named as being the two great 
dynasties of the feudal period. Bronze vessels of these earlier dynasties, beautiful, splendid, and with a 
distinctive style of their own, still exist, and there can be no doubt of the existence of a high state of culture 
even before the days of Shang. 

It is perhaps a sense of symmetry that made the later historians of Egypt and China talk of the earlier phases 
of their national history as being under dynasties comparable to the dynasties of the later empires, and of such 
early Emperors as Menes (in Egypt) or the First Five Emperors (in China). The early dynasties exercised far 
less centralized powers than the later ones. Such unity as China possessed under the Shang Dynasty was a 
religious rather than an effective political union. The Son of Heaven offered sacrifices for all the Chinese. 
There was a common script, a common civilization, and a common enemy in the Huns of the north-western 
borders. 

The last of the Shang Dynasty was a cruel and foolish monarch who burnt himself alive (1,125 B.C.) in his 
palace after a decisive defeat by Wu Wang, the founder of the Chow Dynasty. Wu Wang seems to have been 
helped by allies from among the south-western tribes as well as by a popular revolt. 

For a time China remained loosely united under the Chow emperors, as loosely united as was Christendom 
under the popes in the Middle Ages; the Chow emperors had become the traditional high priests of the land in 
the place of the Shang Dynasty and claimed a sort of overlordship in Chinese affairs, but gradually the loose 
ties of usage and sentiment that held the empire together lost their hold upon men's minds. Hunnish peoples to 
the north and west took on the Chinese civilization without acquiring a sense of its unity. Feudal princes 
began to regard themselves as independent. Mr. Liang-Chi- Chao, [12] one of the Chinese representatives at 
the Paris Conference of 1919, states that between the eighth and fourth centuries B.C. there were in the 
Hwang-ho and Yang-tse valleys no less than five or six thousand small states with about a dozen powerful 
states dominating over them. The land was subjected to perpetual warfare (Age of Confusion). In the sixth 
century B.C. the great powers in conflict were Ts'i and Ts'in, which were northern Hwang-ho states, and Ch'u, 
which was a vigorous, aggressive power in the Yang-tse valley. A confederation against Ch'u laid the 
foundation for a league that kept the peace for a hundred years; the league subdued and incorporated Ch'u and 
made a general treaty of disarmament. It became the foundation of a new pacific empire. 

The knowledge of iron entered China at some unknown date, but iron weapons began to be commonly used 
only about 500 B.C., that is to say two or three hundred years or more after this had become customary in 
Assyria, Egypt, and Europe. Iron was probably introduced from the north into China by the Huns. 

The last rulers of the Chow Dynasty were ousted by the kings of Ts'in, the latter seized upon the sacred 
sacrificial bronze tripods, and so were able to take over the imperial duty of offering sacrifices to Heaven. In 
this manner was the Ts'in Dynasty established. It ruled with far more vigour and effect than any previous 
family. The reign of Shi Hwang-ti (meaning first universal emperor) of this dynasty is usually taken to mark 
the end of feudal and divided China. He seems to have played the unifying role in the east that Alexander the 
Great might have played in the west, but he lived longer, and the unity he made (or restored) was 
comparatively permanent, while the empire of Alexander the Great fell to pieces, as we shall tell at his death. 
Shi Hwang-ti, among other feats in the direction of common effort, organized the building of the Great Wall 
of China against the Huns. A civil war followed close upon his reign, and ended in the establishment of the 
Hun Dynasty. Under this Hun Dynasty the empire grew greatly beyond its original two river valleys, the Huns 
were effectively restrained, and the Chinese penetrated westward until they began to learn at last, of civilized 
races and civilizations other than their own. 



Part I 75 

By 100 B.C. the Chinese had heard of India, their power had spread across Tibet and into Western Turkestan, 
and they were trading by camel caravans with Persia and the western world. So much for the present must 
suffice for our account of China. We shall return to the distinctive characters of its civilization later. 

14.6 While the Civilizations were Growing 

And in these thousands of years during which man was making his way step by step from the barbarism of the 
heliolithic culture to civilization at these old-world centres, what was happening in the rest of the world? To 
the north of these centres, from the Rhine to the Pacific, the Nordic and Mongolian peoples, as we have told, 
were also learning the use of metals; but while the civilizations were settling down these men of the great 
plains were becoming migratory and developing from a slow wandering life towards a complete seasonal 
nomadism. To the south of the civilized zone, in central and southern Africa, the negro was, making a slower 
progress, and that, it would seem, under the stimulus of invasion by whiter tribes from the Mediterranean 
regions, bringing with them in succession cultivation and the use of metals. These white men came to the 
black by two routes: across the Sahara to the west as Berbers and Tuaregs and the like, to mix with the negro 
and create such quasi-white races as the Fulas; and also by way of the Nile, where the Baganda (= Gandafolk) 
of Uganda, for example, may possibly be of remote: white origin. The African forests were denser then, and 
spread eastward and northward from the Upper Nile. 

The islands of the East Indies, three thousand years ago, were probably still only inhabited here and there 'by 
stranded patches of Palolithic Australoids, who had wandered thither in those immemorial ages when there 
was a nearly complete land bridge by way of the East Indies to Australia. The islands of Oceania were 
uninhabited. The spreading of the heliolithic peoples by sea-going canoes into the islands of the Pacific came 
much later in the history of man, at earliest a thousand years B.C. Still later did they reach Madagascar. The 
beautiy of New Zealand also was as yet wasted upon mankind; its highest living creatures were a great 
ostrich-like bird, the moa, now extinct, and the little kiwi which has feathers like coarse hair and the merest 
rudiments of wings. 

In North America a group of Mongoloid tribes were now cut off altogether from the old world. They were 
spreading s lowly southward, hunting the innumerable bison of the plains. They had still to learn for 
themselves the secrets of a separate agriculture based on maize, and in South America to tame the lama to 
their service, and so build up in Mexico and Peru two civilizations roughly parallel in their nature to that of 
Sumer, but different in many respects, and later by six armadillo, were still living. . . . 

When men reached the southern extremity of America, the Megatherium the giant sloth, and the Glyptodon, 
the giant armadillo, were still living. 

There is a considerable imaginative appeal in the obscure story of the early American civilizations. It was 
largely a separate development. Somewhen at last the southward drift of the Amerindians must have met and 
mingled with the eastward, canoe-borne drift of the heliolithic culture. But it was the heliolithic culture still at 
a very lowly stage and probably before the use of metals. It has to be noted as evidence of this canoe-borne, 
origin of American culture, that elephantheaded figures are found in Central American drawings. American 
metallurgy may have arisen independently of the old world use of metal, or it may have been brought by these 
elephant carvers. These American peoples got to the use of bronze and copper, but not to the use of iron; they 
had gold and silver; and their stonework, their pottery, weaving, and dyeing were carried to a very high level. 
In all these things the American product resembles the old-world product generally, but always it has 
characteristics that are distinctive. The American civilizations had picture-writing of a primitive sort, but it 
never developed even to the pitch of the earliest Egyptian hieroglyphics. In Yucatan only, was there a kind of 
script, the Maya writing, but it was used simply for keeping a calendar. In Peru the beginnings of writing were 
superseded by a curious and complicated method of keeping records by means of knots tied upon strings of 
various colours and shapes. It is said that even laws and orders could be conveyed by this code. These string 
bundles were called quipu s, but though quipus are still to be found in collections, the art of reading them is 



Part I 76 

altogether lost. The Chinese histories, Mr. L. Y. Chen informs us, state that a similar method of record by 
knots was used in China before the invention of writing there. The Peruvians also got to making maps and the 
use of counting frames. But with all this there was no means, of handing on knowledge and experience from 
one generation to another, nor was anything done to fix and summarize these intellectual possessions, which 
are the basis of literature and science. [13] 

When the Spaniards came to America, the Mexicans knew nothing of the Peruvians nor the Peruvians of the 
Mexicans. Intercourse there was none. Whatever links had ever existed were lost and forgotten. The Mexicans 
had never heard of the potato which was a principal article of Peruvian diet. In 5,000 B.C. the Sumerians and 
Egyptians probably knew as little of one another. American was 6,000 years behind the Old World. 

15.0 Sea Peoples and Trading Peoples 

15.1 The Earliest Ships and Sailors 

15.2 The geanCities before History 

15.3 The First Voyages of Exploration 

15.4 Early Traders 

15.5 Early Travellers 

15.1 The Earliest Ships and Sailors 

The first boats were made very early indeed in the Neolithic stage of culture by riverside and lakeside peoples. 
They were no more than trees and floating wood, used to assist the imperfect natural swimming powers of 
men. Then came the hollowing out of the trees, and then, with the development of tools and a primitive 
carpentry, the building of boats. Men in Egypt and Mesopotamia also developed a primitive type of 
basketwork boat, caulked with bitumen. Such was the ark of bulrushes in which Moses was hidden by his 
mother. A kindred sort of vessel grew up by the use of skins and hides expanded upon a wicker framework. 
To this day cow-hide wicker boats (coracles) are used upon the west coast of Ireland where there is plenty of 
cattle and a poverty of big trees. They are also still used on the Euphrates, and on the Towy in South Wales. 
Inflated skins may have preceded the coracle, and are still used on the Euphrates and upper Ganges. In the 
valleys of the great rivers, boats must early have become an important means of communication; and it seems 
natural to suppose that it was from the mouths of the great rivers that man, already in a reasonably seaworthy 
vessel, first ventured out upon what must have seemed to him then the trackless and homeless sea. 

No doubt he ventured at first as a fisherman, having learnt the elements of seacraft in creeks and lagoons. Men 
may have navigated boats upon the Levantine lake before the refilling of the Mediterranean by the Atlantic 
waters. The canoe was an integral part of the heliolithic culture, it drifted with the culture upon the warm 
waters of the earth from the Mediterranean to (at last) America. There were not only canoes, but Sumerian 
boats and ships upon the Euphrates and Tigris, when these rivers in 7,000 B.C. fell by separate mouths into 
the Persian Gulf. The Sumerian city of Eridu, which stood at the head of the Persian Gulf (from which it is 
now separated by a hundred and thirty miles of alluvium [1]), had ships upon the sea then. We also find 
evidence of a fully developed sea life six thousand years ago at the eastern end of the Mediterranean, and 
possibly at that time there were already canoes on the seas among the islands of the nearer East Indies. There 
are predynastic Neolithic Egyptian representations of Nile ships of a fair size, capable of carrying elephants. 
[2] 

Very soon the seafaring men must have realized the peculiar freedom and opportunities the ship gave them. 
They could get away to islands; no chief nor king could pursue a boat or ship with any certainty; every captain 



Part I 77 

was a king. The seamen would find it easy to make nests upon islands and in strong positions on the 
mainland. There they could harbour, there they could carry on a certain agriculture and fishery; but their 
specialty and their main business was, of course, the expedition across the sea. That was not usually a trading 
expedition; it was much more frequently a piratical raid. From what we know of mankind, we are bound to 
conclude that the first sailors plundered when they could, and traded when they had to. 

Because it developed in the comparatively warm and tranquil, waters of the eastern Mediterranean, the Red 
Sea, the Persian Gulf, and the western horn of the Indian Ocean, the shipping of the ancient world retained 
throughout certain characteristics that make it differ very widely from the ocean-going sailing shipping, with 
its vast spread of canvas, of the last four hundred years. The Mediterranean, says Mr. Torr, [3] is a sea where a 
vessel with sails may lie becalmed for days together, while a vessel with oars would easily be traversing the 
smooth waters, with coasts and islands everywhere at hand to give her shelter in case of storm. In that sea, 
therefore, oars became the characteristic instruments of navigation and the arrangement of oars the chief 
problem in shipbuilding. And so long as the Mediterranean nations dominated Western Europe, vessels of the 
southern type were built upon the northern coasts, though there generally was wind enough here for sails and 
too much wave for oars. . . . The art of rowing can first be discerned upon the Nile. Boats with oars are 
represented in the earliest pictorial monuments of Egypt, dating from about 2,500 B.C.; and although some 
crews are paddling with their faces towards the bow, others are rowing with their faces towards the stern. The 
paddling is certainly the older practice, for the hieroglyph chen depicts two arms grasping an oar in the 
attitude of paddling, and the hieroglyphs were invented in the earliest ages. And that practice may really have 
ceased before 2,500 B.C., despite the testimony of monuments of that date; for in monuments dating from 
about 1,250 B.C., crews are represented unmistakably rowing with their faces towards the stern and yet 
grasping their oars in the attitude of paddling, so that even then Egyptian artists mechanically followed the 
turn of the hieroglyph to which their hands were accustomed. In these reliefs there are twenty rowers on the 
boats on the Nile, and thirty on the ships on the Red Sea; but in the earliest reliefs the number varies 
considerably, and seems dependent on the amount of space at the sculptor's disposal. 

[Fig. 0157 Boats on the Nile, 2500 B.C.] 

The Aryan peoples came late to the sea. The earliest ships on the sea were either Sumerian or Hamitic; the 
Semitic peoples followed close upon these pioneers. Along the eastern end of the Mediterranean, 

The Phoenicians, a Semitic people, set up a string of independent harbour towns of which Acre, Tyre, and 
Sidon were the chief; and later they pushed their voyages westward and founded Carthage and. Utica in North 
Africa. Possibly Phoenician keels were already in the Mediterranean by 2,000 B.C. Both Tyre and Sidon were 
originally on islands, and so easily defensible against a land raid. But before we go on to the marine exploits 
of this great sea-going race, we must note a very remarkable and curious nest of early sea people whose 
remains have been discovered in Crete. 

[Fig. 0158 Egyptian Ship on Red Sea, 1250 B.C.] 

15.2 The geanCities before History 

These early Cretans were of a race akin to the Iberians of Spain and Western Europe and the dark whites of 
Asia Minor and North Africa, and their language is unknown. This race lived not only in Crete, but in Cyprus, 
Greece, Asia Minor, Sicily, and South Italy. It was a civilized people for long ages before the fair Nordic 
Greeks spread southward through Macedonia. At Cnossos, in Crete, there have been found the most 
astonishing ruins and remains, and Cnossos, therefore, is apt to overshadow the rest of these settlements in 
people's imaginations, but it is well to bear in mind that though Cnossos was no doubt a chief city of this 
geancivilization, these AEgeans had in the fullness of their time many cities and a wide range. Possibly, all 
that we know of them now are but the vestiges of the far more extensive heliolithic Neolithic civilization 
which is now submerged under the waters of the Mediterranean. 



Part I 78 

At Cnossos there are Neolithic remains as old or older than any of the pre-dynastic remains of Egypt. The 
Bronze Age began in Crete as soon as it did in Egypt, and there have been vases found by Flinders Petrie in 
Egypt and referred by him to the 1st Dynasty, which he declared to be importations from Crete. Stone vessels 
have been found in Crete of forms characteristic of the IV th (pyramid-building) Dynasty, and there can be no 
doubt that there was a vigorous trade between Crete and Egypt in the time of the Xllth Dynasty. This 
continued until about 1,000 B.C. It is clear that this island civilization arising upon the soil of Crete is at least 
as old as the Egyptian, and that it was already launched upon the sea as early as 4,000 B.C. 

The great days of Crete were not so early as this. It was only about 2,500 B.C. that the island appears to have 
been unified under one ruler. Then began an age of peace and prosperity unexampled in the history of the 
ancient world. Secure from invasion, living in a delightful climate, trading with every civilized community in 
the world, the Cretans were free to develop all the arts and amenities of life. This Cnossos was not so much a 
town as the vast palace of the king and his people. It was not even fortified. The kings, it would seem, were 
called Minos always, as the kings of Egypt were all called Pharaoh; the king of Cnossos figures in the early 
legends of the Greeks as King Minos, who lived in the Labyrinth and kept there a horrible monster, half man, 
half bull, the Minotaur, to feed which he levied a tribute of youths and maidens from the Athenians. Those 
stories are a part of Greek literature, and have, always been known, but it is only in the last few decades that 
the excavations at Cnossos have revealed bow close these legends were to the reality. The Cretan labyrinth 
was a building as stately, complex, and luxurious as any in the ancient world. Among other details we find 
water-pipes, bathrooms, and the like conveniences, such as have hitherto been regarded as the latest 
refinements of modern life. The pottery, the textile manufactures, the sculpture and painting of these people, 
their gem and ivory work, their metal and inlaid work, is as admirable as any that mankind has produced. 
They were much given to festivals and shows, and, in particular, they were addicted to bull-fights and 
gymnastic entertainments. Their female costume became astonishingly modern in style; their women wore 
corsets and flounced dresses. They had a system of writing which has not yet been deciphered. 

[Fig. 0160 AEgean Civilization (Map)] 

It is the custom nowadays to make a sort of wonder of these achievements of the Cretans, as though they were 
a people of incredible artistic ability living in the dawn of civilization. But their great time was long past that 
dawn; as late as 2,000 B.C. It took them many centuries to reach their best in art and skill, and their art and 
luxury are by no means so great a wonder if we reflect that for 3,000 years they were immune from invasion, 
that for a thousand years they were at peace. Century after century their artizans could perfect their skill, and 
their men and women refine upon refinement. Wherever men of almost any race have been comparatively safe 
in this fashion for such a length of time, they have developed much artistic, beauty. Given the opportunity, all 
races are artistic. Greek, legend has it that it was in Crete that Daedalus attempted to make the first flying 
machine. Daedalus (= cunning artificer) was a sort of personified summary of mechanical skill. It is curious to 
speculate what germ of fact lies behind him and those waxen wings that, according to the legend, melted and 
plunged his son Icarus in the sea. 

[Fig. 0161 A Votary of the Snake Goddess] 

There came at last a change in the condition of the lives of these Cretans, for other peoples, the Greeks and the 
Phoenicians, were also coming out with powerful fleets upon the seas. We do not know what led to the 
disaster nor who inflicted it; but some when about 1,400 B.C. Cnossos was sacked and burnt, and though the 
Cretan life struggled on there rather lamely for another four centuries, there came at last a final blow about 
1,000 B.C. (that is to say, in the days of the Assyrian ascendancy in the East). The palace at Cnossos was 
destroyed, and never rebuilt nor reinhabited. Possibly this was done by the ships of those new-comers into, the 
Mediterranean, the barbaric Greeks, a group of Aryan-speaking tribes from the north, who may have wiped 
out Cnossos as they wiped out the city of Troy. 

The legend of Theseus tells of such a raid. He entered the Labyrinth (which may have been the Cnossos 



Part I 79 

Palace) by the aid of Ariadne, the daughter of Minos, and slew the Minotaur. 

The Iliad makes it clear that destruction came upon Troy because the Trojans stole Greek women. Modern 
writers, with modern ideas in their heads, have tried to make out that the Greeks assailed Troy in order to 
secure a trade route or some such fine-spun commercial advantage. If so, the authors of the Iliad hid the 
motives of their characters very skilfully. It would be about as reasonable to say that the Homeric Greeks went 
to war with the Trojans in order to be well ahead with a station on the Berlin to Bagdad railway. The Homeric 
Greeks were a healthy barbaric Aryan people, with very poor ideas about trade and trade routes; they went to 
war with the Trojans because they were thoroughly annoyed about this stealing of women. It is fairly clear 
from the Minos legend and from the evidence of the Cnossos remains, that the Cretans kidnapped or stole 
youths and maidens to be slaves, bull-fighters, athletes, and perhaps sacrifices. They traded fairly with the 
Egyptians, but it may be they did not realize the gathering strength of the Greek barbarians; they traded' 
violently with them, and so brought sword and flame upon themselves. 

Another great sea people were the Phoenicians. They were great seamen because they were great traders. 
Their colony of Carthage (founded before 800 B.C. by Tyre) became at last greater than any of the older 
Phoenician cities, but already before 1,500 B.C. both Sidon and Tyre had settlements upon the African coast. 
Carthage was comparatively inaccessible to the Assyrian and Babylonian hosts, and, profiting greatly by the 
long siege of Tyre by Nebuchadnezzar II, became the greatest maritime power the world had hitherto seen. 
She claimed the Western Mediterranean as her own, and seized every ship she could catch west of Sardinia. 
Roman writers accuse her of great cruelties. She fought the Greeks for Sicily, and later (in the second century 
B.C.) she fought the Romans. Alexander the Great formed plans for her conquest; but he died, as we shall tell 
later, before he could carry them out. 

15.3 The First Voyages of Exploration 

At her zenith Carthage probably had the hitherto unheard-of population of a million. This population was 
largely industrial, and her woven goods were universally famous. As well as a coasting trade, she had a 
considerable land trade with Central Africa, [4] and she sold negro, slaves, ivory, metals, precious stones and 
the like, to all the Mediterranean people; she worked Spanish copper mines, and her ships went out into the 
Atlantic and coasted along Portugal and France northward as far as the Cassiterides (the Scilly Isles, or 
Cornwall, in England) to get tin. 

About 520 B.C. a certain Hanno made a voyage that is still one of the most notable in the world. This Hanno, 
if we may trust the Periplus of Hanno, the Greek translation of his account which still survives, followed the 
African coast southward from the Straits of Gibraltar as far as the confines of Liberia. He had sixty big ships, 
and his main task was to found or reinforce certain Carthaginian stations upon the Morocco coast. Then he 
pushed southward. He founded a settlement in the Rio de Oro (on Kerne or Heme Island), and sailed on past 
the Senegal River. The voyagers passed on for seven days beyond the Gambia, and landed at last upon some 
island. This they left in a panic, because, although the day was silent with the silence of the tropical forests, at 
night they heard the sound of flutes, drums, and gongs, and the sky was red with the blaze of the bush fires. 
The coast country for the rest of the voyage was one blaze of fire, from the burning of the bush. Streams of 
fire ran down the hills into the sea, and at length a blaze arose so loftily that it touched the skies. Three days 
further brought them to an island containing a lake (?Sherbro Island). In this lake was another island 
(?Macaulay Island), and on this were wild, hairy men and women, whom the interpreters called gorilla. The 
Carthaginians, having caught some of the females of these gorillas "they were probably chimpanzees" turned 
back and eventually deposited the skins of their captives"who had proved impossibly violent guests to 
entertain on board ship"in the Temple of Juno. 

A still more wonderful Phoenician sea voyage, long doubted, but now supported by some archaeological 
evidence, is related by Herodotus, who declares that the Pharaoh Necho of the XXVIth Dynasty 
commissioned some Phoenicians to attempt the circumnavigation of Africa, and that starting from the Gulf of 



Part I 80 

Suez southward, they did finally come back through the Mediterranean to the Nile delta. They took nearly 
three years to complete their voyage. Each year they landed, and sowed and harvested a crop of wheat before 
going on. 

15.4 Early Traders 

The great trading cities of the Phoenicians are the most striking of the early Manifestations of the peculiar and 
characteristic gift of the Semitic peoples to mankind, trade and exchange. [5] While the Semitic Phoenician 
peoples were spreading themselves upon the seas, another kindred Semitic people the Arameans, whose 
occupation of Damascus we have already noted, were developing the caravan routes of the Arabian and 
Persian deserts, and becoming the chief trading people of Western Asia. The Semitic peoples, earlier civilized 
than the Aryan, have always shown, and still show to-day, a far greater sense of quality and quantity in 
marketable goods than the latter; it is to their need of account-keeping that the development of alphabetical 
writing is to be ascribed, and it is to them that most of the great advances in computation are due. Our modern 
numerals are Arabic; our arithmetic and algebra are essentially Semitic sciences. 

The Semitic peoples, we may point out here, are to this day counting peoples strong in their sense of 
equivalents and reparation. The moral teaching of the Hebrews was saturated by such ideas. With what 
measure ye mote, the same shall be meted unto you. Other races and peoples have imagined diverse and fitful 
and marvellous gods, but it was the trading Semites who first began to think of God, as a Righteous Dealer, 
whose promises were kept, who failed not the humblest creditor, and called to account every spurious act. 

The trade that was going on in the ancient world before the sixth or seventh century B.C. was almost entirely, 
a barter trade. There was little or no credit or coined money. The ordinary standard of value with the early 
Aryans was cattle, as it still is with the Zulus and Kaffirs to-day. In the Iliad, the respective values of two 
shields are stated in head of cattle, and the Roman word for moneys, pecunia, is derived from pecus, cattle. 
Cattle as money had this advantage; it did not need to be carried from one owner to another, and if it needed 
attention and food, at any rate it bred. But it was inconvenient for ship or caravan transit. Many other 
substances have at various times been found convenient as a standard; tobacco was once legal tender in the 
colonial days in North America, and in West Africa fines are paid and bargains made in bottles of trade gin. 
The early Asiatic trade included metals; and weighed lumps of metal, since they were in general demand and 
were convenient for hoarding and storage, costing nothing for fodder and needing small houseroom, soon 
asserted their superiority over cattle and sheep. Iron, which seems to have been first reduced from its ores by 
the Hittites, was, to begin with, a rare and much-desired substance. [6] It is stated by Aristotle to have 
supplied the first currency. In the collection of letters found at Tel-el-Amarna, addressed to and from 
Amenophis III (already mentioned) and his successor Amenophis IV, one from a Hittite king promises iron as 
an extremely valuable gift. Gold, then as now, was the most precious, and therefore most portable, security. In 
early Egypt silver was almost as rare as gold until after the XVIIIth Dynasty. Later the general standard of 
value in the Eastern world became silver, measured by weight. 

To begin with, metals were handed about in ingots and weighed at each transaction. Then they were stamped 
to indicate their fineness and guarantee their purity. The first recorded coins were minted about 600 B.C. in 
Lydia, a gold producing country in the west of Asia Minor. The first-known gold coins were minted in Lydia 
by Croesus, whose name has become a proverb for wealth; he was conquered, as we shall tell later, by that 
same Cyrus the Persian who took Babylon in 539 B.C. But very probably coined money had been used in 
Babylonia before that time. The sealed shekel, a stamped piece of silver, came very near to being a coin. The 
promise to pay so much silver or gold on leather (= parchment) with the seal of some established firm is 
probably as old or older than coinage. The Carthaginians used such leather money. We know very little of the 
Way in which small traffic was conducted. Common people, who in those ancient times were in dependent 
positions, seem to have had no money at all; they did their business by barter. Early Egyptian paintings show 
this going on. [7] 



Part I 81 

15.5 Early Travellers 

When one realizes the absence of small money or of any conveniently portable means of exchange in the 
pre-Alexandrian world, one perceives how impossible was private travel in those days. [8] The first inns"no 
doubt a sort of caravanserai"are commonly said to have come into existence in Lydia in the third or fourth 
century B.C. That, however, is too late a date. They are certainly older than that. There is good evidence of 
them at least as early as the sixth century. AEschylus twice mentions inns. His word is all-receiver, or 
all-receiving house. [9] Private travellers must have been fairly common in the Greek world, including its 
colonies, by this time. But such private travel was a comparatively new thing then. The early historians 
Hecataeus and Herodotus travelled widely. I suspect, says Professor Gilbert Murray, that this sort of travel 'for 
Historie' or 'for discovery' was rather a Greek invention. Solon is supposed to have practised it; and even 
Lycurgus.... The earlier travellers were traders travelling in a caravan or in a shipload, and carrying their 
goods and their minas and shekels of metal or gems or bales of fine stuff with them, or government officials 
travelling with letters of introduction and a proper retinue. Possibly there were a few mendicants, and, in some 
restricted regions, religious pilgrims. 

That earlier world before 600 B.C. was one in which a lonely stranger was a rare and suspected and 
endangered being. He might suffer horrible cruelties, for there was little law to protect such as he. Few 
individuals strayed therefore. One lived and died attached and tied to some patriarchal tribe, if one was a 
nomad, or to some great household if one was civilized or to one of the big temple establishments which we 
will presently discuss. Or one was a herded slave. One knew nothing, except for a few monstrous legends, of 
the rest of the world in which one lived. We know more to-day, indeed, of the world of 600 B.C. than any 
single living being knew at that time. We map it out, see it as a whole in relation to past and future. We begin 
to learn precisely what was going on at the same time in Egypt and Spain and Media and India and China. We 
can share in imagination, not only the wonder of Hanno's sailors, but of the men who lit the warning beacons 
on the shore. We know that those mountains flaming to the sky were only the customary burning of the dry 
grass at that season of the year. Year by year, more and more rapidly, our common knowledge increases. In 
the years to come men will understand still more of those lives in the past, until perhaps they will understand 
them altogether. 

16.0 Writing 

16.1 Picture Writing 

16.2 Syllable Writing 

16.3 Alphabet Writing 

16.4 The Place of Writing in Human Life 

16.1 Picture Writing 

In the four preceding chapters (XII to XV) we have sketched in broad outline the development of the chief 
human communities from the primitive beginnings of the heliolithic culture to the great historical kingdoms 
and empires in the sixth century B.C. We must now study a little more closely the general process of social 
change, the growth of human ideas, and the elaboration of human relationships that was going on during these 
ages between 10,000 B.C. and 500 B.C. What we have done so far is to draw the map and name the chief 
kings and empires, to define the relations in time and space of Babylonia, Assyria, Egypt, Phoenicia, Cnossos, 
and, the like; we come now to the real business of history, which is to get down below these outer forms to the 
thoughts and lives of individual men. 



Part I 82 

By far the most important thing that was going on during those fifty or sixty centuries of social development 
was the invention of writing and its gradual progress to importance in human affairs. It was a now instrument 
for the human mind, an enormous enlargement of its range of action, a new means of continuity. We have 
seen how in later Palolithic and early Neolithic times the elaboration of articulate speech gave men a mental 
handhold for consecutive thought, and a vast enlargement of their powers of co-operation. For a time this now 
acquirement seems to have overshadowed their earlier achievement of drawing, and possibly it checked the 
use of gesture. But drawing presently reappeared again, for record, for signs, for the joy of drawing. Before 
real writing came picture writing, such as is still practiced by the Amerindians, the Bushmen, and savage and 
barbaric people in all parts of the world. It is essentially a drawing of things and acts, helped out by heraldic 
indications of proper Dames, and by strokes and dots to represent days and distances and such-like 
quantitative ideas. 

Quite kindred to such picture-writing is the pictograph that one finds still in use to-day in international railway 
timetables upon the continent of Europe, where a little black sign of a cup indicates a stand-up buffet for light 
refreshments; a crossed knife and fork, a restaurant; a little steamboat, a transfer to a steamboat; and a 
postilion's born, a diligence. Similar signs are used in the well-known Michelin guides for automobilists in 
Europe, to show a postoffice (envelope) or a telephone (telephone receiver). The quality of hotels is shown by 
an inn with one, two, three, or four gables, and so forth. Similarly, the roads of Europe are marked with 
wayside signs representing a gate, to indicate a level crossing ahead, a sinuous bend for a dangerous curve, 
and the like. From such pictographic signs to the first elements of Chinese writing is not a very long stretch. 

In Chinese writing there are still traceable a number of pictographs. Most are now difficult to recognize. A 
mouth was originally written as a mouth-shaped hole, and is now, for convenience of brushwork, squared; a 
child, originally a recognizable little mannikin, is now a hasty wriggle and a cross; the sun, originally a large 
circle with a dot in the centre, has been converted, for the sake of convenience of combination, into a crossed 
oblong, which is easier to make with a brush. By combining these pictographs, a second order of ideas is 
expressed. For example, the pictograph for mouth combined with pictograph for vapour expressed words. [1] 

From such combinations one passes to what are called ideograms: the sign for words and the sign for tongue 
combine to make speech; the sign for roof and the sign for Pig make home for in the early domestic economy 
of China the pig was as important as it used to be in Ireland. But, as we have already noted earlier, the 
Chinese language consists of a comparatively few elementary monosyllabic sounds, which are all used in a 
great variety of meanings, and the Chinese soon discovered that a number of these pictographs and ideographs 
could be used also to express other ideas, not so conveniently pictured, but having the same sound. 

Characters so used are called phonograms. For example, the sound fang meant not only boat, but a place 

spinning, fragrant, inquire, and several other meanings according to the context. But while a boat is easy to 

draw, most of the other meanings are undrawable. How can one draw fragrant or inquire? The Chinese, 
therefore, took the same sign for all these meanings of fang, but added to each of them another distinctive 
sign, the determinative, to show what sort of fang was intended. A place was indicated by the same sign as for 
boat (fang) and the determinative sign for earth; spinning by the sign for fang and the sign for silk; inquire by 
the sign for fang, and the sign for words, and so on. 

One may perhaps make this development of pictographs, ideograms, and phonograms a little clearer by taking 
an analogous case in English. Suppose we were making up a sort of picturewriting in English, then it would 
be very natural to use a square with a slanting line to suggest a lid, for the word and thing box. That would be 
a pictograph. But now suppose we had a round sign for money, and suppose we put this sign inside the box 
sign, that would do for cash-box or treasury. That would be an ideogram. But the word box is used for other 
things than boxes. There is the box shrub which gives us boxwood. It would be hard to draw a recognizable 
box-tree distinct from other trees, but it is quite easy to put our sign box, and add our sign for shrub as a 
determinative to determine that it is that sort of box and not a common box that we want to express. And then 
there is box, the verb, meaning to fight with fists. Here, again, we need a determinative; we might add the two 



Part I 83 

crossed swords, a sign which is used very often upon maps to denote a battle. A box at a theatre needs yet 
another determinative, and so we go on, through a long series of phonograms. 

Now it is manifest that here in the Chinese writing is a very peculiar and complex system of sign-writing. A 
very great number of characters have to be learnt and the mind habituated to their use. The power it possesses 
to, carry ideas and discussion is still ungauged by western standards, but we may doubt whether with this 
instrument it will ever be possible to establish such a wide, common mentality as the simpler and swifter 
alphabets of the western civilizations permit. In China it created a special reading-class, the mandarins, who 
were also the ruling and official class. Their necessary concentration upon words and classical forms rather 
than upon ideas and realities, seems, in spite of her comparative peacefulness and the very high individual 
intellectual quality of her people, to have greatly hampered the social and economic development of China. 
Probably it is the complexity of her speech and writing, more than any other imaginable cause, that has made 
China to-day politically, socially, and individually a vast pool of backward people rather than the, foremost 
power in the whole world. [2] 

[Fig. 0171 American Indian Picture -Writing] 

[No. 1, painted on a rock on the shore of Lake Superior, records an expedition across the lake, in which five 
canoes took part. The upright strokes in each indicate the number of the crew, and the bird represents a chief, 
The Kingfisher. The three circles (suns) under the arch (of heaven) indicate that the voyage lasted three days, 
and the tortoise, a symbol of land, denotes a safe arrival. No. 2 is a petition sent to the United States Congress 
by a group of Indian tribes, asking for fishing rights in certain small lakes. The tribes are represented by their 
totems, martens, bear, man and catfish, led by the crane. Lines running from the heart and eye of each animal 
to the heart and eye of the crane denote that they are all of one mind; and a line runs from the eye of the crane 
to the lakes, shown in the crude little map in the lower left-hand corner.] 

16.2 Syllable Writing 

But while the Chinese mind thus made for itself an instrument which is probably too elaborate in structure, 
too laborious in use, and too inflexible in its form to meet the modern need for simple, swift, exact, and lucid 
communications, the growing civilizations of the west were working out the problem of a written record upon 
rather different and, on the whole, more advantageous lines. They did not seek to improve their script to make 
it swift and easy, but circumstances conspired to make it so. The Sumerian picture writing, which had to be 
done upon clay and with little styles, which made curved marks with difficulty and inaccurately, rapidly 
degenerated by a conventionalized dabbing down of wedged-shaped marks (cuneiform = wedge-shaped) into 
almost unrecognizable hints of the shapes intended. It helped the Sumerians greatly to learn to write, that they 
had to draw so badly. They got very soon to the Chinese pictographs, ideographs, and phonograms, and 
beyond them. 

Most people know a sort of puzzle called a rebus. It is a way of representing words by pictures, not of the 
things the words represent, but by the pictures of other things having a similar sound. For example, two gates 
and a head is a rebus for Gateshead; a little streamlet (beck), a crowned monarch, and a ham, Beckingham. 
The Sumerian language was a language well adapted to this sort of representation. It was apparently a 
language of often quite vast polysyllables, made up of very distinct inalterable syllables; and many of the 
syllables taken separately were the names of concrete things. So that this cuneiform writing developed very 
readily into a syllabic way of writing, in which each sign conveys a syllable just as each act in a charade 
conveys a syllable. When presently the Semites conquered Sumeria, they adapted the syllabic system to their 
own speech, and so this writing became entirely a sign-for-a-sound writing. It was so used by the Assyrians 
and by the Chaldeans, But it was not a letter- writing, it was a syllable writing. This cuneiform script prevailed 
for long ages over Assyria, Babylonia, and the Near East generally; there are vestiges of it in some of the 
letters of our alphabet to-day. 



Part I 84 

16.3 Alphabet Writing 

But, meanwhile, in Egypt and upon the Mediterranean coast yet another system of writing grew up. Its 
beginnings are probably to be found in the priestly picture-writing (hieroglphics) of the Egyptians, which also 
in the usual way became partly a sound-sign sign system. As we see it on the Egyptian monuments, the 
hieroglyphic writing consists of decorative but stiff and elaborate forms, but for such purpose as letter-writing 
and the keeping of recipes and the like, the Egyptian priests used a much simplified and flowing form of these 
characters, the hieratic script. Side by side with this hieratic script rose another, probably also derivative from 
the hieroglyphs, a script now lost to use, which was taken over by various non-Egyptian peoples in the 
Mediterranean, the Phoenicians, Libyans, Lydians, Cretans, and Celt-Iberians, and used for business purposes. 
Possibly a few letters were borrowed from the later cuneiform. In the hands of these foreigners this writing 
was, so to speak, cut off from its roots; it lost all but a few traces of its early pictorial, character. It ceased to 
be pictographic or ideographic; it became simply a pure sound-sign system, an alphabet. 

There were a number of such alphabets in the Mediterranean differing widely from each other. It may be 
noted that the Phoenician alphabet (and perhaps others) omitted vowels. Possibly they pronounced, their 
consonants very hard and had rather indeterminate vowels, as is said to be still the case with tribes of South 
Arabia. Quite probably, too, the Phoenicians used their alphabet at first not so much for writing as for single 
initial letters in their business accounts and tallies. One of these Mediterranean alphabets reached the Greeks, 
long after the time of the Iliad, who presently set to work to make it express the clear and beautiful sounds of 
their own highly developed Aryan speech. It consisted at first of consonants, and the Greeks added the 
vowels. They began to write for record, to help and fix their bardic tradition. . . . 

16.4 The Place of Writing in Human Life 

So it was by a series of very natural steps that writing grew out of the life of man. At first and for long ages it 
was the interest and the secret of only a few people in a special class, a mere accessory to the record of 
pictures. But there were certain very manifest advantages, quite apart from the increased expressiveness of 
mood and qualification, to be gained by making writing a little less plain than straightforward pictures, and in 
conventionalizing and codifying it. One of these was that so messages might be sent understandable by the 
sender and receiver, but not plain to the uninitiated. Another was that so one might put down various matters 
and help one's memory and the memory of one's friends, without giving away too much to the common herd. 
Among some of the earliest Egyptian writings, for example, are medical recipes and magic formulae. 
Accounts, letters, recipes, name lists, itineraries; these were the earliest of written documents. Then, as the art 
of writing and reading spread, came that odd desire, that pathetic desire so common among human beings, to 
astonish some strange and remote person by writing down something striking, some secret one knew, some 
strange thought, or even one's name, so that long after one had gone one's way, it might strike upon the sight 
and mind of another reader. Even in Sumeria men scratched on walls, and all that remains to us of the ancient 
world, its rocks, its buildings, is plastered thickly with the names and the boasting of those foremost among 
human advertisers, its kings. Perhaps half the early inscriptions in that ancient world are of this nature, if, that 
is, we group with the name-writing and boasting the epitaphs, which were probably in many cases 
pro-arranged by the deceased. 

For long the desire for crude self-assertion of the name scrawling sort and the love of secret understandings 
kept writing within a narrow scope; but that other, more truly social desire in men, the desire to tell, was also 
at work. The pro-founder possibilities of writing, the possibilities of a vast extension and definition and 
settlement of knowledge and tradition, only grew apparent after long ages. But it will be interesting at this 
point and in this connection to recapitulate certain elemental facts about life, upon which we laid stress in our 
earlier chapters, because they illuminate not only the huge value of writing in the whole field of man's history, 
but also the role it is likely to play in his future. 

1. Life had at first, it must be remembered, only a discontinuous repetition of consciousness, as the old died 



Part I 85 

and the young were born. 

Such a creature as a reptile has in its brain a capacity for experience, but when the individual dies, its 
experience dies with it. Most of its motives are purely instinctive, and all the mental life that it has is the result 
of heredity (birth inheritance). 

2. But ordinary mammals have added to pure instinct tradition, a tradition of experience imparted by the 
imitated example of the mother, and in the case of such mentally developed animals as dogs, cats, or apes, by 
a sort of mute precept also. For example, the mother cat chastises her young for misbehaviour. So do mother 
apes and baboons. 

3. Primitive man added to his powers of transmitting experience, representative art and speech. Pictorial and 
sculptured record and verbal tradition began. 

Verbal tradition was developed to its highest possibility by the bards. They did much to make language what 
it is to the world to-day. 

4. With the invention of writing, which developed out of pictorial record, human tradition was able to become 
fuller and much more exact. Verbal tradition, which had hitherto changed from age to age, began to be fixed. 
Men separated by hundreds of miles could now communicate their thoughts. An increasing number of human 
beings began to share a common written knowledge and a common sense of a past and a future. Human 
thinking became a larger operation in which hundreds of minds in different places and in different ages could 
react upon one another; it became a process constantly more continuous and sustained. . . . 

5. For hundreds of generations the full power of writing was not revealed to the world, because for a long time 
the idea of multiplying writings by taking prints of a first copy did not become effective. The only way of 
multiplying writings was by copying one copy at a time, and this made books costly and rare. Moreover, the 
tendency to keep things secret, to make a cult and mystery of them, and so to gain an advantage over the 
generality of men, has always been very strong in men's minds. It is only nowadays that the great masses of 
mankind are learning to read, and reaching out towards the treasures of knowledge and thought already stored 
in books. 

Nevertheless, from the first writings onward a new sort of tradition, an enduring and immortal tradition, began 
in the minds of men. Life, through mankind, grew thereafter more and more distinctly conscious of itself and 
its world. It is a thin streak of intellectual growth we trace in history, at first in a world of tumultuous 
ignorance and forgetfulness; it is like a mere line of light coming through the chink of an opening door into a 
darkened room; but slowly it widens, it grows. At last came a time in the history of Europe when the door, at 
the push of the printer, began to open more rapidly. Knowledge flared up, and as it flared it ceased to be the 
privilege of a favoured minority. For us now that door swings wider, and the light behind grows brighter. 
Misty it is still, glowing through clouds of dust and reek. 

The door is not half open; the light is but a light new lit. Our world to-day is only in the beginning of 
knowledge. 

17.0 Gods and Stars, Priests and Kings 

17.1 The Priest Comes into History 

17.2 Priests and the Stars 

17.3 Priests and the Dawn of Learning 



Part I 86 

17.4 Kings Against Priests 

17.5 How Bel-Marduk Struggled Against the Kings 

17.6 The God-Kings of Egypt 

17.7 Shi Hwang-ti Destroys the Books 

17.1 The Priest Comes into History 

When we direct our attention to these new accumulations of human beings that were beginning in Egypt and 
Mesopotamia, we find that one of the most conspicuous and constant objects in all these cities is a temple or a 
group of temples. In some cases there arises beside it in these regions a royal palace, but as often the temple 
towers over the palace. This presence of the temple is equally true of the 'Phoenician cities and of the Greek 
and Roman as they arise. The palace of Cnossos, with its signs of comfort and pleasure-seeking, and the 
kindred cities of the geanpeoples, include religious shrines, but in Crete there are also temples standing apart 
from the palatial city -households. All over the ancient civilized world we find them; wherever primitive 
civilization set its foot in Africa, Europe, or western Asia, a temple arose, and where the civilization is most 
ancient, in Egypt and in Sumer, there the temple is most in evidence. When Hanno reached what be thought 
was the most westerly point of Africa, he set up a temple to Hercules. The beginnings of civilization and the 
appearance of temples is simultaneous in history. The two things belong together. The beginning of cities is 
the temple stage of history. 

In all these temples there was a shrine; dominating the shrine there was commonly a great figure usually of 
some monstrous half-animal form, before which stood an altar for sacrifices. In the Greek and Roman temples 
however the image was generally that of a divinity in human form. This figure was either regarded as the god 
or as the image or symbol of the god, for whose worship the temple existed. And connected with the temple 
there were a number, and often a considerable number, of priests or priestesses, and temple servants, generally 
wearing a distinctive costume and forming an important part of the city population. They belong to no 
household; they made up a new kind of household of their own. They were a caste and a class apart, attracting 
intelligent recruits from the general population. 

The primary duty of this priesthood was concerned with the worship of and the sacrifices to the god of the 
temple. And these things were done, not at any time, but at particular times and seasons. There had come into 
the life of man with his herding and agriculture a sense of a difference between the parts of the year and of a 
difference between day and day. Men were beginning to work"and to need days of rest. The temple, by its 
festivals, kept count. The temple in the ancient city was like the clock and calendar upon a writing-desk. 

But it was a centre of other functions. It was in the early temples that the records and tallies of events were 
kept and that writing began. And there was knowledge there. The people went to the temple not only en masse 
for festivals, but individually for help. The early priests were also doctors and magicians. In the earliest 
temples we already find those little offerings for some private and particular end, which are still made in the 
chapels of Catholic churches to-day, ex votos, little models of hearts relieved and limbs restored, 
acknowledgment of prayers answered and accepted vows. 

It is clear that here we have that comparatively unimportant element in the life of the early nomad, the 
medicine-man, the shrine-keeper, and the memorist, developed, with the development of the community and 
as a part of the development of the community from barbarism to civilized settlement, into something of very 
much greater importance. And it is equally evident that those primitive fears of (and hopes of help from) 
strange beings, the desire to propitiate unknown forces, the primitive desire for cleansing and the primitive 
craving for power and knowledge have all contributed to crystallize out this new social fact of the temple. 



Part I 87 

[Fig. 0179 Egyptian Gods— Set, Anubis, Typhon, Bes] 

The temple was accumulated by complex necessities, it grew from many roots and needs, and the god or 
goddess that dominated the temple was the creation of many imaginations and made up of all sorts of 
impulses, ideas, and half ideas. 

Here there was a god in which one sort of ideas predominated, and there another. It is necessary to lay some 
stress upon this confusion and variety of origin in gods, because there is a very abundant literature now in 
existence upon religious origins, in which a number of writers insist, some on this leading idea and some on 
thaf'we have noted several in our chapter on Early Thoughf'as though it were the only idea. Professor Max 
Miller in his time, for example, harped perpetually on the idea of sun stories and sun worship. He would have 
had us think that early man never had lusts or fears, cravings for power, nightmares or fantasies, but that he 
meditated perpetually on the beneficent source of light and life in the sky. Now dawn and sunset are very 
moving facts in the daily life, but they are only two among many. Early men, three or four hundred 
generations ago, had brains very like our own. The fancies of our childhood and youth are perhaps the best 
clue we have to the ground- stuff of early religion, and anyone who can recall those early mental experiences 
will understand very easily the vagueness, the monstrosity, and the incoherent variety of the first gods. There 
were sun gods, no doubt, early in the history of temples, but there were also hippopotamus gods and hawk 
gods; there were cow deities, there were monstrous male and female gods, there were gods of terror and gods 
of an adorable quaintness, there were gods who were nothing but lumps of meteoric stone that had fallen 
amazingly out of the sky, and gods who were mere natural stones that had chanced to have a queer and 
impressive shape. Some gods, like Marduk of Babylon and the Baal (= the Lord) of the Phoenicians, 
Canaanites, and the like, were quite probably at bottom just legendary wonder beings, such as little boys will 
invent for themselves to-day. The settled peoples, it is said, as soon as they thought of a god, invented a wife 
for him; most of the Egyptian and Babylonian gods were married. But the gods of the nomadic Semites had 
not this marrying disposition. Children were less eagerly sought by the inhabitants of the food grudging 
steppes. 

Even more natural than to provide a wife for a god is to give him a house to live in to which offerings can be 
brought. Of this house the knowing man, the magician, would naturally become the custodian. A certain 
seclusion, a certain aloofness, would add greatly to the prestige of the god. The steps by which the early 
temple and the early priesthood developed so soon as an agricultural population settled and increased are all 
quite natural and understandable, up to the stage of the long temple with the image, shrine and altar at one end 
and the long nave in which the worshippers stood. And this temple, because it had records and secrets, 
because it was a centre of power, advice, and instruction, because it sought and attracted imaginative and 
clever people for its service, naturally became a kind of brain in the growing community. The attitude of the 
common people who tilled the fields and herded the beasts towards the temple would remain simple and 
credulous. There, rarely seen and so imaginatively enhanced, lived the god whose approval gave prosperity, 
whose anger meant misfortune; he could be propitiated by little presents and the help of his servants could be 
obtained. He was wonderful, and of such power and knowledge that it did not do to be disrespectful to him 
even in one's thoughts. Within the priesthood, however, a certain amount of thinking went on at a rather 
higher level than that. 

17.2 Priests and the Stars 

We may note here a very interesting fact about the chief temples of Egypt and, so far as we know"because the 
ruins are not so distincf'of Babylonia, and that is that they were oriented"that is to say, that the same sort of 
temple was built so that the shrine and entrance always faced in the same direction. In Babylonian temples 
this was most often duo east, facing the sunrise on March 21st and September 21st, the equinoxes; and it is to 
be noted that it was at the spring equinox that the Euphrates and Tigris came down in flood. The Pyramids of 
Gizeh are also oriented east and west, and the Sphinx faces due east, but very many of the Egyptian temples to 
the south of the delta of the Nile do not point due east, but to the point where the sun rises at the longest 



Part I 88 

day"and in Egypt the inundation comes close to that date. Others, however, pointed nearly northward, and 
others again pointed to the rising of the star Sirius or to-the rising-point of other conspicuous stars. The fact of 
orientation links up with the fact that there early arose a close association between various gods and the sun 
and various fixed stars. Whatever the mass of people outside were thinking, the priests of the temples were 
beginning to link the movements of those heavenly bodies with the power in the shrine. They were thinking 
about the gods they served and thinking new meanings into them. They were brooding upon the mystery of 
the stars. It was very natural for them to suppose that these shining bodies, so irregularly distributed and 
circling so solemnly and silently, must be charged with portents to mankind. 

[Fig. 0182 Egyptian Gods— Thoth-Lunus, Hathor, Chemu] 

Among other things, this orientation of the temples served to fix and help the great annual festival of the New 
Year. On one morning in the year, and one morning alone, in a temple oriented to the rising-place of the sun at 
Midsummer Day, the sun's first rays would smite down through the gloom of the temple and the long alley of 
the temple pillars, and light up the god above the altar and irradiate him with glory. The narrow, darkened 
structure of the ancient temples seems to be deliberately planned for such an effect. No doubt the people were 
gathered in the darkness before the dawn; in the darkness there was chanting and perhaps the offering of 
sacrifices; the god alone stood mute and invisible. Prayers and invocations would be made. Then upon the 
eyes of the worshippers, sensitized by the darkness, as the sun rose behind them, the god would suddenly 
shine. 

So, at least, one explanation of orientation is found by such students of orientation as Sir Norman Lockyer. [1] 
Not only is orientation apparent in most of the temples of Egypt, Assyria, Babylonia, and the east, it is found 
in the Greek temples; Stonehenge is oriented to the midsummer sunrise, and so are most of the megalithic 
circles of Europe; the Altar of Heaven in Peking is oriented to midwinter. In the days of the Chinese Empire, 
up to a few years ago one of the most important of all the duties of the Emperor of China was to sacrifice and 
pray in this temple upon midwinter's day for a propitious year. 

The Egyptian priests had mapped out the stars into the constellations, and divided up the zodiac into twelve 
signs by 3,000 B.C 

17.3 Priests and the Dawn of Learning 

This clear evidence of astronomical inquiry and of a development of astronomical ideas is the most obvious, 
but only the most obvious evidence of the very considerable intellectual activities that went on within the 
temple precincts in ancient times. There is a curious disposition among many modern writers to deprecate 
priesthoods and to speak of priests as though they had always been impostors and tricksters, preying upon the 
simplicity of mankind. But, indeed, they were for long the only writing class, the only reading public, the only 
learned and the only thinkers; they were all the professional classes of the time. You could have no 
intellectual life at all, you could not get access to literature or any knowledge except through the priesthood. 
The temples were not only observatories and libraries and clinics, they were museums and treasure-houses. 
The original Periplus of Hanno hung in one temple in Carthage, skins of his gorillas were bung and treasured 
in another. Whatever there was of abiding worth in the life of the community sheltered there. Herodotus, the 
early Greek historian (485- 425 B.C.), collected most of his material from the priests of the countries in which 
he travelled, and it is evident they met him generously and put their very considerable resources completely at 
his disposal. Outside the temples the world was still a world of blankly illiterate and unspeculative human 
beings, living from day to day entirely for themselves. Moreover, there is little evidence that the commonalty 
felt cheated by the priests, or had anything but trust and affection for the early priesthoods. Even the great 
conquerors of later times were anxious to keep themselves upon the right side of the priests of the nations and 
cities whose obedience they desired, because of the immense popular influence of these priests. 

No doubt there were great differences between temple and temple and cult and cult in the spirit and quality of 



Part I 89 

the priesthood. Some probably were cruel, some vicious and greedy, many dull and doctrinaire, stupid with 
tradition, but it has to be kept in mind that there were distinct limits to the degeneracy or inefficiency of a 
priesthood. It had to keep its grip upon the general mind. It could not go beyond what people would 
stand"either towards the darkness or towards the light. Its authority rested, in the end, on the persuasion that 
its activities were propitious. 

17.4 Kings Against Priests 

The earliest civilized governments were essentially priestly governments. It was not kings and captains who 
first set men to the plough and a settled life. It was the ideas of the gods and plenty, working with the 
acquiescence of common men. The early rulers of Sumer we know were all priests, kings only because they 
were chief priests. And priestly government had its own weaknesses as well as its peculiar deep-rooted 
strength. The power of a priesthood is a power over their own people alone. It is a subjugation through 
mysterious fears and hopes. The priesthood can gather its people together for war, but its traditionalism and 
all its methods unfit it for military control. Against the enemy without, a priest-led people is feeble. 

Moreover, a priest is a man vowed, trained, and consecrated, a man belonging to a special corps, and 
necessarily with an intense esprit de corps. He has given up his life to his temple and his god. This is a very 
excellent thing for the internal vigour of his own priesthood, his own temple. He lives or dies for the honour 
of his particular god. But in the next town or village is another temple with another god. It is his constant 
preoccupation to keep his people from that god. Religious cults and priesthoods are sectarian by nature; they 
will convert, they will overcome, but they will never coalesce. Our first perceptions of events in Sumer, in the 
dim uncertain light before history began, is of priests and gods in conflict; until the Sumerians were conquered 
by the Semites they were never united; and the same incurable conflict of priesthoods scars all the temple 
ruins of Egypt. It was impossible that it could have been otherwise, having regard to the elements out of 
which religion arose. 

[Fig. 0186 An Assyrian King And His Chief Minister] 

It was out of those two main weaknesses of all priesthoods, namely, the incapacity for efficient military 
leadership and their inevitable jealousy of all other religious cults, that the power of secular kingship arose. 
The foreign enemy either prevailed and set up a king over the people, or the priesthoods who would not give 
way to each other set up a common fighting captain, who retained more or less power in peace time. This 
secular king developed a group of officials about him and began, in relation to military organization, to take a 
share in the priestly administration of the people's affairs. So, growing out of priestcraft and beside the priest, 
the king, the protagonist of the priest, appears upon the stage of human history, and a very large amount of the 
subsequent experiences of mankind is only to be understood as an elaboration, complication, and distortion of 
the struggle, unconscious or deliberate, between these two systems of human control, the temple and the 
palace. And it was in the original centres of civilization that this antagonism was most completely developed. 
The barbaric Aryan peoples, who became ultimately the masters of all the ancient civilizations of the Orient 
and of the western world, never passed through a phase of temple rule on their way to civilization; they came 
to civilization late; they found that drama already half-played. They took over the ideas of both temple and 
kingship, when those ideas were already elaborately developed, from the more civilized Hamitic or Semitic 
people they conquered. 

The greater importance of the gods and the priests in the earlier history of the Mesopotamian civilization is 
very apparent, but gradually the palace won its way until it was at last in a position to struggle definitely for 
the supreme power. At first, in the story, the palace is ignorant and friendless in the face of the temple; the 
priests alone read, the priests alone know the people are afraid of them. But in the dissensions of the various 
cults comes the opportunity of the palace. From other cities, from among captives, from defeated or 
suppressed religious cults, the palace gets men who also can read and who can do magic things. [2] The court 
also becomes a centre of writing and record; the king thinks for himself and becomes politic. Traders and 



Part I 90 

foreigners drift to the court, and if the king has not the full records and the finished scholarship of the priests, 
he has a wider and fresher first-hand knowledge of many things. The priest comes into the temple when he is 
very young; he passes many years as a neophyte; the path of learning the clumsy letters of primitive times is 
slow and toilsome; he becomes erudite and prejudiced rather than a man of the world. Some of the more 
active-minded young priests may even cast envious eyes at the king's service. There are many complications 
and variations in this ages-long drama of the struggle going on beneath the outward conflicts of priest and 
king, between the made man and the born man, between learning and originality, between established 
knowledge and settled usage on the one hand, and creative will and imagination on the other. It is not always, 
as we shall find later, the priest who is the conservative and unimaginative antagonist. Sometimes a king 
struggles against narrow and obstructive priesthoods; sometimes priesthoods uphold the standards of 
civilization against savage, egotistical, or reactionary kings. 

One or two outstanding facts and incidents of the early stages of this fundamental struggle in political affairs 
are all that we can note here between 4,000 B.C. and the days of Alexander. 

17.5 How Bel-Marduk Struggled Against the Kings 

In the early days of Sumeria and Akkadia the city-kings were priests and medicine-men rather than kings, and 
it was only when foreign conquerors sought to establish their hold in relation to existing institutions that the 
distinction of priest and king became definite. But the god of the priests remained as the real overlord of the 
land and of priest and king alike. He was the universal landlord; the wealth and authority of his temples and 
establishments outshone those of the king. Especially was this the case within the city walls. Hammurabi, the 
founder of the first Babylonian empire, is one of the earlier monarchs whom we find taking a firm grip upon 
the affairs of the community. He does it with the utmost politeness to the gods. In an inscription recording his 
irrigation work in Sumeria and Akkadia, he begins: When Anu and Bel entrusted me with the rule of Sumer 
and Akkad". We possess a code of laws made by this same Hammurabi"it is the earliest known code of 
law"and at the head of this code we see the figure of Hammurabi receiving the law from its nominal 
promulgator, the god Shamash. 

An act of great political importance in the conquest of any city was the carrying off of its god to become a 
subordinate in the temple of its conqueror. This was far more important than the subjugation of king by king. 
Merodach, the Babylonian Jupiter, was carried off by the Elamites, and Babylon did not feel independent until 
its return. But sometimes a conqueror was afraid of the god he had conquered. In the collection of letters 
addressed to Amenophis III and IV at Tel-Amarna in Egypt, to which allusion has already been made, is one 
from a certain king, Tushratta, King of Mitanni, who has conquered Assyria, and taken the statue of the 
goddess Ishtar. Apparently he has sent this statue into Egypt, partly to acknowledge the overlordship, of 
Amenophis, but partly because he fears her anger. (Winckler.) In the Bible is related (Sam. i. v. 1) how the 
Ark, of the Covenant of the God of the Hebrews was carried off by the Philistines, as a token of conquest, into 
the temple of the fish god, Dagon, at Ashdod, and how Dagon fell down and was broken, and how the people 
of Ashdod were smitten with disease. In the latter story particularly, the gods and priests fill the scene; there is 
no king in evidence at all. 

Right through the history of the Babylonian and Assyrian empires no monarch seems to have felt his tenure of 
power secure in Babylon until he had taken the hand of Bef'that is to say, that he had been adopted by the 
priesthood of Bel as the god's son and representative. As our knowledge of Assyrian and Babylonian history 
grows clearer, it becomes plainer that the politics of that world, the revolutions, usurpations, changes of 
dynasty, intrigues with foreign powers, turned largely upon issues between the great wealthy priesthoods and 
the growing but still inadequate power of the monarchy. The king relied on his army, and this was usually a 
mercenary army of foreigners, speedily mutinous if there was no pay or plunder, and easily bribed. We have 
already noted the name of Sennacherib, the son of Sargon II, among the monarchs of the Assyrian empire. 
Sennacherib was involved in a violent quarrel with the priesthood of Babylon; he never took the hand of Bel; 
and finally struck at that power by destroying altogether the holy part of the city of Babylon (691 B.C.) and 



Part I 91 

removing the statue of Bel-Marduk to Assyria. He was assassinated by one of his sons, and his successor, 
Esar-haddon (his son, but not the son who was his assassin), found it expedient to restore Bel-Marduk and 
rebuild his temple, and make his peace with the god. 

Assurbanipal (Greek, Sardanapalus), the son of this Esar-haddon, is a particularly interesting figure from this 
point of view of the relationship of priesthood and king. His father's reconciliation with the priests of 
Bel-Marduk went so far that Sardanapalus was given a Babylonian instead of a military Assyrian education. 
He became a great collector of the clay documents of the past, and his library, which has been unearthed, is 
now the most precious source of historical material in the world. But for all his learning he kept his grip on 
the Assyrian army; he made a temporary conquest of Egypt, suppressed a rebellion in Babylon, and carried 
out a number of successful expeditions. As we have already told in Chapter XIV, he was almost the last of the 
Assyrian monarchs. The Aryan tribes, who knew more of war than of priestcraft, and particularly the 
Scythians, the Medes and Persians, had long been pressing upon Assyria, from the north and north-east. The 
Medes and Persians formed an alliance with the nomadic Semitic Chaldeans of the south for the joint undoing 
of Assyria. Nineveh, the Assyrian capital, fell to these Aryans in 606 B.C. 

[Fig. 0190 Pharoh Cephren] 

Sixty-seven years after the taking of Nineveh by the Aryans, which left Babylonia to the Semitic Chaldeans, 
the last monarch of the Chaldean Empire (the Second Babylonian Empire), Nabonidus, the father of 
Belshazzar, was overthrown by Cyrus, the Persian. This Nabonidus, again, was a highly educated monarch, 
who brought far too much intelligence and imagination and not enough of the short range wisdom of this 
world to affairs of state. He conducted antiquarian researches, and to his researches it is that we owe the date 
of 3,750 B.C., assigned to Sargon I and still accepted by many authorities. He was proud of this 
determination, and left inscriptions to record it. It is clear he was a religious innovator; he built and rearranged 
temples and attempted to centralize religion in Babylon by bringing a number of local gods to the temple of 
Bel-Marduk. No doubt be realized the weakness and disunion of his empire due to these conflicting cults, and 
had some conception of unification in his mind. 

Events were marching too rapidly for any such development. His innovation had manifestly raised the 
suspicion and hostility of the priesthood of Bel. They sided with the Persians. The soldiers of Cyrus entered 
Babylon without fighting. Nabonidus was taken prisoner, and Persian sentinels were set at the gates of the 
temple of Bel, where the services continued without intermission. 

Cyrus did, in fact, set up the Persian Empire in Babylon with the blessing of Bel-Marduk. He gratified the 
conservative instincts of the priests by packing off the local gods back to their ancestral temples. He also 
restored the Jews to Jerusalem. [3] These were merely matters of immediate policy to him. But in bringing in 
the irreligious Aryans, the ancient Priesthood was paying too highly for the continuation of its temple 
services. It would have been wiser to have dealt with the innovations of Nabonidus, that earnest heretic, to 
have listened to his ideas, and to have met the needs of a changing world. Cyrus entered Babylon 539 B.C.; by 
521 B.C. Babylon was in insurrection again, and in 520 B.C. another Persian monarch, Darius, was pulling 
down her walls. Within two hundred years the life had altogether gone out of those; venerable rituals of 
Bel-Marduk, and the temple of Bel-Marduk was being used by builders as a quarry. 

17.6 The God-Kings of Egypt 

The story of priest and king in Egypt is similar to, but by no means parallel with, that of Babylonia. The kings 
of Sumeria and Assyria were priests who had become kings; they were secularized priests. The Pharaoh of 
Egypt does not appear to have followed precisely that line. Already in the very oldest records the Pharaoh has 
a power, and importance exceeding that of any priest. He is, in fact, a god, and more than either priest or king. 
We do not know how he got to that position. No monarch of Sumeria or Babylonia or Assyria could have 
induced his people to do for him what the great pyramid-building Pharaohs of the IV th Dynasty made their 



Part I 92 

people do in those vast erections. The earlier Pharaohs were not improbably regarded as incarnations of the 
dominant god. The falcon god Horus sits behind the head of the great statue of Chephren. So late a monarch 
as Rameses III (XlXth Dynasty) is represented upon his sarcophagus (now at Cambridge) bearing the 
distinctive symbols of the three great gods of the Egyptian system. He carries the two sceptres of Osiris, the 
god of Day and Resurrection; upon his head are the horns of the cow goddess Hathor, and also the sun ball 
and feathers of Ammon Ra. He is not merely wearing the symbols of these gods as a devout Babylonian might 
wear the symbols of Bel-Marduk; he is these three gods in one. 

We find also a number of sculptures and paintings to enforce the idea that the Pharaohs were the actual sons 
of gods. The divine fathering and birth of Amenophis III, for instance (of the XVIIIth Dynasty), is displayed 
in extraordinary detail in a series of sculptures at Luxor. Moreover, it was held that the Pharaohs, being of so 
divine a strain, could not marry common clay, and consequently they were accustomed to marry blood 
relations within the degrees of consanguinity now prohibited, even marrying their sisters. 

[Fig. 0192 Pharoh Rameses III as Osiris (Sarcophagus relief)] 

Inscription (round the edges of cover) as far as decipherable:" 

Osiris, King of Upper and Lower Egypt, lord of the two countries . . . son of the Sun, beloved of the gods, lord 
of diadems, Rameses, prince of Heliopolis, triumphant! Thou art in the condition of a god, thou shalt arise as 
Usr, there is no enemy to thee, I give to thee triumph among them .... BUDGE, Catalogue, Egyptian 
Collection, Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge. 

The struggle between palace and temple came into Egyptian history, therefore, at a different angle from that at 
which it came into Babylonia. Nevertheless, it came in. Professor Maspero (in his New Light on Ancient 
Egypt) gives a very interesting account of the struggle of Amenophis IV with the priesthoods, and particularly 
with priests of the great god, Ammon Ra, Lord of Karnak. The mother of Amenophis, IV was not of the race 
of Pharaoh; it would seem that his father, Amenophis III, made a love match with a subject, a beautiful Syrian 
named Tii, and Professor Maspero finds in the possible opposition to and annoyance of this queen by the 
priests of Ammon Ra the beginnings of the quarrel. She may, he thinks, have inspired her son with a fanatical 
hatred of Ammon Ra. But Amenophis, IV may have had a wider view. Like the Babylonian Nabonidus, who 
lived a thousand years later, he may have had in mind the problem of moral unity in his empire. We have 
already noted that Amenophis III ruled from Ethiopia to the Euphrates, and that the store of letters to himself 
and his son found at Tel-Amarna show a very wide range of interest and influence. At any rate, Amenophis IV 
set himself to close all the Egyptian and Syrian temples, to put an end to all sectarian worship throughout his 
dominions, and to establish everywhere the worship of one god, Aton, the solar disk. He left his capital, 
Thebes, which was even more the city of Ammon Ra than later Babylon was the city of Bel-Marduk, and set 
up his capital at Tel-Amarna; he altered his name from Amenophis, which consecrated him to Ammon 
(Amen) to Akhnaton, the Sun's Glory; and he held his own against all the priesthoods of his empire for 
eighteen years and died a Pharaoh. 

Opinions upon Amenophis IV, or Akhnaton, differ very widely. There are those who regard him as the 
creature of his mother's hatred of Ammon and the uxorious spouse of a beautiful wife. Certainly he loved his 
wife very passionately; he showed her great honour"Egypt honoured women, and was ruled at different times 
by several queens"and he was sculptured in one instance with his wife seated upon his knees, and in another 
in the act of kissing her in a chariot; but men who live under the sway of their womenkind do not sustain great 
empires in the face of the bitter hostility of the most influential organized bodies in their realm. Others write 
of him as a gloomy fanatic. Matrimonial bliss is rare in the cases of gloomy fanatics. It is much more 
reasonable to regard him as the Pharaoh who refused to be a god. It is not simply his religious policy and his 
frank display of natural affection that seem to mark a strong and very original personality. His aesthetic ideas 
were his own. He refused to have his portrait conventionalized into the customary smooth beauty of the 
Pharaoh god, and his face looks out at us across an interval of thirty-four centuries, a man amidst ranks of 



Part I 93 

divine insipidities. 

[Fig. 0194 Pharoh Akhnaton] 

A reign of eighteen years was not long enough for the revolution he contemplated, and his son-in-law who 
succeeded him went back to Thebes and made his peace with Ammon Ra. 

To the very end of the story the divinity of kings haunted the Egyptian mind, and infected the thoughts of 
intellectually healthier races. When Alexander the Great reached Babylon, the prestige of Bel-Marduk was 
already far gone in decay, but in Egypt, Ammon Ra was still god enough to make a snob of the conquering 
Grecian. The priests of Ammon Ra, about the time of the XVIIIth or XIX th Dynasty (circa 1,400 B.C.), had 
set up in an oasis of the desert a temple and oracle. Here was an image of the god which could speak, move its 
head, and accept or reject scrolls of inquiry. This oracle was still flourishing in 332 B.C. The young master of 
the world, it is related, made a special journey to visit it; he came into the sanctuary, and the image advanced 
out of the darkness at the back to meet him. 

There was an impressive exchange of salutations. Some such formula as this must have been used (says 
Professor Massaro): Come, son of my loins, who loves me so that I give thee the royalty of Ra and the royalty 
of Horus! I give thee valiance, I give thee to hold all countries and all religions under thy feet; I give thee to 
strike all the peoples united together with thy arm! 

So it was that the priests of Egypt conquered their conqueror, and an Aryan monarch first became a god. 

17.7 Shi Hwang-ti Destroys the Books 

The struggle of priest and king in China cannot be discussed here at any length. It was different again, as in 
Egypt it was different from Babylonia, but we find the same effort on the part of the ruler to break up tradition 
because it divides up the people. The Chinese Emperor, the Son of Heaven, was himself a high-priest, and his 
chief duty was sacrificial; in the more disorderly phases of Chinese history he ceases to rule and continues 
only to sacrifice. The literary class was detached from the priestly class at an early date. It became a 
bureaucratic body serving the local kings and rulers. That is a fundamental difference between the history of 
China and any Western history. While Alexander was overrunning Western Asia, China, under the last 
priest-emperors of the Chow Dynasty, was sinking into a state of great disorder. Each province clung to its 
separate nationality and traditions, and the Huns spread from province to province. The King of T'sin (who 
lived about eighty years after Alexander the Great), impressed by the mischief tradition was doing in the land, 
resolved to destroy the entire Chinese literature, and his son, Shi Hwang-ti, the first universal Emperor, made 
a strenuous attempt to seek out and destroy all the existing classics. They vanished while he ruled, and he 
ruled without tradition, and welded China into a unity that endured for some centuries; but when he had 
passed, the hidden books crept out again. China remained united, though not under his descendants, but after a 
civil war under a fresh dynasty, the Han Dynasty (206 B.C.). The first Han monarch did not sustain this 
campaign of Shi Hwang-ti against the literati, and his successor made his peace with them and restored the 
texts of the classics. 

18.0 Serfs, Slaves, Social Classes and Free Individuals 

18.1 The Common Man in Ancient Times 

18.2 The Earliest Slaves 

18.3 The First Independent Persons 

18.4 Social Classes Three Thousand Years Ago 



Part I 94 

18.5 Classes Hardening into Castes 

18.6 Caste in India 

18.7 The System of the Mandarins 

18.8 A Summary of Five Thousand Years 

18.1 The Common Man in Ancient Times 

We have been sketching in the last four chapters the growth of civilized states out of the primitive Neolithic 
agriculture that began in Mesopotamia perhaps 15,000 years ago. It was at first horticulture rather than 
agriculture; it was done with the hoe before the plough, and at first it was quite supplementary to the sheep, 
goat, and cattle tending that made the living of the family tribe. We have traced the broad outlines of the 
development in regions of exceptional fruitfulness of the first settled village communities into more populous 
towns and cities, and the growth of the village shrine and the village medicine-man into the city temple and 
the city priesthood. We have noted the beginnings of organized war, first as a flickering between villages, and 
then as a more disciplined struggle between the priest-king and god of one city and those of another. Our story 
has passed on rapidly from the first indications of conquest and empire in Sumer, 6,000 or 7,000 B.C., to the 
spectacle of great empires growing up, with roads and armies, with inscriptions and written documents, with 
educated priesthoods and kings and rulers sustained by a tradition already ancient. We have traced in broad 
outline the appearance and conflicts and replacements of these empires of the great rivers. We have directed 
attention, in particular, to the evidence of a development of still wider political ideas as we find it betrayed by 
the actions and utterances of such men as Nabonidus and Amenophis IV. It has been an outline of the 
accumulations of human experience for ten or fifteen thousand years, a vast space of time in comparison with 
all subsequent, history, but a brief period when we measure it against the succession of endless generations 
that intervenes between us and the first rude flint-using human creatures of the Pleistocene dawn. But for 
these last four chapters we have been writing almost entirely not about mankind generally, but only about the 
men who thought, the men who could draw and read and write, the men who were altering their world. 
Beneath their activities what was the life, of the mute multitude? 

The life of the common man was, of course, affected and changed by these things, just as the lives of the 
domestic, animals and the face of the cultivated country were changed; but for the most part it was a change 
suffered and not a change in which the common man upon the land had any voice or will. Reading and writing 
were not yet for the likes of him. He went on cultivating his patch, loving his wife and children, beating his 
dog and tending his beasts, grumbling at hard times, fearing the magic of the priests and the power of the, 
gods, desiring little more except to be left alone by the, powers above him. So be was in 10,000 B.C.; so he 
was, unchanged in nature and out look, in the time of Alexander the Great; so over the greater part of the 
world be remains to-day. He, got rather better tools, better seeds, better methods, a slightly sounder house, he 
sold his produce in a more organized market as civilization progressed. A certain freedom and a certain 
equality passed out of human life when men ceased to wander. Men paid in liberty for safety, shelter, and 
regular meals. By imperceptible degrees the common man found the patch be cultivated was not his own; it 
belonged to the god; and he had to pay a fraction of his produce to the god. Or the god had given it to the 
king, who exacted his rent and tax. Or the king had given it to an official, who was the lord of the common 
man. And sometimes the god or the king or the noble had work to be done, and then the common man had to 
leave his patch and work for his master. 

How far the patch he cultivated was his own was never very clear to him in ancient Assyria, the land seems to 
have been held as a sort of freehold and the occupier paid taxes; in Babylonia the land was the god's, and he 
permitted the cultivator to work thereon. In Egypt the temples or Pharaoh-the-god or the nobles under Pharaoh 
were the owners and rent receivers. But the cultivator was not a slave; he was a peasant, and only bound to the 
land in so far that there was nothing else for him to do but cultivate, and nowhere else for him to go. He lived 



Part I 95 

in a village or town, and went out to his work. The village, to begin with, was often merely a big household of 
related people under a patriarch headman, the early town a group of householders under its elders. There was 
no process of enslavement as civilization grew, but the headmen and leaderly men grew in power and 
authority, and the common men did not keep pace with them, and fell into a tradition of dependence and 
subordination. 

On the whole, the common men were probably well content to live under lord or king or god and obey their 
bidding. It was safer. It was easier. All animals-and man is no, exception-begin life as dependents. Most men 
never shake themselves loose from the desire for leading and protection. [1] 

18.2 The Earliest Slaves 

The earlier wars did not involve remote or prolonged campaigns, and they were waged by levies of the 
common people. But war brought in a new source of possessions, plunder, and a new social factor, the 
captive. In the earlier, simpler days of war, the captive man was kept only to be tortured or sacrificed to the 
victorious god; the captive women and children were assimilated into the tribe. But later many captives were 
spared to be slaves because they had exceptional gifts or peculiar arts. It would be the kings and captains who 
would take these slaves at first, and it would speedily become apparent to them that these men were much 
more their own than were the peasant cultivators and common men of their own race. The slave could be 
commanded to do all sorts of things for his, master that the quasi-free common man would not do, so 
willingly because of his attachment to his own patch of cultivation. From a very early period the artificer was 
often a household slave, and the manufacture of trade goods, pottery, textiles, metal ware, and so forth, such 
as went on vigorously in the household city of the Minos of Cnossos, was probably a slave industry from the 
beginning. Sayce, in his Babylonians and Assyrians, quotes Babylonian agreements for the teaching of trades 
to slaves, and dealing with the exploitation of slave products. 

Slaves produced slave children, enslavement in discharge of debts added to the slave population; it is probable 
that as the cities grew larger, a larger part of the new population consisted of these slave artificers and slave 
servants in the large households. They were by no means abject slaves; in later Babylon their lives and 
property were protected by elaborate laws. Nor were they all outlanders. 

[Fig. 0199 Egyptian Peasants (Pyramid Age)] 

Parents might sell their children into slavery, and brothers their orphan sisters. Free men who had no means of 
livelihood would even sell themselves into slavery. And slavery was the fate of the in solvent debtor. Craft 
apprenticeship, again, was a sort of fixed-term slavery. Out of the slave population, by a converse process, 
arose the freed-man and freed-woman, who worked for wages and had still more definite individual rights. 
Since in Babylon slaves could themselves own property, many slaves saved up and bought themselves. 
Probably the town slave was often better off and practically as free as the cultivator of the soil, and as the rural 
population increased, its sons and daughters came to mix with and swell the growing ranks of artificers, some 
bound, some free. 

As the extent and complexity of government increased, the number of households multiplied. Under the king's 
household grew -up the households of his great ministers and officials, under the temple grew up the personal 
households of temple functionaries; it is not difficult to realize how houses and patches of land would become 
more and more distinctly the property of the occupiers, and more and more definitely alienated from the 
original owner-god. The earlier empires in Egypt and China both passed into a feudal stage, in which families, 
originally official, became for a time independent noble families. In the later stages of Babylonian civilization 
we find an increasing propertied class of people appearing in the social structure, neither slaves nor peasants 
nor priests nor officials, but widows and descendants of such people, or successful traders and the like, and all 
masterless folk. Traders came in from the outside. Babylon was full of Aramean traders, who had great 
establishments, with slaves, freed-men, employees of all sorts. Their book-keeping was a serious undertaking. 



Part I 96 

It involved storing a great multitude of earthenware tablets in huge earthenware jars. Upon this gathering 
mixture of more or less free and detached people would live other people, traders, merchants, small dealers, 
catering for their needs. Sayce (op. cit.) gives the particulars of an agreement for the setting up and stocking of 
a tavern and beerhouse, for example. The passer-by, the man who happened to be about, had come into 
existence. 

But another and far less kindly sort of slavery also arose in the old civilization, and that was gang slavery. If it 
did not figure very largely in the cities, it was very much in evidence elsewhere. The king was, to begin with, 
the chief entrepreneur. He made the canals and organized the irrigation (e.g. Hammurabi's enterprises noted in 
the previous chapter). He exploited mines. He seems (at Cnossos, e.g.) to have organized manufactures for 
export. The Pharaohs of the 1st Dynasty were already working the copper and turquoise mines in the 
peninsula of Sinai. For many such purposes gangs of captives were cheaper and far more controllable than 
levies of the king's own people. From an early period, too, captives may have tugged the oars of the galleys, 
though Torr (Ancient Ships) notes that up to the age of Pericles (450 B.C.) the free Athenians were not above 
this task. And the monarch also found slaves convenient for his military expeditions. They were uprooted 
men; they did not fret to go home, because they had no homes to go to. The Pharaohs hunted slaves in Nubia, 
in order to have black troops for their Syrian expeditions. Closely allied to such slave troops were the 
mercenary barbaric troops the monarchs caught into their service, not by positive compulsion, but by the 
bribes of food and plunder and under the pressure of need. As the old civilization developed, these mercenary 
armies replaced the national levies of the old order more and more, and servile gang labour became a more 
and more important and significant factor in the economic system. From mines and canal and wall building, 
the servile gang spread into cultivation. Nobles and temples adopted the gang-slave system for their works. 
Plantation gangs began to oust the patch cultivation of the labourer-serf in the case, of some staple products. . 



[Fig. 0201 Brawl Among Egyptian Boatmen (Pyramid Age)] 

18.3 The First Independent Persons 

So, in a few paragraphs, we trace the development of the simple social structure of the early Sumerian cities to 
the complex city crowds, the multitude of individuals varying in race, tradition, education, and function, 
varying in wealth, freedom, authority, and usefulness, in the great cities of the last thousand years B.C. The 
most notable thing of all is the gradual increase amidst this heterogeneous multitude of what we may call free 
individuals, detached persons who are neither priests, nor kings, nor officials, nor serfs, nor slaves, who are 
under no great pressure to work, who have time to read and inquire. They appear side by side with the 
development of social security and private property. Coined money and monetary reckoning developed. The 
operations of the Arameans and such-like Semitic trading people led to the organization of credit and 
monetary security. In the earlier days almost the only property, except a few movables, consisted of rights in 
land and in houses; later, one could deposit and lend securities, could go away and return to find one's 
property faithfully held and secure. Towards the middle of the period of the Persian Empire there lived one 
free individual, Herodotus, who has a great interest for us because he was among the first writers of critical 
and intelligent history, as distinguished from a mere priestly or court chronicle. It is worth while to glance 
here very briefly at the circumstances of his life. Later on we shall quote from his history. 

We have already noted the conquest of Babylonia by the Aryan Persians under Cyrus in 539 B.C. We have 
noted, further, that the Persian Empire spread into Egypt, where its hold was precarious; and it extended also 
over Asia Minor. Herodotus was born about 484 B.C. in a Greek city of Asia Minor, Halicarnassus, which 
was under the overlordship of the Persians, and directly under the rule of a political boss or tyrant. There is no 
sign that he was obliged either to work for a living or spend very much time in the administration of his 
property. We do not know the particulars of his affairs, but it is clear that in this minor Greek city, under 
foreign rule, he was able to obtain and read and study manuscripts of nearly everything that had been written 
in the Greek language before his time. He travelled, so far as one can gather, with freedom and comfort about 



Part I 97 

the Greek archipelagoes; he stayed wherever he wanted to stay, and he seems to have found comfortable 
accommodation; he went to Babylon and to Susa, the new capital the Persians had set up in Babylonia to the 
east of the Tigris; he toured along the coast of the Black Sea, and accumulated a considerable, amount of 
knowledge about the Scythians, the Aryan people who were then distributed over South Russia; he went, to 
the south of Italy, explored the antiquities of Tyre, coasted Palestine, landed at Gaza, and made a long stay in 
Egypt. He went about Egypt looking at temples and monuments and gathering information. We know not only 
from him, but from other evidence, that in those days the older temples and the pyramids (which were already 
nearly three thousand years old) were visited by strings of tourists, a special sort of priests acting as guides. 
The inscriptions the sightseers scribbled upon the walls remain to this day, and many of them have been 
deciphered and published. 

[Fig. 0203 Egyptian Social Types (from Tombs)] 

As his knowledge accumulated, be conceived the idea of writing a great history of the attempts of Persia to 
subdue Greece. 

But in order to introduce that, history he composed an account of the past of Greece, Persia, Assyria, 
Babylonia, Egypt, Scythia, and of the geography and peoples of those countries. He then set himself, it is said, 
to make his history known among his friends in Halicarnassus by reciting it to them, but they failed to 
appreciate it; and he then betook himself to Athens, the most flourishing of all Greek cities at that time. There 
his work was received with applause. We find him in the centre of a brilliant circle of intelligent and 
active-minded people, and the city authorities voted him a reward of ten talents (a, sum of money equivalent 
to 2,400) in recognition of his literary achievement. . . . 

But we will not complete the biography of this most interesting man, nor will we enter into any criticism of 
his garrulous, marvel-telling, and most entertaining history. It is a book to which all intelligent readers come 
sooner or later, abounding as it does in illuminating errors and Boswellian charm. We give these particulars 
here simply to show that in the fifth century B.C. a new factor was becoming evident in human affairs. 
Reading and writing had already long escaped from the temple precincts and the ranks of the court scribes. 
Record was no longer confined to court and temple. A new sort of people, these people of leisure and 
independent means, were asking questions, exchanging knowledge and views, and developing ideas. So 
beneath the march of armies and the policies of monarchs, and above the common lives of illiterate and 
incurious men, we note the beginnings of what is becoming at last nowadays a dominant power in human 
affairs, the free, intelligence, of mankind. 

Of that free intelligence we shall have more to say when in a subsequent chapter we tell of the Greeks. 

18.4 Social Classes Three Thousand Years Ago 

We may summarize the discussion of the last two chapters here by making a list of the chief elements in this 
complicated accumulation of human beings which made up the later Babylonian and Egyptian civilizations of 
from two thousand five hundred to three thousand years ago. These, elements grew up and became distinct 
one from another in the great river valleys of the world in the course of five or six thousand years. They 
developed mental dispositions and traditions and attitudes of thought one to another. The civilization in which 
we live today is simply carrying on and still further developing and working out and rearranging these 
relationships. This is the world from which we inherit. It is only by the attentive study of their origins that we 
can detach ourselves from the prejudices and immediate ideas of the particular class to which we may belong, 
and begin to understand the social and political questions of our own time. 

(1) First, then, came the priesthood, the temple system, which was the nucleus and the guiding intelligence 
about which the primitive civilizations grew. It was still in these later days a great power in the world, the 
chief repository of knowledge and tradition, an influence over the lives of every one, and a binding force to 



Part I 98 

hold the community together. But it was no longer all-powerful, because its-nature made it conservative and 
inadaptable. It no longer monopolized knowledge nor initiated fresh ideas. Learning had already leaked out to 
other less pledged and controlled people, who thought for themselves. About the temple system were grouped 
its priests and priestesses, its scribes, its physicians, its magicians, its lay brethren, treasurers, managers, 
directors, and the like. It owned great properties and often hoarded huge treasures. 

(2) Over against the priesthood, and originally, arising out of it, was the court system, headed by a king or a 
king of kings, who was in later Assyria and Babylonia a sort of captain and lay controller of affairs, and in 
Egypt a god-man, who had released himself from the control of his priests. About the monarch were 
accumulated his scribes, counsellors, record keepers, agents, captains, and guards. Many of his officials, 
particularly his provincial officials, had great subordinate establishments, and were constantly tending to 
become independent. The nobility of the old river valley civilizations arose out of the court system. It was, 
therefore, a different thing in its origins from the nobility of the early Aryans, which was a republican nobility 
of elders and leading men. 

(3) At the base of the social pyramid was the large and most necessary class in the community, the tillers of 
the soil . Their status varied from age to age and in different lands; they were free peasants paying taxes, or 
serfs of the god, or serfs or tenants of king or noble, or of a private owner, paying him a rent; in most cases tax 
or rent was paid in produce. In the states of the river valleys they were, high cultivators, cultivating 
comparatively small holdings; they lived together for safety in villages, and had a common interest in 
maintaining their irrigation channels and a sense of community in their village life. The cultivation of the soil 
is an exacting occupation; the seasons and the harvest sunsets will not wait for men; children can be utilized at 
an early age, and so the Cultivator class is generally a poorly educated, close-toiling class, superstitious by 
reason of ignorance and the uncertainty of the seasons, ill-informed and easily put upon, It is capable at times 
of great passive resistance, but it has no purpose in its round but crops and crops, to keep out of debt and 
hoard against bad times. So it has remained to our own days over the greater part of Europe and Asia. 

(4) Differing widely in origin and quality from the tillers of the soil was the artisan class. At first, this was 
probably in part a town-slave class, in part it consisted of peasants who had specialized upon a craft. But in 
developing an art and mystery of its own, a technique that had to be learnt before it could be practised, each 
sort of craft probably developed a certain independence and a certain sense of community of its own. The 
artisans were able to get together and discuss their affairs more readily than the toilers on the land, and they 
were able to form guilds to restrict output, maintain rates of pay, and protect their common interest. 

(5) As the power of the Babylonian rulers spread out beyond the original areas of good husbandry into grazing 
regions and less fertile districts, a class of herdsmen came into existence. In the case of Babylonia these were 
nomadic Semites, the Bedouin, like the Bedouin of to-day. They probably grazed their flocks over great areas 
much as the sheep ranchers of California do. They were paid and esteemed much more highly than the 
husbandmen. 

(6) The first merchants in the world were shipowners like the people of Tyre and Cnossos, or nomads who 
carried and traded goods as they wandered between one area of primitive civilization and another. In the 
Babylonian and Assyrian world the traders were predominantly the Semitic Arameans, the ancestors of the 
modern Syrians. They became a distinct factor in the life of the community; they formed great households of 
their own. Usury developed largely in the last thousand years B.C. Traders needed accommodation; 
cultivators wished to anticipate their crops. Sayce (op. cit.) gives an account of the Babylonian banking-house 
of Egibi, which lasted through several generations and outlived the Chaldean Empire. 

(7) A class of small retailers, one must suppose, came into existence with the complication of society during 
the later days of the first empires, but it was not probably of any great importance. 

(8) A growing class of independent property owners. 



Part I 99 

(9) As the amenities of life increased, there grew up in the court, temples, and prosperous private houses a 
class of domestic servants, slaves or freed slaves, or young peasants taken into the household. 

(10) Gang workers. " These were prisoners of war or debt slaves, or impressed or deported men. 

(11) Mercenary soldiers ."These were also often captive or impressed men. Sometimes they were enlisted 
from friendly foreign populations in which the military spirit still prevailed. 

(12) Seamen. 

In modern political and economic discussions we are apt to talk rather glibly of labour. Much has been made 
of the solidarity of labour and its sense of community. It is well to note that in these first civilizations, what 
we speak of as labour is represented by five distinct classes dissimilar in origin, traditions, and 
outlook-namely, classes 3, 4, 5, 9, 10, and the oar-tugging part of 12. The solidarity of labour is, we shall find 
when we-come to study the mechanical revolution of the nineteenth century A.D., a new idea and a new 
possibility in human affairs. 

18.5 Classes Hardening into Castes 

Let us, before we leave this discussion of the social classes that were developing in these first civilizations, 
devote a little attention to their fixity. How far did they stand aloof from each other, and how far did they 
intermingle? So far as the classes we have counted as 9, 10, 11, and 12 go, the servants, the gang labourers 
and slaves, the gang soldiers, and to a lesser extent the sailors, or at any rate the galley rowers among the 
sailors, they were largely recruited classes, they did not readily and easily form homes, they were not 
distinctively breeding classes; they were probably replenished generation after generation by captives, by the 
failures of other classes, and especially from the failures of the class of small retailers, and by, persuasion and, 
impressment from among the cultivators. But so, far as the sailors go, we have to distinguish between the 
mere rower and the navigating and ship owning seaman of such ports as Tyre and Sidon. The shipowners 
pass, no doubt, by insensible gradations into the mercantile class, but the navigators must have made a 
peculiar community in the great seaports, having homes there and handing on the secrets of seacraft to their 
sons. The eighth class we have distinguished was certainly a precarious class, continually increased by the 
accession of the heirs and dependents, the, widows and retired members of the wealthy and powerful, and 
continually diminished by the deaths or speculative losses of these people and the dispersal of their properties. 
The priests and priestess, too, so far as all this world west of India went, were not a very reproductive class; 
many priest hoods were celibate, and that class, too, may also be counted as a recruited class. Nor are 
servants, as a rule reproductive. They live in the, households of other people; they do not have households and 
rear large families of their own. This leaves us as the really vital classes of the ancient civilized community: 

(a) The royal and aristocratic class, officials, military officers, and the like; 

(b) The mercantile class; 

(c) The town artisans; 

(d) The cultivators of the soil; and 

(e) The herdsmen. 

Each of these classes reared its own children in its own fashion, and so naturally kept itself more or less 
continuously distinct from the others. General education was not organized in those ancient states, education 
was mainly a household, matter (as it is still in many parts of India to-day), and so it was natural and 
necessary for the sons to follow in the footsteps of their father and to marry women accustomed to their own 



Part I 1 00 

sort of household. Except during times of great political disturbance, therefore, there would be a natural and 
continuous separation of classes; which would not, however, prevent exceptional individuals from 
intermarrying or passing from one class to another. Poor aristocrats would marry rich members of the 
mercantile class; ambitious herdsmen, artisans, or sailors would become rich merchants. So far as one can 
gather, that was the general state of affairs in both Egypt and Babylonia. The idea was formerly entertained 
that in Egypt there was a fixity of classes, but this appears to be a misconception due to a misreading of 
Herodotus. The only exclusive class in Egypt which did not intermarry was, as in England to-day, the 
semi-divine royal family. 

At various points in the social system there were probably developments of exclusiveness, an actual barring 
out of interlopers. Artisans of particular crafts possessing secrets, for example, have among all races and in all 
ages tended to develop guild organizations restricting the practice of their craft and the marriage of members 
outside their guild. Conquering people have also, and especially when there were marked physical differences 
of race, been disposed to keep themselves aloof from the conquered peoples, and have developed an 
aristocratic exclusiveness. Such organizations of restriction upon free intercourse have come and gone in great 
variety in the history of all long-standing civilization. The natural boundaries of function were always there, 
but sometimes they have been drawn sharply and laid stress upon, and sometimes they have been made little 
of. There has been a general tendency among the Aryan peoples to distinguish noble (patrician) from common 
(plebeian) families; the traces of it are evident throughout the literature and life of Europe to-day, and it has 
received a picturesque enforcement in the science of heraldry. This tradition is still active even in democratic 
America. Germany, the most methodical of European countries, had in the MiddleAges a very clear 
conception of the fixity of such distinctions. Below the princes (who themselves constituted an exclusive class 
which did not marry beneath itself) there were the: 

(a) Knights, the military and official caste, with heraldic coats -of-arms; 

(b and c) The Burgerstand, the merchants, shipping people, and artisans; and 

(d) The Bauernstand, the cultivating serfs or peasants. Mediaeval Germany went as far as any of the Western 
heirs of the-first great civilizations towards a fixation of classes. The idea is far less congenial both to the 
English-speaking people and to the French and Italians, who, by a sort of instinct, favour a free movement 
from class to class. Such exclusive ideas began at first among, and were promoted chiefly by, the upper 
classes, but it is a natural response and a natural Nemesis to such ideas that the mass of the excluded should 
presently range themselves in antagonism to their superiors. It was in Germany, as we shall see in the 
concluding chapters of this story, that the conception of a natural and necessary conflict, the class war, 
between the miscellaneous multitudes of the disinherited (the class-conscious proletariat of the Marxist) and 
the rulers and merchants first arose. It was an idea more acceptable to the German mind than to the British or 
French. . . . But before we come to that conflict, we must traverse a long history of many centuries. 

18.6 Caste in India 

If now we turn eastward from this main development of civilization in the world between Central Asia and the 
Atlantic, to the social development of India in the 2000 years next before the Christian era, we find certain 
broad and very, interesting differences. The first of these is that we find such a fixity of classes in process of 
establishment as no other part of the world can present. This fixity of classes is known to Europeans as the 
institution of caste; [2] its origins are still in complete obscurity, but it was certainly well rooted in the Ganges 
valley before the days of Alexander the Great. It is a complicated horizontal division of the social structure 
into classes or castes, the members of which may neither eat nor intermarry with persons of a lower caste 
under penalty of becoming: outcasts, and who, may also lose caste for various ceremonial negligences and 
defilements. By losing caste a man does not sink to a lower, caste; he becomes outcast. The various 
subdivisions of caste are very complex; many are practically trade organizations. Each caste has its local 
organization which maintains discipline, distributes various charities, looks after its own poor, protects the 



Parti 101 

common interests of its members, and examines the credentials of new-comers from other districts. (There is 
little to check the pretensions of a travelling Hindu to be of a higher caste than is legitimately his.) Originally, 
the four main castes seem to have been: 

The Brahmins"the priests and teachers; 

The Kshatriyas"the warriors; 

The Vaisyas"herdsmen, merchants, moneylenders, and landowners.; 

The Sudras; 

And, outside the castes, the Pariahs. 

But these primary divisions have long been complicated by subdivision into a multitude of minor castes, all 
exclusive, each holding its members to one definite way of living and one group of associates. In Bengal the 
Kshatriyas and Vaisyas have largely disappeared. But this is too intricate a question for us to deal with here 
in, any detail. 

Next to this extraordinary fission and complication of the social body we have to note that the Brahmins, the 
priests and teachers of the Indian world, unlike so many Western priesthoods, are a reproductive and exclusive 
class, taking no recruits from any other, social stratum. 

Whatever may have been the original incentive to this ex tensive fixation of class in India, there can be little 
doubt of the role played by the Brahmins as the custodians of tradition and the only teachers of the people in 
sustaining it. By some it is supposed that the first three of the four original castes, known also as the twice 
born, were the descendants of the Vedic Aryan conquerors of India, who established these hard and fast 
separations to prevent racial mixing with the conquered Sudras and Pariahs. The Sudras are represented as a 
previous wave of northern conquerors, and the Pariahs are, the original Dravidian inhabitants of India. But 
these speculations are not universally accepted, and it is, perhaps, rather the case that the uniform conditions 
of life in the Ganges valley throughout long centuries served to stereotype a difference of classes that have 
never had the same steadfastness of definition under the more various and variable conditions of the greater 
world to the west. 

However caste arose, there can be no doubt of its extraordinary, hold upon the Indian mind. In the sixth 
century B.C. arose Gautama, the great teacher of Buddhism, proclaiming, As the four streams that flow into 
the Ganges lose their names, as soon as they mingle their waters in the holy river, so all who believe in 
Buddha cease to be Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaisyas, and Sudras. His teaching prevailed in India for some 
centuries; it spread over China, Tibet, Japan, Burmah, Ceylon, Turkestan, Manchuria; it is to-day the religion 
of a large fraction of the human race, but it was finally defeated and driven out of Indian life by the vitality 
and persistence of the Brahmins and of their caste ideas. .. 

18.7 The System of the Mandarins 

In China we find a social system travelling along yet another, and only a very roughly parallel line to that 
followed by the Indian and Western civilizations. The Chinese civilization even more than the Hindu is 
organized for peace, and the warrior plays a small part in its social scheme. As in the Indian civilization, the 
leading class is an intellectual one; less priestly than the Brahmin and more official. But unlike the Brahmins, 
the mandarins, who are the literate men of China, are not a caste; one is not a mandarin by birth, but by 
education; they are drawn by education and examination from all classes of the community, and the son of a 
mandarin has no prescriptive right to succeed his father. [3] As a consequence of these differences, while the 
Brahmins of India are, as a class, ignorant even of their own sacred books, mentally slack, and full of a 



Part I 1 02 

pretentious assurance, the Chinese mandarin has the energy that comes from hard mental work. But since his 
education so far has been almost entirely a scholarly study of the classical. Chinese literature, his influence 
has been entirely conservative. Before the days of Alexander the Great, China had already formed itself and 
set its feet in the way in which it was still walking in the year 1,000 A.D. Invaders and dynasties had come 
and gone, but the routine of life of the yellow civilization remained unchanged. 

The traditional Chinese social system recognized four main classes below the priest-emperor. 

(a) The literary class, which was equivalent partly to the officials of the Western world and partly to its 
teachers and clerics. In the time of Confucius its education included archery and horsemanship. Rites and 
music, history and mathematics completed the Six Accomplishments. 

(b) The cultivators of the laud. 

(c) The artisans. 

(d) The mercantile class. 

But since from the earliest times it has been the Chinese way to divide the landed possessions of a man among 
all his sons, there has never been in Chinese history any class of great landowners, renting their land to 
tenants, such as most other countries have displayed. The Chinese land has always been cut up into small 
holdings, which are chiefly freeholds, and cultivated intensively. There are landlords in China who own one 
or a few farms and rent them to tenants, but there are no great, permanent estates. When a patch of land, by 
repeated division, is too small to sustain a man, it is sold to some prospering neighbour, and the former owner 
drifts to one of the great towns of China to join the mass of wage-earning workers there. In China, for many 
centuries, there have been these masses of town population with scarcely any property at all, men neither serfs 
nor slaves, but held to their daily work by their utter impecuniousness. From such masses it is that the soldiers 
needed by the Chinese Government are recruited, and also such gang labour as has been needed for the 
making of canals, the building of walls, and the like has been drawn. The war captive and the slave class play 
a smaller part in Chinese history than in any more westerly record of these ages before the Christian era. 

One fact, we may note, is common to all these three stories of developing social structure and that is the 
immense power exercised by the educated class in the early stages before the crown or the commonalty began 
to read and, consequently, to think for itself. In India, by reason of their exclusiveness, the Brahmins, the 
educated class, retain their influence to this day; over the masses of China, along entirely different lines and 
because of the complexities of the written language, the mandarinate has prevailed. The diversity of race and 
tradition in the more various and eventful world of the West has delayed, and perhaps arrested for ever, any 
parallel organization of the specially intellectual elements of society into a class ascendancy. In the Western 
world, as we have already noted, education early slopped over, and soaked away out of the control of any 
special class; it escaped from the limitation of castes, and priesthoods and traditions into the general life of the 
community. Writing and reading had been simplified down to a point when it was no longer possible to make 
a cult and mystery of them. It may be due to the peculiar elaboration and difficulty of the Chinese characters, 
rather than to any racial difference, that the same thing did not happen to the same extent in China. 

18.8 A Summary of Five Thousand Years 

In these last six chaptters we have traced in outline the whole process by which, in the course of 5,000 or 
6,000 years"that is to say, in something between 150 and 200 generations"mankind passed from the stage of 
early Neotlithic husbandry, in which the primitive skin-clad family tribe reaped and stored in their rude mud 
juts the wild-growinwg fodder and grain-bearing grasses with sickles of stone, to the days of the fourth 
century B.C., when all round the shores of the Mediterranean and up the Nile, and across Asia to India, and 
again over the great alluvial area of China, spread the fields of human cultivation and busy cities, great 



Part I 1 03 

temples, and the coming and going of human commerce. Galleys and lateen-sailed ships entered and left 
crowded harbours, and made their careful way from headland to headland and from headland to island, 
keeping always close to the land. Phoenician shipping under Egyptian owners was making its way into the 
East Indies and perhaps even further into the Pacific. Across the deserts of Africa and Arabia and through 
Turkestan toiled the caravans with their remote trade; silk was already coming from China, ivory from Central 
Africa, and tin from Britain to the centres of this new life in the world. Men had learnt to weave fine linen [4] 
and delicate fabrics of coloured wool; they could bleach and dye; they had iron as well as copper, bronze, 
silver, and gold; they had made the most beautiful pottery and porcelain; there was hardly a variety of 
precious stone in the world that they had not found and cut and polished; they could read and write; divert the 
course of rivers, pile pyramids, and make walls a thousand miles long. The fifty or sixty centuries in which all 
this had to be achieved may seem a long time in comparison with the threescore and ten years of a single 
human life, but it is utterly inconsiderable in comparison with the stretches of geological time. Measuring 
backward from these Alexandrian cities to the days of the first stone implements, the rostro-carinata 
implements of the Pliocene Age, gives us an extent of time fully a hundred times as long. 

We have tried in this account, and with the help of maps and figures and time charts, to give a just idea of the 
order and shape of these fifty or sixty centuries. Our business is with that outline. We have named but a few 
names of individuals; though henceforth the personal names must increase in number. But the content of this 
outline that we have drawn here in a few diagrams and charts cannot but touch the imagination. If only we 
could look closelier, we should see through all these sixty centuries a procession of lives more and more akin 
in their fashion to our own. We have shown how the naked Palolithic savage gave place to the Neolithic 
cultivator, a type of man still to be found in the backward places of the world. We have given an illustration of 
Sumerian soldiers copied from a carved stone that was set up long before the days when the Semitic Sargon I 
conquered the land. Day by day some busy brownish man carved those figures, and no doubt, whistled as he 
carved. In those days the plain of the Egyptian delta was crowded with gangs of swarthy workmen unloading 
the stone that had come down the Nile to add a fresh course to the current pyramid. One might paint a 
thousand scenes from those ages: of some hawker merchant in Egypt spreading his stock of Babylonish 
garments before the eyes of some pretty, rich lady; of a miscellaneous crowd swarming between the pylons to 
some temple festival at Thebes; of an excited, dark-eyed audience of Cretans like the Spaniards of to-day, 
watching a bull-fight, with the bull-fighters in trousers and tightly girded, exactly like any contemporary 
bull-fighter; of children learning their cuneiform signs"at Nippur the clay exercise tiles of a school have been 
found; of a woman with a sick husband at home slipping into some great temple in Carthage to make a vow 
for his recovery. Or perhaps it is a wild Greek skin-clad and armed with a bronze axe, standing motionless on 
some Illyrian mountain crest, struck with amazement at his first visiion of a many-oared Cretan galley 
crawling like a great insect across the amethystine mirror of the Adriatic Sea. He went home to tell his folk a 
strange story of a monster, Briareus with his hundred arms. Of millions of such stitches in each of these 200 
generations is the fabric of this history woven. But unless they mark the presence of a primary seam or join, 
we cannot pause now to examine any of these stiches. 

19.0 The Hebrew Scriptures and the Prophets 

19.1 The Place of the Israelites in History 

19.2 Saul, David, and Solomon 

19.3 The Jews a People of Mixed Origin 

19.4 The Importance of the Hebrew Prophets 
19.1 The Place of the Israelites in History 



Part I 1 04 

We are now in a position to place in their proper relationship to this general outline of human history the 
Israelites, and the most remarkable collection of ancient documents in the world, that collection which is 
known to all Christian peoples as the Old Testament. We find in these documents the most interesting and 
valuable lights upon the development of civilization, and the clearest indications of a new spirit that was 
coming into human affairs during the struggles of Egypt and Assyria for predominance in the world of men. 

All the books that constitute the Old Testament were certainly in existence, and in very much their present 
form, at latest by the year 100 B.C. Most of them were probably recognized as sacred writings in the time of 
Alexander the Great (330 B.C.). They were the sacred literature of a people, the Jews, who, except for a small 
remnant of common people, had recently been deported to Babylonia from their own country in 587 B.C. by 
Nebuchadnezzar II, the Chaldean. They had returned to their city, Jerusalem, and had rebuilt their temple 
there under the auspices of Cyrus, that Persian conqueror who, we have already noted, in 539 B.C. overthrew 
Nabonidus, the last of the Chaldean rulers in Babylon. The Babylonian Captivity had lasted about fifty years, 
and many authorities are of opinion that there was a considerable admixture during that period both of race 
and ideas with the Babylonians. 

The position of the land of Judea and of Jerusalem, its capital, is a peculiar one. The country is a band-shaped 
strip between the Mediterranean to the west and the desert beyond the Jordan to the east; through it lies the 
natural high-road between the Hittites, Syria, Assyria, and Babylonia to the north and Egypt to the south. It 
was a country predestined, therefore, to a stormy history. Across it Egypt, and whatever power was ascendant 
in the north, fought for empire; against its people they fought for a trade route. It had itself neither the area, 
the agricultural possibilities, nor the mineral wealth to be important. The story of its people that these 
scriptures have preserved runs like a commentary to the greater history of the two systems of civilization to 
the north and south and of the sea peoples to the west. 

These scriptures consist of a number of different elements. The first five books, the Pentateuch, were early 
regarded with peculiar respect. They begin in the form of a universal history with a double account of the 
Creation of the world and mankind, of the early life of the race, and of 9 great Flood by which, except for 
certain favoured individuals, mankind was destroyed. This flood story is very widely distributed in ancient 
traditions; it may be a memory of that flooding of the Mediterranean valley which occurred in the Neolithic 
age of mankind. Excavations have revealed Babylonian versions of both the Creation story and the Flood 
story of prior date to the restoration of the Jews, and it is therefore argued by Biblical critics that these 
opening chapters were acquired by the Jews during their captivity. They constitute the first ten chapters of 
Genesis. 

[Fig. 0219 The Land of the Hebrews] 

There follows a history of the fathers and founders of the Hebrew nation, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. They are 
presented as patriarchal Bedouin chiefs, living the life of nomadic shepherds in the country between 
Babylonia and Egypt. The existing Biblical account is said by the critics to be made up out of several 
pre-existing versions; but whatever its origins, the story, as we have it to-day, is full of colour and vitality. 
What is called Palestine to-day was at that time the land of Canaan, inhabited by a Semitic people called the 
Canaanites, closely related to the Phoenicians who founded Tyre and Sidon, and to the Amorites who took, 
Babylon and, under Hammurabi, founded the first Babylonian Empire. The Canaanites were a settled folk in 
the days"which were perhaps contemporary with the days of Hammurabi-"when Abraham's flocks and herds 
passed through the land. The God of Abraham, says the Bible narrative, promised this smiling land of 
prosperous cities to him and to his children. To the book of Genesis the reader must go to read how Abraham, 
being childless, doubted this promise, and of the births of Ishmael and Isaac. And in Genesis, too, be will find 
the lives of Isaac and Jacob, whose name was changed to Israel, and of the twelve sons of Israel; and how in 
the days of a great famine they went down into Egypt. With that, Genesis, the first book of the Pentateuch, 
ends. The next book, Exodus, is concerned with the story of Moses. 



Part I 1 05 

The story of the settlement and slavery of the children of Israel in Egypt is a difficult one. There is an 
Egyptian record of a settlement of certain Semitic peoples in the land of Goshen by the Pharaoh Rameses II, 
and it is stated that they were drawn into Egypt by want of food. But of the life and career of Moses there is 
no Egyptian record at all; there is no account of any plagues of Egypt or of any Pharaoh who was drowned in 
the Red Sea. 

Very perplexing is the discovery of a clay tablet written by the Egyptian governors of a city in Canaan to the 
Pharaoh Amenophis IV, who came in the XVIIIth Dynasty before Rameses II, apparently mentioning the 
Hebrews by name and declaring that they are overrunning Canaan. Manifestly, if the Hebrews were 
conquering Canaan in the time of the XVIIIth Dynasty, they could not have been made captive and oppressed, 
before they conquered Canaan, by Rameses II of the XlXth Dynasty. But it is quite understandable that the 
Exodus story, written long after the events it narrates, may have concentrated and simplified, and perhaps 
personified and symbolized, what was really a long and complicated history of tribal invasions. One Hebrew 
tribe may have drifted down into Egypt and become enslaved, while the others were already attacking the 
outlying Canaanite cities. It is even possible that the land of the captivity was not Egypt (Hebrew, Misraim), 
but Misrim in the north of Arabia, on the other side of the Red Sea. These questions are discussed fully and 
acutely in the Encyclopaedia Biblica (articles Moses and Exodus), to which the curious reader must be 
referred. [1] 

Two other books of the Pentateuch, Deuteronomy and Leviticus, are concerned with the Law and the priestly 
rules. The book of Numbers takes up the wanderings of the Israelites in the desert and their invasion of 
Canaan. 

Whatever the true particulars of the Hebrew invasion of Canaan may be, there can be no doubt that the 
country they invaded had changed very greatly since the days of the legendary promise, made centuries 
before, to Abraham. Then it seems to have been largely a Semitic land, with many prosperous, trading cities. 
But great waves of strange peoples had washed along this coast. We have already told how the dark Iberian or 
Mediterranean peoples of Italy and Greece, the peoples of that gean civilization which culminated at Cnossos, 
were being assailed by the southward movement of Aryan-speaking races, such as the Italians and Greeks, and 
how Cnossos was sacked about 1,400 B.C., and destroyed altogether about 1,000 B.C. It is now evident that 
the people of these gean seaports were crossing the sea in search of securer land nests. They invaded the 
Egyptian delta and the African coast to the west, they formed alliances with the Hittites, and other Aryan or 
Aryanized races. This happened after the time of Rameses II, in the time of Rameses III. Egyptian monuments 
record great sea fights, and also a march of these people along the coast of Palestine towards Egypt. Their 
transport was in the ox-carts characteristic of the Aryan tribes, and it is clear that these Cretans were acting in 
alliance with some early Aryan invaders. No connected narrative of these conflicts that went on between 
1,300 B.C. and 1,000 B.C. has yet been made out, but it is evident from the Bible narrative, that when the 
Hebrews under Joshua pursued their slow subjugation of the promised land, they came against a new people, 
the Philistines, unknown to Abraham, [2] who were settling along the coast in a series of cities of which Gaza, 
Gath, Ashdod, Ascalon, and Joppa became the chief, who were really, like the Hebrews, new-comers, and 
probably chiefly these Cretans from the sea and from the north. The invasion, therefore, that began as an 
attack upon the Canaanites, speedily became a long and not very successful struggle for the, coveted and 
promised land with these much more formidable new-comers the Philistines. 

It cannot be said that the promised land was, ever completely in the grasp of the Hebrews. Following after the 
Pentateuch in the Bible come the books of Joshua, Judges, Ruth (a digression), Samuel I and II, and Kings I 
and II, with Chronicles repeating with variation much of the matter of Samuel II and Kings; there is a growing 
flavour of reality in most of this latter history, and, in these books we find the Philistines steadfastly in 
possession of the fertile lowlands of the south, and the Canaanites and Phoenicians holding out against the 
Israelites in the north. The first triumphs of Joshua are not repeated. The book of Judges is a melancholy 
catalogue of failures. The people lose heart. They desert the worship of their own god Jehovah, and worship 
Baal and Ashtaroth (= Bel and Ishtar). They mixed their race with the Philistines, with the Hittites, and so 



Part I 1 06 

forth, and became, as they have always subsequently been, a racially mixed people. Under a series of wise 
men and heroes they wage a generally unsuccessful and never very united warfare against their enemies. In 
succession they are conquered by the Moabites, the Canaanites, the Midianites, and the Philistines. The story 
of these conflicts, of Gideon and of Samson and the other heroes who now and then cast a gleam of hope upon 
the distress of Israel, is told in the book of Judges. In the first book of Samuel is told the story of their great 
disaster at Ebenezer in the days when Eli was judge. 

This was a real pitched battle in which the Israelites lost 30,000 (!) men. They had previously suffered a 
reverse and lost 4,000 men, and then they brought out their most sacred symbol, the Ark of the Covenant of 
God. 

And when the ark of the covenant of the Lord came into the camp, all Israel shouted with a great shout, so that 
the earth rang again. And when the Philistines heard the noise of the shout, they said, 'What meaneth the noise 
of this great shout in the camp of the Hebrews?' And they understood that the ark of the Lord was come into 
the camp. And the Philistines were afraid, for they said, 'God is come into the camp.' And they said, 'Woe 
unto us ! for there hath not been such a thing heretofore. Woe unto us ! who shall deliver us out of the hand of 
these mighty Gods? these are the Gods that smote the Egyptians with all the plagues in the wilderness. Be 
strong, and quit yourselves like men, ye Philistines, that ye be not servants unto the Hebrews, as they have 
been to you: quit yourselves like men, and fight.' 

And the Philistines fought, and Israel was smitten, and they fled every man into his tent: and there was a very 
great slaughter for there fell of Israel thirty thousand footmen. And the ark of God was taken; and the two 
sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were slain. 

And there ran a man of Benjamin out of the army, and came to Shiloh the same day, with his clothes rent, and 
with earth upon his head. And when he came, lo, Eli sat upon a seat by the wayside watching: for his heart 
trembled for the ark of God. And when the man came into the city, and told it, all the city, cried out. And 
when Eli heard the noise of the crying, be said, 'What meaneth the noise of this tumult?' And the man came in 
hastily, and told Eli. Now Eli was ninety and eight years old; and his eyes were dim that he could not see. And 
the man said unto Eli, 'I am he that came out of the army, and I fled to-day out of the army.' And he said, 
What is there done, my son?' And the messenger answered and said, 'Israel is fled before the Philistines, and 
there hath been, also a great slaughter among the people, and thy two sons also, Hophni and Phinehas, are 
dead, and the ark of God is taken.' And it came to pass, when he made mention of the ark of God, that Eli fell 
from off the seat backward, by the side of the gate, and his neck brake, and he died: for he was an old man, 
and heavy. And he had judged Israel forty years. 

And his daughter in law, Phinehas' wife, was with child, near to be delivered: and when she heard the tidings 
that the ark of God was taken, and that her father in law and her husband were dead, she bowed herself and 
travailed: for her pains came upon her. And about the time of her death the women that stood by her said unto 
her, 'Fear not, for thou hast borne a son.' But she answered not, neither did she regard it. And she named the 
child I-chabod, [3] saying, 'The glory is departed from Israel': because the ark of God was taken, and because 
of her father in law and her husband. (I. Sam., chap, iv.) 

The successor of Eli and the last of the judges was Samuel, and at the end of his rule came an event in the 
history of Israel which paralleled and was suggested by the experience of the greater nations around. A king 
arose. We are told in vivid, language the plain issue between the more ancient rule of priestcraft and the newer 
fashion in human affairs. It is impossible to avoid a second quotation. 

Then all the elders of Israel gathered themselves together, and came to Samuel unto Ramah, and said unto 
him: 'Behold, thou art old, and thy sons walk not in thy ways: now make us a king to judge us like all the 
nations.' 



Part I 1 07 

But the thing displeased Samuel, when they said, 'Give us a king to judge us.' And Samuel prayed unto the 
Lord. And the Lord said unto Samuel, 'Hearken unto the voice of the people in all that they say unto thee: for 
they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them. According to all the 
works which they have done since the day that I brought them up out of Egypt even unto this day, wherewith 
they have forsaken me, and serve other gods, so do they also unto thee. Now, therefore, hearken unto their 
voice: howbeit yet protest solemnly unto them, and shew them the manner of the king that shall reign over 
them.' 

And Samuel told all the words of the Lord unto the people that asked of him a king. And he said, 'This will be 
the manner of the king that shall reign over you: He will take your sons, and appoint them for himself, for his 
chariots, and to be his horsemen; and some shall run before his chariots. And he will appoint him captains 
over thousands, and captains over fifties; and will set them to ear his ground, and to reap his harvest, and to 
make his instruments of war, and instruments of his chariots. And he will take your daughters to be 
confectioners, and to be cooks, and to be bakers. And he will take your fields, and your vineyards, and your 
oliveyards, even the best of them, and give them to his servants. And he will take the tenth of your seed, and 
of your vineyards, and give to his officers, and to his servants. And he will take your menservants, and your 
maidservants, and your goodliest young men, and your asses, and put them to his work. He will take the tenth 
of your sheep: and ye shall be his servants. And ye shall cry out in that day because of your king which ye 
shall have chosen you; and the Lord will not hear you in that day.' 

Nevertheless, the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel; and they said, 'Nay; but we will have a king 
over us; that we also may be like all the nations; and that our king may judge us, and go out before us, and 
fight our battles.' (I. Sam., chap, viii.) 

19.2 Saul, David, and Solomon 

But the nature and position of their land was against the Hebrews, and their first king Saul was no more 
successful than their judges. The long intrigues of the adventurer David against Saul are told in the rest of the 
first book of Samuel, and the end of Saul was utter defeat upon Mount Gilboa. His army was overwhelmed by 
the Philistine archers. 

And it came to pass on the morrow, when the Philistines came to strip the slain, that they found Saul and his 
three sons fallen in Mount Gilboa. And they cut off his head, and, stripped off his armour, and sent into the 
land of the Philistines round about, to publish it in the house of their idols, and among the people. And they 
put his armour in the house of Ashtaroth; and they fastened his body to the wall of Bethshan. (I. Sam., chap, 
xxxi.) 

David (990 B.C. roughly) was more politic and successful than his predecessor, and he seems to have placed 
himself under the protection of Hiram, King of Tyre. This Phoenician alliance sustained him, and was the 
essential element in the greatness of his son Solomon. His story, with its constant assassinations and 
executions, reads rather like, the history of some savage chief than of a civilized monarch. It is told with great 
vividness in the second book of Samuel. 

The first book of Kings begins with the reign of King Solomon (960 B.C. roughly). The most interesting thing 
in that story, from the point of view of the general historian, is the relationship of Solomon to the national 
religion and the priesthood, and his dealings with the tabernacle, the priest Zadok, and the prophet Nathan. 

The opening of Solomon's reign is as bloody as his father's. The last recorded speech of David arranges for the 
murder of Shimei; his last recorded word is blood. But his hoar head bring thou down to the grave with blood, 
he says, pointing out that though old Shimei is protected by a vow, David had made to the Lord so long as 
David lives, there is nothing to bind Solomon in that matter. Solomon proceeds to murder his brother, who has 
sought the throne but quailed and made submission. He then deals freely with his brother's party. The weak 



Part I 1 08 

hold of religion upon the racially and mentally confused Hebrews at that time is shown by the ease with which 
be replaces the hostile chief priest by his own adherent Zadok, and still more strikingly by the murder of Joab 
by Benaiah, Solomon's chief ruffian, in the tabernacle, while, the victim is claiming sanctuary and holding to 
the very horns of Jehovah's altar. Then Solomon sets to work, in what was for that time a thoroughly modern 
spirit, to recast the religion of his people. He continues the alliance with Hiram, King of Sidon, who uses 
Solomon's kingdom as a high road by which to reach and build shipping upon the Red Sea, and a hitherto 
unheard of wealth accumulates in Jesusalem as a result of this partner ship. Gang labour appears in Israel; 
Solomon sends relays of men to cut cedarwood in Lebanon under Hiram, and organizes a service of porters 
through the land. (There is much in all this to remind the reader of the relations of some Central African chief 
to a European trading concern.) Solomon then builds a palace for himself, and a temple not nearly as big for 
Jehovah. Hitherto, the Ark of the Covenant, the divine symbol of these ancient Hebrews, had abode in a large 
tent, which had been shifted from one high place to another, and sacrifices had been offered to the God of 
Israel upon a number of different high places. Now the ark is brought into the golden splendours of the inner 
chamber of a temple of cedar-sheathed stone, and put between two great winged figures of gilded olivewood, 
and sacrifices are henceforth to be made only upon the altar before it. 

This centralizing innovation will remind the reader of both Akhnaton and Nabonidus. Such things as this are 
done successfully only when the prestige and tradition and learning of the priestly order has sunken to a very 
low level. 

And he appointed, according to the order of David his father, the courses of the priests to their service, and the 
Levites to their charges, to praise and minister before the priests, as the duty of every day required; the porters 
also by their courses at every gate; for so had David the man of God commanded. And they departed not from 
the commandment of the king unto the priest and Levites concerning any matter, or concerning the treasures. 

Neither Solomon's establishment of the worship of Jehovah in Jerusalem upon this new footing, nor his vision 
of and conversation with his God at the opening of his reign, stood in the way of his developing a sort of 
theological flirtatiousness in his declining years. He married widely, if only for reasons of state and splendour, 
and he entertained his numerous wives by sacrificing to their national deities, to the Sidonian goddess 
Ashtaroth (Ishtar), to Chemosh (a Moabitish god), to Moloch, and so forth. The Bible account of Solomon 
does, in fact, show us a king and a confused people, both superstitious and mentally unstable, in no way more 
religious than any other people of the surrounding world. 

A point of considerable interest in the story of Solomon, because it marks a phase in Egyptian affairs, is his 
marriage to a daughter of Pharaoh. This must have been one of the Pharaohs of the XXIst Dynasty. In the 
great days of Amenophis III, as the Tel- Amarna letters witness, Pharaoh could condescend to receive a 
Babylonian princess into his harem but he refused absolutely to grant so divine a creature as an Egyptian 
princess in marriage to the Babylonian monarch. It points to the steady decline of Egyptian prestige that now, 
three centuries later, such a petty monarch as Solomon could wed on equal terms with an Egyptian princess. 
There was, however, a revival with the next Egyptian dynasty (XXII); and the Pharaoh Shishak, the founder, 
taking advantage of the cleavage between Israel and Judah, which had been developing through the reigns of 
both David and Solomon, took Jerusalem and looted the all-too-brief splendours both of the new temple and 
of the king's house. 

Shishak seems also to have subjugated Philistia. From this time onward it is to be noted that the Philistines 
fade in importance. They had already lost their Cretan language and adopted that of the Semites they had 
conquered, and although their cities remain more or less independent, they merge gradually into the general 
Semitic life of Palestine. 

There is evidence that the original rude but convincing narrative of Solomon's rule, of his various murders, of 
his association with Hiram, of his palace and temple building, and the extravagances that weakened and 
finally tore his kingdom in twain, has been subjected to extensive interpolations and expansions by a later 



Part I 1 09 

writer, anxious to exaggerate his prosperity and glorify his wisdom. It is pot the place here to deal with the 
criticism of Bible origins, but it is a matter of ordinary common sense rather than of scholarship to note the 
manifest reality and veracity of the main substance of the account of David and Solomon, an account 
explaining sometimes and justifying sometimes, but nevertheless relating facts, even the harshest facts, as 
only a contemporary or almost contemporary writer, convinced that they cannot be concealed, would relate 
them, and then to remark the sudden lapse into adulation when the inserted passages occur. It is a striking 
tribute to the power of the written assertion over realities in men's minds that this Bible narrative has imposed, 
not only upon the Christian but upon the Moslem world, the belief that King Solomon was not only one of the 
most magnificent, but one of the wisest of men. Yet the first book of Kings tells in detail his utmost 
splendours, and beside the beauty and wonder of the buildings and organizations of such great monarchs as 
Thotmes III or Rameses II or half a dozen other Pharaohs, or of Sargon II or Sardanapalus or Nebuchadnezzar 
the Great, they are trivial. His temple measured internally was twenty cubits broad, about 35 feet [4] -"that is, 
the breadth of a small villa residence"and sixty cubits, say 100 feet, long. And as for his wisdom and 
statescraft, one need go no further than the, Bible to see that Solomon was a mere helper in the wide-reaching 
schemes of the trader-king Hiram, and his kingdom a pawn between Phoenicia and Egypt. His importance was 
due largely to the temporary enfeeblement of Egypt, which encouraged the ambition of the Phoenician and 
made it necessary to propitiate the holder of the key to an alternate trade route to the East. To his own people 
Solomon was a wasteful and oppressive monarch, and already before his death his kingdom was splitting, 
visibly to all men. 

With the reign of King Solomon the brief glory of the Hebrews ends; the northern and richer section of his 
kingdom, long oppressed by taxation to sustain his splendours, breaks off from Jerusalem to become the 
separate kingdom of Israel, and this split ruptures that linking connection between Sidon and the Red Sea by 
which Solomon's gleam of wealth was possible. There is no more wealth in Hebrew history. Jerusalem 
remains the capital of one tribe, the tribe of Judah, the capital of a land of barren hills, cut off by Philistia from 
the sea and surrounded by enemies. 

The tale of wars, of religious conflicts, of usurpations, assassinations, and of fratricidal murders to secure the 
throne goes on for three centuries. It is a tale frankly barbaric. Israel wars with Judah and the neighbouring 
states; forms alliances first with one and then with the other. The power of Aramean Syria burns like a baleful 
star over the affairs of the Hebrews, and then there rises behind it the great, and growing power of the last 
Assyrian empire. For three centuries the life of the Hebrews was like the life of a man who insists upon living 
in the middle of a busy thoroughfare, and is consequently being run over constantly by omnibuses and 
motor-lorries. 

Pul (apparently the same person as Tiglath Pileser III) is, according to the Bible narrative, the first Assyrian 
monarch to appear upon the Hebrew horizon, and Menahem buys him off with a thousand talents of silver 
(738 B.C.). But the power of Assyria is heading straight for the now aged and decadent land of Egypt, and the 
line of attack lies through Judea; Tiglath Pileser III returns and Shalmaneser follows in his steps, the King of 
Israel intrigues for help with Egypt, that broken reed, and in 721 B.C., as we have already noted, his kingdom 
is swept off into captivity and utterly lost to history. The same fate hung over Judah, but for a little while it 
was averted. The fate of Sennacherib's army in the reign of King Hezekiah (701 B.C.), and how he was 
murdered by his sons (II. Kings xix. 37), we have already mentioned. The subsequent subjugation of Egypt by 
Assyria finds no mention in Holy Writ, but it is clear that before the reign of Sennacherib, King Hezekiah had 
carried on a diplomatic correspondence with Babylon (700 B.C.), which was in revolt against Sargon II of 
Assyria. There followed the conquest of Egypt by Esarhaddon, and then for a time Assyria was occupied with 
her own troubles; the Scythians and Medes and Persians were pressing her on the north, and Babylon was in 
insurrection. As we have already noted, Egypt, relieved for a time from Assyrian pressure, entered upon a 
phase of revival, first under Psammetichus and then under Necho II. 

Again the little country in between made mistakes in its alliances. But on neither side was there safety. Josiah 
opposed Necho, and was slain at the battle of Megiddo (608 B.C.). The king of Judah became an Egyptian 



Parti 110 

tributary. Then when Necho, after pushing as far as the Euphrates, fell before Nebuchadnezzar II, Judah fell 
with him (604 B.C.). Nebuchadnezzar, after a trial of three puppet kings, carried off the greater part of the 
people into captivity in Babylon (586 B.C.), and the rest, after a rising and a massacre of Babylonian officials, 
took refuge from the vengeance of Chaldea in Egypt. 

And all the vessels of the house of God, great and small, and the treasures of the house of the Lord, and the 
treasures of the king, and of his princes; all these he brought to Babylon. And they burnt the house of God and 
brake down the wall of Jerusalem, and burnt all the palaces thereof with fire, and destroyed all the goodly 
vessels thereof. And them that had escaped from the sword carried he away to Babylon; where they were 
servants to him and his sons until the reign of the kingdom of Persia. (II. Chron. xxxvi. 18, 19, 20.) 

So the four centuries of Hebrew kingship comes to an end. From first to last it was a mere incident in the 
larger and greater history of Egypt, Syria, Assyria, and Phoenicia. But out of it there were now to arise moral 
and intellectual consequences of primary importance to all mankind. 

19.3 The Jews a People of Mixed Origin 

The Jews who returned, after an interval of more than two generations, to Jerusalem from Babylonia in the 
time of Cyrus were a very different people from the warring Baal worshippers and Jehovah worshippers, the 
sacrificers, in the high places and sacrificers at Jerusalem of the kingdoms of Israel and Judah. The plain fact 
of the Bible narrative is that the Jews went to Babylon barbarians and came back civilized. They went a 
confused and divided multitude, with no national self-consciousness; they came back with an intense and 
exclusive national spirit. They went with no common literature generally known to them, for it was only about 
forty years before the captivity that King Josiah is said to have discovered a book of the law in the temple (II. 
Kings xxii), and, besides that, there is not a hint in the record of any reading of books; and they returned with 
most of their material for the Old Testament. It is manifest that, relieved of their bickering and murderous 
kings, restrained from politics and in the intellectually stimulating atmosphere of that Babylonian world, the 
Jewish mind made a great step forward during the Captivity. 

It was an age of historical inquiry and learning in Babylonia. The Babylonian influences that had made 
Sardanapalus collect a great library of ancient writings in Nineveh were still at work. We have already told 
how Nabonidus was so preoccupied with antiquarian research as to neglect the defence of his kingdom against 
Cyrus. Everything, therefore, contributed to set the exiled Jews inquiring into their own history, and they 
found an inspiring leader in the prophet Ezekiel. From such hidden and forgotten records as they had with 
them, genealogies, contemporary histories of David, Solomon, and their other kings, legends and traditions, 
they made out and amplified their own story, and told it to Babylon and themselves. The story of the Creation 
and the Flood, much of the story of Moses, much of Samson, were probably incorporated from Babylonian 
sources. [5] When the Jews returned to Jerusalem, only the Pentateuch had been put together into one book, 
but the grouping of the rest of the historical books was bound to follow. 

The rest of their literature remained for some centuries as separate books, to which a very variable amount of 
respect was paid. Some of the later books are frankly post-captivity compositions. Over all this literature were 
thrown certain leading ideas. There was an idea, which even these books themselves gainsay in detail, that all 
the people were pure-blooded children of Abraham; there was next an idea of a promise made by Jehovah to 
Abraham that he would exalt the Jewish race above all other races; and, thirdly, there was the belief first of all 
that Jehovah was the greatest and most powerful of tribal gods, and then that he was a god above all other 
gods, and at last that, he was the only true god. The Jews became convinced at last, as a people, that they were 
the chosen people of the one God of all the earth. 

And arising very naturally out of these three ideas, was a fourth, the idea of a coming leader, a saviour, a 
Messiah who would realize the long-postponed promises of Jehovah. 



Part I 111 

This welding together of the Jews into one tradition-cemented people in the course of the seventy years is the 
first instance in history of the new power of the written word in human affairs. It was a mental consolidation 
that did much more than unite the people who returned to Jerusalem. This idea of belonging to a chosen race 
predestined to pre-eminence was a very attractive one. It possessed also those Jews who remained in 
Babylonia. Its literature reached the Jews now established in Egypt. It affected the mixed people who bad 
been placed in Samaria, the old capital of the kings of Israel when the ten tribes were deported to Media. It 
inspired a great number of Babylonians and the like to claim Abraham as their father, and thrust their 
company upon the returning Jews. Ammonites and Moabites became adherents. The book of Nehemiah is full 
of the distress occasioned by this invasion of the privileges of the chosen. The Jews were already a people 
dispersed in many lands and cities, when their minds and hopes were unified and they became an exclusive 
people. But at first their exclusiveness is merely to preserve soundness of doctrine and worship, warned by 
such lamentable lapses as those of King Solomon. To genuine proselytes of whatever race, Judaism long held 
out welcoming arms. 

To Phoenicians after the falls of Tyre and Carthage, conversion to Judaism must have been particularly easy 
and attractive. Their language was closely akin to Hebrew. It is possible that the great majority of African and 
Spanish Jews are really of Phoenician origin. There were also great Arabian accessions. In South Russia, as 
we shall note later, there were even Mongolian Jews. 

19.4 The Importance of the Hebrew Prophets 

The historical books from Genesis to Nehemiah, upon which the idea of the promise to the chosen people had 
been imposed later, were no doubt the backbone of Jewish mental unity, but they by no means complete the 
Hebrew literature from which finally the Bible was made up. Of such books as Job, said to be an imitation of 
Greek tragedy, the Song of Solomon, the Psalms, Proverbs, and others, there is no time to write in this Outline 
but it is necessary to deal with the books known as the Prophets with some fullness. For those books are 
almost the earliest and certainly the best evidence of the appearance of a new kind of leading in human affairs. 

These prophets are not a new class in the community; they are of the most various origins "Ezekiel was of the 
priestly caste and of priestly sympathies, and Amos was a shepherd; but they have this in common, that they 
bring into life a religious force outside the sacrifices and formalities of priesthood and temple. The earlier 
prophets seem most like the earlier priests, they are oracular, they give advice and foretell events; it is quite 
possible that at first, in the days when there were many high places in the land and religious ideas were 
comparatively unsettled, there was no great distinction between priest and prophet. The prophets danced, it 
would seem, somewhat after the Dervish fashion, and uttered oracles. Generally they wore a distinctive 
mantle of rough goatskin. They kept up the nomadic tradition as against the new ways of the settlement. But 
after the building of the temple and the organization of the priesthood the prophetic type remains over and 
outside the formal religious scheme. They were probably always more or less of an annoyance to the priests. 
They became informal advisers upon public affairs, denouncers, of sin and strange practices, self- constituted, 
as we should say, having no sanction but an inner light. Now the word of the Lord came unto"so, and so; that 
is the formula. 

In the latter and most troubled days of the kingdom of Judah, as Egypt, North Arabia, Assyria, and then 
Babylonia closed like a vice upon the land, these prophets became very significant and powerful. Their appeal 
was to anxious and fearful minds, and at first their exhortation was chiefly towards repentance, the pulling 
down of this or that high place, the restoration of worship in Jerusalem, or the like. But through some of the 
prophecies there runs already a note like the note of what we call nowadays a social reformer. The rich are 
grinding the faces of the poor; the luxurious are consuming the children's bread; influential and wealthy 
people make friends with and imitate the splendours and vices of foreigners, and sacrifice the common people 
to these new fashions; and this, is hateful to, Jehovah, who will certainly punish the land. 

But with the broadening of ideas that came with the Captivity, the tenor of prophecy broadens and changes. 



Parti 112 

The jealous pettiness that disfigures the earlier tribal ideas of God gives place to a now idea of a god of 
universal righteousness. It is clear that the increasing influence of prophets was not confined to the Jewish 
people; it was something that was going on in those days all over the Semitic world. The breaking down of 
nations and kingdoms to form the great and changing empires of that age, the smashing up of cults and 
priesthoods, the mutual discrediting of temple by temple in their rivalries and disputes "all these influences 
were releasing men's minds to a freer and wider religious outlook. The temples had accumulated great stores 
of golden vessels and lost their hold upon the imaginations of men. It is difficult to estimate whether, amidst 
these constant wars, life had become more-ncertain and unhappy than it had ever been before, but there can be 
no doubt that men had become more conscious of its miseries and insecurities. Except for the weak and the 
women, there remained little comfort or assurance in the sacrifices, ritual, and formal devotions of the 
temples. Such was the world to which the later prophets of Israel began to talk of the One God, and of a 
Promise that some day the world should come to peace and unity and happiness. This great God that men 
were now discovering lived in a temple not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. There can be little doubt 
of a great body of such thought and utterance in Babylonia, Egypt, and throughout the Semitic east. The 
prophetic books of the Bible can be but specimens of the prophesyings of that time . . . 

We have already drawn attention to the gradual escape of writing and knowledge from their original limitation 
to the priesthood and the temple precincts, from the shell in which they were first developed and cherished. 
We have taken Herodotus as an interesting specimen of what we have called the free intelligence of mankind. 
Now here we are dealing with a similar overflow of moral ideas into the general community. The Hebrew 
prophets, and the steady expansion of their ideas towards one God in all the world, is a parallel development 
of the free conscience of mankind. From this time onward there runs through human thought, now weakly and 
obscurely, now gathering power, the idea of one rule in the world, and of a promise and possibility of an 
active and splendid peace and happiness in human affairs. From being a temple religion of the old type, the 
Jewish religion becomes, to a large extent, a prophetic and creative religion of a new type. Prophet succeeds 
prophet. Later on, as we shall tell, there was born a prophet of unprecedented power, Jesus, whose followers 
founded the great universal religion of Christianity. Still later Muhammad, another prophet, appears in Arabia 
and founds Islam. In spite of very distinctive features of their own, these two teachers do in a manner arise out 
of and in succession to these Jewish prophets. It is not the place of the historian to discuss the truth and falsity 
of religion, but it is his business to record the appearance of great constructive ideas. Two thousand four 
hundred years ago, and six or seven or eight thousand years after the walls of the first Sumerian cities arose, 
the ideas of the moral unity of mankind and of a world peace had come into the world. [6] 

20.0 The Aryan-speaking Peoples in Prehistoric Times 

20.1 The Spreading of the Aryan Speakers 

20.2 Primitive Aryan Life 

20.3 Early Daily Aryan Life 

20.1 The Spreading of the Aryan Speakers 

We have spoken of the Aryan language as probably arising in the region of the Danube and South Russia and 
spreading from that region of origin. We say probably, because it is by no means certainly proved that that 
was the centre; there have been vast discussions upon this point and wide divergences of opinion. We give the 
prevalent view. It was originally the language of a group of peoples of the Nordic race. As it spread widely, 
Aryan began to differentiate into a number of subordinate languages. To the west and south it encountered the 
Basque language, which was then widely spread in Spain, and also possibly various other Mediterranean 
languages. 

[Fig. 0237 Aryan-speaking Peoples 1000-500 B.C. (Map)] 



Parti 113 

Before the spreading of the Aryans from their lands of origin southward and westward, the Iberian race was 
distributed over Great Britain, Ireland, France, Spain, north Africa, south Italy, and, in a more civilized state, 
Greece and Asia Minor. It was closely related to the Egyptian. To judge by its European vestiges it was a 
rather small human type, generally with an oval face and a long head. It buried its chiefs and important people 
in megalithic chambers"i.e. made of big stones-covered over by great mounds of earth; and these mounds of 
earth, being much longer than they are broad, are spoken of as the long barrows. These people sheltered at 
times in eaves, and also buried some of their dead therein; and from the traces of charred, broken, and cut 
human bones, including the bones of children, it is inferred that they were cannibals. 

These short dark Iberian tribes (and the Basques also if they were a different race) were thrust back westward, 
and conquered and enslaved by slowly advancing waves of the taller and fairer Aryan-speaking people, 
coming southward and westward through Central Europe, who are spoken of as the Kelts. Only the Basque 
resisted the conquering Aryan speech. Gradually these Keltic-speakers made their way to the Atlantic, and all 
that now remains of the Iberians is mixed into the Keltic population. How far the Keltic invasion affected the 
Irish population is a matter of debate at the present time; in that island the Kelts may have been a mere caste 
of conquerors who imposed their language on a larger subject population. It is even doubtful if the north of 
England is more Aryan than pre-Keltic in blood. There is a sort of short dark Welshman, and certain types of 
Irishmen, who are Iberians by race. The modern Portuguese are also largely of Iberian blood. 

The Kelts spoke a language, Keltic, [1] which was also in its turn to differentiate into the language of Gaul, 
Welsh, Breton, Scotch and Irish Gaelic, and other tongues. They buried the ashes of their chiefs and important 
people in round barrows. While these Nordic Kelts were spreading westward, other Nordic Aryan peoples 
were pressing down upon the dark white Mediterranean race in the Italian and Greek peninsulas, and 
developing the Latin and Greek groups of tongues. Certain other Aryan tribes were drifting towards the Baltic 
and across into Scandinavia, speaking varieties of the Aryan which became ancient Norse-the parent of 
Swedish, Danish, Norwegian, and Icelandic"Gothic, and Low and High German. 

While the primitive Aryan speech was thus spreading and breaking up into daughter languages to the west, it 
was also spreading and breaking up to the east. North of the Carpathians and the Black Sea, Aryan-speaking 
tribes were increasing and spreading and using a distinctive dialect called Slavonian, from which came 
Russian, Serbian, Polish, Bulgarian, and other tongues; other variations of Aryan distributed over Asia Minor 
and Persia were also being individualized as Armenian and Indo-Iranian, the parent of Sanscrit and Persian. In 
this book we have used the word Aryan for all this family of languages, but the term Indo-European is some 
times used for the entire family, and Aryan itself restricted, in a narrower sense to the Indo-Iranian speech. 

This Indo-Iranian speech was destined to split later into a number of languages, including Persian and 
Sanscrit, the latter being the language of certain tribes of fair-complexioned Aryan speakers who pushed 
eastward, into India somewhere between 3,000 and 1,000 B.C. and conquered dark Dravidian peoples who 
were then in possession of that land. 

From their original range of wandering, other Aryan tribes spread to the north as well as to the south of the 
Black Sea, and ultimately, as these seas shrank and made way for them, to the north and east of the Caspian, 
and so began to come into conflict with and mix also with Mongolian peoples of the Ural-Altaic linguistic 
group the horse-keeping people of the grassy steppes of Central Asia. From these Mongolian races the Aryans 
seem to have acquired the use of the horse for riding and warfare. There were three or four prehistoric 
varieties or sub-species of horse in Europe and Asia, but it was the steppe or semi-desert lands that first gave 
horses of a build adapted to other than food uses. [2] All these peoples, it must be understood; shifted their 
ground rapidly, a succession of bad seasons might drive them many hundreds of miles, and it is only in a very 
rough and provisional manner that their beats can now be indicated. Every summer they went north, every 
winter they swung south again. This annual swing covered sometimes hundreds of miles. On our maps, for the 
sake of simplicity, we represent the shifting of nomadic peoples by a straight line; but really they moved in 
annual swings, as the broom of a servant who is sweeping out a passage swishes from side to side as she 



Parti 114 

advances. Spreading round the north of the Black Sea, and probably to the north of the Caspian, from the 
range of the original Teutonic tribes of Central and Northcentral Europe to the Iranian peoples who became 
the Medes and Persians and (Aryan) Hindus, were the grazing lands of a confusion of tribes, about whom it is 
truer to be vague than precise, such as the Cimmerians, the Sarmatians, and those Scythians who, together 
with the Medes and Persians, came into effective contact with the Assyrian Empire by 1,000 B.C. or earlier. 

East and south of the Black Sea, between, the Danube and the Medes and Persians, and to the north of the 
Semitic and Mediterranean peoples of the sea-coasts and peninsulas, ranged another series of equally 
ill-defined Aryan tribes, moving easily from place to place and intermixing freely-to the great confusion of 
historians. They seem, for instance, to have broken up and assimilated the Hittite civilization, which was 
probably pro-Aryan in its origin. These latter Aryans were, perhaps, not so far advanced along the nomadic 
line as the Scythians of the great plains. 

20.2 Primitive Aryan Life 

What sort of life did these prehistoric Aryans lead, these Nordic Aryans who were the chief ancestors of most 
Europeans and most white Americans and European colonists of to-day, as well as of the Armenians, [3] 
Persians, and. high-caste Hindus? 

In answering that question in addition to the dug-up remains and vestiges upon which we have had to rely in 
the case of the predecessors of the Aryans, we have a new source of knowledge. We have language. By 
careful study of the Aryan languages it has been found possible to deduce a number of conclusions about the 
life of these Aryan peoples 5,000 or 4,000 years ago. All these languages have a common resemblance, as 
each, as we have already explained, rings the changes upon a number of common roots. When we find the 
same root word running through all or most of these tongues, it seems reasonable to conclude that the thing 
that root word signifies must have been known to the common ancestors. Of course, if they have exactly the 
same word in their languages, this may not be the case; it may be the new name of a new thing or of a new 
idea that has spread over the world quite recently. Gas, for instance, is a word that was made by Van Helmont, 
a Dutch chemist, about 1625, and has spread into most civilized tongues, and tobacco again is an 
American-Indian word which followed the introduction of smoking almost everywhere. But if the same word 
turns up in a number of languages, and if it follows the characteristic modifications of each language, we may 
feel sure that it has been in that language, and a part of that language, since the beginning, suffering the same 
changes with the rest of it. We know, for example, that the words for waggon and wheel run in this fashion 
through the Aryan tongues, and so we are able to conclude that the primitive Aryans, the more purely Nordic 
Aryans, had, waggons, though it would seem from the absence of any common roots for spokes, rim, or axle 
that their wheels were not wheelwright's wheels with spokes, but made of the trunks of trees shaped out with 
an axe between the ends. 

These primitive waggons were drawn by oxen. The early Aryans did not ride or drive horses; they had very 
little to do with horses. The Reindeer men were a, horse-people, but the Neolithic Aryans were a cow-people. 
They ate beef, not horse; and after many ages they began this use of draught cattle. They reckoned wealth by 
cows. They wandered, following pasture, and trekking their goods, as the South African Boer's do, in 
ox-waggons, though of course their waggons were much clumsier than any to be found in the world to-day. 
They probably ranged over very wide areas. They were migratory, but not in the strict sense of the word 
nomadic; they moved in a slower, clumsier fashion than did the later, more specialized nomadic peoples. They 
were forest and parkland people without horses. They were developing a migratory life out of the more settled 
forest clearing life of the earlier Neolithic period. Changes of climate which were replacing forest by pasture, 
and the accidental burning of forests by fire, may have assisted this development. 

We have already described the sort of home the primitive Aryan occupied and his household life, so far as the 
remains of the Swiss pile dwellings enable us to describe these things. Mostly his houses were of too flimsy a 
sort, probably of wattle and mud, to have survived, and possibly he left them and trekked, on for very slight 



Parti 115 

reasons. The Aryan peoples burnt their dead, a custom they still preserve in India, but their predecessors, the 
long-barrow people, the Iberians, buried their dead in a sitting position. In some ancient Aryan burial mounds, 
(round barrows) the urns containing the ashes of the departed are shaped like houses, and. these represent 
rounded huts with thatched roofs. (See Fig., page 86.) 

The grazing of the primitive Aryan was far more important to him than his agriculture. At, first he cultivated 
with a, rough wooden boo; then, after he had found out the use of cattle for draught purposes, he began real 
ploughing with oxen, using at first a suitably bent tree bough as his plough. His first cultivation before that 
came about must have been rather in the form of garden patches near the house buildings than of fields. Most 
of the land his tribe occupied, was common land on which the cattle grazed together. 

He never used stone for building house walls until upon the very verge of history. He used stone for hearths 
(e. g. at Glastonbury), and sometimes stone sub-structures. He did, however, make a sort of stone house in the 
centre of the great mounds in which he buried the ashes of his illustrious dead. He may have learnt this 
custom from his Iberian neighbours, and. predecessors. It was these dark whites of the heliolithic culture, and 
not the primitive Aryans, who were responsible, for such temples as Stonehenge or Carnac in Brittany. 

These Aryans were congregated not in cities but in districts of pasturage, as clans and tribal communities. 
They formed loose leagues of mutual help under chosen leaders, they had centres where they could come 
together with their cattle in times of danger, and they made camps with walls-of earth and palisades, many of 
which are still to be traced in the history worn contours of the European scenery. The leaders under whom 
men fought in war were often the same men as the sacrificial purifiers who were their early priests. 

The knowledge of bronze spread late in Europe. The Nordic European had been making his slow advances 
age by age for 7,000 or 8,000 years before the metals came. By that time his social life had developed so that 
there were men of various occupations and men and women of different ranks in the community. There were 
men who worked wood and leather, potters and carvers. The women span and wove and embroidered. There 
were chiefs and families that were, distinguished as leaderly and noble. The Aryan tribesman varied the 
monotony of his herding and wandering, he consecrated undertakings and celebrated triumphs, held funeral 
assemblies, and distinguished the traditional seasons of the year, by feasts. His meats we have already glanced 
at; he was an eager user of intoxicating drinks. He made these of honey of barley, and, as the Aryan speaking 
tribes spread southward, of the grape. And he got merry and drunken. Whether he, first used yeast to make his 
bread light or to ferment his drink we do not know. 

At his feasts there were individuals with a gift for playing the fool, who did so no doubt to win the laughter of 
their friends, but there was also another sort of men, of great importance in their time, and still more important 
to the historian, certain singers of songs and stories, the bards or rhapsodists. These bards existed among all 
the Aryan-speaking peoples; they were a consequence of and a further factor in that development of spoken 
language which was the chief of all the human advances made in Neolithic times. They chanted or recited 
stories of the past, or stories of the living chief and his people; they told other stories that they invented; they 
memorized jokes and catches. They found and seized upon and improved the rhythms, rhymes, alliterations, 
and such-like possibilities latent in language; they probably did much to elaborate and fix grammatical forms. 
They were the first great artists of the ear, as the later Aurignacian rock painters were the first great artists of 
the eye and hand. No doubt they used much gesture; probably they learnt appropriate gestures when they 
learnt their songs; but the order and sweetness and power of language was their primary concern. 

And they mark a new step forward in the power and range of the human mind. They sustained and developed 
in men's minds a sense of a greater something than themselves, the tribe, and of, a life that extended back into 
the past. They not only recalled old hatreds and battles, they recalled old alliances and a common inheritance. 
The feats of dead heroes lived again. The Aryans began to live in thought before they were born and after they 
were dead. 



Parti 116 

Like most human things, this bardic tradition grew first slowly and then more rapidly. By the time bronze was 
coming into Europe there was not an Aryan people that had not a profession and training of bards. In their 
hands language became as beautiful as it is ever likely to be. These bards were living books, man-histories, 
guardians and makers of a new and more powerful tradition in human life. Every Aryan people had its long 
poetical records thus handed down, its sagas (Teutonic), its epics (Greek) its vedas (Old Sanscrit). The earliest 
Aryan people were essentially a people of the voice. The recitation seems to have predominated even in those 
ceremonial and dramatic dances and that dressing-up which among most human races have also served for the 
transmission of tradition. 

At that time there was no writing, and when first the art of writing crept into Europe, as we shall tell later, it 
must have seemed far too slow, clumsy, and lifeless a method of record for men to trouble very much about 
writing down these glowing and beautiful treasures of the memory. Writing was at first kept for accounts and 
matters of fact. The, bards and rhapsodists flourished for long after the introduction of writing. They survived, 
indeed, in Europe as the minstrels into the Middle Ages. 

Unhappily their tradition had not the fixity of a written record. They amended and reconstructed, they had 
their fashions and their phases of negligence. Accordingly we have now only the very much altered and 
revised vestiges of that spoken literature of prehistoric times. One of the most interesting and informing of 
these prehistoric compositions of the Aryans survives in the Greek Iliad. An early form of Iliad was probably 
recited by 1,000 B.C., but it was not written down until perhaps 700 or 600 B.C. Many men must have bad to 
do with it as authors and improvers, but later Greek tradition attributed it to a blind bard named Homer, to 
whom also is ascribed the Odyssey, a composition of a very different spirit and outlook. It is possible that 
many of the Aryan bards were blind men. According to Professor J. L. Myres their bards were blinded to 
prevent their straying from the tribe. Mr. L. Lloyd has seen in Rhodesia the musician of a troupe of native 
dancers who had been blinded by his chief for this very reason. The Slavs called all bards sliepac, which was 
also their word for a blind man. The original recited version of the Iliad was older than that of the Odyssey. 
The Iliad as a complete poem is older than the Odyssey, though the material of the Odyssey, being largely 
undatable folk-lore, is older than any of the historical material in the Iliad. Both epics were probably written 
over and rewritten at a later date, in much the same manner that Lord Tennyson, the poet laureate of Queen 
Victoria, in his Idylls of the King, wrote over the Morte dArthur (which was itself a writing over by Sir 
Thomas Malory, circ. 1450, of pre-existing legends), making the speeches and sentiments and the characters 
more in accordance with those of his own time. But the events of the Iliad and the Odyssey, the way of living 
they describe, the spirit of the acts recorded, belong to the closing centuries of the prehistoric age. These 
sagas, epics, and vedas do supply, in addition to archaeology and philology, a third source of information 
about those vanished times. 

Here, for example, is the concluding passage of the Iliad, describing very exactly the making of a prehistoric 
barrow. (We have taken here Chapman's rhymed translation, correcting certain words with the help of the 
prose version of Lang, Leaf, and Myers.) 

. . . Thus oxen, mules, in waggons straight they put, 

Went forth, and an unmeasured pile of sylvan matter cut; 

Nine days employ'd in carriage, but when the tenth morn shin'd 

On wretched mortals, then they - brought the bravest of his, kind 

Forth to be burned. Troy swam in tears. Upon the pile's most height 

They laid the body, and gave fire. All day it burn'd, all night. 



Parti 117 

But when th' elev'nth morn let on earth her rosy fingers shine, 

The people flock'd about the pile, and first, with gleaming wine 

Quench'd all the flames. His brothers then, and friends, the snowy bones 

Gather'd into an urn of gold, still pouring out their moans. 

Then wrapt they in soft purple veils the rich urn, digg'd a pit, 

Grav'd it, built up the grave with stones, and quickly piled on it 

A barrow. . . . 

. . . The barrow heap'd once, all the town 

In Jove-nurs'd Priam's Court partook a sumptuous fun'ral feast, 

And so horse-taming Hector's rites gave up his soul to rest. 

There remains also an old English saga, Beowulf made long before the English had crossed from Germany 
into England, which winds up with a similar burial. The preparation of. a pyre is first described. It is hung 
round with shields and coats of mail. The body is brought and the pyre fired, and then for ten days the 
warriors built a mighty mound to be seen afar by the traveller on sea or land. Beowulf, which is at least a 
thousand years later than the Iliad, is also interesting because one of the main adventures in it is the looting of 
the treasures of a barrow already ancient in those days. 

20.3 Early Daily Aryan Life 

The Greek epics reveal the early Greeks with no knowledge of iron, without writing, and before any 
Greek-founded cities existed in the land into which they had evidently come quite recently as conquerors. 
They were spreading southward from the Aryan region of origin. They seem to have been a fair people, 
new-comers in Greece, new-comers to a land that had been held hitherto by the Mediterranean or Iberian 
peoples. 

[Fig. 0246 Combat between Menelaus and Hector] 

[From a platter ascribed to the end of the seventh century in the British Museum. This is probably the earliest 
known vase bearing a Greek inscription. Greek writing was just beginning. Note the Swastika.] 

Let us, at the risk of a slight repetition, be perfectly clear upon one point. The Iliad does not give us the 
primitive neolithic life of that Aryan region of origin; it gives us that life already well on the move towards a 
new state of affairs. The primitive neolithic way of living, with its tame and domesticated animals, its pottery 
and cooking, and its transitory patches of rude cultivation, we have already sketched. Between 15,000 and 
6,000 B.C. the neolithic way of living had spread with the forests and abundant vegetation of the Pluvial 
Period, over the greater part of the old world, from the Niger to the Hwangho and from Ireland to the south of 
India. Now, as the climate of great portions of the earth was swinging towards drier and more open conditions 
again the earlier, simpler, neolithic life was developing along two divergent directions. One was leading to a 
more wandering life, towards at last a constantly migratory life between summer and winter pasture, which is 
called NOMADISM; the other, in certain sunlit river valleys, was towards a water-treasuring life of irrigation, 
in which men gathered into the first towns and made the first CIVILIZATION. We have already described the 
first civilizations and their liability to recurrent conquests by nomadic peoples. We have already noted that for 



Parti 118 

many thousands of years there has been an almost rhythmic recurrence of conquest of the civilizations by the 
nomads. Here we have to note that the Greeks, as the Iliad presents them, are neither simple neolithic nomads, 
innocent of civilization, nor are they civilized men. They are nomads in an excited state, because they have 
just come upon civilization, and regard it as an opportunity for war and loot. 

[Fig. 0247 Archaic Horses and Chariots] 

These early Greeks of the Iliad are sturdy fighters, but without discipline"their battles are a confusion of 
single combats. They have horses, but no cavalry; they use the horse, which is a comparatively recent addition 
to Aryan resources, to drag a rude fighting chariot into battle. The horse is still novel enough to be something 
of a terror in itself. For ordinary draught purposes, as in the quotation from the Iliad we have just made, oxen 
were employed. 

The only priests of these Aryans are the keepers of shrines and sacred places. There are chiefs, who are heads 
of families, and who also perform sacrifices, but there does not seem to be much mystery or sacramental 
feeling in their religion. When the Greeks go to war, these beads and elders-meet in council and appoint a 
king, whose powers are very loosely defined. There are no laws, but only customs; and no exact standards of 
conduct. 

The social life of the early Greeks centred about the households of these leading men. There were no doubt 
huts for herds and the like, and outlying farm buildings; but the hall of the chief was a comprehensive centre, 
to which everyone went to feast, to hear the bards, to take part in games and exercises. The primitive 
craftsmen were gathered there. About it were cowsheds and stabling and such-like offices. Unimportant 
people slept, about anywhere as retainers did in the mediaeval castles and as people still do in Indian 
households. Except for quite personal possessions, there was still an air of patriarchal communism about the 
tribe. The tribe, or the chief as the head of the tribe, owned the grazing lands; forest and rivers were the wild. 

The Aryan social organization seems, and indeed all early communities seem, to have been without the little 
separate households that make up the mass of the population in western Europe or America to-day. 

The tribe was a big family; the nation a group of tribal families; a household often contained hundreds of 
people. Human society began, just as herds and droves begin among animals, by the family delaying its 
breaking up. Nowadays the lions in East Africa are apparently becoming social animals in this way, by the 
young keeping with the-mother after they are fully grown, and hunting in a group. Hitherto the lion has been 
much more of a solitary beast. If men and women do not cling to their families nowadays as much as they did, 
it is because the state and the community supply now safety and help and facilities that were once only 
possible in the family group. 

In the Hindu community of to-day these great households of the earlier stages of human society are still to be 
found. Mr. Bhupendranath Basu has recently described a typical Hindu household. [4] It is an Aryan 
household, refined and made gentle by thousands of years of civilization, but its social structure is the same as 
that of the households of which the Aryan epics tell. 

The joint family system, he said, has descended to us from time immemorial, the Aryan patriarchal system of 
old still holding sway in India. The structure, though ancient, remains full of life. The joint family is a 
co-operative corporation, in which men and women have a well-defined place. At the head of the corporation 
is the senior member of the family, generally the oldest male member, but in his absence the senior female 
member often assumes control. (Cp. Penelope in the Odyssey.) 

All able-bodied members must contribute their labour and earnings, whether of personal skill or agriculture 
and trade, to the common stock; weaker members, widows, orphans, and destitute relations, all must be 
maintained and supported; sons, nephews, brothers, cousins, all must be treated equally, for any undue 



Parti 119 

preference is apt to break up the family. We have no word for cousins-they are either brothers or sisters, and 
we do not know what are cousins two degrees removed. The children of a first cousin are your nephews and 
nieces, just the same as the children of your brothers and sisters. A man can no more marry a cousin, however 
removed, than he can marry his own sister, except in certain parts of Madras, where a man may marry his 
maternal uncle's daughter. The family affections, the family ties, are always very strong, and therefore the 
maintenance of an equal standard among so many members is not so difficult as it may appear at first sight. 
Moreover, life is very simple. Until recently shoes were not in general use at home, but sandals without any 
leather fastenings. I have known of a well-to-do middle-class family of several brothers and cousins who had 
two or three pairs of leather shoes between them, these shoes being only used when they had occasion to go 
out, and the same practice is still followed in the case of, the more expensive garments, like shawls, which last 
for generations, and with their age are treated with loving care, as having been used by ancestors of revered 
memory. 

The joint family remains together sometimes for several generations, until it becomes too unwieldy, when it 
breaks up into smaller families, and you thus see whole villages peopled by members of the same clan. I have 
said that the family is a co-operative society, and it may be likened to a small state, and is kept in its place by 
strong discipline based on love and obedience. You see nearly every day the younger members coming to the 
head of the family and taking the dust of his feet as a token of benediction; whenever they go on an enterprise, 
they take his leave and carry his blessing. . . . There are many bonds which bind the family together-the bonds 
of sympathy, of common pleasures, of common sorrows; when a death occurs, all the members go into 
mourning; when there is a birth or a wedding, the whole family rejoices. Then above all is the family deity, 
some image of Vishnu, the preserver; his place is in a separate room, generally known as the room of God, or 
in well-to-do families in a temple attached to the house, where the family performs its daily worship. There is 
a sense of personal attachment between this image of the deity and the family, for the image generally comes 
down from past generations, often miraculously acquired by a pious ancestor at some remote time. . . .With 
the household gods is intimately associated the family priest. . . . The Hindu priest is a part of the family life 
of his flock, between whom and himself the tie has existed for many generations. The priest is not generally a 
man of much learning; he knows, however, the traditions of his faith. ... He is not a very heavy burden, for he 
is satisfied with little a few handfuls of rice, a few home-grown bananas or vegetables, a little unrefined sugar 
made in the village, and sometimes a few pieces of copper are all that is needed. ... A picture of our family 
life would be incomplete without the household servants. A female servant is known as the 'jhi,' or daughter, 
in Bengal-she is like the daughter of the house; she calls the master and the mistress father and mother, and 
the young men and women of the family brothers and sisters. She participates in the life of the family; she 
goes to the holy places along with her-mistress, for she could not go alone, and generally she spends her life 
with the family of her adoption; her children are looked after by the family. The treatment of men servants is 
very similar. These servants, men and women, are generally people of the humbler castes, but a sense, of 
personal attachment grows up between them and the members of the family, and as they get on in years they 
are affectionately called by the younger members older brothers, uncles, aunts, etc. ... In a well-to-do house 
there is always a resident teacher, who instructs the children of the family as well as, other boys of the village; 
there is no expensive school building, but room is found in some veranda or shed in the courtyard for the 
children and their teacher, and into this school low-caste boys are freely admitted. These indigenous schools 
were not of a very high order, but they supplied an agency of instruction for the masses which was probably 
not available in many other countries. . . . 

With Hindu life is bound up its traditional duty of hospitality. It is the duty of a householder to offer a meal to 
any stranger who may come before midday and ask for one; the mistress of the house does not sit down to her 
meal until every member is fed, and, as sometimes her food is all that is left, she does not take her meal until 
well after midday lest a hungry stranger should come and claim one.. . . 

We, have been tempted to quote Mr. Basu at some length, because here we do get to something like a living 
understanding of the type of household which has prevailed in human communities since Neolithic days, 
which still prevails to-day in India, China, and the Far East, but which in the west is rapidly giving ground 



Parti 120 

before a state and municipal organization of education and a large-scale industrialism within which an amount 
of individual detachment and freedom is possible, such as these great households never knew. . . . 

But let us return now to the history preserved for us in the Aryan epics. 

The Sanscrit epics tell a very similar story to that underlying the Iliad, the story of a fair, beef-eating 
people-only later did they become vegetarians-coming down from Persia into the plain of North India and 
conquering their way slowly towards the Indus. From the Indus they spread over India, but as they spread they 
acquired much from the dark. Dravidians they conquered, and they seem to have lost their bardic tradition. 
The vedas, says Mr. Basu, were transmitted chiefly in the households by the women. . . . 

The oral literature of the Keltic peoples who pressed westward has not been preserved so completely as that of 
the Greeks or Indians; it was written down many centuries later, and so, like the barbaric, primitive English 
Beowulf, has lost any clear evidence of a period of migration into the lands of an antecedent people. If the 
pre- Aryans figure in it at all, it is as the fairy folk of the Irish stories. Ireland, most cut off of all the 
Keltic-speaking communities, retained to the latest date its primitive life; and the Tain, the Irish Iliad, 
describes a cattlekeeping life in which war chariots are still used, and war dogs also, and the heads of the slain 
are carried off slung round the horses' necks. The Tain is the story of a cattle raid. Here, too, the same social 
order appears as in the Iliad; the chiefs sit and feast in great halls, they build halls for themselves, there is 
singing and story-telling by the bards, and drinking and intoxication. Priests are not very much in evidence, 
but there is a sort of medicine-man who deals in spells and prophecy. 

21.0 The Greeks and the Persians 

21.1 The Hellenic Peoples 

21.2 Distinctive Features of Hellenic Civilization 

21.3 Monarchy, Aristocracy and Democracy in Greece 

21.4 The Kingdom of Lydia 

21.5 The Rise of the Persians in the East 

21.6 The Story of Croesus 

21.7 Darius Invades Russia 

21.8 The Battle of Marathon 

21.9 Thermopylae and Salamis 

21.10 Plataea and Mycale 

21.1 The Hellenic Peoples 

The Greeks appear in the dim light before the dawn of history (say, 1,500 B.C.) as one of the wandering 
imperfectly nomadic Aryan peoples who were gradually extending the range of their pasturage southward into 
the Balkan peninsula and coming into conflict and mixing with that preceding geancivilization of which 
Cnossos was the crown. 



Parti 121 

In the Homeric poems these Greek tribes speak one common language, and a common tradition upheld by the 
epic poems keeps them together in a loose unity; they call their various tribes by a common name, Hellenes. 
They probably came in successive waves. Three main variations of the Ancient Greek speech are 
distinguished: the Ionic, the AEolic, and the Doric. There was a great variety of dialects. The Ionians seem to 
have preceded the other Greeks, and to have mixed very intimately with the civilized peoples they 
overwhelmed. Racially the people of such cities as Athens and Miletus may have been less Nordic than 
Mediterranean. The Doric apparently constituted the last most powerful and least civilized wave of the 
migration. These Hellenic tribes conquered and largely destroyed the geancivilization that had preceded their 
arrival; upon its ashes they built up a civilization of their own. They took to the sea and crossed by way of the 
islands to Asia Minor; and, sailing through the Dardanelles and Bosphorus, spread their settlements along the 
south, and presently along the north borders of the Black Sea. They spread also over the south of Italy, which 
was called at last Magna Graecia, and round the northern coast of the Mediterranean. They founded the town 
of Marseilles on the site of an earlier Phoenician colony. They began settlements in Sicily in rivalry with the 
Carthaginians as early as 735 B.C. 

[Fig. Hellenic Racew 1000-500 B.C. (Map)] 

In the rear of the Greeks proper came the kindred Macedonians, and Thracians; on their left wing, the 
Phrygians crossed by the Bosphorus into Asia Minor. 

[Fig. 0254 Greek Sea Fight, 550 B,C] 

We find all this distribution of the Greeks effected before the beginnings of written history. By the seventh 
century B.C. "that is to say, by the time of the Babylonian captivity of the Jews"the landmarks of the ancient 
world of the pre-Hellenic civilization in Europe have been obliterated. Tiryns and Cnossos are unimportant 
sites; Mycenae and Troy survive in legend; the great cities of this new Greek world are Athens, Sparta (the 
capital of Lacedemon), Corinth, Thebes, Samos, Miletus. The world our grandfathers called Ancient Greece 
had arisen on the forgotten ruins of a still more Ancient Greece, in many ways as civilized and artistic, of 
which to-day we are only beginning to learn through the labours of the excavator. But the newer Ancient 
Greece, of which we are now telling, still lives vividly in the imaginations and institutions of men because it 
spoke a beautiful and most expressive Aryan tongue akin to our own, and because it had taken over the 
Mediterranean alphabet and perfected it by the addition of vowels, so that reading and writing were now easy 
arts to learn and practise, and great numbers of people could master them and make a record for later ages. [1] 

21.2 Distinctive Features of Hellenic Civilization 

Now this Greek civilization that we find growing up in South Italy and Greece and Asia Minor in the seventh 
century B.C., is a civilization differing in many important respects from the two great civilized systems whose 
growths we have already traced, that of the Nile and that of the Two Rivers of Mesopotamia. These 
civilizations grew through long ages where they are found; they grew slowly about a temple life out of a 
primitive agriculture; priest-kings and god-kings consolidated such early city states into empires. But the 
barbaric Greek herdsmen raiders came southward into a world whose civilization was already an old story. 
Shipping and agriculture, walled cities and writing were already there. The Greeks did not grow a civilization 
of their own; they wrecked one and put another together upon and out of the ruins. 

To this we must ascribe the fact that there is no temple-state stage, no stage of priest-kings, in the Greek 
record. The Greeks got at once to the city organization that in the east had grown round the temple. They took 
over the association of temple and city; the idea was ready-made for them. What impressed them most about 
the city was probably its wall. It is doubtful if they took to city life and citizenship straight away. At first they 
lived in open villages outside the ruins of the cities they had destroyed, but there stood the model for them, a 
continual suggestion. They thought first of a city as a safe place in a time of strife, and of the temple 
uncritically as a proper feature of the city. They came into this inheritance of a previous civilization with the 



Parti 122 

ideas and traditions of the woodlands still strong in their minds. The heroic social system of the Iliad took 
possession of the land, and adapted itself to the new conditions. As history goes on the Greeks became more 
religious and superstitious as the faiths of the conquered welled up from below. 

We have already said that the social structure of the primitive Aryans was a two-class system of nobles and 
commoners, the classes not very sharply marked off from each other, and led in warfare by a king who was 
simply the head of one of the noble families, primus inter pares, a leader among his equals. With the conquest 
of the aboriginal population and with the building of towns there was added to this simple social arrangement 
of two classes a lower stratum of farm-workers and skilled and unskilled workers, who were for the most part 
slaves. But all the Greek communities wore not of this conquest type. Some were refugee cities representing 
smashed communities, and in these the aboriginal substratum would be missing. 

In many of the former cases the survivors of the earlier population formed a subject class, slaves of the state 
as a whole, as, for instance, the Helots in Sparta. The nobles and commoners became landlords and gentlemen 
farmers; it was they who directed the shipbuilding and engaged in trade. But some of the poorer free citizens 
followed mechanic arts, and, as we have already noted, would even pull an oar in a galley for pay. Such 
priests as there were in this Greek world were either the guardians of shrines and temples or sacrificial 
functionaries; Aristotle, in his Politics, makes them a mere subdivision of his official class. The citizen served 
as warrior in youth, ruler in his maturity, priest in his old age. The priestly class, in comparison with the 
equivalent class in Egypt and Babylonia, was small and insignificant. The gods of the Greeks proper, the gods 
of the heroic Greeks, were, as we have already noted, glorified human beings, and they were treated without 
very much fear or awe; but beneath these gods of the conquering freemen lurked other gods of the subjugated 
peoples, who found their furtive followers among slaves and women. The original Aryan gods were not 
expected to work miracles or control men's lives. But Greece, like most of the Eastern world in the thousand 
years B.C., was much addicted to consulting oracles or soothsayers. Delphi was particularly famous for its 
oracle. When the Oldest Men in the tribe could not tell you the right thing to do, says Gilbert Murray, you 
went to the blessed dead. All oracles were at the tombs of Heroes. They told you what was 'Themis,' what was 
the right thing to do, or, as religious people would put it now, what was the Will of the God. 

The priests and priestesses of these temples were not united into one class, nor did they exercise any power as 
a class. It was the nobles and free commoners, two classes which, in some cases, merged into one common 
body of citizens, who constituted the Greek state. In many cases, especially in great city states, the population 
of slaves and unenfranchised strangers greatly outnumbered the citizens. But for them the state existed only 
by courtesy; it existed legally for the select body of citizens alone. It might or might not tolerate the outsider 
and the slave, but they had no legal voice in their treatment "any more than if it had been a despotism. 

This is a social structure differing widely from that of the Eastern monarchies. The exclusive importance of 
the Greek citizen reminds one a little of the exclusive importance of the children of Israel in the later Jewish 
state, but there is no equivalent on the Greek side to the prophets and priests, nor to the idea of an overruling 
Jehovah. 

[Fig. 0257 Athenian Warship, 400 B.C.] 

Another contrast between the Greek states and any of the human communities to which we have hitherto 
given attention is their continuous and incurable division. 

The civilizations of Egypt, Sumeria, China, and no doubt North India, all began in a number of independent 
city states, each one a city with a, few miles of dependent agricultural villages and cultivation around it, but 
out of this phase they passed by a process of coalescence into kingdoms and empires. But to the very end of 
their independent history the Greeks did not coalesce. Commonly this is ascribed to the geographical 
conditions under which they lived. Greece is a country cut up into a multitude of valleys by mountain masses 
and arms of the sea that render intercommunication difficult; so difficult that few cities were able to hold 



Part I 1 23 

many of the others in subjection for any length of time. Moreover, many Greek cities were on islands and 
scattered along remote coasts. To the end the largest city states of Greece remained smaller than many English 
counties; and some had an area of only a few square miles. Athens, one of the largest of the Greek cities, at 
the climax of its power had a population of perhaps a third of a million. Few other Greek cities exceeded 
50,000. Of this, half or more were slaves and strangers, and two-thirds of the free body women and children. 

21.3 Monarchy, Aristocracy and Democracy in Greece 

The government of these city states varied very widely in its nature. As they settled down after their conquests 
the Greeks retained for a time the rule of their kings, but these kingdoms drifted back more and more to the 
rule of the aristocratic class. In Sparta (Lacedemon) kings were still distinguished in the sixth century B.C. 
The Lacedemonians had a curious system of a double kingship; two kings, drawn from different royal 
families, ruled together. But most of the Greek city states had become aristocratic republics long before the 
sixth century. There is, however, a tendency towards slackness and inefficiency in most families that rule by 
hereditary right; sooner or later they decline; and as the Greeks got out upon the seas and set up colonies and 
commerce extended, new rich families arose to jostle the old and bring new personalities into power. These 
nouveaux riches became members of an expanded ruling class, a mode of government known as oligarchy"in 
opposition to aristocracy"though, strictly, the term oligarchy (= government by the few) should of course 
include hereditary aristocracy as a special case. 

In many cities persons of exceptional energy, taking advantage of some social conflict or class grievance, 
secured a more or less irregular power in the state. This combination of personality and opportunity has 
occurred in the United States of America, for example, where men exercising various kinds of informal power 
are called bosses. In Greece they were called tyrants. But the tyrant was rather more than a boss; he was 
recognized as a monarch, and claimed the authority of a monarch. The modern boss, on the other hand, 
shelters behind legal forms which he has got hold of and uses for his own ends. Tyrants were distinguished 
from kings, who claimed some sort of right, some family priority, for example, to rule. They were supported, 
perhaps, by the poorer class with a grievance; Peisistratus, for example, who was tyrant of Athens, with two 
intervals of exile, between 560 and 527 B.C., was supported by the poverty-struck Athenian hillmen. 
Sometimes as in Greek Sicily, the tyrant stood for the rich against the poor. When, later on, the Persians began 
to subjugate the Greek cities of Asia Minor, they set up pro-Persian tyrants. 

Aristotle, the great philosophical teacher, who was born under the hereditary Macedonian monarchy, and who 
was for some years tutor to the king's son, distinguishes in his Politics between kings who ruled by an 
admitted and inherent right, such as the King of Macedonia, whom he served, and tyrants who ruled without 
the consent of the governed. As a matter of fact, it is hard to conceive of a tyrant ruling without the consent of 
many, and the active participation of a substantial number of his subjects; and the devotion and unselfishness 
of your true kings has been known to rouse resentment and questioning. Aristotle was also able to say that 
while the king ruled for the good of the state, the tyrant ruled for his own good. Upon this point, as in his 
ability to regard slavery as a natural thing and to consider women unfit for freedom and political rights, 
Aristotle was in harmony with the trend of events about him. 

A third form of government that prevailed increasingly in Greece in the sixth, fifth, and fourth centuries B.C., 
was known as democracy. As the modern world nowadays is constantly talking of democracy, and as the 
modern idea of democracy is something widely different from the democracy of the Greek city states, it will 
be well to be very explicit upon the meaning of democracy in Greece. Democracy then was government by 
the commonalty, the Demos; it was government by the whole body of the citizens, by the many as 
distinguished from the few. But let the modern reader mark that word citizen. The slave was excluded, the 
freedman was excluded, the stranger; even the Greek born in the city, whose father had come eight or ten 
miles from the city beyond the headland, was excluded. The earlier democracies (but not all) demanded a 
property qualification from the citizen, and property in those days was land; this was subsequently relaxed, 
but the modern reader will grasp that here was something very different from modern democracy. At the end 



Part I 1 24 

of the fifth century B.C. this property qualification had been abolished in Athens, for example; but Pericles, a 
great Athenian statesman of whom we shall have more to tell later, had established a law (451 B.C.) 
restricting citizenship to those who could establish Athenian descent on both sides. Thus, in the Greek 
democracies quite as much as in the oligarchies, the citizens formed a close corporation, ruling sometimes, as 
in the case of Athens in its great days, a big population of serfs, slaves, and outlanders. A modern politician 
used to the idea, the entirely now, and different idea, that democracy in its perfected form means that every 
adult man and woman shall have a voice in the government, would, if suddenly spirited back to the extremist 
Greek democracy, regard it as a kind of oligarchy. The only real difference between a Greek oligarchy and a 
Greek democracy was that in the former the poorer and less important citizens had no voice in the 
government, and in the latter every citizen had. Aristotle, in his Politics, betrays very clearly the practical 
outcome of this difference. Taxation set lightly on the rich in the oligarchies; the democracies, on the other 
hand, taxed the rich, and generally paid the impecunious citizen a maintenance allowance and special fees. In 
Athens fees were paid to citizens even for attending the general assembly. But the generality of people outside 
the happy order of citizens worked and did what they were told, and if one desired the protection of the law, 
one sought a citizen to plead for one. For only the citizen had any standing in the law courts. The modern idea, 
that any one in the state should be a citizen, would have shocked the privileged democrats of Athens 
profoundly. 

One obvious result of this monopolization of the state by the class of citizens was that, the patriotism of these 
privileged people took an intense and narrow form. They would form alliances, but never coalesce with other 
city states. That would have obliterated every advantage by which they lived. The narrow geographical limits, 
of these Greek states added to the intensity of their feeling. A man's love for his country was reinforced by his 
love for his native town, his religion, and his home; for these were all one. Of course the slaves did not share 
in these feelings, and in the oligarchic states very often the excluded class got over its dislike of foreigners in 
its greater dislike of the class at home which oppressed it. But in the main, patriotism in the Greek was a 
personal passion of an inspiring and dangerous intensity. Like rejected love, it was apt to turn into something 
very like hatred. The Greek exile resembled the French or Russian migr in being ready to treat his beloved 
country pretty roughly in order to save her from the devils in human form who had taken possession of her 
and turned him out. 

In the fifth century B.C. Athens formed a system of relationships with a number of other Greek city states 
which is often spoken of by historians as the Athenian Empire. But all the other city states retained their own 
governments. One new fact added by the Athenian Empire was the complete and effective suppression of 
piracy; another was the institution of a sort of international law. The law indeed was Athenian law; but actions 
could now be brought and justice administered between citizens of the different states of the League, which of 
course bad not been possible before. The Athenian Empire had really developed out of a league of mutual 
defence, against Persia; its seat had originally been in the island of Delos, and the allies had contributed to a 
common treasure at Delos; the treasure of Delos was carried off to Athens because it was exposed to a 
possible Persian raid. Then one city after another offered a monetary contribution instead of military service, 
with the result that in the end Athens was doing almost all the work and receiving almost all the money. She 
was supported by one or two of the larger islands. The League in this, way became gradually an Empire, but 
the citizens of the allied states remained, except where there were special treaties of intermarriage and the 
like, practically foreigners to one another. And it was chiefly the poorer citizens of Athens who sustained this 
empire by their most vigorous and incessant personal service. Every citizen was liable to military service at 
home or abroad between the ages of eighteen and sixty, sometimes on purely Athenian affairs and sometimes 
in defence of the cities of the Empire whose citizens had bought themselves off. There was probably no single 
man over twenty-five in the Athenian Assembly who had not served in several campaigns in different parts of 
the Mediterranean or Black Sea, and who did not expect to serve again. Modern imperialism is denounced by 
its opponents as the exploitation of the world by the rich; Athenian imperialism was the exploitation of the 
world by the poorer citizens of Athens. 

Another difference from modem conditions, due to the small size of, the Greek city states, was that in a 



Parti 125 

democracy every citizen had the right to attend and speak and vote in the popular assembly. For most cities 
this meant a gathering of only a few hundred people; the greatest had no more than some thousands of 
citizens. Nothing of this sort is possible in a modern democracy with, perhaps, several million voters. The 
modern citizen's voice in public affairs is limited to the right to vote for one or other of the party candidates 
put before him. He, or she, is then supposed to have assented to the resultant government. Aristotle, who 
would have enjoyed the electoral methods of our modern democracies keenly, points out very subtly how the 
outlying farmer class of citizens in a democracy can be virtually disenfranchised by calling the popular 
assembly too frequently for their regular attendance. In the later Greek democracies (fifth century) the 
appointment of public officials, except in the case of officers requiring very special knowledge, was by 
casting lots. This was supposed to protect the general corporation of privileged citizens from the continued 
predominance of rich, influential, and conspicuously able men. 

Some democracies (Athens and Miletus, e.g.) had an institution called the ostracism, [2] by which in times of 
crisis and conflict the decision was made whether some citizen should go into exile for ten years. This may 
strike a modem reader as an envious institution, but that was not its essential quality. It was, says Gilbert 
Murray, a way of arriving at a decision in a case when political feeling was so divided as to threaten a 
deadlock. There were in the Greek democracies parties and party leaders, but no regular government in office 
and no regular opposition. There was no way, therefore, of carrying out a policy, although it might be the 
popular policy, if a strong leader or a strong group stood out against it. But by the ostracism, the least popular 
or the least trusted of the chief leaders in the divided community was made to retire for a period without loss 
of honour or property. Professor Murray suggests that a Greek democracy, if it had found itself in such a 
position of deadlock as the British Empire did upon the question of Home Rule for Ireland in 1914, would 
have probably first ostracized Sir Edward Carson, and then proceeded too carry out the provisions of the 
Home Rule Bill. 

This institution of the ostracism has immortalized one obscure and rather illiterate member of the democracy 
of Athens. A certain Aristides had gained a great reputation in the law court for his righteous dealing. He fell 
into a dispute with Themistocles upon a question of naval policy; Aristides was for the army, Themistocles 
was a strong navy man, and a deadlock was threatened. There was resort to an ostracism to decide between 
them. Plutarch relates that as Aristides walked through the streets while the voting was in progress, he was 
accosted by a strange citizen from the agricultural environs unaccustomed to the art of writing, and requested 
to write his own name on the proffered potsherd. 

But why? he asked. Has Aristides ever injured you? No, said the citizen. No. Never have I set eyes on him. 
But, oh! I am so bored by hearing him called Aristides the Just. 

Whereupon, says Plutarch, without further parley Aristides wrote as the man desired. . . . 

When one understands the true meaning of these Greek constitutions, and in particular the limitation of all 
power, whether in the democracies or the oligarchies, to a locally privileged class, one realizes how 
impossible was any effective union of the hundreds of Greek cities scattered about the Mediterranean region, 
or even of any effective co-operation between them for a common end. Each city was in the hands of a few or 
a few hundred men, to whom its separateness meant everything that was worth having in life. Only conquest 
from the outside could unite the Greeks, and until Greece was conquered they had no political unity. When at 
last they were conquered, they were conquered so completely that their unity ceased to be of any importance, 
even to themselves; it was a unity of subjugation. 

Yet there was always a certain tradition of unity between all the Greeks, based on a common language and 
script, on the, common possession of the heroic epics, and on the continuous intercourse that the maritime 
position of the states made possible. And in addition, there were certain religious bonds of a unifying kind. 
Certain shrines, the shrines of the god Apollo in the island of Delos and at Delphi, for example, were 
sustained not by single states, but by leagues of states or Amphictyonies, (= League of neighbours), which in 



Parti 126 

such instances as the Delphic amphictyony became very wide-reaching unions. The league protected the 
shrine and the safety of pilgrims, kept up the roads leading thereunto, secured peace at the time of special 
festivals, upheld certain rules to mitigate the usages of war among its members, and"the Delian league 
especially"suppressed piracy. A still more important link of Hellenic union was the Olympian games that 
were held every four years at Olympia. Foot races, boxing, wrestling, javelin throwing, quoit throwing, 
jumping, and chariot and horse racing were the chief sports, and a record of victors and distinguished visitors 
was kept. From the year 776 B.C. onward [3]these games were held regularly for over a thousand years, and 
they did much to maintain that sense of a common Greek life (pan-Hellenic) transcending the narrow politics 
of the city states. 

Such links of sentiment and association were of little avail against the intense separatism of the Greek 
political institutions. From the History of Herodotus the student will be able to gather a sense of the intensity 
and persistence of the feuds that kept the Greek world in a state of chronic warfare. In the old days (say, to the 
sixth century B.C.) fairly large families prevailed in Greece, and something of the old Aryan great household 
system (see Chap. XX), with its strong clan feeling and its capacity for maintaining an enduring feud, still 
remained. The history of Athens circles for many years about the feud of two great families, the 
Alcmaeonidae and the Peisistratidae; the latter equally an aristocratic family, but founding its power on the 
support of the poorer class of the populace and the exploitation of their grievances. Later on, in the sixth and 
fifth centuries, a limitation of births and a shrinkage of families to two or three members"a process Aristotle 
notes without perceiving its cause'led to the disappearance of the old aristocratic clans, and the later wars 
were due rather to trade disputes and grievances caused and stirred up by individual adventurers than to 
family vendettas. 

It is easy to understand, in view of this intense separatism of the Greeks, how readily the Ionians of Asia and 
of the islands fell first under the domination of the kingdom of Lydia, and then under that of the Persians 
when Cyrus overthrew Croesus, the king of Lydia. They rebelled only to be reconquered. Then came the turn 
of European Greece. It is a matter of astonishment the Greeks themselves were astonished, to find that Greece 
itself did not fall under the dominion of the Persians, these barbaric Aryan masters of the ancient, civilization 
of Western Asia. But before we tell of this struggle we must give some attention to these Asiatics against 
whom they were pitted; and particularly to these Medes, and Persians who, by 538 B.C., were already in 
possession of the ancient civilizations of Assyria, Babylonia and about to subjugate Egypt. 

21.4 The Kingdom of Lydia 

We have had occasion to mention the kingdom of Lydia, and it may be well to give a short note here upon the 
Lydians before proceeding with our story. The original population of the larger part of Asia Minor may 
perhaps have been akin to the original population of Greece and Crete. If so, it was of Mediterranean race. Or 
it may have been another branch of those still more generalized and fundamental darkish peoples from whom 
arose the Mediterranean race to the west and the Dravidians to the east. Remains of the same sort of art that 
distinguishes Cnossos and Mycenae are to be found scattered over Asia Minor. But just as the Nordic Greeks 
poured southward into Greece to conquer and mix with the aborigines, so did other and kindred Nordic tribes 
pour over the Bosphorus into Asia Minor. Over some areas these Aryan peoples prevailed altogether, and 
became the bulk of the inhabitants and retained their Aryan speech. Such were the Phrygians, a people whose 
language was almost as close to that of the Greeks as the Macedonian. But over other areas the Aryans did not 
so prevail. In Lydia the original race and their language held their own. The Lydians were a non-Aryan people 
speaking a non- Aryan speech, of which at the present time only a few words are known. Their capital city was 
Sardis. 

Their religion was also non-Aryan. They worshipped a Great Mother goddess. The Phrygians also, though 
retaining their Greek-like language, became infected with mysterious religion, and much of the mystical 
religion and secret ceremonial that pervaded Athens at a later date was Phrygian (when not Thracian) in 
origin. 



Part I 1 27 

At first the Lydians held the western sea-coast of Asia Minor, but they were driven back from it by the 
establishment of Ionian Greeks coming by the sea and founding cities. Later on, however, these Ionian Greek 
cities were brought into subjection by the Lydian kings. 

The history of this country is not clearly known, and were it known it would scarcely be of sufficient 
importance to be related in this historical outline, but in the eighth century B.C. one monarch, named Gyges, 
becomes noteworthy. The country under his rule was subjected to another Aryan invasion; certain nomadic 
tribes called the Cimmerians came pouring across Asia Minor, and they were driven back with difficulty by 
Gyges and his son and grandson. Sardis was twice taken and burnt by these barbarians. And it is on record 
that Gyges paid tribute to Sardanapalus, which serves to link him up with our general ideas of the history of 
Assyria, Israel, and Egypt. Later Gyges rebelled against Assyria, and sent, troops to help Psammetichus I to 
liberate Egypt from its brief servitude to the Assyrians. 

It was Alyattes, the grandson of Gyges, who made Lydia into a considerable power. He reigned for seven 
years, and he reduced most of the Ionian cities of Asia Minor to subjection. The country became the centre of 
a great trade between Asia and Europe; it had always been productive and rich in gold, and now the Lydian 
monarch was reputed the richest in Asia. There was a great coming and going between the Black and 
Mediterranean Seas, and between the East and West. We have already noted that Lydia was reputed to be the 
first country in the world to produce coined money, and to provide the convenience of inns for travellers and 
traders. The Lydian dynasty seems to have been a trading dynasty of the type of Minos in Crete, with a 
banking and financial development. ... So much we may note of Lydia by way of preface to the next section. 

21.5 The Rise of the Persians in the East 

Now while one series of Aryan-speaking invaders had developed along the lines we have described in Greece, 
Magna Graeica, and around the shores of the Black Sea, another series of Aryan-speaking peoples, whose 
originally Nordic blood was perhaps already mixed with a Mongolian element, were settling and spreading to 
the north and east of the Assyrian and Babylonian empires. We have already spoken of the arc-like dispersion 
of the Nordic Aryan peoples to the north of the Black and Caspian Seas; it was probably by this route that the 
Aryan speaking races gradually came down into what is now the Persian country, and spread, on the one hand, 
eastward to India (? 2,000 to 1,000 B.C.), and on the other, increased and multiplied in the Persian uplands 
until they were strong enough to assail first Assyria (650 B.C.) and then Babylon (538 B.C.). 

There is much that is not yet clear about the changes of climate that have been going on in Europe and Asia 
during the last 10,000 years. The ice of the last glacial age receded gradually, and gave way to a long period 
of steppe or prairie-like conditions over the great plain of Europe. About 12,000 or 10,000 years ago, as it is 
reckoned now, this state of affairs was giving place to forest conditions. We have already noted how, as a 
consequence of these changes, the Solutrian horse hunters gave place to Magdalenian fishers and forest deer 
hunters; and these, again, to the Neolithic herdsmen and agriculturists. For some thousands of years the 
European climate seems to have been warmer than it is to-day. A great sea spread from the coast of the 
Balkan peninsula far into Central Asia and extended northward into Central Russia, and the shrinkage of that 
sea and the consequent hardening of the climate of South Russia and Central Asia was going on 
contemporaneously with the development of the first civilizations in the river valleys. Many facts seem to 
point to a more genial climate in Europe and Western Asia, and still more strongly to a greater luxuriance of 
plant and vegetable life, 4,000 to 3,000 years ago, than we find to-day. There were forests then in South 
Russia and in the country which is now Western Turkestan, where now steppes and deserts prevail. On the 
other hand, between 1,500 and 2,000 years ago, the Aral-Caspian region was probably drier and those seas 
smaller than they are at the present time. 

We may note in this connection that Thotmes III (say, the fifteenth century B.C.), in his expedition beyond the 
Euphrates, hunted a herd of 120 elephants in that region. Again, an gean dagger from Mycenae, dating about 
2,000 B.C., shows a lion-hunt in progress. The hunters carry big shields and spears, and stand in rows one 



Part I 1 28 

behind the other. The first man spears the lion, and when the wounded beast leaps at him, drops flat under the 
protection of his big shield, leaving the next man to repeat his stroke, and so on, until the lion is speared to 
death. This method of hunting is practised by the Masai to-day, and could only have been worked out by a 
people in a land where lions were abundant. But abundant lions imply abundant game, and that again means 
abundant vegetation. About 2,000 B.C. the hardening of the climate in the central parts of the Old World, to 
which we have already referred, which put an end to elephants and lions in Asia Minor and Greece, [4] was 
turning the faces of the nomadic Aryan peoples southward towards the fields and forests of the more settled 
and civilized nations. 

These Aryan peoples come down from the East Caspian regions into history about the time that Mycenae and 
Troy and Cnossos are falling to the Greeks. It is difficult to disentangle the different tribes and races that 
appear under a multitude of names in the records and inscriptions that record their first appearance, but, 
fortunately, these distinctions are not needed in an elementary outline such as this present history. A people 
called the Cimmerians appear in the districts of Lake Urumiya and Van, and shortly after Aryans have spread 
from Armenia to Elam. In the ninth century B.C., a people called the Medes, very closely related to the 
Persians to the east of them, appear in the Assyrian inscriptions. Tiglath Pileser III and Sargon II, names 
already familiar in this story, profess to have made them pay tribute. They are spoken of in the inscriptions as 
the dangerous Medes. They are as yet a tribal people, not united under one king. 

About the ninth century B.C. Elam and the Elamites, whose capital was Susa, a people which possessed a 
tradition and civilization at least as old as the Sumerian, suddenly vanish from history. We do not know what 
happened. They seem to have been overrun and the population absorbed by the conquerors. Susa is in the 
hands of the Persians. 

A fourth people, related to these Aryan tribes, who appear at this time in the narrative of Herodotus, are the 
Scythians. For a while the monarchs of Assyria play off these various kindred peoples, the Cimmerians, the 
Medes, the Persians, and the Scythians, against each other. Assyrian princesses (a daughter of Esarhaddon, 
e.g.) are married to Scythian chiefs. 

Nebuchadnezzar the Great, on the other hand, marries a daughter of Cyaxares, who has become king of all the 
Medes. The Aryan Scythians are for the Semitic Assyrians; the Aryan Medes for the Semitic Babylonians. It 
was this Cyaxares who took Nineveh, the Assyrian capital, in 606 B.C., and so released Babylon from the 
Assyrian yoke to establish, under Chaldean rule, the Second Babylonian Empire. The Scythian allies of 
Assyria drop out of the story after this. They go on living their own life away to the north without much 
interference with the peoples to the south. A glance at the map of this period shows how, for two-thirds of a 
century, the Second. Babylonian Empire lay like a lamb within the embrace of the Median lion. 

[Fig. 0269 Scythian Types] 

Into the internal struggles of the Medes and Persians, that ended at last in the accession of Cyrus the Persian to 
the throne of Cyaxares in 550 B.C., we will not enter. In that year Cyrus was ruling over an empire that 
reached from the boundaries of Lydia to Persia and perhaps to India. Nabonidus, the last of the Babylonian 
rulers, was, as we have already told, digging up old records and building temples in Babylonia. 

21.6 The Story of Croesus 

But one monarch in the world was alive to the threat of the new power that lay in the hands of Cyrus. This 
was Croesus, the Lydian king. His son had been killed in a very tragic manner, which Herodotus relates, but 
which we will not describe here. Says Herodotus: 

For two years then, Croesus remained quiet in great mourning, because he was deprived of his son; but after 
this period of time, the overthrowing of the rule of the son of Cyaxares by Cyrus, and the growing greatness of 



Parti 129 

the Persians, caused Croesus to cease from his mourning, and led him to a care of cutting short the power of 
the Persians if by any means he might, while yet it was in growth and before they should have become great. 

[Fig. 0270 Median and Second Babylonian Empires (in Nebuchadnezzar's Reign}] 

He then made trial of the various oracles. 

To the Lydians who were to carry these gifts to the temples Croesus gave charge that they should ask the 
Oracles this question: whether Croesus should march against the Persians, and, if so, whether he should join 
with himself any army of men as his friends. And when the Lydians had arrived at the places to which they 
had been sent and had dedicated the votive offerings, they inquired of the Oracles, and said: 'Cresus, king of 
the Lydians and of other nations, considering that these are the only true Oracles among men, presents to you 
gifts such as your revelations deserve, and asks you again now whether he shall march against the Persians, 
and, if so, whether he shall join with himself any army of men as allies.' They inquired thus, and the answers 
of both the Oracles agreed in one, declaring to Croesus that if he should march against the Persians he should 
destroy a great empire. ... So when the answers were brought back and Croesus heard them, he was delighted 
with the Oracles, and expecting that he would certainly destroy the kingdom of Cyrus, he sent again to Pytho, 
and presented to the men of Delphi, having ascertained the number of them, two staters of gold for each man: 
and in return for this the Delphians gave to Croesus and to the Lydians precedence in consulting the Oracle 
and freedom from all payments, and the right to front seats at the games, with this privilege also for all time, 
that any one of them who wished should be allowed to become a citizen of Delphi. 

So Croesus made a defensive alliance both with the Lacedemonians and the Egyptians. And Herodotus 
continues, while Croesus was preparing to march against the Persians, one of the Lydians, who even before 
this time was thought to be a wise man, but in consequence of this opinion got a very great name for wisdom 
among the Lydians, advised Croesus as follows: '0 king, thou art preparing to march against men who wear 
breeches of leather, and the rest of their clothing is of leather also; and they eat food not such as they desire, 
but such as they can obtain, dwelling in a land which is rugged; and, moreover, they make no use of wine but 
drink water; and no figs have they for dessert, nor any other good thing. On the one hand, if thou shalt 
overcome them, what wilt thou take away from them, seeing they have nothing and, on the other hand, if thou 
shalt be overcome, consider how many good things thou wilt lose; for once having tasted our good things, 
they will cling to them fast, and it will not be possible to drive them away. I, for my own part, feel gratitude to 
the gods that they do not put it into the minds of the Persians to march against the Lydians.' Thus he spoke not 
persuading Croesus; for it is true indeed that the Persians before they subdued the Lydians had no luxury nor 
any good thing. 

Croesus and Cyrus fought an indecisive battle at Pteria, from which Croesus retreated. Cyrus followed him 
up, and he gave battle outside his capital town of Sardis. The chief strength of the Lydians lay in their cavalry; 
they were excellent, if undisciplined, horsemen, and fought with long spears. 

Cyrus, when he saw the Lydians being arrayed for battle, fearing their horsemen, did on the suggestion of 
Harpagos, a Mede, as follows: All the camels which were in the train of his army carrying provisions and 
baggage he gathered together and he took off their burdens and set men upon them provided with the 
equipment of cavalry; and, having thus, furnished them, forth be appointed them to go in front of the rest of 
the army towards the horsemen of Croesus; and after the camel-troop he ordered the infantry to follow; and 
behind the infantry he placed his whole force of cavalry. Then, when all his men had been placed in their 
several positions, he charged them to spare none of the other Lydians, slaying all who might come in their 
way, but Croesus himself they were not to slay, not even if be should make resistance when he was being 
captured. Such was his charge: and be set the camels opposite the horsemen for this reason"because the horse 
has a fear of the camel and cannot endure either to see his form or to scent his smell: for this reason then the 
trick, had been devised, in order that the cavalry of Croesus might be useless, that very force wherewith the 
Lydian king was expecting most to shine. And as they were coming together to the battle, so soon as the 



Part I 1 30 

horses scented the camels and saw them, they turned away back, and the hopes of Croesus were at once 
brought to nought. 

In fourteen days Sardis was stormed and Croesus taken prisoner. . . . 

So the Persians having taken him brought him into the presence of Cyrus; and be piled up a great pyre and 
caused Croesus to go up upon it bound in fetters, and along with him twice seven sons of Lydians, whether it 
was that he meant to dedicate this offering as first-fruits of his victory to some god, or whether be desired to 
fulfil a vow, or else had heard that Croesus was a god-fearing man, and so caused him to go up on the pyre 
because he wished to know if any one of the divine powers would save him, so that he should not be burnt 
alive. He, they say, did this; but to Croesus as he stood upon the pyre there came, although he was in such evil 
ease, a memory of the saying of Solon, how he had said with divine inspiration that no one of the living might 
be called happy. And when this thought came into his mind, they say that he sighed deeply and groaned aloud, 
having been for long silent, and three times he uttered the name of Solon. Hearing this, Cyrus bade the 
interpreters ask Croesus who was this person on whom he called; and they came near and asked. And Croesus 
for a time, it is said, kept silence when he was asked this, but afterwards, being pressed, he said: 'One whom 
more than much wealth I should have desired to have speech with all monarchs.' Then, since his words were 
of doubtful import, they asked again of that which he said; and as they were urgent with him and gave him no 
peace, he told how once Solon, an Athenian, had come and having inspected all his wealth had made light of 
it, with such and such words; and how all had turned out for him according as Solon had said, not speaking at 
all especially with a view to Croesus himself, but with a view to the whole human race, and especially those 
who seem to themselves to be happy men. And while Croesus related these things, already the pyre was 
lighted and the edges of it round about were burning. Then they say that Cyrus, hearing from the interpreters 
what Croesus had said, changed his purpose and considered that he himself also was but a man, and that he 
was delivering another man, who had been not inferior to himself in felicity, alive to the fire; and, moreover, 
he feared the requital, and reflected that there was nothing of that which men possessed which was secure; 
therefore, they say, he ordered them to extinguish as quickly as possible the fire that was burning, and to bring 
down Croesus and those who were with him from the pyre; and they, using endeavours, were not able now to 
get the mastery of the flames. Then it is related by the Lydians that Croesus, having learned how Cyrus had 
changed his mind, and seeing that every one was trying to put out the fire, but that they were no longer able to 
check it, cried aloud, entreating Apollo that if any gift had ever been given by him which was acceptable to 
the god, he would come to his aid and rescue him from the evil which was now upon him. So he with tears 
entreated the god, and suddenly, they say, after clear sky and calm weather clouds gathered and a storm burst, 
and it rained with a very violent shower, and the pyre was extinguished. 

Then Cyrus, having perceived that Croesus was a lover of the gods and a good man, caused him to be brought 
down from the pyre and asked him as follows: 'Croesus, tell me who of all men was it who persuaded thee to 
march upon my land and so to become an enemy to me instead of a friend ?' And be said: '0 king, I did this to 
thy felicity and to my own misfortune, and the causer of this was the god of the Hellenes, who incited me to 
march with my army. For no one is so senseless as to choose of his own will war rather than peace, since in 
peace the sons bury their fathers, but in war the fathers bury their sons. But it was pleasing, I suppose, to the 
divine powers that these things should come to pass thus.' 

So Croesus became a councillor of Cyrus, and lived in Babylon. When Lydia was subdued, Cyrus turned his 
attention to Nabonidus in Babylon. He defeated the Babylonian army, under Belshazzar, outside Babylon, and 
then laid siege to the town. He entered the town (538 B.C.), probably as we have already suggested, with the 
connivance of the priests of Bel. 

21.7 Darius Invades Russia 

Cyrus was succeeded by his son Cambyses, who took an army into Egypt (525 B.C.). There was a battle in the 
delta, in which Greek mercenaries fought on both sides. Herodotus declares that he saw the bones of the slain 



Parti 131 

still lying on the field fifty or sixty years later, and comments on the comparative thinness of the Persian 
skulls. After this battle Cambyses took Memphis and most of Egypt. 

In Egypt, we are told, Cambyses, went mad. He took great liberties with the Egyptian temples, and remained 
at Memphis opening ancient tombs and examining the dead bodies. He had already murdered both Croesus 
ex-king of Lydia, and his own brother Smerdis before coming to Egypt, and he died in Syria on the way back 
to Susa of an accidental wound, leaving no heirs to succeed him. He was presently succeeded by Darius the 
Mede (521 B.C.), the son of Hystaspes, one of the chief councillors of Cyrus. 

The empire of Darius I was larger than any one of the preceding empires whose growth we have traced. It 
included all Asia Minor and Syria, that is to say, the ancient Lydian and Hittite empires, all the old Assyrian 
and Babylonian empires, Egypt, the Caucasus and Caspian regions, Media, Persia, and it extended, perhaps, 
into India to the Indus. The nomadic Arabians alone of all the peoples of what is nowadays called the Near 
East, did not pay tribute to the satraps, (provincial governors) of Darius. The organization of this great empire 
seems to have been on a much higher level of efficiency than any of its precursors. Great arterial roads joined 
province to province, and there was a system of royal posts; [5] at stated intervals post horses stood always 
ready to carry the government messenger, or the traveller if he had a government permit, on to the next stage 
of his journey. Apart from this imperial right-of-way and the payment of tribute, the local governments 
possessed a very considerable amount of local freedom. They were restrained from internecine, conflict, 
which was all to their own good. And at first the Greek cities of the mainland of Asia paid the tribute and 
shared in this Persian Peace. 

Darius was first incited to attack the Greeks in Europe by a homesick Greek physician at his court, who 
wanted at any cost to be back in Greece. Darius had already made plans for an expedition into Europe, aiming 
not at Greece, but to the northward of Greece, across the Bosphorus and Danube. He wanted to strike at South 
Russia, which he believed to be the home country of the Scythian nomads who threatened him on his northern 
and north-eastern frontiers. But he lent an attentive ear to the tempter, and sent agents into Greece. 

This great expedition of Darius opens out our view in this history. It lifts a curtain upon the Balkan country 
behind Greece about which we have said nothing hitherto; it carries us to and over the Danube. The nucleus of 
his army marched from Susa, gathering up contingents as they made their way to the Bosphorus. Here Greek 
allies (Ionian Greeks from Asia) had made a bridge of boats, and the army crossed over while the Greek allies 
sailed on in their ships to the Danube, and, two days' sail up from its mouth, landed to make another floating 
bridge. Meanwhile, Darius and his host advanced along the coast of what is now Bulgaria, but which was then 
called Thrace. They crossed the Danube, and prepared to give battle to the Scythian army and take the cities 
of the Scythians. 

[Fig. 0276 The Empire of Darius] 

But the Scythians had no cities, and they evaded a battle, and the war degenerated into a tedious and hopeless 
pursuit of more mobile enemies. Wells were stopped up and pastures destroyed by the nomads. The Scythian 
horsemen hung upon the skirts of the great army, which consisted mostly of foot soldiers, picking off 
stragglers and preventing foraging; and they did their best to persuade the Ionian Greeks, who had made and 
were guarding the bridge across the Danube, to break up the bridge, and so ensure the destruction of Darius. 
So long as Darius continued to advance, however, the loyalty of his Greek allies remained unshaken. 

But privation, fatigue, and sickness hindered and crippled the Persian army; Darius lost many stragglers and 
consumed his supplies, and at last the melancholy conviction dawned upon him that a retreat across the 
Danube was necessary to save him from complete exhaustion and defeat. 

In order to get a start in his retreat he sacrificed his sick and wounded. He had these men informed that he was 
about to attack the Scythians at nightfall, and under this pretence stole out of the camp with the pick of his 



Part I 1 32 

troops and made off southward, leaving the camp fires burning and the usual noises and movements of the 
camp behind him. Next day the men left in the camp realized the trick their monarch had played upon them, 
and surrendered themselves to the mercy of the Scythians; but Darius had got his start, and was able to reach 
the bridge of boats before his pursuers came upon him. They were more mobile than his troops, but they 
missed their quarry in the darkness. At the river the retreating Persians were brought to an extremity of fear, 
for they found the, bridge partially broken down and its northern end destroyed. 

At this point a voice echoes down the centuries to us. We see a group of dismayed Persians standing about the 
Great King upon the bank of the streaming river; we see the masses of halted troops, hungry and war-worn; a 
trail of battered transport stretches away towards the horizon, upon which at any time the advance guards of 
the pursuers may appear. There is not much noise in spite of the multitude, but rather an inquiring silence. 
Standing out like a pier from the further side of the great stream are the remains of the bridge of boats, an 
enigma. . . . We cannot discern whether there are men over there or not. The shipping of the Ionian Greeks 
seems still to be drawn up on the further shore, but it is all very far away. 

Now there was with Darius an Egyptian who had a voice louder than that of any other man on earth, and this 
man Darius ordered to take his stand upon the bank of the Ister (Danube) and to call Histiaeus of Miletus. 

This worthy"a day is to come, as we shall presently tell, when his decapitated head will be sent to Darius at 
Susa appears approaching slowly across the waters in a boat. 

There is a parley, and we gather that it is all right. 

The explanation Histiaeus has to make is a complicated one. Some Scythians have been and have gone again. 
Scouts, perhaps, these were. It would seem there had been a discussion between the Scythians and the Greeks. 
The Scythians wanted the bridge broken down; they would then, they said, undertake to finish up the Persian 
army and make an end of Darius and his empire, and the Ionian Greeks of Asia could then free their cities 
again. Miltiades, the Athenian, was for accepting this proposal. But Histiaeus had been more subtle. He would 
prefer, he said, to see the Persians completely destroyed before definitely abandoning their cause. Would the 
Scythians go back and destroy the Persians to make sure of them while the Greeks on their part destroyed the 
bridge? Anyhow, whichever side the Greeks took finally, it was clear to him that it would be wise to destroy 
the northern end of the bridge, because otherwise the Scythians might rush it. Indeed, even as they honeyed 
the Greeks set to work to demolish the end that linked them to the Scythians as quickly as possible. In 
accordance with the suggestions of Histiaeus the Scythians rode off in search of the Persians, and so left the 
Greeks safe in either event. If Darius escaped, they could be on his side; if he were destroyed, there was 
nothing of which the Scythians could complain. 

Histiaeus did not put it quite in that fashion to Darius. He had at least kept the shipping and most of the 
bridge. He represented himself as the loyal friend of Persia, and Darius was not disposed to be too critical. 
The Ionian ships came over. With a sense of immense relief the remnant of the wasted Persians were presently 
looking back at the steely flood of the Danube streaming wide between themselves and their pursuers. . . . 

The pleasure and interest had gone out of the European expedition for Darius. He returned to Susa, leaving an 
army in Thrace, under a trusted general Megabazus. This Megabazus set himself to the subjugation of Thrace, 
and among other states which submitted reluctantly to Darius was a kingdom, which thus comes into our 
history for the first time, the kingdom of Macedonia, a country inhabited by a people so closely allied to the 
Greeks that one of its princes had already been allowed to compete and take a prize in the Olympian games. 

Darius was disposed to reward Histiaeus by allowing him to build a city for himself in Thrace, but Megabazus 
had a different opinion of the trustworthiness of Histitaeus, and prevailed upon the king to take him to Susa, 
and, under the title of councillor, to keep him a prisoner there. Histiaeus was at first flattered by this court 
position, and then realized its true meaning. The Persian court bored him, and he grew homesick for Miletus. 



Parti 133 

He set himself to make mischief, and was able to stir up a revolt against the Persians among the Ionian Greeks 
on the mainland. The twistings and turnings of the story, which included the burning of Sardis by the Ionians 
and the defeat of a Greek fleet at the battle of Lad (495 B.C.), are too complicated to follow here. It is a dark 
and intricate story of treacheries, cruelties, and hate, in which the death of the wily Histiaeus shines almost 
cheerfully. The Persian governor of Sardis, through which town he was being taken on his way back to Susa 
as a prisoner, having much the same opinion of him as Megabazus had, and knowing his ability to humbug 
Darius, killed him there and then, and sent on the head only to his master. 

Cyprus and the Greek islands were dragged into this contest that Histiaeus had stirred up, and at last Athens. 
Darius realized the error he had made in turning to the right and not to the left when he had crossed the 
Bosphorus, and he now set himself to the conquest of all Greece. He began with the islands. Tyre and Sidon 
were subject to Persia, and ships of the Phoenician and of the Ionian Greeks provided the Persians with a fleet 
by means of which one Greek island after another was subjugated. 

21.8 The Battle of Marathon 

The first attack upon Greece proper was made in 490 B.C. It was a sea attack upon Athens, with a force long 
and carefully prepared for the task, the fleet being provided with specially built transports for the conveyance 
of horses. This expedition made a landing near Marathon in Attica. The Persians were guided into Marathon 
by a renegade Greek, Hippias, the son of Peisistratus, who had been tyrant of Athens. If Athens fell, then 
Hippias was to be its tyrant, under the protection of the Persians. 

[Fig. 0280 Wars of the Greeks and Persians (Map)] 

Meanwhile, so urgent was the sense of a crisis in the affairs of Hellas, that a man, a herald and runner, went 
from Athens to Sparta, forgetful of all feuds, to say: Lacedemonians, the Athenians make request of you to 
come to their help, and not to allow a city most anciently established among the Hellenes to fall into slavery 
by the means of Barbarians; for even now Eretria has been enslaved and Hellas has become the weaker by a 
city of renown. This man, Pheidippides, did the distance from Athens to Sparta, nearly a hundred miles as the 
crow flies, and much more if we allow for the contours and the windings of the way, in something under eight 
and forty hours. 

But before the Spartans could arrive on the scene the battle was joined The Athenians charged the enemy. 
They fought "in a memorable fashion: for they were the first of all the Hellenes about whom we know who 
went to attack the enemy at a run, and they were the first also who endured to face the Median garments and 
the men who wore them, whereas up to this time the very name of the Medes was to the Hellenes a terror to 
hear. 

The Persian wings gave before this impetuous attack, but the centre held. The Athenians, however, were cool 
as well as vigorous; they let the wings run and closed in on the flanks of the centre, whereupon the main body 
of the Persians fled to their ships. Seven vessels fell into the hands of the Athenians; the rest got away, and, 
after a futile attempt to sail round to Athens and seize the city before the army returned thither, the fleet made 
a retreat to Asia. Let Herodotus close the story with a paragraph that still further enlightens us upon the 
tremendous prestige of the Medes at this time: 

Of the Lacedemonians there came to Athens two thousand after the full moon, making great haste to be in 
time, so that they arrived in Attica on the third day after leaving Sparta: and though they had come too late for 
the battle, yet they desired to behold the Medes; and accordingly they went on to Marathon and looked at the 
bodies of the slain: then afterwards they departed home, commending the Athenians and the work which they 
had done. 

21.9 Thermopylae and Salamis 



Part I 1 34 

So Greece, unified for a while by fear, gained her first victory over Persia. The news came to Darius 
simultaneously with the news of a rebellion in Egypt, and he died while still undecided in which direction to 
turn. His son and successor, Xerxes, turned first to Egypt and set up a Persian satrap there; then for four years 
he prepared a second attack upon Greece. Says Herodotus, who was, one must remember, a patriotic Greek, 
approaching new to the climax of his History: 

For what nation did Xerxes not lead out of Asia against Hellas? and what water was not exhausted, being 
drunk by his host, except only the great rivers? For some supplied ships, and others were appointed to serve in 
the land army; to some it was appointed to furnish cavalry, and to others vessels to carry horses, while they 
served in the expedition themselves also; others were ordered to furnish ships of war for the bridges, and 
others again ships with provisions. 

[Fig. 0282 Athenian Foot-soldier] 

Xerxes passed into Europe, not as Darius did at the half-mile crossing of the Bosphorus, but at the Hellespont 
(== the Dardanelles). In his account of the assembling of the great army, and its march from Sardis to the 
Hellespont, the poet in Herodotus takes possession of the historian. The great host passes in splendour by 
Troy, and Xerxes, who although a Persian and a Barbarian, seems to have had the advantages of a classical 
education, turns aside, says our historian, to visit the citadel of Priam. The Hellespont was bridged at Abydos, 
and upon a hill was set a marble throne from which Xerxes surveyed the whole array of his forces. 

And seeing all the Hellespont covered over with the ships and all the shores and the plains of Abydos full of 
men, then Xerxes pronounced himself a happy man, and after that he fell to weeping. Artabanus, his uncle, 
therefore perceiving him"the same who at first boldly declared his opinion advising Xerxes not to march 
against Hellas"this man, I say, having observed Xerxes wept, asked as follows: '0 king, how far different from 
one another are the things which thou hast done now and a short while before now I for having pronounced 
thyself a happy man, thou art now shedding tears.' He said: 'Yea, for after I had reckoned up, it came into my 
mind to feel pity at the thought how brief was the whole life of man, seeing that of these multitudes not one 
will be alive when a hundred years have gone by.[l] 

This may not be exact history, but it is great poetry. It is as splendid as anything in The Dynasts. 

The Persian fleet, coasting from headland to headland, accompanied this land multitude during its march 
southward; but a violent storm did the fleet great damage and 400 ships were lost, including much corn 
transport. At first the united Hellenes marched out to meet the invaders at the Vale of Tempe near Mount 
Olympus, but afterwards retreated through Thessaly, and chose at last to await the advancing Persians at a 
place called Thermopylae, where at that time" 2,300 years have altered these things greatly"there was a great 
cliff on the landward side and the sea to the east, with a track scarcely wide enough for a chariot between. The 
great advantage to the Greeks of this position at Thermopylae was that it prevented the use of either cavalry or 
chariots, and narrowed the battle front so as to minimize their numerical inequality. And there the Persians 
joined battle with them one summer day in the year 480 B.C. 

For three days the Greeks held this great army, and did them much damage with small loss to themselves, and 
then on the third day a detachment of Persians appeared upon the rear of the Greeks, having learnt of a way 
over the mountains from a peasant. There were hasty discussions among the Greeks; some were for 
withdrawing, some for holding out. The leader of the whole force, Leonidas, was for staying; and with him he 
would keep, be said, 300 Spartans. The rest of the Greek army could, meanwhile, make good its retreat to the 
next defensible pass. The Thespian contingent of 700, however, refused to fall back. They preferred to stay 
and die with the Spartans. Also a contingent of 400 Thebans remained. As Thebes afterwards joined the 
Persians, there is a story that these Thebans were detained by force against their will, which seems on military 
as well as historical grounds improbable. These 1,400 stayed, and were, after a conflict of heroic quality, slain 
to a man. Two Spartans happened to be away, sick with ophthalmia. When they heard the news, one was too 



Part I 1 35 

ill to move; the other made his helot guide him to the battle, and there struck blindly until he was killed. The 
other, Aristodemus, was taken away with the retreating troops, and returned to Sparta, where he was not 
actually punished for his conduct, but was known as Tresas, the man who retreated. It was enough to 
distinguish him from all other Spartans, and he got himself killed at the Battle of Plataea a year later, 
performing prodigies of reckless courage. . . . For a whole day this little band had held the pass, assailed in 
front and rear by the whole force of the Persians. They had covered the retreat of the main Greek army, they 
had inflicted great losses on the invaders, and they had raised the prestige of the Greek warrior over that of the 
Mede higher even than the victory of Marathon had done. 

The Persian cavalry and transport filtered slowly through the narrow passage of Thermopylae and marched on 
towards Athens, while a series of naval encounters went on at sea. The Hellenic fleet retreated before the 
advance of the Persian shipping, which suffered seriously through its comparative ignorance of the intricate 
coasts and of the tricks of the local weather. Weight of numbers carried the Persian army forward to Athens; 
now that Thermopylae was lost, there was no line of defence nearer than the Isthmus of Corinth, and this 
meant the abandonment of all the intervening territory, including Athens. The population had either to fly or 
submit to the Persians. Thebes with all Boeotia submitted, and was pressed into the Persian army, except one 
town, Plataea, whose inhabitants fled to Athens. The turn of Athens came next, and great efforts were made to 
persuade her to make terms; but, instead, the whole population determined to abandon everything and take to 
the shipping. The women and non-combatants were carried to Salamis and various adjacent islands. Only a 
few people too old to move and a few dissentients remained in the town, which was occupied by the Persians 
and burnt. The sacred objects, statues, etc., which were burnt at this time, were afterwards buried in the 
Acropolis by the returning Athenians, and have been dug up in our own day with the marks of burning visible 
upon them. Xerxes sent off a mounted messenger to Susa with the news, and he invited the sons of 
Peisistratus, whom he had brought back with him, to enter upon their inheritance and sacrifice after the 
Athenian manner upon the Acropolis. 

Meanwhile, the Hellenic confederate fleet had come round to Salamis, and in the council of war there were 
bitter differences of opinion. Corinth and the states behind the Isthmus wanted the fleet to fall back to that 
position, abandoning the cities of Megara and AEgina. Themistocles insisted with all his force on fighting in 
the narrows of Salamis. The majority was steadily in favour of retreat, when there suddenly arrived the news 
that retreat was cut off. The Persians had sailed round Salamis and held the sea on the other side. This news 
was brought by that Aristides the Just, of whose ostracism we have already told; his sanity and eloquence did 
much to help Themistocles to hearten the hesitating commanders. These two men had formerly been bitter 
antagonists; but, with a generosity rare in those days, they forgot their differences before the common danger. 
At dawn the Greek ships pulled out to battle. 

The fleet before them was a fleet more composite and less united than their own. But it was about three times 
as great. On one wing were the Phoenicians, on the other Ionian Greeks from Asia and the Islands. Some of 
the latter fought stoutly; others remembered that they, too, were Greeks. The Greek ships, on the other hand, 
were mostly manned by freemen fighting for their homes. Throughout the early hours the battle raged 
confusedly. Then it became evident to Xerxes, watching the combat, that his fleet was attempting flight. The 
flight became disaster. 

Xerxes had taken his seat to watch the battle. He saw his galleys rammed by the sharp prows of other galleys; 
his fighting-men shot down; his ships boarded. Much of the sea-fighting in those days was done by ramming; 
the big galleys bore down their opponents by superior weight of impact, or sheared off their oars and so 
destroyed their manoeuvring power and left them helpless. Presently, Xerxes saw that some of his broken 
ships were surrendering. In the water he could see the heads of Greeks swimming to land; but of the 
Barbarians the greater number perished in the sea, not knowing how to swim. The clumsy attempt of the 
hard-pressed first line of the Persian fleet to put about led to indescribable confusion. Some were rammed by 
the rear ships of their own side. This ancient shipping was poor, unseaworthy stuff by any modern standards. 
The west wind was blowing and many of the broken ships of Xerxes were now drifting away out of his sight 



Part I 1 36 

to be wrecked on the coast beyond. 

[Fig. 0286 Persian Body-guard (from Frieze at Suza)] 

Others were being towed towards Salamis by the Greeks. Others, less injured and still in fighting trim, were 
making for the beaches close beneath him that would bring them under the protection of his army. Scattered 
over the further sea, beyond the headlands, remote and vague, were ships in flight and Greek ships in pursuit. 
Slowly, incident by incident, the disaster had unfolded under his eyes. We can imagine something of the 
coming and going of messengers, the issuing of futile orders, the changes of plan, throughout the day. In the 
morning Xerxes had come out provided with tables to mark the most successful of his commanders for 
reward. In the gold of the sunset he beheld the sea power of Persia utterly scattered, sunken and destroyed, 
and the Greek fleet over against Salamis unbroken and triumphant, ordering its ranks, as if still incredulous of 
victory. 

[Fig. 0287 The World according to Herodotus] 

The Persian army remained as if in indecision for some days close to the scene of this sea fight, and then 
began to retreat to Thessaly, where it was proposed to winter and resume the campaign. But Xerxes, like 
Darius I before him, had conceived a disgust for European campaigns. He was afraid of the destruction of the 
bridge of boats. With part of the army he went on to the Hellespont, leaving the main force in Thessaly under 
a general, Mardonius. Of his own retreat the historian relates: 

Whithersoever they came on the march and to whatever nation they seized the crops of that people and used 
them for provisions; and if they found no crops, then they took the grass which was growing up from the 
earth, and stripped off the bark from the trees and plucked down the leaves and devoured them; alike of the 
cultivated trees and of those growing wild; and they left nothing behind them: thus they did by reason of 
famine. Then plague too seized upon the army and dysentery, which destroyed them by the way, and some of 
them also who were sick the king left behind, laying charge upon the cities where at the time he chanced to be 
in his march, to take care of them and support them; of these he left some in Thessaly, and some at Siris in 
Paionia, and some in Macedonia. . . . When, passing on from Thrace they came to the passage, they crossed 
over the Hellespont in haste to Abydos by means of the ships, for they did not find the floating bridges still 
stretched across, but broken up by a storm. While staying there for a time they had distributed to them an 
allowance of food more abundant than they had had by the way, and from satisfying their hunger with out 
restraint and also from the changes of water there died many of those in the army who had remained safe till 
then. The rest arrived with Xerxes at Sardis. 

21.10 Plataea and Mycale 

The rest of the Persian army remained in Thessaly under the command of Mardonius, and for a year he 
maintained an aggressive compaign against the Greeks. Finally, he was defeated and killed in a pitched battle 
at Plataea (479 BC), and on the same day the Persian fleet and a land army met with joint disaster under the 
shadow of Mount Mycale on the Asiatic mainland, between Ephesus and Miletus. The Persian ships, being in 
fear of the Greeks, had been drawn up on shore and a wall built about them; but the Greeks disembarked and 
stormed this enclosure. They then sailed to the, Hellespont to destroy what was left of the bridge of boats, so 
that later the Persian fugitives, retreating from Plataea, had to cross by shipping at the Bosphorus, and did so 
with difficulty. 

Encouraged by these disasters of the imperial power, says Herodotus, the Ionian cities in Asia began for a 
second time to revolt against the Persians. 

With this the ninth, book of the History of Herodotus comes to an end. He was born about 484 B.C., so, that at 
the time of the battle of Plataea he was a child of five-years old. Much of the substance of his story was 



Part I 1 37 

gathered by him from actors in and eye-witnesses of, the great events he relates. The war still dragged on for a 
long time; the Greeks supported a rebellion against Persian rule in Egypt, and tried unsuccessfully to take 
Cyprus; it did not end until about 449 B.C. Then the Greek coasts of Asia Minor and the Greek cities in the 
Black Sea remained generally free, but Cyprus and Egypt continued under Persian rule. Herodotus, who had 
been born a Persian subject in the Ionian city of Halicarnassus, was five and thirty years old by that time, and 
he must have taken an early opportunity after this peace of visiting Babylon and Persia. He probably went to 
Athens, with his History ready to recite, about 438 B.C. 

The idea of a great union of Greece for aggression against Persia was not altogether strange to Herodotus. 
Some of his readers suspect him of writing to enforce it. It was certainly in the air at that time. He describes 
Aristagoras, the son-in-law of Histiaeus, as showing the Spartans a tablet of bronze on which was engraved a 
map of the whole earth with all the seas and rivers. He makes Aristagoras say: These Barbarians are not 
valiant in fight. You, on the other hand, have now attained to the utmost skill in war. They fight with bows 
and arrows and a short spear: they go into battle wearing trousers and having caps on their heads. You have 
perfected your weapons and discipline. They are easily to be conquered. Not all the other nations of the world 
have what they possess; gold, silver, bronze, embroidered garments, beasts and slaves; all this you might have 
for yourselves, if you so desired. 

It was a hundred years before these suggestions bore fruit. 

Xerxes was murdered in his palace about 465 B.C., and thereafter Persia made no further attempts at conquest 
in Europe. We have no such knowledge of the things that were happening in the empire of the Great King as 
we have of the occurrences in the little states of Central Greece. Greece had suddenly begun to produce 
literature, and put itself upon record as no other nation had ever done hitherto. After 479 B.C. (Plataea) the 
spirit seems to have gone out of the government of the Medes and Persians. The empire of the Great King 
enters upon a period of decay. An Artaxerxes, a second Xerxes, a second Darius, pass across the stage; there 
are rebellions in Egypt and Syria; the Medes rebel; a second Artaxerxes and a second Cyrus, his brother, fight 
for the throne. This history is even as the history of Babylonia, Assyria, and Egypt in the older times. It is 
autocracy reverting to its normal state of palace crime, blood-stained magnificence, and moral squalor. But the 
last-named struggle produced a Greek masterpiece, for this second Cyrus collected an army of Greek 
mercenaries and marched into Babylonia, and was there killed at the moment of victory over Artaxerxes II. 
Thereupon, the Ten Thousand Greeks, left with no one to employ them, made a retreat to the coast again (401 
B.C.), and this retreat was immortalized in a book, one of the first of personal war books, the Anabasis, by 
their leader Xenophon. 

Murders, revolts, chastisements, disasters, cunning alliances, and base betrayals, and no Herodotus to record 
them. Such is the texture of Persian history. An Artaxerxes III, covered with blood, flourishes, dimly for a 
time. Artaxerxes III is said to have been murdered by Bagoas, who places Arses, the youngest of the king's 
sons, on the throne only to slay him in turn when he seemed to be contemplating independent action. [6] So it 
goes on. 

Athens, prospering for a time after the Persian repulse, was smitten by the plague in which Pericles, its 
greatest ruler, died (428 B.C.). But, as a noteworthy fact amidst these confusions, the Ten Thousand of 
Xenophon were scattering now among the Greek cities, repeating from their own experience the declaration of 
Aristagoras that the Persian empire was a rich confusion which it would be very easy for resolute men to 
conquer. 

22.0 Greek Thought in Relation to Human Society 

22.1 The Athens of Pericles 

22.2 Socrates 



Part I 1 38 

22.3 Plato and the Academy 

22.4 Aristotle and the Lyceum 

22.5 Philosophy Becomes Unworldly 

22.6 The Quality and Limitations of Greek Thought 

22.1 The Athens of Pericles 

Greek history for the next forty years after Plataea and Mycale is a story of comparative peace and 
tranquillity. There were wars, but they were not intense wars. For a little while in Athens, for a section of the 
prosperous, there was leisure and opportunity. And by a combination of accidents and through the character of 
a small group of people, this leisure and opportunity produced the most memorable results. Much beautiful 
literature was produced; the plastic arts flourished, and the foundations of modern science, already laid by the 
earlier philosophers of the Ionian Greek cities, were consolidated. Then, after an interlude of fifty odd years, 
the long-smouldering hostility between Athens and Sparta broke out into a fierce and exhausting war, which 
sapped at last the vitality of this creative movement. 

This war is known in history as the Peloponnesian War; it went on for nearly thirty years, and wasted all the 
power of Greece. At first Athens was in the ascendant, then Sparta. Then arose Thebes, a city not fifty miles 
from Athens, to overshadow Sparta. Once more Athens flared into importance as the head of a confederation. 
It is a story of narrow rivalries and inexplicable hatreds that would have vanished long ago out of the 
memories of men, were it not that it is recorded and reflected in a great literature. 

Through all this time Persia appears and reappears as the ally first of this league and then of that. About the 
middle of the fourth century B.C., Greece becomes aware of a now influence in its affairs, that of Philip, King 
of Macedonia. Macedonia does, indeed, arise in the background of this incurably divided Greece, as the 
Medes and Persians arose behind the Chaldean Empire. A time comes when the Greek mind turns round, so to 
speak, from its disputes, and stares in one united dismay at the Macedonian. 

Planless and murderous squabbles are still planless and murderous squabbles even though Thueydides tells 
the story, even though the great beginnings of a new civilization are wrecked by their disorders; and in this 
general outline we can give no space at all to the particulars of these internecine feuds, to the fights and flights 
that sent first this Greek city and then that up to the sky in flames. Upon a one-foot globe Greece becomes a 
speck almost too small to recognize; and in a short history of mankind, all this century and more of dissension 
between the days of Salamis and Plataea and the rise of King Philip shrinks to a little, almost inaudible clash 
of disputation, to a more note upon the swift passing of opportunity for nations as for men. 

But what does not shrink into insignificance, because it has entered into the intellectual process of all 
subsequent nations, because it is inseparably a part of our mental foundation, is the literature that Greece 
produced during such patches and gleams of tranquillity and security as these times afforded her. 

Says Professor Gilbert Murray: [1] 

Their outer political history, indeed, like that of all other nations, is filled with war and diplomacy, with 
cruelty and deceit. It is the inner history, the history of thought and feeling and character, that is so grand. 
They had some difficulties to contend with which are now almost out of our path. They had practically no 
experience, but were doing everything for the first time; they were utterly weak in material resources, and 
their emotions, their 'desires and fears and rages,' were probably wilder and fiercer than ours. Yet they 
produced the Athens of Pericles and of Plato. 



Part I 1 39 

This remarkable culmination of the long-gathering creative power of the Greek mind, which for three and 
twenty centuries has been to men of intelligence a guiding and inspiring beacon out of the past, flared up after 
the battles of Marathon and Salamis had made Athens free and fearless, and, without any great excesses of. 
power, predominant in her world. It was the work of a quite small group of men. A number of her citizens 
lived for the better part of a generation under conditions which, in all ages, have disposed men to produce 
good and beautiful work; they were secure, they were free, and they had pride; and they were without that 
temptation of apparent and unchallenged power which disposes all of us to inflict wrongs upon our fellow 
men. When political life narrowed down again to the waste and crimes of a fratricidal war with Sparta, there 
was so broad and well-fed a flame of intellectual activity burning that it lasted through all the windy distresses 
of this war and beyond the brief lifetime of Alexander the Great, for a period altogether of more than a 
hundred years after the wars began. 

Flushed with victory and the sense of freedom, fairly won, the people of Athens did for a time rise towards 
nobility. Under the guidance of a great demagogue, Pericles, the chief official of the Athenian general 
assembly, and a politician statesman rather of the calibre of Gladstone or Lincoln in modem history, they were 
set to the task of rebuilding their city and expanding their commerce. For a time they were capable of 
following a generous leader generously, and Fate gave them a generous leader. In Pericles there was mingled 
in the strangest fashion political ability with a real living passion for deep and high and beautiful things. He 
kept in power for over thirty years. He was a man of extraordinary vigour and liberality of mind. He stamped 
these qualities upon his time. As Winckler has remarked, the Athenian democracy had for a. time the face of 
Pericles. He was sustained by what was probably a very great and noble friendship. There was a woman of 
unusual education, Aspasia, from Miletus, whom he could not marry because of the law that restricted the 
citizenship of Athens to the home-born, but who was in effect his wife. She played a large part in gathering 
about him men of unusual gifts. All the great writers of the time knew her, and several have praised her 
wisdom. Plutarch, it is true, accuses her of instigating a troublesome and dangerous but finally successful war 
against Samos, but, as he himself shows later, this was necessitated by the naval hostility of the Samians, 
which threatened the overseas trade of Athens, upon which all the prosperity of the republic depended. 

Men's ambitions are apt to reflect the standards of their intimates. Pericles was content, at any rate, to serve as 
a leader in Athens rather than to dominate as a tyrant. Alliances were formed under his guidance, new 
colonies and trading stations were established from Italy to the Black Sea; and the treasures of the league at 
Delos were brought to Athens. Convinced of his security from Persia, Pericles spent the war hoard of the 
allies upon the beautification of his city. This was an unrighteous thing to do by our modern standards, but it 
was not a base or greedy thing to do. Athens had accomplished the work of the Delian League, and is not the 
labourer worthy of his hire? This sequestration made a time of exceptional opportunity for architects and 
artists. The Parthenon of Athens, whose ruins are still a thing of beauty, was but the crown set upon the 
clustering glories of the Athens Pericles rebuilt. Such sculptures as those of Phidias, Myron, and Polyclitus 
that still survive, witness to the artistic quality of the time. 

The reader must bear in mind that illuminating remark of Winckler's, which says that this renascent Athens 
bore for a time the face of Pericles. It was the peculiar genius of this man and of his atmosphere that let loose 
the genius of men about him, and attracted men of great intellectual vigour to Athens. Athens wore his face 
for a time as one wears a mask, and then became restless and desired to put him aside. There was very little 
that was great and generous about the common Athenian. We have told of the spirit of one sample voter for 
the ostracism of Aristides, and Lloyd (in his Age of Pericles) declares that the Athenians would not suffer the 
name of Miltiades to be mentioned in connection with the battle of Marathon. The sturdy self-respect of the 
common voters revolted presently against the beautiful buildings rising about them; against the favours shown 
to such sculptors as Phidias over popular worthies in the same line of business; against the donations made to 
a mere foreigner like Herodotus of Halicarnassus; against the insulting preference of Pericles for the company 
and conversation of a Milesian woman. The public life of Pericles was conspicuously orderly, and that 
presently set the man in the street thinking that his private life must be very corrupt. One gathers that Pericles 
was superior in his demeanour; he betrayed at times a contempt for the citizens he served. 



Parti 140 

Pericles acquired not only an elevation of sentiment, and a loftiness and purity of style far removed from the 
low expression of the vulgar, but likewise a gravity of countenance which relaxed not into laughter, a firm and 
even tone of voice, an easy deportment, and a decency of dress which no vehemence of speaking ever put into 
disorder. These things, and others of a like nature, excited admiration in all that saw him. Such was his 
conduct, when a vile and abandoned fellow loaded him a whole day with reproaches and abuse; he bore it 
with patience and silence, and continued in public for the despatch of some urgent affairs. In the evening he 
walked softly home, this impudent wretch following, and insulting him all the way with the most scurrilous 
language. And as it was dark when he came to his own door, he ordered one of his servants to take a torch and 
light the man home. The poet Ion, however, says he was proud and supercilious in conversation, and that there 
was a great deal of vanity and contempt of others mixed with his dignity of manner. ... He appeared not in 
the streets except when he went to the forum or the senate house. He declined the invitations of his friends, 
and all social entertainments and recreations; insomuch that in the whole time of his administration, which 
was a considerable length, he never went to sup with any of his friends but once, which was at the marriage of 
his nephew Euryptolemus, and he stayed there only until the ceremony of libation was ended. He considered 
that the freedom of entertainments takes away all distinction of office, and. that dignity is but little consistent 
with familiarity. ... [2] 

There was as yet no gutter journalism to tell the world of the vileness of the conspicuous and successful; but 
the common man, a little out of conceit with himself, found much consolation in the art of comedy, which 
flourished exceedingly. The writers of comedy satisfied that almost universal craving for the depreciation of 
those whose apparent excellence offends our self-love. They threw dirt steadily and industriously at Pericles 
and his friends. Pericles was portrayed in a helmet; a helmet became him, and it is to be feared he knew as 
much. This led to much joy and mirth over the pleasant suggestion of a frightfully distorted bead, an onion 
head. The goings on of Aspasia were of course a fruitful vineyard for the inventions of the street. . . . 

Dreaming souls, weary of the vulgarities of our time, have desired to be transferred to the sublime Age of 
Pericles. But, plumped down into that Athens, they would have found themselves in very much the 
atmosphere of the lower sort of contemporary music-hall, very much in the vein of our popular newspapers; 
the same hot blast of braying libel, foul imputation, greedy patriotism, and general baseness would have 
blown upon them, the modern note would have pursued them. As the memories of Plataea and Salamis faded 
and the new buildings grew familiar, Pericles and the pride of Athens became more and more offensive to the 
homely humour of the crowd. He was never ostracized-his prestige with the quieter citizens saved him from 
that; but he was attacked with increasing boldness and steadfastness. He lived and died a poor man; he was 
perhaps the most honest of demagogues; but this did not save him from an abortive prosecution for 
peculation. Defeated in that, his enemies resorted to a more devious method; they began to lop away his 
friends. 

[Fig. 0296 Athene of the Parthenon] 

Religious intolerance and moral accusations are the natural weapons of the envious against the leaders of men. 
His friend Damon was ostracized. Phidias was attacked for impiety. On the shield of the great statue of the 
goddess Athene, Phidias had dared to put, among the combatants in a fight between Greeks and Amazons, 
portraits of Pericles and himself. Phidias died in prison. Anaxagoras, a stranger welcomed to Athens by 
Pericles-when there were plenty of honest fellows already there quite willing to satisfy any reasonable 
curiosities-was saying the strangest things about the sun and stars, and hinting not obscurely that there were 
no gods, but only one animating spirit (nous) in the world. [3] 

The comedy writers suddenly found they had deep religious feelings that could be profoundly and even 
dangerously shocked, and Anaxagoras fled the threat of a prosecution. Then came the turn of Aspasia. Athens 
seemed bent upon deporting her, and Pericles was torn between the woman who was the soul of his life and 
the ungracious city he had saved defended, and made more beautiful and unforgettable than any other city in 
history. He stood up, to defend Aspasia, he was seized by a storm of very human emotion, and as he spoke he 



Part I 1 41 

wept-a gleeful thing for the rabble. His tears saved Aspasia for a time. 

The Athenians were content to humiliate Pericles, but he had served them so long that they were indisposed to 
do without him. He had been their leader now for a third of a century. 

In 431 B.C. came the war with Sparta. Plutarch accuses Pericles of bringing it on, because he felt his 
popularity waned so fast that a war was needed to make him indispensable. 

And as he himself was become obnoxious to the people upon Phidias's account, and was afraid of being called 
in question for it, he urged on the war, which as yet was uncertain, and blew up that flame which till then was 
stifled and suppressed. By this means he hoped to obviate the accusations that threatened him, and to mitigate 
the rage of envy, because such was his dignity and power, that in all important affairs, and in every great 
danger, the republic could place its confidence in him alone. 

But the war was a slow and dangerous war, and the Athenian people were impatient. A certain Cleon arose, 
ambitious to oust Pericles from his leadership. There was a great clamour for a swift ending of the war. Cleon 
set out to be the man who won the war. The popular poets got to work in this fashion: 

Thou king of satyrs ... why boast thy prowess, 

Yet shudder at the sound of sharpened swords, 

Spite of the flaming Cleon? 

An expedition under the leadership of Pericles was unsuccessful, and Cleon seized the opportunity for a 
prosecution. 

Pericles was supended from his command and fined. The story goes that his oldest son-this was not the son of 
Aspasia, but of a former wife-turned against him, and pursued him with vile and incredible accusations. This 
young man was carried off by the plague. Then the sister of Pericles died, and then his last legitimate son. 
When, after the fashion of the time, he put the funeral garlands on the boy he wept aloud. Presently he himself 
took the contagion and died (428 B.C.). 

The salient facts of this brief summary will serve to show how discordant Pericles was with much of the life 
of his city. This intellectual and artistic outbreak in Athens was no doubt favoured by the conditions of the 
time, but it was also due in part to the appearance of some very unusual men. It was not a general movement; 
it was the movement of a small group of people exceptionally placed and gifted. 

22.2 Socrates 

Another leading figure in this Athenian movement, a figure still more out of harmony with the life around 
him, and-quite as much an original source and stimulant of the enduring greatness of his age, was a man 
called Socrates, a son of a stonemason. He was born about sixteen years later than Herodotus, and he was 
beginning to be heard of about the time when Pericles died. He himself wrote nothing, but it was his custom 
to talk in public places. There was in those days a great searching for wisdom going on; there was a various 
multitude of teachers called sophists who reasoned upon truth, beauty, and right living, and instructed the 
developing curiosities and imaginations of youth. This was so because there were no great priestly schools in 
Greece. And, into these discussions this man came, a clumsy and slovenly figure, barefooted, gathering about 
him a band of admirers and disciples. 

His method was profoundly skeptical; he believed, that the only possible virtue was true knowledge; he would 
tolerate no belief, no hope that could not pass the ultimate acid test. For himself this meant virtue, but for 



Parti 142 

many of his weaker followers it meant the loss of beliefs and moral habits that would have restrained their 
impulses. These weaklings became self-excusing, self-indulging scoundrels. Among his young associates 
were Plato, who afterwards immortalized his method in a series of philosophical dialogues, and founded the 
philosophical school of the Academy, which lasted nine hundred years, Xenophon, of the Ten Thousand, who 
described his death, and Isocrates, one of the wisest of Greek political thinkers; but there were also Critias, 
who, when Athens was utterly defeated by Sparta, was leader among the Thirty Tyrants appointed by the 
Spartans to keep the crushed city under; [4] Charmides, who was killed beside Critias when the Thirty were 
overthrown; and Alcibiades, a brilliant and complex traitor, who did much to lead Athens into the disastrous 
expedition against Syracuse which destroyed her strength, who betrayed her to the Spartans, and who was at 
last assassinated while on his way to the Persian court to contrive mischief against Greece. These latter pupils 
were not the only young men of promise whose vulgar faith and patriotism Socrates destroyed, to leave 
nothing in its place. His most inveterate enemy was a certain Anytus, whose son, a devoted disciple of 
Socrates, had become a hopeless drunkard. Through Anytus it was that Socrates was at last prosecuted for 
corrupting the youth of Athens, and condemned to death by drinking a poisonous draught made from hemlock 
(399 B.C.). 

His death is described with great beauty in the dialogue of Plato called by the name of Phaedo. 

22.3 Plato and the Academy 

Plato was born 427 B.C., and he lived for eighty years. In mental temperament Plato was of an altogether 
different type from Socrates. 

He was a most artistic and delicate writer, and Socrates could write nothing consecutive. He cared for 
beautiful things and Socrates despised them. He was supremely concerned with the ordering of public affairs 
and the scheming of happier human relationships, while Socrates, heedless of heat and cold and the opinion of 
his fellow creatures, concentrated his mind upon a serene disillusionment. Life, said Socrates, was deception; 
only the Soul lived. Plato had a very great affection for this rugged old teacher, he found his method of the 
utmost value in disentangling and cleaning up opinions, and he made him the central figure of his immortal 
dialogues; but his own thoughts and disposition turned him altogether away from the sceptical attitude. In 
many of the dialogues the voice is the voice of Socrates, but the thought is the thought of Plato. 

Plato was living in a time of doubt and questioning about all human relationships. In the great days of 
Pericles, before 450 B.C., there seems to have, been a complete satisfaction in Athens with social and political 
institutions. Then there seemed no reason for questioning. Men felt free; the community prospered; one 
suffered chiefly from jealousy. The history of Herodotus displays little or no, dissatisfaction with Athenian 
political institutions. 

But Plato, who was born about the time. Herodotus died, and who grew up in the atmosphere of a disastrous 
war and great social distress and confusion, was from the first face to face with human discord and the misfit 
of human institutions. To that challenge his mind responded. One of his earlier works and his latest are bold 
and penetrating discussions of the possible betterment of social relations. Socrates had taught him to take 
nothing for granted, not even the common relations of husband and wife or parent and child. His Republic, the 
first of all Utopian books, is a young man's dream of a city in which human life is arranged according to a 
novel and a better plan; his last unfinished work, the Laws, is a discussion of the regulation of another such 
Utopia. There is much in Plato at which we cannot even glance here, but it is a landmark in this history, it is a 
new thing in the development of mankind, this appearance of the idea of willfully and completely recasting 
human conditions. So far mankind has been living by tradition under the fear of the gods. Here is a man who 
says boldly to our race, and as if it were a quite reasonable and natural thing to say, Take hold of your lives. 
Most of these things that distress you, you can avoid; most of these things that dominate you, you can 
overthrow. You can do as you will with them. 



Part I 1 43 

One other thing besides the conflicts of the time perhaps stimulated the mind of Plato in this direction. In the 
days of Pericles Athens had founded many settlements overseas, and the setting up of these settlements had 
familiarized men with the idea that a community need not grow, it could also be made. 

Closely associated with Plato was a younger man, who later also maintained a school in Athens and lived to 
an even greater age. This was Isocrates. He was what we should call a publicist, a writer rather than an orator, 
and his peculiar work was to develop the idea of Herodotus, the idea of a unification of Greece against the 
Persian Empire, as a remedy for the baseness and confusion of her politics and the waste and destruction of 
her internecine wars. His political horizon was in some respects broader than Plato's, and in his later years he 
looked towards monarchy, and particularly towards the Macedonian monarchy of Philip, as a more unifying 
and broadening method of government than city democracy. The same drift to monarchist ideas had occurred 
in the case of that Xenophon whose Anabasis we have already mentioned. In his old age Xenophon wrote the 
Cyropaedia, a vindication both theoretically and practically of absolute monarchy as shown in the 
organization of the Persian Empire. [5] 

22.4 Aristotle and the Lyceum 

Plato taught in the Academy. To him in his old age came a certain good-looking youngster from Stagira, in 
Macedonia, Aristotle, who was the son of the Macedonian king's physician, and a man with a very different 
type of mind from that of the great Athenian. He was naturally sceptical of the imaginative will, and with a 
great respect for and comprehension of established fact. Later on, after Plato was dead, he set up a school at 
the Lyceum in Athens and taught, criticizing Plato and Socrates with a certain hardness. When he taught, the 
shadow of Alexander the Great lay across the freedom of Greece, and he favoured slavery and constitutional 
kings. 

He had previously been the tutor of Alexander for several years at the court of Philip of Macedon. Intelligent 
men were losing heart in those days, their faith in the power of men to make their own conditions of life was 
fading. There were no more Utopias. The rush of events was manifestly too powerful for such organized effort 
as was then practicable between men of fine intelligence. It was possible to think of recasting human society 
when human society was a little city of a few thousand citizens, but what was happening about them was 
something cataclysmal; it was the political recasting of the whole known world, of the affairs of what even 
then must have amounted to something between fifty and a hundred million people. It was recasting upon a 
scale no human mind was yet equipped to grasp. It drove thought back upon the idea of a vast and implacable 
Fate. It made men snatch at whatever looked stable and unifying. Monarchy, for instance, for all its manifest 
vices, was a conceivable government for millions; it had, to a certain extent, worked; it imposed a ruling will 
where it would seem that a collective will was impossible. This change of the general intellectual mood 
harmonized with Aristotle's natural respect for existing fact. If, on the one hand, it made him approve of 
monarchy and slavery and the subjection of women as reasonable institutions, on the other hand it made him 
eager to understand fact and to get some orderly knowledge of these realities of nature and human-nature that 
were now so manifestly triumphant over the creative dreams of the preceding generation. He is terribly sane 
and luminous, and terribly wanting in self-sacrificial enthusiasm. He questions Plato when Plato would exile 
poets from his Utopia, for poetry is a power; he directs his energy along a line diametrically opposed to 
Socrates' depreciation of Anaxagoras. He anticipates Bacon and the modern scientific movement in his 
realization of the importance of ordered knowledge. He set himself to the task of gathering together and 
setting down knowledge. He was the first natural historian. Other men before him had speculated about the 
nature of things, but he, with every young man he could win over to the task, set himself to classify and 
compare things. Plato says, in effect: Let us take hold of life and remodel it; this soberer successor: Let us first 
know more of life and meanwhile serve the king. It was not so much a contradiction as an immense 
qualification of the master. 

The peculiar relation of Aristotle to Alexander the Great enabled him to procure means for his work such as 
were not available again for scientific inquiry for long ages. He could command hundreds of talents (a talent 



Part I 1 44 

== about 240) for his expenses. At one time he had at his disposal a thousand men scattered throughout Asia 
and Greece, collecting matter for his natural history. They were, of course, very untrained observers, 
collectors of stories rather than observers; but nothing of the kind had ever been attempted, had even been 
thought of, so far as we know, before his time. Political as well as natural science began. The students of the 
Lyceum under his direction made an analysis of 158 political constitutions. . . . 

This was the first gleam of organized science in the world. The early death of Alexander and the breaking up 
of his empire almost before it had begun, put an end to endowments on this scale for 2,000 years. Only in 
Egypt at the Alexandria Museum did any scientific research continue, and that only for a few generations. Of 
that we will presently tell. Fifty years after Aristotle's death the Lyceum had already dwindled to 
insignificance. 

22.5 Philosophy Becomes Unworldly 

The general drift of thought in the concluding years of the fourth, century B.C. was not with Aristotle, nor 
towards the laborious and necessary accumulation of ordered knowledge. It is possible that without his 
endowments from the king he would have made but a small figure in intellectual history. Through them he 
was able to give his splendid intelligence substance and effect. The ordinary man prefers easy ways so long as 
they may be followed, and is almost wilfully heedless whether they end at last in a cul-de-sac. Finding the 
stream of events too powerful to control at once, the generality of philosophical teachers drifted in those days 
from the scheming of model cities and the planning of new ways of living into the elaboration of beautiful and 
consoling systems of evasion. 

Perhaps that is putting things coarsely and unjustly. But let Professor Gilbert Murray speak upon this matter. 
[6] 

The Cynics cared only for virtue and the relation of the soul to God; the world and its learning and its honours 
were as dross to them. The Stoics and Epicureans, so far apart at first sight, were very similar in their ultimate 
aim. What they really cared about was ethics-the practical question how a man should order his life. Both, 
indeed, gave themselves to some science-the Epicureans, to physics, the Stoics to logic and rhetoric-but only 
as a means to an end. The Stoic tried to win men's hearts and convictions by sheer subtlety of abstract 
argument and dazzling sublimity of thought and expression. The Epicurean was determined to make 
Humanity go its way without cringing to capricious gods and without sacrificing Free-Will. He condensed his 
gospel into four maxims: God is not to be feared; Death cannot be felt; the Good can be won; all that we dread 
can be borne and conquered. 

And meanwhile the stream of events flowed on, with a reciprocal indifference to philosophy. 

22.6 The Quality and Limitations of Greek Thought 

If the Greek classics are to be read with any benefit by modern men, they must be read as the work of men 
like ourselves. Regard must be had to their traditions, their opportunities, and their limitations. There is a 
disposition to exaggeration in all human admiration; most of our classical texts are very much mangled, and 
all were originally the work of human beings in difficulties, living in a time of such darkness and narrowness 
of outlook as makes our own age by comparison a period of dazzling illumination. What we shall lose in 
reverence by this familiar treatment, we shall gain in sympathy for that group of troubled, uncertain, and very 
modern minds. The Athenian writers were, indeed, the first of modern men. They were discussing questions 
that we still discuss; they began to struggle with the great problems that confront us to-day. Their writings are 
our dawn. [7] 

They began an inquiry, and they arrived at no solutions. We cannot pretend to-day that we have arrived at 
solutions to most of the questions they asked. The mind of the Hebrews, as we have already shown, awoke 



Part I 1 45 

suddenly to the endless miseries and disorders of life, saw that these miseries and disorders were largely due 
to the lawless acts of men, and concluded that salvation could come only through subduing ourselves to the 
service of the one God who rules heaven and earth. The Greek, rising to the same perception, was not 
prepared with the same idea of a patriarchal deity; he lived in a world in which there was not God but the 
gods; if perhaps he felt that the gods themselves were limited, then he thought of Fate behind them, cold and 
impersonal. So he put his problem in the form of an inquiry as to what was right living, without any definite 
correlation of the right-living man with the will of God. ... To us, looking at the matter from a standpoint 
purely historical, the common problem can now be presented in a form that, for the purposes of history, 
covers both the Hebrew and Greek way of putting it. We have seen our kind rising out of the unconsciousness 
of animals to a continuing racial self-consciousness, realizing the unhappiness of its wild diversity of aims, 
realizing the inevitable tragedy of individual self-seeking, and feeling its way blindly towards some linking 
and subordinating idea to save it from the pains and accidents of mere individuality. The gods, the god-king, 
the idea of the tribe, the idea of the city; here are ideas that have claimed and held for a time the devotion of 
men, ideas in which they have a little lost their individual selfishness and escaped to the realization of a more 
enduring life. Yet, as our wars and disasters prove, none of these greater ideas have yet been great enough. 
The gods have failed to protect, the tribe has proved itself vile and cruel, the city ostracized one's best and 
truest friends, the god-king made a beast of himself. . . . 

As we read over the speculative literature of this great period of the Greeks, we realize three barriers set about 
the Greek mind, from which it rarely escaped, but from which we now perhaps are beginning to escape. 

and like the world of savages and dreams. Infantile thought and dreams are a re-echo of prehistoric and savage 
methods of thinking. Myths, says Jung, are the mass dreams of peoples, and dreams the myths of individuals. 
We have already directed the reader's attention to the resemblance of the early gods of civilization to the 
fantasies of children. The work of hard and disciplined thinking by means of carefully analyzed words and 
statements which was begun by the Greek thinkers and resumed, by the scholastic philosophers of whom we 
shall tell in the middle ages, was a necessary preliminary to the development of modern science. 

The first of these limitations was the obsession of the Greek mind by the idea of the city as the ultimate state. 
In a world in which empire had followed empire, each greater than its predecessor, in a world through which 
men and ideas drove ever more loosely and freely, in a world visibly unifying even then, the Greeks, because 
of their peculiar physical and political circumstances, were still dreaming impossibly of a compact little city 
state, impervious to outer influences, valiantly secure against the whole world. Plato's estimate of the number 
of citizens in a perfect state varied between 1,000 (the Republic) and 5,040 (the Laws) citizens. [8] This state 
was to go to, war and hold its own against other cities of the same size. And this was not a couple of 
generations after the hosts of Xerxes had crossed the Hellespont! 

Perhaps these Greeks thought the day of world empires had passed for ever, whereas it was only beginning. At 
the utmost their minds reached out to alliances and leagues. There must have been men at the court of 
Artaxerxes thinking far away beyond these little ideas of the rocky creek, the island, and the 
mountain-encircled valley. But the need for unification against the greater powers that moved outside the 
Greek-speaking world, the Greek mind disregarded wilfully. These outsiders were barbarians, not to be 
needlessly thought about; they were barred out now from Greece for ever. One took Persian money; 
everybody took Persian money; what did it matter? Or one enlisted for a time in their armies (as Xenophon 
did) and hoped for his luck with a rich prisoner. Athens took sides in Egyptian affairs, and carried on minor 
wars with Persia, but there was no conception of a common policy or a common future for Greece. . . . Until 
at last a voice in Athens began to shout Macedonia! to clamour like a watch-dog, Macedonia I This was the 
voice of the orator and demagogue, Demosthenes, hurling warnings and threats and denunciations at King 
Philip of Macedon, who had learnt his politics not only from Plato and Aristotle, but also from Isocrates and 
Xenophon, and from Babylon and Susa, and who was preparing quietly, ably, and steadfastly to dominate all 
Greece, and through Greece to conquer the known world. . . . 



Parti 146 

There was a second thing that cramped the Greek mind, the institution of domestic slavery. Slavery was 
implicit in Greek life; men could conceive of neither comfort nor dignity without it. But slavery shuts off 
one's sympathy not only from a class of one's fellow subjects; it puts the slave-owner into a class and 
organization against all stranger men. One is of an elect tribe. Plato, carried by his clear reason and the noble 
sanity of his spirit beyond the things of the present, would have abolished slavery; much popular feeling and 
the New Comedy were against it; the Stoics and Epicureans, many of whom were slaves, condemned it as 
unnatural, but finding it too strong to upset, decided that it did not affect the soul and might be ignored. With 
the wise, there was no bound or free. To the matter-of-fact Aristotle, and probably to most practical men, its 
abolition was inconceivable. So they declared that there were in the world men naturally slaves. . . . 

Finally, the thought of the Greeks was hampered by a want of knowledge that is almost inconceivable to us 
to-day. They had no knowledge of the past of mankind at all; at best they had a few shrewd guesses. They had 
no knowledge of geography beyond the range of the Mediterranean basin and the frontiers of Persia. We know 
far more to-day of what was going on in Susa, Persepolis, Babylon, and Memphis in the time of Pericles than 
he did. Their astronomical ideas were still in the state of rudimentary speculations. Anaxagoras, greatly 
daring, thought the sun and moon were vast globes, so vast that the sun was probably as big as all the 
Peloponnesus. Their ideas in physics and chemistry were the results of profound cogitation; it is wonderful 
that they did guess at atomic structure. One has to remember their extraordinary poverty in the matter of 
experimental apparatus. They had coloured glass for ornament, but no white glass; no accurate means of 
measuring the minor intervals of time, no really efficient numerical notation, no very accurate scales, no 
rudiments of telescope or microscope. A modern scientific man dumped down in the Athens of Pericles would 
have found the utmost difficulty in demonstrating the elements of his knowledge, however crudely, to the men 
he would have found there. He would have had to rig up the simplest apparatus under every disadvantage, 
while Socrates pointed out the absurdity of seeking Truth with pieces of wood and string and metal such as 
small boys use for fishing. And our professor of science would also have been in constant danger of a 
prosecution for impiety. 

Our world to-day draws upon relatively immense accumulations of knowledge of fact. In the age of Pericles 
scarcely the first stone of our comparatively tremendous cairn of things recorded and proved had been put in 
place. When we reflect upon this difference, then it ceases to be remarkable that the Greeks, with all their 
aptitude for political speculation, were blind to the insecurities of their civilization from without and from 
within, to the necessity for effective unification, to the swift rush of events that was to end for long ages these 
first brief freedoms of the human mind. 

It is not in the results it achieved, but in the attempts it made, that the true value for us of this group of Greek 
talkers and writers lies. It is not that they answered questions, but that they dared to ask them. Never before 
had man challenged his world and the way of life to which he found his birth had brought him. Never had he 
said before that he could alter his conditions. Tradition and a seeming necessity had held him to life as he had 
found it grown up about his tribe since time immemorial. Hitherto he had taken the world as children still take 
the homes and habits in which they have been reared. 

So in the fifth and fourth centuries B.C. we perceive, most plainly in Judea and in Athens, but by no means 
confined to those centres, the beginnings of a moral and an intellectual process in mankind, an appeal to 
righteousness and an appeal to the truth from the passions and confusions and immediate appearances of 
existence. It is like the dawn of the sense of responsibility in a youth, who suddenly discovers that life is 
neither easy nor aimless. Mankind is growing up. The rest of history for three and twenty centuries is threaded 
with the spreading out and development and interaction and the clearer and more effective statement of these 
main leading ideas. Slowly more and more men apprehend the reality of human brotherhood, the needlessness 
of wars and cruelties and oppression, the possibilities of a common purpose for the whole of our kind. In 
every generation thereafter there is the evidence of men seeking for that better order to which they feel our 
world must come. But everywhere and wherever in any man the great constructive ideas have taken hold, the 
hot greeds, the jealousies, the suspicions and impatience that are in the nature of every one of us, war against 



Part I 1 47 

the struggle towards greater and broader purposes. The last twenty-three centuries of history are like the 
efforts of some impulsive, hasty immortal to think clearly and live rightly. Blunder follows blunder; 
promising beginnings end in grotesque disappointments; streams of living water are poisoned by the cup that 
conveys them to the thirsty lips of mankind. But the hope of men rises again at last after every disaster. . . . 

We pass on now to the story of one futile commencement, one glorious shattered beginning of human unity. 
There was in Alexander the Great knowledge and imagination, power and opportunity, folly, egotism, 
detestable vulgarity, and an immense promise broken by the accident of his early death while men were still 
dazzled by its immensity. 

23.0 The Career of Alexander the Great 

23.1 Philip of Macedonia 

23.2 The Murder of King Philip 

23.3 Alexander's First Conquests 

23.4 The Wanderings of Alexander 

23.5 Was Alexander Indeed Great? 

23.6 The Successors of Alexander 

23.7 Pergamum, A Refuge of Culture 

23.8 Alexander as a Portent of World Unity 

23.1 Philip of Macedonia 

The true hero of the story of Alexander is not so much Alexander as his father Philip. The author of a piece 
does not shine in the limelight as the actor does, and it was Philip who planned much of the greatness that his 
son achieved, who laid the foundations and forged the tools, who had indeed already begun the Persian 
expedition at the time of his death. Philip, beyond doubting, was one of the greatest monarchs the world has 
ever seen; he was a man of the utmost intelligence and ability, and his range of ideas was vastly beyond the 
scope of his time. He made Aristotle his friend; he must have discussed with him those schemes for the 
organization of real knowledge which the philosopher was to realize later through Alexander's endowments. 
Philip, so far as we can judge, seems to have been Aristotle's Prince; to him Aristotle turned as men turn only 
to those whom they admire and trust. To Philip also Isocrates appealed as the great leader who should unify 
and ennoble the chaotic public life of Greece. 

In many books it is stated that Philip was a man of incredible cynicism and of uncontrolled lusts. It is true that 
at feasts, like all the Macedonians of his time, he was a. hard drinker and sometimes drunken" it was probably 
considered unamiable not to drink excessively at feasts; but of the other accusations there is no real proof, and 
for evidence we have only the railings of such antagonists as Demosthenes, the Athenian demagogue and 
orator, a man of reckless rhetoric. The quotation of a phrase or so will serve to show to what the patriotic 
anger of Demosthenes could bring him. In one of the Philippics, as his denunciations of Philip are called, be 
gives vent in this style: 

[Fig. 0311 Philip of Macedon] 



Parti 148 

Philip"a man who not only is no Greek, and no way akin to the Greeks, but is not even a barbarian from a 
respectable country"no, a pestilent fellow of Macedon, a country from which we never get even a decent 
slave. And so on and so on. We know, as a matter of fact, that the Macedonians were an Aryan people very 
closely akin to the Greeks, and t hat Philip was probably the best educated man of his time. This was the spirit 
in which the adverse accounts of Philip were written. 

When Philip became king of Macedonia, in 359 B.C., his country was a little country without a seaport or 
industries or any considerable city. It had a peasant population, Greek almost in language and ready to be 
Greek in sympathies, but more purely Nordic in blood than any people to the south of it. Philip made this little 
barbaric state into a great one; he created the most efficient military organization the world had so far seen, 
and he had brought most of Greece into one confederacy under his leadership at the time of his death. And his 
extraordinary quality, his power of thinking out beyond the current ideas of his time, is shown not so much in 
those matters as in the care with which be had his son trained to carry on the policy he had created. He is one 
of the few monarchs in history who cared for his successor. Alexander was, as few other monarchs have ever 
been, a specially educated king; he was educated for empire. Aristotle was but one of the several able tutors 
his father chose for him. 

Philip confided his policy to him, and entrusted him with commands and authority by the time he was sixteen. 
He commanded the cavalry at Chaeronea under his father's eye. He was nursed into power "generously and 
unsuspiciously. 

To any one who reads his life with care it is evident that Alexander started with an equipment of training and 
ideas of unprecedented value. As he got beyond the wisdom of his upbringing he began to blunder and 
misbehave"sometimes with a dreadful folly. The defects of his character had triumphed over his upbringing 
long before he died. 

Philip was a king after the old pattern, a leader-king, first among his peers, of the ancient Nordic Aryan type. 
The army he found in Macedonia consisted of a general foot levy and a noble equestrian order called the 
companions. The people were farmers and hunters and somewhat drunken in their habits, but ready for 
discipline and good fighting stuff. And if the people were homely, the government was intelligent and alert. 
For some generations the court language had been Attic (= Athenian) Greek, and the court had been 
sufficiently civilized to shelter and entertain such great figures as Euripides, who died there in 406 B.C., and 
Zeuxis the artist. Moreover, Philip, before his accession, had spent some years as a hostage in Greece. He had 
had as good an education as Greece could give at that time. He was, therefore, quite familiar with what we 
may call the idea of Isocrates"the idea of a great union of the Greek states in Europe to dominate the Eastern 
world; and he knew, too, how incapable was the Athenian democracy, because of its constitution and 
tradition, of taking the opportunity that lay before it. For it was an opportunity that would have to be shared. 
To the Athenians or the Spartans it would mean letting in a lot of foreigners to the advantages of citizenship. 
It would mean lowering themselves to the level of equality and fellowship with Macedonians" people from, 
whom we do not get even a decent slave. 

There was no way to secure unanimity among the Greeks for the contemplated enterprise except by some 
revolutionary political action. It was no love of peace that kept the Greeks from such an adventure; it was their 
political divisions. The resources of the several states were exhausted in a series of internecine wars"wars 
arising out of the merest excuses and fanned by oratorical wind. The ploughing of certain sacred lands near 
Delphi by the Phocians was, for example, the pretext for a sanguinary Sacred War. 

[Fig. 0313 Growth of Macedonia under Philip] 

Philip's first years of kingship were, devoted to the discipline of his army. Hitherto most of the main battle 
fighting in the world had been done by footmen in formation. In the very ancient Sumerian battle-pieces we 
see spearmen in close order forming the main battle, just as they did in the Zulu armies of the nineteenth 



Part I 1 49 

century; the Greek troops of Philip's time were still fighting in that same style; the Theban phalanx was a mass 
of infantry holding spears, the hinder ranks thrusting their longer spears between the front-line men. Such a 
formation went through anything less disciplined that opposed it. 

Mounted archers could, of course, inflict considerable losses on such a mass of men, and accordingly, as the 
horse came into warfare, horsemen appeared on either side as an accessory to this main battle. The reader 
must remember that the horse did not come into very effective use in western war until the rise of the 
Assyrians, and then at first only as a chariot horse. The chariots drove full tilt at the infantry mass and tried to 
break it. Unless its discipline was very solid they succeeded. The Homeric fighting is chariot fighting. It is not 
until the last thousand years B.C. that we begin to find mounted soldiers, as distinct from charioteers, playing 
a part in warfare. At first they appear to have fought in a scattered fashion, each man doing his personal feats. 
So the Lydians fought against Cyrus. It was Philip who seems to have created charging cavalry. He caused his 
companions to drill for a massed charge. And also he strengthened his phalanx by giving the rear men longer 
spears than had been used hitherto, and so deepening its mass. The Macedonian phalanx was merely a more 
solid version of the Theban phalanx. None of these massed infantry formations was flexible enough to stand a 
flank or rear attack. They had very slight manoeuvring power. Both Philip's and his son's victories followed, 
therefore, with variations, one general scheme of co-operation between these two arms. The phalanx advanced 
in the centre and held the enemy's main body; on one wing or the other the cavalry charges swept away the 
enemy cavalry, and then swooped round upon the flank and rear of the enemy phalanx, the front of which the 
Macedonian phalanx was already smiting. The enemy main battle then broke and was massacred. As 
Alexander's military experience grew, he also added a use of catapults in the field, big stone-throwing affairs, 
to break up the enemy infantry. Before his time catapults had been used in sieges, but never in battles. He 
invented artillery preparation. 

With the weapon of his new army in his hand, Philip first turned his attention to the north of Macedonia. He 
carried expeditions into Illyria and as far as the Danube; he also spread his power along the coast as far as the 
Hellespont. He secured possession of a port, Amphipolis, and certain gold mines adjacent. After several 
Thracian expeditions he turned southward in good earnest. He took up the cause of the Delphic amphictyony 
against those sacrilegious Phocians, and so appeared as the champion of Hellenic religion. 

There was a strong party of Greeks, it must be understood, a Pan-Hellenic party, in favour of the Greek 
headship of Philip. The chief writer of this Pan-Hellenic movement was Isocrates. Athens, on the other hand, 
was the head and front of the opposition to Philip, and Athens was in open sympathy with Persia, even 
sending emissaries to the Great King to warn him of the danger to him of a united Greece. The comings and 
goings of twelve years cannot be related here. In 338 B.C. the long struggle between division and 
pan-Hellenism came to a decisive issue, and at the battle of Chaeronea Philip inflicted a crushing defeat upon 
Athens and her allies. He gave Athens peace upon astonishingly generous terms; he displayed himself 
steadfastly resolved to propitiate and favour that implacable city; and in 338 B.C. a congress of Greek states 
recognized him as captain-general for the war against Persia. 

He was now a man of forty-seven. It seemed as though the world lay at his feet. He had made his little country 
into the leading state in a great Graeco-Macedonian confederacy. That unification was to be the prelude to a 
still greater one, the unification of the Western world with the Persian empire into one world state of all 
known peoples. Who can doubt he had that dream? The writings of Isocrates convince us that be had it. Who 
can deny that he might have realized it? He had a reasonable hope of living for perhaps another quarter 
century of activity. In 336 B.C. his advanced guard crossed into Asia. . . . 

But be never followed with his main force. He was assassinated. 

23.2 The Murder of King Philip 

It is necessary now to tell something of the domestic life of King Philip. The lives of both Philip and his son 



Part I 1 50 

were pervaded by the personality of a restless and evil woman, Olympias, the mother of Alexander. 

She was the daughter of the king of Epirus, a country to the west of Macedonia, and, like Macedonia, a 
semi-Greek land. She met Philip, or was thrown in his way, at some religious gathering in Samothrace. 
Plutarch declares the marriage was a love-match, and there seems to be at least this much in the charges 
against Philip that, like many energetic and imaginative men, he was prone to impatient love impulses. He 
married her when he was already a king, and Alexander was born to him three years later. 

[Fig. 0316 Macedonian Warrior (Bas-relief from Pella)] 

It was not long before Olympias and Philip were bitterly estranged. She was jealous of him, but there was 
another and graver source of trouble in her passion for religious mysteries. We have already noted that 
beneath the fine and restrained Nordic religion of the Greeks the land abounded with religious cults of a 
darker and more ancient kind, aboriginal cults with secret initiations, orgiastic celebrations, and often with 
cruel and obscene rites. These religions of the shadows, these practices of the women and peasants and slaves, 
gave Greece her Orphic, Dionysic, and Demeter cults; they have lurked in the tradition of Europe down 
almost to our own times. The witchcraft of the Middle Ages, with its resort to the blood of babes, scraps of 
executed criminals, incantations and magic circles, seems to have been little else than the lingering vestiges of 
these solemnities of the dark whites. In these matters Olympias was an expert and an enthusiast, and Plutarch 
mentions that she achieved considerable celebrity by use of tame serpents in these pious exercises. The snakes 
invaded her domestic apartments, and history is not clear whether Philip found in them matter for 
exasperation or religious awe. These occupations of his wife must have been a serious inconvenience to 
Philip, for the Macedonian people were still in that sturdy stage of social development in which neither 
enthusiastic religiosity nor uncontrollable wives are admired. 

The evidence of a bitter hostility between mother and father peeps out in many little things in the histories. 
She was evidently jealous is of Philip's conquests; she hated his fame. There are many signs that Olympias did 
her best to set her son against his father and attach him wholly to herself. A story survives (in Plutarch's Life) 
that whenever news was brought of Philip's victories, the capture of a city or the winning of some great battle, 
he never seemed greatly rejoiced to hear it; on the contrary he used to say to his play-fellows: 'Father will get 
everything in advance, boys; he won't leave any great task for me to share with you. ' . . . 

It is not a natural thing for a boy to envy his father in this fashion without some inspiration. That sentence 
sounds like an echo. 

We have already pointed out how manifest it is that Philip planned the succession of Alexander, and how 
eager he was to thrust fame and power into the boy's hands. He was thinking of the political structure he was 
building-but the mother was thinking of the glory and pride of that wonderful lady, Olympias. She masked her 
hatred of her husband under the cloak of a mother's solicitude for her son's future. When in 337 B.C. Philip, 
after the fashion of kings in those days, married a second wife who was a native Macedonian, Cleopatra, of 
whom he was passionately enamoured, Olympias made much trouble. 

Plutarch tells of a pitiful scene that occurred at Philip's marriage to Cleopatra. There was much drinking of 
wine at the banquet, and Attalus, the father of the bride, being intoxicated with liquor, betrayed the general 
hostility to Olympias and Epirus by saying he hoped there would be a child by the marriage to give them a 
truly Macedonian heir. Whereupon Alexander, taut for such an insult, cried out, What then am I ? and hurled 
his cup at Attalus. Philip, enraged, stood up and, says Plutarch, drew his sword, only to stumble and fall. 
Alexander, blind with rage and jealousy, taunted and insulted his father. 

Macedonians, he said. See there the general who would go from Europe to Asia! Why! he cannot get from one 
table to another! 



Parti 151 

How that scene lives still, the sprawl, the flushed faces, the angry voice of the boy! Next day Alexander 
departed with his mother-and Philip did nothing to restrain them. Olympias went home to Epirus; Alexander 
departed to Illyria. Thence Philip persuaded him to return. 

Fresh trouble arose. Alexander had a brother of weak intellect, Aridaeus, whom the Persian governor of Caria 
sought as a son-in-law. Alexander's friends and his mother now infused notions into him again, though 
perfectly groundless, that by so noble a match, and the support consequent upon it, Philip designed the crown 
for Aridaeus. Alexander, in the uneasiness these suspicions gave him, sent one Thessalus, a player, into Caria, 
to desire the grandee to pass by Aridaeus, who was of spurious birth, and deficient in point of understanding, 
and to take the lawful heir to the crown into his alliance. Pixodarus was infinitely more pleased with this 
proposal. But Philip no sooner had intelligence of it, than he went to Alexander's apartment, taking along with 
him Philotas, the son of Parmenio, one of his most intimate friends and companions, and, in his presence, 
reproached him with his degeneracy and meanness of spirit, in thinking of being son-in-law to a man of Caria, 
one of the slaves of a barbarian king: At the same time he wrote to the Corinthians, insisting that they should 
send Thessalus to him in chains. Harpalus and Niarchus, Phrygius and Ptolemy, some of the other companions 
of the prince, he banished. But Alexander afterwards recalled them, and treated them with great distinction. 

There is something very touching in this story of the father pleading with the son he manifestly loved, and 
baffled by the web of mean suggestion which had been spun about the boy's imagination. 

It was at the marriage of his daughter to her uncle, the king of Epirus and the brother of Olympias, that Philip 
was stabbed. He was walking in a procession into the theatre unarmed, in a white robe, and he was cut down 
by one of his bodyguard. The murderer had a horse waiting, and would have got away, but the foot of his 
horse caught in a wild vine and he was thrown from the saddle by the stumble and slain by his pursuers .... ' 

So at the age of twenty Alexander was at the end of his anxiety about the succession, and established king in 
Macedonia. 

Olympias then reappeared in Macedonia, a woman proudly vindicated. It is said that she insisted upon paying 
the same funeral honours to the memory of the murderer as to Philip. 

In Greece there were great rejoicings over this auspicious event, and Demosthenes, when he had the news, 
although it was but seven days after the death of his own daughter, went into the public assembly at Athens in 
gay attire wearing a chaplet. 

Whatever Olympias may have done about her husband's assassin, history does not doubt about her treatment 
of her supplanter, Cleopatra. So soon as Alexander was out of the way-and a revolt of the hillmen in the north 
called at once for his attention-Cleopatra's newly born child was killed in its mother's arms, and Cleopatra-no 
doubt after a little taunting-was then strangled. These excesses of womanly feeling are said to have shocked 
Alexander, but they did not prevent him from leaving his mother in a position of considerable authority in 
Macedonia. She wrote letters to him upon religious and political questions, and he showed a dutiful 
disposition in sending her always a large share of the plunder he made. 

23.3 Alexander's First Conquests 

These stories have to be told because history cannot be understood without them. Here was the great world of 
men between India and the Adriatic ready for union, ready as it had never been before for a unifying control. 
Here was the wide order of the Persian empire with its roads, its posts, its general peace and prosperity, ripe 
for the fertilizing influence of the Greek mind. And these stories display the quality of the human beings to 
whom those great opportunities came. Here was this Philip who was a very great and noble man, and yet he 
was drunken, he could keep no order in his household. Here was Alexander in many ways gifted above any 
man of his time, and he was vain, suspicious, and passionate, with a mind set awry by his mother. 



Part I 1 52 

We are beginning to understand something of what the world might be, something of what our race might 
become, were it not for our still raw humanity. It is barely a matter of seventy generations between ourselves 
and Alexander; and between ourselves and the savage hunters, our ancestors, who charred their food in the 
embers or ate it raw, intervene some four or five hundred generations. There is not much scope for the 
modification of a species in four or five hundred generations. Make men and women only sufficiently jealous 
or fearful or drunken or angry, and the hot red eyes of the cavemen will glare out at us to-day. We have 
writing and teaching, science and power; we have tamed the beasts and schooled the lightning; but we are still 
only shambling towards the light. We have tamed and bred the beasts, but we have still to tame and breed 
ourselves. 

From the very beginning of his reign the deeds of Alexander showed how well he had assimilated his father's 
plans, and. how great were his own abilities. A map of the known world is needed to show the course of his 
life. At first, after receiving assurances from Greece that he was to be captain-general of the Grecian forces, 
he marched through Thrace to the Danube; he crossed the river and burnt a village, the second great monarch 
to raid the Scythian country beyond the Danube; then recrossed it and marched westward and so came down 
by Illyria. By that time the city of Thebes was in rebellion, and his next blow was at Greece. 
Thebes "unsupported of course by Athens"was taken and looted; it was treated with extravagant violence; all 
its buildings, except the temple and the house of the poet Pindar, were razed, and thirty thousand people sold 
into slavery. Greece was stunned, and Alexander was free to go on with the Persian campaign. 

This destruction of Thebes betrayed a streak of violence in the new master of human destinies. It was too 
heavy a blow to have dealt. It was a barbaric thing to do. If the spirit of rebellion was killed, so also was the 
spirit of help. The Greek states remained inert thereafter, neither troublesome nor helpful. They would not 
support Alexander with their shipping, a thing which was to prove a very grave embarrassment to him. 

There is a story told by Plutarch about this Theban massacre, as if it redounded to the credit of Alexander, but 
indeed it shows only how his saner and his crazy sides were in conflict. It tells of a Macedonian officer and a 
Theban lady. This officer was among the looters, and he entered this woman's house, inflicted unspeakable 
insults and injuries upon her, and at last demanded whether she had gold or silver hidden. She told him all her 
treasures had been, put into the well, conducted him thither, and, as be stooped to peer down, pushed him 
suddenly in and killed him by throwing great stones upon him. Some allied soldiers came upon this scene and 
took her forthwith to Alexander for judgment. 

She defied him. Already the extravagant impulse that had ordered the massacre was upon the wane, and he not 
only spared her, but had her family and property and freedom restored to her. This Plutarch makes out to be a 
generosity, but the issue is more complicated than that. It was Alexander who was outraging and plundering 
and enslaving all Thebes. That poor crumpled Macedonian brute in the well had been doing only what he had 
been told he had full liberty to do. Is a commander first to give cruel orders, and then to forgive and reward 
those who slay his instruments? This gleam of remorse at the instance of one woman who was not perhaps 
wanting in tragic dignity and beauty, is a poor setoff to the murder of a great city. 

Mixed with the craziness of Olympias in Alexander was the sanity of Philip and the teachings of Aristotle. 
This Theban business certainly troubled the mind of Alexander. Whenever afterwards he encountered 
Thebans, he tried to show them special favour. Thebes, to his credit, haunted him. 

Yet the memory of Thebes did not save three other great cities from similar brain storms; Tyre he destroyed, 
and Gaza, and a city in India, in the storming of which he was knocked down in fair fight and wounded; and 
of the latter place not a soul, not a child, was spared. He must have been badly frightened to have taken so evil 
a revenge. 

At the outset of the war the Persians had this supreme advantage, they were practically masters of the sea. The 
ships of the Athenians and their allies sulked unhelpfully. Alexander, to get at Asia, had to go round by the 



Part I 1 53 

Hellespont; and if he pushed far into the Persian empire, he ran the risk of being cut off completely from his 
base. His first task, therefore, was to cripple the enemy at sea, and this he could only do by marching along 
the coast of Asia Minor and capturing port after port until the Persian sea bases were destroyed. If the Persians 
had avoided battle and hung upon his lengthening line of communications they could probably have destroyed 
him, but this they did not do. A Persian army not very much greater than his own gave battle on the banks of 
the Granicus (334 B.C.) and was destroyed. This left him free to take Sardis, Ephesus, Miletus, and, after a 
fierce struggle, Halicarnassus. Meanwhile the Persian fleet was on his right flank and between him and 
Greece, threatening much but accomplishing nothing. 

In 333 B.C., pursuing this attack upon the sea bases, he marched along the coast as far as the head of the gulf 
now called the Gulf of Alexandretta. A huge Persian army, under the great king Darius III, was inland of his 
line of march, separated from the coast by mountains, and Alexander went right beyond this enemy force 
before he or the Persians realized their proximity. Scouting was evidently very badly done by Greek and 
Persian alike. The Persian army was a vast, ill-organized assembly of soldiers, transport, camp followers, and 
so forth. Darius, for instance, was accompanied by his harem, and there was a great multitude of harem slaves, 
musicians, dancers, and cooks. Many of the leading officers had brought their families to witness the hunting 
down of the Macedonian invaders. The troops had been levied from every province in the empire; they had no 
tradition or principle of combined action. Seized by the idea of cutting off Alexander from Greece, Darius 
moved this multitude over the mountains to the sea; he had the luck to get through the passes without 
opposition, and he encamped on the plain of Issus between the mountains and the shore. And there Alexander, 
who had turned back to fight, struck him. The cavalry charge and the phalanx smashed this great brittle host 
as a stone smashes a bottle. It was routed. Darius escaped from his war chariof'that out-of-date 
instrumenf'and fled on horseback, leaving even his harem in the hands of Alexander. 

All the accounts of Alexander after this battle show him at his best. He was restrained and magnanimous. He 
treated the Persian princesses with the utmost civility. And he kept his head; he held steadfastly to his plan. 
He let Darius escape, unpursued, into Syria, and he continued his march upon the naval bases of the 
Persians"that is to say, upon the Phoenician ports of Tyre and Sidon. 

Sidon surrendered to him; Tyre resisted. 

[Fig. 0323 Campaigns of Alexander the Great] 

Here, if anywhere, we have the evidence of great military ability on the part of Alexander. His army was his 
father's creation, but Philip had never shone in the siege of cities. When Alexander was a boy of sixteen, he 
had seen his father repulsed by the fortified city of Byzantium upon the Bosphorus. Now he was face to face 
with an inviolate city which had stood siege after siege, which had resisted Nebuchadnezzar the Great for 
fourteen years. 

For the standing of sieges Semitic peoples hold the palm. Tyre was then an island half a mile from the shore, 
and her fleet was unbeaten. On the other hand, Alexander had already learnt much by the siege of the citadel 
of Halicarnassus; he had gathered to himself a corps of engineers from Cyprus and Phoenicia the Sidonian 
fleet was with him, and presently the king of Cyprus came over to him with a hundred and twenty ships, 
which gave him the command of the sea. Moreover, great Carthage, either relying on the strength of the 
mother city or being disloyal to her, and being furthermore entangled in a war in Sicily, sent no help. 

The first measure of Alexander was to build a pier from the mainland to the island, a dam which remains to 
this day; and on this, as it came close to the walls of Tyre, he set up his towers and battering-rams. Against the 
walls he also moored ships in which towers and rams were erected. The Tyrians used fire-ships against this 
flotilla, and made sorties from their two harbours. In a big surprise raid that they made on the Cyprian ships 
they were caught and badly mauled; many of their ships were rammed, and one big galley of five banks of 
oars and one of four were captured outright. Finally a breach in the walls was made, and the Macedonians, 



Part I 1 54 

clambering up the debris from their ships, stormed the city. 

The siege had lasted seven months. Gaza held out far two. In each case there was a massacre, the plundering 
of the city, and the selling of the survivors into slavery. Then towards the end of 332 B.C. Alexander entered 
Egypt, and the command of the sea was assured. Greece, which all this while had been wavering in its policy, 
decided now at last that it was an the side of Alexander, and the council of the Greek states at Corinth voted 
its captain-general a golden crown of victory. From this time onward the Greeks were with the Macedonians. 

The Egyptians also were with the Macedonians. But they had been for Alexander from the beginning. They 
had lived under Persian rule for nearly two hundred years, and the coming of Alexander meant for them only a 
change of masters; on the whale, a change for the better. The country surrendered without a blow. Alexander 
treated its religious feelings with extreme respect. He unwrapped no mummies as Cambyses had done; he 
took no liberties with Apis, the sacred bull of Memphis. Here, in great temples and upon a vast scale, 
Alexander found the evidences of a religiosity, mysterious and irrational, to remind him of the secrets and 
mysteries that had entertained his mother and impressed his childhood. During his four months in Egypt he 
flirted with religious emotions. 

He was still a very young man, we must remember, divided against himself. The strong sanity he inherited 
from his father had made him a great soldier; the teaching of Aristotle had given him something of the 
scientific outlook upon the world. He had destroyed Tyre; in Egypt, at one of the mouths of the Nile, he now 
founded a new city, Alexandria, to replace that ancient centre of trade. To the north of Tyre, near Issus, he 
founded a second port, Alexandretta. Both of these cities flourish to this day, and for a time Alexandria was 
perhaps the greatest city in the world. The sites, therefore, must have been wisely chosen. But also Alexander 
had the unstable emotional imaginativeness of his mother, and side by side with such creative work he 
indulged in religious adventures. The gods of Egypt took possession of his mind. He travelled four hundred 
miles to the remote oasis of the oracle of Ammon. He wanted to settle certain doubts about his true parentage. 
His Mother had inflamed his mind by hints and vague speeches of some deep mystery about his parentage. 
Was so ordinary a human being as Philip of Macedon really his rather? 

For nearly four hundred years Egypt, had been a country politically contemptible, overrun now by Ethiopians, 
now by Assyrians, now by Babylonians, now by Persians. As the indignities of the present became more and 
more disagreeable to contemplate, the past and the other world became more splendid to Egyptian eyes. It is 
from the festering humiliations of peoples that arrogant religious propagandas spring. To the triumphant the 
downtrodden can say, It is naught in the sight of the true gods. So the son of Philip of Macedon, the 
master-general of Greece, was made to feel a small person amidst the gigantic temples. And he had an 
abnormal share of youth's normal ambition to impress everybody. How gratifying then for him to discover 
presently that he was no mere successful mortal, not one of these modern vulgar Greekish folk, but ancient 
and divine, the son of a god, the Pharaoh god, son of Ammon Ra! 

Already in a previous chapter we have given a description of that encounter in the desert temple. 

Not altogether was the young man convinced. He had his moments of conviction; he had his saner phases 
when the thing was almost a jest. In the presence of Macedonians and Greeks he doubted if he was divine. 
When it thundered loudly, the ribald Aristarchus could ask him: Won't you do something of the sort, oh Son 
of Zeus? But the crazy notion was, nevertheless, present henceforth in his brain, ready to be inflamed by wine 
or flattery. 

Next spring (331 B.C.) he returned to Tyre, and marched thence round towards Assyria, leaving the Syrian 
desert on his right. Near the ruins of forgotten Nineveh he found a great Persian army, that had been gathering 
since the battle of Issus, awaiting him. It was another huge medley of contingents, and it relied for its chief 
force upon that now antiquated weapon, the war chariot. Of these Darius had a force of two hundred, and each 
chariot had scythes attached to its wheels and to the pole and body of the chariot. There seem to have been 



Part I 1 55 

four horses to each chariot, and it will be obvious that if one of those horses was wounded by javelin or arrow, 
that chariot was held up. The outer horses acted chiefly as buffers for the inner wheel horses; they were 
hitched to the chariot by a single outside trace which could be easily cut away, but the loss of one of the wheel 
horses completely incapacitated the whole affair. Against broken footmen or a crowd of individualist fighters 
such vehicles might be formidable; but Darius began the battle by flinging them against the cavalry and light 
infantry. Few reached their objective, and those that did were readily disposed of. There was some 
manoeuvring for position. The well-drilled Macedonians moved obliquely across the Persian front, keeping 
good order; the Persians, following this movement to the flank, opened gaps in their array. Then suddenly the 
disciplined Macedonian cavalry charged at one of these torn places and smote the centre of the Persian host. 
The infantry followed close upon their charge. The centre and left of the Persians crumpled up. For a while 
the light cavalry on the Persian right gained ground against Alexander's left, only to be cut to pieces by the 
cavalry from Thessaly, which by this time had become almost as good as its Macedonian model. The Persian 
forces ceased to resemble an army. They dissolved into a vast multitude of fugitives streaming under great 
dust clouds and without a single rally across the hot plain towards Arbela. Through the dust and the flying 
crowd rode the victors, slaying and slaying until darkness stayed the slaughter. Darius led the retreat. 

Such was the battle of Arbela. It was fought on October the 1st, 331 B.C. We know its date so exactly, 
because it is recorded that, eleven days before it began, the soothsayers on both sides had been greatly 
exercised by an eclipse of the moon. 

Darius fled to the north into the country of the Medes. Alexander marched on to Babylon. The ancient city of 
Hammurabi (who had reigned seventeen hundred years before) and of Nebuchadnezzar the Great and of 
Nabonidus was still, unlike Nineveh, a prosperous and important centre. Like the Egyptians, the Babylonians 
were not greatly concerned at a change of rule to Macedonian from Persian. The temple of Bel-Marduk was in 
ruins, a quarry for building material, but the tradition of the Chaldean priests still lingered, and Alexander 
promised to restore the building. 

Thence he marched on to Susa, once the chief city of the vanished and forgotten Elamites, and now the 
Persian capital. 

He went on to Persepolis, where, as the climax of a drunken carouse, he burnt down the great palace of the 
king of kings. This he afterwards declared was the revenge of Greece for the burning of Athens by Xerxes. 

23.4 The Wanderings of Alexander 

And now begins a new phase in the story of Alexander. For the next seven years he wandered with an army 
chiefly of Macedonians in the north and east of what was then the known world. At first it was a pursuit of 
Darius. Afterwards it became ""? Was it a systematic survey of a world he meant to consolidate into one great 
order, or was it a wild-goose chase? His own soldiers, his own intimates, thought the latter, and at last stayed 
his career beyond the Indus. On the map it looks very like a wild-goose chase; it seems to aim at nothing in 
particular and to get nowhere. 

The pursuit of Darius III soon came to a pitiful end. After the battle of Arbela his own generals seem to have 
revolted against his weakness and incompetence; they made him a prisoner, and took him with them in spite 
of his desire to throw himself upon the generosity of his conqueror. Bessus, the satrap of Bactria, they made 
their leader. There was at last a hot and exciting chase of the flying caravan which conveyed the captive king 
of kings. At dawn, after an all-night pursuit, it was sighted far ahead. The flight became a headlong bolt. 
Baggage, women, everything was abandoned by Bessus and his captains; and one other impediment also they 
left behind. By the side of a pool of water far away from the road a Macedonian trooper presently found a 
deserted mule-cart with its mules still in the traces. In this cart lay Darius, stabbed in a score of places and 
bleeding to death. He had refused to go on with Bessus, refused to mount the horse that was brought to him. 
So his captains had run him through with their spears and left him. ... He asked his captors for water. What 



Part I 1 56 

else he may have said we do not know. The historians have seen fit to fabricate a quite impossible last dying 
speech for him. Probably he said very little. . . . 

When, a little after sunrise, Alexander came up, Darius was already dead. . . . 

To the historian of the world the wanderings of Alexander have an interest of their own quite apart from the 
light they throw upon his character. Just as the campaign of Darius I lifted the curtain behind Greece and 
Macedonia, and showed us something of the silent background to the north of the audible and recorded history 
of the early civilizations, so now Alexander's campaigns take us into regions about which there had hitherto 
been no trustworthy record made. 

We discover they were not desert regions, but full of a gathering life of their own. 

He marched to the shores of the Caspian, thence he travelled eastward across what is now called Western 
Turkestan. He founded a city that is now known as Herat; whence he went northward by Cabul and by what is 
now Samarkand, right up into the mountains of Central Turkestan. He returned southward, and came down 
into India by the Khyber Pass. He fought a great battle on the Upper Indus against a very tall and chivalrous 
king, Porus, in which the Macedonian infantry encountered an array of elephants and defeated them. Possibly 
he would have pushed eastward across the deserts to the Ganges valley, but his troops refused to go further. 
Possibly, had they not done so, then or later he would have gone on until he vanished eastward out of history. 
But he was forced to turn about. He built a fleet and descended to the mouth of the Indus. There he divided his 
forces. The main army he took along the desolate coast back to the Persian Gulf, and on the way it suffered 
dreadfully and lost many men through thirst. The fleet followed him by sea, and rejoined him at the entrance 
to the Persian Gulf. In the course of this six-year tour he fought battles, received the submission of many 
strange peoples, and founded cities. He saw the dead body of Darius in June, 330 B.C.; he returned to Susa in 
324 B.C. He found the empire in disorder: the provincial satraps, raising armies of their own, Bactria and 
Media in insurrection, and Olympias making government impossible in Macedonia. Harpalus, the royal 
treasurer, had bolted with all that was portable of the royal treasure, and was making his way, bribing as he 
went, towards Greece. Some of the Harpalus money is said to have reached Demosthenes. 

But before we deal with the closing chapter of the story of Alexander, let us say a word or so about these 
northern regions into which he wandered. It is evident that from the Danube region right across South Russia, 
right across the country to the north of the Caspian, right across the country to the east of the Caspian, as far 
as the mountain masses of the Pamir Plateau and eastward into the Tarim basin of Eastern Turkestan, there 
spread then a series of similar barbaric tribes and peoples all at about the same stage of culture, and for the 
most part Aryan in their language and possibly Nordic in their race. They had few cities, mostly they were 
nomadic; at times they settled temporarily to cultivate the land. They were certainly already mingling in 
Central Asia with Mongolian tribes, but the Mongolian tribes were not then prevalent there. 

An immense process of drying up and elevation has been going on in these parts of the world during the last 
ten thousand years. Ten thousand years ago there was probably a continuous water barrier between the basin 
of the Obi and the Aral-Caspian sea. As this had dried up and the marshy land had become steppe-like 
country, Nordic nomads from the west and Mongolian nomads from the east had met and mixed, and the 
riding horse had come back into the western world. It is evident this great stretch of country was becoming a 
region of accumulation for these barbaric peoples. They were very loosely attached to the lands they occupied. 
They lived in tents and wagons rather than houses. A brief cycle of plentiful and healthy years, or a cessation 
of tribal warfare under some strong ruler, would lead to considerable increases of population; then two or 
three hard years would suffice to send the tribes wandering again in search of food. 

From before the dawn of recorded history this region of human accumulation between the Danube and China 
had been, as it were, intermittently raining out tribes southward and westward. It was like a cloud bank behind 
the settled landscape that accumulated and then precipitated invaders. We have noted how the Keltic peoples 



Part I 1 57 

drizzled westward, how the Italians, the Greeks, and their Epirote, Macedonian, and Phrygian kindred came 
south We have noted, too, the Cimmerian drive from the east, like a sudden driving shower of barbarians 
across Asia Minor, the southward coming of the Scythians and Medes and Persians, and the Aryan descent 
into India. About a century before Alexander there had been a fresh Aryan invasion of Italy by a Keltic 
people, the Gauls, who had settled in the valley of the Po. Those various races came down out of their 
northern obscurity into the light of history; and meanwhile beyond that light the reservoir accumulated for 
fresh discharges. Alexander's march in Central Asia brings now into our history names that are fresh to us; the 
Parthians, a race of mounted bowmen who were destined to play an important role in history a century or so 
later, and the Bactrians who lived in the sandy native land of the camel. Everywhere he seems to have met 
Aryan-speaking peoples. The Mongolian barbarians to the north-eastward were still unsuspected, no one 
imagined there was yet another great cloud bank of population beyond the Scythians and their kind, in the 
north of China, that was presently also to begin a drift westward and southward, mixing as it came with the 
Nordic Scythians and every other people of kindred habits that it encountered. As yet only China knew of the 
Huns; there were no Turks in Western Turkestan or anywhere else then, no Tartars, in the world. 

This glimpse of the state of affairs in Turkestan in the fourth century B.C. is one of the most interesting 
aspects of the wanderings of Alexander; another is his raid through the Punjab. From the point of view of the 
teller of the human story it is provocative that he did not go on into the Ganges country, and that consequently 
we have no independent accounts by Greek writers of the life in ancient Bengal. But there is a considerable 
literature in various Indian languages dealing with Indian history and social life that still needs to be made 
accessible to European readers. 

23.5 Was Alexander Indeed Great? 

Alexander had been in undisputed possession of the Persian empire for six years. He was now thirty-one. In 
those six years he had created very little. He had retained most of the organization of the Persian provinces, 
appointing fresh satraps or retaining the former ones; the roads, the ports, the organization of the empire was 
still as Cyrus, his greater predecessor, had left them; in Egypt he had merely replaced old provincial governors 
by new ones; in India he had defeated Poms, and then left him in power much as he found him, except that 
Poms was now called a satrap by the Greeks. Alexander had, it is tme, planned out a number of towns, and 
some of them were to grow into great towns; seventeen Alexandrias he founded altogether; [1] but he had 
destroyed Tyre, and with Tyre the security of the sea routes which had hitherto been the chief westward outlet 
for Mesopotamia. Historians say that he Hellenized the east. But Babylonia and Egypt swarmed with Greeks 
before his time; he was not the cause, he was a part of the Hellenization. For a time the whole world, from the 
Adriatic to the Indus, was under one mler; so far he had realized the dreams of Isocrates and Philip his father. 
But how far was he making this a permanent and enduring union? How far as yet was it anything more than a 
dazzling but transitory flourish of his own magnificent self? 

He was making no great roads, setting up no sure sea communications. It is idle to accuse him of leaving 
education alone, because the idea that empires must be cemented by education was still foreign to human 
thought. But he was forming no group of statesmen about him; he was thinking of no successor; he was 
creating no tradition"nothing more than a personal legend. The idea that the world would have to go on after 
Alexander, engaged in any other employment than the discussion of his magnificence, seems to have been 
outside his mental range. He was still young, it is true, but well before Philip was one and thirty he had been 
thinking of the education of Alexander. 

Was Alexander a statesman at all? 

Some students of his career assure us that he was; that now at Susa he planned a mighty world empire, seeing 
it not simply as a Macedonian conquest of the world, but as a melting together of racial traditions. He did one 
thing, at any rate, that gives colour to this idea; he held a great marriage feast, in which he and ninety of his 
generals and friends were married to Persian brides. He himself married a daughter of Darius, though already 



Part I 1 58 

he possessed an Asiatic wife in Roxana, the daughter of the king of Samarkand. This wholesale wedding was 
made a very splendid festival, and at the same time all of his Macedonian soldiers, to the number of several 
thousands, who had married Asiatic brides, were given wedding gifts. This has been called the Marriage of 
Europe and Asia; the two continents were to be joined, wrote Plutarch, in lawful wedlock and by community 
of offspring. And next he began to train recruits from Persia and the north, Parthians, Bactrians, and the like, 
in the distinctive disciplines of the phalanx and the cavalry. Was that also, to assimilate Europe and Asia, or 
was it to make himself independent of his Macedonians? They thought the latter, at any rate, and mutinied, 
and it was with some difficulty that he brought them to a penitent mood and induced them to take part in a 
common feast with the Persians The historians have made a long and eloquent speech for him on this 
occasion, but the gist of it was that he bade his Macedonians begone, and gave no sign of how he proposed 
they should get home out of Persia. After three days of dismay they submitted to him and begged his 
forgiveness. 

Here is the matter for a very pretty discussion. Was Alexander really planning a racial fusion or had he just 
fallen in love with the pomp and divinity of an Oriental monarch, and wished to get rid of these Europeans to 
whom he was only a king-leader? The writers of his own time, and those who lived near to his time, lean very 
much to the latter alternative. They insist upon his immense vanity. They relate how he began to wear the 
robes and tiara of a Persian monarch. At first only before the barbarians and privately, but afterwards he came 
to wear it in public, when he sat for the dispatch of business. And presently he demanded Oriental prostrations 
from his friends. 

One thing seems to support the suggestion of great personal vanity in Alexander. His portrait was painted and 
sculptured frequently, and always he is represented as a beautiful youth, with wonderful locks flowing 
backward from a broad forehead. Previously most men had worn beards. But Alexander, enamoured of his 
own youthful loveliness, would not part with it; he remained a sham boy at thirtytwo; he shaved his face, and 
so set a fashion in Greece and Italy that lasted many centuries. 

[Fig. 0333 Alexander the Great] 

The stories of violence and vanity in his closing years cluster thick upon his memory. He listened to 
tittle-tattle about Philotas, the son of Parmenio, one of his most trusted and faithful generals. Philotas, it was 
said, had boasted to some woman he was making love to that Alexander was a mere boy; that, but for such 
men as his father and himself, there would have been no conquest of Persia, and the like. Such assertions had 
a certain element of truth in them. The woman was brought to Alexander, who listened to her treacheries. 
Presently Philotas was accused of conspiracy, and, upon very insufficient evidence, tortured and executed. 
Then Alexander thought of Parmenio, whose other two sons had died for him in battle. He sent swift 
messengers to assassinate the old man before he could hear of his son's death! Now Parmenio had been one of 
the most trusted of Philip's generals; it was Parmenio who had led the Macedonian armies into Asia before the 
murder of Philip. There can be little doubt of the substantial truth of this story, nor about the execution of 
Callisthenes, the nephew of Aristotle, who refused Alexander divine honours, and went about with as much 
pride as if he had demolished a tyranny, while the young men followed him as the only freeman among 
thousands. Mixed with such incidents we have the very illuminating story of the drunken quarrel in which he 
killed Clitus. The monarch and his company had been drinking hard, and the drink had made the talk loud and 
free. There was much flattery of the young god, much detraction of Philip, at which Alexander had smiled 
with satisfaction. [1] This drunken self-complacency was more than the Macedonians could stand; it roused 
Clitus, his foster-brother, to a frenzy. Clitus reproached Alexander with his Median costume and praised 
Philip, there was a loud quarrel, and, to end it, Clitus was hustled out of the room by his friends. He was, 
however, in the obstinate phase of drunkenness, and he returned by another entrance. He was heard outside 
quoting Euripides in a bold and disrespectful tone: 

Are these your customs? Is it thus that Greece Rewards her combatants? Shall one man claim The trophies 
won by thousands? 



Part I 1 59 

Whereupon Alexander snatched a spear from one of his guards and ran Clitus through the body as he lifted the 
curtain to come in. . . . 

One is forced to believe that this was the real atmosphere of the young conqueror's life. Then the story of his 
frantic and cruel display of grief for Hephaestion can scarcely be all invention. If it is true, or in any part true, 
it displays a mind ill-balanced and altogether wrapped up in personal things, to whom empire was no more 
than opportunity for egoistic display and all the resources of the world, stuff for freaks of that sort of 
generosity which robs a thousand people to extort the admiration of one astounded recipient. 

[Fig. 0335 Break-up of Alexander's Empire] 

Hephaestion, being ill, was put upon a strict diet, but in the absence of his physician at the theatre he ate a 
roasted fowl and drank a flagon of iced wine, in consequence of which he died. . 

Thereupon Alexander decided upon a display of grief. It was the grief of a lunatic. He had the physician 
crucified! He ordered every horse and mule in Persia to be shorn, and pulled down the battlements of the 
neighbouring cities. He prohibited all music in his camp for a long time, and, having taken certain villages of 
the Cusaeans, he caused all the adults to be massacred, as a sacrifice to the manes of Hephaestion. Finally he 
set aside ten thousand talents (a talent = 240) for a tomb. For those days this was an enormous sum of money. 
None of which things did any real honour to Hephaestion, but they served to demonstrate to an awe-stricken 
world what a tremendous thing the sorrow of Alexander could be. 

This last story and many such stories may be lies or distortions or exaggerations. But they have a vein in 
common. After a bout of hard drinking in Babylon a sudden fever came upon Alexander (323 B.C.), and he 
sickened and died. He was still only, thirty-three years of age. Forthwith the world empire he had snatched at 
and held in his hands, as a child might snatch at and hold a precious vase, fell to the ground and was shattered 
to pieces. 

Whatever appearance of a worldwide order may have gleamed upon men's imaginations, vanished at his 
death. The story becomes the story of a barbaric autocracy in confusion. Everywhere the provincial rulers set 
up for themselves. In the course of a few years the entire family of Alexander had been destroyed. Roxana, his 
barbarian wife, was prompt to murder, as a rival, the daughter of Darius. She herself presently bore Alexander 
a posthumous son, who was also called Alexander. He was murdered, with her, a few years later (311 B.C.). 
Hercules, the only other son of Alexander, was murdered also. So, too, was Aridaeus, the weak-minded 
half-brother (see sec 2). Plutarch gives a last glimpse of Olympias during a brief interval of power in 
Macedonia, accusing first this person and then that of poisoning her wonderful son. Many she killed in her 
fury. The bodies of some of his circle who had died after his death she caused to be dug up, but we do not 
know if any fresh light was shed upon his death by these disinterments. 

Finally Olympias was killed in Macedonia by the friends of those she had slain. 

23.6 The Successors of Alexander 

From this welter of crime there presently emerged three leading figures. Much of the old Persian empire, as 
far as the Indus eastward and almost to Lydia in the west, was held by one general Seleucus, who founded a 
dynasty, the Seleucid Dynasty; Macedonia fell to another Macedonian general, Antigonus; a third 
Macedonian, Ptolemy, secured Egypt, and making Alexandria his chief city, established a sufficient naval 
ascendancy to keep also Cyprus and most of the coast of Phoenicia and Asia Minor. The Ptolemaic and 
Seleucid empires lasted for a considerable time; the forms of government in Asia Minor and the Balkans were 
more unstable. Two maps will help the reader to a sense of the kaleidoscopic nature of the political boundaries 
of the third century B.C. Antigonus was defeated and killed at the battle of Ipsus (301), leaving Lysimachus, 
the governor of Thrace, and Cassander, of Macedonia and Greece, as equally transitory successors. Minor 



Part I 1 60 

govenors carved out smaller states. Meanwhile the barbarians swung down into the broken-up and enfeebled 
world of civilization from the west and from the east. From the west came the Gauls, a people closely related 
to the Kelts. They raided down through Macedonia and Greece to Delphi, and (227 B.C.) two sections of them 
crossed the Bosphorus into Asia Minor, being first employed as mercenaries and then setting up for 
themselves as independent plunderers; and after raiding almost to the Taurus, they settled in the old Phrygian 
land, holding the people about them to tribute. (These Gauls of Phrygia became the Galatians of St. Paul's 
Epistle.) Armenia and the southern shores of the Black Sea became a confusion of changing rulers. Kings with 
Hellenistic ideas appeared in Cappadocia, in Pontus (the south shore of the Black Sea), in Bithynia, and in 
Pergamum. From the east the Scythians and the Parthians and Bactrians also drove southward. . . . For a time 
there were Greek-ruled Bactrian states becoming more and more Orientalized; in the second century B.C. 
Greek adventurers from Bactria raided down into North India and founded short-lived kingdoms there, the last 
eastward fling of the Greek; then gradually barbarism fell again like a curtain between the Western 
civilizations and India. 

23.7 Pergamum, A Refuge of Culture 

Amidst all these shattered fragments of the burst bubble of Hellenic empire one small state stands out and 
demands at least a brief section to itself, the kingdom of Pergamum. We hear first of this town as an 
independent centre during the struggle that ended in the battle of Ipsus. While the tide of the Gaulish invasion 
swirled and foamed to and fro about Asia Minor between the years 277 and 241, Pergamum for a time paid 
them tribute, but she retained her general independence, and at last, under Attalus I, refused her tribute and 
defeated them in two decisive battles. For more than a century thereafter (until 133 B.C.) Pergamum remained 
free, and was perhaps during that period the most highly civilized state in the world. On the hill of the 
Acropolis was reared a rich group of buildings, palaces, temples, a museum, and a library, rivals of those of 
Alexandria of which we shall presently tell, and almost the first in the world. Under the princes of Pergamum, 
Greek art blossomed afresh, and the reliefs of the altar of the temple of Zeus and the statues of the fighting 
and dying Gauls which were made there, are among the great artistic treasures of mankind. 

In a little while, as we shall tell later, the influence of a new power began to be felt in the Eastern 
Mediterranean, the power of the Roman republic, friendly to Greece and to Greek civilization; and in this 
power the Hellenic communities of Pergamum and Rhodes found a natural and useful ally and supporter 
against the Galatians and against the Orientalized Seleucid empire. We shall relate how at last the Roman 
power came into Asia, how it defeated the Seleucid empire at the battle of Magnesia (190 B.C.), and drove it 
out of Asia Minor and beyond the Taurus mountains, and how finally in 133 B.C. Attalus, III, the last king of 
Pergamum, bowing to his sense of an inevitable destiny, made the Roman republic the heir to his kingdom, 
which became then the Roman province of Asia. 

23.8 Alexander as a Portent of World Unity 

Nearly all historians are disposed to regard the career of Alexander the Great as marking an epoch in human 
affairs. It drew together all the known world, excepting only the western Mediterranean, into one drama. But 
the opinions men have formed of Alexander himself vary enormously. They fall, most of them, into two main 
schools. One type of scholar is fascinated by the youth and splendour of this young man. These 
Alexander-worshippers seem disposed to take him at his own valuation, to condone every crime and folly 
either as the mere ebullience of a rich nature or as the bitter necessity to some gigantic scheme, and to regard 
his life as framed upon a design, a scheme of statesmanship, such as all the wider knowledge and wider ideas 
of these later times barely suffice to bring into the scope of our understanding. On the other hand, there are 
those who see him only as a wrecker of the slowly maturing possibilities of a free and tranquil Hellenized 
world. 

Before we ascribe to Alexander or to his father Philip, schemes of world policy such as a twentieth-century 
historian-philosopher might approve, we shall do well to consider very carefully the utmost range of 



Parti 161 

knowledge and thought that was possible in those days. The world of Plato, Isocrates, and Aristotle had 
practically no historical perspective at all;-there had not been such a thing as history in the world, history, that 
is, as distinguished from mere priestly chronicles, until the last couple of centuries. Even highly educated men 
had the most circumscribed ideas of geography and foreign countries. For most men the world was still flat 
and limitless. The only systematic political philosophy was based on the experiences of minute city states, and 
took no thought of empires. Nobody knew anything of the origins of civilization. No one had speculated upon 
economics before that time. No one had worked out the reaction of one social class upon another. We are too 
apt to consider the career of Alexander as the crown of some process that had long been afoot; as the climax 
of a crescendo, a sense, no doubt, it was that; but much more true is it that it was not so much an end as a 
beginning; it was the first revelation to the human imagination of the oneness of human affairs. The utmost 
reach of the thought of Greece before his time was of a Persian empire Hellenized, a predominance in the 
world of Macedonians and Greeks. But before Alexander was dead, and much more after he was dead and 
there had been time to think him over, the conception of a world law and organization was a practicable and id 
assimilable idea for the minds of men. 

For some generations Alexander the Great was for mankind the symbol and embodiment of world order and 
world dominion. He became a fabulous being. His head, adorned with the divine symbols of the demi-god 
Hercules or the god Ammon Ra, appears on the coins of such among his successors as could claim to be his 
heirs. Then the idea of world dominion was taken up by another iother great people, a people who for some 
centuries exhibited considerable political genius, the Romans; and the figure of another conspicuous 
adventurer, Csar, eclipsed for the western half of the old world the figure of Alexander. 

So by the beginning of the third century B.C. we find already arisen in the Western civilization of the old 
world three of the great structural ideas that rule the mind of contemporary mankind. We have already traced 
the escape of writing and knowledge from the secrets and mysteries and initiations of the old-world 
priesthoods, and the development of the idea of a universal knowledge, of a universally understandable and 
communicable history and philosophy. We have taken the figures of Herodotus and Aristotle as typical 
exponents of this first great idea, the idea of science -using the word science in its widest and properest sense, 
to include history and signify a clear vision of man in relation to the things about him. We have traced also the 
generalization of religion among the Babylonians, Jews, and other Semitic peoples, from the dark worship in 
temples and consecrated places of some local or tribal god to the open service of one universal God of 
Righteousness, whose temple is the whole world. And now we have traced also the first germination of the 
idea of a world polity. The rest of the history of mankind is very largely the history of those three ideas of 
science, of a universal righteousness, and of a human commonweal, spreading out from the minds of the rare 
and exceptional persons and peoples in which they first originated, into the general consciousness of the race, 
and giving first a new colour, then a new spirit, and then a new direction to human affairs. 

24.0 Science and Religion at Alexandria 

24.1 The Science of Alexandria 

24.2 The Philosphy of Alexandria 

24.3 Alexandria as a Factory of Religions 

24.1 The Science of Alexandria 

O ne of the most prosperous fragments of the brief world empire of Alexander the Great was Egypt, which fell 
to the share of the Ptolemy whose name we have already noted, as one of the associates of Alexander whom 
King Philip had banished. The country was at a secure distance from plundering Gaul or Parthian, and the 
destruction of Tyre and the Phoenician navy, and the creation of Alexandria gave Egypt a temporary naval 
ascendancy in the Eastern Mediterranean. Alexandria grew to proportions that rivaled Carthage; eastward she 



Part I 1 62 

had an overseas trade through the Red Sea with Arabia and India; and westward her traffic competed with the 
Carthaginian. In the Macedonian and Greek governors of the Ptolemies, the Egyptians found a government 
more sympathetic and tolerable than any they had ever known since they ceased to be a self-governing 
empire. Indeed it is rather that Egypt conquered and annexed the Ptolemies politically, than that the 
Macedonians ruled Egypt. 

There was a return to Egyptian political ideas, rather than any attempt to Hellenize the government of the 
country. Ptolemy became Pharaoh, the god-king, and his administration continued the ancient tradition of 
Pepi, Thotmes, Rameses, and Necho. Alexandria, however, for her town affairs, and subject to the divine 
overlordship of Pharaoh, had a constitution of the Greek city type. And the language of the court and 
administration was Attic Greek. Greek became so much the general language of educated people in Egypt that 
the Jewish community there found it necessary to translate their Bible into the Greek language, many men of 
their own people being no longer able to understand Hebrew. Attic Greek for some centuries before and after 
Christ was the language of all educated men from the Adriatic to the Persian Gulf. 

Of all Alexander's group of young men, Ptolemy seems to have done most to carry out those ideas of a 
systematic organization of knowledge with which Aristotle had no doubt familiarized the court of Philip of 
Macedon. Ptolemy was a man of very extraordinary intellectual gifts, at once creative and modest, with a 
certain understandable cynicism towards the strain of Olympias in the mind of Alexander. His contemporary 
history of Alexander's campaigns has perished; but it was a source to which all the surviving accounts are 
deeply indebted. 

The Museum he set up in Alexandria was in effect the first university in the world. As its name implies, it was 
dedicated to the service of the Muses, which was also the case with the Peripatetic school at Athens. It was, 
however, a religious body only in form, in order to meet the legal difficulties of endowment in a world that 
had never foreseen such a thing as a secular intellectual process. It was essentially a college of learned men 
engaged chiefly in research and record, but also to a certain extent in teaching. At the outset, and for two or 
three generations, the Museum at Alexandria presented such a scientific constellation as even Athens at its 
best could not rival. Particularly sound and good was the mathematical and geographical work. The names of 
Euclid, familiar to every schoolboy, Eratosthenes, who measured the size of the earth and came within fifty 
miles of the true diameter, Apollonins, who wrote on conic sections, stand out. Hipparchus made the first 
attempt to catalogue and map the stars with a view to checking any changes that might be occurring in the 
heavens. Hero devised the first steam engine. Archimedes came to Alexandria to study, and remained a 
frequent correspondent of the Museum. The medical school of Alexandria was equally famous. For the first 
time in the world's history a standard of professional knowledge was set up. Herophilus, the greatest of the 
Alexandrian anatomists, is said to have conducted vivisections upon condemned criminals. Other teachers, in 
opposition to Hero philus, condemned the study of anatomy and developed the science of drugs. But this 
scientific blaze at Alexandria did not endure altogether for more than a century. The organization of the 
Museum was not planned to ensure its mental continuity. It was a royal college; its professors and fellows (as 
we may call them) were appointed and paid by Pharaoh. The republican character of the private corporations 
called the schools or academies at Athens was far more stable and independent. Royal patronage was all very 
well so long as Pharaoh was Ptolemy I, or Ptolemy II, but the strain degenerated and the long tradition of 
Egyptian priestcraft presently swallowed up the Ptolemies and destroyed the Aristotelian mentality of the 
Museum altogether. The Museum had not existed for a hundred years before its scientific energy was extinct. 

Side by side with the Museum, Ptolemy I created a more enduring monument to himself in the great library. 
This was a combination of state library and state publishing upon a scale hitherto unheard of. It was to be 
altogether encyclopadie. If any stranger brought an unknown book to Egypt, he had to have it copied for the 
collection, and a considerable staff of copyists was engaged continually in making duplicates of all the more 
popular and necessary works. 

The library, like a university press, had an outward trade. It was a book-selling affair. Under Callimachus, the 



Part I 1 63 

head of the library during the time of Ptolemy II and III, the arrangement and cataloguing of the 
accumulations was systematically undertaken. In those days, it must be remembered, books were not in pages, 
but rolled like the music-rolls of the modern piano-player, and in order to refer to any particular passage, a 
reader, had to roll back or roll forward very tediously, a process which wore out books and readers together. 
One thinks at once of a simple and obvious little machine by which such a roll could have been quickly 
wound to and fro for reference, but nothing of the sort seems-to have been used. Every time a roll was read it 
was handled by two perspiring hands. It was to minimize the waste of time and trouble that Callimachus broke 
up long works, such as the history of Herodotus, into books or volumes, as we should call them, each upon a 
separate roll. The library of Alexandria drew a far vaster crowd of students than the teachers of the Museum. 
The lodging and catering for these visitors from all parts of the world became a considerable business interest 
for the Alexandrian population. 

It is curious to note how slowly the mechanism of the intellectual life improves. Contrast the ordinary library 
facilities of a middle-class English home, such as the present writer is now working in, with the 
inconveniences and deficiencies of the equipment of an Alexandrian writer, and one realizes the enormous 
waste of time, physical exertion, and attention that went on through all the centuries during which that library 
flourished. Before the present writer lie half a dozen books, and there are good indices to three of them. He 
can pick up any one of these six books, refer quickly to a statement, verify a quotation, and go on writing. 
Contrast with that the tedious unfolding of a rolled manuscript. Close at hand are two encyclopedias, a 
dictionary, an atlas of the world, a biographical dictionary, and other books of reference. They have no 
marginal indices, it is true; but that perhaps is asking for too much at present. There were no such resources in 
the world in 300 B.C. Alexandria had still to produce the first grammar and the first dictionary. This present 
book is being written in manuscript; it is then taken by a typist and typewritten very accurately. It can then, 
with the utmost convenience, be read over, corrected amply, rearranged freely, retyped, and recorrected. The 
Alexandrian author had to dictate or recopy every word he wrote. Before he could turn back to what he had 
written previously, he had to dry his last words by waving them in the air or pouring sand over them; he had 
not even blotting paper. Whatever an author wrote had to be recopied again and again before it could reach 
any considerable circle of readers, and every copyist introduced some new error. Whenever a need for maps 
or diagrams arose, there were fresh difficulties. Such a science as anatomy, for example, depending as it does 
upon accurate drawing, must have been enormously hampered by the natural limitations of the copyist. The 
transmission of geographical fact again must have been almost incredibly tedious. No doubt a day will come 
when a private library and writing-desk of the year A.D. 1919 will seem quaintly clumsy and difficult; but, 
measured by the standards of Alexandria, they are astonishingly quick, efficient, and economical of nervous 
and mental energy. 

No attempt seems to have been made at Alexandria to print anything at all. That strikes one at first as a very 
remarkable fact. The world was crying out for books, and not simply for books. There was an urgent public 
need for notices, proclamations, and the like. Yet there is nothing in the history of the Western civilizations 
that one can call printing until the fifteenth century A.D. It is not as though printing was a recondite art or 
dependent upon any precedent and preliminary discoveries. Printing is the most obvious of dodges. In 
principle it has always been known. As we have already stated, there is ground for supposing that the 
Palolithic men of the Magdalenian period may have printed designs on their leather garments. The seals of 
ancient Sumeria again were printing devices. Coins are print. Illiterate persons in all ages have used wooden 
or metal stamps for their signatures; William I, the Norman Conqueror of England, for example, used such a 
stamp with ink to sign documents. In China the classics were being printed by the second century A.D. Yet 
either because of a complex of small difficulties about ink or papyrus or the form of books, or because of 
some protective resistance on the part of the owners of the slave copyists, or because the script was too swift 
and easy to set men thinking how to write it still more easily, as the Chinese character or the Gothic letters 
did, or because of a gap in the social system between men of thought and knowledge and men of technical 
skill, printing was not used not even used for the exact reproduction of illustrations. 

The chief reason for this failure to develop printing systematically lies, no doubt, in the fact that there was no 



Part I 1 64 

abundant supply of printable material of a uniform texture and convenient form. The supply of papyrus was 
strictly limited, strip had to be fastened to strip, and there was no standard size of sheet. Paper had yet to come 
from China to release the mind of Europe. Had there been presses, they would have had to stand idle while the 
papyrus rolls were slowly made. But this explanation does not account for the failure to use block printing in 
the case of illustrations and diagrams. 

These limitations enable us to understand why it was that Alexandria could at once achieve the most 
extraordinary intellectual triumphs-for such a feat as that of Eratosthenes, for instance, having regard to his 
poverty of apparatus, is sufficient to put him on a level with Newton or Pasteur-and yet have little or no effect 
upon the course of politics or the lives and thoughts of people round about her. Her Museum and library were 
a centre of light, but it was light in a dark lantern hidden from the general world. There were no means of 
carrying its results even to sympathetic men abroad except by tedious letter-writing. There was no possibility 
of communicating what was known there to the general body of men. Students had to come at great cost to 
themselves to this crowded centre because there was no other way of gathering even scraps of knowledge. At 
Athens and Alexandria there were bookstalls where manuscript note -books of variable quality could be 
bought at reasonable prices, but any extension of education to larger classes and other centres would have 
produced at once a restrictive shortage of papyrus. Education did not reach into the masses at all; to become 
more than superficially educated one had to abandon the ordinary life of the times and come for long years, to 
live a hovering existence in the neighbourhood of ill-equipped and overworked sages. Learning was not 
indeed so complete a withdrawal from ordinary life as initiation into a priesthood, but it was still something in 
that nature. 

And very speedily that feeling of freedom, that openness and directness of statement which is the vital air of 
the true intellectual life, faded out of Alexandria. From the first the patronage even of Ptolemy I set a limit to 
political discussion. Presently the dissensions of the schools let in the superstitions and prejudices of the city 
mob to scholastic affairs. 

Wisdom passed away from Alexandria and left pedantry behind. For the use of books was substituted the 
worship of books. Very speedily the learned became a specialized queer class with unpleasant characteristics 
of its own. The Museum had not existed for half a dozen generations before Alexandria was familiar with a 
new type of human being; shy, eccentric, unpractical, incapable of essentials, strangely fierce upon trivialities 
of literary detail, as bitterly jealous of the colleague within as of the unlearned without, the bent Scholarly 
Alan. He was as intolerant as a priest, though be had no altar; as obscurantist as a magician, though he had no 
cave. For him no method of copying was sufficiently tedious and no rare book sufficiently inaccessible. He 
was a sort of by-product of the intellectual process of mankind. For many precious generations the new-lit 
fires of the human intelligence were to be seriously banked down by this by- product. 

Right thinking is necessarily an open process, and the only science and history of full value to men consist of 
what is generally and clearly known; this is surely a platitude, but we have still to discover how to preserve 
our centres of philosophy and research from the caking and darkening accumulations of narrow and 
dingy-spirited specialists. We have still to ensure that a man of learning shall be none the less a man of affairs, 
and that all that can be thought and known is kept plainly, honestly, and easily available to the ordinary men 
and women who are the substance of mankind. 

24.2 The Philosphy of Alexandria 

At first the mental activities of Alexandria centered upon the Museum, and were mainly scientific. 
Philosophy, which in a more vigorous age had been a doctrine of power over self and the material world, 
without abandoning these pretensions, became in reality a doctrine of secret consolation. The stimulant 
changed into an opiate. The philosopher let the world, as the vulgar say, rip the world of which he was a part, 
and consoled himself by saying in very beautiful and elaborate forms that the world was illusion and that there 
was in him something quintessential and sublime outside and above the world. Athens, politically 



Part I 1 65 

insignificant, but still a great and crowded mart throughout the fourth century, decaying almost imperceptibly 
so far as outer seeming went, and treated with a strange respect that was half contempt by all the warring 
powers and adventurers of the world, was the fitting centre of such philosophical teaching. It was quite a 
couple of centuries before the schools of Alexandria became as important in philosophical discussion. 

24.3 Alexandria as a Factory of Religions 

If Alexandria was late to develop a distinctive philosophy, she was early prominent as a great factory and 
exchange of religious ideas. 

The Museum and Library represented only one of the three sides of the triple city of Alexandria. They 
represented the Aristotelian, the Hellenic, and Macedonian element. But Ptolemy I had brought together two 
other factors to this strange centre. First there was a great number of Jews, brought partly from Palestine, but 
largely also from those settlements in Egypt which had never returned to Jerusalem; these latter were the Jews 
of the Diaspora or Dispersion, a race of Jews who, as we have already noted in Chapter XIX, had not shared 
the Babylonian Captivity, but who were nevertheless in possession of the Bible and in close correspondence 
with their co-religionists throughout the world. These Jews populated so great a quarter of Alexandria that the 
town became the largest Jewish city in the world, with far more Jews in it than there were in Jerusalem. We 
have already noted that they had found it necessary to translate their scriptures into Greek. And, finally, there 
was a great population of native Egyptians, also for the most part speaking Greek, but with the superstitious 
temperament of the dark whites and with the vast tradition of forty centuries of temple religion and temple 
sacrifices at the back of their minds. In Alexandria three types of mind and spirit met, the three main types of 
the white race, the clearheaded criticism of the Aryan Greek, the moral fervour and monotheism of the 
Semitic Jew, and the deep Mediterranean tradition of mysteries and sacrifices that we have already seen at 
work in the secret cults and occult practices of Greece, ideas which in Hamitic Egypt ruled proudly in great 
temples in the open light of day. 

These three were the permanent elements of the Alexandrian blend. But in the seaport and markets mingled 
men of every known race, comparing their religious ideas and customs. It is even related that in the third 
century B.C. Buddhist missionaries, came from the court of King Asoka in India. Aristotle remarks in his 
Politics that the religious beliefs of men are apt to borrow their form from political institutions, men assimilate 
the lives no less than the bodily forms of the gods to their own, and this age of Greek-speaking great empires 
under autocratic monarchs was bearing hardly upon those merely local celebrities, the old tribal and city 
deities. Men were requiring deities with an outlook at least as wide as the empires, and except where the 
interests of powerful priesthoods stood in the way, a curious process of assimilation of gods was going on. 
Men found that though there were many gods, they were all very much alike. Where there had been many 
gods men came to think there must be really only one god under a diversity of names. He had been 
everywhere under an alias. The Roman Jupiter, the Greek Zeus, the Egyptian Ammon, the putative father of 
Alexander and the old antagonist of Amenophis IV the Babylonian Bel-Marduk, were all sufficiently similar 
to be identified. 

Father of all in every age, in every clime adored By saint, by savage and by sage, Jehovah, Jove or Lord. 

Where there were distinct differences, the difficulty was met by saying that these were different aspects of the 
same god. Bel- Marduk, however, was now a very decadent god indeed, who hardly survived as a pseudonym; 
Assur, Dagon, and the like, poor old gods of fallen nations, had long since passed out of memory, and did not 
come into the amalgamation. Osiris, a god popular with the Egyptian commonalty, was already identified with 
Apis, the sacred bull in the temple of Memphis, and somewhat Confused with Ammon. Under the name of 
Serapis he became the great god of Hellenic Alexandria. He was Jupiter- Serapis. The Egyptian cow goddess, 
Hathor or Isis, was also represented now in human guise as the wife of Osiris, to whom she bore the infant 
Horus, who grew up to be Osiris again. These bald statements sound strange, no doubt, to a modern mind, but 
these identifications and mixing up of one god with another are very illustrative of the struggle the quickening 



Part I 1 66 

human intelligence was making to cling still to religion and its emotional bonds and fellowship, while making 
its gods more reasonable and universal. 

This fusing of one god with another is called theocrasia, and nowhere was it more vigorously going on than in 
Alexandria. 

Only two peoples resisted it in this period: the Jews, who already had their faith in the One God of Heaven 
and Earth, Jehovah, and the Persian who had a monotheistic sun worship. 

It was Ptolemy I who set up not only the Museum in Alexandria, but the Serapeum, devoted to the worship of 
a trinity of god which represented the result of a process of theocrasia applied more particularly to the gods of 
Greece and Egypt. 

This trinity consisted of the god Serapis (== Osiris + Apis), the goddess Isis (== Hathor, the cow-moon 
goddess), and the childgod Horus. In one way or another almost every other god was identified with one or 
other of these three aspects of the one God, even the sun god Mithras of the Persians. And they were each 
other; they were three, but they were also one. They were worshipped with great fervour, and the jangling of a 
peculiar instrument the sistrum, a frame set with bells and used rather after the fashion of the tambourine in 
the proceedings of the modern Salvation Army, was a distinctive accessory to the ceremonies. And now for 
the first time we find the idea of immortality becoming the central idea of a religion that extended beyond 
Egypt. Neither the early Aryans nor the early Semites seem to have troubled very much about immortality, it 
has affected the Mongolian mind very little, but the continuation of the individual life after death had been 
from the earliest times an intense preoccupation of the Egyptians. It played now a large part in the worship of 
Serapis. In the devotional literature of his cult he is spoken of as the saviour and leader of souls, leading souls 
to the light and receiving them again. It is stated that he raises the dead, he shows forth the longed-for light of 
the sun to those who see, whose holy tombs contain multitudes of sacred books; and again, we never can 
escape him, he will save us, after death we shall still be the care of his providence. [1] 

The ceremonial burning of candles and the offering of ex-votos, that is to say of small models of parts of the 
human body in need of succour, was a part of the worship of the Serapeum. Isis attracted many devotees, who 
vowed their lives to her. Her images stood in the temple, crowned as the Queen of Heaven and bearing the 
infant Horns in her arms. The candles flared and guttered before her, and the wax ex-votos hung about the 
shrine. The novice was put through a long and careful preparation, he took vows of celibacy, and when he was 
initiated his head was shaved and he was clad in a linen garment . . . 

In this worship of Serapis, which spread very widely throughout the civilized world in the third and second 
centuries B.C., we see the most remarkable anticipations of usages and forms of expression that were destined 
to dominate the European world throughout the Christian era. The essential idea, the living spirit of 
Christianity was, as we shall presently show, a new thing in the history of the mind and will of man; but the 
garments of ritual and symbol and formula that Christianity has worn, and still in many countries wears to this 
day, were certainly woven in the cult and temples of Jupiter, Serapis, and Isis that spread now from 
Alexandria throughout the civilized world in the age of theocrasia in the second and first centuries before 
Christ. 

25.0 The Rise and Spread of Buddhism 

25.1 The Story of Gautama 

25.2 Teaching and Legend in Conflict 

25.3 The Gospel of Gautama Buddha 



Part I 1 67 

25.4 Buddhism and Asoka [1] 

25.5 Two Great Chinese Teachers 

25.6 The Corruptions of Buddhism 

25.7 The Present Range of Buddhism 

25.1 The Story of Gautama 

It is interesting to turn from the mental and moral activities of Athens and Alexandria, and the growth of 
human ideas in the Mediterranean world, to the almost entirely separate intellectual life of India. Here was a 
civilization which from the first seems to have grown up upon its own roots and with a character of its own. It 
was cut off from the civilizations to the west and to the east by vast mountain barriers, and desert regions. The 
Aryan tribes who had come down into the peninsula soon lost touch with their kindred to the west and north, 
and developed upon lines of their own. This was more particularly the case with those who had passed on into 
the Ganges country and beyond. They found a civilization already scattered over India, the Dravidian 
civilization. This had arisen independently, just as the Sumerian, Cretan, and Egyptian civilizations seem to 
have arisen, out of that widespread development of the neolithic culture, the heliolithic culture, whose 
characteristics we have already described. They revived and changed this Dravidian civilization much as the 
Greeks did the geanor the Semites the Sumerian. 

These Indian Aryans were living under different conditions from those that prevailed to the north-west. They 
were living in a warmer climate, in which a diet of beef and fermented liquor was destructive; they were 
forced, therefore, to a generally vegetarian dietary, and the prolific soil, almost unasked, gave them all the 
food they needed. There was no further reason for them to wander; the crops and seasons were trust worthy. 
They wanted little clothing or housing. They wanted so little that trade was undeveloped. There was still land 
for every one who desired to cultivate a patch"and a little patch sufficed. Their political life was simple and 
comparatively secure; no great conquering powers had arisen as yet in India, and her natural barriers sufficed 
to stop the early imperialisms to the west of her and to the east. Thousands of comparatively pacific little 
village republics and chieftainships were spread over the land. There was no sea life, there were no pirate 
raiders, no strange traders. One might write a history of India coming down to four hundred years ago and 
hardly mention the sea. 

The history of India for many centuries had been happier, less fierce, and more dreamlike than any other 
history. The noblemen, the rajahs, hunted; life was largely made up of love stories. Here and there a 
maharajah arose amidst the rajahs and built a city, caught and tamed many elephants, slew many tigers, and 
left a tradition of his splendour and his wonderful processions. 

It was somewhen between 500 and 600 B.C., when Croesus was flourishing in Lydia and Cyrus was preparing 
to snatch Babylon from Nabonidus, that the founder of Buddhism was born in India. He was born in a small 
republican tribal community in the north of Bengal under the Himalayas, in what is now overgrown jungle 
country on the borders of Nepal. The little state was ruled by a family, the Sakya clan, of which this man, 
Siddhattha Gautama, was a member Siddhattha was his personal name, like Caius or John; Gautama, or 
Gotama, his family name, like Csar or Smith; Sakya his clan name, like Julius. The institution of caste was not 
yet fully established in India, and the Brahmins, though they were privileged and influential, had not yet 
struggled to the head of the system; but there were already strongly marked class distinctions and a practically 
impermeable partition between the noble Aryans and the darker common people. Gautama belonged to the 
former race. His teaching, we may note, was called the Aryan Path, the Aryan Truth. 

It is only within the last half-century that the increasing study of the Pali language, in which most of the 
original sources were written, has given the world a real knowledge of the life and actual thought of Gautama. 



Part I 1 68 

Previously his story was overlaid by monstrous accumulations of legend, and his teaching violently 
misconceived. But now we have a very human and understandable account of him. 

He was a good-looking, capable young man of fortune, and until he was twenty-nine he lived the ordinary 
aristocratic life of his time. It was not a very satisfying life intellectually. There was no literature except the 
oral tradition of the Vedas, and that was chiefly monopolized by the Brahmins; there was even less 
knowledge. The world was bound by the snowy Himalayas to the north and spread indefinitely to the south. 
The city of Benares, which had a king, was about a hundred miles away. The chief amusements were hunting 
and lovemaking. All the good that life seemed to offer, Gautama enjoyed. He was married at nineteen to a 
beautiful cousin. For some years they remained childless. He hunted and played and went about in his sunny 
world of gardens and groves and irrigated rice-fields. And it was amidst this life that a great discontent fell 
upon him. It was the unhappiness of a line brain that seeks employment. He lived amidst plenty and beauty, 
he passed from gratification to gratification, and his soul was not satisfied. It was as if he heard the destinies 
of the race calling to him. He felt that the existence he was leading was not the reality of life, but a holiday"a 
holiday that had gone on too long. 

While he was in this mood he saw four things that served to point his thoughts. He was driving on some 
excursion of pleasure, when he came upon a man dreadfully broken down by age. The poor bent, enfeebled 
creature struck his imagination. Such is the way of life, said Channa, his charioteer, and to that we must all 
come. While this was yet in his mind he chanced upon a man suffering horribly from some loathsome disease. 
Such is the way of life, said Channa. The third vision was of. an unburied body, swollen, eyeless, mauled by 
passing birds and beasts and altogether terrible. That is the way of. life, said Channa. 

The sense of disease and mortality, the insecurity and the unsatisfactoriness of all happiness, descended upon 
the mind of Gautama. And then he and Channa saw one of those wandering ascetics who already existed in 
great numbers in India. These men lived under severe rules, spending much time in meditation and in 
religious discussion. For many men before Gautama in that land of uneventful sunshine had found life 
distressing and mysterious. These ascetics were all supposed to be seeking some deeper reality in life, and a 
passionate desire to do like-wise took possession of Gautama. 

He was meditating upon this project says the, story, when the news was brought to him that his wife had been 
delivered of his first-born son. This is another tie to break, said Gautama. 

He returned to the village amidst the rejoicings of his fellow clansmen. There was a great feast and a Nautch 
dance to celebrate the birth of this new tie, and in the night Gautama awoke in a great agony of spirit, like a 
man who is told that his house is on fire. In the ante -room the dancing girls were lying in strips of darkness 
and moonlight. He called Channa, and told him to prepare his horse. Then he went softly to the threshold of 
his wife's chamber, and saw her by the light of a little oil lamp, sleeping sweetly, surrounded by flowers, with 
his infant son in her arm. He felt a great craving to take up the child in one first and last embrace before he 
departed, but the fear of waking his wife prevented him, and at last he turned away and went out into the 
bright Indian moonshine to Channa waiting with the horses, and mounted and stole away. 

As he rode through the night with Channa, it seemed to him that Mara, the Tempter of Mankind, filled the sky 
and disputed, with him. Return, said Mara, and be a king, and I will make you the greatest of kings. Go on, 
and you will fail. Never will I cease to dog your footsteps. Lust or malice or anger will betray you at last in 
some unwary moment; sooner, or later you will be mine. 

Very far they rode that night, and in the morning he stopped, outside the lands of his clan, and dismounted 
beside a sandy river. There he cut off his flowing locks with his sword, removed all his ornaments, and sent 
them and his horse and sword back to his house by Channa. Then going on he presently met a ragged man and 
exchanged clothes with him, and so having divested himself of all worldly entanglements, he was free to 
pursue his search after wisdom. He made his way southward to a resort of hermits and teachers in a hilly spur 



Part I 1 69 

running into Bengal northward from the Vindhya Mountains, close to the town of Rajgir. There a number of 
wise men lived in a warren of caves, going into the town for their simple supplies and imparting their 
knowledge by word of mouth to such as cared to come to them. 

This instruction must have been very much in the style of the Socratic discussions that were going on in 
Athens a couple of centuries later. Gautama became versed in all the metaphysics of his age. But his acute 
intelligence was dissatisfied with the solutions offered him. 

The Indian mind has always been disposed to believe that power and knowledge may be obtained by extreme 
asceticism, by fasting, sleeplessness, and self-torment, and these ideas Gautama now put to the test. He betook 
himself with five disciple companions to the jungle in a gorge in the Vindhya Mountains, and there he gave 
himself up to fasting and terrible penances. His fame spread, like the sound of a great bell hung in the canopy 
of the skies. [1] But it brought him no sense of truth achieved. One day he was walking up and down, trying to 
think in spite of his enfeebled state. Suddenly he staggered and fell unconscious. When he recovered, the 
preposterousness of these semi-magic ways of attempting wisdom was plain to him. 

He amazed and horrified his five companions by demanding ordinary food and refusing to continue his 
self-mortifications. He had realized that whatever truth a man may reach is reached best by a nourished brain 
in a healthy body. Such a conception was absolutely foreign to the ideas of the land and age. His disciples 
deserted him, and went off in a melancholy state to Benares. The boom of the great bell ceased. Gautama the 
wonderful had fallen. 

For a time Gautama wandered alone, the loneliest figure in history, battling for light. 

When the mind grapples with a great and intricate problem, it makes its advances, it secures its positions step 
by step, with but little realization of the gains it has made, until suddenly, with an effect of abrupt 
illumination, it realizes its victory. So it would seem it happened to Gautama. He had seated himself under a 
great tree by the side of a river to eat, when this sense of clear vision came to him. It seemed to him that he 
saw life plain. He is said to have sat all day and all night in profound thought, and then he rose up to impart 
his vision to the world. 

25.2 Teaching and Legend in Conflict 

Such is the plain story of Gautama as we gather it from a comparison of early writings. But common men 
must have their cheap marvels and wonders. 

It is nothing to them that this little planet should at last produce upon its surface a man thinking of the past 
and the future and the essential nature of existence. And so we must have this sort of thing by some worthy 
Pali scribe, making the most of it: 

When the conflict began between the Saviour of the World and the Prince of Evil a thousand appalling 
meteors fell. . . . Rivers flowed back towards their sources; peaks and lofty mountains where countless trees 
had grown for ages rolled crumbling to the earth . . . the sun enveloped itself in awful darkness, and a host of 
headless spirits filled the air. [3] 

Of which phenomena history has preserved no authentication. Instead we have only the figure of a lonely man 
walking towards Benares. 

Extraordinary attention has been given to the tree under which Gautama had this sense of mental clarity. It 
was a tree of the fig genus, and from the first it was treated with peculiar veneration. It was called the Bo 
Tree. It has long since perished, but close at hand lives another great tree which may be its descendant, and in 
Ceylon there grows to this day a tree, the oldest historical tree in the world, which we know certainly to have 



Part I 1 70 

been planted as a cutting from the Bo Tree in the year 245 B.C. From that time to this it has been carefully 
tended and watered; its great branches are supported by pillars, and the earth has been terraced up about it so 
that it has been able to put out fresh roots continually. It helps us to realize the shortness of all human history 
to see so many generations spanned by the endurance of one single tree. Gautama's disciples unhappily have 
cared more for the preservation of his tree than of his thought, which from the first they misconceived and 
distorted. 

At Benares Gautama sought out his five pupils, who were still leading the ascetic life. There is an account of 
their hesitation to receive him when they saw him approaching. He was a backslider. But there was some 
power of personality in him that prevailed over their coldness, and he made them listen to his new 
convictions. For five days the discussion was carried on. When he had at last convinced them that he was now 
enlightened, they hailed him as the Buddha. There was, already in those days a belief in India that at long 
intervals Wisdom returned to the earth and was revealed to mankind through a chosen person known as the 
Buddha. 

According to Indian belief there have been many such Buddhas; Gautama Buddha is only the latest one of a 
series. But it is doubtful if he himself accepted that title or recognized that theory. In his discourses he never 
called himself the Buddha. 

He and his recovered disciples then formed a sort of Academy in the Deer Park at Benares. They made 
themselves huts, and accumulated other followers to the number of threescore or more. In the rainy season 
they remained in discourse at this settlement, and during the dry weather they dispersed about the country, 
each giving his version of the new teachings. All their teaching was done, it would seem, by word of mouth. 
There was probably no writing yet in India at all. We must remember that in the time of Buddha it is doubtful 
if even the Iliad had been committed to writing. Probably the Mediterranean alphabet, which is the basis of 
most Indian scripts, had not yet reached India. The master, therefore, worked out and composed pithy and 
brief verses, aphorisms, and lists of points, and these were expanded in the discourse of his disciples. It greatly 
helped them to have these points and aphorisms numbered. The modern mind is apt to be impatient of the 
tendency of Indian thought to a numerical statement of things, the Eightfold Path, the Four Truths, and so on, 
but this enumeration was a mnemonic necessity in an undocumented world. 

25.3 The Gospel of Gautama Buddha 

The fundamental teaching of Gautama, as it is now being made plain to us by the study of original sources, is 
clear and simple and in the closest harmony with modern ideas. It is beyond all dispute the achievement of 
one of the most penetrating intelligences the world has ever known. 

We have what are almost certainly the authentic heads of his discourse to the five disciples which embodies 
his essential doctrine. All the miseries and discontents of life he traces to insatiable selfishness. Suffering, he 
teaches, is due to the craving individuality, to the torment of greedy desire. Until a man has overcome every 
sort of personal craving his life is trouble and his end sorrow. There are three principal forms the craving of 
life takes, and all are evil. The first is the desire to gratify the senses, sensuousness. The second is the desire 
for personal immortality. The third is the desire for prosperity, worldliness. All these must be overcome "that 
is to say, a man must no longer be living for himself 'before life can become serene. But when they are indeed 
overcome and no longer rule a man's life, when the first personal pronoun has vanished from his private 
thoughts, then he has reached the higher wisdom, Nirvana, serenity of soul. For Nirvana does not mean, as 
many people wrongly believe, extinction, but the extinction of the futile personal aims that necessarily make 
life base or pitiful or dreadful. 

Now here, surely we have the completest analysis of the problem of the soul's peace. Every religion that is 
worth the name, every philosophy, warns us to lose ourselves in something greater than ourselves. Whosoever 
would save his life, shall lose it; there is exactly the same lesson. 



Parti 171 

The teaching of history, as we are unfolding it in this book, is strictly in accordance with this teaching of 
Buddha. There is, as we are seeing, no social order, no security, no peace or happiness, no righteous 
leadership or kingship, unless men lose themselves in something greater than themselves. The study of 
biological progress again reveals exactly the same process"the merger of the narrow globe of the individual 
experience in a wider being (compare what has been said in Chaps. XI and XVI). To forget oneself in greater 
interests is to escape from a prison. 

The self-abnegation must be complete. From the point of view of Gautama, that dread of death, that greed for 
an endless continuation of his mean little individual life which drove the Egyptian and those who learnt from 
him with propitiations and charms into the temples, was as mortal and ugly and evil a thing as lust or avarice 
or hate. The religion of Gautama is flatly opposite to the immortality religious. And his teaching is set like 
flint against asceticism, as a mere attempt to win personal power by personal pains. 

But when we come to the rule of life, the Aryan Path, by which we are to escape from the threefold base 
cravings that dishonour human life, then the teaching is not so clear. It is not so clear for one very manifest 
reason, Gautama had no knowledge nor vision of history; he had no clear sense of the vast and many-sided 
adventure of life opening out in space and time. His mind was confined within the ideas of his age and people, 
and their minds were shaped into notions of perpetual recurrence, of world following world and of Buddha 
following Buddha, a stagnant circling of the universe. The idea of mankind as a great Brotherhood pursuing 
an endless destiny under the God of Righteousness, the idea that was already dawning upon the Semitic 
consciousness in Babylon at this time, did not exist in his world. Yet his account of the Eightfold Path is, 
nevertheless, within these limitations, profoundly wise. 

Let us briefly recapitulate the eight elements of the Aryan Path. First, Right Views; Gautama placed the stern 
examination of views and ideas, the insistence upon truth as the first research of his followers. There was to 
be no clinging to tawdry superstitions. He condemned, for instance, the prevalent belief in the transmigration 
of souls. In a well-known early Buddhist dialogue there is a destructive analysis of the idea of an enduring 
individual soul. Next to Right Views came Right Aspirations; because nature abhors a vacuum, and since base 
cravings are to be expelled, other desires must be encouraged'love for the service of others, desire to do and 
secure justice and the like. Primitive and uncorrupted Buddhism aimed not at the destruction of desire, but at 
the change of desire. Devotion to science and art, or to the betterment of things manifestly falls into harmony 
with the Buddhistic Right Aspirations, provided such aims are free from jealousy or the craving for fame. 
Right Speech, Right Conduct, and Right Livelihood, need no expansion here. Sixthly in this list came Right 
Effort, for Gautama had no toleration for good intentions and slovenly application; the disciple had to keep a 
keenly critical eye upon his activities. The seventh element of the path, Right Mindfulness, is the constant 
guard against a lapse into personal feeling or glory for whatever is done or not done. And, finally, comes 
Right Rapture, which seems to be aimed against the pointless ecstacies of the devout, such witless gloryings, 
for instance, as those that went to the jingle of the Alexandrian sistrum. 

We will not discuss here the Buddhistic doctrine of Karma, because it belongs to a world of thought that is 
passing away. The good or evil of every life was supposed to determine the happiness or misery of some 
subsequent life, that was in some inexplicable way identified with its predecessor. Nowadays we realize that a 
life goes on in its consequences for ever, but we find no necessity to suppose that any particular life resumes 
again. The Indian mind was full of the idea of cyclic recurrence; everything was supposed to come round 
again. This is a very natural supposition for men to make; so things seem to be until we analyze them. Modern 
science has made clear to us that there is no such exact recurrence, as we are apt to suppose; every day is by 
an infinitesimal quantity a little longer than the day before; no generation repeats the previous generation 
precisely; history never repeats itself; change, we realize now, is inexhaustible; all things are eternally new. 
But these differences between our general ideas and those Buddha must have possessed need not in any way 
prevent us from appreciating the unprecedented wisdom, the goodness, and the greatness of this plan of an 
emancipated life as Gautama laid it down somewhen in the sixth century before Christ. 



Part I 1 72 

And if he failed in theory to gather together all the wills of the converted into the one multifarious activity of 
our race, battling against death and deadness in time and space, he did in practice direct his own life and that 
of all his immediate disciples into one progressive adventure, which was to preach and spread the doctrine and 
methods of Nirvana or soul-serenity throughout our fevered world. For them at least his teaching was 
complete and full. But all men cannot preach or teach; doctrine is but one of many of the functions of life that 
are fundamentally righteous. To the modern mind it seems at least equally acceptable that a man may, though 
perhaps against greater difficulties, cultivate the soil, rule a city, make roads, build houses, construct engines, 
or seek and spread knowledge, in perfect self-forgetfulness and serenity. As much was inherent in Gautama's 
teaching, but the stress was certainly laid upon the teaching itself, and upon withdrawal from rather than upon 
the ennoblement of the ordinary affairs of men. 

In certain other respects this primitive Buddhism differed from any of the religions we have hitherto 
considered. It was primarily a religion of conduct, not a religion of observances and sacrifices. It had no 
temples, and since it had no sacrifices, it had no sacred order of priests. Nor had it any theology. It neither 
asserted nor denied the reality of the innumerable and often grotesque gods who were worshipped in India at 
that time. It passed them by. 

25.4 Buddhism and Asoka 

From the very first this new teaching was misconceived. One corruption was perhaps inherent in its teaching. 
Because the world of men had as yet no sense of the continuous progressive effort of life, it was very easy to 
slip from the idea of renouncing self to the idea of renouncing active life. As Gautama's own experiences had 
shown, it is easier to flee from this world than from self. His early disciples were strenuous thinkers and 
teachers, but the lapse into mere monastic seclusion was a very easy one, particularly easy in the climate of 
India, where an extreme simplicity of living is convenient and attractive, and exertion more laborious than 
anywhere else in the world. 

And it was early the fate of Gautama, as it has been the fate of most religious founders since his days, to be 
made into a wonder by his less intelligent disciples in their efforts to impress the outer world. We have 
already noted how one devout follower could not but believe that the moment of the master's mental 
irradiation must necessarily have been marked by an epileptic fit of the elements. This is one small sample of 
the vast accumulation of vulgar marvels that presently sprang up about the memory of Gautama. 

There can be no doubt that for the great multitude of human beings then as now the mere idea of an 
emancipation from self is a very difficult one to grasp. It is probable that even among the teachers Buddha 
was sending out from Benares there were many who did not grasp it and still less were able to convey it to 
their hearers. Their teaching quite naturally took on the aspect of salvation not from oneself 'that idea was 
beyond them"but from misfortunes and sufferings here and hereafter. In the existing superstitions of the 
people, and especially in the idea of the transmigration of the soul after death, though this idea was contrary to 
the Master's own teaching, they found stuff of fear they could work upon. They urged virtue upon the people 
lest they should live again in degraded or miserable forms, or fall into some one of the innumerable hells of 
torment with which the Brahminical teachers had already familiarized their minds. They represented Buddha 
as the saviour from almost unlimited torment. 

There seems to be no limit to the lies that honest but stupid disciples will tell for the glory of their master and 
for what they regard as the success of their propaganda. Men who would scorn to tell a lie in everyday life 
will become unscrupulous cheats and liars when they have given themselves up to propagandist work; it is 
one of the perplexing absurdities of our human nature. Such honest souls, for most of them were indubitably 
honest, were presently telling their hearers of the miracles that attended the Buddha's birth"they no longer 
called him Gautama, because that was too familiar a name"of his youthful feats of strength, of the marvels of 
his everyday life, winding up with a sort of illumination of his body at the moment of death. Of course it was 
impossible to believe that Buddha was the son of a mortal father. He was miraculously conceived through his 



Part I 1 73 

mother dreaming of a beautiful white elephant! Previously he had himself been a, marvellous elephant with 
six tusks; he had generously given them all to a needy hunter"and even helped him to saw them off. And so 
on. 

Moreover, a theology grew up about Buddha. He was discovered to be a god. He was one of a series of divine 
beings, the Buddhas. There was an undying Spirit of all the Buddhas; there was a great series of Buddhas past 
and Buddhas (or Buddisatvas) yet to come. But we cannot go further into these complications of Asiatic 
theology. Under the overpowering influence of these sickly imaginations the moral teachings of Gautama 
have been almost hid from view. 

The theories grew and flourished; each new step, each new hypothesis, demanded another; until the whole sky 
was filled with forgeries of the brain, and the nobler and simpler lessons of the founder of the religion were 
smothered beneath the glittering mass of metaphysical subtleties. [4] 

In the third century B.C. Buddhism was gaining wealth and power, and the little groups of simple huts in 
which the teachers of the Order gathered in the rainy season were giving place to substantial monastic 
buildings. To this period belong the beginnings of Buddhistic art. Now if we remember how recent was the 
adventure of Alexander, that all the Punjab was still under Seleucid rule, that all India abounded with Greek 
adventurers, and that there was still quite open communication by sea and land with Alexandria, it is no great 
wonder to find that this early Buddhist art was strongly Greek in character, and that the new Alexandrian cult 
of Serapis and Isis was extraordinarily influential in its development. 

The kingdom of Gandhara on the north-west frontier near Peshawar, which flourished in the third century 
B.C. was a typical meeting-place of the Hellenic and Indian worlds. Here are to be found the earliest Buddhist 
sculptures, and interwoven with them are figures which are recognizably the figures of Serapis and Isis and 
Horus already worked into the legendary net that gathered about Buddha. No doubt the Greek artists who 
came to Gandhara were loth to relinquish a familiar theme. But Isis, we are told, is no longer Isis but Hariti, a 
pestilence goddess whom Buddha converted and made benevolent. Foucher traces Isis from this centre into 
China, but here other influences were also at work, and the story becomes too complex for us to disentangle in 
this Outline. [5] China had a Taoist deity, the Holy Mother, the Queen of Heaven, who took on the name, 
(originally a male name) of Kuan-yin and who came to resemble the Isis figure very closely. The Isis figures, 
we feel, must have influenced the treatment of Kuan- in. Like Isis she was also Queen of the Seas, Stella 
Maris. In Japan she was called Kwannon. There seems to have been a constant exchange of the outer forms of 
religion between east and west. We read in Hue's Travels how perplexing he and his fellow missionary found 
this possession of a common tradition of worship. 

The cross, he says, the mitre, the dalmatica, the cope which the Grand Lamas wear on their journeys, or when 
they are performing some ceremony out of the temple; the service with double choirs, the psalmody, the 
exorcisms, the censer, suspended from five chains, which you can open or close at pleasure; the benedictions 
given by the Lamas by extending the right hand over the heads of the faithful; the chaplet, ecclesiastical 
celibacy spiritual retirement, the worship of the saints, the fasts, the processions, the litanies, the holy water, 
all these are analogies between the Buddhists and ourselves. [6] 

The cult and doctrine of Gautama, gathering corruptions and variations from Brahminisin and Hellenism 
alike, was spread throughout India by an increasing multitude of teachers in the fourth and third centuries B.C. 
For some generations at least it retained much of the moral beauty and something of the simplicity of the 
opening phase. Many people who have no intellectual grasp upon the meaning of self-abnegation and 
disinterestedness have nevertheless the ability to appreciate a splendour in the reality of these qualities. Early 
Buddhism was certainly producing noble lives, and it is not only through reason that the latent response to 
nobility is aroused in our minds. It spread rather in spite of than because of the concessions that it made to 
vulgar imaginations. It spread because many of the early Buddhists were sweet and gentle, helpful and noble 
and admirable people, who compelled belief in their sustaining faith. 



Part I 1 74 

Quite early in its career Buddhism came into conflict with the growing pretensions of the Brahmins. As we 
have already noted, this priestly caste was still only struggling to dominate Indian life in the days of Gautama. 
They had already great advantages. They had the monopoly, of tradition and religious sacrifices. But their 
power was being challenged by the development of kingship, for the men who became clan leaders and kings 
were usually not of the Brahminical caste. 

Kingship received an impetus from the Persian and Greek invasions of the Punjab. We have already noted the 
name of King Porus whom, in spite of his elephants, Alexander defeated and turned into a satrap. There came 
also to the Greek camp upon the Indus a certain adventurer named Chandragupta Maurya, whom the Greeks 
called Sandracottus, with a scheme for conquering the Ganges country. 

The scheme was not welcome to the Macedonians, who were in revolt against marching any further into India, 
and he had to fly the camp. He wandered among the tribes upon the north-west frontier, secured their support, 
and after Alexander had departed, overran the Punjab, ousting the Macedonian representatives. He then 
conquered the Ganges country (321 B.C.), waged a successful war (303 B.C.) against Seleucus (Seleucus I) 
when the latter attempted to recover the Punjab, and consolidated a great empire reaching across all the plain 
of northern India from the western to the eastern sea. And this King Chandragupta came into much the same 
conflict with the growing power of the Brahmins, into the conflict between crown and priesthood, that we 
have already noted as happening in Babylonia and Egypt and China. He saw in the spreading doctrine of 
Buddhism an ally against the growth of priestcraft and caste. He supported and endowed the Buddhistic 
Order, and encouraged its teachings. 

He was succeeded by his son, who conquered Madras and was in turn succeeded by Asoka (264 to 227 B.C.), 
one of the great monarchs of history, whose dominions extended from Afghanistan to Madras. He is the only 
military monarch on record who abandoned warfare after victory. He had invaded Kalinga (255 B.C.), a 
country along the east coast of Madras, perhaps with some intention of completing the conquest of the tip of 
the Indian peninsula. The expedition was successful, but he was disgusted by what be saw of the cruelties and 
horrors of war. He declared, in certain inscriptions that still exist, that he would no longer seek conquest by 
war, but by religion, and the rest of his life was devoted to the spreading of Buddhism throughout the world. 

He seems to have ruled his vast empire in peace and with great ability. He was no more religious fanatic. But 
in the year of his one and only war he joined the Buddhist community as a layman, and some years later he 
became a full member of the Order, and devoted himself to the attainment of Nirvana by the Eightfold Path. 

How entirely compatible that way of living then was with the most useful and beneficent activities his life 
shows. Right Aspiration, Right Effort, and Right Livelihood distinguished his career. 

He organized a great digging of wells in India, and the planting of trees for shade. He appointed officers for 
the supervision of charitable works. He founded hospitals and public gardens. He had gardens made for the 
growing of medicinal herbs. Had he had an Aristotle to inspire him, he would no doubt have endowed 
scientific research upon a great scale. He created a ministry for the care of the aborigines and subject races. 
He made provision for the education of women. He made, he was the first monarch to make, an attempt to 
educate his people into a common view of the ends and way of life. He made vast benefactions to the 
Buddhist teaching orders, and tried to stimulate them to a better study of their own literature. All over the land 
beset up long inscriptions rehearsing the teaching of Gautama, and it is the simple and human teaching and 
not the preposterous accretions. Thirty-five of his inscriptions survive to this day. Moreover, he sent 
missionaries to spread the noble and reasonable teaching of his master throughout the world, to Kashmir, to 
Ceylon, to the Seleucids, and the Ptolemies. It was one of these missions which carried that cutting of the Bo 
Tree, of which we have already told, to Ceylon. 

For eight and twenty years Asoka worked sanely for the real needs of men. Amidst the tens of thousands of 
names of monarchs that crowd the columns of history, their majesties and graciousnesses and serenities and 



Part I 1 75 

royal highnesses and the like, the name of Asoka shines, and shines, almost alone, a star. From the Volga to 
Japan his name is still honoured. China, Tibet, and even India, though it has left his doctrine, preserve the 
tradition of his greatness. More living men cherish his memory to-day than have ever heard the names of 
Constantine or Charlemagne. 

25.5 Two Great Chinese Teachers 

It is thought that the vast benefactions of Asoka finally corrupted Buddhism by attracting to its Order great 
numbers of mercenary and insincere adherents, but there can be no doubt that its rapid extension throughout 
Asia was very largely due to his stimulus. 

It made its way into Central Asia through Afghanistan and Turkestan, and so reached China. Buddhist 
teaching had spread widely in China before 200 B.C. Buddhism found there a popular and prevalent religion, 
Taoism, a development of very ancient and primitive magic and occult practices. It was reorganized as a 
distinctive cult by Chang Daoling in the days of the Han dynasty. Tao, means the Way, which corresponds 
closely with the idea of the Aryan Path. The two religions spread side by side and underwent similar changes, 
so that nowadays their outward practice is very similar. Buddhism also encountered Confucianism, which was 
even less theological and even more a code of personal conduct. And finally it encountered the teachings of 
Lao Tse, anarchist, evolutionist, pacifist and moral philosopher, [7] which were not so much a religion as a 
philosophical rule of life. The teachings of this Lao Tse were later to become incorporated with the Taoist 
religion by Chen Tuan, the founder of modern Taoism. 

Confucius, the founder of Confucianism, like the great southern teacher Lao Tse and Gautama, lived also in 
the sixth century B.C. His life has some interesting parallelisms with that of some of the more political of the 
Greek philosophers of the fifth and fourth. The sixth century B.C. falls into the period assigned by Chinese 
historians to the Chow Dynasty, but in those days the rule of that dynasty had become little more than 
nominal; the emperor conducted the traditional sacrifices of the Son of Heaven, and received a certain formal 
respect. Even his nominal empire was not a sixth part of the China of to-day. In Chapter XIV we have already 
glanced at the state of affairs in China at this time; practically China was a multitude of warring states open to 
the northern barbarians. Confucius was a subject in one of those states, Lu; he was of aristocratic birth, but 
poor; and, after occupying various official positions, he set up a sort of Academy in Lu for the discovery and 
imparting of Wisdom. And we also find Confucius travelling from state to state in China, seeking a prince 
who would make him his counsellor and become the centre of a reformed world. Plato, two centuries later, in 
exactly the same spirit, went as adviser to the tyrant Dionysius of Syracuse, and we have already noted the 
attitudes of Aristotle and Isocrates towards Philip of Macedonia. 

The teaching of Confucius centred upon the idea of a noble life which he embodied in a standard or ideal, the 
Aristocratic Man. This phrase is often translated into English as the Superior Person, but as superior and 
person, like respectable and genteel, have long become semi-humorous terms of abuse, this rendering is not 
fair to Confucianism. He did present to his time the ideal of a devoted public man. The public side was very 
important to him. He was far more of a constructive political thinker than Gautama or Lao Tse. His mind was 
full of the condition of China, and he sought to call the Aristocratic Mau into existence very largely in order to 
produce the noble state. One of his sayings may be quoted here: It is impossible to withdraw from the world, 
and associate with birds and beasts that have no affinity with us. With whom should I associate but with 
suffering men? The disorder that prevails is what requires my efforts. If right principles ruled through the 
kingdom, there would be no necessity for me to change its state. 

The political basis of his teaching seems to be characteristic of Chinese moral ideas; there is a much directer 
reference to the State than is the case with most Indian and European moral and religious doctrine. For a time 
he was appointed magistrate in Chung-tu, a city of the dukedom of Lu, and here he sought to regulate life to 
an extraordinary extent, to subdue every relationship and action indeed to the rule of an elaborate etiquette. 
Ceremonial in every detail, such as we are wont to see only in the courts of rulers and the households of high 



Part I 1 76 

dignitaries, became obligatory on the people at large, and all matters of daily life were subject to rigid rule. 
Even the food which the different classes of people might eat was regulated; males and females were kept 
apart in the streets; even the thickness of coffins and the shape and situation of graves were made the subject 
of regulations. [8] 

This is all, as people say, very Chinese. No other people have ever approached moral order and social stability 
through the channel of manners. Yet in China, at any rate, the methods of Confucius have had an enormous 
effect, and no nation in the world to-day has such a universal tradition of decorum and self-restraint. 

Later on the influence of Confucius over his duke was undermined, and he withdrew again into private life. 
His last days were saddened by the deaths of some of his most promising disciples. No intelligent ruler, he 
said, arises to take, me as his master, and my time has come to die. . . . 

But he died to live. Says Hirth, There can be no doubt that Confucius has had a greater influence on the 
development of the Chinese national character than many emperors taken together. He is, therefore, one of the 
essential figures to be considered in connection with any history of China. That he could influence his nation 
to such a degree was, it appears to me, due more to the peculiarity of the nation than to that of his own 
personality. Had he lived in any other part of the world, his name would perhaps be forgotten. As we have 
seen, he had formed his character and his personal views on man's life from a careful study of documents 
closely connected with the moral philosophy cultivated by former generations. 

What he preached to his contemporaries was, therefore, not all new to them; but, having himself, in the study 
of old records, heard the dim voice of the sages of the past, he became, as it were, the megaphone phonograph 
through which were expressed to the nation those views which he had derived from the early development of 
the nation itself. . . . The great influence of Confucius's personality on national life in China was due not only 
to his writings and his teachings as recorded by others, but also to his doings. His personal character, as 
described by his disciples and in the accounts of later writers, some of which may be entirely legendary, has 
become the pattern for millions of those who are bent on imitating the outward manners of a great man. . . . 
Whatever he did in public was regulated to the minutest detail by ceremony. This was no invention of his 
own, since ceremonial life had been cultivated many centuries before Confucius; but his authority and 
example did much to perpetuate what he considered desirable social practices. 

The Chinese speak of Buddhism and the doctrines of Lao Tse and Confucius as the Three Teachings. 
Together they constitute the basis and point of departure of all later Chinese thought. Their thorough study is a 
necessary preliminary to the establishment of any real intellectual and moral community between the great 
people of the East and the Western world. 

There are certain things to be remarked in common of all these three teachers, of whom Gautama was 
indisputably the greatest and profoundest, whose doctrines to this day dominate the thought of the great 
majority of human beings; there are certain features in which their teaching contrasts with the thoughts and 
feelings that were soon to take possession of the Western world. Primarily they are personal and tolerant 
doctrines; they are doctrines of a Way, of a Path, of a Nobility, and not doctrines of a church or a general rule. 
And they offer nothing either for or against the existence and worship of the current gods. The Athenian 
philosophers, it is to be noted, had just the same theological detachment! Socrates was quite willing to bow 
politely or sacrifice formally to almost any divinity, "reserving his private thoughts. This attitude is flatly 
antagonistic to the state of mind that was growing up in the Jewish communities of Judea, Egypt, and 
Babylonia, in which the thought of the one God was first and foremost. Neither Gautama nor Lao Tse nor 
Confucius had any inkling of this idea of a jealous God, a God who would have none other gods, a God of 
terrible Truth, who would not tolerate any lurking belief in magic, witchcraft, or old customs, or any 
sacrificing to the god-king or any trifling with the stern unity of things. 

25.6 The Corruptions of Buddhism 



Part I 1 77 

The intolerance of the Jewish mind did keep its essential faith clear and clean. The theological disregard of the 
great Eastern teachers, neither assenting nor denying, did on the other hand permit elaborations of explanation 
and accumulations of ritual from the very beginning. Except for Gautama's insistence upon Right Views, 
which was easily disregarded, there was no self-cleansing element in either Buddhism, Taoism, or 
Confucianism. There was no effective prohibition of superstitious practices, spirit raising, incantations, 
prostrations, and supplementary worships. At an early stage a process of encrustation began, and continued. 
The new faiths caught almost every disease of the corrupt religions they sought to replace; they took over the 
idols and the temples, the altars and the censers. 

Tibet to-day is a Buddhistic country, yet Gautama, could he return to earth, might go from end to end of Tibet 
seeking his own teaching in vain. He would find that most ancient type of human ruler, a god-king, enthroned, 
the Dalai Lama, the living Buddha. At Lhassa he would find a huge temple filled with priests, abbots, and 
lamas-he whose only buildings, were huts and who made no priests-and above a high altar he would behold a 
huge golden idol, which he would learn was called Gautama Buddha! He would hear services intoned before 
this divinity, and certain precepts, which would be dimly familiar to him, murmured as responses. Bells, 
incense, prostrations, would play their part in these amazing proceedings. At one point in the service a bell 
would be rung and a mirror lifted up, while the whole congregation, in an access of reverence, bowed lower. . 



About this Buddhist countryside he would discover a number of curious little mechanisms, little wind-wheels 
and waterwheels spinning, on which brief prayers were inscribed. Every time these things spin, he would 
learn, it counts as a prayer. To whom? he would ask. Moreover, there would be a number of flagstaffs in the 
land carrying beautiful silk flags, silk flags which bore the perplexing inscription, Om Mani padme hum, the 
jewel is in the lotus. Whenever the flag flaps, he would learn, it was a prayer also, very beneficial to the 
gentleman who paid for the flag and to the land generally. Gangs of workmen, employed by pious persons, 
would be going about the country cutting this precious formula on cliff and stone. And this, he would realize 
at last, was what the world had made of his religion! Beneath this gaudy glitter was buried the Aryan Way to 
serenity of soul. 

We have already noted the want of any progressive idea in primitive Buddhism. In that again it contrasted 
with Judaism. The idea of a Promise gave to Judaism a quality no previous or contemporary religion 
displayed; it made Judaism historical and dramatic. It justified its fierce intolerance because it pointed to an 
aim. In spite of the truth and profundity of the psychological side of Gautama's teaching, Buddhism stagnated 
and corrupted for the lack of that directive idea. Judaism, it must be confessed, in its earlier phases, entered 
but little into the souls of men; it let them remain lustful, avaricious, worldly or superstitious; but because of 
its persuasion of a promise and of a divine leadership to serve divine ends, it remained in comparison with 
Buddhism bright and expectant, like a cared-for sword. 

25.7 The Present Range of Buddhism 

For some time Buddhism flourished in India. But Brahminism, with its many gods and its endless variety of 
cults, always flourished by its side, and the organization of the Brahmins grew more powerful, until at last 
they were able to turn upon this caste-denying cult and oust it from India altogether. The story of that struggle 
is not to be told here; there were persecutions and reactions, but by the eleventh century, except for Orissa, 
Buddhist teaching was extinct in India. Much of its gentleness and charity had, however, become incorporated 
with Brahminism. 

Over great areas of the world, as our map has shown, it still survives; and it is quite possible that in contact 
with western science, and inspired by the spirit of history, the original teaching of Gautama, revived and 
purified, may yet play a large part in the direction of human destiny. 

But with the loss of India the Aryan Way ceased to rule the lives of any Aryan peoples. It is curious to note 



Part I 1 78 

that while the one great Aryan religion is now almost exclusively confined to Mongolian peoples, the Aryans 
themselves are under the sway of two religions, Christianity and Islam, which are, as we shall see, essentially 
Semitic. And both Buddhism and Christianity wear garments of ritual and formula that seem to be derived 
through Hellenistic channels from that land of temples and priestcraft, Egypt, and from the more primitive and 
fundamental mentality of the brown Hamitic peoples. 

26.0 The Two Western Republics 

26.1 The Beginnings of the Latins 

26.2 A New Sort of State 

26.3 The Carthaginian Republic of Rich Men 

26.4 The First Punic War 

26.5 Cato the Elder and the Spirit of Cato 

26.6 The Second Punic War 

26.7 The Third Punic War 

26.8 How the Punic War Undermined Roman Liberty 

26.9 Comparison of the Roman Republic with a Modern State 

26.1 The Beginnings of the Latins 

It is now necessary to take up the history of the two great republics of the Western Mediterranean, Rome and 
Carthage, and to tell how Rome succeeded in maintaining for some centuries an empire even greater than that 
achieved by the conquests of Alexander. But this new empire was, as we shall try to make clear, a political 
structure differing very profoundly in its nature from any of the great Oriental empires that had preceded it. 
Great changes in the texture of human society and in the conditions of social interrelations had been going on 
for some centuries. The flexibility and transferability of money was becoming a power and, like all powers in 
inexpert hands, a danger in human affairs. It was altering the relations of rich men to the state and to their 
poorer fellow citizens. This new empire, the Roman empire, unlike all the preceding empires, was not the 
creation of a great conqueror. No Sargon, no Thothmes, no Nebuchadnezzar, no Cyrus nor Alexander nor 
Chandragupta, was its fountain head. It was made by a republic. It grew by a kind of necessity through new 
concentrating and unifying forces that were steadily gathering power in human affairs. 

But first it is necessary to give some idea of the state of affairs in Italy in the centuries immediately preceding 
the appearance of Rome in the world's story. 

Before 1200 B.C., that is to say before the rise of the Assyrian empire, the siege of Troy, and the final 
destruction of Cnossos, but after the time of Amenophis IV, Italy, like Spain, was probably still inhabited 
mainly by dark white people of the more fundamental Iberian or Mediterranean race. This aboriginal 
population was probably a thin and backward one. But already in Italy, as in Greece, the Aryans were coming 
southward. By 1000 B.C. immigrants from the north had settled over most of the north and centre of Italy, 
and, as in Greece, they had intermarried with their darker predecessors and established a group of Aryan 
languages, the Italian group, more akin to the Keltic (Gaelic) than to any other, of which the most interesting 
from the historical point of view was that spoken by the Latin tribes in the plains south and east of the river 
Tiber. Meanwhile the Greeks had been settling down in Greece, and now they were taking to the sea and 



Part I 1 79 

crossing over to South Italy and Sicily and establishing themselves there. Subsequently they established 
colonies along the French Riviera and founded Marseilles upon the site of an older Phoenician colony. 
Another interesting people also had come into Italy by sea These were a brownish sturdy people, to judge 
from the pictures they have left of themselves; very probably they were a tribe of those geandark whites who 
were being driven out of Greece and Asia Minor and the islands in between by the Greeks. 

We have already told the tale of Cnossos (Chapter XV) and of the settlement of the kindred Philistines in 
Palestine (Chapter XIX, sec 1). These Etruscans, as they were called in Italy were known even in ancient 
times to be of Asiatic origin, and it is tempting, but probably unjustifiable, to connect this tradition with the 
Aeneid the sham epic of the Latin poet Virgil, in which the Latin civilization is ascribed to Trojan immigrants 
from Asia Minor. (But the Trojans themselves were probably an Aryan people allied to the Phrygians.) These 
Etruscan people conquered most of Italy north of the Tiber from the Aryan tribes who were scattered over that 
country. Probably the Etruscans ruled over a subjugated Italian population, so reversing the state of affairs in 
Greece, in which the Aryans were uppermost. 

Our map, which may be taken to represent roughly the state of affairs about 750 B.C. also shows the 
establishments of the Phoenician traders, of which Carthage was the chief, along the shores of Africa and 
Spain. 

Of all the peoples actually in Italy, the Etruscans were by far the most civilized. They built sturdy fortresses of 
the Mycaenean type of architecture; they had a metal industry; they used imported Greek pottery of a very 
fine type. The Latin tribes on the other side of the Tiber were by comparison barbaric. 

The Latins were still a rude farming people. 'The centre of their worship was a temple to the tribal god Jupiter, 
upon the Alban Mount. There they gathered for their chief festivals very much after the fashion of the early 
tribal gathering we have already imagined at Avebury. This gathering place was not a town. It was a high 
place of assembly. There was no population permanently there. There were, however, twelve townships in the 
Latin league. At one point upon the Tiber there was a ford, and here there was a trade between Latins and 
Etruscans. At this ford Rome had its beginnings. Traders assembled there, and refugees from the twelve towns 
found an asylum and occupation at this trading centre. Upon the seven hills near the ford a number of 
settlements sprang up, which finally amalgamated into one city. 

Most people have heard the story of the two brothers Romulus and Remus, who founded Rome, and the 
legend of how they were exposed as infants and sheltered and suckled by a wolf. Little value is now attached 
to this tale by modern historians. The date 753 B.C. is given for the founding of Rome, but there are Etruscan 
tombs beneath the Roman Forum of a much earlier date than that, and the so-called tomb of Romulus bears an 
indecipherable Etruscan inscription. 

The peninsula of Italy was not then the smiling land of vineyards and olive orchards it has since become. It 
was still a rough country of marsh and forest, in which the farmers grazed their cattle and made their 
clearings. Rome, on the boundary between Latin and Etruscan, was not in a very strong position for defence. 
At first there were perhaps Latin kings in Rome then it would seem the city fell into the hands of Etruscan 
rulers whose tyrannous conduct led at last to their expulsion, and Rome became a Latin-speaking republic. 
The, Etruscan kings were expelled from Rome in the sixth century B.C., while the successors of 
Nebuchadnezzar were ruling by the sufferance of the Medes in Babylon, while Confucius was seeking a king 
to reform the disorders of China, and while Gautama was teaching the Aryan Way to his disciples at Benares. 

Of the struggle between the Romans and the Etruscans we cannot tell in any detail here. The Etruscans were 
the better armed, the more civilized, and the more numerous, and it would probably have gone hard with the 
Romans if they had had to fight them alone. But two disasters happened to the Etruscans which so weakened 
them that the Romans were able at last to master them altogether. The first of these was a war with the Greeks 
of Syracuse in Sicily which destroyed the Etruscan fleet (474 B.C.), and the second was a great raid of the 



Part I 1 80 

Gauls from the north into Italy. These latter people swarmed into North Italy and occupied the valley of the Po 
towards the end of the fifth century B.C., as a couple of centuries later their kindred were to swarm down into 
Greece and Asia Minor and settle in Galatia. The Etruscans were thus caught between hammer and anvil, and 
after a long and intermittent war the Romans wore able to capture Veii, an Etruscan fortress, a few miles from 
Rome, which had hitherto been a great threat and annoyance to them. 

It is to this period of struggle, against the Etruscan monarchs, the Tarquins, that Macaulay's Lays of Ancient 
Rome familiar to every schoolboy, refer. 

But the invasion of the Gauls was one of those convulsions of the nations that leave nothing as it has been 
before. They carried their raiding right down the Italian peninsula, devastating all Etruria. They took and 
sacked Rome (390 B.C.). According to Roman legends-on which doubt is thrown-the citadel on the Capitol 
held out, and this also the Gauls would have taken by surprise at night, if certain geese had not been awakened 
by their stealthy movements and set up such a cackling as to arouse the garrison. After that the Gauls, who 
were ill-equipped for siege operations, and perhaps suffering from disease in their camp, were bought off, and 
departed to the northward again, and, though they made subsequent raids, they never again reached Rome. 

The leader of the Gauls who sacked Rome was named Brennus. It is related of him that as the gold of the 
ransom was being weighed, there was some dispute about the justice of the counterpoise, whereupon he flung 
his sword into the scale, saying, Vae victis! (Woe to the vanquished!) a phrase that has haunted the 
discussions of all subsequent ransoms and indemnities down to the present time. 

For half a century after this experience Rome was engaged in a series of wars to establish herself at the head 
of the Latin tribes. For the burning of the chief city seems to have stimulated rather than crippled her energies. 
However much she had suffered, most of her neighbours, seem to have suffered more. By 290 B.C. Rome was 
the mistress city of all Central Italy from the Arno to south of Naples. She had conquered the Etruscans 
altogether, and her boundaries marched with those of the Gauls to the north and with the regions Of Italy 
under, Greek dominion (Magna Graeae) to the south. Along the Gaulish boundary she had planted garrisons 
and colonial cities, and no doubt it was because of that line of defence that the raiding enterprises of the Gauls 
were deflected eastward into the Balkans. 

After what we have already told of the history of Greece and the constitutions of her cities, it will not surprise 
the reader to learn that the Greeks of Sicily and Italy were divided up into a number of separate city 
governments, of which Syracuse and Tarentum (the modern Taranto) were the chief, and that they had no 
common rule of direction or policy. But now, alarmed at the spread of the Roman power, they looked across 
the Adriatic for help, and found it in the ambitions of Pyrrhus, the king of Epirus. Between the Romans and 
Pyrrhus these Greeks of Magna Graecia were very much in the same position that Greece proper had been in, 
between the Macedonians and the Persians half a century before. 

The reader will remember that Epirus, the part of Greece that is closest to the heel of Italy, was the native land 
of Olympias, the mother of Alexander. In the, kaleidoscopic changes, of the map that followed the death of 
Alexander, Epirus was sometimes swamped by Macedonia, sometimes independent. This Pyrrhus was a 
kinsman of Alexander the Great, and a monarch of ability and enterprise, and he seems to have planned a 
career of conquest in Italy and Sicily. He commanded an admirable army, against which the comparatively 
inexpert Roman levies could at first do little. 

His army included all the established military devices of the time, an infantry phalanx, Thessalian cavalry, and 
twenty fighting elephants from the east. He routed the Romans at Heraclea (280 B.C.), and pressing after 
them, defeated them again at Ausculum (279 B.C.) in their own territory. Then, instead of pursuing the 
Romans further, he made a truce with them, turned his attention to the subjugation of Sicily, and so brought 
the sea power of Carthage into alliance against him. For Carthage could not afford to have a strong power 
established so close to her as Sicily. Rome in those days seemed to the Carthaginians a far less serious threat 



Parti 181 

than the possibility of another Alexander the Great ruling Sicily. A Carthaginian fleet appeared off the mouth 
of the Tiber, therefore, to encourage or induce the Romans to renew the struggle, and Rome and Carthage 
were definitely allied against the invader. 

This interposition of Carthage was fatal to Pyrrhus. Without any decisive battle his power wilted, and, after a 
disastrous repulse in an attack upon the Roman camp of Beneventum, he had to retire to Epirus (275 B.C.). 

It is recorded that when Pyrrhus left Sicily, he said he left it to be the battleground of Rome and Carthage. He 
was killed three years later in a battle in the streets of Argos. The war against Pyrrhus was won by the 
Carthaginian fleet, and Rome reaped a full half of the harvest of victory. Sicily fell completely to Carthage, 
and Rome came down to the toe and heel of Italy, and looked across the Straits of Messina at her new rival. In 
eleven years' time (264 B.C.) the prophecy of Pyrrhus was fulfilled, and the first war with Carthage, the first 
of the three Punic [1] Wars, had begun. 

26.2 A New Sort of State 

But we write Rome and the Romans, and we have still to explain what manner of people these were who were 
playing a role of conquest that had hither-to been played only by able and aggressive monarchs. 

Their state was, in the fifth Century B.C., a republic of the Aryan type very similar to a Greek aristocratic 
republic. The earliest accounts of the social life of Rome give us a picture of a very primitive Aryan 
community In the second half of the fifth century before Christ, Rome was still an aristocratic community of 
free peasants, occupying an area of nearly 400 square miles, with a population certainly not exceeding 
150,000, almost entirely dispersed over the country-side and divided into seventeen districts or rural tribes. 
Most of the families had a small holding and a cottage of their own, where father and sons lived and worked 
together, growing corn for the most part, with here and there a strip of vine or olive. Their few head of cattle 
were kept at pasture on the neighbouring common land; their clothes and simple implements of husbandry 
they made for themselves at home. Only at rare intervals and on special occasions would they make their way 
into the fortified town, which was the centre at once of their religion and their government. 

Here were the temples of the gods, the houses of the wealthy, and the shops of the artizans and traders, where 
corny oil, or wine could he bartered in small quantities for salt or rough tools and weapons of iron. [2] 

This community followed the usual tradition of a division into aristocratic and common citizens, who were 
called in Rome patricians and plebeians. These were the citizens; the slave or outlander had no more part in 
the state than he had in Greece. But the constitution differed from any Greek constitution in the fact that a 
great part of the ruling power was gathered into the hands of a body called the Senate, which was neither 
purely a body of hereditary members nor directly an elected and representative one. It was a nominated one, 
and in the earlier period it was nominated solely from among the patricians. It existed before the expulsion of 
the kings, and in the time of the kings it was the king who nominated the senators. But after the expulsion of 
the kings (510 B.C.), the supreme government was vested in the hands of two elected rulers, the consuls; and 
it was the consuls who took over the business of appointing senators. In the early days of the Republic only 
patricians were eligible as consuls or senators, and the share of the plebeians in the government consisted 
merely in a right to vote for the consuls and other public officials. Even for that purpose their votes did not 
have the same value as those of their patrician fellow citizens. But their votes had at any rate sufficient weight 
to induce many of the patrician candidates to profess a more or less sincere concern for plebeian grievances. 
In the early phases of the Roman state, moreover, the plebeians were not only excluded from public office, but 
from intermarriage with the patrician class. The administration was evidently primarily a patrician affair. 

The early phase of Roman affairs was therefore an aristocracy of a very pronounced type, and the internal 
history of Rome for the two centuries and a half between the expulsion of the last Etruscan king, Tarquin the 
Proud, and the beginning of the first Punic War (264 B.C.), was very largely a struggle for mastery between 



Part I 1 82 

those two orders, the patricians and the plebeians. It, was, in fact, closely parallel with the struggle of 
aristocracy and democracy in the city states of Greece, and, as in the case of Greece, there were whole classes 
in the community, slaves, freed slaves, unpropertied free men, outlanders, and the like, who were entirely 
outside and beneath the struggle. We have already noted the essential difference of Greek democracy and 
what is called democracy in the world to-day. Another misused word is the Roman term Proletariat, which in 
modem jargon means all the unpropertied people, in a modern state. In Rome the Proletarii were a voting 
division of fully qualified citizens whose property was less than 10,000 copper asses (= 275). They were an 
enrolled class; their value to the state consisted in their raising families of citizens, (proles = offspring), and 
from their ranks were drawn the colonists who went to form new Latin cities or to garrison important points. 
But the proletarii were quite distinct in, origin from slaves or freedmen or the miscellaneous driftage of a town 
slum, and it is a great pity that modern political discussion should be confused by an inaccurate use of a term 
which has no exact modern equivalent and which expresses nothing real in modern social classification. 

The mass of the details of this struggle between patricians and plebeians we can afford to ignore in this 
outline. It was a struggle which showed the Romans to be a people of a curiously shrewd character, never 
forcing things to a destructive crisis, but being within the limits of their discretion grasping hard dealers. The 
patricians made a mean use of their political advantages to grow rich through the national conquests at the 
expense not only of the defeated enemy, but of the poorer plebeian, whose farm had been neglected and who 
had fallen into debt during his military service. The plebeians, were ousted from any share in the conquered 
lands, which the patricians divided up among themselves. The introduction of money probably increased the 
facilities of the usurer and the difficulties of the borrowing debtor. 

Three sorts of pressure won the plebeians a greater share in the government of the country and the good things 
that were coming to Rome as she grew powerful. The first of these (1) was the general strike of plebeians. 
Twice they actually marched right out of Rome, threatening to make a new city higher up the Tiber, and twice 
this threat proved conclusive. The second method of pressure (2) was the threat of a tyranny. Just as in Attica 
(the little state of which Athens was the capital), Peisistratus, raised himself to power on the support of the 
poorer districts, so there was to be found in most periods of plebeian discontent some ambitious man ready to 
figure as a leader and wrest power from the Senate. For a long time the Roman patricians were clever enough 
to beat every such potential tyrant by giving in to a certain extent to the plebeians. And finally (3) there were 
patricians bigminded and far-seeing enough to insist upon the need of reconciliation with the plebeians. 

Thus in 509 B.C., Valerius Poplicola (3), the consul, enacted that whenever the life or rights of any citizen 
were at stake, there should be an appeal from the magistrates to the general assembly. This Lex Valeria was 
the Habeas Corpus of Rome, and it freed the Roman plebeians from the worst dangers of class vindictiveness 
in the law courts. 

In 464 B.C. occurred a strike (1). After the Latin war the pressure of debt had become excessive, and the 
plebeians saw with indignation their friends, who had often served the state bravely in the legions, thrown into 
chains and reduced to slavery at the demand of patrician creditors. War was raging against the Volsians; but 
the legionaries, on their victorious return, refused any longer to obey the consuls, and marched, though 
without any disorder, to the Sacred Mount beyond the Anio (up the Tiber). There they prepared to found a 
new city, since the rights of citizens were denied to them in the old one. 

The patricians were compelled to give way, and. the plebeians, returning to Rome from the First Secession, 
received the privilege of having officers of their own, tribunes and aediles. [3] 

In 486 B.C. arose Spurius Cassius (2), a consul who carried an Agrarian Law securing public land for the 
plebeians. But the next year he was accused of aiming at royal power, and condemned to death. His law never 
came into operation. 

There followed a long struggle on the part of the plebeians to have the laws of Rome written down, so that 



Part I 1 83 

they would no longer have to trust to patrician memories. In 451-450 B.C. the law of the Twelve Tables was 
published, the basis of all Roman law. 

But in order that the Twelve Tables should be formulated, a committee of ten (the decemvirate ) was 
appointed in the place of the ordinary magistrates. A second decenivirate, appointed in succession to the first, 
attempted a sort of aristocratic counter-revolution under Appius Claudius. The plebeians withdrew again a 
second time to the Sacred Mount, and Appius Claudius committed suicide in prison. 

In 440 came a famine, and a second attempt to found a popular tyranny upon the popular wrongs, by Spurius 
Maelius, a wealthy plebeian, which ended in his assassination. 

After the sack of Rome by the Gauls (390 B.C.), Marcus Manlius, who had been in command of the Capitol 
when the geese had saved it, came forward as a popular leader. The plebeians were suffering severely from 
the after-war usury and profiteering of the patricians, and were incurring heavy debts in rebuilding and 
restocking their farms. Manlius spent his fortune in releasing debtors. He was accused by the patricians of 
tyrannous intentions, condemned, and suffered the fate of condemned traitors in Rome, being flung from the 
Tarpeian Rock, the precipitous edge of that same Capitoline Hill he had defended. 

In 376 B.C., Licinius, who was one of the ten tribunes for the people, began a long struggle with the patricians 
by making certain proposals called the Licinian Rogations, that there should be a limit to the amount of public 
land taken by any single citizen, so leaving some for everybody, that outstanding debts should be forgiven 
without interest upon the repayment of the principal, and that henceforth one at least of the two consuls should 
be a plebeian. 

This precipitated a ten-year struggle. The plebeian power to stop business by the veto of their representatives, 
the tribunes, was fully exercised. In cases of national extremity it was the custom to set all other magistrates 
aside and appoint one leader, the Dictator. Rome had done such a thing during times of military necessity 
before, but now the patricians set up a Dictator in a time of profound peace, with the idea of crushing Licinius 
altogether. They appointed Camillus, who had besieged and taken Veii from the Etruscans. But Camillus was 
a wiser man than his supporters; he brought about a compromise between the two orders in which most of the 
demands of the plebeians were conceded (366 B.C.), dedicated a temple to Concord, and resigned his power. 

Thereafter the struggle between the orders abated. It abated because, among other influences, the social 
differences between patricians and plebeians were diminishing. Trade was coming to Rome with increasing 
political power, and many plebeians were growing rich and many patricians becoming relatively poor. 
Intermarriage had been rendered possible by a change in the law, and social intermixture was going on. While 
the rich plebeians were becoming, if not aristocratic, at least oligarchic in habits and sympathy, new classes 
were springing up in Rome with, fresh interests and no political standing. Particularly abundant were the 
freedmen, slaves set free, for the most part artisans, but some of them traders, who were growing wealthy. 
And the Senate, no longer a purely patrician body-since various official positions were now open to plebeians, 
and such plebeian officials became senators-was becoming now an assembly of all the wealthy, able, 
energetic, and influential men in the state. The Roman power was expanding, and as it expanded these old 
class oppositions of the early Latin community were becoming unmeaning. They were being replaced by new 
associations and new antagonisms. Rich men of all origins were being drawn together into a common interest 
against the communistic ideas of the poor. 

In 390 B.C. Rome was a miserable little city on the borders of Etruria, being sacked by the Gauls; in 275 B.C. 
she was ruling and unifying all Italy, from the Arno to the Straits of Messina. The compromise of Camillus 
(367 B.C.) had put an end to internal dissensions, and left her energies free for expansion. And the same queer 
combination of sagacity and aggressive selfishness that had distinguished the war of her orders at home, and 
enabled her population to worry out a balance of power without any catastrophe marks her policy abroad. She 
understood the value of Allies; she could assimilate; abroad as at home she could in those days at least give 



Part I 1 84 

and take with a certain fairness and sanity. There lay the peculiar power of Rome. By that it was she 
succeeded where Athens, for example, had conspicuously failed. 

The Athenian democracy suffered much from that narrowness of patriotism, which is the ruin of all nations, 
Athens was disliked and envied by her own empire because she dominated it in a spirit of civic egotism; her 
disasters were not felt and shared as disasters by her subject-cities. The shrewder, nobler Roman senators of 
the great years of Rome, before the first Punic War overstrained her moral strength and began her 
degeneration, were not only willing in the last resort to share their privileges with the mass of their own 
people, but eager to incorporate their sturdiest antagonists upon terms of equality with themselves. They 
extended their citizenship cautiously but steadily. Some cities became Roman, with even a voting share in the 
government. Others had self-government and the right to trade or marry in Rome, without full Roman 
citizenship. Garrisons of full citizens were set up at strategic points, and colonies with variable privileges 
established amidst the purely conquered peoples. The need to keep communications open in this great and 
growing mass of citizenship was evident from the first. Printing and paper were not yet available for 
intercourse, but a system of high roads followed the Latin speech and the Roman rule. The first of these, the 
Appian Way, ran from Rome ultimately into the heel of Italy. It was begun by the censor Appius Claudius 
(who must not be confused with the decemvir Appius Claudius of a century earlier) in 312 B.C. 

According to a census made in 265 B.C., there were already in the Roman dominions, that is to say in Italy 
south of the Arno, 300,000 citizens. They all had a common interest in the welfare of the state; they were all 
touched a little with the diffused kingship of the republic. This was, we have to note, an absolutely new thing 
in the history of mankind. All considerable states and kingdoms and empires hitherto had been communities 
by mere obedience to some head, some monarch, upon whose moods and character the public welfare was 
helplessly dependent, No republic had hitherto succeeded in being anything more than a city state. The 
so-called Athenian empire was simply a city state directing its allies and its, subjugated cities. In a few 
decades the Roman republic was destined to extend its, citizenship into the valley of the Po, to assimilate the 
kindred Gauls, replacing their language by Latin, and to set up a Latin city, Aquileia, at the very head of the 
Adriatic Sea. In 89 B.C. all free inhabitants of Italy became Roman citizens; in 212 A.D. the citizenship was 
extended to all. free men in the empire. 

This extraordinary political growth was manifestly the precursor of all modern states of the western type. It is 
as interesting to the political student, therefore, as a carboniferous, amphibian or an archaeopteryx to the 
student of zoological development. It is the primitive type of the new dominant order. Its experiences throw 
light upon all subsequent political history. 

One natural result of this growth of a democracy of hundreds of thousands of citizens scattered over the 
greater part of Italy was the growth in power of the Senate. There had been in the development of the Roman 
constitution a variety of forms of the popular assembly, the plebeian assembly, the assembly by tribes, the 
assembly by centuries, and the like, into which variety we cannot enter here with any fullness; but the idea 
was established that with the popular assembly lay the power of initiating laws. It is to be noted that there was 
a sort of parallel government in this system. The assembly by tribes or by centuries was an assembly of the 
whole citizen body, patrician and plebeian together; the assembly of the plebeians was of course an assembly 
only of the plebeian class. Each assembly had its own officials; the former, the consuls, etc.; the latter, the 
tribunes. While Rome was a little state, twenty miles square, it was possible to assemble something like a 
representative gathering of the people, but it will be manifest that with the means of communication existing 
in Italy at that time, it was now impossible for the great bulk of the citizens even to keep themselves informed 
of what was going on at Rome, much less to take any effective part in political life there. Aristotle in his 
Politics had already pointed out the virtual disenfranchisement of voters who lived out of the city and were 
preoccupied with agricultural pursuits, and this sort of disenfranchisement by mechanical difficulties applied 
to the vast majority of Roman citizens. With the growth of Rome an unanticipated weakness crept into 
political life through these causes, and the popular assembly became more and more a gathering of political 
hacks and the city riffraff, and less and less a representation of the ordinary worthy citizens. The popular, 



Part I 1 85 

assembly came nearest to power and dignity in the fourth century B.C. From that period it steadily declined in 
influence, and the new Senate, which was no longer a patrician body, with a homogeneous and on the whole a 
noble tradition, but a body of rich men, ex-magistrates, powerful officials, bold adventurers and the like, 
pervaded by a strong disposition to return to the idea of hereditary qualification, became for three centuries 
the ruling power in the Roman world. 

There are two devices since known to the world which might have enabled the popular government of Rome 
to go on developing beyond- its climax in the days of Appius Claudius the Censor, at the close of the fourth 
century B.C., but neither of them occurred to the Roman mind. The first of these devices was a proper use of 
print. In our account of early Alexandria we have already remarked upon the strange fact that printed books 
did not come into the world in the fourth or third century B.C. This account of Roman affairs forces us to 
repeat that remark. To the modern mind it is clear that a widespread popular government demands, as a 
necessary condition for health, a steady supply of correct information upon public affairs to all the citizens 
and a maintenance of interest. The popular governments in the modern states that have sprung up on either 
side of the Atlantic during the last two centuries have been possible only through the more or less honest and 
thorough ventilation of public affairs through the press. But in Italy the only way in which the government at 
Rome could communicate with any body of its citizens elsewhere was by sending a herald, and with the 
individual citizen it could hold no communication by any means at all. 

The second device, for which the English are chiefly responsible in the history of mankind, which the Romans 
never used, was the almost equally obvious one of representative government. For the old Popular Assembly 
(in its threefold form) it would have been possible to have substituted a gathering of delegates. Later on in 
history, the English did, as the state grew realize this necessity. Certain men, the Knights of the Shire, were 
called up to Westminster to speak and vote for local feeling, and were more or less formally elected for that 
end. The Roman situation seems to a modern mind to, have called aloud for such a modification. It was never 
made. 

The method of assembling the comitia tributa (one of the three main forms of the Popular Assembly) was by 
the proclamation of a herald, who was necessarily inaudible to most of Italy, seventeen days before the date of 
the gathering. The augurs, the priests of divination whom Rome had inherited from the Etruscans, examined 
the entrails of sacrificial beasts on the night before the actual assembly, and if they thought fit to say that these 
gory portents were unfavourable, the comitia tributa dispersed. But if the augurs reported that the livers were 
propitious, there was a great blowing of horns from the Capitol and from the walls of the city, and the 
assembly went on. It was held in the open air, either in the little Forum beneath the Capitol or in a still smaller 
recess opening out of the Forum, or in the military exercising ground, the Campus Martins, now the most 
crowded part of modem Rome, but then an open space. Business began at dawn with prayer. There were no 
seats, and this probably helped to reconcile the citizen to the rule that everything ended at sunset. 

After the opening prayer came a discussion of the measures to be considered by the assembly, and the 
proposals before the meeting were read out. Is it not astonishing that there were no printed copies distributed? 
If any copies were handed about, they must have been in manuscript, and each copy must have been liable to 
errors and deliberate falsification. No questions seem to have been allowed, but private individuals might 
address the gathering with the permission of the presiding magistrate. 

The multitude then proceeded to go into enclosures like cattle pens according to their tribes, and each tribe 
voted upon the measure under consideration. The decision was then taken not by the majority of the citizens, 
but by the majority of tribes, and it was announced by the heralds. 

The Popular Assembly by centuries, comitia centuriata, was very similar in its character, except that instead of 
thirty-five tribes there were in the third century B.C. 373 centuries, and there was a sacrifice as well as prayer 
to begin with. The centuries, originally military (like the hundreds of primitive English local government), 
had long since lost any connection with the number one hundred. Some contained only a few people; some 



Part I 1 86 

very many. There were eighteen centuries of knights (equites), who were originally men in a position to 
maintain a horse and serve in the cavalry, though later the Roman knighthood, like knighthood in England, 
became a vulgar distinction of no military, mental, or moral significance. (These equites became a very 
important class as Rome traded and grew rich; for a time they were the real moving class in the community. 
There was as little chivalry left among them at last as there is in the honours list knights of England of to-day. 
The senators from about 200 B.C. were excluded from trade. The equites became, therefore, the great business 
men, negotiatores, and as publicani they fanned the taxes.) There were in addition, eighty (!) centuries of 
wealthy men (worth over 100,000 asses), twenty-two of men worth over 75,000 asses, and so on. There were 
two centuries each of mechanics and musicians, and the proletarii made up one century. The decision in the 
comitia centuriata was by the majority, of centuries. 

Is it any wonder that with the growth of the Roman state and the complication of its business, power shifted 
back from such a Popular Assembly to the Senate, which was a comparatively compact body varying between 
three hundred as a minimum, and, at the utmost, nine hundred members (to which it was raised by Cesar), 
men who had to do with affairs and big business, who knew each other more or less, and had a tradition of 
government and policy? The power of nominating and calling up the senators vested in the Republic first with 
the consuls, and when, some time after, censors were created, and many of the powers of the consuls had been 
transferred to them, they were also given this power. Appius Claudius, one of the first of the censors to 
exercise it, enrolled freedmen in the tribes and called sons of freedmen to the Senate. But this was a shocking 
arrangement to the conservative instincts of the time; the consuls would not recognize his Senate, and the next 
censors (304 B.C.) set aside his invitations. His attempt, however, serves to show how far the Senate had 
progressed from its original condition as a purely patrician body. Like the contemporary British House of 
Lords, it had become a gathering of big business men, energetic politicians, successful adventurers, great 
landowners, and the like; its patrician dignity was a picturesque sham; but, unlike the British House of Lords, 
it was unchecked legally by anything but the inefficient Popular Assembly we have already described, and by 
the tribunes elected by the plebeian assembly. Its legal control over the consuls and proconsuls was not great; 
it had little executive power; but in its prestige and experience lay its strength and influence. The interests of 
its members were naturally antagonistic to the interests of the general body of citizens, but for some 
generations that great mass of ordinary men was impotent to express its dissent from the proceedings of this 
oligarchy. Direct popular government of a state larger than a city state had already failed therefore in Italy, 
because as yet there was no public education, no press, and no representative system; it had failed though 
these mere mechanical difficulties, before the first Punic War. But its appearance is of enormous interest, as 
the first appearance of a set of problems with which the whole political intelligence of the world wrestles at 
the present time. 

The Senate met usually in a Senate House in the Forum, but on special occasions it would be called to meet in 
this or that temple; and when it had to deal with foreign ambassadors or its own generals (who were not 
allowed to enter the city while in command of troops), it assembled in the Campus Martius outside the walls. 

26.3 The Carthaginian Republic of Rich Men 

It has been necessary to deal rather fully with the political structure of the Roman republic because of its 
immense importance to this day. The constitution of Carthage need not detain us long. 

Italy under Rome was a republican country; Carthage was that much older thing, a republican city. She had an 
empire, as Athens had an empire, of tributary states which did not love her, and she had a great and naturally 
disloyal industrial slave population. 

In the city there were two elected kings, as Aristotle calls them, the suffetes, who were really equivalent to the 
Roman censors; their Semitic name was the same as that used for the Jewish judges. There was an impotent 
public assembly and a senate of leading personages; but two committees of this senate, nominally elected, but 
elected by easily controlled methods, the Hundred and Four and the Thirty, really constituted a close oligarchy 



Part I 1 87 

of the richest and most influential men. They told as little as they could to their allies and fellow citizens, and 
consulted them as little as possible. They pursued schemes in which the welfare of Carthage was no doubt 
subordinated to the advantage of their own group. They were hostile to new men or novel measures, and 
confident that a sea ascendancy that had lasted two centuries must be in the very nature of things. 

26.4 The First Punic War 

It would be interesting, and not altogether idle, to speculate what might have happened to mankind if Rome 
and Carthage could have settled their differences and made a permanent alliance in the Western world. If 
Alexander the Great had lived, he might have come westward and driven these two powers into such a fusion 
of interests. But that would not have suited the private schemes and splendours of the Carthaginian oligarchy, 
and the new Senate of greater Rome was now growing fond of the taste of plunder and casting covetous eyes 
across the Straits of Messina upon the Carthaginian possessions in Sicily. They were covetous, but they were 
afraid of the Carthaginian sea-power, Roman popular patriotism, however, was also jealous and fearful of 
these Carthaginians, and less inclined to count the cost of a conflict. The alliance Pyrrhus had forced upon 
Rome and Carthage held good for eleven years, but Rome was ripe for what is called in modern political 
jargon an offensive defensive war. The occasion arose in 264 B.C. 

At that time Sicily was not completely in Carthaginian hands. The eastward end was still under the power of 
the Greek king of Syracuse, Hiero, a successor of that Dionysius to whom Plato had gone as resident court 
philosopher. A hand of mercenaries who had been in the service of Syracuse seized upon Messina (289 B.C.), 
and raided the trade of Syracuse so that at last Hiero, was forced to take measures to suppress them (270 
B.C.). There upon Carthage, which was also vitally concerned in the suppression of piracy, came to his aid, 
and put in a Carthaginian garrison at Messina. This was an altogether justifiable proceeding. Now that Tyre 
had been destroyed, the only capable guardian of sea law in the Mediterranean was Carthage, and the 
suppression of piracy was her task by habit and tradition. 

The pirates of Messina appealed to Rome, and the accumulating jealousy and fear of Carthage decided the 
Roman people to help them. An expedition was dispatched to Messina under the consul Appius Claudius (the 
third Appius Claudius we have had to mention in this history). 

So began the first of the most wasteful and disastrous series of wars that has ever darkened the history of 
mankind. But this is how one historian, soaked with the fantastic political ideas of our times, is pleased to 
write of this evil expedition. The Romans knew they were entering on war with Carthage; but the political 
instincts of the people were right, for a Carthaginian garrison on the Sicilian Straits would have been a 
dangerous menace to the peace of Italy. So they protected the peace of Italy from this menace by a war that 
lasted nearly a quarter of a century. They wrecked their own slowly acquired political moral in the process. 

The Romans captured Messina, and Hiero deserted from the Carthaginians to the Romans. Then for some time 
the struggle centered upon the town Agrigentum. This, the Romans besieged, and a period of trench warfare 
ensued. Both sides suffered greatly from plague and irregular supplies; the Romans lost 30,000 men; but in 
the end (261 B.C.) the Carthaginians evacuated the place and retired to their fortified towns on the western 
coast of the island of which Lilybaeum was the chief. These they could supply easily from the African 
mainland, and, as long as their sea ascendancy held, they could exhaust any Roman effort against them. 

And now a new and very extraordinary phase of the war began. The Romans came out upon the sea, and to 
the astonishment of the Carthaginians and themselves defeated the Carthaginian fleet. Since the days of 
Salamis there had been a considerable development of naval architecture. Then the ruling type of battleship 
was a trireme, a galley with three banks (rows) of oars; now the leading Carthaginian battleship was a 
quinquereme, a much bigger galley with five banks of oars, which could ram or shear the oars of any feebler 
vessel. The Romans had come into the war with no such shipping. Now they set to work to build 
quinqueremes, being helped, it is said, in their designing by one of these Carthaginian vessels coming ashore. 



Part I 1 88 

In two months they built a hundred quinqueremes and thirty triremes. But they had no skilled navigators, no 
experienced oarsmen, and these deficiencies they remedied partly with the assistance of their Greek allies and 
partly by the invention of new tactics. Instead of relying upon ramming or breaking the oars of the adversary, 
which demanded more seamanship than they possessed, they decided to board the enemy, and they 
constructed a sort of long draw-bridge on their ships, held up to a mast by a pulley and with grappling -hooks 
and spikes at the end. They also loaded their galleys with soldiers. Then as the Carthaginian rammed or swept 
alongside, this corvus, as it was called, could be let down and the boarders could swarm aboard him. 

Simple as this device was, it proved a complete success. It changed the course of the war and the fate of the 
world. The small amount of invention needed to counteract the corvus was not apparently within the compass 
of the Carthaginian rulers. At the battle of Mylae (260 B.C.) the Romans gained their first naval victory and 
captured or destroyed fifty vessels. 

At the great battle of Ecnomus (256 B.C.), probably the greatest naval engagement of antiquity, [4] in which 
seven or eight hundred big ships were engaged, the Carthaginians showed that they had learnt nothing from 
their former disaster. According to, rule they outmaneuvered and defeated the Romans, but the corvus again 
defeated them. The Romans sank thirty vessels and captured sixty-four. 

Thereafter the war continued with violent fluctuations of fortune, but with a continuous demonstration of the 
greater energy, solidarity, and initiative of the Romans. After Ecnomus the Romans invaded Africa by sea, 
and sent an insufficiently supported army, which after many successes and the capture of Tunis (within ten 
miles of Carthage) was completely defeated. They lost their sea ascendancy through a storm, and regained it 
by building a second fleet of two hundred and twenty ships within three months. They captured Palermo, and 
defeated a great Carthaginian army there (251 B.C.), capturing one hundred and four elephants, and making 
such a triumphal procession into Rome as that city had never seen before. They made an unsuccessful siege of 
Lilybaeum, the chief surviving Carthaginian stronghold in Sicily. They lost their second fleet in a great naval 
battle at Drepanum. (249 B.C.), losing one hundred and eighty out of two hundred and ten vessels; and a third 
fleet of one hundred and twenty battle ships and eight hundred transports was lost in the same year partly in 
battle and partly in a storm. 

For seven years a sort of war went on between the nearly exhausted combatants, a war of raids and feeble 
sieges, during which the Carthaginians had the best of it at sea. Then by a last supreme effort Rome launched 
a fourth fleet of two hundred keels, and defeated the last strength of the Carthaginians at the battle of the 
Xgatian Isles (241 B.C.), after which Carthage (240 B.C.) sued for peace. 

By the terms of this peace, all Sicily, except for the dominions of Hiero of Syracuse, became an estate of the 
Roman people. There was no such process, of assimilation as had been practised in Italy; Sicily became a 
conquered province, paying tribute and yielding profit like the provinces of the older empires. And, in 
addition, Carthage paid a war indemnity of 3,200 talents (= 788,000). 

26.5 Cato the Elder and the Spirit of Cato 

For twenty-two years there was peace between Rome and Carthage. It was peace without prosperity. Both 
combatants were suffering from the want and disorganization that follow naturally and necessarily upon all 
great wars. The territories of Carthage seethed with violent disorder; the returning soldiers could not get their 
pay, and mutinied and looted; the land went uncultivated. We read of horrible cruelties in the suppression of 
these troubles by Hamilcar, the Carthaginian general; of men being crucified by the thousand. Sardinia and 
Corsica revolted. The peace of Italy was scarcely happier. The Gauls rose and marched south; they were 
defeated, and 40,000 of them killed at Telamon. It is manifest that Italy was incomplete until it reached the 
Alps. Roman colonies were planted in the valley of the Po, and the great northward artery, the Via Flaminia, 
was begun. But it shows the moral and intellectual degradation of this post-war period that when the Gauls 
were threatening Rome, human sacrifices were proposed and carried out. The old Carthaginian sea law was 



Part I 1 89 

broken up-it may have been selfish and monopolistic, but it was at least orderly the Adriatic swarmed with 
Illyrian pirates, and as the result of a quarrel arising out of this state of affairs, Illyria, after two wars, had to be 
annexed as a second province. By sending expeditions to annex Sardinia and Corsica, which were 
Carthaginian provinces in revolt, the Romans prepared the way for the Second Punic War. 

The First Punic War had tested and demonstrated the relative strength of Rome and Carthage. With a little 
more wisdom on either side, with a little more magnanimity on the part of Rome, there need never have been 
a renewal of the struggle. But Rome was an ungracious conqueror. She seized Corsica and Sardinia on no just 
grounds, she increased the indemnity by 1,200 talents, she set a limit, the Ebro, to Carthaginian developments 
in Spain. There was a strong party in Carthage, led by Hanno, for the propitiation of Rome; but it was natural 
that many Carthaginians should come to regard their national adversary with a despairing hatred. 

Hatred is one of the passions that can master a life, and there is a type of temperament very prone to it, ready 
to see life in terms of vindictive melodrama, ready to find stimulus and satisfaction in frightful demonstrations 
of justice and revenge. The fears and jealousies of the squatting-place and the cave still bear their dark 
blossoms in our lives; we are not four hundred generations yet from the old Stone Age. Great wars, as all 
Europe knows, give this hating temperament the utmost scope, and the greed and pride and cruelty that the 
First Punic War had released were now producing a rich crop of anti-foreign monomania. The outstanding 
figure upon the Aide of Carthage was a great general and administrator, Hamilcar Barca, who now set himself 
to circumvent and shatter Rome. He was the father-in-law of Hasdrubal and the father of a boy Hannibal, 
destined to be the most dreaded enemy that ever seared the Roman Senate. The most obvious course before 
Carthago was the reconstruction of its fleet and naval administration, and the recovery of sea power, but this, 
it would seem, Hamilcar could not effect. As an alternative he resolved to organize Spain as the base of a land 
attack upon Italy. He went to Spain as governor in 236 B.C., and Hannibal related afterwards that his father 
then-he was a boy of eleven made him vow deathless hostility to the Roman power. 

This quasi-insane concentration of the gifts and lives of the Barca family upon revenge is but one instance of 
the narrowing and embitterment of life that the stresses and universal sense of insecurity of this great struggle 
produced in the minds of men. A quarter of a century of war had left the whole western world miserable and 
harsh. While the eleven-year-old Hannibal was taking his vow of undying hatred, there was running about a 
farmhouse of Tusculum a small but probably very disagreeable child of two named Marcus Porcius Cato. This 
boy, lived to be eighty-five years old, and his ruling passion seems to have been hatred for any human 
happiness but his own. He was a good soldier, and had a successful political career. He held a command in 
Spain, and distinguished himself by his cruelties. He posed as a champion of religion and public morality and 
under this convenient cloak carried on a lifelong war against everything that was young, gracious, or pleasant. 
Whoever roused his jealousy incurred his moral disapproval. He was energetic in the support and 
administration of all laws against dress, against the personal adornment of women, against entertainments and 
free discussion. He was so fortunate as to be made censor, which gave him great power over the private lives 
of public people. He was thus able to ruin public opponents through private scandals. He expelled Manlius 
from the Senate for giving his wife a kiss in the daytime in the sight of their daughter. He persecuted Greek 
literature, about which, until late in life, he was totally ignorant. Then He read and admired Demosthenes. He 
wrote in Latin upon agriculture and the ancient and lost virtues of Rome. From these writings much light is 
thrown upon his qualities. One of his maxims was that when a slave was not sleeping he should be working. 
Another was that old oxen and slaves should be sold off. He left the war horse that had carried him through 
his Spanish campaigns behind him when he returned to Italy in order to save freight. He hated other people's 
gardens, and cut off the supply of water for garden use in Rome. After entertaining company, when dinner 
was over he would go out to correct any negligence in the service with a leather thong. He admired his own 
virtues very greatly, and insisted upon them in his writings. There was a battle at Thermopylae against 
Antiochus the Great, of which he wrote, those who saw him charging the enemy, routing and pursuing them, 
declared that Cato owed less to the people of Rome, than the people of Rome owed to Cato. [5] In his old age 
Cato became lascivious and misconducted himself with a woman slave. Finally, when his son protested 
against this disorder of their joint household, he married a young wife, the daughter of his secretary, who was 



Part I 1 90 

not in a position to refuse his offer. (What became of the woman slave is not told. Probably he sold her.) This 
compendium of all the old Roman virtues died at an advanced age, respected and feared. Almost his last 
public act was to urge on the Third Punic War and the final destruction of Carthage. He had gone to Carthage 
as a commissioner to settle certain differences between Carthage and Numidia, and he had been shocked and 
horrified to find some evidences of prosperity and even of happiness in that country. 

From the time of that visit onward. Cato concluded every speech he made in the Senate by croaking out 
Delenda est Carthago (Carthage must be destroyed). 

Such was the type of man that rose to prominence in Rome during the Punic struggle, such was the 
protagonist of Hannibal and the Carthaginian revanche, and by him and by Hannibal we may judge the tone 
and quality of the age. 

The two great western powers, and Rome perhaps more than Carthage, were strained mentally and morally by 
the stresses of the First War. The evil side of life was uppermost. The history of the Second and Third Punic 
Wars (219 to 201 and 149 to 146 B.C.), it is plain, is not the history of perfectly sane peoples. It is nonsense 
for historians to write of the political instincts of the Romans or Carthaginians. Quite other instincts were 
loose. The red eyes of the ancestral ape had come back into the world. It was a time when reasonable men 
were howled down or murdered; the true spirit of the age is shown in the eager examination for signs and 
portents of the still quivering livers of those human victims who were sacrificed in Rome during the panic 
before the battle of Telamon. The western world was indeed black with homicidal monomania, Two great 
peoples, both very necessary to the world's development, fell foul of one another, and at last Rome succeeded 
in murdering Carthage. 

26.6 The Second Punic War 

We can only tell very briefly here of the particulars of the Second and Third Punic Wars. We have told how 
Hamilcar began to organize Spain, and how the Romans forbade him to cross the Ebro. He died in 228 B.C., 
and was followed by his son- in-law Hasdrubal, who was assassinated in 221 B.C. and succeeded by 
Hannibal, who was now twenty-six. The actual war was precipitated by the Romans making a breach of their 
own regulations, and interfering with affairs south of the Ebro. Whereupon Hannibal marched straight through 
the south of Gaul, and crossed the Alps (218 B.C.) into Italy. 

The history of the next fifteen years is the story of the most brilliant and futile raid in history. For fifteen years 
Hannibal held out in Italy, victorious and unconquered. The Roman generals were no match for the 
Carthaginian, and whenever they met him they were beaten. But one Roman general, P. Cornelius Scipio, had 
the strategic sense to take a course that robbed all Hannibal's victories of fruit. At the outbreak of the war he 
had been sent by sea to Marseilles, to intercept Hannibal; be arrived three days late, and, instead of pursuing 
him, he sent on his army into Spain to cut up Hannibal's supplies and reinforcements. Throughout all the 
subsequent war there remained this Roman army of Spain between Hannibal and his base. He was left in the 
air, incapable of conducting sieges or establishing conquests. 

Whenever he met the Romans in open fight he beat them. He gained two great victories in North Italy, and 
won over the Gauls to his side. He pressed south into Etruria, and ambushed, surrounded, and completely 
destroyed a Roman army at Lake Trasimene. In 216 B.C. he was assailed by a vastly superior Roman force 
under Varro at Cannae, and destroyed it utterly. Fifty thousand men are said to have been killed and ten 
thousand prisoners taken. He was, however, unable to push on and capture Rome because he had no siege 
equipment. But Cannae produced other fruits. A large part of Southern Italy came over to Hannibal, including 
Capua, the city next in size to Rome, and the Macedonians allied themselves with him. Moreover, Hiero of 
Syracuse, the faithful ally of Rome, was now dead, and his successor Hieronymus turned over to the 
Carthaginians. The Romans carried on the war, however, with great toughness and resolution; they refused to 
treat with Hannibal after Cannae, they pressed a slow but finally successful blockade and siege of Capua, and 



Parti 191 

a Roman army set itself to reduce Syracuse. The siege of Syracuse is chiefly memorable for the brilliant 
inventions of the philosopher Archimedes, which long hold the Romans at bay. We have already named this 
Archimedes as one of the pupils and correspondents of the school of the Alexandrian Museum. He was killed 
in the final storm of the town. Tarentum (209 B.C.), Hannibal's chief port and means of supply from Carthage, 
at last followed Syracuse (212 B.C.) and Capua (21 1 B.C.) and his communications, became irregular. 

Spain also was wrested bit by bit from the Carthaginian grip. When at last reinforcements for Hannibal under 
his brother Hasdrubal (not to be confused with his brother-in-law of the same name who was assassinated) 
struggled through into Italy, they were destroyed at the battle of the Metaurus (207 B.C.), and the first news 
that came to Hannibal of the disaster was the hacked-off head of his brother thrown into his camp. 

Thereafter Hannibal was blockaded into Calabria, the heel of Italy. He had no forces for further operations of 
any magnitude, and he returned at last to Carthage in time to command the Carthaginians in the last battle of 
the war. 

This last battle, the battle of Zama (202 B.C.), was fought close to Carthage. 

It was the first defeat Hannibal experienced and so it is well to give a little attention to the personality of his 
conqueror, Scipio Africanus the Elder, who stands out in history as a very fine gentleman indeed, a great 
soldier and a generous man. We have already mentioned a certain P. Cornelius Scipio who struck at 
Hannibal's base in Spain; this was his son until after Zama this son bore the same name of P. Cornelius Scipio, 
and then the surname of Africanus was given him. (The younger Scipio Africanus, Scipio Africanus Minor, 
who was later to end the Third Punic War, was the adopted son of the son of this first Scipio Africanus the 
Elder.) Scipio Africanus was everything that aroused the distrust, hatred, and opposition of old-fashioned 
Romans of the school of Cato. He was young, he was happy and able, he spent money freely, he was well 
versed in Greek literature, and inclined rather to Phrygian novelties in religion than to the sterner divinities of 
Rome. And he did not believe in the extreme discretion that then ruled Roman strategy. 

After the early defeats of the Second Punic War, Roman military operations were dominated by the 
personality of a general, Fabius, who raised the necessity of avoiding battle with Hannibal into a kind of 
sacred principle. For ten years Fabian tactics prevailed in Italy. The Romans blockaded, cut up convoys, 
attacked stragglers, and ran away whenever Hannibal appeared. No doubt it was wise for a time after their 
first defeats to do this sort of thing, but the business of the stronger power, and Rome was the stronger power 
throughout the Second Punic War, is not to tolerate an interminable war, but to repair losses, discover able 
generals, train better armies, and destroy the enemy power. Decision is one of the duties of strength. 

To such men as young Scipio, the sly, ineffective artfulness of Fabianism, which was causing both Italy and 
Carthage to bleed slowly to death, was detestable. He clamoured for an attack upon Carthage itself. 

But Fabius, on this occasion, filled the city with alarms as if the commonwealth was going to be brought into 
the most extreme danger by a rash and indiscreet young man; in short, he scrupled not to do or say anything 
he thought likely to dissuade his countrymen from embracing the proposal. With the Senate he carried his 
point. But the people believed that his opposition to Scipio proceeded either from envy of his success, or from 
a secret fear that if this young hero should perform some signal exploit, put an end to the war, or even remove 
it out of Italy, his own slow proceedings through the course of so many years might be imputed to indolence 
or timidity. ... He applied to Crassus, the colleague of Scipio, and endeavoured to persuade him not to yield 
that province to Scipio, but, if he thought it proper to conduct the war in that manner, to go himself against 
Carthage. Nay, he even hindered the raising of money for that expedition, so that Scipio was obliged to find 
the supplies as he could. ... He endeavoured to prevent the young men who offered to go as volunteers from 
giving in their names, and loudly declared, both in the Senate and Forum, 'That Scipio did not only himself 
avoid Hannibal, but intended to carry away with him the remaining strength of Italy, persuading the young 
men to abandon their parents, their wives, and native city, while an unsubdued and potent enemy was still at 



Part I 1 92 

their doors. With these assertions he so terrified the people, that they allowed Scipio to take with him only the 
legions that were in Sicily, and three hundred of those men who had served him with so much fidelity in 
Spain. . . . After Scipio was gone over into Africa, an account was soon brought to Rome of his glorious and 
wonderful achievements. This account was followed by rich spoils, which confirmed it. A Numidian king was 
taken prisoner; two camps were burned and destroyed; and in them a vast number of men, arms, and horses; 
and the, Carthaginians sent orders to Hannibal to quit his fruitless hopes in Italy, and return home to defend 
his own country. Whilst every tongue was applauding these exploits of Scipio, Fabius proposed that his 
successor should be appointed, without any shadow of reason for it, except what this well-known maxim 
implies: viz., 'That it is dangerous to trust affairs of such importance to the fortune of one man, because it is 
not likely that he will be always successful. . . . Nay, even when Hannibal embarked his army and quitted 
Italy, Fabius ceased not to disturb the general joy and to damp the spirits of Rome, for he took the liberty to 
affirm, 'That the commonwealth was now come to her last and worst trial; that she had the most reason to 
dread the efforts of Hannibal when he should arrive in Africa, and attack her sons under the walls of Carthage; 
that Scipio would have to do with an army yet warm with the blood of so many Roman generals, dictators, 
and consuls! The city was alarmed with these declamations, and though the war was removed into Africa, the 
danger seemed to approach nearer Rome than ever. 

Before the battle of Zama there were a brief truce and negotiations, which broke down through the fault of the 
Carthaginians. As with the battle of Arbela, so the exact day of the battle of Zama can be fixed by an eclipse, 
which in this case occurred during the fighting. The Romans had been joined by the Numidians, the hinterland 
people of Carthage, under their king Massinissa, and this gave them-for the first time in any battle against 
Hannibal-a great superiority of cavalry. Hannibal's cavalry wings were driven off, while at the same time the 
sounder discipline of Scipio's infantry enabled them to open lanes for the charge of the Carthaginian war 
elephants without being thrown into confusion. Hannibal attempted to extend his infantry line to envelop the 
Roman infantry mass, but while at Cannae all the advantage of training and therefore of maneuvering power 
had been on his side, and he had been able to surround and massacre a crowd of infantry, he now found 
against him an infantry line better than his own. His own line broke as it extended, the Roman legion charged 
home, and the day was lost. The Roman cavalry came back from the pursuit of Hannibal's horse to turn what 
was already a defeat into a disastrous rout. 

Carthage submitted without any further struggle. The terms were severe, but they left it possible for her to 
hope for an honourable future. She had to abandon Spain to Rome, to give up all her war fleet except ten 
vessels, to pay 10,000 talents (2,400,000), and, what was the most difficult condition of all, to agree not to 
wage war without the permission of Rome. Finally a condition was added that Hannibal, as the great enemy of 
Rome, should be surrendered. But he saved his countrymen from this humiliation by flying to Asia. 

These were exorbitant conditions, with which Rome should have been content. But there are nations so 
cowardly that they dare not merely conquer their enemies; they must mak siccar and destroy them. The 
generation of Romans that saw greatness and virtue in a man like Cato the Censor, necessarily made their 
country a mean ally and a cowardly victor. 

26.7 The Third Punic War 

The history of Rome for the fifty-six years that elapsed between the battle of Zama and the last act of the 
tragedy, the Third Punic War, tells of a hard ungracious expansion of power abroad and of a slow destruction, 
by the usury and greed of the rich, of the free agricultural population at home. 

The spirit of the nation had become harsh and base; there was no further extension of citizenship, no more 
generous attempts at the assimilation of congenial foreign populations. Spain was administered badly and 
settled slowly and with great difficulty. Complicated interventions led to the reduction of Illyria and 
Macedonia to the position of tribute -paying provinces; Rome, it was evident, was going to tax the foreigner 
now and release her home population from taxation. After 168 B.C. the old land tax was no longer levied in 



Part I 1 93 

Italy, and the only revenue derived from Italy was from the state domains and through a tax on imports from 
overseas. The revenues from the province of Asia defrayed the expenses of the Roman state. At home men of 
the Cato type were acquiring farms by loans and foreclosure, often the farms of men impoverished by war 
service; they were driving the free citizens off their land, and running their farms with the pitilessly driven 
slave labour that was made cheap and abundant. Such men regarded alien populations abroad merely as 
unimported slaves. Sicily was handed over to the greedy enterprise of tax-farmers. Corn could be grown there 
by rich men using slaves, and imported very profitably into Rome, and so the home land could be turned over 
to cattle and sheep feeding. Consequently a drift of the uprooted Italian population to the towns, and 
particularly to Rome, began. 

Of the first conflicts of the spreading power of Rome with the Seleucids, and how she formed an alliance with 
Egypt, we can tell little here, nor of the tortuous fluctuations of the Greek cities under the shadow of her 
advance until they fell into actual subjugation. A map must suffice to show the extension of her empire at this 
time. 

The general grim baseness of the age was not without its protesting voices. We have already told how the 
wasting disease of the Second Punic War, a disease of the state which was producing avaricious rich men 
exactly as diseases of the body will sometimes produce great pustules, was ended by the vigour of Scipio 
Africanus. When it had seemed doubtful whether the Senate would let him go as the Roman general, he had 
threatened an appeal to the people. Thereafter he was a marked man for the senatorial gang, who were steadily 
changing Italy from a land of free cultivators to a land of slave worked cattle ranches; they attempted to ruin 
him before ever he reached Africa; they gave him forces insufficient, as they hoped, for victory; and after the 
war they barred him strictly from office. Interest and his natural malice alike prompted Cato to attack him. 

Scipio Africanus the Elder seems to have been of a generous and impatient temperament, and indisposed to 
exploit the popular discontent with current tendencies and his own very great popularity to his own advantage. 
He went as subordinate to his brother Lucius Scipio, when the latter commanded the first Roman army to pass 
into Asia. At Magnesia in Lydia a great composite army under Antiochus III, the Seleucid monarch, suffered 
the fate (190 B.C.) of the very similar Persian armies of a hundred and forty years before. This victory drew 
down upon Lucius Scipio the hostility of the Senate, and he was accused of misappropriating moneys received 
from Antiochus. This filled Africanus with honest rage. As Lucius stood up in the Senate with his accounts in 
his hands ready for the badgering of his accusers, Africanus snatched the documents from him, tore them up, 
and flung the fragments down. His brother, he said, had paid into the treasury 200,000 sestertia (= 2,000,000). 
Was he now to be pestered and tripped up upon this or that item? When, later on, Lucius was prosecuted and 
condemned, Africanus rescued him by force. Being impeached, he reminded the people that the day was the 
anniversary of the battle of Zama, and defied the authorities amidst the plaudits of the crowd. 

The Roman people seem to have liked and supported Scipio Africanus, and, after an interval of two thousand 
years, men must like him still. He was able to throw torn paper in the face of the Senate, and when Lucius was 
attacked again, one of the tribunes of the people interposed his veto and quashed the proceedings. But Scipio 
Africanus lacked that harder alloy which makes men great democratic leaders. He was no Csar. He had none 
of the qualities that subdue a man to the base necessities of political life. After these events he retired in 
disgust from Rome to his estates, and there he died in the year 183 B.C. 

In the same year died Hannibal. He poisoned himself in despair. The steadfast fear of the Roman Senate had 
hunted him from court to court. In spite of the indignant protests of Scipio, Rome in the peace negotiations 
had demanded his surrender from Carthage, and she continued to make this demand of every power that 
sheltered him. When peace was made with Antiochus III, this was one of the conditions. He was run to earth 
at last in Bithynia; the king of Bithynia detained him in order to send him to Rome, but he had long carried the 
poison he needed in a ring, and by this he died. 

It adds to the honour of the name of Scipio that it was another Scipio, Scipio Nasica, who parodied Cato's 



Part I 1 94 

Delenda est Carthago by ending all his speeches in the Senate with Carthage must stand. He had the wisdom 
to see that the existence and stimulus of Carthage contributed to the general prosperity of Rome. 

Yet it was the second Scipio Africanus, grandson by adoption of Scipio Africanus the Elder, who took and 
destroyed Carthage. The sole offence of the Carthaginians, which brought about the third and last Punic War, 
was that they continued to trade and prosper. Their trade was not a trade that competed with that of Rome; 
when Carthage was destroyed, much of her trade died with her, and North Africa entered upon a phase of 
economic retrogression; but her prosperity aroused that passion of envy which was evidently more powerful 
even than avarice in the old Roman type. The rich Equestrian order resented any wealth in the world but its 
own. Rome provoked the war by encouraging the Numidians to encroach upon Carthage until the 
Carthaginians were goaded to fight in despair. Rome then pounced upon Carthage, and declared she had 
broken the treaty! She had made war without permission. 

The Carthaginians sent the hostages Rome demanded, they surrendered their arms, they prepared to surrender 
territory. But submission only increased the arrogance of Rome and the pitiless greed of the rich Equestrian 
order which swayed her counsels. She now demanded that Carthage should be abandoned, and the population 
removed to a spot at least ten miles from the sea. This demand they made to a population that subsisted almost 
entirely by overseas trade ! 

This preposterous order roused the Carthaginians to despair. They recalled their exiles and prepared for 
resistance. The military efficiency of the Romans had been steadily declining through a half-century of 
narrow-minded and base-spirited government, and the first attacks upon the town in 149 B.C. almost ended in 
disaster. Young Scipio, during these operations, distinguished himself in a minor capacity. The next year was 
also a year of failure for the incompetents of the Senate. That august body then passed from a bullying mood 
to one of extreme panic. The Roman populace was, even more seriously seared. Young Scipio, chiefly on 
account of his name, although he was under the proper age, and in other respects not qualified for the office, 
was made consul, and bundled off to Africa to save his precious country. 

There followed the most obstinate and dreadful of sieges. Scipio built a mole across the harbour, and cut off 
all supplies by land or sea. The Carthaginians suffered horribly from famine; but they held out until the town 
was stormed. The street fighting lasted for six days, and when at last the citadel capitulated, there were fifty 
thousand Carthaginians left alive out of an estimated population of half a million. These survivors went into 
slavery, the whole city was burnt, the ruins were ploughed to express final destruction, and a curse was 
invoked with great solemnities upon anyone who might attempt to rebuild it. 

In the same year (146 B.C.) the Roman Senate and Equestrians also murdered another great city that seemed 
to limit their trade monopolies, Corinth. They had a justification, for Corinth had been in arms against them, 
but it was an inadequate justification. 

26.8 How the Punic War Undermined Roman Liberty 

We must note here, in a brief section, a change in the military system of Rome, after the Second Punic War, 
that was of enormous importance in her later development. Up to that period the Roman armies had been 
levies of free citizens. Fighting power and voting power were closely connected; the public assembly by 
centuries followed the paraphernalia of a military mobilization, and marched headed by the Equestrian 
centuries, to the Campus Martius. The system was very like that of the Boers before the last war in South 
Africa. The ordinary Roman citizen, like the ordinary Boer, was a farmer; at the summons of, his country he 
went on commando. The Boers were, indeed, in many respects, the last survivors of Aryanism. They fought 
extraordinarily well, but at the back of their minds was an anxious desire to go back to their farms. For 
prolonged operations, such as the siege of Veii, the Romans reinforced and relieved their troops in relays; the 
Boers did much the same at the siege of Ladysmith. 



Part I 1 95 

The necessity for subjugating Spain after the Second Punic War involved a need for armies of a different type. 
Spain was too far off for periodic reliefs, and the war demanded a more thorough training than was possible 
with these on and off soldiers. Accordingly men were enlisted for longer terms and paid. So the paid soldier 
first appeared in Roman affairs. And to pay was added booty. Cato distributed silver treasure among his 
command in Spain; and it is also on record that he attacked Scipio Africanus for distributing booty among his 
troops in Sicily. The introduction of military pay led on to a professional army, and this, a century later, to the 
disarmament of the ordinary Roman citizen, who was now drifting in an impoverished state into Rome and 
the larger towns. The great wars had been won, the foundations of the empire had been well and truly laid by 
the embattled farmers of Rome before 200 B.C. In the process the embattled farmers of Rome had already 
largely disappeared. The change that began after the Second Punic War was completed, towards the close of 
the century in the reorganization of the army by Marius, as we will tell in its place. After his time we shall 
begin to write of the army, and then of the legions, and we shall find we are dealing with a new kind of army 
altogether, no longer held together in the solidarity of a common citizenship. As that tie fails, the legions 
discover another in esprit de corps, in their common difference from and their common interest against the 
general community. They begin to develop a warmer interest in their personal leaders, who secure them pay 
and plunder. Before the Punic Wars it was the tendency of ambitious men in Rome to court the plebeians; 
after that time they began to court the legions. 

26.9 Comparison of the Roman Republic with a Modern State 

The history of the Roman Republic thus far, is in many respects much more modern in flavour, especially to 
the American or Western European reader, than anything that has preceded it. For the first time we have 
something like a self-governing nation, something larger than a mere city state, seeking to control its own 
destinies. For the first time we have a wide countryside under one conception of law. We get in the Senate and 
the popular assembly a conflict of groups and personalities, an argumentative process of control, far more 
stable and enduring than any autocracy can be, and far more flexible and adaptable than any priesthood. For 
the first time also we encounter social conflicts, comparable to our own. Money has superseded barter, and 
financial capital has become fluid and free; not perhaps so fluid and free as it is to-day, but much more so than 
it had ever been before. The Punic Wars were wars of peoples, such as were no other wars we have yet 
recorded. Indubitably the broad lines of our present world, the main ideas, the chief oppositions, were 
appearing in those days. 

But, as we have already pointed out, certain of the elementary facilities and some of the current political ideas 
of our time were still wanting in the Rome of the Punic Wars. There were no newspapers, [6] and there was 
practically no use of elected representatives in the popular assemblies. And another deficiency, very 
understandable to us nowadays, but quite beyond the scope of anyone then, was the absence of any general 
elementary political education at all. The plebeians of Rome had shown some glimmering of the idea that 
without knowledge votes cannot make men free, when they had insisted upon the publication of the law of the 
Twelve Tables; but they had never been able, it was beyond the possibilities of the time to imagine any further 
extension of knowledge to the bulk of the people. It is only nowadays that men are beginning to understand 
fully the political significance of the maxim that knowledge is power. Two British Trade Unions, for example, 
have recently set up a Labour College to meet the special needs of able working-men in history, political and 
social science, and the like. But education in republican Rome was the freak of the individual parent, and the 
privilege of wealth and leisure. It was mainly in the hands of Greeks, who were in many cases slaves. There 
was a thin small stream of very fine learning and very fine thinking up to the first century of the monarchy, let 
Lucretius and Cicero witness, but it did not spread into the mass of the people. The ordinary Roman was not 
only blankly ignorant of the history of mankind, but also of the conditions of foreign peoples; he had no 
knowledge of economic laws nor of social possibilities. Even his own interests he did not clearly understand. 

Of course, in the little city states of Greece and in that early Roman state of four hundred square miles, men 
acquired by talk and observation a sufficient knowledge for the ordinary duties of citizenship, but by the 
beginning of the Punic Wars the business was already too big and complicated for illiterate men. Yet nobody 



Part I 1 96 

seems to have observed the gap that was opening between the citizen and his state, and so there is no record at 
all of any attempt to enlarge the citizen by instruction to meet his enlarged duties. 

From the second century B.C. and onward everyone is remarking upon the ignorance of the common citizen 
and his lack of political wisdom, everything is suffering from the lack of political solidarity due to this 
ignorance but no one goes on to what we should now consider the inevitable corollary, no one proposes to 
destroy the ignorance complained of. There existed no means whatever for the instruction of the masses of the 
people in a common political and social ideal. It was only with the development of the great propagandist 
religions in the Roman world, of which Christianity was the chief and the survivor, that the possibility of such 
a systematic instruction of great masses of people became apparent in the world. That very great political 
genius, the Emperor Constantine the Great, six centuries later, was the first to apprehend and to attempt to use 
this possibility for the preservation and the mental and moral knitting-together of the world community over 
which be ruled. 

But it is not only in these deficiencies of news and of education and of the expedient of representative 
government that this political system of Rome differed from our own. True, it was far more like a modern 
civilized state than any other state we have considered hitherto, but in some matters it was strangely 
primordial and sub-civilized. Every now and then, the reader of Roman history, reading it in terms of debates 
and measures, policies and campaigns, capital and labour, comes upon something that gives him much the 
same shock he would feel if he went down to an unknown caller in his house and extended his hand to meet 
the misshapen hairy paw of Homo Neanderthalensis and looked up to see a chinless, bestial face. We have 
noted the occurrence of human sacrifice in the third century B.C., and much that we learn of the religion of 
republican Rome carries us far back beyond the days of decent gods, to the age of shamanism and magic. We 
talk of a legislative gathering, and the mind flies to Westminster; but how should we feel if we went to see the 
beginning of a session of the House of Lords, and discovered the Lord Chancellor, with bloody fingers, 
portentously fiddling about among the entrails of a newly killed sheep? The mind would recoil from 
Westminster to the customs of Benin and the slavery of Rome was a savage slavery, altogether viler than the 
slavery of Babylon. We have had a glimpse of the virtuous Cato among his slaves in the second century B.C. 
Moreover, in the third Century B.C., when King Asoka was ruling India in light and gentleness, the Romans 
were reviving an Etruscan sport, the setting on of slaves to fight for their lives. One is reminded of West 
Africa again in the origin of this amusement; it grew out of the prehistoric custom of a massacre of captives at 
the burial of a chief. There was a religious touch about this sport; the slaves with hooks, who dragged the dead 
bodies out of the arena, wore masks to represent the infernal ferryman-god, Charon. In 264 B.C., the very year 
in which Asoka began to reign and the First Punic War began, the first recorded gladiatorial combat took 
place in the forum at Rome, to celebrate the funeral of a member of the old Roman family of Brutus. This was 
a modest display of three couples, but soon gladiators were, fighting by the hundred. The taste for these 
combats grew rapidly, and the wars supplied an abundance of captives. The old Roman moralists, who were 
so severe upon kissing and women's ornaments and Greek philosophy, had nothing but good to say for this 
new development. So long as pain was inflicted, Roman morality, it would seem, was satisfied. 

If republican Rome was the first of modern self-governing national communities, she was certainly the 
Neanderthal form of them. 

In the course of the next two or three centuries the gladiatorial shows of Rome grew to immense proportions. 
To begin with, while wars were frequent, the gladiators were prisoners of war. They came with their 
characteristic national weapons, tattooed Britons, Moors, Scythians, negroes, and the like, and there was 
perhaps some military value in these exhibitions. Then criminals of the lower classes condemned to death 
were also used. The ancient world did not understand that a criminal condemned to death still has rights, and 
at any rate the use of a criminal as a gladiator was not so bad as his use as material for the vivisectors of the 
Museum at Alexandria. But as the profits of this sort of show business grew and the demand for victims 
increased, ordinary slaves were sold to the trainers of gladiators, and any slave who had aroused his owner's 
spite, might find himself in an establishment for letting out gladiators. And dissipated young men who had 



Part I 1 97 

squandered their property, and lads of spirit would go voluntarily into the trade for a stated time, trusting to 
their prowess to survive. As the business developed, a new use was found for gladiators as armed retainers; 
rich men would buy a band, and employ it as a bodyguard or hire it out for profit at the shows. The festivities 
of a show began with a ceremonial procession (pompa) and a sham fight (praelusio). The real fighting was 
heralded by trumpets. Gladiators who objected to fight for any reason were driven on by whips and hot irons. 
A wounded man would sometimes call for pity by holding up his forefinger. The spectators would then either 
wave their handkerchiefs in token of mercy, or condemn him to death by holding out their clenched fists with 
the thumbs down. [7] The slain and nearly dead were dragged out to a particular place, the spoliarium, where 
they were stripped of their arms and possessions, and those who had not already expired were killed. 

This organization of murder as a sport and show serves to measure the great gap in moral standards between 
the Roman community and our own. No doubt cruelties and outrages upon human dignity as monstrous as this 
still go on in the world, but they do not go on in the name of the law and without a single dissentient voice. 
For it is true that until the time of Seneca (first century A.D.) there is no record of any plain protest against 
this business. The conscience of mankind was, weaker and less intelligent then than now. 

Presently a new power was to come into the human conscience through the spread of Christianity. The spirit 
of Jesus in Christianity became the great antagonist in the later Roman state of these cruel shows and of 
slavery, and as Christianity spread, these two evil things dwindled and disappeared. [8] 

27.0 From Tiberius Gracchus to the God-Emperor in Rome 

27.1 The Science of Thwarting the Common Man 

27.2 Finance in the Roman State 

27.3 The Last Years of Republican Politics 

27.4 The Era of the Adventurer Generals 

27.5 The End of the Republic 

27.6 The Coming of the Princeps 

27.7 Why the Roman Republic Failed 

27.1 The Science of Thwarting the Common Man 

We have already twice likened the self-governing community of Rome to a Neanderthal variety of the modern 
democratic civilized state, and we shall recur again to this comparison. In form the two things, the first great 
primitive essay and its later relations, are extraordinarily similar; in spirit they differ very profoundly. Roman 
political and social life, and particularly Roman political and social life in the century between the fall of 
Carthage and the rise of Csar and Caesarism, has a very marked general resemblance to the political and 
social life in such countries as the United States of America or the British Empire to-day. The resemblance is 
intensified by the common use, with a certain inaccuracy in every case, of such terms as senate, democracy, 
proletariat, and the like. But everything in the Roman state was earlier, cruder, and clumsier; the injustices 
were more glaring, the conflicts harsher. There was comparatively little knowledge and few general ideas. 
Aristotle's scientific works were only beginning to be read in Rome in the first century B.C.; Ferrero, [1] it is 
true, makes Cesar familiar with the Politics of Aristotle, and ascribes to him the dream of making a Periclean 
Rome, but in doing so, Ferrero seems to be indulging in one of those lapses into picturesque romancing which 
are at once the joy and the snare of all historical writers. 



Part I 1 98 

Attention has already been drawn to the profound difference between Roman and modern conditions due to 
the absence of a press, of any popular education or of the representative idea in the popular assembly. Our 
world to-day is still far from solving the problem of representation and from producing a public assembly 
which will really summarize, crystallize, and express the thought and will of the community; our elections are 
still largely an ingenious mockery of the common voter who finds himself helpless in the face of party 
organizations which reduce his free choice of a representative to the less unpalatable of two political hacks, 
but, even so, his vote, in comparison with the vote of an ordinary honest Roman citizen, is an effective 
instrument. Too many of our histories dealing with this period of Roman history write of the popular party, 
and of the votes of the people and so forth, as though such things were as much working realities as they are 
to-day. But the senators and politicians of Rome saw to it that such things never did exist as clean and 
wholesome realities. These modern phrases are very misleading unless they are carefully qualified. 

We have already described the gatherings of the popular comitia; but that clumsy assembly in sheep pens does 
not convey the full extent to which the gerrymandering of popular representation could be carried in Rome. 
Whenever there was a new enfranchisement of citizens in Italy, there would be the most elaborate trickery and 
counter-trickery to enrol the new voters into as few or as many of the thirty old tribes as possible, or to put 
them into as few as possible new tribes. Since the vote was taken by tribes, it is obvious that however great 
the number of new additions made, if they were all got together into one tribe, their opinion would only count 
for one tribal vote, and similarly if they were crowded into just a few tribes, old or new. On the other hand, if 
they were put into too many tribes their effect in any particular tribe might be inconsiderable. Here was the 
sort of work to fascinate every smart knave in politics. The comitia tributa could be worked at times so as to 
vote right counter to the general feeling of the people. And as we have already noted, the great mass of voters 
in Italy were also disenfranchised by distance. About the middle period of the Carthaginian wars there were 
upwards of 300,000 Roman citizens; about 100 B.C. there were more than 900,000, but in effect the voting of 
the popular assembly was confined to a few score thousand resident in and near Rome, and mostly men of a 
base type. And the Roman voters were organized to an extent that makes the Tammany machine of New York 
seem artless and honest. They belonged to clubs, collegia sodalicia, having usually some elegant religious 
pretensions; and the rising politician working his way to office went first to the usurers and then with the 
borrowed money to these clubs. If the outside voters were moved enough by any question to swarm into the 
city, it was always possible to put off the voting by declaring the omens unfavourable. If they came in 
unarmed, they could be intimidated; if they brought in arms, then the cry was raised that there was a plot to 
overthrow the republic, and a massacre would be organized. 

There can be no, doubt that all Italy, all the empire was festering with discomfort, anxiety, and discontent in 
the century after the destruction of Carthage; a few men were growing very rich, and the majority of people 
found themselves entangled in an inexplicable net of uncertain prices, jumpy markets, and debts; but yet there 
was no way at all of stating and clearing up the general dissatisfaction. There is no record of a single attempt 
to make the popular assembly a straightforward and workable public organ. Beneath the superficial 
appearances of public affairs struggled a mute giant of public opinion and public will, who sometimes made 
some great political effort a rush to vote or such like, and sometimes broke into actual violence. So long as 
there was no actual violence, the Senate and the financiers kept on in their own disastrous way. Only when 
they were badly frightened would governing cliques or parties desist from some nefarious policy and heed the 
common good. The real method of popular expression in Italy in those days was not the comitia tributa, but 
the strike and insurrection, the righteous and necessary methods of all cheated or suppressed peoples. We have 
seen in our own days in Great Britain a decline in the prestige of parliamentary government and a drift 
towards unconstitutional methods on the part of the masses through exactly the same cause, through the 
incurable disposition of politicians to gerrymander the electoral machine until the community is driven to 
explosion. 

For insurrectionary purposes a discontented population needs a leader, and the political history of the 
concluding century of Roman republicanism is a history of insurrectionary leaders and counter-revolutionary 
leaders. Most of the former are manifestly unscrupulous adventurers who try to utilize the public necessity 



Part I 1 99 

and unhappiness for their own advancement. Many of the historians of this period betray a disposition to take 
sides, and are either aristocratic in tone or fiercely democratic; but, indeed, neither side in these complex and 
intricate disputes has a record of high aims or clean hands. The Senate and the rich Equestrians were vulgar 
and greedy spirits, hostile and contemptuous towards the poor mob; and the populace was ignorant, unstable, 
and at least equally greedy. The Scipios in all this record shine by comparison, a group of gentlemen. To the 
motives of one or the other figures of the time, to Tiberius Gracchus, for example, we may perhaps extend the 
benefit of the doubt. But for the rest, they do but demonstrate how clever and cunning men may be, how 
subtle in contention, how brilliant in pretence, and how utterly wanting in wisdom or grace of spirit. A 
shambling, hairy, brutish, but probably very cunning creature with a big brain behind; so someone, I think it 
was Sir Harry Johnston, has described Homo Neanderthalensis. 

To this day we must still use similar terms to describe the soul of the politician. The statesman has still to oust 
the politician from his lairs and weapon heaps. History has still to become a record of human dignity. 

27.2 Finance in the Roman State 

Another respect in which the Roman system was a crude anticipation of our own, and different from any 
preceding political system we have considered, was that it was a cash and credit-using system. Money had 
been in the world as yet for only a few centuries. But its use had been growing; it was providing a fluid 
medium for trade and enterprise, and changing economic conditions profoundly. In republican Rome, the 
financier and the money interest began to play a part recognizably similar to their roles to-day. 

We have already noted"in our account of Herodotus"that a first effect of money was to give freedom of 
movement and leisure to a number of people who could not otherwise have enjoyed these privileges. And that 
is the peculiar value of money to mankind. Instead of a worker or helper being paid in kind and in such a way 
that he is tied as much in his enjoyment as in his labour, money leaves him free to do as he pleases amidst a 
wide choice of purchasable aids, eases, and indulgences. He may eat his money or drink it or give it to a 
temple or spend it in learning something or save it against some unforeseen occasion. That is the good of 
money, the freedom of its universal convertibility. But the freedom money gives the poor man is nothing to 
the freedom money has given the rich man. With money rich men ceased to be tied to lands, houses, stores, 
flocks and herds. They could change the nature and locality of their possessions with an unheard-of freedom. 
In the third and second century B.C., this release, this untethering of wealth, began to tell upon the general 
economic life of the Roman and Hellenized world. People began to buy land and the like not for use, but to 
sell again at a profit; people borrowed to buy, speculation developed. No doubt there were bankers in the 
Babylon of 1000 B.C., but they lent in a far more limited and solid way, bars of metal and stocks of goods. 
That earlier world was a world of barter and payment in kind, and it went slowly "and much more staidly and 
stably"for that reason. In that state the vast realm of China has remained almost down to the present time. 

The big cities before Rome were trading and manufacturing cities. Such were Corinth and Carthage and 
Syracuse. But Rome never produced a very considerable industrial population, and her warehouses never 
rivalled those of Alexandria. The little port of Ostia was always big enough for her needs. Rome was a 
political and financial capital, and in the latter respect, at least, she was a new sort of city. She imported 
profits and tribute, and very little went out from her in return. The wharves of Ostia were chiefly busy 
unloading corn from Sicily and Africa and loot from all the world. 

After the fall of Carthage the Roman imagination went wild with the hitherto unknown possibilities of 
finance. Money, like most other inventions, had happened to mankind, and men had still to develop" to-day 
they have still to perfect"the science and morality of money. One sees the thing catching on in the recorded 
life and the writings of Cato the Censor. In his early days he was bitterly virtuous against usury; in his later he 
was devising ingenious schemes for safe usury. 

In this curiously interesting century of Roman history we find man after man asking, What has happened to 



Part I 200 

Rome? Various answers are made"a decline in religion, a decline from the virtues of the Roman forefathers, 
Greek intellectual poison, and the like. We who can look at the problem with a large perspective, can see that 
what had happened to Rome was money"the new freedoms and chances and opportunities that money opened 
out. Money floated the Romans off the firm ground, everyone was getting hold of money, the majority by the 
simple expedient of running into debt; the eastward expansion of the empire was very largely a hunt for 
treasure in strong rooms and temples to keep pace with the hunger of the new need. The Equestrian order, in 
particular, became the money power. Everyone was developing property. Farmers were giving up corn and 
cattle, borrowing money, buying slaves, and starting the more intensive cultivation of oil and wine. Money 
was young in human experience and wild, nobody had it under control. It fluctuated greatly. It was now 
abundant and now scarce. Men made sly and crude schemes to corner it, to hoard it, to send up prices by 
releasing hoarded metals. A small body of very shrewd men was growing immensely rich. Many patricians 
were growing poor and irritated and unscrupulous. Among the middle sort of peoples there was much hope, 
much adventure, and much more disappointment. The growing mass of the expropriated was permeated by 
that vague, baffled, and hopeless sense of being inexplicably bested, which is the preparatory condition for all 
great revolutionary movements. 

27.3 The Last Years of Republican Politics 

The first conspicuous leader to appeal to the gathering revolutionary feeling in Italy was Tiberius Gracchus. 
He looks more like an honest man than any other figure in this period of history, unless it be Scipio Africanus 
the Elder. At first Tiberius Gracchus was a moderate reformer of a rather reactionary type. He wished to 
restore the yeoman class to property very largely because he believed that class to be the backbone of the 
army, and his military experience in Spain before and after the destruction of Carthage had impressed upon 
him the declining efficiency of the legions. He was what we should call nowadays a Back-to-the-land man. He 
did not understand and few people understand to-day, how much easier it is to shift population from the land 
into the towns, than to return it to the laborious and simple routines of agricultural life. He wanted to revive 
the Licinian laws, which had been established when Camillus built his temple of Concord nearly two centuries 
and a half before (see Chap, xxvi, sec 2), so far as they broke up great estates and restrained slave labour. 

These Licinian laws had repeatedly been revived and repeatedly lapsed to a dead letter again. It was only 
when the big proprietors in the Senate opposed this proposal that Tiberius Gracchus turned to the people and 
began a furious agitation for popular government. He created a commission to inquire into the title of all 
landowners. In the midst of his activities occurred one of the most extraordinary incidents in history. Attalus, 
the king of the rich country of Pergamum in Asia Minor, died (133 B.C.), and left his kingdom to the Roman 
people. 

It is difficult for us to understand the motives of this bequest. Pergamum was a country allied to Rome, and so 
moderately secure from aggression; and the natural consequence of such a will was to provoke a violent 
scramble among the senatorial gangs and a dispute between them and the people for the spoils of the new 
acquisition. Practically Attalus handed over his country to be looted. There were of course many Italian 
business people established in the country and a strong party of native rich men in close relations with Rome. 
To them, no doubt, a coalescence with the Roman system would have been acceptable. Josephus bears witness 
to such a desire for annexation among the rich men of Syria, a desire running counter to the wishes of both 
king and people. This Pergamum bequest, astonishing in itself, had the still more astonishing result of 
producing imitations in other quarters. In 96 B.C. Ptolemy Apion bequeathed Cyrenaica, in North Africa, to 
the Roman people; in 81 B.C. Alexander II, King of Egypt, followed suit with Egypt, a legacy too big for the 
courage if not for the appetite of the Senators, and they declined it; in 74 B.C. Nicomedes, King of Bithynia, 
demised Bithynia. Of these latter testamentary freaks we will say no more here. But it will be manifest how 
great an opportunity, was given Tiberius Gracchus by the bequest of Attalus, of accusing the rich of greed and 
of proposing to decree the treasures of Attalus to the commonalty. He proposed to use this new wealth to 
provide seed, stock, and agricultural implements for the resettlement of the land. 



Part I 201 

His movement was speedily entangled in the complexities of the Roman electoral system"without a simple 
and straight-forward electoral method, all popular movements in all ages necessarily become entangled and 
maddened in constitutional intricacies, and almost as necessarily lead to bloodshed, It was needed, if his work 
was to go on, that Tiberius Gracchus should continue to be tribune, and it was illegal for him to be tribune 
twice in succession. He overstepped the bounds of legality, and stood for the tribuneship a second time; the 
peasants who came in from the countryside to vote for him came in armed; the cry that he was aiming at a 
tyranny, the cry that had long ago destroyed Maelius and Manlius, was raised in the Senate, the friends of law 
and order went to the Capitol in state, accompanied by a rabble of dependents armed with staves and 
bludgeons; there was a conflict, or rather a massacre of the revolutionaries, in which nearly three hundred 
people were killed, and Tiberius Gracchus was beaten to death with the fragments of a broken bench by two 
Senators. 

Thereupon the Senators attempted a sort of counter-revolution, and proscribed many of the followers of 
Tiberius Gracchus; but the state of public opinion was so sullen and threatening that this movement was 
dropped and Scipio Nasica, who was implicated in the death of Tiberius, though he occupied the position of 
pontifex maximus and should have remained in Rome for the public sacrifices which were the duties of that 
official, went abroad to avoid trouble. 

The uneasiness of Italy next roused Scipio Africanus the Younger to propose the enfranchisement of all Italy. 
But he died suddenly before he could carry the proposal into effect. 

Then followed the ambiguous career of Caius Gracchus, the brother of Tiberius, who followed some tortuous 
policy that still exercises the mind of historians. He increased the burthens of taxation laid upon the provinces, 
it is supposed with the idea of setting the modern financiers (the Equites) against the senatorial landowners. 
He gave the former the newly bequeathed taxes of Asia to farm, and, what is worse, he gave them control of 
the special courts set up to prevent extortion. He started enormous public works and particularly the 
construction of new roads, and he is accused of making a political use of the contracts. He revived the 
proposal to enfranchise Italy. He increased the distribution of subsidized cheap corn to the Roman citizens. . . 
. Here we cannot attempt to disentangle his schemes, much less to judge him. But that his policy was 
offensive to the groups that, controlled the Senate there can be no doubt whatever. He was massacred by the 
champions of law and order, with about three thousands of his followers, in the streets of Rome in 121 B.C. 
His decapitated head was carried to the Senate on the point of a pike. 

(A reward of its weight in gold, says Plutarch, had been offered for this trophy: and its captor, acting in the 
true spirit of a champion of big business, filled the brain-case with lead on its way to the scales.) 

In spite of these prompt firm measures the Senate was not to enjoy the benefits of peace and the advantages of 
a control of the imperial resources for long. Within ten years the people were in revolt again. 

In 1 1 8 B .C . the throne of Numidia, the semi -barbaric kingdom that had arisen in North Africa upon the ruins 
of the civilized Carthaginian power, was seized by a certain able Jugurtha, who had served with the Roman 
armies in Spain, and had a knowledge of the Roman character. He provoked the military intervention of 
Rome. But the Romans found that their military power, under a Senate of financiers and landlords, was very 
different from what it had been even in the days of the younger Scipio Africanus. Jugurtha bought over the 
Commissioners sent out to watch him, the Senators charged with their prosecution, and the generals in 
command against him. [2] There is a mistaken Roman proverb: pecunia non olet (money does not stink), for 
the money of Jugurtha stank even in Rome. There was an angry agitation; and a capable soldier of lowly 
origin, Marius, was carried to the consulship (107 B.C.) on the wave of popular indignation. Marius made no 
attempt on the model of the Gracchi to restore the backbone of the army by rehabilitating the yeoman class. 
He was a professional soldier with a high standard of efficiency and a disposition to take short cuts. 

He simply raised troops from among the poor, whether countrymen or townsmen, paid them well, disciplined 



Part I 202 

them thoroughly, and (106 B.C.) ended the seven years' war with Jugurtha by bringing that chieftain in chains 
to Rome. It did not occur to anybody that incidentally Marius had also created a professional army with no 
interest to hold it together but its pay. He then held on to the consulship more or less illegally for several 
years, and in 102 and 101 B.C. repelled a threatening move of the Germans (who thus appear in our history 
for the first time), who were raiding through Gaul towards Italy. He gained two victories; one on Italian soil. 
He was hailed as the saviour of his country, a second Camillus (100 B.C.). 

The social tensions of the time mocked that comparison with Camillus. The Senate benefited by the greater 
energy in foreign affairs and the increased military efficiency that Marius had introduced, but the sullen, 
shapeless discontent of the mass of the people was still seeking some effective outlet. The rich grew richer 
and the poor poorer. It was impossible to stifle the consequences of that process for ever by political trickery. 
The Italian people were still unenfranchised. Two extreme democratic leaders, Saturninus, and Glaucia, were 
assassinated, but that familiar senatorial remedy failed to assuage the populace on this occasion. In 92 B.C. an 
aristocratic official, Rutilius Rufus, who had tried to restrain the exactions of the financiers in Asia Minor, 
was condemned on a charge of corruption so manifestly trumped up that it deceived no one; and in 91 B.C., 
Livius Drusus, a newly elected tribune of the people, who was making capital out of the trial of Rutilius 
Rufus, was assassinated. He had proposed a general enfranchisement of the Italians, and he had foreshadowed 
not only another land law, but a general abolition of debts. Yet for all this vigour on the part of the senatorial 
usurers, landgrabbers, and forestallers, the hungry and the anxious were still insurgent. The murder of Drusus 
was the last drop in the popular cup; Italy blazed into a desperate insurrection. 

There followed two years of bitter civil war, the Social War. It was a war between the idea of a united Italy 
and the idea of the role of the Roman Senate. It was not a social war in the modern sense, but a war between 
Rome and her Italian allies (allies= Socii). Roman generals, trained in the traditions of colonial warfare, 
marched ruthlessly up and down Italy, burning farms, sacking towns, and carrying off men, women, and 
children, to sell them in the open market or work them in gangs upon their estates. [3] Marius and an 
aristocratic general, Sulla, who had been with him in Africa and who was his bitter rival, both commanded on 
the side of Rome. But though the insurgents experienced defeats and looting, neither of these generals brought 
the war to an end. It was ended in a manner (89 B.C.) by the practical surrender of the Roman Senate to the 
idea of reform. The spirit was taken out of the insurrection by the concession of their demands in principle; 
and then as soon as the rebels had dispersed, the usual cheating of the new voters, by such methods as we 
have explained in sec [1] of this chapter, was resumed. 

By the next year (88 B.C.) the old round had begun again. It was mixed up with the personal intrigues of 
Marius and Sulla against each other; but the struggle had taken on another complexion through the army 
reforms of Marius, which had created a new type of legionary, a landless professional soldier with no interest 
in life but pay and plunder, and with no feeling of loyalty except to a successful general. A popular tribune, 
Sulpicius, was bringing forward some new laws affecting debt, and the consuls were dodging the storm by 
declaring a suspension of public business. Then came the usual resort to violence, and the followers of 
Sulpicius drove the consuls from the forum. But here it is that the now forces which the new army had made 
possible came into play. King Mithridates of Pontus, the Hellenized king of the southern shores of the Black 
Sea cast of Bithynia, was pressing Rome into war. One of the proposed laws of Sulpicius was that Marius 
should command the armies sent against this Mithridates. Whereupon Sulla marched the army he had 
commanded throughout the Social War to Rome, Marius and Sulpicius fled, and a new age, an age of military 
pronunciamentos, began. 

Of how Sulla had himself made commander against Mithridates and departed, and of how legions friendly to 
Marius then seized power, how Marius returned to Italy and enjoyed a thorough massacre of his political 
opponents and, died, sated, of fever, we cannot tell in any detail. But one measure during the Marian reign of 
terror did much to relieve the social tension, and that was the abolition of three-quarters of all outstanding 
debts. Nor can we tell here how Sulla made a discreditable peace with Mithridates (who had massacred a 
hundred thousand Italians in Asia Minor) in order to bring his legions back to Rome, defeat the Marians at the 



Part I 203 

battle of the Colline Gate of Rome, and reverse the arrangements of Marius. Sulla restored law and order by 
the proscription and execution of over five thousand people. He desolated large parts of Italy, restored the 
Senate to power, repealed many of the recent laws, though he was unable to restore the cancelled burden of 
debt, and then, feeling bored by politics and having amassed great riches, he retired with an air of dignity into 
private life, gave himself up to abominable vices, and so presently died, eaten up with some disgusting disease 
produced by debauchery. [4] 

27.4 The Era of the Adventurer Generals 

Political life in Italy was not so much tranquillized as stunned by the massacres and confiscations of Marius 
and Sulla. The scale upon which this history is planned will not permit us to tell here of the great adventurers 
who, relying more and more on the support of the legions, presently began to scheme and intrigue again for 
dictatorial power in Rome. In 73 B.C. all Italy was terrified by a rising of the slaves, and particularly of the 
gladiators, led by a gladiator from Thessaly, Spartacus. He and seventy others had fled out from a gladiatorial 
farm at Capua. Similar risings had already occurred in Sicily. The forces under Spartacus necessarily became 
a miscellaneous band drawn from east and west, without any common idea except the idea of dispersing and 
getting home; nevertheless, he held out in southern Italy for two years, using the then apparently extinct crater 
of Vesuvius for a time as a natural fortress. The Italians, for all their love of gladiatorial display, failed to 
appreciate this conversion of the whole country into an arena, this bringing of the gladiatorial sword to the 
door, and when at last Spartacus was overthrown, their terror changed to frantic cruelty, six thousand of his 
captured followers were crucified'long miles of nailed and drooping victims"along the Appian Way. 

Here we cannot deal at any length with Lucullus, who invaded Pontus and fought Mithridates, and brought the 
cultivated cherry-tree to Europe; nor can we tell how ingeniously Pompey the Great stole the triumph and 
most of the prestige Lucullus had won in Armenia beyond Pontus. Lucullus, like Sulla, retired into an opulent 
private life, but with more elegance and with a more gracious end. We cannot relate in any detail how Julius 
Csar accumulated reputation in the west, by conquering Gaul, defeating the German tribes upon the Rhine, 
and pushing a punitive raid across the Straits of Dover into Britain. More and more important grow the 
legions; less and less significant are the Senate and the assemblies of Rome. But there is a certain grim 
humour about the story of Crassus that we cannot altogether neglect. 

This Crassus was a great money-lender and forestaller. He was a typical man of the new Equestrian type, the 
social equivalent of a modern munition profiteer. He first grew rich by buying up the property of those 
proscribed by Sulla. His earliest exploits in the field were against Spartacus, whom finally he crushed by great 
payments and exertions after a prolonged and expensive campaign. He then, as the outcome of complicated 
bargains, secured the command in the east and prepared to emulate the glories of Lucullus, who had pushed 
east from Pergamum and Bithynia into Pontus, and of Pompey, who had completed the looting of Armenia. 

His experiences serve to demonstrate the gross ignorance with which the Romans were conducting their 
affairs at that time. He crossed the Euphrates, expecting to find in Persia another Hellenized kingdom like 
Pontus. But, as we have already intimated, the great reservoirs of nomadic peoples that stretched round from 
the Danube across Russia into Central Asia, had been raining back into the lands between the Caspian Sea and 
the Indus that Alexander had conquered for Hellenism. Crassus found himself against the Scythian again; 
against mobile tribes of horsemen led by a monarch in Median costume. [5] The particular variety of Scythian 
he encountered was called the Parthian. It is possible that in the Parthians a Mongolian (Turanian) element 
was now mingled with the Aryan strain; but the campaign of Crassus beyond the Euphrates is curiously like 
the campaign of Darius beyond the Danube; there is the same heavy thrusting of an infantry force against 
elusive light horsemen. But Crassus was less quick than Darius to realize the need of withdrawal and the 
Parthians were better bowmen than the Scythians Darius met. They seem to have had some sort of noisy 
projectile of unusual strength and force, something different from an ordinary arrow. [6] The campaign 
culminated in that two days' massacre of the hot, thirsty, hungry, and weary Roman legions which is known as 
the battle of Carrhae (53 B.C.). They toiled through the sand, charging an enemy who always evaded their 



Part I 204 

charge and rode round them and shot them to pieces. Twenty thousand of them were killed, and ten thousand 
marched on eastward as prisoners into slavery in Iran. 

What became of Crassus is not clearly known. There is a story, probably invented for our moral benefit and 
suggested by his usuries, that he fell alive into the hands of the Parthians and was killed by having molten 
gold poured down his throat. 

But this disaster has a very great significance indeed to our general history of mankind. It serves to remind us 
that from the Rhine to the Euphrates, all along to the north of the Alps and Danube and Black Sea, stretched 
one continuous cloud of nomadic and semi-nomadic peoples, whom the statescraft of imperial Rome was 
never able to pacify and civilize, nor her military science subdue. We have already called attention to a map 
showing how the Second Babylonian Empire, the Chaldean Empire, lay like a lamb in the embrace of the 
Median power. In exactly the same way the Roman Empire lay like a lamb in the embrace of this great 
crescent of outer barbarians. Not only was Rome never able to thrust back or assimilate that superincumbent 
crescent, but she was never able to organize the Mediterranean Sea into a secure and orderly system of 
communication between one part of her empire and another. 

Quite unknown as yet to Rome, the Mongolian tribes from North-eastern Asia, the Huns and their kin, walled 
back and driven out from China by the Tsi and Han dynasties, were drifting and pressing westward, mixing 
with the Parthians, the Scythians, the Teutons and the like, or driving them before them. 

Never at any time did the Romans succeed in pushing their empire beyond Mesopotamia, and upon 
Mesopotamia their hold was never very secure. Before the close of the republic that power of assimilation 
which had been the secret of their success was giving way to patriotic exclusiveness and patriotic greed. Rome 
plundered and destroyed Asia Minor and Babylonia, which were the necessary basis for an eastward extension 
to India, just as she had destroyed and looted Carthage and so had no foothold for extension into Africa, and 
just as she had destroyed Corinth and so cut herself off from an easy way into the heart of Greece. Western 
European writers, impressed by the fact that later on Rome Romanized and civilized Gaul and South Britain 
and restored the scene of her earlier devastations in Spain to prosperity, are apt to ignore that over far greater 
areas to the south and east her influence was to weaken and so restore to barbarism the far wider conquests of 
Hellenic civilization. 

27.5 The End of the Republic 

But among the politicians of Italy in the first century B.C. there were no maps of Germany and Russia, Africa 
and Central Asia, and no sufficient intelligence to study them had they existed. Rome never developed the 
fine curiosities that sent Hanno and the sailors of Pharaoh Necho down the coasts of Africa. When, in the first 
century B.C., the emissaries of the Han dynasty reached the eastern shores of the Caspian Sea, they found 
only stories of a civilization that had receded. The memory of Alexander still lived in these lands, but of 
Rome men only knew that Pompey had come to the western shores of the Caspian and gone away again, and 
that Crassus had been destroyed. Rome was pre-occupied at home. What mental energy remained over in the 
Roman citizen from the attempt to grow personally rich, and keep personally safe was intent upon the 
stratagems and strokes and counter-strokes of the various adventurers who were now manifestly grappling for 
the supreme power. 

It is the custom of historians to treat these struggles with extreme respect. In particular the figure of Julius 
Csar is set up as if it were a star of supreme brightness and importance in the history of mankind. Yet a 
dispassionate consideration of the known facts fails altogether to justify this demigod theory of Csar. Not even 
that precipitate wrecker of splendid possibilities, Alexander the Great, has been so magnified and dressed up 
for the admiration of careless and uncritical readers. There is a type of scholar who, to be plain, sits and 
invents marvellous world policies for the more conspicuous figures in history with the merest scraps of 
justification or with no justification at all. We are told that Alexander planned the conquest of Carthage and 



Part I 205 

Rome and the complete subjugation of India and that only his death shattered these schemes. What we know 
for certain is that he conquered the Persian Empire, and never went far beyond its boundaries; and that when 
he was supposed to be making these vast and noble plans, he was in fact indulging in such monstrous antics as 
his mourning for his favourite Hephaestion, and as his main occupation he was drinking himself to death. So, 
too, Julius Csar is credited with the intention of doing just that one not impossible thing which would have 
secured the Roman Empire from its ultimate collapse"namely, the systematic conquest and civilization of 
Europe as far as the Baltic and the Dnieper. He was to have marched upon Germany, says Plutarch, through 
Parthia and Scythia, round the north of the Caspian and Black Seas. Yet the fact we have to reconcile with this 
wise and magnificent project is that at the crest of his power, Csar, already a bald, middle-aged man, past the 
graces and hot impulses of youthful love, spent the better part of a year in Egypt, feasting and entertaining 
himself in amorous pleasantries with the Egyptian queen, Cleopatra. And afterwards he brought her with him 
to Rome, where her influence over him was bitterly resented. Such complications with a woman mark the 
elderly sensualist or sentimentalist" he was fifty-four at the commencement of the affaire" rather than the 
master-ruler of men. 

On the side of the superman idea of Csar, we have to count a bust in the Naples Museum. It represents a fine 
and intellectual face, very noble in its expression, and we can couple with that the story that his head, even at, 
birth, was unusually large and finely formed. But there is really no satisfying evidence that this well-known 
bust does represent Csar, and it is hard to reconcile its austere serenity with the reputation for violent impulse 
and disorderliness that clung to him. Other busts of a quite different man are also, with more probability, 
ascribed to him. 

There can be little doubt that he was a dissolute, and extravagant young man"the scandals cluster thick about 
his sojourn in Bithynia, whither he fled from Sulla; he was the associate of the reprobate Clodius and the 
conspirator Catiline, and there is nothing in his political career to suggest any aim higher or remoter than his 
own advancement to power, and all the personal glory and indulgence that power makes possible. We will not 
attempt to tell here of the turns and devices of his career. Although he was of an old patrician family, he came 
into politics as the brilliant darling of the people. He spent great sums and incurred heavy debts to provide 
public festivals on the most lavish scale. He opposed the tradition of Sulla, and cherished the memory of 
Marius, who was his uncle by marriage. For a time he worked in conjunction with Crassus and Pompey, but 
after the death of Crassus he and Pompey came into conflict. By 49 B.C. he and Pompey, with their legions, 
he from the west and Pompey from the east, were fighting openly for predominance in the Roman state. He 
had broken the law by bringing his legions across the Rubicon, which was the boundary between his 
command and Italy proper. At the battle of Pharsalos in Thessaly (48 B.C.), Pompey was routed, and, fleeing 
to Egypt, was murdered, leaving Csar more master of the Roman world than ever Sulla had been. 

He was then created dictator for ten years in 46 B.C., and early in 45 B.C. he was made dictator for life. This 
was monarchy; if not hereditary monarchy, it was at least electoral life monarchy. It was unlimited 
opportunity to do his best for the world. And by the spirit and quality of his use of this dictatorial power 
during these four years we are bound to judge him. A certain reorganization of local administration he 
effected, and he seems to have taken up what was a fairly obvious necessity of the times, a project for the 
restoration of the two murdered seaports of Corinth and Carthage, whose destruction had wrecked the sea-life 
of the Mediterranean. But much more evident was the influence of Cleopatra and Egypt upon his mind. Like 
Alexander before him, his head seems to have been turned by the king-god tradition, assisted no doubt in his 
case by the adulation of that charming hereditary goddess, Cleopatra, We find evidence of exactly that same 
conflict upon the score of divine pretensions, between him and his personal friends, that we have already 
recorded in the case of Alexander. So far as the Hellenized east was concerned, the paying of divine honours 
to rulers was a familiar idea; but it was still repulsive to the lingering Aryanism of Rome. 

Antony, who had been his second in command at Pharsalos, was one of the chief of his flatterers. Plutarch 
describes a scene at the public games in which Antony tried to force a crown upon Csar, which Caesar, after a 
little coyness and in face of the manifested displeasure of the crowd, refused. But he had adopted the ivory 



Part I 206 

sceptre and throne, which were the traditional insignia of the ancient kings of Rome. His image was carried 
amidst that of the gods in the opening pompa of the arena, and his statue was set up in a temple with an 
inscription, To the Unconquerable God! Priests even were appointed for his godhead. These things are not the 
symptoms of great-mindedness, but of a common man's megalomania. Caesar's record of vulgar scheming for 
the tawdriest mockeries of personal worship is a silly and shameful record; it is incompatible with the idea 
that he was a wise and wonderful superman setting the world to rights. 

Finally (44 B.C.) he was assassinated by a group of his own friends and supporters, to whom these divine 
aspirations had become intolerable. He was beset in the Senate, and stabbed in three and twenty places, dying 
at the foot of the statue of his fallen rival Pompey the Great. The scene marks the complete demoralization of 
the old Roman governing body. Brutus, the ringleader of the murderers, would have addressed the senators, 
but, confronted by this crisis, they were scuttling off in every direction. For the best part of a day Rome did 
not know what to make of this event; the murderers marched about with their bloody weapons through an 
undecided city, with no one gainsaying them and only a few joining them; then public opinion turned against 
them, some of their houses were attacked, and they had to hide and fly for their lives. 

27.6 The Coming of the Princeps 

But the trend of things was overwhelmingly towards monarchy. For thirteen years more the struggle of 
personalities went on. One single man is to be noted as inspired by broad ideas and an ambition not entirely 
egoistic, Cicero. He was a man of modest origin, whose eloquence and literary power had won him a 
prominent place in the Senate. He was a little tainted by the abusive tradition of Demosthenes, nevertheless he 
stands out, a noble and pathetically ineffective figure, pleading with the now utterly degenerate, base, and 
cowardly Senate for the high ideals of the Republic. He was a writer of great care and distinction, and the 
orations and private letters he has left us make him one of the most real and living figures of this period to the 
modern reader. He was proscribed and killed in 43 B.C., the year after the murder of Julius Caesar, and his 
head and hands were nailed up in the Roman forum. Octavian, who became at last the monarch of Rome, 
seems to have made an effort to save Cicero; that murder was certainly not his crime. 

Here we cannot trace out the tangle of alliances and betrayals that ended in the ascendancy of this Octavian, 
the adopted heir of Julius Caesar. The fate of the chief figures is interwoven with that of Cleopatra. 

After the death of Caesar, she set herself to capture the emotions and vanity of Antony, a much younger man 
than Caesar, with whom she was probably already acquainted. For a time Octavian and Antony and a third 
figure, Lepidus, divided the Roman world just as Caesar and Pompey had divided it before their final conflict. 
Octavian took the hardier west, and consolidated his power; Antony had the more gorgeous easf'and 
Cleopatra. To Lepidus fell that picked bone, Carthaginian Africa. He seems to have been a good man of good 
traditions, set upon the restoration of Carthage rather than upon wealth or personal vanities. The mind of 
Antony succumbed to those same ancient ideas of divine kingship that had already proved too much for the 
mental equilibrium of Julius Caesar. In the company of Cleopatra he gave himself up to love, amusements, 
and a dream of sensuous glory, until Octavian felt that the time was ripe to end these two Egyptian divinities. 

In 32 B.C. Octavian induced the Senate to depose Antony from the command of the east, and proceeded to 
attack him. A great naval battle at Actium (31 B.C.) was decided by the unexpected desertion of Cleopatra 
with sixty ships in the midst of the fight. It is quite impossible for us to decide now whether this was due to 
premeditated treachery or to the sudden whim of a charming woman. The departure of these ships threw the 
fleet of Antony into hopeless confusion, which was increased by the headlong flight of this model lover in 
pursuit. He went off in a swift galley after her without informing his commanders. He left his followers to 
fight and die as they thought fit, and for a time they were incredulous that he had gone. The subsequent 
encounter of the two lovers and their reconciliation is a matter for ironical speculation on the part of Plutarch. 

Octavian's net closed slowly round his rival. It is not improbable that there was some sort of understanding 



Part I 207 

between Octavian and Cleopatra, as perhaps in the time of Julius Caesar there may have been between the 
queen and Antony. Antony gave way to much mournful posturing, varied by love scenes, during this last stage 
of his little drama. For a time he posed as an imitator of the cynic Timon, as one who had lost all faith in 
mankind, though one may think that his deserted sailors at Actium had better reason for such an attitude. 
Finally he found himself and Cleopatra besieged by Octavian in Alexandria. There were some sallies and 
minor successes, and Antony was loud with challenges to Octavian to decide the matter by personal combat. 
Being led to believe that Cleopatra had committed suicide, this star of romance stabbed himself, but so 
ineffectually as to die lingeringly, and he was carried off to expire in her presence (30 B.C.) . 

Plutarch's account of Antony, which was derived very largely from witnesses who had seen and known him, 
describes him as of heroic mould. He is compared to the demigod Hercules, from whom indeed he claimed 
descent, and also, to the Indian Bacchus. There is a disgusting but illuminating description of a scene in the 
Senate when he attempted to speak while drunk, and was overtaken by one of the least dignified concomitants 
of intoxication. 

For a little while Cleopatra still clung to life, and perhaps to the hope that she might reduce Octavian to the 
same divine role that had already been played by Julius Caesar and Antony. She had an interview with 
Octavian, in which she presented herself as beauty in distress and very lightly clad. But when it became 
manifest that Octavian lacked the godlike spark, and that his care for her comfort and welfare was dictated 
chiefly by his desire to exhibit her in a triumphal procession through the streets of Rome, she also committed 
suicide. An asp was smuggled to her past the Roman sentries, concealed in a basket of figs, and by its fangs 
she died. 

Octavian seems to have been almost entirely free from the divine aspirations of Julius Caesar and Antony. He 
was neither God nor romantic hero; he was a man. He was a man of far greater breadth and capacity than any 
other player in this last act of the Republican drama in Rome. All things considered, he was perhaps the best 
thing that could have happened to Rome at that time. He voluntarily resigned the extraordinary powers which 
he had held since 43, and, to quote his own words, 'handed over the republic to the control of the senate and 
the people of Rome.' The old constitutional machinery was once more set in motion; the senate, assembly, and 
magistrates resumed their functions, and Octavian himself was hailed as the 'restorer of the commonwealth 
and the champion of freedom.' It was not so easy to determine what relation he himself, the actual master of 
the Roman world, should occupy towards this revived republic. His abdication, in any real sense of the word, 
would have simply thrown everything back into confusion. The interests of peace and order required that he 
should retain at least the substantial part of his authority; and this object was in fact accomplished, and the 
rule of the emperors founded in a manner which has no parallel in history. Any revival of the kingly title was 
out of the question, and Octavian himself expressly refused the dictatorship. Nor was any new office created 
or any new official title invented for his benefit. But by senate and people he was invested according to the 
old constitutional forms with certain powers, as many citizens had been before him, and so took his place by 
the side of the lawfully appointed magistrates of the republic; only, to mark his pre-eminent dignity, as the 
first, of them all, the senate decreed that he should take as an additional cognomen that of Augustus,' while in 
common parlance he was henceforth styled Princeps, a simple title of courtesy, familiar to republican usage 
and conveying no other idea than that of a recognized primacy and precedence over his fellow -citizens. The 
ideal sketched by Cicero in his De Republica, of a constitutional president of a free republic, was apparently 
realized; but it was only in appearance. For in fact the special prerogatives conferred upon Octavian gave him 
back in substance the autocratic authority he had resigned, and as between the restored republic and its new 
princeps the balance of power was overwhelmingly on the side of the latter. [7] 

27.7 Why the Roman Republic Failed 

In this manner it was that Roman republicanism ended in a princeps or ruling prince, and the first great 
experiment in a self-governing community on a scale larger than that of tribe or city, collapsed and failed. 



Part I 208 

The essence of its failure was that it could not sustain unity. In its early stages its citizens, both patrician and 
plebeian, had a certain tradition of justice and good faith, and of the loyalty of all citizens to the law, and of 
the goodness of the law for all citizens; it clung to this idea of the importance of the law and of 
law-abidingness nearly into the first century B.C. But the unforeseen invention and development of money, 
the temptations and disruptions of imperial expansion, the entanglement of electoral methods, weakened and 
swamped this tradition by presenting old issues in new disguises under which the judgment did not recognize 
them, and by enabling men to be loyal to the professions of citizenship and disloyal to its spirit. The bond of 
the Roman people had always been a moral rather than a religious bond; their religion was sacrificial and 
superstitious; it embodied no such great ideas of a divine leader and of a sacred mission as Judaism was 
developing. As the idea of citizenship failed and faded before the new occasions, there remained no inner, that 
is to say no real, unity in the system at all. Every man tended more and more to do what was right in his own 
eyes. 

Under such conditions there was no choice between chaos and a return to monarchy, to the acceptance of 
some chosen individual as the one unifying will in the state. Of course in that return there is always hidden the 
expectation that the monarch will become as it were magic, will cease to be merely a petty human being, and 
will think and feel as something greater and more noble, as indeed a state personage; and of course monarchy 
invariably fails to satisfy that expectation. We shall glance at the extent of this failure in the brief review we 
shall presently make of the emperors of Rome. We shall find at last one of the more constructive of these 
emperors, Constantine the Great, conscious of his own inadequacy as a unifying power, turning to the faith, 
the organization, and teaching network of one of the new religious movements in the empire, to supply just 
that permeating and correlating factor in men's minds that was so manifestly wanting. 

With Caesar, the civilization of Europe and Western Asia went back to monarchy, and, through monarchy, 
assisted presently by organized Christianity, it sought to achieve peace, righteousness, happiness, and world 
order for close upon eighteen centuries. Then almost suddenly it began reverting to republicanism, first in one 
country and then in another, and, assisted by the new powers of printing and the press and of organized 
general education, and by the universalist religious ideas in which the world had been soaked for generations, 
it seems now to have resumed again the effort to create a republican world-state and a world-wide scheme of 
economic righteousness which the Romans had made so prematurely and in which they had so utterly and 
disastrously failed. 

Certain conditions, we are new beginning to perceive, are absolutely necessary to such a creation; conditions 
which it is inconceivable that any pre-Christian Roman could have regarded as possible. We may still think 
the attainment of these conditions a vastly laborious and difficult and uncertain undertaking, but we 
understand that the attempt must be made because no other prospect before us gives even a promise of 
happiness or self-respect or preservation of our kind. The first of these conditions is that there should be a 
common political idea in the minds of all men, an idea of the state thought of as the personal possession of 
each individual and as the backbone fact of his scheme of duties. In the early days of Rome, when it was a 
little visible state, twenty miles square, such notions could be and were developed in children in their homes, 
and by what they saw and heard of the political lives of their fathers; but in a larger country such as Rome had 
already become before the war with Pyrrhus, there was a need of an organized teaching of the history, of the 
main laws, and of the general intentions, of the state towards everyone if this moral unity was to be 
maintained. But the need was never realized, and no attempt at, any such teaching was ever made. At the time 
it could not have been made. It is inconceivable that it could have been made. The knowledge was not there, 
and there existed no class from which the needed teachers could be drawn and no conception of an 
organization for any such systematic moral and intellectual training as the teaching organization of 
Christianity, with its creeds and catechisms and sermons and confirmations, presently supplied. 

Moreover, we know nowadays that even a universal education of this sort supplies only the basis for a healthy 
republican state. Next to education there must come abundant, prompt, and truthful information of what is 
going on in the state, and frank and free discussion of the issues of the time. Even nowadays these functions 



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are performed only very imperfectly and badly by the press we have and by our publicists and politicians; but 
badly though it is done, the thing is done, and the fact that it is done at all argues that it may ultimately be 
done well. In the Roman state it was not even attempted. The Roman citizen got his political facts from 
rumour and the occasional orator. He stood wedged in the forum, imperfectly hearing a distant speaker. He 
probably misconceived every issue upon which he voted. 

And of the monstrous ineffectiveness of the Roman voting system we have already written. 

Unable to surmount or remove these obstacles to a sane and effective popular government, the political 
instincts of the Roman mind turned towards monarchy. But it was not monarchy of the later European type, 
not hereditary monarchy, which was now installed in Rome. The princeps was really like an American 
war-time president, but he was elected not for four years but for life, he was able to appoint senators instead of 
being restrained by an elected senate, and with a rabble popular meeting in the place of the house of 
representatives. He was also pontifex maximus, chief of the sacrificial priests, a function unknown at 
Washington; and in practice it became usual for him to designate and train his successor and to select for that 
honour a son or an adopted son or a near relation whom he could trust. The power of the princeps was in itself 
enormous to entrust to the hands of a single man without any adequate checks, but it was further enhanced by 
the tradition of monarch-worship which had now spread out from Egypt over the entire Hellenized east, and 
which was coming to Rome in the head of every Oriental slave and immigrant. By natural and imperceptible 
degrees the idea of the god-emperor came to dominate the whole Romanized world. 

Only one thing presently remained to remind the god-emperor that he was mortal, and that was the army. The 
god-emperor was never safe upon the Olympus of the Palatine Hill at Rome. He was only secure while he was 
the beloved captain of his legions. And as a consequence only the hardworking emperors who kept their 
legions active and in close touch with themselves had long reigns. The sword overhung the emperor and 
spurred him to incessant activity. If he left things to his generals, one of those generals presently replaced him. 
This spur was perhaps the redeeming feature of the Roman Imperial system. In the greater, compacter, and 
securer empire of China there was not the same need of legions, and so there was-not the same swift end for 
lazy or dissipated or juvenile monarchs that overtook such types in Rome. 

28.0 The Caesars between the Sea and the Great Plains of the Old World 

28.1 A Short Catalogue of Emperors 

28.2 Roman Civilization at its Zenith 

28.3 Limitations of the Roman Mind 

28.4 The Stir of the Great Plains 

28.5 The Western (true Roman) Empire Crumples Up 

28.6 The Eastern (revived Hellenic) Empire 

28.1 A Short Catalogue of Emperors 

Western writers are apt, through their patriotic predispositions, to overestimate the organization, civilizing 
work, and security of the absolute monarchy that established itself in Rome after the accession of Augustus 
Caesar. From it we derive the political traditions of Britain, France, Spain, Germany, and Italy, and these 
countries loom big in the perspectives of European writers. By the scale of a world history the Roman Empire 
ceases to seem so overwhelmingly important. It lasted about four centuries in all before it was completely 
shattered. The Byzantine Empire was no genuine continuation of it; it was a resumption of the Hellenic 



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Empire of Alexander; it spoke Greek; its monarch had a Roman title no doubt, but so for that matter had the 
late Tsar of Bulgaria. During its four centuries of life the empire of Rome had phases of division and complete 
chaos; its prosperous years, if they are gathered together and added up, do not amount in all to a couple of 
centuries. Compared with the quiet steady expansion, the security, and the civilizing task of the contemporary 
Chinese Empire, or with Egypt between 4000 and 1000 B.C., or with Sumeria before the Semitic conquest, 
this amounts to a mere incident in history. The Persian Empire of Cyrus again, which reached from the 
Hellespont to the Indus, had as high a standard of civilization; and its homelands remained unconquered and 
fairly prosperous for over two hundred years. Its predecessor, the Median Empire, had endured for half a 
century. After a brief submergence by Alexander the Great, it rose again as the Seleucid Empire, which 
endured for some centuries. The Seleucid dominion shrank at last to the west of the Euphrates, and became a 
part of the Roman Empire; but Persia, revived by the Parthians as a new Persian Empire, first under the 
Arsacids and then under the Sassanids, outlived the empire of Rome. The Sassanids repeatedly carried war 
into the Byzantine Empire, and held the line of the Euphrates steadfastly. In 616 A.D. under Chosroes II, they 
were holding Damascus, Jerusalem, and Egypt, and threatening the Hellespont. But there has been no tradition 
to keep alive the glories of the Sassanids. The reputation of Rome has flourished through the prosperity of her 
heirs. The tradition of Rome is greater than its reality. 

History distinguishes two chief groups of Roman emperors who were great administrators. The first of these 
groups began with: 

Augustus Caesar (27 B.C. to 14 A.D.), the Octavian of the previous section, who worked hard at the 
reorganization of the provincial governments and at financial reform. He established a certain tradition of 
lawfulness and honesty in the bureaucracy, and he restrained the more monstrous corruptions and tyrannies by 
giving the provincial citizen the right to appeal to Caesar. But he fixed the European boundaries of the empire 
along the Rhine and Danube, so leaving Germany, which is the necessary backbone of a safe and prosperous 
Europe, to barbarism; and he made a similar limitation in the east at the Euphrates, leaving Armenia 
independent, to be a constant bone of contention with the Arsacids. and Sassanids. It is doubtful whether he 
considered that he was fixing the final boundaries of the empire along these lines, or whether he thought it 
desirable to consolidate for some years before any further attempts at expansion. 

Tiberius (14 to 37 A.D.) is also described as a capable ruler, but he became intensely unpopular in Rome, and 
it would seem that he was addicted to gross and abominable vices. But his indulgence in these and his 
personal tyrannies and cruelties did not interfere with the general prosperity of the empire. It is difficult to 
judge him; nearly all our sources of information are manifestly hostile to him. 

Caligula (37 to 41 A.D.) was insane, but the empire carried on during four years of eccentricity at its head. 
Finally he was murdered in his palace by his servants, and there seems to have been an attempt to restore the 
senatorial government, an attempt which was promptly suppressed by the household legions. 

Claudius (41 to 54 A.D.), the uncle of Caligula, upon whom the choice of the soldiers fell, was personally 
uncouth, but he seems to have been a hardworking and fairly capable administrator. He advanced the 
westward boundary of the empire by annexing the southern half of Britain. He was poisoned by Agrippina, 
the mother of his adopted son, Nero, and a woman of great charm and force of character. 

Nero (54 to 68 A.D.), like Tiberius, is credited with monstrous vices and cruelties, but the empire had 
acquired sufficient; momentum to carry on through his fourteen years of power. He certainly murdered his 
devoted but troublesome mother and his wife, the latter as a mark of devotion to a lady, Poppaea, who then 
married him; but the domestic infelicities of the Caesars are no part of our present story. The reader greedy for 
criminal particulars must go to the classical source, Suetonius. These various Caesars and their successors and 
their womenkind were probably no worse essentially than most weak and passionate human beings, but they 
had no real religion being themselves gods; they had no wide knowledge on which to build high ambitions, 
their women were fierce and often illiterate, and they were under no restraints of law or custom. They were 



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surrounded by creatures ready to stimulate their slightest wishes and to translate their vaguest impules into 
action. What are mere passing black thoughts and angry impulses with most of us became therefore deeds 
with them. Before a man condemns Nero as a different species of being from himself, he should examine his 
own secret thoughts very carefully. Nero became intensely unpopular in Rome, and it is interesting to note 
that he became unpopular not because he murdered and poisoned his intimate relations, but because there was 
an insurrection in Britain under a certain Queen Boadicea, and the Roman forces suffered a great disaster (61 
A.D.), and because there was a destructive earthquake in Southern Italy. The Roman population, true to its 
Etruscan streak, never religious and always superstitious, did not mind a wicked Caesar, but it did object 
strongly to an unpropitious one. The Spanish legions rose in insurrection under an elderly general of 
seventy-three, Galba, whom they acclaimed emperor. He advanced upon Rome carried in a litter. Nero, 
hopeless of support, committed suicide. ( 68 A.D.). 

Galba, however, was only one of a group of would-be emperors. The generals in command of the Rhine 
legions, the Palatine troops, and the eastern armies, each attempted to seize power. Rome saw four emperors 
in a year, Galba, Otho, Vitellus, and Vespasian; the fourth, Vespasian (69-79 A.D.), from the eastern 
command, had the firmest grip, and held and kept the prize. But with Nero the line of Caesars born or adopted 
ended. Caesar ceased to be the family name of the Roman emperors and became a title, Divus Caesar, the 
Caesar god. The monarchy took a step forward towards orientalism by an increased insistence upon the 
worship of the ruler. 

Vespasian (69 to 79 A.D.) and his sons Titus (79 A.D.) and Domitian (81 A.D.) constitute, as it were, a 
second dynasty, the Flavian; then after the assassination of Domitian came a group of emperors related to one 
another not by blood, but by adoption, the adoptive emperors. Nerva (96 A.D.) was the first of this line, and 
Trajan (98 A.D.) the second. They were followed by the indefatigable Hadrian (1 17 A.D.), Antoninus Pius 
(138 A.D.), and Marcus Aurelius (161 to 180 A.D.). Under both the Flavians and the Antonines the 
boundaries of the empire crept forward again. North Britain was annexed in 84 A.D., the angle of the Rhine 
and Danube was filled in, and what is now Transylvania was made into a new province, Dacia Trajan also 
invaded Parthia and annexed Armenia, Assyria, and Mesopotamia. Under his rule the empire reached its 
maximum extent. Hadrian, his successor, was of a cautious and retractile disposition. He abandoned these new 
eastern conquests of Trajan's, and he also abandoned North Britain. He adopted the Chinese idea of the 
limiting wall against barbarism, an excellent idea so, long as the pressure of population on the imperial side of 
the wall is greater than the pressure from without, but worthless otherwise. He built Hadrian's wall across 
Britain, and a palisade between the Rhine and the Danube. The full tide of Roman expansion was past, and in 
the reign of his successor the North European frontier was already actively on the defensive against the 
aggression of Teutonic and Slavic tribes. 

Marcus Aurelius Antoninus is one of those figures in history about which men differ widely and intensely. To 
some, critics he seems to have been a priggish person; he dabbled in religions, and took a pleasure in 
conducting priestly ceremonies in priestly garments-a disposition offensive to common men-and they resent 
his alleged failure to restrain the wickedness of his wife Faustina. The stories of his domestic infelicity, 
however, rest on no very good foundations, though certainly his son Commodus was a startling person for a 
good home to produce. On the other hand, he was unquestionably a devoted and industrious emperor, holding 
social order together through a series of disastrous years of vile weather, great floods, failing harvests and 
famine, barbaric raids and revolts, and at last a terrible universal pestilence. Says F. W. Farrar, quoted in the 
Encyclopaedia Britannica, He regarded himself as being, in fact, the servant of all. The registry of the citizens, 
the suppression of litigation, the elevation of public morals, the care of minors, the retrenchment of public 
expenses, the limitation of gladiatorial games and shows, the care of roads, the restoration of senatorial 
privileges, the appointment of none but worthy magistrates, even the regulation of street traffic, these and 
numberless other duties so completely absorbed his attention that, in spite of indifferent health, they often 
kept him at severe labour from early morning till long after midnight. His position, indeed, often necessitated 
his presence at games and shows; but on these occasions be occupied himself either in reading, or being read 
to, or in writing notes. He was one of those who held that nothing should be done hastily, and that few crimes 



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were worse than waste of time. 

But it is not by these industries that he is now remembered. He was one of the greatest exponents of the 
Stoical philosophy, and in his Meditations, jotted down in camp and court, he has put so much of a human 
soul on record as, to raise up for himself in each generation a fresh series of friends and admirers. 

With the death of Marcus Aurelius this phase of unity and comparatively good government came to an end, 
and his son Commodus inaugurated an age of disorder. Practically the empire had been at peace within itself 
for two hundred years. Now for a hundred years the student of Roman history must master the various 
criminology of a number of inadequate emperors while the frontier crumbled and receded under barbarian 
pressure. One or two names only seem to be the names of able men: such were Septimius Severus, Aurelian, 
and Probus. Septimius Severus was a Carthaginian, and his sister was never able to master Latin. She 
conducted her Roman household in the Punic language, which must have made Cato the elder turn in his 
grave. The rest of the emperors of this period were chiefly adventurers too unimportant to the general scheme 
of things for us to note. At times there were separate emperors ruling in different parts of the distracted 
empire. From our present point of view the Emperor Decius, who was defeated and killed during a great raid 
of the Goths into Thrace in 25 1 A.D., and the Emperor Valerian, who, together with the great city of Antioch, 
was captured by the Sassanid Shah of Persia in 260 A.D., are worthy of notice because they mark the 
insecurity of the whole Roman system, and the character of the outer pressure upon it. So, too, is Claudius, the 
Conqueror of the Gotha, because he gained a great victory over these people at Nish in Serbia (270 A.D.), and 
because he died, like Pericles, of the plague. 

Through all these centuries intermittent pestilences were playing a part in weakening races and altering social 
conditions, a part that has still to be properly worked out by historians. There was, for instance, a great plague 
throughout the empire between the years 164 and 180 A.D. in the reign of the Emperor Marcus Aurelius. It 
probably did much to disorganize social life and prepare the way for the troubles that followed the accession 
of Commodus. This same pestilence devastated China, as we shall note in sec 4 of this chapter. Considerable 
fluctuations of climate had also been going on in the first and second centuries, producing stresses and 
shiftings of population, whose force historians have still to appraise. But before we go on to tell of the 
irruptions of the barbarians and the attempts of such later emperors as Diocletian (284 A.D.) and Constantine 
the Great (312 A.D.) to hold together the heaving and splitting vessel of the state, we must describe something 
of the conditions of human life in the Roman Empire during its two centuries of prosperity. 

28.2 Roman Civilization at its Zenith 

The impatient reader of history may be disposed to count the two centuries of order between 27 B .C. and 1 80 
A.D. as among the wasted opportunities of mankind. It was an age of spending rather than of creation, an age 
of architecture and trade in which the rich grew richer and the poor poorer and the soul and spirit of man 
decayed. Looked at superficially, as a man might have looked at it from an aeroplane a couple of thousand 
feet in the air, there was a considerable flourish of prosperity. Everywhere, from York to Cyrene and from 
Lisbon to Antioch, he would have noted large and well-built cities, with temples, theatres, amphitheatres, 
markets, and the like; thousands of such cities, supplied by great aqueducts and served by splendid high roads, 
whose stately remains astonish us to this day. He would have noted an abundant cultivation, and have soared 
too high to discover that this cultivation was the grudging work of slaves. Upon the Mediterranean and the 
Rod Sea a considerable traffic would be visible; and the sight of two ships alongside each other would not at 
that altitude reveal the fact that one was a pirate and plundering the other. 

And even if the observer came down to a closer scrutiny, there would still be much accumulated improvement 
to note. There had been a softening of manners and a general refinement since the days of Julius Caesar. With 
this there had been a real increase of humane feeling. During the period of the Antonines, laws for the 
protection of slaves from extreme cruelty came into existence, and it was no longer permissible to sell them to 
the gladiatorial schools. Not only were the cities outwardly more splendidly built, but within the homes of the 



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wealthy there had been great advances in the art of decoration. The gross feasting, animal indulgence, and 
vulgar display of the earlier days of Roman prosperity were now tempered by a certain refinement. Dress had 
become richer, finer, and more beautiful. There was a great trade in silk with remote China for the 
mulberry-tree and the silkworm had not yet begun to move west. By the time silk had ended its long and 
varied journey to Rome it was worth its weight in gold. Yet it was used abundantly, and there was a steady 
flow of the precious metals eastward in exchange. There had been very considerable advances in gastronomy 
and the arts of entertainment. Petronius describes a feast given by a wealthy man under the early Caesars, a 
remarkable succession of courses, some delicious, some amazing, exceeding anything that even the 
splendours and imagination of modern New York could produce; and the festival was varied by music and by 
displays of tight-rope dancing, juggling, Homeric recitations, and the like. There was a considerable amount 
of what we may describe as rich men's culture throughout the empire. Books were far more plentiful than they 
had been before the time of the Caesars. Men prided themselves upon their libraries, even when the cares and 
responsibilities of property made them too busy to give their literary treasures much more than a passing 
examination. The knowledge of Greek spread eastward and of Latin westward, and if the prominent men of 
this or that British or Gallic city lacked any profound Greek-culture themselves, they could always turn to 
some slave or other, whose learning had been guaranteed of the highest quality by the slave-dealer, to supply 
the deficiency. 

The generation of Cato had despised Greeks and the Greek language, but now all that was changed. The 
prestige of Greek learning of an approved and settled type was as high in the Rome of Antoninus Pius as it 
was in the Oxford and Cambridge of Victorian England. The Greek scholar received the same mixture of 
unintelligent deference and practical contempt. There was a very considerable amount of Greek scholarship, 
and of written criticism and commentary. Indeed there was so great an admiration for Greek letters as almost 
completely to destroy the Greek spirit; and the recorded observations of Aristotle were valued so highly as to 
preclude any attempt to imitate his organization of further inquiry. It is noteworthy that while Aristotle in the 
original Greek fell like seed upon stony soil in the Roman world, he was, in Syrian and Arabic translations, 
immensely stimulating to the Arabic civilization of a thousand years later. Nor were the aesthetic claims of 
Latin neglected in this heyday of Greek erudition. As Greece had her epics and so forth, the Romans felt that 
they, too, must have their epics. The age of Augustus was an age of imitative literature. Virgil in the neid set 
himself modestly but resolutely, and with an elegant sort of successfulness, to parallel the Odyssey and Iliad. 

All this wide-spread culture of the wealthy householder is to the credit of the early Roman Empire, and 
Gibbon makes the most of it in the sunny review of the age of the Antonines, with which he opens his Decline 
and Fall of the Roman Empire. His design for that great work demanded a prelude of splendour and 
tranquillity. But he was far too shrewd and subtle not to qualify his apparent approval of the conditions he 
describes. Under the Roman Empire, he writes, the. labour of an industrious and ingenious people was 
variously but incessantly employed in the service of the rich. In their dress, their table, their houses, and their 
furniture, the favourites of fortune united every refinement of convenience, of elegance, and of splendour, 
whatever could soothe their, pride, or gratify their sensuality. Such refinements, under the odious name of 
luxury, have been severely arraigned by the moralists of every age; and it might perhaps be more conducive to 
the virtue, as well as happiness, of mankind, if all possessed the necessaries, and none the superfluities of life. 
But in the present imperfect condition of society, luxury, though it may proceed from vice or folly, seems to 
be the only means that can correct the unequal distribution of property. The diligent mechanic and the skilful 
artist, who have obtained no share in the division of the earth, receive a voluntary tax from the possessors of 
land; and the latter are, prompted, by a sense of interest, to improve those estates, with whose produce they 
may purchase additional pleasure. This operation, the particular effects of which are felt in every society, 
acted with much more diffuse energy in the Roman world. The provinces would soon have been exhausted of 
their wealth, if the manufactures and commerce of luxury had not insensibly restored to the industrious 
subjects the sums which were exacted from them by the arms and authority of Rome. And so on, with a sting 
of satire in every fold of the florid description. 

If to look a little more widely than a hovering aeroplane can do at the movement of races upon the earth, or a 



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little more closely than an inspection of streets, amphitheatres, and banquets goes into the souls and thoughts 
of men, we shall find that this impressive display of material prosperity is merely the shining garment of a 
polity blind to things without and things within, and blind to the future. If, for instance, we compare the two 
centuries of Roman ascendancy and opportunity, the first and second centuries A.D., with the two centuries of 
Greek and Hellenic life beginning about 466 B.C. with the supremacy of Pericles in Athens, we are amazed 
by we cannot call it an inferiority, it is a complete absence of science. The incuriousness of the Roman rich 
and the Roman rulers was more massive and monumental even than their architecture. 

In one field of knowledge particularly we might have expected the Romans to have been alert and 
enterprising, and that was geography. Their political interests demanded a steadfast inquiry into the state of 
affairs beyond their frontiers, and yet that inquiry was never made. There is practically no literature of Roman 
travel beyond the imperial limits, no such keen and curious accounts as Herodotus gives of the Scythians, the 
Africans, and the like, There is nothing in Latin to compare with the early descriptions of India and Siberia, 
that are to be found in Chinese. The Roman legions went at one time into Scotland, yet there remains no really 
intelligent account of Picts or Scots, much less any glance at the seas beyond. Such explorations as those of 
Hanno or Pharaoh Necho, seem to have been altogether beyond the scope of the Roman imagination. It is 
probable that after the destruction of Carthage the amount of shipping that went out into the Atlantic through 
the Straits of Gibraltar fell to inconsiderable, proportions. Still more impossible in this world of vulgar wealth, 
enslaved intelligence, and bureaucratic rule was any further development of the astronomy and physiography 
of Alexandria. The Romans do not seem even to have inquired what manner of men wove the silk and 
prepared the spices or collected the amber and the pearls that came into their markets. Yet the channels of 
inquiry were open and easy; pathways led in every direction to the most convenient jumping-off places for 
explorers it is possible to imagine. 

The most remote countries of the ancient world were ransacked to supply the pomp and delicacy of Rome. 
The forests of Scythia afforded some valuable furs. Amber was brought overland from the shores of the Baltic 
to the Danube, and the barbarians were astonished at the price which they received in exchange for so useless 
a commodity. There was a considerable demand for Babylonian carpets and other manufactures of the East; 
but the most important branch of foreign trade was carried on with Arabia and India. Every year, about the 
time of the summer solstice, a fleet of a hundred and twenty vessels sailed from Myos-hormos, a port of Egypt 
on the Red Sea. By the periodical assistance of the monsoons, they traversed the ocean in about forty days. 
The coast of Malabar, or the island of Ceylon, was the usual term of their navigation, and it was in those 
markets that the merchants from the more remote countries of Asia expected their arrival. The return of the 
fleet to Egypt was fixed to the months of December or January, and as soon as their rich cargo had been 
transported, on the backs of camels, from the Red Sea to the Nile, and had descended that river as far as 
Alexandria, it was poured, without delay, into the capital of the empire. [1] 

Yet Rome was content to feast, exact, grow rich, and watch its gladiatorial shows without the slightest attempt 
to learn anything of India, China, Persia or Scythia, Buddha or Zoroaster, or about the Huns, the Negroes, the 
people of Scandinavia, or the secrets of the western sea. 

When we realize the uninspiring quality of the social atmosphere which made this indifference possible, we 
are able to account for the failure of Rome during its age of opportunity to develop any physical or chemical 
science, and as a consequence to gain any increased control over matter. Most of the physicians in Rome were 
Greeks and many of them slaves-for the Roman wealthy did not even understand that a bought mind is a spoilt 
mind. Yet this was not due to any want of natural genius among the Roman people; it was due entirely to their 
social and economic conditions. From the Middle Ages to the present day Italy has produced a great number 
of brilliant scientific men. And one of the most shrewd and inspired of scientific writers was an Italian, 
Lucretius, who lived between the time of Marius and Julius Caesar (about 100 B.C. to about 55 B.C.). This 
amazing man was of the quality of Leonardo da Vinci (also an Italian) or Newton. He wrote a long Latin 
poem about the processes of Nature, De Rerum Naluria, in which he guessed with astonishing insight about 
the constitution of matter and about the early history of mankind. Osborn in his Old Stone Age quotes with 



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admiration long passages from Lucretius about primitive man, so good and true are they to-day. But this was 
an individual display, a seed that bore no fruit. Roman science was still-born into a suffocating atmosphere of 
vile wealth and military oppression. The true figure to represent the classical Roman attitude to science is not, 
Lucretius, but that Roman soldier who hacked Archimedes to death at the storming of Syracuse. 

And if physical and biological science wilted and died on the stony soil of Roman prosperity, political and 
social science never had a chance to germinate. Political discussion would have been treason to the emperor, 
social or economic, inquiry would have threatened the rich. So Rome, until disaster fell upon her, never 
examined into her own social health, never questioned the ultimate value of her hard officialism. 
Consequently, there was no one who realized the gravity of her failure to develop any intellectual imagination 
to hold her empire together, any general education in common ideas that would make men fight and work for 
the empire as men will fight and work for a dear possession. But the rulers of the Roman Empire did not want 
their citizens to fight for anything in any spirit at all. The rich had eaten the heart out of their general 
population, and they were content with the meal they had made. The legions were filled with Germans, 
Britons, Numidians, and the like; and until the very end the wealthy Romans thought they could go on buying 
barbarians to defend them against the enemy without and the rebel poor within. How little was done in 
education by the Romans is shown 'by an account of what was done. Says Mr. H. Stuart Jones, Julius Caesar 
bestowed Roman citizenship on 'teachers of the liberal arts'; Vespasian, endowed professorships of Greek and 
Latin oratory at Rome; and later emperors, especially Antoninus Pius, extended the same benefits to the 
provinces. Local enterprise and munificence were also devoted to the cause of education; we learn from the 
correspondence of the younger Pliny that public schools were founded in the towns of Northern Italy. But 
though there was a wide diffusion of knowledge under the empire, there was no true intellectual progress. 
Augustus, it is true, gathered about him the most brilliant writers of his time, and the debut of the new 
Monarchy coincided with the Golden Age of Roman literature; but this was of brief duration, and the 
beginnings of the Christian era saw the triumph of classicism and the first steps in the decline which awaits all 
literary movements which look to the past rather than the future. 

There is a diagnosis of the intellectual decadence of the age in a treatise upon the sublime by a Greek writer 
who, wrote somewhere in the second, third, or fourth century A.D., and who may possibly have been 
Longinus Philologus, which states very distinctly one manifest factor in the mental sickness of the Roman 
world. He is cited by Gibbon: The sublime Longinus, who, in somewhat a later period and in the court of a 
Syrian queen, Zenobia, preserved the spirit of ancient Athens, observes and laments the degeneracy of his 
contemporaries, which debased their sentiments, enervated their courage, and depressed their talents. 'In the 
same manner,' says be, 'as some children always remain pigmies, whose infant limbs have been too closely 
confined, thus our tender minds; fettered by the prejudices and habits of a just servitude, are unable to expand 
themselves or to attain that well-proportioned greatness which we admire in the ancients, who, living under a 
popular government, wrote with all the same freedom as they acted.' 

But this critic grasped only one aspect of the restraints upon mental activity. The leading-strings that kept the 
Roman mind in a permanent state of infantilism constituted a double servitude; they were economic as well as 
political, The account Gibbon gives of the life and activities of a certain Herodes, Atticus, who lived in the 
time of Hadrian, shows: just how little was the share of the ordinary citizen in the outward magnificence of 
the time. This Atticus had an immense fortune, and he amused himself by huge architectural benefactions to 
various cities. Athens was given a racecourse, and a theatre of cedar, curiously carved, was set up there to the 
memory of his wife; a theatre was built at Corinth, a racecourse was given to Delphi, baths to Thermopylae, 
an aqueduct to Canusium, and so on and so on. One is struck by the spectacle of a world of slaves and 
common people who were not consulted and over whose heads, without any participation on their part, this 
rich man indulged in his displays of taste. Numerous inscriptions in Greece and Asia still preserve the name of 
Herodes Atticus, patron and benefactor, who ranged about the empire as though it was his private garden, 
commemorating himself by these embellishments. He did not confine himself to splendid buildings. He was 
also a philosopher, though none of his wisdom has survived. He had a large villa near Athens, and there 
philosophers were welcome guests so long as they convinced their patron of the soundness of their 



Parti 216 

pretensions, received his discourses with respect, and did not offend him by insolent controversy. 

The world, it is evident, was not progressing during these two centuries of Roman prosperity. But was it 
happy in its stagnation? There are signs of a very unmistakable sort that the great mass of human beings in the 
empire, a mass numbering something between a hundred and a hundred and fifty millions, was not happy, was 
probably very acutely miserable, beneath its outward magnificence. True there were no great wars and 
conquests within the empire, little of famine or fire or sword to afflict mankind; but, on the other hand, there 
was a terrible restraint by government, and still more by the property of the rich, upon the free activities of 
nearly everyone. Life for the great majority who were neither rich nor official, nor the womankind and the 
parasites of the rich and official, must have been laborious, tedious, and lacking in interest and freedom to a 
degree that a modern mind can scarcely imagine. 

Three things in particular may be cited to sustain the opinion that this period was a period of widespread 
unhappiness. The first of these is the extraordinary apathy of the population to political events. They saw one 
upstart pretender to empire succeed another with complete indifference. Such things did not seem to matter to 
them; hope had gone. When presently the barbarians poured into the empire, there was nothing but the legions 
to face them. There was no popular uprising against them at all. Everywhere the barbarians must have been 
out numbered if only the people had resisted. But the people did not resist. It is manifest that to the bulk of its 
inhabitants the Roman Empire did not seem to be a thing worth fighting for. To the slaves and common 
people the barbarian probably seemed to promise more freedom and less indignity than the pompous rule of 
the imperial official and grinding employment by the rich. The looting and burning of palaces and an 
occasional massacre did not shock the folk of the Roman underworld as it shocked the wealthy and cultured 
people to whom we owe such accounts as we have of the breaking down of the imperial, system. Great 
numbers of slaves and common people probably joined the barbarians, who knew little of racial or patriotic 
pejudices, and were openhanded to any promising recruit. No doubt in many cases the population found that 
the barbarian was a worse infliction even than the tax-gatherer and the slave driver. But that discovery came 
too late for resistance or the restoration of the old order. 

And as a second symptom that points to the same conclusion that life was hardly worth living for the poor and 
the slaves and the majority of people during the age of the Antonines, we must reckon the steady depopulation 
of the empire. People refused to have children. They did so, we suggest, because their homes were not safe 
from oppression, because in the case of slaves there was no security that the husband and wife would not be 
separated, because there was no pride nor reasonable hope in children any more. In modern states the great 
breeding -ground has always been the agricultural countryside where there is a more or less secure peasantry; 
but under the Roman Empire the peasant and the small cultivator was either a worried debtor, or he was held 
in a network of restraints that made him a spiritless serf, or he had been ousted altogether by the gang 
production of slaves. 

A third indication that this outwardly flourishing period was one of deep unhappiness and mental distress, for 
vast multitudes, is to be found in the spread of new religious movements throughout the population. We have 
seen how in the case of the little country of Judea a whole nation may be infected by the persuasion that life is 
unsatisfactory and wrong, and that something is needed to set it right. The mind of the Jews, as we know, had 
crystallized about the idea of the Promise of the One True God and the coming of a Saviour or Messiah. 
Rather different ideas from these were spreading through the Roman Empire. They were but varying answers 
to one universal question: What must we do for salvation? A frequent and natural consequence of disgust with 
life as it is, is to throw the imagination forward to an after-life, which is to redeem all the miseries and 
injustices of this one. The belief in such compensation is a great opiate for present miseries. Egyptian religion 
had long been saturated with anticipations of immortality, and we have seen how central was that idea to the 
cult of Serapis and Isis at Alexandria. The ancient mysteries of Demeter and Orpheus, the mysteries of the 
Mediterranean race, revived and made a sort of theocrasia, with these new cults. 

A second great religious movement was Mithraism, a development of Zoroastrianism, a religion of very 



Parti 217 

ancient Aryan origin, traceable back to the Indo-Iranian people before they split into Persians and Hindus. We 
cannot here examine its mysteries in any detail. [2] Mithras was a god of light, a Sun of Righteousness, and in 
the shrines of the cult he was always represented as slaying a sacred bull whose blood was the seed of life. 
Suffice it that, complicated with many added ingredients, this worship of Mithras came into the Roman 
Empire about the time of Pompey the Great, and began to spread very widely under the Caesars and 
Antonines. Like the Isis religion, it promised immortality. Its followers were mainly slaves, soldiers, and 
distressed people. In its methods of worship, in the burning of candles before the altar and so forth, it had a 
certain superficial resemblance to the later developments of the ritual of the third great religious movement in 
the Roman world, Christianity. 

Christianity also was a doctrine of immortality and salvation, and it, too, spread at first chiefly among the 
lowly and unhappy. Christianity has been denounced by modern writers as a slave religion. It was. It took the 
slaves and the downtrodden, and it gave them hope and restored their self-respect, so that they stood up for 
righteousness like men and faced persecution and torment. But of the origins and quality of Christianity we 
will tell more fully in a later chapter. 

28.3 Limitations of the Roman Mind 

We have already shown reason for our statement that the Roman imperial system was a very unsound political 
growth indeed. It is absurd to write of its statecraft; it had none. At its best it had a bureaucratic administration 
which kept the peace of the world for a time and failed altogether to secure it. 

Let us note here the main factors in its failure. 

The clue to all its failure lies in the absence of any free mental activity and any organization for the increase, 
development, and application of knowledge. It respected wealth and it despised science. It gave government to 
the rich, and imagined that wise men could be bought and bargained for in the slave markets when they were 
needed. It was, therefore, a colossally ignorant and unimaginative empire. It foresaw nothing. 

It had no strategic foresight, because it was, blankly ignorant of geography and ethnology. 

It knew nothing of the conditions of Russia, Central Asia, and the East. It was content to keep the Rhine and 
Danube as its boundaries, and to make no effort to Romanize Germany. But we need only look at the map of 
Europe and Asia showing the Roman Empire to see that a willing and incorporated Germany was absolutely 
essential to the life and security of Western Europe. Excluded, Germany became a wedge that needed only the 
impact of the Hunnish hammer to split up the whole system. 

Moreover, this neglect to push the boundaries northward to the Baltic left that sea and the North Sea as a 
region of experiment and training and instruction in seamanship for the Northmen of Scandinavia, Denmark, 
and the Frisian coast. But Rome went on its way quite stupidly, oblivious to the growth of a newer and more 
powerful piracy in the north. 

The same unimaginative quality made the Romans leave the seaways of the Mediterranean undeveloped. 
When presently the barbarians pressed down to the warm water, we read of no swift transport of armies from 
Spain or Africa or Asia to the rescue of Italy and the Adriatic coasts. Instead, we see the Vandals becoming 
masters of the western Mediterranean without so much as a naval battle. 

The Romans had been held at the Euphrates by an array of mounted archers. It was clear, that as the legion 
was organized it was useless in wide open country, and it should have been equally clear that sooner or later 
the mounted nomads of east Germany, south Russia or Parthia were bound to try conclusions with the empire. 
But the Romans, two hundred years after Caesar's time, were still marching about, the same drilled and 
clanking cohorts they had always been, easily ridden round and shot to pieces. The empire had learnt nothing 



Parti 218 

even from Carrhae. 

The incapacity of the Roman imperialism for novelty in methods of transport again is amazing. It was patent 
that their power and unity depended upon the swift movement of troops and supplies from one part of the 
empire to another. The republic made magnificent roads; the empire never improved upon them. Four hundred 
years before the Antgnines, Hero of Alexandria had made the first steam-engine. Beautiful records of such 
beginnings of science were among the neglected treasures of the rich men's libraries throughout the imperial 
domains. They were seen lying on stony ground. The armies and couriers of Marcus Aurelius drudged along 
the roads exactly as the armies of Scipio Africanus had done three centuries before them. 

The Roman writers were always lamenting the effeminacy of the age. It was their favourite cant. They 
recognized that the free men of the forest and steppes and desert were harder and more desperate fighters than 
their citizens, but the natural corollary of developing the industrial power of their accumulations of population 
to make a countervailing equipment never entered their heads. Instead they took the barbarians into their 
legions, taught them the arts of war, marched them about the empire, and returned them with their lesson well 
learnt to their own people. 

In view of these obvious negligences, it is no wonder that the Romans disregarded that more subtle thing, the 
soul of the empire, altogether, and made no effort to teach or train or win its common people into any 
conscious participation with its life. Such teaching or training would indeed have ran counter to all the ideas 
of the rich men and the imperial officials. They had made a tool of religion; science, literature, and education 
they had entrusted to the care of slaves, who were bred and trained and sold like dogs or horses; ignorant, 
pompous, and base, the Roman adventurers of finance and property who created the empire, lorded it with a 
sense of the utmost security while their destruction gathered without the empire and within. 

By the second and third centuries A.D. the overtaxed and overstrained imperial machine was already 
staggering towards its downfall, 

28.4 The Stir of the Great Plains 

And now it is necessary, if we are to understand clearly the true situation of the Roman Empire, to turn our 
eyes to the world beyond its northern and eastern borders, the world of the plains, that stretches, with scarcely 
a break, from Holland across Germany and Russia to the mountains of Central Asia and Mongolia, and to give 
a little attention to the parallel empire in China that was now consolidating and developing a far tougher and 
more enduring moral and intellectual unity, than the Romans ever achieved. 

It is the practice, says Mr. E. H. Parker, even amongst our most highly educated men in Europe, to deliver 
sonorous sentences about being 'musters of the world,' 'bringing' all nations of the earth under her sway, and 
so on, when in reality only some corner of the Mediterranean is involved, or some ephemeral sally into Persia 
and Gaul. Cyrus and Alexander, Darius and Xerxes, Caesar and Pompey, all made very interesting excursions, 
but they were certainly not on a larger scale or charged with greater human interest than the campaigns which 
were going on at the other end of Asia. Western civilization possessed much in art and science for which 
China never cared, but, on the other hand, the Chinese developed a historical and critical literature, a courtesy 
of demeanour, a luxury of clothing, and an administrative system of which Europe might have been proud. In 
one word, the history of the Far East is quite as interesting as that of the Far West. It only requires to be able 
to read it. When we brush away contemptuously from our notice the tremendous events which took place on 
the plains of Tartary, we must not blame the Chinese too much for declining to interest themselves in the 
doings of what to them appear insignificant states dotted round the Mediterranean and Caspian, which, at this 
time, was practically all the world of which we knew in Europe. [3] 

We have already mentioned (in Chap. XIV and elsewhere) the name of Shi Hwang-ti, who consolidated an 
empire much smaller, indeed, than the present limits of China, but still very great and populous, spreading 



Parti 219 

from the valleys of the Hwang-ho and the Yang-tse. He became king of Ch'in in 246 B.C. and emperor in 220 
B.C., and he reigned until 210 B.C., and during this third of a century he effected much the same work of 
consolidation that Augustus Caesar carried out in Rome two centuries later. At his death there was dynastic 
trouble for four years, and then (206 B.C .) a fresh dynasty, the Han, established itself and ruled for two 
hundred and twenty-nine years. The opening quarter century of the Christian era was troubled by a usurper; 
then what is called the Later Han Dynasty recovered power and ruled for another century and a half until 
China, in the time of the Antonines, was so devastated by an eleven-year pestilence as to fall into disorder. 
This same pestilence, we may note, also helped to produce a century of confusion in the Western world (see 
sec 1). 

But altogether until this happened, for more than four hundred years Central China was generally at peace, 
and on the whole well governed, a cycle of strength and prosperity unparalleled by anything in the experience 
of the Western world. 

Only the first of the Han monarchs continued the policy of Shi Hwang-ti against the literati. His successor 
restored the classics, for the old separatist tradition was broken, and in the uniformity of learning throughout 
the empire lay, he saw, the cement of Chinese unity. While the Roman world was still blind to the need of any 
universal mental organization, the Han emperors were setting up a uniform system of education and of literary 
degrees throughout China that has maintained the intellectual solidarity of that great and always expanding 
country into modern times. The bureaucrats of Rome were of the most miscellaneous origins and traditions; 
the bureaucrats of China were, and are still, made in the same mould, all members of one tradition. Since the 
Han days China has experienced great vicissitudes of political fortune, but they have never changed her 
fundamental character; she has been divided, but she has always recovered her unity; she has been conquered, 
and she has always absorbed and assimilated her conquerors. 

But from our present point of view, the most important consequences of this consolidation of China under Shi 
Hwang-ti and the Hans was in its reaction upon the unsettled tribes of the northern and western border of 
China. Throughout the disordered centuries before the time of Shi Hwang-ti, the Hiungnu or Huns had 
occupied Mongolia and large portions of Northern China, and had raided freely into China and interfered 
freely in Chinese politics. The new power and organization of the Chinese civilization began to change this 
state of affairs for good and all. 

We have already, in our first account of Chinese beginnings, noted the existence of these Huns. It is necessary 
now to explain briefly who and what they were. Even in using this word Hun as a general equivalent for the 
Hiung-nu, we step on to controversial ground. In our accounts of the development of the Western world we 
have had occasion to name the Scythians, and to explain the difficulty of distinguishing clearly between 
Cimmerians, Sarmatians, Medes, Persians, Parthians, Goths, and other more or less nomadic, more or less 
Aryan peoples who drifted to and fro in a great area between the Danube and Central Asia. While sections of 
the Aryans were moving south and acquiring and developing civilization, these other Aryan peoples were 
developing mobility and nomadism; they were learning the life of the tent, the wagon, and the herd. They 
were learning also to use milk as a food basis, and were probably becoming less agricultural, less disposed to 
take even snatch crops, than they had been. Their development was being aided by a slow change in climate 
that was replacing the swamps and forests and parklands of South Russia and Central Asia by steppes, by 
wide grazing lands that is, which favoured a healthy, unsettled life, and necessitated an annual movement 
between summer and winter pasture. These peoples had only the lowest political forms; they split up, they 
mingled together; the various races had identical social habits; and so it is that the difficulty, the impossibility 
of sharp distinctions between them arises. Now the case of the Mongolian races to the north and north-west of 
the Chinese civilization is very parallel. There can be little doubt that the Hiungnu, the Huns, and the later 
people called the Mongols, were all very much the same people, and that the Turks and Tartars presently 
branched off from this same drifting Mongolian population. Kalmucks and Buriats are later developments of 
the same strain. Here we shall favour the use of the word Hun as a sort of general term for these tribes, just as 
we have been free and wide in our use of Scythian in the West. 



Part I 220 

The consolidation of China was a very serious matter for these Hunnish peoples. Hitherto their overflow of 
population had gone adventuring southward into the disorders of divided China as water goes into a sponge. 
Now they found a wall built against them, a firm government, and disciplined armies cutting them off from 
the grass plains. And though the wall held them back, it did not bold back the Chinese. They were increasing 
and multiplying through these centuries of peace, and as they increased and multiplied, they spread steadily 
with house and plough wherever the soil permitted. They spread westward into Tibet and northward and 
north-westwardly, perhaps, to the edge of the Gobi desert. They spread into the homes and pasturing and 
hunting-grounds of the Hunnish nomads, exactly as the white people of the United States spread westward 
into the hunting grounds of the Red Indians. And in spite of raid and massacre, they were just as invincible 
because they had the pressure of numbers and a strong avenging government behind them. Even without the 
latter support the cultivating civilization of China has enormous powers of permeation and extension. It has 
spread slowly and continuously for three thousand years. It is spreading in Manchuria and Siberia to-day. It 
roots deeply where it spreads. 

Partly the Huns were civilized and assimilated by the Chinese. The more northerly Huns were checked and 
their superabundant energies were turned westward. The southern Huns were merged into the imperial 
population. 

If the reader will examine the map of Central Asia, he will see that very great mountain barriers separate the 
Southern, Western, and Eastern peoples of Asia. (But he should be wary of forming his ideas from a map 
upon Mercator's projection, which enormously exaggerates the areas and distances of Northern Asia and 
Siberia.) He will find that from the central mountain masses three great mountain systems radiate eastward; 
the Himalayas going south-eastward, south of Tibet, the Kuen Lun eastward, north of Tibet, and the Thien 
Shan northeastward to join the Altai mountains. Further to the north is the great plain, still steadily thawing 
and drying. Between the Thien Shan and the Kuen Lun is an area, the Tarim Basin (= roughly Eastern 
Turkestan), of rivers that never reach the sea, but end in swamps and intermittent lakes. This basin was much 
more fertile in the past than it is now. The mountain barrier to the west of this Tarim Basin is high, but not 
forbidding; there are many practicable routes downward into Western Turkestan, and it is possible to travel 
either along the northern foothills of the Kuen Lun or by the Tarim valley westward from China to Kashgar 
(where the roads converge), and so over the mountains to Kokand, Samarkand, and Bokhara. Here then is the 
natural meeting-place in history of Aryan and Mongolian. Here or round by the sea. 

We have already noted how Alexander the Great came to one side of the barrier in 329 B.C. High among the 
mountains of Turkestan a lake preserves his name. Indeed, so living is the tradition of his great raid, that 
almost any stone ruin in Central Asia is still ascribed to Iskander. After this brief glimpse, the light of history 
upon this region fades again, and when it becomes bright once more it is on the eastern and not upon the 
western side. Far away to the east Shi Hwang-ti had routed the Huns and walled them out of China proper. A 
portion of these people remained in the north of China, a remnant which was destined to amalgamate with 
Chinese life, under the Hans, but a considerable section had turned westward and (second and first centuries 
B.C.) driven before them a kindred people called the Yueh-Chi, driving them from the eastern to the western 
extremity of the Kuen Lun, and at last right over the barrier into the once Aryan -region of Western Turkestan. 
[4] These Yueh-Chi conquered the slightly Hellenized kingdom of Bactria, and mixed with Aryan people 
there. Later on these Yueh-Chi became or were merged with Aryan elements into a people called the 
Indo-Scythians, who went on down the Khyber Pass and conquered northern portions of India as far as 
Benares (100-150 A.D.), wiping out the last vestiges of Hellenic rule in India. This big splash over of the 
Mongolian races westward was probably not the first of such splashes, but it is the first recorded splash. In the 
rear of the Yueh-Chi were the Huns, and in the rear of the Huns and turning them now northward was the 
vigorous Han Dynasty of China. In the reign of the greatest of the Han monarchs, Wu-Ti (140-86 B.C.), the 
Huns had been driven northward out of the whole of Eastern Turkestan or subjugated, the Tarim Basin 
swarmed with Chinese settlers, and caravans were going over westward with silk and lacquer and jade to trade 
for the gold and silver of Armenia and Rome. 



Part I 221 

The splash over of the Yueh-Chi is recorded, but it is fairly evident that much westward movement of sections 
of the Hunnish peoples is not recorded. From 200 B.C. to 200 A.D. the Chinese Empire maintained a hard, 
resolute, advancing front towards nomadism, and the surplus of the nomads drifted steadily west. There was 
no such settling down behind a final frontier on the part of the Chinese as we see in the case of the Romans at 
the Rhine and Danube. The drift of the nomads before this Chinese thrust, century by century, turned 
southward at first towards Bactria. The Parthians of the first century B.C. probably mingled Scythian and 
Mongolian elements. The singing arrows that destroyed the army of Crassus came, it would seem, originally 
from the Altai and the Thien Shan. 

After the first century B.C. the line of greater attraction and least resistance lay for a time towards the north of 
the Caspian. In a century or so all the country known as Western Turkestan was Mongolized, and so it 
remains to this day. A second great thrust by China began about 75 A.D., and accelerated the westward drift 
of the nomads. In 102, Pan Chau, a Chinese general, was sending explorers from his advanced camp upon the 
Caspian (or, as some authorities say, the Persian Gulf) to learn particulars of the Roman power. But their 
reports decided him not to proceed. 

By the first century A.D. nomadic Mongolian peoples were in evidence upon the eastern boundaries of 
Europe, already greatly mixed with Nordic nomads and with uprooted Nordic elements from the 
Caspian-Pamir region. There were Hunnish peoples established between the Caspian Sea and the Urals. West 
of them were the Alans, probably also a Mongolian people with Nordic elements; they had fought against 
Pompey the Great when he was in Armenia in 65 B.C. These were as yet the furthest westward peoples of the 
new Mongolian advance, and they made no further westward push until the fourth century A.D. To the 
north-west the Finns, a Mongolian people, had long been established as far west as the Baltic. 

West of the Huns, beyond the Don, there were purely Nordic tribes, the Goths. These Goths had spread 
south-eastward from their region of origin in Scandinavia. They were a Teutonic people, and we have already 
marked them crossing the Baltic in the map we have given of the earlier distribution of the Aryan-speaking 
people. These Goths continued to move, south-eastward across Russia, using the rivers and never forgetting 
their Baltic watercraft. No doubt they assimilated much Scythian population as they spread down to the Black 
Sea. In the first century A.D. they were in two main divisions, the Ostrogoths, the east Goths, who were 
between the Don and the Dnieper, and the Visigoths or, west Goths, west of the Dnieper. During the first 
century there was quiescence over the great plains, but population was accumulating and the tribes were 
fermenting. The second and third centuries seem to have been a phase of comparatively moist seasons and 
abundant grass. Presently in the fourth and fifth centuries the weather grew drier and the grass became scanty 
and the nomads stirred afresh. 

But it is interesting to note that in the opening century Of the Christian era, the Chinese Empire was strong 
enough to expel and push off from itself the surplus of this Mongolian nomadism to the north of it which 
presently conquered North India and gathered force and mingled with Aryan nomadism, and fell at last like an 
avalanche upon the weak-backed Roman Empire. 

Before we go on to tell of the blows that now began to fall upon the Roman Empire and of the efforts of one 
or two great men to arrest the collapse, we may say a few words about the habits and quality of these 
westward-drifting barbaric Mongolian peoples who were now spreading from the limits of China towards the 
Black and Baltic Seas. It is still the European custom to follow the lead of the Roman writers and write of 
these Huns and their associates as of something incredibly destructive and cruel. But such accounts as we 
have from the Romans were written in periods of panic, and the Roman could lie about his enemies with a 
freedom and vigour that must arouse the envy even of the modern propagandist. He could talk of Punic faith 
as a byword for perfidy while committing the most abominable treacheries against Carthage, and his railing 
accusations of systematic cruelty against this people or that were usually the prelude and excuse for some 
frightful massacre or enslavement or robbery on his own part. He had quite a Modern passion for 
self -justification. We must remember that these accounts of the savagery and frightfulness of the Huns came 



Part I 222 

from a people whose chief amusement was gladiatorial shows, and whose chief method of dealing with 
insurrection and sedition was nailing the offender to a cross to die. From first to last the Roman Empire must 
have killed hundreds of thousands of men in that way. A large portion of the population of this empire that 
could complain of the barbarism of its assailants consisted of slaves subject practically to almost any lust or 
caprice at the hands of their owners. It is well to bear these facts in mind before we mourn the swamping of 
the Roman Empire by the barbarians as though it was an extinction of all that is fine in life by all that is black 
and ugly. 

The facts seem to be that the Hunnish peoples were the eastern equivalent of the primitive Aryans, and that, in 
spite of their profound racial and linguistic differences, they mixed with the nomadic and semi-nomadic 
residuum of the Aryan speaking races north of the Danube and Persia very easily and successfully. Instead of 
killing, they enlisted and intermarried with the peoples they invaded. They had that necessary gift for all 
peoples destined to political predominance, tolerant assimilation. They came rather later in time, and their 
nomadic life was more highly developed than that of the primitive Aryans. The primitive Aryans were a forest 
and ox-wagon people who took to the horse later. The Hunnish peoples had grown up with the horse. 
Somewhere about 1200 or 1000 years B.C. they began to ride the horse. The bit, the saddle, the stirrup, these 
are not primitive things, but they are necessary if man and horse are to keep going for long stretches. It is well 
to bear in mind how modern a thing is riding. Altogether man has not been in the saddle for much more than 
three thousand years. [5] We have already noted the gradual appearance of the war-chariot, the mounted man, 
and finally of disciplined cavalry in this history. It was from the Mongolian regions of Asia that these things 
came. To this day men in Central Asia go rather in the saddle than on their proper feet. Says Ratzel, [6] 
Strong, long-necked horses are found in enormous numbers on the steppes. For Mongols and Turcomans 
riding is not a luxury; even the Mongol shepherds tend their flocks on horseback. Children are taught to ride 
in early youth; and the boy of three years old often takes his first riding-lesson on a safe child's saddle and 
makes quick progress. 

It is impossible to suppose that the Huns and the Alans could have differed very widely in character from the 
present nomads of the steppe regions, and nearly all observers are agreed in describing these latter as open and 
pleasant people. They are thoroughly honest and free-spirited. The character of the herdsmen of Central Asia, 
says Ratzel, [7] when unadulterated, is ponderous eloquence, frankness, rough good-nature, pride, but also 
indolence, irritability, and a tendency to vindictiveness. Their faces show a considerable share of frankness 
combined with amusing naivet . . .Their courage is rather a sudden blaze of pugnacity than cold boldness. 
Religious fanaticism they have none. Hospitality is universal. This is not an entirely disagreeable picture. 
Their personal bearing, he says further, is quieter and more dignified than that of the townsmen of Turkestan 
and Persia. Add to this that the nomadic life prevents any great class inequalities or any extensive 
development of slavery. 

Of course these peoples out of Asia were totally illiterate and artistically undeveloped. But we must not 
suppose, on that account, that they were primitive barbarians, and that their state of life was at the level from 
which the agricultural civilization had long ago arisen. It was not. They too, had developed, but they had 
developed along a different line, a line with less intellectual complication, more personal dignity perhaps, and 
certainly with a more intimate contact with wind and sky. 

28.5 The Western (true Roman) Empire Crumples Up 

The first serious irruptions of the German tribes into the Roman Empire began in the third century with the 
decay of the central power. We will not entangle the reader here with the vexed and intricate question of the 
names, identity, and inter-relationships of the various Germanic tribes. Historians find great difficulties in 
keeping them distinct and these difficulties are enhanced by the fact that they themselves took little care to 
keep themselves distinct. We find in 236 A.D. a people called the Franks breaking bounds upon the Lower 
Rhine, and another, the Alamanni, pouring into Alsace. A much more serious push southward was that of the 
Goths. We have already noted the presence of these people in South Russia, and their division by the Dnieper 



Part I 223 

into Western, and Eastern Goths. They had become a maritime people-again upon the Black Sea-probably 
their traditional migration from Sweden was along the waterways, for it is still possible to row a boat, with 
only a few quite practicable portages, from the Baltic right across Russia to either the Black or Caspian Sea 
and they had wrested the command of the eastern seas from the control of Rome. They were presently raiding 
the shores of Greece. They also crossed the Danube in a great land raid in 247, and defeated and killed the 
Emperor De cius in what is now Serbia. The province of Dacia vanished from Roman history. In 270 they 
were defeated at Nish in Serbia by Claudius, and in 276 they were raiding Pontus. It is characteristic of the 
invertebrate nature of the empire that the legions of Gaul found that the most effective method of dealing with 
the Franks and the Alamanni at this time was by setting up a separate emperor in Gaul and doing the job by 
themselves. 

Then for a while the barbarians were held, and the Emperor Probus in 276 forced the Franks and the Alamanni 
back over the Rhine. But it is significant of the general atmosphere of insecurity created by these raids that 
Aurelian (270-275) fortified Rome, which had been an open and secure city for all the earlier years of the 
empire. 

In 321 A.D. the Goths were again over the Danube, plundering what is now Serbia and Bulgaria. They were 
driven back by Constantine the Great, of whom we shall have more to tell in the next chapter. About the end 
of his reign (337 A.D.) the Vandals, a people closely kindred to the Goths, being pressed by them, obtained 
permission to cross the Danube into Pannonia, which is now that part of Hungary west of the river. 

But by the middle of the fourth century the Hunnish people to the east were becoming aggressive again. They 
had long subjugated the Alani, and now they made the Ostrogoths, the east Goths, tributary. The Visigoths (or 
west Goths) followed the example of the Vandals, and made arrangements to cross the Danube into Roman 
territory. There was some dispute upon the terms of this settlement, and the Visigoths, growing fierce, 
assumed the offensive, and at Adrianople defeated the Emperor Valens, who was killed in this battle. They 
were then allowed to settle in what is now Bulgaria, and their army became nominally a Roman army, though 
they retained their own chiefs, the foremost of whom was Alaric. It exhibits the complete barbarization of the 
Roman empire that had already occurred, that the chief opponent of Alaric the Goth, Stilicho, was a 
Pannonian Vandal. The legions in Gaul were under the command of a Frank, and the Emperor Theodosius I 
(emp. 379-395) was a Spaniard chiefly supported by Gothic auxiliaries. 

The empire was now splitting finally into an eastern (Greek speaking) and a western (Latin-speaking) half. 
Theodosius the Great was succeeded by his sons Arcadius at Constantinople and Honorius at Ravenna. Alaric 
made a puppet of the eastern monarch and Stilicho of the western. Huns now first appear within the empire as 
auxiliary troops enlisted under Stilicho. In this struggle of East and West, the frontier-if we can still speak of a 
frontier between the unauthorized barebarian without and the barbarian in employment within-gave way. 
Fresh Vandals, more Goths, Alans, Suevi, marched freely westward, living upon the country. Amidst this 
confusion occurred a crowning event. Alaric the Goth marched down Italy, and after a short siege captured 
Rome (410). 

By 425 or so, the Vandals (whom originally we noted in East Germany) and a portion of the Alani (whom we 
first mentioned in South-east Russia) had traversed Gaul and the Pyrenees, and had amalgamated and settled 
in the south of Spain. There were Huns in possession of Pannonia and Goths in Dalmatia. Into Bohemia and 
Moravia came and settled a Slavic people, the Czechs (451). In Portugal and north of the Vandals in Spain 
were Visigoths and Suevi. Gaul was divided among Visigoths, Franks, and Burgundians. Britain was being 
invaded by Low German tribes, the Jutes, Angles and Saxons, before whom the Keltic. British of the 
south-west were flying across the sea to what is now Brittany in France. The usual date given for this invasion 
is 449, but it was probably earlier. [8] And as the result of intrigues between two imperial politicians, the 
Vandals of the south of Spain, under their king Genseric, embarked en masse for North Africa (429), became 
masters of Carthage (439), secured the mastery of the sea, raided, captured, and pillaged Rome (455), crossed 
into Sicily, and set up a kingdom in West Sicily, which endured there for a hundred years (up to 534). At the 



Part I 224 

time of its greatest extent (477) this Vandal kingdom included also Corsica, Sardinia, and the Balearic Isles, as 
well as much of North Africa. 

About this Vandal kingdom facts and figures are given that show very clearly the true nature of these 
barbarian irruptions. They were not really the conquest and replacement of one people or race by another; 
what happened was something very different it was a social revolution started and masked by a superficial 
foreign conquest. The whole Vandal nation, men, women, and children, that came from Spain to Africa, for 
example, did not number more than eighty thousand souls. We know this because we have particulars of the 
transport problem. In their struggle for North Africa, Dr. Schurtz tells us, [9] there is no trace of any serious 
resistance offered by the inhabitants; Boniface (the Roman governor of North Africa) had defended Hippo 
with Gothic mercenaries, while the native population lent no appreciable assistance, and the nomad tribes of 
the country either Adopted a dubious attitude or availed themselves of the difficulties of the Roman governor 
to make attacks and engage in predatory expeditions. This demoralization resulted from social conditions, 
which had perhaps developed more unfavourably in Africa than in other parts of the Roman Empire. The free 
peasants bad long ago become the serfs of the great landed proprietors, and were little superior in position to 
the masses of slaves who were everywhere to be found. And the great landowners had become in their turn 
easy victims of the policy of extortion followed by unscrupulous governors to an increasingly unprecedented 
extent in proportion as the dignity of the imperial power sank lower. No man who bad anything to lose would 
now take a place in the senate of the large towns, which bad once been the goal of the ambitious, for the 
senators were required to make up all deficiencies in the revenue, and such deficiencies were now frequent 
and considerable . . . .Bloody insurrections repeatedly broke out, always traceable ultimately to the pressure of 
taxation .... 

Manifestly the Vandals came in as a positive relief to such a system. They exterminated the great landowners, 
wiped out all debts to Roman Moneylenders, and abolished the last vestiges of military service. The 
cultivators found themselves better off; the minor officials kept their places; it was not so much a conquest as 
a liberation from an intolerable deadlock. 

It was while the Vandals were still in Africa that a great leader, Attila, arose among the Huns. The seat of his 
government was in the plains east of the Danube. For a time he swayed a considerable empire of Hunnish and 
Germanic tribes, and his rule stretched from the Rhine into Central Asia. He negotiated on equal terms with 
the Chinese emperor. He bullied Ravenna and Constantinople for ten years. Honoria, the grand-daughter of 
Theodosius II, Emperor of the Eastern empire, one of those passionate young ladies who cause so much 
trouble in the world, having been put under restraint because of a love affair with a court chamberlain, sent 
her ring to Attila and called upon him to be her husband and deliverer. He was also urged to attack the Eastern 
empire by Genseric the Vandal, who was faced by an alliance of the Western and Eastern emperors. He raided 
southward to the very walls of Constantinople, completely destroying, says Gibbon, seventy cities in his 
progress, and forcing upon the emperor an onerous peace, which apparently did not involve the liberation of 
Honoria to her hero. 

At this distance of time we are unable to guess at the motives for this omission. Attila continued to speak of 
her as his affianced bride, and to use the relationship as a pretext for aggressions. In the subsequent 
negotiations a certain Priscus accompanied an embassy to the camp of the Hunnish monarch, and the 
fragments that still survive of the narrative he wrote give us a glimpse of the camp and way of living of the 
great conqueror. 

The embassy was itself a curiously constituted body. Its head was Maximin, an honest diplomatist who went 
in good faith. Quite unknown to him and, at the time, to Priscus, Vigilius, the interpreter of the expedition, 
had also a secret mission from the court of Theodosius which was to secure by bribery the assassination of 
Attila. The little expedition went by way of Nish; it crossed the Danube in canoes, dug out of a single tree, and 
it was fed by contributions from the villages on the route. Differences in dietary soon attracted the attention of 
the envoys. Priscus mentions mead in the place of wine, millet for corn, and a drink either distilled [10] or 



Part I 225 

brewed from barley. The journey through Hungary will remind the reader in many of its incidents of the 
journeys of travellers in Central Africa during the Victorian period. The travellers were politely offered 
temporary wives. 

Attila's capital was rather a vast camp and village than a town. There was only one building of stone, a bath 
constructed on the Roman model. The mass of the people were in huts and tents; Attila and his leading men 
lived in timber palaces in great stockaded enclosures with their numerous wives and ministers about them. 

There was a vast display of loot, but Attila himself affected a nomadic simplicity; he was served in wooden 
cups and platters, and never touched bread. He worked hard, kept open court before the gate of his palace, and 
was commonly in the saddle. The primitive custom of both Aryans and Mongols of holding great feasts in hall 
still held good, and there was much hard drinking. Priscus describes how bards chanted before Attila. They 
recited the verses which they had composed, to celebrate his valour and his victories. A profound silence 
prevailed in the ball, and the attention of the guests was captivated by the vocal harmony, which revived and 
perpetuated the memory of their own exploits; a martial ardour flashed from the eyes of the warriors, who 
were impatient for battle; and the tears of the old men expressed their generous despair, that they could no 
longer partake the danger and glory of the field. This entertainment, which might be considered as a school of 
military virtue, was succeeded by a farce that debased the dignity of human nature. A Moorish and Scythian 
buffoon successively excited the mirth of the rude spectators by their deformed figures, ridiculous dress, antic 
gestures, absurd speeches, and the strange, unintelligible confusion of the Latin, the Gothic, and the Hunnish 
languages, and the hall resounded with loud and licentious peals of laughter. In the midst of this intemperate 
riot, Attila alone, without change of countenance, maintained his steadfast and inflexible gravity. [1 1] 

Although Attila was aware, through the confession of the proposed assassin, of the secret work of Vigilius, he 
allowed this embassy to return in safety, with presents of numerous horses and the like to Constantinople. 
Then he despatched an ambassador to Theodosius II to give that monarch, as people say, a piece of his mind. 
Theodosius, said the envoy, is the son of an illustrious and respectable parent; Attila, likewise, is descended 
from a noble race; and he has supported, by his actions the dignity which he inherited from his father Munzuk. 
But Theodosius has forfeited his parental honours, and by consenting to pay tribute, has degraded himself to 
the condition of a slave. It is therefore just that he should reverence the man whom fortune and merit have 
placed above him; instead of attempting, like a wicked slave, clandestinely to conspire against his master. 

This straightforward bullying was met by abject submission. The emperor sued for pardon, and paid a great 
ransom. 

In 451 Attila declared war on the western empire. He invaded Gaul. So far as the imperial forces were 
concerned, he had things all his own way, and he sacked most of the towns of France as far south as Orleans. 
Then the Franks and Visigoths and the imperial forces united against him, and a great and obstinate battle at 
Troyes (451), in which over 150,000 men were killed on both sides, ended in his repulse and saved Europe 
from a Mongolian overlord. This disaster by no means exhausted Attila's resources. He turned his attention 
southward, and overran North Italy. He burnt Aquileia and Padua, and looted Milan, but he made peace at the 
entreaty of Pope Leo I. He died in 453. . . . 

Hereafter the Huns, go far as that name goes in Europe, the Huns of Attila, disappeared out of history. They 
dissolve into the surrounding populations. They were probably already much mixed, and rather Aryan than 
Mongolian. They did not become, as one might suppose, the inhabitants of Hungary, though they have 
probably left many descendants there. About a hundred years after came another Hunnish or mixed people, 
the Avars, out of the east into Hungary, but these were driven out eastward again by Charlemagne in 791-5. 
The Magyars, the modern Hungarians, came westward later. They were a Turko-Finnish people. The Magyar 
is a language belonging to the Finno-Ugrian division of the Ural-Altaic tongues. The Magyars were on the 
Volga about 550. They settled in Hungary about 900. . . . But we are getting too far on in our story, and we 
must return to Rome. 



Part I 226 

In 493 Theodoric, a Goth, became King of Rome, but already for seventeen years there had been no Roman 
emperor. So it was in utter social decay and collapse that the great slaveholding world-ascendancy of the 
God-Caesars and the rich men of Rome came to an end. 

28.6 The Eastern (revived Hellenic) Empire 

But though throughout the whole of Western Europe and North Africa the Roman imperial system had 
collapsed, though credit had vanished, luxury production had ceased and money was hidden, though creditors 
were going unpaid and slaves 

masterless, the tradition of the Caesars was still being carried on in Constantinople. We have already had 
occasion to mention as two outstanding figures among the late Caesars, Diocletian (284) and Constantine the 
Great (312), and it was to the latter of these that the world owes the setting up of a fresh imperial centre at 
Constantinople. Very early during the imperial period the unsuitability of the position of Rome as a world 
capital, due to the Roman failure to use the sea, was felt. 

The destruction of Carthage and Corinth had killed the shipping of the main Mediterranean sea-routes. For a 
people who did not use the sea properly, having the administrative centre at Rome meant that every legion, 
every draft of officials, every order, had to travel northward for half the length of Italy before it could turn east 
or west. Consequently nearly all the more capable emperors set up their headquarters at some subordinate 
centre in a more convenient position. Sirmium. (on the River Save), Milan, Lyons, and Nicomedia. (in 
Bithynia) were, among such supplementary capitals. For a time under Diocletian, Durazzo was the imperial 
capital. Ravenna, near the head of the Adriatic, was the capital of the last Roman emperors in the time of 
Alaric and Stilicho. 

It was Constantine the Great who determined upon the permanent transfer of the centre of imperial power to, 
the Bosphorus. We have already noted the existence of the city of Byzantium, which Constantine chose to 
develop into his new capital. It played a part in the story of the intricate Histitaeus (Chap. XXI, sec 4); it 
repulsed Philip of Macedon (Chap. XXIII, sec 3). If the reader will examine its position, he will see that in the 
hands of a line of capable emperors, and as the centre of a people with some solidarity and spirit and seacraft 
(neither of which things were vouchsafed to it), it was extraordinarily well placed. Its galleys could have 
penetrated up the rivers to the heart of Russia and outflanked every barbarian advance. It commanded 
practicable trade routes to the east, and it was within a reasonable striking distance of Mesopotamia, Egypt, 
Greece, and all the more prosperous and civilized regions of the world at that period. And even under the rule 
of a series of inept monarchs and under demoralized social conditions, the remains of the Roman Empire 
centring at Constantinople held out for nearly a thousand years. 

It was the manifest intention of Constantine the Great that Constantinople should be the centre of an 
undivided empire. But having regard to the methods of travel and transport available at the time, the 
geographical conditions of Europe and Western Asia do not point to any one necessary centre of government. 
If Rome faced westward instead of eastward, and so failed to reach out beyond the Euphrates, Constantinople 
on the other hand was hopelessly remote from Gaul. The enfeebled Mediterranean civilization, after a certain 
struggle for Italy, did in fact let go of the west altogether and concentrated upon what were practically the 
central vestiges, the stump, of the empire of Alexander. The Greek language resumed its sway, which had 
never been very seriously undermined by the official use of Latin. This Eastern or Byzantine empire is 
generally spoken of as if it were a continuation of the Roman tradition. It is really far more like a resumption 
of Alexander's. 

The Latin language had not the intellectual vigour behind it, it had not the literature and the science, to make it 
a necessity to intelligent men and so to maintain an ascendancy over the Greek. For no language, whatever 
officialdom may do, can impose itself in competition with another that can offer the advantages of a great 
literature or encyclopaedic information. Aggressive languages must bring gifts, and the gifts of Greek were 



Part I 227 

incomparably greater than the gifts of Latin. The Eastern empire was from the beginnings of its separation 
Greek speaking, and a continuation, though a degenerate continuation, of the Hellenic tradition. Its intellectual 
centre was no longer in Greece, but Alexandria. Its mentality was no longer the mentality of free-minded 
plain-speaking citizens, of the Stagirite Aristotle and the Greek Plato; its mentality was the mentality of the 
pedants and of men politically impotent; its philosophy was a pompous evasion of real things, and its 
scientific impulse was dead. Nevertheless, it was Hellenic and not Latin. The Roman had come, and he had 
gone again. Indeed he had gone very extensively from the west also. By the sixth century A.D. the populations 
of Europe and North Africa had been stirred up like sediment. When presently in the seventh and eighth 
centuries the sediment begins to settle down again and populations begin to take on a definite localized 
character, the Roman is only to be found by name in the region about Rome. Over large parts of his Western 
empire we find changed and changing modifications of his Latin speech; in Gaul, where the Frank is learning 
a Gallic form of Latin and evolving French in the process; in Italy, where, under the influence of Teutonic 
invaders, the Lombards and Goths, Latin is being modified into various Italian dialects; in Spain and Portugal, 
where it is becoming Spanish and Portuguese. The mental Latinity of the languages in these regions serves to 
remind us of the numerical unimportance of the various Frankish, Vandal, Avar, Gothic, and the like 
German-speaking invaders, and serves to justify our statement that what happened to the Western empire was 
not so much conquest and the replacement of one population by another as a political and social revolution. 
The district of Valais in South Switzerland also retained a fundamentally Latin speech and so did the Canton 
Grisons; and, what is more curious and interesting, is that in Dacia and Moesia Inferior, large parts of which 
to the north of the Danube became the modern Roumania. (= Romania), although these regions were added 
late to the empire and lost soon, the Latin speech also remained. 

In Britain Latin was practically wiped out by the conquering Anglo-Saxons, from among whose various 
dialects the root stock of English presently grew. 

But while the smashing of the Roman social and political structure was thus complete, while in the east it was 
thrown off by the older and stronger Hellenic tradition, and while in the west it was broken up into fragments 
that began to take on a new and separate life of their own, there was one thing that did not perish, 'but grew, 
and that was the tradition of the world empire of Rome and of the supremacy of the Caesars. When the reality 
was destroyed, the legend had freedom to expand. Removed from the possibility of verification, the idea of a 
serene and splendid Roman world-supremacy grew up in the imagination of mankind, and still holds it to this 
day. 

Ever since the time of Alexander, human thought has been haunted by the possible political unity of the race. 
All the sturdy chiefs and leaders and kings of the barbarians, who raided through the prostrate but vast 
disorder of the decayed empire, were capable of conceiving of some mighty king of kings greater than 
themselves and giving a real law for all men, and they were ready to believe that elsewhere in space and time, 
and capable of returning presently to resume his supremacy, Caesar had been such a king of kings. Far above 
their own titles, therefore, they esteemed and. envied the title of Caesar. The international history of Europe 
from this time henceforth is largely the story of kings and adventurers setting up to be Caesar and Imperator 
(Emperor). We shall tell of some of them in their places. So universal did this Caesaring become, that the 
Great War of 1914-18 mowed down no fewer than four Caesars, the German Kaiser (= Caesar), the Austrian 
Kaiser, the Tsar (= Caesar) of Russia, and that fantastic figure, the Tsar of Bulgaria. The French Imperator 
(Napoleon III) had already fallen in 1871. There is now (1920) no one left in the world to carry on the 
Imperial title or the tradition of Divus Caesar except the Turkish Sultan and the British monarch. The former 
commemorates his lordship over Constantinople as Kaisar-i-Roum; the latter is called the Caesar of India (a 
country no real Caesar ever looked upon), Kaisar-i- Hind. 

29.0 The Beginnings, the Rise and the Divisions of Christianity 

29.1 Judea at the Christian Era 



Part I 228 

29.2 The Teachings of Jesus of Nazareth 

29.3 The Universal Religions 

29.4 The Crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth 

29.5 Doctrines Added to the Teachings of Jesus 

29.6 The Struggles and Persecutions of Christianity 

29.7 Constantine the Great 

29.8 The Establishment of Official Christianity 

29.9 The Map of Europe, A.D. 500 

29.10 The Salvation of Learning by Christianity 

29.1 Judea at the Christian Era 

Before we can understand the qualities of Christianity, which must now play a large part in our history, and 
which opened men's eyes to fresh aspects of the possibility of a unified world, we must go back some 
centuries and tell of the condition of affairs in Palestine and Syria, in which countries Christianity arose. We 
have already told the main facts about the origin of the Jewish nation and tradition, about the Diaspora, about 
the fundamentally scattered nature of Jewry even from the beginning, and the gradual development of the idea 
of one just God ruling the earth and bound by a special promise to preserve and bring to honour the Jewish 
people. The Jewish idea was and is a curious combination of theological breadth and an intense racial 
patriotism. The Jews looked for a special saviour, a Messiah, who was to redeem mankind by the agreeable 
process of restoring the fabulous glories of David and Solomon, and bringing the whole world at last under 
the benevolent but firm Jewish heel. As the political power of the Semitic peoples declined, as Carthage 
followed Tyre into the darkness and Spain became a Roman province, this dream grew and spread. There can 
be little doubt that the scattered Phoenicians in Spain and Africa and throughout the Mediterranean, speaking 
as they did a language closely akin to Hebrew and being deprived of their authentic political rights, became 
proselytes to Judaism. For phases of vigorous proselytism alternated with phases of exclusive jealousy in 
Jewish history. On one occasion the Idumeans, being conquered, were all forcibly made Jews. [1] There were 
Arab tribes who were Jews in the time of Muhammad, and a Turkish people who were mainly Jews in South 
Russia in the ninth century. Judaism is indeed the reconstructed political ideal of many shattered 
peoplesmainly Semitic. It is to the Phoenician contingent and to Aramean accessions in Babylon that the 
financial and commercial tradition of the Jews is to be ascribed. But as a result of these coalescences and 
assimilations, almost everywhere in the towns throughout the Roman Empire, and far beyond it in the east, 
Jewish communities traded and flourished, and were kept in touch through the Bible, and through a religious 
and educational organization. The main part of Jewry never was in Judea and had never come out of Judea. 

Manifestly this intercommunicating series of Judaized communities had very great financial and political 
facilities. They could assemble resources, they could stir up, they could allay. They were neither so abundant 
nor so civilized as the still more widely diffused Greeks, but they had a tradition of greater solidarity. Greek 
was hostile to Greek; Jew stood by Jew. Wherever a Jew went, he found men of like mind and like tradition 
with himself. He could get shelter, food, loans, and legal help. And by reason of this solidarity rulers had 
everywhere to take account of this people as a help, as a source, of loans, or as a source of trouble. So it is that 
the Jews have persisted as a people while Hellenism has become a universal light for mankind. 

We cannot tell here in any detail the history of that smaller part of Jewry that lived in Judea. These Jews had 



Part I 229 

returned to their old position of danger; again they were seeking peace in, so to speak, the middle of a 
highway. In the old time they had been between Syria and Assyria to the north and Egypt to the south; now 
they had the Seleucids, to the north and the Ptolemys to the south, and when the Seleucids went, then down 
came the Roman power upon them. The independence of Judea was always a qualified and precarious thing. 
The reader must go to the Antiquities and the Wars of the Jews of Flavius Josephus, a copious, tedious, and 
maddeningly patriotic writer, to learn of the succession of their rulers, of their high-priest monarchs, and of 
the Maccabaeans, the Herods and the like. These rulers were for the most part of the ordinary eastern type, 
cunning, treacherous, and blood-stained. Thrice Jerusalem was taken and twice the temple was destroyed. It as 
the support of the far more powerful Diaspora that prevented the little country from being wiped out 
altogether, until 70 A.D., when Titus the adopted son and successor of the Emperor Vespasian, after a siege 
that ranks in bitterness and horror with that of Tyre and Carthage, took Jerusalem and destroyed city and 
temple altogether. He did this in an attempt to destroy Jewry, but indeed be made Jewry stronger by 
destroying its one sensitive and vulnerable point. 

Throughout a history of five centuries of war and civil commotion between the return from captivity and the 
destruction of Jerusalem, certain constant features of the Jew persisted. He remained obstinately monotheistic; 
he would have none other gods but the one true God. In Rome, as in Jerusalem, he stood out manfully against 
the worship of any god-Caesar. And to the best of his ability he held to his covenants with his God. No graven 
images could enter Jerusalem; even the Roman standards with their eagles had to stay outside. 

Two divergent lines of thought are traceable in Jewish affairs during these five hundred years. On the right, so 
to speak, are the high and narrow Jews, the Pharisees, very orthodox, very punctilious upon even the minutest 
details of the law, intensely patriotic and exclusive. Jerusalem on one occasion fell to the Seleucid monarch 
Antiochus IV because the Jews would not defend it on the Sabbath day, when it is forbidden to work; and it 
was because the Jews made no effort to destroy his siege train on the Sabbath that Pompey the Great was able 
to take Jerusalem. But against these narrow Jews were, pitted, the broad Jews, the Jews of the left, who were 
Hellenizers, among whom are to be ranked the Sadducees, who did not believe in immortality. These latter 
Jews, the broad Jews, were all more or less disposed to mingle with and assimilate themselves to the Greeks 
and Hellenized peoples about them. They were ready to accept proselytes, and so to share God and his 
promise with all mankind. But what they gained in generosity they lost in rectitude. They were the worldlings 
of Judea. We have already noted how the Hellenized Jews of Egypt lost their Hebrew, and had to have their 
Bible translated into Greek. 

In the reign of Tiberius Caesar a great teacher arose out of Judea who was to liberate the intense realization of 
the righteousness and unchallengeable oneness of God, and of man's moral obligation to God, which was the 
strength of orthodox Judaism, from that greedy and exclusive narrowness with which it was so extraordinarily 
intermingled in the Jewish mind. This was Jesus of Nazareth, the seed rather than the founder of Christianity. 

29.2 The Teachings of Jesus of Nazareth 

The audience to which this book will first be presented will be largely an audience of Christians, with perhaps 
a sprinkling of Jewish readers, and the former at least will regard Jesus of Nazareth as being much more than 
a human teacher, and his appearance in the world not as a natural event in history, but as something of a 
supernatural sort interrupting and changing that steady development of life towards a common consciousness 
and a common will, which we have hitherto been tracing in this book. But these persuasions, dominant as they 
are in Europe and America, are nevertheless not the persuasions of all men or of the great majority of 
mankind, and we are writing this outline of the story of life with as complete an avoidance of controversial 
matter as may be. We are trying to write as if this book was to be read as much by Hindus or Moslems or 
Buddhists as by Americans and Western Europeans. We shall therefore hold closely to the apparent facts, and 
avoid, without any disputation or denial, the theological interpretations that have been imposed upon them. 
We shall tell what men have believed about Jesus of Nazareth, but him we shall treat as being what he 
appeared to be, a man, just as a painter must needs paint him as a man. The documents that testify to his acts 



Part I 230 

and teachings we shall treat as ordinary human documents. If the light of divinity shine through our recital, we 
will neither help nor hinder it. This is what we have already done in the case of Buddha, and what we shall do 
later with Muhammad. About Jesus we have to write not theology but history, and our concern is not with the 
spiritual and theological significance of his life, but with its effects upon the political and every-day life of 
men. 

Almost our only sources of information about the personality of Jesus are derived from the four gospels, all of 
which were certainly in existence a few decades after his death, and from allusions to his life in the letters 
(epistles) of the early Christian propagandists. The first three gospels, the gospels of Matthew, Mark, and 
Luke, many suppose to be derived from some earlier documents; the gospel of St. John has more idiosyncrasy 
and is coloured by theology of a strongly Hellenic type. Critics are disposed to regard the gospel of St. Mark 
as being the most trustworthy account of the personality and actual words of Jesus. But all four agree in giving 
us a picture of a very definite personality; they carry the same conviction of reality that the early accounts of 
Buddha do. In spite of miraculous and incredible additions, one is obliged to say, Here was a man. This part of 
the tale could not have been invented. 

But just as the personality of Gautama Buddha has been distorted and obscured by the stiff squatting figure, 
the gilded idol of later Buddhism, so one feels that the lean and strenuous personality of Jesus is much 
wronged by the unreality and conventionality that a mistaken reverence has imposed upon his figure in 
modern Christian art. Jesus was a penniless teacher, who wandered about the dusty sun-bit country of Judea, 
living upon casual gifts of food; yet he is always represented clean, combed, and sleek, in spotless raiment, 
erect, and with something motionless about him as though he was gliding through the air. This alone has made 
him unreal and incredible to many people who cannot distinguish the core of the story from the ornamental 
and unwise additions of the unintelligently devout. 

And it may be that the early parts of the gospels are accretions of the same nature. The miraculous 
circumstances of the birth of Jesus, the great star that brought wise men from the cast to worship at his manger 
cradle, the massacre of the male infant children in the region of Bethlehem by Herod as a consequence of 
these portents, and the flight into Egypt, are all supposed to be such accretionary matter by many authorities. 
At the best they are events unnecessary to the teaching, and they rob it of much of the strength and power it 
possesses when we strip it of such accompaniment. So, too, do the discrepant genealogies given by Matthew 
and Luke, in which there is an endeavour to trace the direct descent of Joseph, his father, from King David, as 
though it was any honour to Jesus or to anyone to have such a man as an ancestor. The insertion of these 
genealogies is the more peculiar and unreasonable, because, according to the legend, Jesus was not the son of 
Joseph at all, but miraculously conceived. 

We are left, if we do strip this record of these difficult accessories, with the figure of a being, very human, 
very earnest and pass ionate, capable of swift anger, and teaching a new, and simple and profound 
doctrinenamely, the universal loving Fatherhood of God and the coming of the Kingdom of Heaven. He was 
clearly a personto use a common phraseof intense personal magnetism. He attracted followers and filled them 
with love and courage. Weak and ailing people were heartened and healed by his presence. Yet he was 
probably of a delicate physique, because of the swiftness with which he died under the pains of crucifixion. 
There is a tradition that he fainted when, according to the custom, he was made to bear his cross to the place 
of execution. When he first appeared as a teacher he was a man of about thirty. He went about the country for 
three years spreading his doctrine, and then he came to Jerusalem and was accused of trying to set up a 
strange kingdom in Judea; he was tried upon this charge, and crucified together with two thieves. Long before 
these two were dead, his sufferings were over. 

Now it is a matter of fact that in the gospels all that body of theological assertion which constitutes 
Christianity finds little support. There is, as the reader may see for himself, no clear and emphatic assertion in 
these books of the doctrines which Christian teachers of all denominations find generally necessary to 
salvation. Except for one or two passages in St. John's Gospel it is difficult to get any words actually ascribed 



Part I 231 

to Jesus in which be claimed to be the Jewish Messiah (rendered in Greek by the Christ) and still more 
difficult is it to find any claim to be a part of the godhead, or any passage in which he explained the doctrine 
of the Atonement or urged any sacrifices or sacraments (that is to say, priestly offices) upon his followers. We 
shall see presently how later on all Christendom was torn by disputes about the Trinity. There is no evidence 
that the apostles of Jesus ever heard of the Trinityat any rate from him. The observance of the Jewish Sabbath, 
again, transferred to the Mithraic Sun-day, is an important feature of many Christian cults; but Jesus 
deliberately broke the Sabbath, and said that it was made for man and not man for the Sabbath. Nor did he say 
a word about the worship of his mother Mary in the guise of Isis, the Queen of Heaven. All that is most 
characteristically Christian in worship and usage, he ignored. Sceptical writers have had the temerity to deny 
that Jesus can be called a Christian at all. For light upon these extraordinary gaps in his teaching, each reader 
must go to his own religious guides. Here we are bound to mention these gaps on account of the difficulties 
and controversies that arose out of them, and we are equally bound not to enlarge upon them. 

As remarkable is the enormous prominence given by Jesus to the teaching of what he called the Kingdom of 
Heaven, and its comparative insignificance in the procedure and teaching of most of the Christian churches. 

This doctrine of the Kingdom of Heaven, which was the main teaching of Jesus, and which plays so small a 
part in the Christian creeds, is certainly one of the most revolutionary doctrines that ever stirred and changed 
human thought. It is small wonder if, the world of that time failed to grasp its full significance, and recoiled in 
dismay from even a half apprehension of its tremendous challenges to the established habits and institutions 
of mankind. It is small wonder if the hesitating convert and disciple presently went back to the old familiar 
ideas of temple and altar, of fierce deity and propitiatory observance, of consecrated priest and magic 
blessing, andthese things being attended toreverted then to the dear old habitual life of hates and profits and 
competition and pride. For the doctrine of the Kingdom of Heaven, as Jesus seems to have preached it, was no 
less than a bold and uncompromising demand for a complete change and cleansing of the life of our struggling 
race, an utter cleansing, without and within. To the gospels the reader must go for all that is preserved of this 
tremendous teaching; here we are only concerned with the jar of its impact upon established ideas. 

The Jews were persuaded that God, the one God of the whole world, was a righteous god, but they also 
thought of him as a trading god who had made a bargain with their Father Abraham about them, a very good 
bargain indeed for them, to bring them at last to predominance in the earth. With dismay and anger they heard 
Jesus sweeping away their dear securities. God, he taught, was no bargainer; there were no chosen people and 
no favourites in the Kingdom of Heaven. God was the loving father of all life, as incapable of showing favour 
as the universal sun. And all men were brotherssinners alike and beloved sons alikeof this divine father. In the 
parable of the Good Samaritan Jesus cast scorn upon that natural tendency we all obey, to glorify our own 
people and to minimize the righteousness of other creeds and other races. In the parable of the labourers he 
thrust aside the obstinate claim of the Jews to have a sort of first mortgage upon God. All whom God takes 
into the kingdom, he taught, God serves alike; there is no distinction in his treatment, because there is no 
measure to his bounty. From all, moreover, as the parable of the buried talent witnesses, and as the incident of 
the widow's mite enforces, he demands the utmost. There are no privileges, no rebates, and no excuses in the 
Kingdom of Heaven. 

But it was not only the intense tribal patriotism of the Jews that Jesus outraged. They were a people of intense 
family loyalty, and he would have swept away all the narrow and restrictive family affections in the great 
flood of the love of God. The whole Kingdom of Heaven was to be the family of his followers. We are told 
that, While he yet talked to the people, behold, his mother and his brethren stood without, desiring to speak 
with him. Then one said unto him, Behold, thy mother and thy brethren stand without, desiring to speak with 
thee. But he answered and said unto him that told him, Who is my mother? and who are my brethren? And he 
stretched forth his hand towards his disciples, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren! For whosoever 
shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother. [2] 

And not only did Jesus strike at patriotism and the bonds of family loyalty in the name of God's universal 



Part I 232 

fatherhood and the brotherhood of all mankind, but it is clear that his teaching condemned all the gradations 
of the economic system, all private wealth, and personal advantages. All men belonged to the kingdom; all 
their possessions belonged to the kingdom; the righteous life for all men, the only righteous life, was the 
service of God's will with all that we had, with all that we were. Again and again he denounced private riches 
and the reservation of any private life. 

And when he was gone forth into the way, there came one running, and kneeled to him, and asked him, Good 
Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life? And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? 
there is none good but one, that is, God. Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not 
kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Defraud not, Honour thy father and mother. And he answered and 
said unto him, Master, all these things have I observed from my youth. Then Jesus beholding him loved him, 
and said unto him, One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and 
thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me. And he was sad at that saying, 
and went away grieved: for he had great possessions. 

And Jesus looked round about, and saith unto his disciples, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into 
the kingdom of God! And the disciples were astonished at his words. But Jesus answered again, and saith unto 
them, Children, how hard is it for them that trust in riches, to enter into the kingdom of God! It is easier for a 
camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. [3] 

Moreover, in his tremendous prophecy of this kingdom which was to make all men one together in God, 
Jesus, had small patience for the bargaining righteousness of formal religion. Another large part of his 
recorded utterances is aimed against the meticulous observance of the rules of the pious career. Then came 
together unto him the Pharisees, and certain of the scribes, which came from Jerusalem. And when they saw 
some of his disciples eat bread with defiled, that is to, say, with unwashen, hands, they found fault. For the 
Pharisees, and all the Jews, except they wash their hands oft, eat not, holding the tradition of the elders. And 
when they come from the market, except they wash, they eat not. And many other things there be, which they 
have received to hold, as the washing of cups, and pots, brazen vessels, and of tables. Then the Pharisees and 
scribes asked him, Why walk not thy disciples according to the tradition of the elders, but eat bread with 
unwashen hands? He answered and said unto them, Well hath Isaiah prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is 
written, 

This people honoureth me with their lips, 

But their heart is far from me. 

Howbeit in vain do they worship me, 

Teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. 

For laying aside the commandment of God, ye, hold the tradition of men, as the washing of pots and cups: and 
many other such things ye do. And he said unto them, Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye 
may keep your own tradition. [4] 

So too, we may note a score of places in which he flouted that darling virtue of the formalist, the observance 
of the Sabbath. 

It was not merely a moral and a social revolution that Jesus proclaimed; it is clear from a score of indications 
that his teaching had a political bent of the plainest sort. It is true that he said his kingdom was not of this 
world, that it was in the hearts of men and not upon a throne; but it is equally clear that wherever and in what 
measure his kingdom was set up in the hearts of men, the outer world would be in that measure revolutionized 
and made new. 



Part I 233 

Whatever else the deafness and blindness of his hearers may have missed in his utterances, it is plain that they 
did not miss his resolve to revolutionize the world. Some of the questions that were brought to Jesus and the 
answers he gave enable us to guess at the drift of much of his unrecorded teaching. The directness of his 
political attack is manifest by such an incident as that of the coin 

And they send unto him certain of the Pharisees and of the Herodians, to catch him in his words. And when 
they were come, they say unto him, Master, we know that thou art true, and carest for no man: for thou 
regardest not the person of men, but teachest the way of God in truth: Is it lawful to give tribute to Caesar, or 
not? Shall we give, or shall we not give? But he, knowing their hypocrisy, said unto them, Why tempt ye me? 
bring me a penny, that I may see it. And they brought it. And he saith unto them, Whose is this image and 
superscription? And they said unto him, Caesar's. And Jesus answering said unto them, Render to Caesar the 
things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's [5] which in view of all else that he had taught, 
left very little of a man or his possessions for Caesar. 

The whole tenor of the opposition to him and the circumstances of his trial and execution show clearly that to 
his contemporaries he seemed to propose plainly and did propose plainly to change and fuse and enlarge all 
human life. But even his disciples did not grasp the profound and comprehensive significance of that proposal. 
They were ridden by the old Jewish dream of a king, a Messiah to overthrow the Hellenized Herods and the 
Roman overlord, and restore the fabled glories of David. They disregarded the substance of his teaching, plain 
and direct though it was; evidently they thought it was merely his mysterious and singular way of setting 
about the adventure that would at last put him on the throne of Jerusalem. They thought he was just another 
king among the endless succession of kings, but of a quasi-magic kind, and making quasi-magic profession of 
an impossible virtue. 

And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, come unto him, saying Master, we would that thou shouldest do, 
for us whatsoever we shall desire. And he said unto them, What would ye that I should do for you? They said 
unto him, Grant unto us that we may sit, one on thy right hand, and the other on thy left hand, in thy glory. 
But Jesus said unto them, Ye know not what ye ask: can ye drink of the cup that I drink of? and be baptized 
with the baptism that I am baptized with? And they said unto him, We can. And Jesus said unto them, Ye 
shall indeed drink of the cup that I drink of; and with the baptism that I am baptized withal shall ye be 
baptized: but to sit on my right hand and on my left hand is not mine to give; but it shall be given to them for 
whom it is prepared. And when the ten heard it, they began to be much displeased with James and John. But 
Jesus called them to him, and saith unto them, Ye know that they which are accounted to rule over the 
Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and their great ones exercise authority upon them. But so shall it not be 
among you: but whosoever will be great among you, shall be your minister: and whosoever of you will be the 
chiefest, shall be servant of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and 
to give his life a ransom for many. [6] 

This was cold comfort for those who looked for a due reward for their services and hardships in his train. 
They could not believe this hard doctrine of a kingdom of service which was its own exceeding great reward. 
Even after his death upon the cross, they could still, after their first dismay, revert to the belief that he was 
nevertheless in the vein of the ancient world of pomps, and privileges, that presently by some amazing miracle 
he would become undead again and return, and set up his throne with much splendour and graciousness in 
Jerusalem. They thought his life was a stratagem and his death a trick. 

He was too great for his disciples. And in view of what he plainly said, is it any wonder that all who were rich 
and prosperous felt a horror of strange things, a swimming of their world at his teaching? Perhaps the priests 
and the rulers and the rich men understood him better than his followers. He was dragging out all the little 
private reservations they had made from social service into the light of a universal religious life. 

He was like some terrible moral huntsman digging mankind out of the snug burrows in which they had lived 
hitherto. In the white blaze of this kingdom of his there was to be no property, no privilege, no pride and 



Part I 234 

precedence; no motive indeed and no reward but love. Is it any wonder that men were dazzled and blinded and 
cried out against him? Even his disciples cried out when he would not spare them the light. Is it any wonder 
that the priests realized that between this man and themselves there was no choice but that he or priestcraft 
should perish? Is it any wonder that the Roman soldiers, confronted and amazed by something soaring over 
their comprehension and threatening all their disciplines, should take refuge in wild laughter, and crown him 
with thorns and robe him in purple and make a mock Caesar of him? For to take him seriously was to enter 
upon a strange and alarming life, to abandon habits, to control instincts and impulses, to essay an incredible 
happiness. . . . 

Is it any wonder that to this day this Galilean is too much for our small hearts? 

29.3 The Universal Religions 

Yet be it noted that while there was much in the real teachings of Jesus that a rich man or a priest or a trader 
or an imperial official or any ordinary respectable citizen could not accept without the most revolutionary 
changes in his way of living, yet there was nothing that a follower of the actual teaching of Gautama Sakya 
might not receive very readily, nothing to prevent a primitive Buddhist from being also a Nazarene, and 
nothing to prevent a personal disciple of Jesus from accepting all the recorded teachings of Buddha. 

Again consider the tone of this extract from the writings of a Chinaman, Mo Ti, who lived somewhen in the 
fourth century B.C., - when the doctrines of Confucius and Lao Tse prevailed in China, before the advent of 
Buddhism to that country, and note how Nazarene it is. 

The mutual attacks of state on state; the mutual usurpations, of family on family; the mutual robberies of man 
on man; the want of kindness on the part of the sovereign and of loyalty on the part of the minister; the want 
of tenderness and filial duty between father and sonthese, and such as these, are the things injurious to the 
empire. All this has arisen from want of mutual love. If but that one virtue could be made universal, the 
princes loving one another would have no battle-fields; the chiefs of families would attempt no usurpations; 
men would commit no robberies; rulers and ministers would be gracious and loyal; fathers and sons would be 
kind and filial; brothers would be harmonious and easily reconciled. Men in general loving one another, the 
strong would not make prey of the weak; the many would not plunder the few, the rich would not insult the 
poor, the noble would not be insolent to the mean; and the deceitful would not impose upon the simple. [7] 

This is extraordinarily like the teaching of Jesus of Nazareth cast into political terms. The thoughts of Mo Ti 
came close to the Kingdom of Heaven. 

This essential identity is the most important historical aspect of these great world religions. They were in their 
beginnings quite unlike the priest, altar, and temple cults, those cults for the worship of definite finite gods 
that played so great and so essential a part in the earlier stages of man's development between 15,000 B.C. and 
600 B.C. These new world religions, from 600 B.C. onward, were essentially religions of the heart and of the 
universal sky. They swept away all those various and limited gods that had served the turn of human needs 
since the first communities were welded together by fear and hope. And presently when we come to Islam we 
shall find that for a third time the same fundamental new doctrine of the need of a universal devotion of all 
men to one Will reappears. Warned by the experiences of Christianity, Muhammad was very emphatic in 
insisting that he himself was merely a man and so saved his teaching from much corruption and 
misrepresentation. 

We speak of these great religions of mankind which arose between the Persian conquest of Babylon and the 
break-up of the Roman empire as rivals; but it is their defects, their accumulations and excrescences, their 
differences of language and phrase, that cause the rivalry; and it is not to one overcoming the other or to any 
new variant replacing them that we must look, but to the white truth in each being burnt free from its dross, 
and becoming manifestly the same truthnamely, that the hearts of men, and therewith all the lives and 



Part I 235 

institutions of men, must be subdued to one common Will, ruling them all. [8] 

And though much has been written foolishly about the antagonism of science and religion, there is indeed no 
such antagonism. What all these world religions declare by inspiration and insight, history as it grows clearer 
and science as its range extends display, as a reasonable and demonstrable fact, that men form one universal 
brotherhood, that they spring from one common origin, that their individual lives, their nations and races, 
interbreed and blend and go on to merge again at last in one common human destiny upon this little planet 
amidst the stars. And the psychologist can now stand beside the preacher and assure us that there is no 
reasoned peace of heart, no balance and no safety in the soul, until a man in losing his life has found it, and 
has schooled and disciplined his interests and will beyond greeds, rivalries, fears, instincts, and narrow 
affections. The history of our race and personal religious experience run so closely parallel as to seem to a 
modern observer almost the same thing; both tell of a being at first scattered and blind and utterly confused, 
feeling its way slowly to the serenity and salvation of an ordered and coherent purpose. That, in the simplest, 
is the outline of history; whether one have a religious purpose or disavow a religious purpose altogether, the 
lines of the outline remain the same. 

29.4 The Crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth 

In the year 30 A.D., while Tiberius, the second emperor, was Emperor of Rome and Pontius Pilate was 
procurator of Judea, a little while before the Feast of the Passover, Jesus of Nazareth came into Jerusalem. 
Probably he came then for the first time. Hitherto he had been preaching chiefly in Galilee, and for the most 
part round and about the town of Capernaum. In Capernaum be had preached in the synagogue. 

His entry into Jerusalem was a pacific triumph. He had gathered a great following in Galileehe had sometimes 
to preach from a boat upon the Lake of Galilee, because of the pressure of the crowd upon the shoreand his 
fame had spread before him to the capital. 

Great crowds came out to greet him. It is clear they did not understand the drift of his teaching, and that they 
shared the general persuasion that by some magic of righteousness he was going to overthrow the established 
order. He rode into the city upon the foal of an ass that had been borrowed by his disciples. The crowd 
accompanied him with cries of triumph and shouts of Hosanna, a word of rejoicing. 

He went to the temple. Its outer courts were cumbered with the tables of money-changers and with the stalls 
of those who sold doves to be liberated by pious visitors to the temple. These traders upon religion he and his 
followers cast out, overturning the tables. It was almost his only act of positive rule. 

Then for a week he taught in Jerusalem, surrounded by a crowd of followers who made his arrest by the 
authorities difficult. Then officialdom gathered itself together against this astonishing intruder. One of his 
disciples, Judas, dismayed and disappointed at the apparent ineffectiveness of this capture of Jerusalem, went 
to the Jewish priests to give them his advice and help in the arrest of Jesus. For this service he was rewarded 
with thirty pieces of silver. The high priest and the Jews generally had many reasons for dismay at this gentle 
insurrection that was filling the streets with excited crowds; for example, the Romans might misunderstand it 
or use it as an occasion to do some mischief to the whole Jewish people. Accordingly the high priest 
Caiaphas, in his anxiety to show his loyalty to the Roman overlord, was the leader in the proceedings against 
this unarmed Messiah, and the priests and the orthodox mob of Jerusalem the chief accusers of Jesus. 

How he was arrested in the garden of Gethsemane, how he was tried and sentenced by Pontius Pilate, the 
Roman procurator, how he was scourged and mocked by the Roman soldiers and crucified upon the hill called 
Golgotha, is told with unsurpassable simplicity and dignity in the gospels. 

The revolution collapsed utterly. The disciples of Jesus with one accord deserted him, and Peter, being taxed 
as one of them, said, I know not the man. This was not the end they had anticipated in their great coming to 



Part I 236 

Jerasalem. His last hours of aching pain and thirst upon the cross were watched only by a few women and 
near friends. Towards the end of the long day of suffering this abandoned leader roused himself to one 
supreme effort, cried out with a loud voice, My God! my God! why has thou forsaken me? and, leaving these 
words to echo down the ages, a perpetual riddle, to the faithful, died. 

It was inevitable that simple believers should have tried to enhance the stark terrors of this tragedy by foolish 
stories of physical disturbances similar to those which had been invented to emphasize the conversion of 
Gautama. We are told that a great darkness fell upon the earth, and that the veil of the temple was rent in 
twain; but if indeed these things occurred, they produced not the slightest effect upon the minds of people in 
Jerusalem at that time. It is difficult to believe nowadays that the order of nature indulged in any such 
meaningless comments. Far more tremendous is it to suppose a world apparently indifferent to those three 
crosses in the red evening twilight, and to the little group of perplexed and desolated watchers. The darkness 
closed upon the hill; the distant city set about its preparations for the Passover; scarcely anyone but that knot 
of mourners on the way to their homes troubled whether Jesus of Nazareth was still dying or already dead. . . . 

The souls of the disciples were plunged for a time into utter darkness. Then presently came a whisper among 
them and stories, rather discrepant stories, that the body of Jesus was not in the tomb in which it had been 
placed, and that first one and then another had seen him alive. Soon they were consoling themselves with the 
conviction that he had risen from the dead, that he had shown himself to many, and had ascended visibly into 
heaven. Witnesses were found to declare that they had positively seen him go up, visibly in his body. He had 
gone through the blueto God. Soon they had convinced themselves that he would presently come again, in 
power and glory, to judge all mankind. In a little while, they said, he would come back to them; and in these 
bright revivals of their old-time dream of an assertive and temporal splendour they forgot the greater measure, 
the giant measure, he had given them of the Kingdom of God. 

29.5 Doctrines Added to the Teachings of Jesus 

The story of the early beginnings of Christianity is the story of the struggle between the real teachings and 
spirit of Jesus of Nazareth and the limitations, amplifications, and misunderstandings of the very inferior men 
who had loved and followed him from Galilee, and who were now the bearers and custodians of his message 
to mankind. The gospels and the Acts of the Apostles present a patched and uneven record, but there can be 
little question that on the whole it is a quite honest record of those early days. 

The early Nazarenes, as the followers of Jesus were called, present from the first a spectacle of a great 
confusion between these two strands, his teaching on the one hand, and the glosses and interpretations of the 
disciples on the other. They continued for a time his disciplines of the complete subjugation of self; they had 
their goods in common, they had no bond but love. Nevertheless, they built their faith upon the stories that 
were told of his resurrection and magical ascension, and the promised return. Few of them understood that the 
renunciation of self is its own reward, that it is itself the Kingdom of Heaven; they regarded it as a sacrifice 
that entitled them to the compensation of power and dominion when presently the second coming occurred. 
They had now all identified Jesus with the promised Christ, the Messiah so long expected by the Jewish 
people. They found out prophecies of the crucifixion in the prophetsthe Gospel of Matthew is particularly 
insistent upon these prophecies. Revived by these hopes, enforced by the sweet and pure lives of many of the 
believers, the Nazarene doctrine began to spread very rapidly in Judea and Syria. 

And presently there arose a second great teacher, whom many modern authorities regard as the real founder of 
Christianity, Saul of Tarsus, or Paul. Saul apparently was his Jewish and Paul his Roman name; he was a 
Roman citizen, and a man of much wider education and a much narrower intellectuality than Jesus seems to 
have been. By birth he, was probably a Jew, though some Jewish writers deny this; he had certainly studied 
under Jewish teachers. But he was well versed in the Hellenic theologies of Alexandria, and his language was 
Greek. Some classical scholars profess to find his Greek unsatisfactory; be did not use the Greek of Athens, 
but the Greek of Alexandria; but he used it with power and freedom. [9] He was a religious theorist and 



Part I 237 

teacher long before he heard of Jesus of Nazareth, and he appears in the New Testament narrative at first as 
the bitter critic and antagonist of the Nazarenes. 

The present writer has been unable to find any discussion of the religious ideas of Paul before he became a 
follower of Jesus. They must have been a basis, if only a basis of departure, for his new views, and their 
phraseology certainly supplied the colour of his new doctrines. We are almost equally in the dark as to the 
teachings of Gamaliel, who is named as the Jewish teacher at whose feet he sat. Nor do we know what Gentile 
teachings had reached him. It is highly probable that he had been influenced by Mithraism. He uses phrases 
curiously like Mithraistic phrases. What will be clear to anyone who reads his various Epistles, side by side 
with the Gospels, is that his mind was saturated by an idea which does not appear at all prominently in the 
reported sayings and teachings of Jesus, the idea of a sacrificial person, who is offered up to God as an 
atonement for sin. What Jesus preached was a new birth of the human soul; what Paul preached was the 
ancient religion of priest and altar and propitiatory bloodshed. Jesus was to him the Easter lamb, that 
traditional human victim without spot or blemish who haunts all the religions of the dark white peoples. Paul 
came to the Nazarenes with overwhelming force because he came to them with this completely satisfactory 
explanation of the disaster of the crucifixion. It was a brilliant elucidation of what had been utterly perplexing. 

Paul had never seen Jesus. His knowledge of Jesus and his teaching must have been derived from the hearsay 
of the original disciples. It is clear that he apprehended much of the spirit of Jesus and his doctrine of a new 
birth, but he built this into a theological system, a very subtle and ingenious system, whose appeal to this day 
is chiefly intellectual. And it is clear that the faith of the Nazarenes, which he found as a doctrine of motive 
and a way of living, he made into a doctrine of belief. He found the Nazarenes with a spirit and hope, and he 
left them Christians with the beginning of a creed. 

But we must refer the reader to the Acts of the Apostles and the Pauline Epistles for an account of Paul's 
mission and teaching. He was a man of enormous energy, and he taught at Jerusalem, Antioch, Athens, 
Corinth, Ephesus, and Rome. 

Possibly he went into Spain. The manner of his death is not certainly known, but it is said that he was killed in 
Rome during the reign of Nero. A great fire had burnt a large part of Rome, and the new sect was accused of 
causing this. The rapid spread of Christian teaching certainly owes more to Paul than to any other single man. 
Within two decades of the crucifixion this new religion was already attracting the attention of the Roman 
rulers in several provinces. If it had acquired a theology in the hands of St. Paul, it still retained much of the 
revolutionary and elementary quality of the teachings of Jesus. It had become somewhat more tolerant of 
private property; it would accept wealthy adherents without insisting upon the communization of their riches, 
and St. Paul has condoned the institution of slavery (Slaves, be obedient to your masters), but it still set its 
face like flint against certain fundamental institutions of the Roman world. It would not tolerate the godhead 
of Caesar; not even by a mute gesture at the altar would the Christians consent to worship the Emperor, 
though their lives were at stake in the matter. It denounced the gladiatorial shows. Unarmed, but possessing 
enormous powers of passive resistance, Christianity thus appeared at the outset plainly as rebellion, striking at 
the political if not at the economic essentials of the imperial system. The first evidences of Christianity in 
non-Christian literature we find when perplexed Roman officials began to write to one another and exchange 
views upon the strange problem presented by this infectious rebellion of otherwise harmless people. 

Much of the history of the Christians in the first two centuries Christian era is very obscure. They spread far 
and wide throughout the world, but we know very little of their ideas or their ceremonies and methods during 
that time. As yet they had no settled creeds, and there can be little doubt that there were wide local variations 
in their beliefs and disciplines during this formless period. But whatever their local differences, everywhere 
they seem to have carried much of the spirit of Jesus; and though everywhere, they aroused bitter enmity and 
active counter-propaganda, the very charges made against them witness to the general goodness of their lives. 

During this indefinite time a considerable amount of a sort of theocrasia seems to have gone on between the 



Part I 238 

Christian cult and the almost equally popular and widely diffused Mithraic cult, and the cult of 
Serapis-Isis-Horus. From the former it would seem the Christians adopted Sun-day as their chief day of 
worship instead of the Jewish Sabbath, the abundant use of candles in religious ceremonies, the legend of the 
adoration by the shepherds, and probably also those ideas and phrases, so distinctive of certain sects to this 
day, about being washed in the blood of Christ, and of Christ being a blood sacrifice. For we have to 
remember that a death by crucifixion is hardly a more bloody death than hanging; to speak of Jesus shedding 
his blood for mankind is really a most inaccurate expression. Even when we remember that he was scourged, 
that he wore a crown of thorns, and that his side was pierced by a spear, we are still far from a fountain filled 
with blood. But Mithraism, centred upon some now forgotten mysteries about Mithras sacrificing a sacred and 
benevolent bull; all the Mithraic shrines seem to have contained a figure of Mithras killing this bull, which 
bleeds copiously from a wound in its side, and from this blood a new life sprang. The Mithraist votary 
actually bathed in the blood of the sacrificial bull, and was born again thereby. At his initiation he went 
beneath a scaffolding on which the bull was killed, and the blood ran down on him. 

The contributions of the Alexandrine cult to Christian thought and practices were even more considerable. In 
the personality of Horus, who was at once the son of Serapis and identical with Serapis, it was natural for the 
Christians to find an illuminating analogue in their struggles with the Pauline mysteries. From that to the 
identification of Mary with Isis, and her elevation to a rank quasi-divinein spite of the saying of Jesus about 
his mother and his brothers that we have already quotedwas also a very natural step. Natural, too, was it for 
Christianity to adopt, almost insensibly, the practical methods of the popular religions of the time. Its priests 
took on the head-shaving and the characteristic garments of the Egyptian priests, because that sort of thing 
seemed to be the right way of distinguishing a priest. One accretion followed another. Almost insensibly the 
originally revolutionary teaching was buried under these customary acquisitions. We have already, tried to 
imagine Gautama Buddha returning to Tibet, and his amazement at the worship of his own image in Lhassa. 
We will but suggest the parallel amazement of some earnest Nazarene who had known and followed his dusty 
and travel-worn Master through the dry sunlight of Galilee, restored suddenly to this world and visiting, let us 
say, a mass in St. Peter's at Rome, at learning that the consecrated wafer upon the altar was none other than 
his crucified teacher. 

Religion in a world community is not many things but one thing, and it was inevitable that all the living 
religious faiths in the world at the time, and all the philosophy and religious thought that came into contact 
with Christianity, should come to an account with Christianity and exchange phrases and ideas. The hopes of 
the early Nazarenes had identified Jesus with the Christ; the brilliant mind of Paul had surrounded his career 
with mystical significance. Jesus had called men and women to a giant undertaking, to the renunciation of 
self, to the new birth into the kingdom of love. The line of least resistance for the flagging convert was to 
intellectualize himself away from this plain doctrine, this stark proposition, into complicated theories and 
ceremoniesthat would leave his essential self alone. How much easier is it to sprinkle oneself with blood than 
to purge oneself from malice and competition; to eat bread and drink wine and pretend one had absorbed 
divinity, to give candles rather than the heart, to shave the head and retain the scheming privacy of the brain 
inside it! The world was full of such evasive philosophy and theological stuff in the opening centuries of the 
Christian era. It is not for us here to enlarge upon the distinctive features of Neoplatonism, Gnosticism, 
Philonism, and the like teachings which abounded in the Alexandrian world. But it was all one world with that 
in which the early Christians were living. The writings of such men as Origen, Plotinus, and Augustine 
witness to the inevitable give and take of the time. 

Jesus called himself the Son of God and also the Son of Man; but he laid little stress on who he was or what 
he was, and much upon the teachings of the Kingdom. In declaring that he was more than a man and divine, 
Paul and his other followers, whether they were right or wrong, opened up a vast field of argument. Was Jesus 
God? Or had God created him? Was he identical with God or separate from God? It is not the function of the 
historian to answer such questions, but he is bound to note them, and to note how unavoidable they were, 
because of the immense influence they have had upon the whole subsequent life of western mankind. By the 
fourth century of the Christian Era we find all the Christian communities so agitated and exasperated by 



Part I 239 

tortuous and elusive arguments about the nature of God as to be largely negligent of the simpler teachings of 
charity, service, and brotherhood that Jesus had inculcated. 

The chief views that the historian notices are those of the Arians, the Sabellians, and the Trinitarians. The 
Arians who taught that Christ was less than God; the Sabellians taught that he was a mode or aspect of God; 
God was Creator, Saviour, and Comforter just as one man may be father, trustee, and guest; the Trinitarians, 
of who Athanasius was the great leader, taught that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost were but one God. 
The reader is referred to the Athanasian Creed [10] for the exact expression of the latter mystery, and for the 
alarming consequences to him of any failure to grasp and believe it. To Gibbon he must go for a derisive 
statement of these controversies. The present writer can deal with them neither with awe nor derision; they 
seem to him, he must confess, a disastrous ebullition of the human mind entirely inconsistent with the plain 
account of Jesus preserved for us in the gospels. Orthodoxy became a test not only for Christian office, but for 
Christian trade and help. A small point of doctrine might mean affluence 

or beggary to a man. It is difficult to read the surviving literature of the time without a strong sense of the 
dogmatism, the spites rivalries, and pedantries of the men, who tore Christianity to pieces for the sake of these 
theological for the sake of these of theological refinements. Most of the Trinitarian disputants for it is chiefly 
Trinitarian documents that survive accuse their antagonists, probably with truth, of mean and secondary 
motives, but they do so in a manner that betrays their own base spirit very clearly. Arius, for example, is 
accused of adopting heretical opinions because he was not appointed Bishop of Alexandria. Riots and 
excommunicating and banishments punctuated these controversies, and finally came official persecutions. 
These fine differences about the constitution of the Deity interwove with politics and international disputes. 
Men who quarrelled over business affairs, wives who wished to annoy their husbands, developed antagonistic 
views upon this exalted theme. Most of the barbarian invaders of the empire were Arians; probably because 
their simple minds found the Trinitarian position incomprehensible. 

It is easy for the sceptic to mock at these disputes. But even if we think that these attempts to say exactly how 
God was related to himself were presumptuous and intellectually monstrous, nevertheless we are bound to 
recognize that beneath these preposterous refinements of impossible dogmas there lay often a real passion for 
trutheven if it was truth ill conceived. Both sides produced genuine martyrs. And the zeal of these 
controversies, though it is a base and often malicious zeal, did at any rate make the Christian sects very 
energetically propagandist and educational. Moreover, because the history of the Christian body in the fourth 
and fifth centuries is largely a record of these unhappy disputes, that must not blind us to the fact that the 
spirit of Jesus did live and ennoble many lives among the Christians. The text of the gospels, though it was 
probably tampered with during this period, was not destroyed, and Jesus of Nazareth, in his own manifest 
inimitable greatness, still taught through that text. Nor did these unhappy quarrels prevent Christianity from 
maintaining a united front against gladiatorial shows and against the degrading worship of idols and of the 
god-Caesar. 

29.6 The Struggles and Persecutions of Christianity 

So far as it challenged the divinity of Caesar and the characteristic institutions of the empire, Christianity is to 
be regarded as a rebellious and disintegrating movement, and so it was regarded by most of the emperors 
before Constantine the Great. It encountered considerable hostility, and at last systematic attempts to suppress 
it. Decius was the first emperor to organize an official persecution, and the great era of the martyrs was in the 
time of Diocletian (303 and following years). The persecution of Diocletian was indeed the crowning struggle 
of the old idea of the god-emperor against the already great and powerful organization that denied his divinity. 
Diocletian had reorganized the monarchy upon lines of extreme absolutism; he had abolished the last vestiges 
of republican institutions; he was the first emperor to surround himself completely with the awe-inspiring 
etiquette of an eastern monarch. He was forced by the logic of his assumptions to attempt the complete 
eradication of a system that flatly denied them. The test in the persecution was that the Christian was required 
to offer sacrifice to the emperor. 



Part I 240 

Though Diocletian, still averse to the effusion of blood, had moderated the fury of Galerius, who proposed 
that everyone refusing to offer sacrifice should immediately be burnt alive, the penalties inflicted on the 
obstinacy of the Christians might be deemed sufficiently rigorous and effectual. It was enacted that their 
churches, in all the provinces of the empire, should be demolished to their foundations; and the punishment of 
death was denounced against all who should presume to hold any secret assemblies for the purpose of 
religious worship. The philosophers, who now assumed the unworthy office of directing the blind zeal of 
persecution, had diligently studied the nature and genius of the Christian religion; and as they were not 
ignorant that the speculative doctrines of the faith were supposed to be contained in the writings of the 
prophets, of the evangelists, and of the apostles, they most probably suggested the order that the bishops and 
presbyters should deliver all their sacred books into the hands of the magistrates, who were commanded, 
under the severest penalties, to burn them in a public and solemn manner. By the same edict, the property of 
the church was at once confiscated; and the several parts of which it might consist were either sold to the 
highest bidder, united to the imperial domain, bestowed on the cities or corporations, or granted to the 
solicitations of rapacious courtiers. After taking such effectual measures to abolish the worship, and to 
dissolve the government of the Christians, it was thought necessary to subject to the most intolerable 
hardships the condition of those perverse individuals who should still reject the religion of nature, of Rome, 
and of their ancestors. Persons of a liberal birth were declared incapable of holding any honours or 
employments; slaves were for ever deprived of the hopes of freedom; and the whole body of the Christians 
were put out of the protection of the law. The judges were authorized to hear and to determine every action 
that was brought against a Christian; but the Christians were not permitted to complain of any injury which 
they themselves had suffered; and those unfortunate sectaries were exposed to the severity, while they were 
excluded from the benefits, of public justice. .. . This edict was scarcely exhibited to the public view, in the 
most conspicuous place in Nicomedia, before it was torn down by the hands of a Christian, who expressed at 
the same time, by the bitterest of invectives, his contempt as well as abhorrence for such impious and 
tyrannical governors. His offence, according to the mildest laws, amounted to treason, and deserved death, 
and if it be true that he was a person of rank and education, those circumstances could serve only to aggravate 
his guilt. He was burnt, or rather roasted, by a slow fire; and his executioners, zealous to revenge the personal 
insult which had been offered to the emperors, exhausted every refinement of cruelty without being able to 
subdue his patience, or to alter the steady and insulting smile which in his dying agonies he still preserved in 
his countenance. [11] 

So with the death of this unnamed martyr the great persecution opened. But, as Gibbon points out, our 
information as to its severity is of very doubtful value. He estimates the total of victims as about two 
thousand, and contrasts this with the known multitudes of Christians martyred by their fellow-Christians 
during the period of the Reformation. Gibbon was strongly prejudiced against Christianity, and here he seems 
disposed to minimize the fortitude and sufferings of the Christians. In many provinces, no doubt, there must 
have been a great reluctance to enforce the edict. But there was a hunt for the copies of Holy Writ, and in 
many places a systematic, destruction of Christian churches. There were tortures and executions, as well as a 
great crowding of the gaols with Christian presbyters and bishops. We have to remember that the Christian 
community was now a very considerable element of the population, and that an influential proportion of the 
officials charged with the execution of the edict were themselves of the proscribed faith. Gelerius, who was in 
control of the eastern provinces, was among the most vigorous of the persecutors, but in the end, on his death 
bed (371), he realized the futility of his attacks upon this huge community, and granted toleration in an edict, 
the gist of which Gibbon translates as follows: 

Among the important cares which have occupied our mind for the utility and preservation of the empire, it 
was our intention to correct and re-establish all things according to the ancient laws and public discipline of 
the Romans. We were particularly desirous of reclaiming into the way of reason and nature the deluded 
Christians who had renounced the religion and ceremonies instituted by their fathers; and presumptuously 
despising the practice of antiquity, had invented extravagant laws and opinions according to the dictates of 
their fancy, and had collected a various society from the different provinces of our empire. The edicts which 
we have published to enforce the worship of the gods having exposed many of the Christians to danger and 



Part I 241 

distress, many having suffered death, and many more who still persist in their impious folly, being left 
destitute of any public exercise of religion, we are disposed to extend to those unhappy men the effects of our 
wonted clemency. We permit them, therefore, freely to profess their private opinions and to assemble in their 
conventicles without fear or molestation, provided always that they preserve a due respect to the established 
laws and government. By another rescript we shall signify our intentions to the judges and magistrates; and 
we hope that our indulgence will engage the Christians to offer up their prayers to the deity whom they adore, 
for our safety and prosperity, for their own, and for that of the republic. 

In a few years Constantine the Great was reigning, first as associated emperor (312) and then as the sole ruler 
(324), and the severer trials of Christianity were over. If Christianity was a rebellious and destructive force 
towards a pagan Rome, it was a unifying and organizing force within its, own communion. This fact the 
genius of Constantine grasped. The spirit of Jesus, for all the doctrinal dissensions that prevailed, made a great 
freemasonry throughout and even beyond the limits of the empire. The faith was spreading among the 
barbarians beyond the border; it had extended into Persia and Central Asia. It provided the only hope of moral 
solidarity he could discern in the great welter of narrow views and self-seeking over which he had to rule. It, 
and it alone, had the facilities for organizing will, for the need of which the empire was falling to pieces like a 
piece of rotten cloth. In 312 Constantine had to fight for Rome and his position against Maxentius. He put the 
Christian monogram upon the shields and banners of his troops and claimed that the God of the Christians had 
fought for him in his complete victory at the battle of the Milvian Bridge just outside Rome. By this act he 
renounced all thos