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Title: The Dawn of History - An Introduction to Pre-Historic Study
Author: Keary, C. F.
Language: English
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                          BY THE SAME AUTHOR.

                THE DAWN OF HISTORY. An Introduction
                to Pre-historic Study. 12mo      =$1.25=

                among the Indo-European Races. Crown
                8vo.      =2.50=


                           DAWN OF HISTORY:

                         _AN INTRODUCTION TO_

                          PRE-HISTORIC STUDY.

                               EDITED BY

                       C. F. KEARY, M.A., F.S.A.

                             NEW EDITION.

                               NEW YORK:
                       CHARLES SCRIBNER’S SONS.

                           THE CAXTON PRESS
                               NEW YORK.


The present edition of the _Dawn of History_ is a considerable
enlargement upon the former one, as may be judged from the fact that the
former, including the Appendix, contained only 231 pages, whereas the
present edition contains 357. These enlargements have chiefly affected
the first four chapters with the ninth and tenth, and, generally
speaking, the chapters for which the editor is wholly responsible. He
felt himself quite incapable of improving chapters eight, eleven, and
thirteen, which can hardly fail to be recognized as the best in the
volume; and, unhappily, the hand which wrote them--that of Annie
Keary--is no longer able to revise or alter. Some slight corrections
therefore have been made, in accordance with the advance of these
branches of study during recent years, but nothing more. No more were
needed, for (in the case of the chapters on writing, for example)
further research has only tended to establish more firmly the
conclusions here accepted. The chapters on early social life (vi.,
vii.), again, did not seem to the editor to require more than slight

In the chapters dealing with religion and mythology, it was not to be
expected that the writers could avoid treading upon controversial
ground; but as almost every proposition upon these matters is disputed
by some one, it was not possible to adopt the plan of putting forward
only those facts and theories which may be considered as established.
Some disputed points are discussed in the Appendix. Even on the subject
of language the views of one (small) school of philologists had to be
relegated in like manner to the Appendix.

So far for the character of the alterations upon the first edition. The
new matter introduced, whenever it has not been of the nature of a
correction of the old, has been aimed in the direction of making more
clear the _processes_ through which the human mind has gone in the
acquisition of each fresh capacity--more clear the extent to which each
successive phase of pre-historic life has been built upon the preceding
phase--more clear the process by which mankind seems to have gone
through the stages of language-formation, and so forth. This has been
the direction in which the editor has sought to improve upon the earlier
edition: rather than in loading his pages by a greater accumulation of
facts, to make the relationship of the various facts to one another
plainer and more easy to remember; in one word, to appeal to the reason
much more than to the memory.

This is by no means the principle on which a great majority of
_introductions_ and _manuals_ seem to have been written, but upon a
principle almost the reverse of this.

Finally, it has never been lost sight of, that the present volume is
meant to leave the reader, so to say, at the door of history. It is not
designed to be an _anthropology_, or a history of the growth of faculty
among mankind at large, but only a _pre-historic study_, an account of
the ascertainable doings and thoughts on the part of the people who have
gone to make up the historic races of the world. Even the stone-age
civilization is treated, not as a phase of culture in the abstract, but
as an element of the growth in culture of the historic nations of our




The advance of pre-historic study has been during the last ten years
exceptionally rapid; and, considering upon how many subsidiary interests
it touches, questions of politics, of social life, of religion almost,
the science of pre-historic archæology might claim to stand in rivalry
with geology as the favourite child of this century; as much a favourite
of its declining years as geology was of its prime. But as yet, it will
be confessed, we have little popular literature upon the subject, and
that for want of it the general reader is left a good deal in arrear of
the course of discovery. His ideas of nationalities and kindredship
among peoples is, it may be guessed, still hazy. We still hear the
Russians described as Tartars: and the notion that we English are
descendants of the lost Israelitish tribes finds innumerable supporters.
I am told that a society has been formed in London for collecting proofs
of this more than Ovidian metamorphosis. The reason of this public
indifference is very plain. Pre-historic science has not yet passed out
of that early stage when workers are too busy in the various branches
of the subject to spare much time for a comparison of the results of
their labours; when, one may say, fresh contributions are pouring in too
fast to be placed upon their proper shelves in the storehouse of our
knowledge. In such a state of things the reader who is not a specialist
is under peculiar disadvantages for a discovery of what has been done.
He stands bewildered, like the sleeping partner in a firm, to whom no
one--though he is after all the true beneficiary--explains the work
which is passing before his eyes.

It will not be thought a misplaced object to attempt some such
explanation, and that is the object of the following chapters. And as at
some great triumph of mechanism and science--a manufactory, an
observatory, an ironclad,--a junior clerk or a young engineer is told
off to accompany the intelligent visitor and explain the workings of the
machinery; or as, if the simile serve better, in those cities which are
sought for their treasures of art and antiquity, the lower class of the
population become self-constituted into guides to beauties which they
certainly neither helped to create nor keep alive; so this book offers
itself to the interested student as a guide over some parts of the
ground covered by pre-historic inquiry, without advancing pretensions to
stand beside the works of specialists in that field. The peculiar
objects kept in view have been, to put the reader in possession of (1)
the general results up to this time attained, the chief additions which
pre-historic science has made to the sum of our knowledge, even if this
knowledge can be given only in rough outline; (2) the method or
mechanism of the science, the way in which it pieces together its
acquisitions, and argues upon the facts it has ascertained; and (3) to
put this information in a form which might be attractive and suitable to
the general reader.

The various labours of a crowd of specialists are needed to give
completeness to our knowledge of primitive man, and it is scarcely
necessary to say that there are a hundred questions which in such a
short book as this have been left untouched. The intention has been to
present those features which can best be combined to form a continuous
panorama, and also to avoid, as far as possible, the subjects most under
controversy. No apology surely is needed for the _conjoint_ character of
the work: as in every chapter the conclusions of many different and
sometimes contradictory writers had to be examined and compared, and as
these chapters, few as they are, spread over various special fields of

It is to be hoped that some readers to whom pre-historic study is a new
thing may be sufficiently interested in it to desire to continue their
researches. For the assistance of such, lists are given, at the end, of
the chief authorities consulted on the subject of each chapter, with
some notes upon questions of peculiar interest.

The vast extent of the field, the treasures of knowledge which have been
already gathered, and the harvest which is still in the ear, impress
the student more and more the deeper he advances into the study.
Surely, if from some higher sphere, beings of a purely spiritual
nature--nourished, that is, not by material meats and drinks, but by
_ideas_--look down upon the lot of man, they must be before everything
amazed at the complaints of poverty which rise up from every side. When
every stone on which we tread can yield a history, to follow up which is
almost the work of a lifetime; when every word we use is a thread
leading back the mind through centuries of man’s life on earth; it must
be confessed that, for riches of any but a material sort, for a wealth
of ideas, the mind’s nourishment, there ought to be no lack.




THE EARLIEST TRACES OF MAN (EDITOR)                                    1


THE SECOND STONE AGE (EDITOR)                                         28


THE GROWTH OF LANGUAGE (EDITOR)                                       55


FAMILIES OF LANGUAGE (EDITOR)                                         83


THE NATIONS OF THE OLD WORLD (EDITOR)                                113


EARLY SOCIAL LIFE (H. M. KEARY)                                      135


THE VILLAGE COMMUNITY (H. M. KEARY)                                  156


RELIGION (A. KEARY)                                                  171


ARYAN RELIGIONS (EDITOR)                                             197


THE OTHER WORLD (EDITOR)                                             236


MYTHOLOGIES AND FOLK-TALES (EDITOR)                                  254


PICTURE-WRITING (A. KEARY)                                           280


PHONETIC WRITING (A. KEARY)                                          297


CONCLUSION (EDITOR)                                                  313

APPENDIX--_Notes and Authorities_                                    329




[Sidenote: The dawn of history.]

When St. Paulinus came to preach Christianity to the people of
Northumbria, King Eadwine (so runs the legend) being minded to hear him,
and wishing that his people should do so too, called together a council
of his chief men and asked them whether they would attend to hear what
the saint had to tell; and one of the king’s thanes stood up and said,
‘Let us certainly hear what this man knows, for it seems to me that the
life of man is like the flight of a sparrow through a large room, where
you, King, are sitting at supper in winter, while storms of rain and
snow rage abroad. The sparrow, I say, flying in at one door and
straightway out again at another is, while within, safe from the storm;
but soon it vanishes out of sight into the darkness whence it came. So
the life of man appears for a short space; but of what went before, or
what is to follow, we are all ways ignorant.’[1] This wise and true
saying of the Saxon thane holds good too for the human race as far as
its progress is revealed to us by history. We can watch this progress
through a brief interval--for the period over which real, continuous
authentic history extends; and beyond that is a twilight space, wherein,
amid many fantastic shapes of mere tradition or mythology, here and
there an object or an event stands out more clearly, lit up by a gleam
from the sources of more certain knowledge which we possess.

To draw with as much accuracy as may be the outline of these shapes out
of the past is the business of the prehistoric student; and to assist
him in his task, what has he? First, he has the Bible narrative, wherein
some of the chief events of the world’s history are displayed, but at
uncertain distances apart. Then we have the traditions preserved in
other writings, in books, or on old temple stones--in these the truth
has generally to be cleared from a mist of allegory, or at least of
mythology. And, lastly, besides these conscious records of times gone
by, we have other dumb memorials, old buildings--cities or
temples--whose makers are long since forgotten, old tools or weapons,
buried for thousands of years, to come to light in our days; and again,
old words, old beliefs, old customs, old arts, old forms of civilization
which have been unwittingly handed down to us, can all, if we know the
art to interpret their language, be made to tell us histories of the
antique world. It is, then, no uninteresting study by which we learn how
to make these silent records speak. ‘Of man’s activity and attainment,’
Carlyle finely says, ‘the chief results are aeriform, mystic, and
preserved in tradition only: such are his Forms of Government, with the
Authority they rest on; his Customs or Fashions both of Cloth-habits and
Soul-habits; much more his collective stock of Handicrafts, the whole
Faculty he has acquired of manipulating nature--all these things, as
indispensable and priceless as they are, cannot in any way be fixed
under lock and key, but must flit, spirit-like, on impalpable vehicles
from Father to Son; if you demand sight of them they are nowhere to be
met with. Visible Ploughmen and Hammermen there have been, even from
Cain and Tubalcain downwards; but where does your accumulated
Agricultural, Metallurgic and other Manufacturing SKILL lie warehoused?
It transmits itself on the atmospheric air, on the sun’s rays (by
Hearing and by Vision); it is a thing aeriform, impalpable, of quite
spiritual sort.’

How many of these intangible spiritual possessions must man have
acquired before he has learned the art of writing history, and so of
keeping a record of what had gone before: how much do we know that any
individual race of men has learned before it brings itself forward with
distinctness in this way! For as a first condition of all man must have
learned to write; and writing, as we shall hereafter see, is a slowly
developing art, which man acquired by ages of gradual experiment. His
language, too, must ere this have reached a state of considerable
cultivation; and it will be our object in the course of these pages to
show through what a long history of its own the language of any nation
must go before it becomes fit for the purposes of literature--through
how many changes it passes, and what a story it reveals to us by every
change. And then, again, before a nation can have a history it must _be_
a nation, must have a national life to record; that is to say, the
people who compose it must have left the simple condition of society
which belongs to a primitive age, the state of a mere hunter or fisher,
even the state of being a mere shepherd, the pastoral and nomadic life
which precedes the knowledge of agriculture. He must have drawn closer
the loose bonds which held men together under the conditions of
patriarchal life, and have constituted a more permanent system of
society. Whether under pressure from without, the pressure of hostile
nationalities, or only from the growth of a higher conception of social
life, the nation has had to rise from out of a mere collection of
tribes, until the head of the family has become the king--the rude tents
of early days have grown into houses and temples, and the pens of their
sheepfolds grown into walled cities, such as Corinth or Athens or Rome.
Such changes as these must be completed before history comes to be
written; and with such changes as these, and with a thousand others,
changes and growths in Art, in Poetry, in Manufactures, in Commerce, and
in Laws, the pre-historical student has to deal. On all these subjects
we shall have something to say.

Before, however, we enter upon any one of these it is right that we
remind the reader--and remind him once for all--that our knowledge upon
all these points is but partial and uncertain, and never of such a
character as will allow us to speak with dogmatic assurance. Our
information can necessarily never be direct; it can only be built upon
inferences of a higher or lower degree of probability. It is, however, a
necessity of our minds that from whatever information we possess we must
form an unbroken panorama--imagination has no place for unfilled blanks;
and we may form our picture freely and without danger of harm, so long
as we are ready to modify or enlarge it when more knowledge is
forthcoming. As the eye can in a moment supply the deficiencies of some
incompleted picture, a landscape of which it gets only a partial glance,
or a statue which has lost a feature, so the mind selects from its
knowledge those facts which form a continuous story, and loses those
which are known only as isolated fragments.

Set a practised and an unpractised draughtsman to draw a circle, and we
may witness how differently they go to work. The second never takes his
pencil off the paper, and produces his effect by one continuous line,
which the eye has no choice but at once to condemn as incomplete. The
wiser artist proceeds by a number of short consecutive strokes,
splitting up, as it were, his divergence over the whole length of the
figure he is drawing, and so allows the eye, or perhaps one should
rather say the mind, by that faculty it has, to select the complete
figure which it can conceive more easily than express. No one of the
artist’s strokes is the true fraction of a circle, but the result is
infinitely more satisfactory than if he had tried to make his pencil
follow unswervingly the curve he wished to trace. Or again, notice how a
skilful draughtsman will patch up by a number of small strokes any
imperfect portion of a curve he is drawing, and we have another like
instance of this selective faculty of the eye or of the mind. Just in
the same way is it with memory. Our ideas must be carried on
continuously, we cannot afford to remember _lacunæ_, mere blank spaces.

In the Bible narrative, for example, wherein, as has before been said,
certain events of the world’s history are related with distinctness, but
where as a rule nothing is said of the times which intervened between
them, we are wont to make very insufficient allowance for these
unmentioned periods, and form for ourselves a rather arbitrary picture
of the real course of things, fitting two events on to one another which
were really separated by long ages. To correct this view, to enlarge the
series of known facts concerning the early history of the human race,
comes in pre-historic inquiry; and again, to correct the picture we now
form, doubtless fresh information will continue to pour in. All this is
no reason why we should pronounce our present picture to be untrue; it
is only incomplete. We must be always ready to enlarge it, and to fill
in the outlines, but still we can only remember the facts which we have
already acquired, if we look at them, not as fragments only, but as a
complete whole.

In representing, therefore, throughout the following chapters, the
advance of the human race in the discovery of all those arts and
faculties which go to make up civilization in the light of a continuous
progress, it will not be necessary to pause and remind the reader in
every case that these steps of progress which seem to spread themselves
out so clearly before us have been made in an uncertain manner,
sometimes rapidly, sometimes very slowly and painfully, sometimes by
immense strides, sometimes by continual haltings and goings backwards
and forwards. It will be enough to say here, once for all, that our
history must be thought of as a history of events rather than a strictly
chronological one; just as the geological periods are not measured by
days and years, but by the mutations through which our solid-seeming
earth has passed.

       *       *       *       *       *

[Sidenote: The earliest traces of man.]

First we turn to what must needs be our earliest inquiry--the search
after the oldest traces of man which have been found upon the earth. It
has been said that one of the first fruits of knowledge is to show us
our own ignorance; and certainly in the early history of the world and
of man there is nothing which science points out so clearly as the vast
silent periods whereof until recently we had no idea. It is difficult
for us of the present age to remember how short a time it is since all
our certain knowledge, touching the earth on which we live, lay around
that brief period of its existence during which it had come under the
notice and the care of man.

When all we knew of Europe, and especially of our own islands, belonged
to the comparatively short time during which they have been known to
history, we had in truth much to wonder at in the political changes
these countries were seen to have undergone; and our imaginations could
be busy with the contrast between the unchanged features of our lands
and seas and the ever-varying character of those who dwelt upon or
passed over them. It is interesting to think that on such a river bank
or on such a shore Cæsar or Charlemagne have actually stood, and that
perhaps the grass or flowers or shells under their feet looked just the
same as they do now, that the waves beat upon the strand in the same
cadence, or the water flowed by with the same trickling sound. But when
we open the pages of geology, we have unrolled before us a history of
the earth itself, extending over periods compared with which the longest
epoch of what is commonly called history seems scarcely more than a day,
and of mutations in the face of nature so grand and awful that as we
reflect upon them, forgetting for an instant the enormous periods
required to bring these changes about, they sound like the fantastic
visions of some seer, telling in allegorical language the history of the
creation and destruction of the world.

Of such changes, not the greatest, but the most interesting to the
question we have at present in hand, were those vicissitudes of climate
which followed upon the time when the formation of the crust of the
earth had been practically completed. We learn of a time when, instead
of the temperate climate which now favours our country, these islands,
with the whole of the north of Europe, were wrapped in one impenetrable
sheet of ice. The tops of our mountains, as well as of those of
Scandinavia and the north of continental Europe, bear marks of the
scraping of this enormous glacier, which must have risen to a height of
two or three thousand feet. Not a single green thing, therefore, might
be seen between our latitudes and the pole, while the ice-sheet, passing
along the floor of the North Sea, united these islands with Scandinavia
and spread far out into the deep waters of the Atlantic. For thousands
of years such a state of things endured, but at last it slowly passed
away. As century followed century the glacier began to decrease in size.
From being colder than that of any explored portion of our hemisphere,
the climate of northern Europe began to amend, until at last a little
land became visible, which was covered first with lichens, then with
thicker moss, and then with grass; then shrubs began to grow, and they
expanded into trees and the trees into forests, while still the
ice-sheet went on decreasing, until now the glaciers remained only in
the hills. Animals returned from warmer climates to visit our shores.
The birds and beasts and fishes of the land and sea were not much
different from those which now inhabit there; the species were
different, but the genera were for the most part the same. Everything
seemed to have been preparing for the coming of man, and it is about
this time that we find the earliest traces of his presence upon

We may try and imagine what was the appearance of the world, and
especially of Europe--for it is in Europe that most of these earliest
traces of our race have as yet been found, though all tradition and
likelihood point out man’s first home to have been in Asia--when we
suppose that man first appeared upon these western shores. At this time
the continent of Europe stood at a higher level than it does now. The
whole of the North Sea, even between Scotland and Denmark, is not more
than fifty fathoms, or three hundred feet deep, while the Irish Sea is
not more than sixty fathoms; and at this period undoubtedly the British
Isles, besides being all joined together, formed part of the mainland,
not by being united to France only, but by the presence of dry land all
the way from Scotland to Denmark, over all that area now called the
German Ocean. Our Thames and our other eastern rivers were then but
tributaries of one large stream, which bore through this continent, and
up into the northern seas, their waters united with those of the Rhine,
and perhaps of the Weser and the Elbe. The same upheaval turned into
land a portion of the Atlantic Ocean, all that bed probably which now
extends from Spain and Africa as far as the Azores and the Canaries. The
north of Africa was joined on to this continent and to Spain, for the
narrow Straits of Gibraltar had not yet been formed; but a great sea
stood where we now have the Great Sahara, and united the Mediterranean
and the Red Sea, while a great Mediterranean Sea stood in Central Asia,
and has left no more than traces in the Caspian Sea and the Sea of Aral.

We have to look at a map to see the effect of these changes in the
appearance of Europe; and there were no doubt other internal changes in
the appearances of the countries themselves. The climate still was much
more extreme than it is now. The glaciers were not yet quite gone. And
the melting of these and of the winter snows gave rise to enormous
rivers which flowed from every hill. Our little river the Ouse, for
instance, which flows out through Norfolk into the Wash, was, when
swollen by these means, probably many miles broad. Vast forests grew
upon the banks of the rivers, and have left their traces in our peat
formations; and in these forests roamed animals unknown to us. Of these
the most notable was the mammoth (_Elephas primigenius_, in the
language of the naturalists), a huge, maned elephant, whose skeleton and
gigantic tusks are conspicuous in some of our museums, and who has given
his name to this the earliest age of man’s existence: it is called the
Mammoth Age of man. With the mammoth, too, lived other species of
animals, which are either now extinct, or have since been driven from
our latitudes; the woolly rhinoceros, the cave lion, the cave bear, the
Lithuanian bison, the urus, the reindeer, and the musk-ox. It is with
the remains of these animals, near the ancient banks of these great
rivers, that we find the earliest tools and weapons manufactured by
human hands.

[Sidenote: Implements of the river drift.]

The earliest of all the known remains of human-kind are the implements
which are found deposited in the ancient beds of rivers. Now flooded by
melting snow into huge lakes and now again drained off by the sudden
bursting of a bound, it was natural that these great streams should
often change their course, and often dig out huge areas of soil from the
land upon their banks. In doing so they sometimes dug out the implements
which earlier generations of men had left behind them on the surface of
the soil, and which a few years would be enough to cover with mould and
hide from sight. Then carrying along these implements of flint, they
have deposited them in great beds of sand and gravel, somewhere in their
ancient course.

We have no means of measuring the time which may have elapsed since
these stone weapons and tools were made. And we need not speak here of
the geological changes which must have passed over the surface of the
earth since they were deposited upon it. All we know is that, after the
great streams flowing through wide valleys have dug these implements
from under the earth which time had heaped over them, carried them
along and deposited them once more amid sand and pebbles in a bed upon
some point of its course, the river must through long subsequent years
have cut so much deeper into the valley through which it flowed, and at
the same time probably so shrunk in its bed, that these river drifts, as
they are called, stand in many cases fifty, eighty, a hundred feet above
the level of the present stream. It is because they are found in the
beds made by the ancient rivers, that the implements of this period are
called _drift implements_.

The river Ouse, of which we spoke just now, which, though to-day a small
river, drains a large and level country as it runs through the counties
of Bedford, Huntingdon, and Cambridge, has been one of the most prolific
in this class of pre-historic remains. Another river which still better
deserves to be remembered in this respect is the Somme in the north of
France. For it was in the beds of this stream, by Abbeville and Amiens,
that the drift implements were first discovered, or first recognized for
what they really are, the earliest traces of human labour; and it was
here that the foundation was laid for this branch of pre-historic study
by M. Boucher de Perthes. This was forty-one years ago, in 1847.

These _drift implements_, then, form a class apart--apart even from all
other stone implements made by man, and probably earlier than any other
class. Very simple and rude are these drift implements. It would require
a skilled eye to detect any difference between most of them and a flint
which had only been chipped by natural means. But the first thing to
remember is, that the makers of these implements had nothing but other
still ruder materials to help them in this manufacture of theirs. Metals
of all kinds were as yet utterly unknown to man.

We who are so habituated to the employment of metal, either in the
manufacture or the composition of every article which meets our eye, can
scarcely realize that man lived long ages on the earth before the metals
and minerals, its hidden treasures, were revealed to him. This pen I
write with is of metal, or, were it a quill, it would still have been
shaped by the use of steel; the rags of which this paper is made up have
been first cut by metal knives, then bleached by a mineral (chlorine),
then torn on a metal cylinder, then thrown into a vat which was either
itself of metal or had been shaped by metal tools, then drawn on a
_wire_-cloth, etc. And so it is with everything which is made nowadays.
We can scarcely think of any single manufacture in which is not
traceable the paramount influence of man’s discoveries beneath the
surface of the ground. But primitive man could profit by no such
inherited knowledge, and had only begun to acquire some powers which he
could transmit to his own descendants. For his tools he must look to the
surface of the earth only; and the hardest substances he could find were
stones. Not only during the period of which we are now speaking, but for
hundreds, perhaps thousands, of years lasted man’s ignorance of the
metals, ignorance therefore of all that the metals could produce for
him. The long age of this state of ignorance is distinguished in
pre-history by the name of the Stone Age, because the hardest things
then known to mankind were stones, and the most important of his
implements and utensils had therefore to be made of stones.

There can be no harm if we so far anticipate our second chapter as to
say that this Stone Age is distinguished by pre-historic students into
two main periods: (1) the age in which all the stone implements were
made exclusively by chipping, (2) the age in which grinding or polishing
was brought in to supplement the use of chipping. Wherefore the first
age is also called the Unpolished Stone Age, the second is called the
Polished Stone Age. Not that by any means all the implements in the
later age were made of polished stone; far from it. Only that,
contemporaneously with the stone implements still made by chipping
merely, others of polished stone were used. But of this more hereafter.
Lastly, the two epochs are also distinguished more simply as the Old
Stone Age and the New Stone Age--or, turned into Greek, the Palæolithic
Era and the Neolithic Era.

Now we go back to speak of the Palæolithic Era only. And in this we have
as yet got no further than the implements of the river drifts. It is not
to be supposed that at any time of his history man used implements of
stone and no others; for wood and bone must have been always as ready to
his hand as stone was, and for many purposes bone and wooden utensils
would serve better than stone ones. But the stone implements would
always deserve to be accounted the most important; because by means of
them the others of softer material must have been shaped. As regards the
drift deposits, here the remains of man’s work _are_ exclusively stone
implements, but probably only because all that were made of some softer
substance have perished, or remain as yet undiscovered. And most
primitive these stone tools or weapons are. By the rudeness and
uniformity of their shapes as contrasted even with other classes of
stone implements, they testify to the simplicity of those who
manufactured them. They have for the most part only two or three
distinctive types: they are either of a long, pear-shaped make, narrowed
almost to a point at the thin end, and adapted, we may suppose, for
boring holes, while the broad end of the pear was pressed against the
palm of the hand; and secondly, of a sort of oval form, chipped all
round the edge, capable of being fitted into a wooden haft, a cleft
stick or whatever it might be, to form an implement which might be used
for all sorts of cutting or scraping. A variety of this last implement,
of rather a tongue-like shape, was called by the French workmen who
worked under M. Boucher de Perthes, _langue-de-chat_. These might serve
the purpose of spear-heads. Some have supposed that stones of this last
form were used, as similar ones are used by the Esquimaux to this day,
in cutting holes in the ice for the purpose of fishing: we must not
forget that during at any rate a great part of the early stone age the
conditions of life were those of arctic countries at the present time. A
third variety of stone implements is made of thinner flakes, and capable
of being used as a knife.[3]

We cannot determine all the uses to which primitive man must have put
his rude and ineffective weapons; we can only wonder that with such he
was able to maintain his existence among the savage beasts by which he
was surrounded; and we long to form to ourselves some picture of the way
in which he got the better of their huge strength, as well as of his
dwelling-place, his habits, and his appearance. Rude as his weapons are,
and showing no trace of improvement, it seems as though man of the drift
period must have lived through long ages of the world’s history. These
implements are found associated with the remains of the mammoth and the
woolly rhinoceros, animals naturally belonging to the arctic or
semi-arctic climate which succeeded the glacial era; but like implements
are found, associated with the remains of the bones of the lion, the
tiger, and the hippopotamus, all of which, and the last especially, are
rarely found outside the torrid zone. This would imply that the drift
implements lasted through the change from a rigid to a torrid climate,
and probably back again to a cold temperate one.

       *       *       *       *       *

[Sidenote: Implements of the caves.]

Contemporary very likely with some portion of the drift period are
another series of deposits which contain still more interesting traces
of early man. These are what are called the _cave_ deposits--a
remarkable series of discoveries made in caves in various parts of
Europe which appear to carry us down farther in the history of human

These caves are natural caverns, generally formed in the limestone
rocks, and at present the most remarkable ‘finds’ have been obtained
from the caves of Devonshire, of the Department of the Dordogne in
France, from various caves in Belgium, and from a very remarkable cavern
in the Neanderthal, near Düsseldorf, in Germany. But there is scarcely
any country in Europe where some caves containing human bones and
weapons have not been opened. The rudest drift implements seem older
than almost any of those found in caves; and, on the whole, the
cave-remains seem to give us a picture of man in a more civilized
condition than the man of the drift.

Let us pause for one moment before these cave remains. For, simple as
they are, they open a little bit the veil which hides from us the lives
of the earliest of men. We call the things which we have found
_implements_. For we cannot really tell whether they should be called
tools or weapons. Nay, and this is a thing worth remembering, in the
most primitive conditions of society man’s tools are his weapons and his
weapons are almost his only tools. Man’s first condition of life is the
_venatory_ condition. He is at first a mere hunter (or _trapper_) and
fisherman. He begins without the use of any domestic animal. He has not
even the dog, at first, to help him in his hunting; much less has he
cattle or sheep to vary his occupation in life. With the rest of the
animal creation he is constantly at war. He preys upon other animals,
and other animals, if they can, prey upon him. Wherefore, as I have
said, his earliest tools are likewise his weapons, his weapons are his
tools; and the arts of peace and war are undistinguishable.

The next distinct stage of life is the pastoral stage. Man has now his
domesticated animals; he has cattle and sheep and horses maybe. Tending
his flocks and herds is now his chief occupation. But this tending
implies _protecting_ them and himself. And still, though some of his
implements are for peaceful use--his crooks, his goads, his lassoes, his
bridles, his hurdles and sheep-pens, or, again, his needles for sewing
together the hides which form his clothes--still _most_ are for war.
Yet, if any distinction is possible, his weapons should now be those of
defence rather than those of offence.

The third great stage is the agricultural--a stage of life at which all
civilized nations and many which can hardly be called civilized have
arrived; when man ploughs and sows, and reaps, plants vines and
orchards. Then most of the implements used in these industries, the
implements on which therefore his nourishment depends, are wholly
distinct from the weapons of war, and the peaceful existence has become
(as the phrase is) _differentiated_ from the warlike. This is the token
of a higher civilization.

At present we are far from such a stage of progress in the history of
man. The cave-dwellers were, we may be sure, in the hunting and fishing
stage of civilization; and we cannot really tell, among a large
proportion of their weapons, which were designed to serve against
animals for the purposes of the chase, and which against their
fellow-men. We can hardly distinguish among some of their weapons
whether they were to be used in hunting or fishing. They had stone axes
and spear-heads, and they also had what we may call harpoons. But
harpoons are merely lances attached to a thong, and may be used with
equal success against animals or against the larger fish, salmons or
whales. These harpoons are barbed. They are made of wood and of bone. A
curious and close inquiry has discovered that the bones of animals found
among the human remains in the caves have been scored in such a way as
to suggest that the sinews were cut from them--to be used, no doubt, as
thongs to the harpoons, as lines for fishing, as threads for sewing
garments, etc. The cave men had also barbed hooks--fishing-hooks we may
call them; though they too may sometimes have been employed against
animals or even _birds_. It is most probable that these primitive men
did _not_ know the use of the bow and arrow, and that the name
arrow-heads sometimes given to certain of their weapons is a misnomer;
that they should be called javelin-heads. Bone awls have been found, no
doubt for the sake (chiefly) of piercing the scraped skins of animals,
which might afterwards be sewn together into garments: bone knives,
pins, and _needles_ have also been found--the last a most important form
of implement--in considerable numbers.

What is still more interesting than all these discoveries, we here find
the rudiments of art. Some of the bone implements, as well as some
stones, are engraved, or even rudely sculptured, generally with the
representation of an animal. These drawings are singularly faithful, and
really give us a picture of the animals which were man’s contemporaries
upon the earth; so that we have the most positive proof that man lived
the contemporary of animals long since extinct. The cave of La
Madeleine, in the Dordogne, for instance, contained a piece of a
mammoth’s tusk engraved with an outline of that animal; and as the
mammoth was probably not contemporaneous with man during the latter part
even of the old-stone age, this gives an immense antiquity to the first
dawnings of art. How little could the scratcher of this rough
sketch--for it is not equal in skill to drawings which have been found
in other caves--dream of the interest which his performance would excite
thousands of years after his death! Not the greatest painter of
subsequent times, and scarcely the greatest sculptor, can hope for so
near an approach to immortality for their works. Had man’s bones been
only found in juxtaposition with those of the mammoth and his
contemporary animals, this might possibly have been attributed to chance
disturbances of the soil, to the accumulation of river deposits, or to
many other accidental occurrences; or had the mammoth’s bone only been
found worked by man, there was nothing positive to show that the animal
had not been long since extinct, and this a chance bone which had come
into the hands of a later inhabitant of the earth, just as it has since
come into our hands; but the actual drawing of this old-world, and as it
sometimes seems to us almost fabulous, animal, by one who actually saw
him in real life, gives a strange picture of the antiquity of our race,
and withal a strange feeling of fellowship with this stone-age man who
drew so much in the same way as a clever child among us might have drawn

It is worth while to look well at these cave-drawings. They are of
various degrees of merit, for some are so skilful as to excite the
admiration of artists and the astonishment of archæologists. And it is a
curious fact that during ages which succeeded those of the
cave-dwellers, all through the polished stone period and the age of
bronze--of which we shall have to speak anon--no such ambitious
imitative works of art seem to have been attempted. So far as we can
tell, these after generations of men aimed at no such thing as a drawing
of an animal or even of a plant. They confined themselves to ornamental
_patterns_, to certain arrangements of points and lines. The love of
imitation is doubtless one of the rudimentary feelings in the human
mind; as we may see by watching children. But, rudimentary as it is, it
springs from the same root as the highest promptings of the
intellect--that is to say, from the wish to _create_--to fashion
something actually ourselves. This is sufficient to explain the origin
of these carvings; yet we need not suppose that when the art of making
them was once known they were used merely for amusement. Long afterwards
we find such drawings and representations looked upon as having some
qualities of the things they represent; as, for instance, where in an
ancient grave at Mæshow, in the Orkney islands, we find the drawing of a
dragon, which had been supposed to watch over the treasures concealed
therein. Savages in the present day often think that part of them is
actually taken away when a drawing of them is made, and exactly a
similar feeling gave rise to the superstition so prevalent in the Middle
Ages, that witches and magicians could make a figure in wax to imitate
the one on whom they wished to wreak their vengeance, and that all the
pains inflicted upon this waxen antitype were reproduced in the body of
the victim. On such confusion of ideas do all idolatries rest. So may we
not, without too bold a flight, imagine that some superstitious notions,
touching the efficacy of these drawings, was a spur to the industry of
our first forerunners on the earth, and contributed to their wonderfully
acquired skill in their art? May they not have thought that their
representations gave them some power over the animals they represented:
that the lance-head carved with a mammoth would be efficient against the
mammoth’s hide; that the harpoon containing the representation of a deer
or a fish was the weapon best adapted for transfixing either?[5]

However this may be, we cannot close our eyes to the interest which
attaches to the first dawnings of art in the world. Nor is this interest
confined altogether to its æsthetic side--the mere beauty and value of
art itself--great though this be. Not only does drawing share that
mysterious power of imparting intense pleasure which belongs to every
form of art, but it was likewise, after human speech, the first
discovered means of conveying an idea from one man to another. As we
shall come to see in a later chapter, the invention of drawing bore with
it the seeds of the invention of writing, the greatest step forward, in
material things at any rate, that man has ever made.

There is one other fact to be mentioned, and then the information which
our cave discoveries can give us concerning the life of man in those
days is pretty nearly exhausted. Traces of fires have been found in
several caves, so that there can be no doubt that man had made this
important discovery, the discovery of fire, also. It seems to us
impossible to imagine a time when men could have lived upon the earth
without this all-useful element, when they must have devoured their food
uncooked, and only sheltered themselves from the cold by the thickness
of their clothing, or at night by huddling together in close underground
houses. We have certainly no proof that man’s existence was ever of such
a sort as this; but yet it is clear that the art of making fires is one
not discoverable at first sight. How long man took to find out that
method of ignition by friction of two sticks--the method employed in
different forms by all the less cultivated nations spread over the
globe, and one which we may therefore fairly take to be the most
primitive and natural--we shall never know. We have only the negative
evidence that he had discovered it at that primæval time when he began
to leave his remains within the caves.

Thus have we completed the catalogue of facts upon which we may build up
for ourselves some representation of the life of man in the earliest
ages of his existence upon earth. It must be confessed that they are
meagre enough. We should like some further facts which would help us to
picture the man himself, his size, his appearance, what race he most
resembled of any of those which now inhabit our globe. Unfortunately we
have little that can assist us here. Human remains have been found--on
one or two occasions a skeleton in tolerably complete preservation--but
not yet in sufficient numbers to allow us to draw any certain
conclusions from them, or even to hazard any very probable conjecture.

[Sidenote: Human remains.]

Among these discoveries of human skeletons, none excited more interest
at the time it was made than the Neanderthal skeleton, so-called from
the place in which it was found. The discovery was made in 1857 by Dr.
Fuhlrott of Elberfeld; and when the skull and other parts of the
skeleton were exhibited at a scientific meeting at Bonn, in the same
year, doubts were expressed as to the human character of the remains.
These doubts, which were soon dissipated, arose from the very low type
of the head, which was pronounced by many to be the most ape-like skull
that they had ever seen. The bones themselves indicated a person of much
the same stature as a European of the present day, but with such an
unusual thickness in some of them as betokened a being of very
extraordinary strength. This discovery, had it been supported by others,
might have seemed to indicate a race of men of a type inferior even to
the most savage races of our present globe. But it has not been so
supported. On the contrary, another skull found at Engis, near Liége,
not more than seventy miles from the cave of the Neanderthal, was proved
after careful measurements not to differ materially from the skulls of
individuals of the European race--a fact which prevents us from making
any assertions respecting the primitive character in race or physical
conformation of these cave-dwellers. Indeed, in a very careful and
elaborate paper upon the Engis and Neanderthal skulls, Professor Huxley
places an average skull of a modern native of Australia about half-way
between those of the Neanderthal and Engis caves; but he also says that
after going through a large collection of Australian skulls, he ‘found
it possible to select from among these crania two (connected by all
sorts of intermediate gradations), the one of which should very nearly
resemble the Engis skull, while the other should somewhat less closely
approximate to the Neanderthal skull in form, size, and proportions.’
And yet as regards blood, customs, or language, the natives of Southern
and Western Australia are as pure and homogeneous as almost any race of
savages in existence. This shows us how difficult would have been any
reasoning founded upon the insufficient data we possess. In fact, it
would no doubt be possible to find in Europe among persons of abnormal
under-development, such as idiots, skulls of a formation which would
match that of the Neanderthal.

This class of evidence is therefore merely negative. We certainly cannot
pronounce that man of the old stone age was of a lower type than low
types of savages of the present day; we cannot even say that he was as
undeveloped as are the Lapps of modern Europe; but in this negative
evidence there is a certain amount of satisfaction. We might be not
unwilling to place on the level of the Eskimo or the Lapp the fashioners
of the rudest of the stone implements, but the _artists_ of the caves we
may well imagine to have attained a higher development. And there is
nothing at all unreasonable or opposed to our experience of Nature in
supposing a race of human beings to have flourished in Europe in these
old times, to have been possessed of a certain amount of civilization,
but not to have advanced from that towards any very great improvement
before they were at last extinguished by some other race with a greater
faculty for progress. As we shall come to see later on, there is some
reason for connecting man of the later stone age as regards race with
the Eskimo or Lapp of to-day. Yet even if this be admitted, we must look
upon the latter rather as the dregs of the races they represent. It is
not always the highest types of any particular race, whether of men, of
animals, or of plants, which live the longest. Species which were once
flourishing are often only represented by stunted and inferior
descendants; just as the animals of the lizard class once upon a time,
and long before the coming of man upon the earth, had their age of
greatest development and reached proportions which are unknown in these

So we may imagine man spreading out at various times and in many
different streams from his first home in Asia. The earlier races to
leave this nursing-place did not, we may suppose, contain sufficient
force to carry them beyond a low level of culture; very likely they sank
in civilization and in the end got pushed on one side by more energetic
people who came like a second wave from the common source. When, in the
history of the world, we come to speak of races of whom we know more, we
shall see strong reasons to believe that this was the rule followed;
nay, it is even followed at the present day, where European races are
spreading over all the world, and gradually absorbing or extinguishing
inferior members of the human family. We must, therefore, in our present
state of ignorance, be content to look upon palæolithic man merely as we
find him, and not to advance vague surmises whether he gradually
advanced to the use of better stone weapons, and at last to metals, or
whether he was extinguished by subsequent races who did thus advance.

[Sidenote: The life of palæolithic man.]

Taking, then, this race as we find it, without speculating upon its
immediate origin or future, we may endeavour to gather some notion of
man’s way of life in these primitive times. It was of the simplest. We
may well suppose, for some proofs to the contrary would otherwise most
likely have been discovered, that his life was that of the hunter, which
is, it has been said, generally the earliest phase of human society, and
that he had not yet learned to till the ground, or to keep domestic
animals for his use. No bones of animals like the sheep or dog are found
among palæolithic remains, and therefore it seems probable that
palæolithic man had not yet entered upon the next and higher phase, the
pastoral life. He had probably no fixed home, no idea of nationality,
scarcely any of obligations beyond the circle of his own family, in
that larger sense in which the word ‘family’ is generally understood by
savages. Some sort of family or tribe no doubt held together, were it
only for the sake of protecting themselves against the attacks of their
neighbours. For the rest, their time was spent, as the time of other
savages is spent, out of doors in fighting and hunting, within doors in
preserving their food and their skins, in elaborately manufacturing
their implements of stone and bone. In the inclement seasons they were
crowded together in their caves, perhaps for months together, as the
Eskimo are in winter, almost without moving. As appears from the remains
in the caves, they were in the habit at such times of throwing the old
bones and the offal of their food into any corner (the Eskimo do so to
this day), without taking the smallest trouble to obviate the unpleasant
effects produced by the decay of all this animal matter in an atmosphere
naturally close. Through the long winter nights they found time to
perfect their skill in those wonderful bone carvings, and to lay up a
store of weapons which they afterwards--anticipating the rise of
commerce--exchanged with the inhabitants of some other cave for _their_
peculiar manufacture; for in one of the caves of the Dordogne we find
the remains of what must have been a regular manufactory of one sort of
flint-knife or lance-head, almost to the exclusion of any other of the
ordinary weapons, while another cave seems to have been devoted as
exclusively to the production of implements of bone.

Man had no doubt a hard life, not only to obtain the food he needed, but
to defend himself against the attacks of many wild animals by whom he
was surrounded, animals whose particular species have in many cases
become extinct, and whose classes have long ceased to inhabit Europe.
Such are the cave lion, cave bear, cave hyæna, brown bear, grizzly bear,
mammoth, woolly rhinoceros, urus, bison, and such rarities (with us) as
the reindeer, the Irish elk, and the beaver.

Some people have thought that they discovered in the traces of fires
which had been sometimes lighted before caves in which were found human
skeletons, the indication of sepulchral rites, and that these caves were
used as burial-places. But these suppositions are too vague and
uncertain to be relied upon. It may, however, be said that we have
evidence pointing to the fact that even in the drift period men buried
their dead, and it is hardly possible to believe that they did so
without paying some obsequies to the remains. On this interesting
subject of sepulchral rites we must forbear to say anything until we
come to speak of the second stone age. Our knowledge of the early
stone-people must close with the slight picture we have been able to
form of their life; of their death, of their rites of the dead, and the
ideas concerning a future state which these might indicate, we cannot

This, then, is all we know of man of the first stone age, and it is not
probable that our knowledge will ever be greatly increased. New finds of
these stone implements are being made almost every day, not in Europe
only, though at present chiefly there, but in many other parts of the
globe. But the new discoveries closely resemble the old, the same sort
of implements recur again and again, and we only learn by them over how
great a part of the globe this stage in our civilization extended.
Further information of this kind may change some of our theories
concerning the duration or the origin of this civilization, but it will
not add much to our knowledge of its nature. Yet it cannot be denied
that the thought of man’s existence only, though we know little more
than this, a contemporary of the mammoth at the time which immediately
succeeded the glacial period, or perhaps before the glacial period had
quite come to an end, is full of the deepest interest for us. The long
silent time which intervenes between the creation of our first parents
and those biblical events whereof the narration is to a certain extent
continuous and consecutive, till the dawn of history in the Bible
narrative in fact, is to some small extent filled in. We shall see in
the next chapter how the second stone age serves to carry the same
picture further. In rudest outline the life of man is placed before us,
and if we have no more than this, we have at any rate _something_ which
may occupy our imaginations, and prevent them, as they otherwise would
do, as, of old, men’s minds did, from leaping almost at a bound from the
Creation to the Flood, and from the Flood to the time of Abraham.



[Sidenote: The age of polished stone.]

Between the earlier and the later stone age, between man of the drift
period and man of the neolithic era, occurs a vast blank which we cannot
fill in. We bid adieu to the primitive inhabitants of our earth while
they are still the contemporaries of the mammoth and woolly rhinoceros,
or of the cave lion and the cave bear, and while the very surface of the
earth wears a different aspect from what it now wears. With a changed
condition of things, with a race of animals which differed not
essentially from those known to us, and with a settled conformation of
our lands and seas not again to be departed from, comes before us the
second race of man--man of the polished stone age. We cannot account for
the sudden break; or, what is in truth the same thing, many different
suggestions to account for it have been made. Some have supposed that
the palæolithic men lived at a time anterior to the last glacial era,
for there were many glacial periods in Europe, and were either
exterminated altogether or driven thence to more southern countries by
the change in climate. Others have imagined that a new and more
cultivated race migrated into these countries, and at once introduced
the improved weapons of the later stone age; and lastly, others have
looked upon the first stone age as having existed before the Deluge, and
hold that the second race of man, the descendants of Noah, began at once
with a higher sort of civilization. Two of these four theories, it will
be seen, must suppose that man somewhere went through the stages of
improvement necessary to the introduction of the newer sort of weapons,
and they therefore take it for granted that the graduated series of
stone implements, indicating a gradual progress from the old time to the
newer, though they have not yet been found, are to be discovered
somewhere. The first and last theories would seem to be more independent
of this supposition, and therefore, as far as our knowledge yet goes, to
be more in accordance with the facts which we possess. It is, however,
by no means safe to affirm that the graduated series of implements
required to support the other suppositions will never be found.

       *       *       *       *       *

[Sidenote: The kitchen-middens.]

Be this as it may, with the second era begins something like a
continuous history of our race. However scanty the marks of his tracks,
we may feel sure that from this time forward man passed on one unbroken
journey of development and change through the forgotten eras of the
world’s life down to the dawn of history. We take the rudest condition
in which we find man to be the most primitive, and we start with him in
this new stone age as still a fisher or a hunter only. He first appears
before us as depending for his nourishment chiefly upon the shell-fish
on certain coasts of northern Europe. In the north of Europe--that is to
say, upon the shores of the Baltic--are found numbers of mounds, some
five or ten feet high, and in length as much, sometimes, as a thousand
feet, by one or two hundred feet in breadth. The mounds consist for the
most part of myriads of cast-away shells of oysters, mussels, cockles,
and other shell-fish; mixed up with these are not a few bones of birds
and quadrupeds, showing that these also served for food to the primitive
dwellers by the shell mounds. The mounds are called in the present day
kjökken-möddings, kitchen-middens. They have been chiefly found in
Denmark. They are, in truth, the refuse heaps of the earliest kitchens
which have smoked in these northern regions;[6] for they are the remains
of some of the earliest among the polished-stone age inhabitants of
Europe. So primitive are the weapons of the Danish kitchen-middens, that
they have sometimes been classed with the old stone age implements. But
I believe some traces of grinding if not of polishing have been found on
them. And at any rate the mammalia contemporary with the kitchen-midden
men are very different from those of the drift or of the caves.

The raisers of these refuse mounds were, we may judge, pre-eminently
fishers; and not generally fishers of that adventurous kind who seek
their treasure in the depths of the ocean. They lived chiefly upon those
smaller fish and shell-fish which could be caught without much
difficulty or danger. Yet not only on these; for the bones of some
deep-sea fish have also been discovered, whence we know that these
mound-raisers were possessed of the art of navigation, though doubtless
in a most primitive form. Among remains believed to be contemporary with
the shell mounds are found canoes not built of planks, as our boats and
as most canoes are nowadays, but merely hollowed out of the trunks of
trees; sometimes these canoes are quite straight fore and aft, just as
the trunk was when it was cut, sometimes a little bevelled from below,
like a punt of the present day; but we believe they are never found
rounded or pointed at the prow. Here, then, we see another discovery
which has been of the greatest use to mankind, whereof the first traces
come to us from these northern shell mounds. That ‘heart with oak and
bronze thrice bound,’ the man who first ventured to sea in the first
vessel, had lived before this time. Whoever he was, we cannot, if we
think of it, refuse to endorse the praise bestowed upon him by the poet;
it required no mean courage to venture out to sea on such a strange
make-shift as was the first canoe. Perhaps the earliest experiment was
an involuntary one, made by some one who was washed away upon a large
log or felled tree. We can fancy how thence would arise the notion of
venturing again a little way, then of hollowing a seat in the middle of
the trunk, until the primitive canoes, such as we find, came into

In these imperfect vessels men gradually ventured further and further
into the ocean; and, judging of the extent of their voyages by the
deep-sea remains, we may be certain that their bravery was fatal to
many. This is in all probability the history of the discovery or
re-discovery of the art of navigation among savage people generally; in
all cases does the canoe precede the regular boat. I say ‘re-discovery’
because a nation which has settled long inland might very easily lose
the art even if their ancestors had possessed it. For it is a fact that
people rarely begin attempts at ship-building before they come to live
near the sea. As long as they can range freely on land, their rivers do
not tempt them to any dangerous experiments. But the vast plain of the
sea is too important, and makes too great an impression on their
imagination for its charm to be long withstood. Sooner or later, with
much risk of life, men are sure to try and explore its solitudes, and
navigation takes its rise. This art of seafaring, then, is amongst the
most noticeable of the belongings of the fishermen of the shell mounds.
Considering that they had none but rude stone implements, the felling
and hollowing of trees must have been an affair of no small labour, and
very likely occupied a great deal of their time when they were not
actually seeking their food, even though the agency of fire supplemented
the ineffectual blows of their stone weapons. They probably used nets
for their sea-fishing, made most likely of twisted bark or grass. And
they were hunters as well as fishers, for it has been said that the
remains of various animals have been discovered on the shell mounds.
From these remains we see that the age of the post-glacial animals has
by this time quite passed away; no mammoth, woolly rhinoceros, or cave
lion or bear is found; even the reindeer, which in palæolithic days must
have ranged over France and Switzerland, has retired to the north.

The fact is, the climate is now much more temperate and uniform than in
the first stone age. Then the reindeer and the chamois, animals which
belong naturally to regions of ice and snow, freely traversed, in winter
at least, the valleys or the plains far towards the south of Europe.[7]
But as the climate changed, the first was driven to the extreme north of
Europe, and the second to the higher mountain peaks. The only extinct
species belonging to the shell mounds is the wild bull (_bos
primigenius_), which however survived in Europe until quite historical
times. His remains appear in great numbers, as do those of the seal, now
very rare, and the beaver, which is extinct in Denmark. No remains of
any domesticated animal are found; but the existence of tame dogs is
guessed at from the fact that the bones bear traces of the gnawing of
canine teeth, and from the absence of bones of young birds and of the
softer bones of animals generally. For it has been shown experimentally
that just such portions are absent from these skeletons as will be
devoured when birds or animals of the same species are given to dogs at
this day. Dogs, therefore, we may feel pretty sure, were domesticated by
the stone-age men; so here again we can see the beginning of a step in
civilization which has been of incalculable benefit to man, the taming
of animals for his use. The ox, the sheep, the goat, were as yet
unknown; man was still in the hunter’s condition, and had not advanced
to the shepherd state, only training for his use the dog, to assist him
in pursuit of the wild animals who supplied part of his food. He was,
too, utterly devoid of all agricultural knowledge. Probably the
domestication of the dog marks a sort of transition state between the
hunter and the shepherd. When that experiment has been tried, the notion
must sooner or later spring up of training other animals, and keeping
them for use or food. With regard to the dogs themselves, it is a
curious fact that those of the stone age are smaller than those of the
bronze period, while the dogs of the bronze age are again smaller than
those of the age of iron. This is an illustration of the well-known fact
that domestication increases the size and improves the character of
animals, as gardening does that of plants.

There is one other negative fact which we gather from the bones of these
refuse-heaps--no human bones are mingled with them; so we may conclude
that these men were not cannibals. In fact, cannibalism is an
extraordinary perversion of human nature, arising it is difficult to say
exactly how, and only showing itself among particular people and under
peculiar conditions. There is no doubt that, among a very large
proportion of the savage nations which at present inhabit our globe,
cannibalism is practised, and of this fact many explanations have been
offered; but they are generally far-fetched and unsatisfactory; and it
is certainly not within our scope to discuss them here. How little
natural cannibalism is even to the most savage men is proved by the fact
that man is scarcely ever, except under urgent necessity, found to feed
upon the flesh of carnivorous or flesh-eating animals, and this alone,
besides every instinct of our nature, would be sufficient to prevent him
from eating his fellow-men.

We have many proofs of the great antiquity of the shell mounds. Their
position gives one. Whilst most of them are confined to the immediate
neighbourhood of the seashore, some few are found at a distance of
several miles inland. These exceptions may always be referred to the
presence of a stream which has gradually deposited its mud at the place
where it emptied itself into the sea, or to some other sufficient cause
of the protrusion of the coast-line; so that these miles of new coast
have come into existence after the shell mounds were raised. On the
other hand, there are no mounds upon those parts of the coast which
border on the Western Ocean. But it is just here that, owing to a
gradual depression of the land at the rate of two or three inches in a
century[8] the waves are slowly eating away the shore. This is what
happens on every sea-coast. Almost all over the world there is a small
but constant movement of the solid crust of the earth, which is, in
fact, only a crust over the molten mass within. Sometimes, and in some
places, the imprisoned mass makes itself felt, in violent upheavals, in
sudden cracks of the inclosing surface, which we call earthquakes and
volcanoes; but oftener its effect is slight and almost unnoticed. This
interchange of state between the kingdoms of the land and of the ocean
helps to show us the time which has passed between the making of the
kitchen-middens and our own days. There seems little doubt that all
along the Danish coast of the North Sea, as well as on that of the
Baltic, these mounds once stood; but by the gradual undermining of the
cliffs the former series have all been swept away, while the latter
have, as it appears, been moved a little inland; and we have seen that
when there was another cause present to form land between the
kitchen-middens and the sea, the distance has often been increased to
several miles.

Here is another and a still stronger proof of the antiquity of the shell
mounds. If we examine the shells themselves, we find that they all
belong to still living species, and they are all exactly similar to such
as might be found in the ocean at the present day. But it happens that
this is not now the case with the shells of the same fish belonging to
the Baltic Sea. For the waters of this sea are now brackish, and not
salt; and since they became so the shell-fish in it have gradually grown
smaller, and do not now attain half their natural size. The oyster,
moreover, will not now live at all in the Baltic, except near its
entrance, where, whenever the wind blows from the north-west, a strong
current of salt ocean water is poured in. Yet oyster shells are
especially abundant in the kitchen-middens. From all this we gather
that, at the time of the making of these mounds, there must have been
free communication between the ocean and the Baltic Sea. In all
probability, in fact, there were a number of such passages through the
peninsula of Jutland, which was consequently at that time an

       *       *       *       *       *

[Sidenote: The tumuli or barrows.]

As ages passed on the descendants of these isolated fishermen spread
themselves over Europe, and, improving in their way of life and mastery
over mechanical arts, found themselves no longer constrained to trust
for their livelihood to the spoils of the sea-shallows. They made lances
and axes (headed with stone), and perfected the use of the bow and arrow
until they became masters of the game of the forest. And then, after a
while, man grew out of this hunter stage and domesticated other animals
besides the dog: oxen, pigs, and geese. No longer occupied solely by the
search for his daily food, he raised mighty tombs--huge mounds of earth
enclosing a narrow grave--to the departed great men of his race; and he
reared up those enormous masses of stone called cromlechs or
dolmens--such as we see at Stonehenge--as altars to his gods.[9]

The great tombs of earth--which have their fellows not in Europe only,
but over the greater part of the world--are the special and
characteristic features of the stone age. The raisers of the
kitchen-middens probably preceded the men who built the tombs; for their
mode of life was, as we should say, the most primitive; but they were
confined to a corner of Europe. The tomb-builders formed one of a mighty
brotherhood of men linked together by the characteristics of a common
civilization. These stone-age sepulchres, called in England tumuli,
barrows, or hows, are hills of earth from one to as much as four hundred
feet long, by a breadth and height of from thirty to fifty feet. They
are either chambered or unchambered; that is, they are either raised
over a small vault made of stone (with perhaps a sort of vestibule or
entrance chamber), or else a mere hollow has been excavated within the
mound. In these recesses repose the bodies of the dead, some great
chieftain or hero--the father of his people, who came to be regarded
after his death with almost the veneration of a god. Beside the dead
were placed various implements and utensils, left there to do him honour
or service, to assist him upon the journey to that undiscovered country
whither he was bound; the best of sharpened knives or spear-heads, some
jars of their rude pottery, once filled with food and drink, porridge,
rough cakes and beer.[10] And maybe a wife or two, and some captives of
the last battle were sacrificed to his shade, that he might not go quite
unattended into that ‘other world.’ The last ceremony, the slaughter of
human victims to the manes of the dead, was not always, but it must have
been often, enacted. Out of thirty-two stone-age barrows excavated in
Wiltshire, seventeen contained only one skeleton, and the rest various
numbers, from two to an indefinite number; and, in one case at least,
all the skulls _save one_ were found cleft as by a stone hatchet.

At the doors of the mounds or in an entrance chamber many bones have
been discovered, the traces of a funeral feast, the wake or watch kept
on the evening of the burial. Likely enough, if the chief were almost
deified after death, the funeral feast would become periodical. It
would be considered canny and of good omen that the elders of the tribe
should meet there at times in solemn conclave, on the eve of a warlike
expedition or whenever the watchful care of the dead hero might avail
his descendants. From the remains of these feasts, and from the relics
of the tombs, we have the means of forming some idea of man’s
acquirements at this time. His implements are improvements upon those of
the stone age: in all respects, that is, save in this one, that he had
now no barbed weapons; whereas we remember that in the caves barbed
harpoons are frequently met with. Nor, again, had he the artistic talent
of the cave-dwellers: no traces of New Stone-age drawings have come to
light. For the rest, his implements and weapons may be divided into a
few distinctive classes:--

1. Hammers, hatchets, tomahawks, or chisels; an instrument made of a
heavy piece of stone brought to a sharp cutting edge at one end, and at
the other rounded or flat, so as to serve the double purpose of a hammer
and an axe. When these are of an elongated form they are called celts or
chisels. As subspecies to the hammers and celts we have picks and
gouges. 2. Arrow and spear heads, which differ in size but not much in
form, both being long and narrow in shape, often closely resembling the
leaf of the laurel or the bay, sometimes of a diamond shape, but more
often having the lateral corners nearest to the end which fitted into
the shaft. Viewed edgeways, they also appear to taper towards either
end, for while one point was designed to pierce the victim, the other
was fitted into a cleft handle, and bound into it with cord or sinew.
Implements have been discovered still fitted into their handles. 3. The
stone knives, which have generally two cutting edges, and when this is
the case do not greatly differ from the spear-heads, though they are
commonly less pointed than the latter. And to these three important
forms we may add, as less important types, a rounded form of implement,
generally called a scraper, and similar to the scrapers of the
palæolithic era; stones designed for slinging, net-weights, and perhaps
corn-grinders or nut-crushers. A few bone implements have been found in
the tumuli, a pin, a chisel, and a knife or so; but they are very rare,
they are never carved, and have not one quarter of the interest which
belongs to the bone implements of the caves. Finally, we must not omit
to say that in Anhalt, in Germany, a large stone has been found which
seems to have served the purpose of a plough. For there can be little
doubt that if some of the tumuli belong to a time before the use of
domesticated animals--save the dog--they last down to a time when man
not only had tame oxen, pigs, goats, and geese,[11] but also sowed and
planted, and lived the life of an agricultural race; nor will it be said
that such an advance was extraordinary when we say that the minimum
duration of the age of polished stone in central Europe was probably two
thousand years.

Other relics from the mounds, not less interesting than the weapons, are
their vessels of pottery; for here we see the earliest traces of another
art. This pottery is of a black colour, curiously mixed with powdered
shells, perhaps to strengthen the clay, perhaps for ornament. Its
pottery belongs to the latter portion of this age of stone, a period
distinguished not only by the use of domestic animals, but also by the
growth of cereals. We have said that bones of cattle, swine, and in one
case of a goose, have been found among the refuse of the funeral feasts.
But man was still a hunter, as he is to this day, though he had found
other means of support besides the wild game; so we also find the bones
of the red deer and the wild bull, both of which supplied him with food.
Wolves’ teeth, too, have been found pierced, so as to be strung into a
necklace; for personal adornment formed, in those days as now, part of
the interest of life. Jet beads have been discovered in large numbers,
and even some of amber, which seems to have been brought from the Baltic
to these countries and as far south as Switzerland; and it is known that
during the last portion of what is, nevertheless, still the stone
period, the most precious metal of all, gold, was used for ornament.
Gold is the one metal which is frequently found on the surface of the
ground, and therefore it was naturally the first to come under the eye
of man.

The religion of the mound-builders probably consisted in part of the
worship of the dead, so that the very tombs themselves, and not the
cromlechs only, were a sort of temples. And yet they had the deepest
dread of the reappearance of the departed upon earth--of his ghost. To
prevent his ‘walking’ they adopted a strange practical form of exorcism.
They strewed the ground at the grave’s mouth with sharp stones or broken
pieces of pottery, as though a ghost could have his feet cut, and by
fear of that be kept from returning to his old haunts. For ages and ages
after the days of the mound-builders the same custom lived on of which
we here see the rise. The same ceremony--turned now to an unmeaning
rite--was used for the graves of those, such as murderers or suicides,
who might be expected to sleep uneasily in their narrow house. This is
the custom which is referred to in the speech of the priest to
Laertes.[12] Ophelia had died under such suspicion of suicide, that it
was a stretch of their rule, he says, to grant her Christian burial.

    ‘And but the great command o’ersways our order,
     She should in ground unsanctified have lodged
     To the last trumpet: for charitable prayers,
     Shards, flints and pebbles, should be thrown on her.’

       *       *       *       *       *

The body of him for whom the mound was built was not buried in the
centre, but at one end, and that commonly the east, for in most cases
the barrows lie east and west. It is never stretched out flat, but lies
or sits in a crouched attitude, the head brought down upon the breast,
and the knees raised up to meet the chin. So that the dead man was
generally left facing toward the west--the going down of the sun. There
cannot but be some significance in this. The daily death of the sun has,
in all ages and to all people, spoken of man’s own death, his western
course has seemed to tell of that last journey upon which all are bent.
So that the resting-place of the soul is nearly always imagined to lie
westward in the home of the setting sun. For the rest, there seems
little doubt that the barrows represent nothing else--though upon a
large scale--than the dwelling-home of the time, and we may believe that
the greater part of the funeral rights connected with the mounds were
very literal and unsymbolical.[13] The Eskimo and Lapps of our day
dwell in huts no more commodious than the small chambers of the barrows,
and exceedingly like them in shape; only they keep them warm by heaping
up over them not earth but snow. In these hovels they sit squatting, in
an attitude not unlike that of the skeleton of the tumuli. Of the human
remains the skulls are small and round, and have a prominent ridge over
the sockets of the eyes, showing that the ancient race was of small
stature with round heads--what is called _brachycephalus_, or
short-headed, and had over-hanging eyebrows; in short, their skeletons
bare a considerable resemblance to those of the modern Laplanders.

We are still, however, left in darkness about that part of the stone-age
thought which has left the grandest traces, and of which we should so
much have wished to be informed; I mean the religion. Besides the tumuli
we have those enormous piles of stone called cromlechs, or dolmens, and
sometimes _miscalled_ Druid circles--such as the well-known Stonehenge;
these cromlechs were, we may believe, temples or sacred places. Each
arrangement of the stones is generally like a simple portico, made by
placing one enormous block upon two others; and these porticoes are
sometimes arranged in circles, as at Stonehenge, sometimes in long
colonnades, as at Carnac in Brittany. Lesser dolmens have been found in
most European countries. There can be little doubt that these huge
monuments possessed a religious character. And here is one proof of the
fact. As a rule, the grave-mounds--the tumuli--are built upon elevations
commanding a considerable prospect, and it is rare to find two within
sight. Yet over Salisbury Plain, and the part about Stonehenge, they are
much more numerous, as many as a hundred and fifty having been
discovered in this neighbourhood, as though all the ground about this
great cromlech were a hallowed region, and it were a desired privilege
to be buried within such sacred precincts. Of the worship which these
stone altars commemorate we know absolutely nothing. There seems to be
no reasonable doubt that they belong to the period we are describing.
The name Druid Circles, which has been sometimes given them, is an
absurd anachronism, for, as we shall have occasion to see later on, the
ancestors of the Kelts (or Celts), to whom the Druidical religion
belonged, were probably at this time still living on the banks of the
Oxus in Central Asia; at any rate they had not yet migrated to Brittany
or to Great Britain. Thus, though we must continue to wonder how these
people could ever have raised such enormous stones as altars of their
religion, the nature of that religion itself is hidden from us.

The tumuli and the relics which they contain are the truest
representatives of the second stone age which have come down to us. The
barrows raise their summits in every land, and the characteristic
features of the remains found in them are the same for each. We must
judge that they, that the most genuine stone-age tumuli, arose during
the greatest extension of the stone-age races, before any new peoples
had come to dispute their territory. What the kitchen-middens show in
the germ, they show in its perfection--all the perfection attainable by

We have already enumerated the most important forms of weapons and
implements found in these _tumuli_; and there would be no use in
entering upon a lengthy verbal description of what would be so much
better illustrated by drawings. The books enumerated in the Appendix
give abundant illustrations of the stone-age remains. One caution,
however, we need to give the reader. This second stone age is called, we
know, the age of polished stone. But, as has been already said, that by
no means implies that all the implements made in these days were
polished. On the contrary, certain stone manufactures, notably
arrow-heads, were never polished. They went on being made by chipping,
not only during the whole of the second stone age, but far into the
first metal age, when bronze had been introduced and was used for the
manufacture of numerous weapons and implements. The grinding of the
edges of certain sharp weapons is a more important characteristic than
the polishing of the whole or a portion of their surface. But this
grinding was not universally employed, but used generally only for the
larger implements.

       *       *       *       *       *

[Sidenote: The lake villages.]

And now, having dealt with the remains from the _tumuli_, the flower, as
we may call them, of the second stone period, we pass on to a third
series of remains, which must be in part contemporary with the
stone-using men, and have continued on and been absorbed into the metal
age, which next supervened. These remains came from what are called the
lake-dwellings, and though traces of such dwellings have been found in
many countries in Europe, in our isles among others, still the chief
_provenance_ of the lake-dwellings, so far as our discoveries yet go, is
in Switzerland and the north of Italy. But let it not be supposed that
these lake-dwellings extended over a short period. A variety of separate
pieces of evidence enforce upon us the conclusion that the stone age in
Europe endured for at least two thousand years. Even the latter portion
of that epoch will allow a cycle vast enough for the lives of the
lake-dwellers; for the dwellings did not come to an end at the end of
the age of stone, they only began in it. They were seen by Roman eyes
almost as late as the beginning of our own era.

For at least two thousand years, then, we may say, the men who lived in
the country of the Swiss lakes, and those of Northern Italy, adopted for
the sake of security the custom of making their dwellings, not upon the
solid ground, but upon platforms constructed with infinite trouble above
the waters of the lake. And the way they set about it was in this wise:
Having chosen their spot--if attainable, a sunny shore protected as much
as possible from storms, and having a lake-bottom of a soft and sandy
nature--they proceeded to drive in piles, composed of tree-stems taken
from the neighbouring forests, from four to eight inches in diameter.
These piles had to be felled, and afterwards sharpened, either by fire
or a stone axe, then driven in from a raft by the use of ponderous stone
mallets; and when we have said that in one instance the number of piles
of a lake village has been estimated at from 40,000 to 50,000, the
enormous labour of the process will be apparent. This task finished, the
piles were levelled at a certain height above the water, and a platform
of boards was fastened on with pegs. On the platform were erected huts,
probably square or oblong in shape, not more than twenty feet or so in
length, adapted however for the use of a single family, and generally
furnished, it would appear, with a hearthstone and a corn-crusher
apiece. The huts were made of wattle-work, coated on both sides with
clay. Stalls were provided for the cattle, and a bridge of from only ten
or twelve to as much as a hundred yards in length led back to the
mainland. Over this the cattle must have been driven every day, at least
in summer, to pasture on the bank; and no doubt the village community
separated each morning for the various occupations of fishing, for
hunting, for agriculture, and for tending the cattle. As may be
imagined, these wooden villages were in peculiar danger from fire, and a
very large number have suffered destruction in this way; a circumstance
fortunate for modern science, for many things which had been partially
burnt before falling into the lake have, by the coating of charcoal
formed round them, been made impervious to the corroding influence of
the water. Thus we have preserved their very grain itself, and their
loaves or cakes of crushed but not ground meal. The grains are of
various kinds of wheat and barley, oats, and millet.[14]

It is natural to ask for what object the enormous trouble of erecting
these lake-dwellings could have been undertaken; and the only answer
which can be given is, that it was to protect their inhabitants from
their enemies. Whether each village formed a separate tribe and made war
upon its neighbours, or whether the lake-dwellers were a peaceful race
fleeing from more savage people of the mainland, is uncertain. There is
nothing which leads us to suppose they were a race of a warlike
character, and as far as the arts of peace go they had advanced
considerably upon the men of the tumuli. More especially do the _woven
cloths_, sometimes worked with simple but not inartistic patterns,
excite our admiration. They had their trade too. Ornaments of amber are
frequent, and amber must have been brought from the Baltic; while in one
settlement, believed to be of the stone age, the presence of a glass
bead would seem to imply indirect commerce with Egypt, the only country
in which the traces of glass manufacture at this remote period have been
found.[15] It is believed by good authorities, that the stone age in
Europe came to an end about two thousand years before Christ, or at a
date which is generally considered to be about that of Abraham; and its
shortest duration, as we saw, must also be considered to be two thousand

These men of the lakes stand in no degree behind the mound-builders for
the material elements of civilization. Nay, they are in some respects
before them. Their life seems to have been more confined and simple than
that which was going on in other parts of Europe. Its very peacefulness
and simplicity gave men the opportunity for perfecting some of their
arts. Thus their agriculture was more careful and more extended than
that of the men of the tumuli. Their cattle would appear to have been
numerous; all were stall-fed upon the island home; if in the morning
driven out to pasture over the long bridge to the mainland, they were
brought home again at night. To agriculture these lake-dwellers had
added the special art of gardening, for they cultivated fruit-trees; and
they span hemp and flax, and even constructed--it is believed--some sort
of loom for weaving cloth. Yet for all that, if in these respects they
were superior to the men of the tumuli, their life was probably more
petty and narrow than the others’. There must have been some grandeur in
the ideas of men who could have built those enormous tombs and raised
those wondrous piles of altar-stones. If the first were made in honour
of their chiefs, the existence of such chiefs implies a power in the
stone-age men of expanding into a wide social life; so too the immense
labour which the raising of the cromlechs demanded argues strong if not
the most elevated religious ideas. And it has been often and truly
remarked that these two elements of progress, social and religious life,
are always intimately associated. It is in a common worship more than in
common language that we find the beginning of nationalities. It was so
in Greece. The city life grew up around the temple of a particular
tutelary deity, and the associations of cities arose from their
association in the worship at some common shrine. The common nationality
of the Hellenes was kept alive more than anything in the quadrennial
games in honour of the Olympian Zeus, just as the special citizenship of
Athens found expression in the peculiar worship of the virgin goddess
Athênê. So we may well argue from the great stone remains, that man had
even then made _some_ progress in political life. They show us the
extended conditions of tribal government. But the lake-dwellers only
give us a picture of the simplest and narrowest form of the village
community. It is with them a complete condition of social equality;
there is no appearance of any grade of rank; no hut on these islands is
found larger or better supplied or more cared for than the rest. A
condition of things not unlike that which we find in Switzerland at the
present day; one favourable to happiness and contentment, to improvement
in the simpler arts, but not to wide views of life, or to any great or
general progress.

       *       *       *       *       *

[Sidenote: The civilization of the stone ages.]

And now let us, before we bid adieu to the men of the stone age, recount
our gains, and see what picture the researches of pre-historic science
allow us to draw of the progress of mankind from its earliest condition
to that in which we now find it. We will forget for a moment the great
gap which intervenes between the two stone ages, the age of unpolished
stone and the age of polished stone, and simply following step by step
the changes in human implements much as if we were walking round the
cases of some well-arranged museum, we will note, as we pass it, each
marked improvement or new acquisition in the arts of life.

       *       *       *       *       *

1. To begin, then, with the men of the river drift--so far as we can
judge, the rudest and most uncultured of all. It is not certain that
these men had so much as wooden handles to their implements of stone,
but it is probable that they had them. As we have said, they had only
two or three marked varieties in these weapons. How little advance there
seems from the state of simply using or hurling the stones in the state
in which they are found! At the same time, it must be said that the
implements of wood or horn, pointed stakes or even javelins, which these
early men _may_ have had would almost certainly have perished.

Nor, again, is there any evidence that the men of the drift period were
cognizant of the use of fire, though here it is more likely that they
were than that they were not.

       *       *       *       *       *

2. When we come to the cave-dwellers we see marked signs of a higher
civilization. The first and most important of these signs undoubtedly is
the _evidence_ of knowledge how to procure fire. We see a much greater
variety in the implements used by the cave-dwellers. This, no doubt, is
due _in part_ to the disappearance of a portion of the implements of the
drift age; but still we must take things as we find them. And putting
side by side the specimens of the drift-implements and the
cave-implements, we are at once struck by the superiority of the latter
in make and in variety of form.

Thirdly, as has already been pointed out, we have here the earliest
traces of art. On that subject it is not necessary again to dwell.

       *       *       *       *       *

3. And now pass on to the second stone age, and see what progress man
has made in the interval which separates the two periods. We begin with
the society represented by the kitchen-middens. We do not possess any
certainly polished-stone implements from these refuse-heaps. But I do
not lay any great stress upon the invention of the art of polishing or
even of grinding the stone; though that was not without importance, for
it enabled the men of the second stone age to make use of much harder
and more durable sorts of stone for their cutting implements. The
earliest stone-age men made their implements of all sorts almost
exclusively of flints, because the flint was a stone not difficult to
chip into shape and to give an edge to by chipping. But when it comes to
polishing or grinding instead of chipping an edge upon stones, there are
a variety of other kinds of stone which are much more durable and much
more serviceable than flints are, for the very reason that they are not
liable to chip, and these stones (jade, granite, greenstone, obsidian,
or one or other of the marbles, for example) we find a good deal
employed during the latter stone age.

What, however, is more significant than would be the use of
polished-stone implements by the kitchen-midden men is the evidence of
their use of canoes, and therefore the evidence that they understood the
art of navigation.

Next after that we must place the use of the bow, which also was
probably known to the earliest men of the polished-stone age, but not to
those of the preceding era.

Finally, we have the beginning of domestication of animals in the
domestication of the dog. But we have as yet no beginning of

       *       *       *       *       *

4. Pass on to the men who raised the tumuli and we find still further
signs of progress. Of these the tumuli themselves are the most
significant. For in them we see the beginning of the art of building. I
do not say that houses were unknown to the kitchen-midden men; only that
we have no proof that they lived in houses; and we are here taking the
evidences of advancing civilization as we come across them. In the case
of the still earlier cave-dwellers we may take it for granted that the
art of house-building was unknown to them, and quite as much so to the
men of the river drift.[16]

True, the tumuli are not houses; they are tombs. But the men who could
raise these tombs could raise houses likewise, and there can be little
doubt that the architecture of the tombs, here and throughout the
history of mankind, was modelled upon the architecture of the houses.
Wherefore we may assume that these last were low and narrow chambers, a
sort of constructed caves, so to speak, which is just what we should
expect the earliest houses to be. We should expect that the first
advance from cave-dwelling or burrowing in the ground would be to raise
an artificial mountain and burrow within that. But soon the insecurity
of this house would become apparent, and the next advance--no mean one,
however,--would be the propping of stones upon others to make a chamber
before the earth was heaped up in the tumulus, and when that step had
been reached the art of house-building had begun.

We might call the next step forward the acquisition of a religion, of
which the first signs are apparent in the cromlechs of this age. In this
case, again, we only follow the testimony of the remains that have been
discovered in the order in which they have come to light. It would be
far too much to say that the earlier stone-age men were without
religious observances. All we can say is, that the first certain
remains of these belong to the time of the tumuli and the cromlechs. The
reasons which lead us to believe that these last, the cromlechs, had a
religious character have been already given.

Commerce was not unknown even to the cave-dwellers, but the first proofs
of anything like a distant commerce come to us from the date of the

The domestic animals of the tumuli begin to be numerous--oxen, pigs,
goats, and geese,--though these remains are not found in the earliest
mounds. And there is likewise among them some trace of agriculture.

Finally, traces of the art of pottery-making appear for the first time
in these graves.

       *       *       *       *       *

5. The village communities show an advance to the most undoubted use of
agriculture, to the planting of fruit-trees, to the weaving of cloths,
and a much more extended practice of domestication than obtained among
the men of the grave-mounds.

Thus we see that as long ago as the stone age, before man had yet
discovered any metal except, maybe, gold, he had advanced so far as to
have discovered the most necessary arts of life, hunting, fishing,
navigation (in some form), the domestication of animals, agriculture,
planting, weaving, the making of garments--not of skin only, but also of
linen or cloth--and the making of pottery.

And now let us note one other thing--the point where the stone age seems
to approach most nearly to the borders of actual history. History begins
in Egypt. For no continuous Biblical history exists for the days prior
to Abraham. But in Egypt, for many centuries before Abraham, we have a
continuous history, or at least continuous chronicles and dynastic
lists, whose authenticity is admitted, and the remains of no mean
civilization in the buildings contemporary with these earliest

Egyptian history may be said to begin with the builders of the pyramids.
But the pyramids themselves are nothing else than the children of the
tumuli of the second stone age. We may call them a sort of crystallized
tumuli--barrows of stone instead of earth. But, in truth, the earliest
pyramids were probably not built of stone. It is generally believed that
the stone pyramids which we see to-day at Gîza and Sakkara were preceded
by pyramids of unbaked brick. And what are such buildings of unbaked
brick save carefully raised mounds of earth? Here, then, we get the
nearest meeting-point between the stone age and the age of history.

Again, the principle upon which were constructed the Egyptian tombs--of
which the pyramids were only the most conspicuous forms--were precisely
the same as the principles which governed the construction of the more
elaborate barrows. These last had not only a chamber for the dead. This
chamber was in many cases approached by a passage also made of stones
covered with earth; and there can be no question that the mouth of the
tomb was used as a sort of ante-room in which the relatives of the dead
might hold their wake, or funeral feast. Here have been found the traces
of fires, the remains of animals, fragments of vessels of pottery, etc.,
used or consumed in the feasts. We may believe that the ceremony was
repeated at stated intervals. The very same principle governed the
construction of the Egyptian tombs. These likewise (in their earliest
known forms) consisted of an inner tomb and of an outer chamber;
generally between the one and the other there was a passage. The outer
chamber is that to which archæologists have given the name of _mastaba_.
In it the relatives of the dead continued year after year to keep a
funeral feast in his memory. Or we may say more than in memory of the
dead--_with_ the dead, we may say. For the essence of the feast, the
fumes of the baked meats, was thought to penetrate along the passage and
reach the mummy himself in his dark chamber.

       *       *       *       *       *

[Sidenote: Ages of bronze and iron.]

Thus we come to the end of the stone age or ages. The next great
discovery which man made was that of the metals. Not iron at first;
before iron was discovered there supervened the age known as the Bronze
Age, when copper and tin were known but not iron, and all the most
important implements were made of that mixture of copper and
tin--bronze, the hardest substance then obtainable. In some countries
the discovery of the metals was natural, and one age followed upon the
other in gradual sequence. But in Europe it was not so. The men of the
bronze age were a new race, sallying out of the East to dispossess the
older inhabitants, and if in some places the bronze men and the stone
men seem to have gone on for a time side by side, the general character
of the change is that of a sudden break.

Therefore we do not now proceed to speak of the characteristic
civilization of the bronze age. As will be seen hereafter, the bringers
of the new weapons belonged to a race concerning whom we have much
ampler means of information than is possessed for the first inhabitants
of these lands; and we are spared the necessity of drawing all our
knowledge from a scrutiny of their arms or tombs. But before we can
satisfactorily show who were the successors of the stone-age men in
Europe, and whence they came, we must turn aside towards another
inquiry, viz. into the origin of language.



[Sidenote: The growth of language.]

We have looked upon man fashioning the first implements and weapons and
houses which were ever made; we now turn aside and ask what were the
first of those immaterial instruments, those ‘aëriform, mystic’ legacies
which were handed down and gradually improved from the time of the
earliest inhabitants of our globe? Foremost among these, long anterior
to the ‘metallurgic and other manufacturing _skill_,’ comes language.
With us, in whose minds thought and speech are so bound together as to
be almost inseparable, the idea that language is an instrument which
through long ages has been slowly improved to its present perfection,
seems difficult of credit. We think of early man having the same ideas
and expressing them as readily as we do now; but this he could not
really have done. Not, indeed, that we have any reason to believe that
there was a time when man had no language at all; but it seems certain
that long ages were necessary before this instrument could be wrought to
the fineness in which we find it, and to which, in all the languages
with which we are likely to become acquainted, we are accustomed. A rude
iron knife or spear-head seems a simple and natural thing to make. But
we know that before it could be made iron had to be discovered, and the
art of extracting iron from the ore; and, as a matter of fact, we know
that thousands of years passed before the iron spear-head was a
possibility; thousands of years spent in slowly improving the weapons of
stone, and passing on from them to the weapons of bronze. So, too, with
language; simple as it seems at first sight to fit the word on to the
idea, and early as we ourselves learn this art, a little thought about
what language is will show us how much we owe to the ages which have
gone before.

[Sidenote: The two main classes of words ‘significant’ and

To understand fully the department of study called the science of
language considerable linguistic knowledge is necessary. But to grasp
many of the general principles of this science, and many of the most
important facts which it teaches, we do not need any such wide
knowledge. In fact, a little thoughtful examination of any single tongue
(his own, whichever it may be) would teach a person many things which
without thought he would be inclined to pass over as matters of course
or matters of no consequence. In truth, in this science of language what
we need, even before we need a very wide array of facts, is what is
called the scientific method in dealing with the facts which we possess.
But, again, this which we call the scientific method is really
represented by two qualities which have less pretentious
names--_observation_ and _common sense_.

Let us begin then by, so to say, challenging our own language, our
English as we find it to-day, and see what hints we can gain from it of
the formation of language as a whole and of its origin. An ounce of
information gained in this wise, by examination and the use of our own
common sense, is worth a much greater bulk of knowledge gained
second-hand from books, and merely remembered as facts divorced from
their causes.

Take any sentence, and place that, so to say, under a microscope, or
under the dissecting-knife--take the opening sentence of this chapter,
for example.

“We have looked upon man fashioning the first implements and weapons and
houses that were ever made.”

Let us look at these few words alone.

The first thing we have to notice about this sentence, and any other
sentence almost that we could anywhere find, is that the words which
compose it fall into two distinct classes, the classes of what I will
call _meaning_ and _meaningless_, or significant and _in_-significant
words. In the first class fall the words _we_, _looked_, _man_,
_fashioning_, _implements_, _weapons_, _houses_, _made_. These I call
‘meaning’ or ‘significant’ words, because, if we isolate each one and
utter it alone, it will call up some image to the mind--_we_, _weapons_,
_fashioning_, _houses_, _made_, and so forth: the image may be pretty
clear or it may be (in the case of the verbs it is) somewhat hazy. But
in every case some image or some idea does rise before the mind when any
of these words is pronounced. _Have_ and _were_ I exclude for the moment
from either class. The words of the second class, then, from the
sentence chosen are--_upon_, _the_, _and_, _ever_. Of the first three,
at any rate, there can be no difficulty as to why they are classed as
the meaningless or insignificant words of the sentence. Isolated from
the words of the first class, _upon_, _the_, or _and_ can by no means
possibly call up any image or suggest any idea to the mind.

Now, if you take any implement whose manufacture the world has ever
seen, unless it be of the most primitive description imaginable, you
will find it really devisable into two parts, upon much the same
principle that we have here resolved our typical sentence into two
primary divisions; it will consist of the _essential_ part, the part
which _by itself_ would be useful, and the unessential adjunct which is
designed to assist the usefulness of the other portion, but which is
useless by itself--or if not useless by itself, it is useless for the
purposes for which the implement we are concerned with is made. All
handles meant to assist in the use of an implement, be it a stone axe or
a most elaborate modern weapon, form such an adjunct to the essential
part. Such useful and by comparison useless parts are the blade and the
handle of a knife, the barrel and the stock of a gun, the carrying
portion of the wheelbarrow and the wheel, the _share_--the shearing or
cutting portion of a plough--and the wooden framework; and so forth.
There is no need to multiply examples. Nor, I think, is there any need
to insist further how strictly analogous the two classes of words here
distinguished are to the two parts of any other implement invented by
man. It goes almost of course that the essential portion of any
implement is the portion which was invented first, that knife-blades
were invented before knife-handles, barrows before barrow-wheels, etc.
Wherefore it seems to follow of course that, of the two classes of words
whereof language consists--whereof all languages consist--the meaning
and the meaningless words, the first were the earliest invented or
discovered. This is the same as saying that language once consisted
altogether of words which had a definite meaning attaching to them even
when uttered by themselves, and consequently that the words of the
second class grew, so to say, out of the words of the first class.

These are the conclusions which a mere examination of a single language,
our own, under the guidance of observation and common sense, would force
upon us; always supposing our language to be a representative one. And
these conclusions are strengthened when we come to look a little into
the history of words, so far as we can trace it.

So far back, therefore, we may go in the history of language to a time
when all the words which men used were words which by themselves evoked
distinct ideas. Relegating these words, as far as we can, into the
classes which grammarians have invented for the different parts of
speech, we see that the significant words are all, as a rule, either
nouns (or _pro_-nouns), adjectives, or verbs; that the insignificant
words are, as a rule, adverbs, prepositions, and conjunctions--what, in
fact, are called _particles_, fragments of speech. I say, _as a rule_,
for both divisions. The pronouns and the auxiliary verbs, for example,
are very difficult to classify; and it depends rather on their use in
each individual sentence, to which division they are to be relegated.

[Sidenote: Origin of speech undiscoverable.]

But though we have now learnt to distinguish the words which by
themselves convey definite ideas, and those others whose meaning depends
upon the first class, we are as far as ever from understanding how
words, whether of one kind or the other, come to have the significance
which they have for us. _Book_--no sooner have we pronounced the word
than an _idea_ more or less distinct comes into our mind. The thought
and the sound seem inseparable, and we cannot remember the time when
they were not so. Yet the connection between the thought and the sound
is not necessary. In fact, a sound which generally comes connected with
one idea may--if we are engaged at the time upon a language not our
own--enter our minds, bringing with it an idea quite unconnected with
the first. _Share_ and _chère_, _plea_ and _plie_, _feel_ and _viel_
(German), are examples in point; and the same thing is shown by the
numerous sounds in our language which have two or more quite distinct
meanings, as for example--_ware_ and _were_, and (with most people)
_where_ too. _Rite_ and _right_ and _wright_ are pronounced precisely
alike; therefore there can be no reason why one sound should convey one
idea more than another. In other words, the idea and the sound have an
arbitrary, not a natural connection. We have been _taught_ to make the
sound ‘book’ for the idea book, but had we been brought up by French
parents the sound ‘livre’ would have seemed the natural one to make.

So that this wondrous faculty of speech has, like those other faculties
of which Carlyle speaks, been handed down on impalpable vehicles of
sound through the ages. Never, perhaps, since the time of our first
parents has one person from among the countless millions who have been
born had to invent for himself a way of expressing his thoughts in
words. This is alone a strange thing enough. Impossible as it is to
imagine ourselves without speech, we may ask the question--What should
we do if we were ever left in such a predicament? Should we have _any_
guide in fitting the sound on to the idea? _Share_ and _chère_, _feel_
and _viel_--among these unconnected notions is there _any_ reason why we
should wed our speech to one rather than another? Clearly there is no
reason. Yet in the case which we imagined of a number of rational beings
who had to invent a language for the first time, if they are ever to
come to an understanding at all there must be some common impulse which
makes more than one choose the same sound for a particular idea. How,
for instance, we may ask, was it with our first parents? They have
passed on to all their descendants for ever the idea of conveying
thought by sound, and all the great changes which have since come into
the languages of the world have been gradual and, so to say, natural.
But this first invention of the idea of speech is of quite another

Here we are brought to the threshold of that impenetrable mystery ‘the
beginning of things,’ and here we must pause. We recognize this faculty
of speech as a thing mysterious, unaccountable, belonging to that
supernatural being, man. There must, one would think, have been and must
be in us a something which causes our mouth to echo the thought of the
heart; and originally this echo must have been spontaneous and natural,
the same for all alike. Now it is a mere matter of tradition and
instruction, the sound we use for the idea; but at first the two must
have had some subtle necessary connection, or how could one of our first
parents have known or guessed what the other wished to say? Just as
every metal has its peculiar ring, it is as though each impression on
the mind rang out its peculiar word from the tongue.[17] Or was it like
the faint tremulous sound which glasses give when music is played near?
The outward object or the inward thought called out a sort of mimicry, a
distant echo--not like, but yet born of the other--on the lips. These
earliest sounds may perhaps still sometimes be detected. In the sound
_flo_ or _flu_, which in an immense number of languages stands connected
with the idea of flowing and of rivers, do we not recognize some attempt
to catch the smooth yet rushing sound of water? And again, in the sound
_gra_ or _gri_, which is largely associated with the notion of grinding,
cutting, or scraping,[18] there is surely something of this in the
guttural harshness of the letters, which make the tongue grate, as it
were, against the roof of the mouth.

It does not, however, seem probable that the earliest words were mere
_imitations_ of the sounds produced by the objects they designed to
express, such as are some of the words of child-language whereby dogs
are called _bow-wows_ and lambs are called _baas_. Nor need we wonder at
this, when we note the principles upon which other sorts of
_language_--expressive actions, for instance--are conceived and used. If
we intend to express the idea of motion by an expressive gesture, we do
not make any copy of the mode of that motion. We say ‘Go,’ and we dart
out our hand, half to show that the person we are addressing is to go in
the direction which we point out, or that he is to keep away from us;
half, again, to give the idea of his movement by the rapidity of our
own. But if we wanted to convey this last idea by mere imitation we
should move our legs rapidly and not our arms.

It might be thought that the study of the gesture-language which has
been used by men, especially the gesture-language of deaf-mutes, who
have no other, would give us the best insight into the origin of
language among mankind. But in reality the results of such a study are
not very satisfactory; and for this reason, that the deaf-mute has in
every case been in contact with one or more persons who possessed
speech, and whose ideas were therefore entirely formed by the possession
and the inheritance of language. This inherited language they translate
into signs for the benefit of the deaf-mute, while the latter is still a
baby and incapable of inventing language; wherefore it, in its turn,
_inherits_ a language almost as much as its parent has done, though it
is a language of gesture and not of spoken words.[19] It is a fact,
however, that deaf-mutes who cannot hear the sounds they make, do
nevertheless articulate certain _sounds_ which they constantly associate
with the same ideas. These seem to bring us very near the
language-making faculty of man. Lists of these sounds have been made,
but they are not such that we can draw any conclusions touching the
natural or universal association of sound and sense.

[Sidenote: Growth of the ‘insignificant’ words out of the

The origin of human speech and the mode of its first operation are
therefore undiscoverable. We can place no measure to the rapidity with
which the first created man may have obtained his stock of words of our
first class; as Adam is described naming each one of the animals among
whom he lived. All these beginnings lie beyond the ken of linguistic
science. But even when he was furnished as fully as we choose to suppose
with a class of words which had a meaning of their own, there was still
the second class whose invention must have followed upon the invention
of the first. The adverbs, prepositions, conjunctions, particles,--the
words which meant _to_, _and_, _at_, _but_, _when_,--these we have
already seen must as a whole have come into use later than the other
class of words.

This, then, we may fairly call the second stage in the growth of
language, the making of these auxiliary words to enforce the meaning of
the first class of words. And at the first moment it might seem
impossible to imagine how these words could ever have come into
existence. Given a certain word-making faculty, we can understand how
mankind got sounds to express such ideas as _man_, _head_, _hard_,
_red_. But how he could ever have acquired sounds to express such vague
notions as _at_, _by_, _and_, it is much less easy to conceive. A closer
observation, however, even of our own language, and a wider knowledge of
languages generally, lead to the conclusion that all the words of the
second class, the auxiliary words, sprang from words of the first class;
that every insignificant word has grown out of a word which had its own
significance; that, for instance, _with_, _by_, _and_, have descended
from roots (now lost) which, if placed alone, would have conveyed as
much idea to the mind as _pen_, _ink_, or _paper_ does to us.

This, I say, we should guess even from an examination of our own
language alone. For the process is still going on. Take the word _even_,
as used in the sentence which we have just written: ‘Even from an
examination.’ Here _even_ is an adverb, quite meaningless when used
alone, at least as an adverb; but if we see it alone it becomes another
word, an adjective, a meaning word, bringing before us the idea of two
things hanging level. ‘Even from’ is nonsense as an _idea_ with nothing
to follow it, but ‘even weights’ is a perfectly clear and definite
notion, and each of the separate words _even_ and _weights_ give us
clear and definite notions too. It is the same with _just_, which is
both adverb and adjective. ‘Just as’ brings no thought into the mind,
but ‘just man’ and _just_ and _man_, separately or together, do. _While_
or _whilst_ are meaningless; but, ‘a while,’ or ‘to while’--to
loiter--are full of meaning. In each case the meaningless word came from
the meaning word, and was first used as a sort of metaphor, and then the
metaphorical part was lost sight of. _Ago_ is a meaningless word by
itself, but it is really only a changed form of the obsolete word
_agone_, which was an old past participle of the verb ‘to go.’

And we might find many instances of words in the same process of
transformation in other languages. The English word _not_ is
meaningless, and just as much so are the French _pas_ and _point_ in the
sense of _not_; but in the sense of _footstep_, or _point_, they have
meaning enough. Originally _Il ne veut pas_ meant, metaphorically, ‘He
does not wish a step of your wishes,’ ‘He does not go a footstep with
you in your wish;’ _Il ne veut point_, ‘He does not go a point with you
in your wish.’ Nowadays all this metaphorical meaning is gone, except to
the eye of the grammarian. People recognize that _Il ne veut point_ is
rather stronger than _Il ne veut pas_, but it never occurs to them to
ask why.

There are so many of these curious examples that one is tempted to go on
choosing instances; but we confine ourselves to one more. Our word _yes_
is a word which by itself is quite incapable of calling up a picture in
our minds, but the word _is_ or ‘it is,’ though the idea it conveys is
very abstract, and, so to say, intangible--as compared, for instance,
with such verbs as _move_, _beat_--nevertheless belongs to the
‘significant’ class. Now, it happens that the Latin language used the
word _est_ ‘it is’ where we should now use the word ‘yes;’ and it still
further happens that our _yes_[20] is probably the same as the German
_es_, and was used in the same sense of _it is_ as well. Instead of the
meaningless word ‘yes’ the Romans used the word _est_ ‘it is,’ and our
own ancestors expressed the same idea by saying ‘it.’ Still more. It is
well known that French is in the main a descendant from the Latin, not
the Latin of Rome, but the corrupter Latin which was spoken in Gaul. Now
these Latin-speaking Gauls did not, for some reason, say _est_, ‘it is,’
for _yes_, as the Romans did; but they used a pronoun, either _ille_,
‘he,’ or _hoc_, ‘this.’ When, therefore, a Gaul desired to say ‘yes,’ he
nodded, and said _he_ or else _this_, meaning ‘He is so,’ or ‘This is
so.’ As it happens the Gauls of the north said _ille_, and those of the
south said _hoc_, and these words gradually got corrupted into two
meaningless words, _oui_ and _oc_. It is well known that the people in
the south of France were especially distinguished by using the word _oc_
instead of _oui_ for ‘yes,’ so that their ‘dialect’ got to be called the
_langue d’oc_, and this word Languedoc gave the name to a province of
France. Long before that time, however, we may be sure, both the people
of the _langue d’oil_, or _langue d’oui_, and those of the _langue d’oc_
had forgotten that their words for ‘yes’ had originally meant ‘he’ and

We can, from the instances above given, form a pretty good guess at the
way in which the auxiliary or meaningless class of sounds came into use
in any language. Each of these must once have had a distinct
significance by itself, then (getting meanwhile a little changed in form
probably) it gradually lost the separate meaning and became only a
particle of speech, only an adjunct to other words. In another way, we
may say that before man spoke of ‘on the rock’ or ‘under the rock’ he
must have used some expression like ‘head of rock,’ or more literally
‘head rock’ and ‘foot rock;’ and that as time went on, new words coming
into use for _head_ and _foot_, these earlier ones dropped down to be
mere adjuncts, and men forgot that they had ever been anything else.
Just so no ordinary Frenchman knows that his _oui_ and _il_ are both
sprung from the same Latin _ille_; nor does the ordinary Englishman
recognize that _ago_ is a past participle of ‘go;’ nor again, to take a
new instance, does, perhaps, the ordinary German recognize that his
_gewiss_, ‘certainly,’ is merely an abbreviation of the past participle
_gewissen_, ‘known.’

       *       *       *       *       *

We have now followed the growth of language through

[Sidenote: Root-sounds.]

two of its stages, first, the coining of the principal or essential
parts of speech, the nouns, adjectives, and verbs; and secondly, the
coining at a later date of the auxiliary parts of speech, the
prepositions, adverbs, and conjunctions, and (where they exist) the
enclitics _the_ and _a_; these last, however, (_as separate words_,[21])
are wanting from a large number of languages. A third stage is the
variation of certain words to form out of them other words which are
nearly related in character to the first. We may speak of this process
as a process of ringing the changes upon certain _root-sounds_ to form a
series of words allied in sound and allied in sense also. We have
several instances of such groups of allied words in our own language.
_Fly_, _flee_, _flew_, _fled_, are words allied in sound and in sense.
In these cases the sound of the letters f-l constitutes what we may call
the root-sound. And it may be said at once that those languages are said
to be related in each of which a certain number of words can be traced
back to root-sounds which are common to the two or more tongues.

In the case of the vast majority of words, before we can begin by
comparing one word with another, or trying to discover the root-words of
several different languages, we have first to trace the history of these
words backwards, each in its own language, and find their most primitive
forms. But in tongues which are pretty nearly related we have often no
difficulty in seeing the similarity of corresponding words just as they
stand to-day. We have no difficulty, for instance, in seeing the
connection of the German _Knecht_ and our _knight_,[22] the German
_Nacht_ and our _night_, the German _Raum_ and our _room_; or, again,
the connection between the Italian _padre_ and the French _père_, the
Italian _tavola_ and the French (and English) _table_, etc.

But where the connection between languages is more distant, we have more
and more to go back to much simpler roots, in order to show the
relationship between them; and by a vast majority the primitive
root-sounds in any large family of languages are single syllables,
whereof the most constant parts are (as a rule) the consonants. So far
as our knowledge goes, we might think of man as beginning human speech
with a certain number of these simple root-sounds, and then proceeding
to ring the changes upon these root-sounds to express varieties in the
root-idea. Sometimes it is easy enough to trace the connection of ideas
between different words which have been formed out of the same
root-word. But sometimes this is not at all easy. Nor can we say why
this special sound has been adopted for any one notion more than for a
number of others to which it would have applied equally well. From a
root, which in Sanskrit appears in its most ancient form, as _mâ_, ‘to
measure,’ we get words in Greek and Latin which mean ‘to think;’ and
from the same root comes our ‘man,’ the person who measures, who
compares, _i.e._, who thinks, also our _moon_, which means ‘the
measurer,’ because the moon helps to measure out the time, the _months_.
But how arbitrary seems this connection between _man_ and _moon_! So,
too, our _crab_ is from the word _creep_, and means the animal that
creeps. But why this name should have been given to crab rather than to
ant and beetle it is impossible to say. So that there appears as little
trace of a reason governing the formation of words out of root-sounds as
there appeared in the adoption of root-sounds to express certain
fundamental ideas.

Thus equipped with his fixed root and the various words formed out of
it, man had the rough _material_ out of which to build up all the
elaborate languages which the world has known. And he continued his work
something in this fashion. As generation followed generation the
pronunciation of words was changed, as is constantly being done at the
present day. Our grandmothers pronounced ‘Rome,’ ‘Room,’ and ‘brooch,’
as it was spelt, and not as we pronounce it--‘broach.’ And let it be
remembered, before writing was invented, there was nothing but the
pronunciation to fix the word, and a new pronunciation was really a new
word. When there was no written form to petrify a word, these changes of
pronunciation were very rapid and frequent, so that not only would each
generation have a different set of words from their fathers, but
probably each tribe would be partly unintelligible to its neighbouring
tribes, just as a Somersetshire man is to a great extent unintelligible
to a man from Yorkshire. The first result of these changes would be the
springing up of that class of ‘meaningless’ words of which we spoke
above. Out of some significant words, such as ‘head’ and ‘foot,’ would
arise insignificant words similar to ‘over’ and ‘under.’ Such a change
could only begin when of two names each for ‘head’ and ‘foot’ one became
obsolete as a noun, and was only used adverbially. Then what had
originally meant, metaphorically, ‘head of rock’ and ‘foot of rock’[23]
might come to be used for ‘over’ and ‘under the rock,’ in exactly the
same way that the word _ago_, having changed its form from _agone_, has
become a ‘meaningless’ word to the Englishman of to-day.

And with the acquisition of the insignificant words a new and very
important process began. To understand

[Sidenote: Growth of inflexions.]

what it was we will, as we did before, begin by examining the formation
of some of the languages with which we are, probably, more or less
familiar. Let us note how very many more variations on the same root are
to be found in some languages than in others. On the root _dic_, which
in Latin expresses the notion of speaking, we have the variations
_dico_, _dixi_, _dicere_, _dictum_, _dictio_, _dicto_, _dicor_,
_dictor_, _dictator_, _dictatrix_, etc.; and yet this does not nearly
exhaust the list, for we have all the changes in the different tenses of
_dico_, _dicto_, _dicor_, etc., in the different cases of _dictio_,
_dictator_. dictatrix, etc. The languages which contain these numerous
variations upon one root are what are called the _inflected_ languages,
and the greater number of the changes which they make come under the
head of what grammarians call inflexions. These inflexions are of no
meaning in themselves, they have no existence even in themselves as
words. And yet what is curious is that they are the same for a great
number of different words; and they express the same _relative_ meaning
in the places where they stand whatever the word may be. If the _-nis_
of _dictionis_ expresses a certain idea relative to _dictio_, so does
the _-nis_ of _lectionis_ express the same idea relative to _lectio_,
the _-nis_ of _actionis_ the same idea relative to _actio_, and so

Or, to take an example from a modern inflected language, if the _-es_ of
_Mannes_, expresses a certain idea relative to _Mann_, so does the same
inflexion (_-es_ or _-s_) in _Hauses_, _Baums_, etc., relative to _Haus_
and _Baum_.

Now, how are we to explain this fact? Our grammars, it is true, take it
for granted, and give it us as a thing which requires no
explanation--the genitive inflexion is _-nis_ or _-es_, or whatever it
may be. That is all they tell us. But we cannot be content to take
anything of course. An explanation, however, is not difficult, and
follows, _almost_ of course, on the exercise of a little common sense.
If the _-es_ of Mannes, Hauses, Baumes (Baums) expresses the idea ‘of,’
then, at one time or another, _es_, or some root from which it is
derived, must have _meant_ ‘of.’ This explains easily and naturally
enough the inflexions in any inflected language. They have no meaning
now, but at one time they (or their original forms--their ancestors, so
to speak) had no doubt just as much meaning by themselves as our ‘of.’
And therefore the only difference between our use in England to-day, and
the ancestral use in a primitive language, was that we say ‘of [the]
man,’ and the ancestral language would have said ‘man-of,’ ‘house-of,’
etc. This accounts for the same genitive forms being used for so many
different words.

And that the same genitive forms are not used _throughout_ any language
is no real objection to this theory. If we say _dictionis_, _lectionis_,
but _musæ_, _rosæ_; if we say _Mannes_, _Hauses_, but _Blume_, _Rose_,
the only reason of these varieties is that the languages from which
these inflexions are derived possessed more than one word meaning ‘of,’
and that one of these words was attached to a certain series of nouns,
another word to another series.

This is the explanation which mere common sense would give of the origin
of inflexions in language, and further research, had we time to examine
the history of language more elaborately, would show that it was
_fundamentally_ the right explanation. The only correction which we
should have to make on this first and crude theory is explained a little
further on. Thus we see in this third stage of language a process very
closely analogous to the second. The second stage gave us the auxiliary
words, which have decayed so to say, out of the class of significant
words. The third stage gives us the auxiliary words joined on to the
significant ones, and in their turn decaying to become mere inflexions.

I have called this growth of inflexions the _third_ stage. It is the
_third great_ stage in the formation of language, and is the only other
stage distinguishable when we are examining what is called an inflected
language. And all the languages the general reader is likely to know
belong to this class. But when we turn to a wider study of the various
tongues in use among mankind we find that this process of forming
inflexions is a very slow one, that it, in its turn, has gone through
many stages. And it is, in fact, the different stages through which a
language has passed on its road to the formation of inflexions which
settles the class in which it is to be placed among the various tongues
spoken by mankind.

We shall soon understand what are these further stages in
language-formation. As far as we have been able to see at present, the
inflexion presents itself as something added on to the significant word
to give it a varied meaning. It is evidently therefore part of a new
process through which language has to go after it has completed its
original stock of sounds, namely, the formation of fresh words by
joining together two others which already exist. This is a process
which, no doubt, in some shape or other, began in the very earliest
ages, and which is to this day going on continually. The simpler form of
it is the joining together two words which are significant when they
stand alone to form a third word expressing a new idea; just as we have
joined ‘ant’ to ‘hill’ and formed _ant-hill_, which is a different idea
than either _ant_ or _hill_ taken alone. In the words _playful_,
_joyful_, again, we have the same process carried rather further. The
words mean simply play-full, ‘full of play,’ joy-full, ‘full of joy.’
But we do not in reality quite think of this meaning when we use them.
The termination _ful_ has become half-meaningless by itself, and in
doing so we observe it has slightly changed its original form.

But far more important in the history of language is the joining of the
meaningless or auxiliary words on to other words of the first, the
significant class, whereby in the course of time the inflexions of
language have been formed. Although _we_ always put the meaningless
qualifying word before the chief word, and say ‘on the rock,’ or ‘under
the rock,’ it is more natural to man, as is shown by all languages, to
put the principal idea first, and say ‘rock on,’ ‘rock under,’ the idea
_rock_ being of course the chief idea, the part of the rock, or position
in relation to the rock, coming after. So the first step towards forming
grammar was the getting a number of meaningless words, and joining them
on to the substantive, ‘rock,’ ‘rock-by,’ ‘rock-in,’ ‘rock-to,’ etc. So
with the verb. The essential idea in the verb is the action itself, the
next idea is the time or person in which the action takes place; and the
natural thing for man to do is to make the words follow that order. The
joining process would give us from _love_, the idea of loving, ‘love-I,’
‘love-thou,’ ‘love-he,’ etc.; and for the imperfect ‘love-was-I,’
‘love-was-thou,’ ‘love-was-he,’ ‘love-was-we,’ ‘love-was-ye,’
‘love-was-they;’ for perfect ‘love-have-I,’ ‘love-have-thou,’
‘love-have-he,’ etc. Of course, these are merely illustrations, but they
make the mode of this early joining process clearer than if we had
chosen a language where that process is actually found in its purity,
and then translated the forms into their English equivalents.

We have now arrived at a stage in the formation of language where both
_meaning_ and _meaningless_ words have been introduced, and where words
have been made up out of combinations of the two. We see at once that
with regard to meaningless words the use of them would naturally be
fixed very much by tradition and custom; and whereas there might be a
great many words standing for _ant_ and _hill_, and therefore a great
many ways of saying ant-hill, for the meaningless words, such as _under_
and _on_, there would probably be only a few words. The reason of this
is very plain. While all the separate synonyms for _hill_ expressed
different ways in which it struck the mind, either as being high, or
large, or steep, or what not, for _under_ and _on_, being meaningless
words not producing any _picture_ in the mind, only one word apiece or
one or two words could very well be in use. So long as _under_ and _on_
were significant words, meaning, perhaps, as we imagined, _head of_, or
_foot of_, there would be plenty of synonyms for them; but only one or
two out of all these would be handed down in their meaningless forms.
And it is this very fact which, as we have seen, accounts for all the
grammars of all languages, every one of those grammatical terminations
which we know so well in Latin and Greek, and German, having been
originally nothing else than meaningless words added on to modify the
words which still retained their meaning. We saw before that it was much
more natural for people to say ‘rock-on’ or ‘hand-in’ than ‘on the rock’
or ‘in the hand’--because rock and hand were the most important ideas
and came first into the mind, while _on_, _in_, etc., were only
subsidiary ideas depending upon the important ones. If we stop at rock
or hand without adding _on_ and _in_, we have still got something
definite upon which our thoughts can rest, but we could not possibly
stop at _on_ and _in_ alone, and have any idea in our minds at all. It
is plain enough therefore that, though we say ‘on the rock,’ we must
have the _idea_ of all the three words in our mind before we begin the
phrase, and therefore that our words do not follow the natural order of
our ideas; whereas rock-on, hand-in, show the ideas just in the way they
come into the mind.

It is a fact, then, that all case-endings arose from adding on
meaningless words to the end of the word, the noun or pronoun--_Mann_,
_des mann-es_, _dem Mann-e_; _hom-o_, _hom-inis_, _hom-ini_: the
addition to the root in every case was once a distinct word of the
auxiliary kind, or derived from such a word. The meanings of
case-endings such as these cannot, it is true, be discovered now, for
they came into existence long before such languages as German or Latin
were spoken, and their meanings were lost sight of in ages which passed
before history. But that time when the terminations which are
meaningless now had a meaning, and the period of transition between this
state and the state of a language which is full of grammatical changes
inexplicable to those who use them, form distinct epochs in the history
of every language. And it is just the same with verb-endings as with the
case endings--_ich bin_, _du bist_, really express the ‘I’ and ‘thou’
twice over, as the pronouns exist though hidden and lost sight of in the
_-n_ and _-st_ of the verb. In the case of verbs, indeed, we may without
going far give some idea of how these endings can be detected. We may
say at once that Sanskrit, Persian, Armenian, Greek, Latin, French,
Italian, Spanish, German, English, Norse, Gaelic, Welsh, Lithuanian,
Russian, and other Slavonic languages are all connected together in
various degrees of relationship, all descended from one common ancestor,
some being close cousins, and some very distant. Now in Sanskrit ‘I am’
is thus declined:--

  _as-mi_    I am.
  _a-si_     thou art.
  _as-ti_    he is.
  _’-smas_   we are.
  _’s-tha_   ye are.
  _’s-anti_  they are.

By separating the root from the ending in this way we may the more
easily detect the additions to the root, and their meanings. _As_ is the
root expressing the idea of being, existing; _mi_ is from a root meaning
_I_ (preserved in _me_, Greek and Lat. _me_, _mi_, _m[ich]_, etc.); so
we get _as-mi_, am-I, or I am. Then we may trace this form of word
through a number of languages connected with the Sanskrit. The most
important part of _as-mi_, the consonants, are preserved in the Latin
_sum_, I am, from which, by some further changes come the French _suis_,
the Italian _sono_: the same word appears in our _a-m_, and in the Greek
_eimi_ (Doric _esmi_), I am. Next, coming to the second word, we see one
of the _s’s_ cut out, and we get _a-si_, in which the _a_ is the root,
and the _si_ the addition signifying _thou_. To this addition correspond
the final _s’s_ in the Latin _es_, French _es_--_tu es_, and the Greek
_eis_ (Doric _essi_). So, again, in _as-ti_, the _ti_ expresses he, and
this corresponds to the Latin _est_, French _est_, the Greek _esti_, the
German _ist_; in the English the expressive _t_ has been lost. We will
not continue the comparison of each word; it will be sufficient if we
place side by side the same tense in Sanskrit and in Latin,[24] and give
those who do not know Latin an opportunity of recognizing for themselves
the tense in its changed form in French or Italian:--

  I am        _as-mi_       _sum_.
  thou art    _a-si_        _es_.
  he is       _as-ti_       _est_.
  we are      _’s-mas_      _sumus_.
  ye are      _’s-tha_      _estis_.
  they are    _’s-anti_     _sunt_.

The plural of the added portion we see contains the letters _m-s_, and
if we split these up again we get the separate roots _mi_ and _si_, so
that _mas_ means most literally ‘I,’ and ‘thou,’ and hence ‘we.’ In the
second person the Latin has preserved an older form than the Sanskrit,
_s-t_ the proper root-consonants for the addition part of the second
person plural, combining the ideas thou and he, from which, ye. The
third person plural cannot be so easily explained.

It will be seen that in the English almost all likeness to the Sanskrit
terminations has been lost. Our verb ‘to be’ is very irregular, being,
in fact, a mixture of several distinct verbs. The Anglo-Saxon had the
verb _beó_ contracted from _beom_ (here we have at least the _m-_ ending
for I), I am, _byst_, thou art, _bydh_, he is, and the same appear in
the German _bin_, _bist_. It is, of course, very difficult to trace the
remains of the meaningless additions in such advanced languages as ours,
or even in such as Sanskrit, Latin, and Greek. Nevertheless, the reader
may find it not uninteresting to trace in the Latin through most of the
tenses of verbs these endings--_m_, for I, the first person; _s_, for
thou, the second person; _t_, for he, the third person; _m-s_, for I and
thou, we; _st_, for ye, thou and he, ye; _nt_, for they. And the same
reader must be content to take on trust the fact that other additions
corresponding to different tenses can also be shown or reasonably
guessed to have been words expressive by themselves of the idea which
belongs to the particular tense; so that where we have such a tense as--

  _amabam_          I was loving,
  _amabas_          thou wast loving,
  _amabat_, _etc._    he was loving,

we may recognize the meaning of the component parts thus:--

  _ama-ba-m_  love-was-I.
  _ama-ba-s_  love-was-thou.
  _ama-ba-t_  love-was-he.

Of course, really to show the way in which these meaningless additions
have been made and come to be amalgamated with the root, we should have
to take examples from a great number of languages in different stages of
development. But we have thought it easier, for mere explanation, to
take only such languages as were likely to be familiar to the reader,
and even to supplement these examples with imaginary ones--like
‘rock-on,’ ‘love-was-I,’ etc.--in English. For our object has been at
first merely to give an intelligible account of how language has been
formed, of the different stages it has passed through, and to leave to a
future time the question as to which languages of the globe have passed
through all these stages, and which have gone part of their way in the
formation of a perfect language. Between the state of a language in
which the meaning of all the separate parts of a word are recognized and
that state where they are entirely lost, there is an immense gap, that
indeed which separates the most from the least advanced languages of the

[Sidenote: Monosyllabic Language.]

Every language that is now spoken on the globe has gone through the
stage of forming meaningless words, and is therefore possessed of words
of both classes. They no longer say ‘head-of-rock’ or ‘foot-of-rock,’
but ‘rock-on’ and ‘rock-under.’ But there are still known languages in
which almost every syllable is a word, and where grammar properly
speaking is scarcely needed. For grammar, if we come to consider it
exactly, is the explanation of the meaning of those added syllables or
letters which have lost all natural meaning of their own. If each part
of the word were as clear and as intelligible as ‘rock-on’ we should
have no need of a grammar at all. A language of this sort is called a
monosyllabic or a radical language, not because the people only speak
in monosyllables, but because each word, however compound, can be split
up into monosyllables or _roots_, which have a distinctly recognizable
meaning. ‘Ant-hill-on’ or ‘love-was-I,’ are like the words of such a

[Sidenote: Agglutinative language.]

The next stage of growth is where the meaning of the added parts has
been lost sight of, except when it is connected with the word which it
modifies; but where the essential word has a distinct idea by itself,
and without the help of any addition. Suppose, for instance, through
ages of change the ‘was I’ in our imaginary example got corrupted into
‘wasi,’ where _wasi_ had no meaning by itself, but was used to express
the first person of the past tense. The first person past of love would
be ‘love-wasi,’ of move ‘move-wasi,’ and so on, ‘wasi’ no longer having
a meaning by itself, but ‘love’ and ‘move’ by themselves being perfectly
understandable. Or, to take an actual declension from a Turanian

  _bakar-im_     I regard,
  _bakar-sin_    thou regardest,
  _bakar_        he regards,
  _bakar-iz_     we regard,
  _bakar-siniz_  you regard,
  _bakar-lar_    they regard,

where, as we see, the root remains entirely unaffected by the addition
of the personal pronoun.

A language in this stage is said to be in the agglutinative stage,[25]
because certain grammatical endings (like ‘wasi’) are merely as it were
glued on to a root to change its meaning, while the root itself remains
quite unaffected, and means neither less nor more than it did before.

[Sidenote: Inflected language.]

But, as ages pass on, the root and the addition get so closely combined
that neither of them alone has, as a rule, a distinct meaning, and the
language arrives at its third stage of grammar-formation. It is not
difficult to find examples of a language in this condition, for such is
the case with all the languages by which we are surrounded. All the
tongues which the majority of us are likely to study, almost all those
which have any literature at all, have arrived at this last stage, which
is called the inflexional. For instance, though we might divide
_actionis_ into two parts _actio_ and _nis_, and say that the former
contains the essential idea, and the addition the idea implied by the
genitive case, there are only a few Latin words with which such a
process is possible, and even in the case of _actio_ the separation is
somewhat misleading. In _homo_ the real root is _hom_, and the genitive
is not homo-nis but _hominis_. So, again, though we were able to
separate ‘asmi’ into two parts--‘as’ and ‘mi’--one expressing the idea
of being, the other the person ‘I,’ this distinction is the refinement
of the grammarian, and would never have been recognized by an ordinary
speaker of Sanskrit, for whom ‘asmi’ simply meant ‘I am,’ without
distinction of parts. In our ‘am’ the grammarian recognizes that the ‘a’
expresses existence, and the ‘m’ expresses I; but so completely have we
lost sight of this, that we repeat the ‘I’ before the verb. Just the
same in Latin. No Roman could have recognized in the ‘s’ of _sum_ ‘am’
and in the ‘m’ ‘I;’ for him _sum_ meant simply and purely ‘I am.’ It was
no more separable in his eyes than the French _êtes_ (Latin _estis_) in
_vous êtes_ is separable into a root ‘es,’ contracted in the French into
‘ê,’ meaning _are_, and an addition ‘tes’ signifying _you_. This, then,
is the last stage upon which language enters. It is called the
inflexional or inflected stage, because the different grammatical
changes are not now denoted by a mere addition to an intelligible word,
but by a change in the word itself. The root may in many cases remain
and be recognizable in its purity, but very frequently it is
unrecognizable, so that the different case-or tense-endings can no
longer be looked upon as additions, but as changes. Take almost any
Latin substantive, and we see this: _homo_, a man, the genitive is
formed by changing _homo_ into _hominis_, or, if we please, adding
something to the root _hom_--which has in itself no meaning; _musa_
changes into _musæ_; and so forth.

       *       *       *       *       *

[Sidenote: The five stages in the formation of language.]

And now to recapitulate. We have in tracing the growth of language
discovered first of all two stages whereby the material of the language
was formed: the class of what we have called the meaning or significant
words came into being, and out of this was formed the second class of
so-called meaningless or auxiliary words. These two stages were in the
main passed through before any known language came into existence; for
there is no known language which does not contain words of both these
classes; albeit the second stage is likewise a process which is still
going on, as in the examples chosen, where _even_ and _just_ pass from
being adjectives into _even_ and _just_ the adverbs, and the French
substantives _pas_ and _point_ take a like change of meaning.

These first two stages passed, there follow three other stages which go
to the formation of the grammar of a language: first the stage of merely
coupling words together, so as to form fresh words--the _monosyllabic_
state; then the stage in which one part of the additional word has lost
its meaning while the root-word remains unchanged--the stage called the
_agglutinative_ condition of language; and, finally the stage in which
the added portion has become to some extent absorbed into the
root-word--which last stage is the _inflected_ condition of a language.

When we have come to this inflexional state, the history of the growth
of language comes to an end. It happens indeed, sometimes, that a
language which has arrived at the inflected stage may in time come to
drop nearly all its inflexions. This has been the case with English and
French. Both are descended from languages which had elaborate
grammars--the Saxon and the Latin; but both, through an admixture with
foreign tongues and from other causes, have come to drop almost all
their grammatical forms. We show our grammar only in a few changes in
our ordinary verbs--the second and third persons singular, _thou goest_,
_he goes_; the past tense and the past participle, _use_, _used_; _buy_,
_bought_, etc.; in further variations in our auxiliary verb ‘to be;’ by
changes in our pronouns, _I_, _me_, _ye_, _you_, _who_, _whom_, etc.;
and by the ‘’s’ and ‘s’ of the possessive case and of the plural, and
the comparison of adjectives. The French preserve their grammar to some
extent in their pronouns, their adjectives, the plurals of their nouns,
and in their verbs. Instances such as these are cases of decay, and do
not find any place in the history of the growth of language.

We now pass on to examine where the growth of language has been fully
achieved, where it has remained only stunted and imperfect.



We have now traced the different stages through which language may pass
in attaining to its most perfect form, the inflected stage. There were
the two stages in which what we may call the bones of the language were
formed, the acquisition of those words which, like _pen_, _ink_ and
_paper_, when standing alone bring a definite idea into the mind, and,
next, the acquisition of those other words which, like _to_, _for_,
_and_, produce no idea in the mind when taken alone. We saw that while
the first class of words _may_ have been acquired with any imaginable
rapidity, the second class could only have gradually come into use as
one by one they fell out of the rank of the ‘significant’ class.

Again, after this skeleton of language has been got together, there
were, we saw, three other stages which went to make up the grammar of a
language: the radical stage, in which all the words of the language can
be cut up into _roots_ which are generally monosyllables, each of which
has a meaning as a separate word; the agglutinative stage, when the
root, _i.e._ the part of the word which expresses the essential idea,
remains always distinct from any added portion; and, thirdly, the
inflected stage, when in many cases the root and the addition to the
root have become so interwoven as to be no longer distinguishable.

Of course, really to understand what these three conditions are like,
the reader would have to be acquainted with some language in each of the
three; but it is sufficient if we get clearly into our heads that there
are these stages of language-growth, and that, further, each one of all
the languages of the world may be said to be in one of the three. Our
opportunities of tracing the history of languages being so limited, we
have no recorded instance of a language passing out of one stage into
another; but when we examine into these states they so clearly wear the
appearance of _stages_ that there seems every reason to believe that a
monosyllabic language might in time develop into an agglutinative, and
again from that stage into an inflexional, language, _if nothing stopped
its growth_.

[Sidenote: Arrest in the growth of language.]

But what, we may ask, are the causes which put a stop to the free growth
and development of language? One of these causes is the invention of
writing. Language itself is of course spoken language, speech, and as
such is subject to no laws save those which belong to our organs of
speaking and hearing. No sooner is the word spoken than it is gone, and
lives only in the memory; and thus speech, though it may last for
centuries, dies, as it were, and comes to life again every hour. It is
with language as it is with those national songs and ballads which,
among nations that have no writing, take the place of books and
histories. The same poem or the same tale passes from mouth to mouth
almost unchanged for hundreds of years, and yet at no moment is it
visible and tangible, nor for the most part of the time audible even,
but for these centuries lives on in men’s memories only. So Homer’s
ballads must have passed for several hundred years from mouth to mouth;
and, stranger still, stories which were first told somewhere by the
banks of the Oxus or the Jaxartes by distant ancestors of ours, are told
to this very day, little altered, by peasants in remote districts of
England and Scotland. But to return to language. It is very clear that
so long as language remains speech and speech only, it is subject to
just so many variations as, in the course of a generation or two, men
may have introduced into their habits of speaking. Why these variations
arise it is perhaps not quite easy to understand; but every one knows
that they do arise, that from age to age, from generation to generation,
not only are new words being continually introduced, and others which
once served well enough dropped out of use, but constant changes are
going on in the pronunciation of words. As we have already said, if left
to itself a language would not remain quite the same in two different
districts. We know, for instance, that the language of common people
does differ very much in different counties, so that what with varieties
of pronunciation, and what with the use of really peculiar words, the
inhabitants of one county are scarcely intelligible to the inhabitants
of another.

This constant change in language can be resolved, so to say, into two
forces--one of decay, the other of renewal. The change which each word
undergoes is of the nature of decay. It _loses_ something from its
original form. But then, out of this change, it passes into new forms;
and very often out of one word, by this mere process of change in sound,
two words spring. We have already seen instances of how this may come
about. The Anglo-Saxon _agân_ becomes in process of time _agone_, as we
have seen. That word again, by a further process of decay, changes into
_ago_. So far we have nothing but loss. But then the Old English _agân_
had only the same meaning as our past participle _gone_.[26] So now we
have two words really in the place of one, and where formerly men would
have said, ‘It is a long time _agone_,’ or ‘That man has lately
_agone_,’ we now can say, ‘It is a long time _ago_,’ ‘The man has lately
_gone_.’ And we may in any language watch this process of decay
(_phonetic decay_, as it is called) and regeneration (_dialectic
regeneration_, the philologists call it) ever going forward. We see, as
it were,--

                        ‘The hungry ocean gain
    Advantage o’er the kingdom of the shore;
      And the firm soil win of the watery main
    Increasing store with loss, and loss with store.’

The influence which keeps a language together, and tends to make changes
such as these as few as possible, is that of writing. When once writing
has been invented it is clear that language no longer depends upon the
memory only, no longer has such a seemingly precarious tenure of life as
it had when it was no more than speech. The writing remains a strong
bulwark against the changes of time. Although our written words are but
the symbols of sound, they are symbols so clear that the recollection of
the sound springs up in our minds the moment the written word comes
before our eyes. So it is that there are hundreds of words in the
English language which we should many of us not use once in a lifetime,
which are yet perfectly familiar to us. All old-fashioned words which
belong to the _literary_ language, and are never used now in common
life, would have been forgotten long ago except for writing. The fact,
again, that those provincialisms which make the peasants of different
counties almost mutually unintelligible do not affect the intercourse of
educated people, is owing to the existence of a written language.

[Sidenote: Chinese.]

It was at one time thought by philologists that in Chinese we had a
genuine specimen of a language in the radical stage of formation. As
such it is cited, for instance, in Professor Max Müller’s _Lectures on
the Science of Language_. But the most trustworthy Chinese scholars are,
I believe, now of opinion that the earliest Chinese of which we can find
any trace had already passed through this stage and become an
agglutinative language, and that it has since decayed somewhat from that
condition to become once more almost a monosyllabic language.

However that may be, it is acknowledged that Chinese has never passed
beyond a very primitive condition, and that its having rested so long in
this state is due more than anything else to the early invention of
writing in that country. We know how strange has been the whole history
of civilization in China. How the Chinese, after they had made long ago
an advance far beyond all their contemporaries at that date of the
world’s history, seem to have suddenly stopped short there, and have
remained ever since a stunted incomplete race, devoid of greatness in
any form. Their character is reflected very accurately in their
language. While it was still in a very primitive condition writing was
introduced into the country, and from that time forward the tongue
remained almost unchanged. Other languages which are closely allied to
Chinese--Burmese, Siamese, and Thibetan--are so nearly monosyllabic that
they can scarcely be considered to have yet got fairly into the
agglutinative stage.

It is, then, writing which has preserved for us Chinese in the very
primitive condition in which we find it. For people in a lower order of
civilization there may be many other causes at work to prevent an
agglutinative language

[Sidenote: Turanian languages.]

becoming inflexional. It is not always easy to say what the hindering
causes have been in any individual case; but perhaps, if we look at the
difference between the last two classes of language, we can get some
idea of what they might be for the class of agglutinative languages as a
whole. An inflexional language has quite lost the memory of the real
meaning of its inflexions--or at least the real reason of them. We could
give no reason why we should not use _bought_ in the place of _buy_,
_art_ in the place of _am_, _whom_ in the place of _who_--no other
reason save that we have always been taught to use the words in the
position they take in our speech. But there was once a time when the
changes only existed in the form of _additions_ having a distinct
meaning. Even in agglutinative languages these additions have a distinct
meaning _as_ additions, or, in other words, if we were using an
agglutinative language we should be always able to distinguish the
addition from the root, and so should understand the precise effect of
the former in modifying the latter. To understand the use of words in an
agglutinative language, therefore, a great deal less of tradition and
memory would be required than are wanted to preserve an inflected
language. This really is the same as saying that for the inflected
language we must have a much more constant use; and this again implies a
greater intellectual life, a closer bond of union among the people who
speak it, than exists among those who speak agglutinative languages.

Or if we look at the change from another point of view, we can say that
the cause of the mixing up of the root, and its addition came at first
from a desire to _shorten_ the word and to save time--a desire which was
natural to people who spoke much and had much intercourse. We may then,
from these various considerations, conclude that the people who use the
agglutinative languages are people who have not what is called a close
and active national life. This is exactly what we find to be the case.
If a primitive language, such as the Chinese, belongs to a people who
have, as it were, developed too quickly, the agglutinative languages, as
a class, distinguish a vast section of the human race whose natural
condition is a very unformed one, who are for the most part nomadic
races without fixed homes, or laws, or states. They live a tribal
existence, each man having little intercourse save with those of his
immediate neighbourhood. They are unused to public assemblies. Such
assemblies take among early peoples almost the place of literature, in
obliging men to have a common language and a united national life. Being
without these controlling influences, it results that the different
dialects and tongues belonging to the agglutinative class are almost
endless. It is not our intention to weary the reader by even a bare list
of them. But we may glance at the chief heads into which these
multifarious languages may be grouped, and the geographical position of
those who speak them.

The agglutinative tongues include the speech of all those peoples of
Central Asia whom in common language we are wont to speak of as Tartars,
but whom it would be more correct to describe as belonging to the Turkic
or Mongol class, and of whom several different branches--the Huns, who
emigrated from the borders of China to Europe; the Mongols or Moghuls,
who conquered Persia and Hindustan; and lastly, the Osmanlîs, or
Ottomans, who invaded Europe and founded the Turkish Empire--are the
most famous, and most infamous, in history. Another large class of
agglutinative languages belongs to the natives of the vast region of
Siberia, from the Ural mountains to the far east. Another great class,
closely allied to these last, the Finnish tongues namely, once spread
across all the northern half of what is now European Russia, and across
North Scandinavia; but the people who spoke them have been gradually
driven to the extreme north by the Russians and Scandinavians. Lastly, a
third division is formed by those languages which belonged to the
original inhabitants of Hindustan before the greater part of the country
was occupied by the Hindus. These languages are spoken of as the
Dravidian class. The natural condition of these various nations or
peoples is, as we have said, a nomadic state, a state in which
agriculture is scarcely known, though individual nations out of them
have risen to considerable civilization. And as in very early times
ancestors of ours who belonged to a race speaking an inflexional
language bestowed upon some part of these nomadic people the appellation
_Tura_, which means ‘the swiftness of a horse,’ from their constantly
moving from place to place, the word Turanian has been applied to all
these various peoples, and the agglutinative languages are spoken of
generally as Turanian tongues.

[Sidenote: Aryan and Semitic languages.]

And now we come to the last--the most important body of languages--the
inflected; and we see that for it have been left all the more important
nations and languages of the world. Almost all the ‘historic’ people,
living or dead, almost all the more civilized among nations, come under
this our last division: the ancient Egyptians, Chaldæans, Assyrians,
Persians, Greeks, and Romans, as well as the modern Hindus and the
native Persians, and almost all the inhabitants of Europe, with the
countless colonies which these last have spread over the surface of the
globe. The class of inflected languages is separated into two main
divisions or _families_, within each of which the languages are held by
a tie of relationship. Just as people are of the same family when they
recognize their descent from a common ancestor, so languages belong to
one family when they can show clear signs that they have grown out of
one parent tongue. We may be sure that we are all the children of the
first pair, and we may know in the same way that all languages must have
grown and changed out of the first speech. But the traces of parentage
and relationship are in both cases buried in oblivion; it is only when
we come much farther down in the history of the world that we can really
see the marks of distinct kinship in the tongues of nations separated by
thousands of miles, different in colour, in habits, in civilization, and
quite unconscious of any common fatherhood.

[Sidenote: Kinship in languages.]

Now as to the way in which this kinship among languages may be detected.
Among some languages there is such a close relationship that even an
unskilled eye can discover it. When we see, for instance, such
likenesses as exist in English and German between the very commonest
words of life--_kann_ and _can_, _soll_ and _shall_, _muss_ and _must_,
_ist_ and _is_, _gut_ and _good_, _hart_ and _hard_, _mann_ and _man_,
_für_ and _for_, together with an innumerable number of verbs,
adjectives, substantives, prepositions, etc., which differ but slightly
one from another--we may feel sure either that the English once spoke
German, that the Germans once spoke English, or that English and German
have both become a little altered from a lost language which was spoken
by the ancestors of the present inhabitants of England and Deutsch-land.
As a matter of fact the last is the case. English and German are brother
languages, neither is the parent of the other. Now having our attention
once called to this relationship, we might, any of us who know English
and German, at once set about making a long list of words which are
common to the two languages; and it would not be a bad amusement for any
reader just to turn over the leaves of a dictionary and note how many
German words (especially of the common sort) they find that have a
corresponding word in English. The first thing we begin to see is the
fact that the consonants form, as it were, the bones of a word, and that
changes of a vowel are, as a rule, comparatively unimportant provided
these remain unaltered. The next thing we see is that even the
consonants do not generally remain the same, but that in place of one
such letter in one language, another of a sound very like it appears in
the other language.

For instance, we soon begin to notice that ‘T’ in German is often
represented by ‘D’ in English, as _tag_ becomes _day_; _tochter_,
_daughter_; _breit_, _broad_; _traum_, _dream_; _reiten_, _ride_; but
sometimes by ‘TH’ in English, as _vater_ becomes _father_; _mutter_,
_mother_. Again, ‘D’ in German is often equal to ‘TH’ in English, as
_dorf_, _thorpe_; _feder_, _feather_; _dreschen_, _thrash_ (_thresh_);
_drängen_, _throng_; _der_ (_die_), _the_; _das_, _that_. Now there is a
certain likeness common to these three sounds, ‘T,’ ‘D,’ and ‘TH,’ as
any one’s ear will tell him if he say _te_, _de_, _the_. As a matter of
fact they are all pronounced with the tongue pressed against the teeth,
only in rather different places; and in the case of the last sound,
_the_,[27] with a breath or aspirate sent between the teeth at the same
time. So we see that, these letters being really so much alike in sound,
there is nothing at all extraordinary in one sound becoming exchanged
for another in the two languages. We learn, therefore, to look beyond
the mere appearance of the word, to weigh, so to speak, the sounds
against each other, and to detect likenesses which might perhaps
otherwise have escaped us. For instance, if we see that CH in German is
often represented by GH in English--in such words as _tochter_,
_daughter_; _knecht_, _knight_; _möchte_, _might_; _lachen_,
_laugh_,--we have no difficulty in now seeing how exactly _durch_
corresponds to our _through_. For we have at the beginning the _d_ which
naturally corresponds to our _t_, the _r_ remains unchanged, and the
_ch_ naturally corresponds to our _gh_; only the vowel is different in
position, and that is of comparatively small account. Nevertheless at
first sight we should by no means have been inclined to allow the near
relationship of _durch_ and _through_. Thus our power of comparison
continually increases, albeit a knowledge of several languages is
necessary before we can establish satisfactory rules or proceed with at
all sure steps.

When we have acquired this knowledge there are few things more
interesting than noting the changes which words undergo in the different
tongues, and learning how to detect the same words under various
disguises. And when we have begun to do this, it is by comparing the
words of our own language with corresponding words in the allied tongues
German, Norse, or Dutch, whatever it may be, that we are most frequently
reminded of the meaning of words which have half grown out of use with
us. As, for instance, when the German _Leiche_ (corpse) reminds us of
the meaning of lich-gate (A.S. lica, a corpse) and Lichfield; or the
Norse _moos_, a marshy or heathy region, explains our _moss_-troopers. I
doubt if most people quite know what sea-mews are, still more if the
word mewstone (which, for example, is the name of a rock near Plymouth)
would at once call up the right idea into their mind. But the German
_Möwe_, sea-gull, makes it all plain. How curious is the relationship
between _earth_ and _hearth_, which is exactly reproduced in the German
_Erde_ and _Herde!_ or the obsolete use of the word _tide_ for ‘time’
(the original meaning of the tides--the ‘times,’) in the expression
‘Time and tide wait for no man’! But in the Norse we have the same
expression _Tid og Time_, which signifies exactly Macbeth’s ‘time and
the hour.’ And of course these words, our _tide_, Norse _Tid_, are the
correspondants of the German _zeit_. When once we have detected how
often the German _z_ corresponds to the English _t_--as in _Zahn_,
tooth; _Zehe_, toe; _Zählen_, to tell (_i.e._, to count); _Zinn_,
tin--we have no difficulty in seeing that our _town_ may correspond to
the German _Zaun_, a hedge: and we guess, what is in fact the case, that
the original meaning of town was only an enclosed or empaled place. The
relationship of our _fee_ to the German _Vieh_, cattle, and the proof
that the earliest money with us was cattle-money, would, at first sight,
be perhaps not so easily surmised by a mere comparison of German and
English words. These are only one or two of the ten thousand points of
interest which rise up before us almost immediately after we have, so to
say, stepped outside the walls of our own language into the domains of
its very nearest relations.

Nor is the interest of this kind of comparison less great very often in
the case of proper names. The smaller family--or, as we have used the
word family to express a large class of languages, let us say the branch
to which English and German belong--is called the Teutonic branch. To
that branch belonged nearly all those barbarian nations who, towards the
fall of the Roman empire, began the invasion of her territories, and
ended by carving out of them most of the various states and kingdoms of
modern Europe. The best test we have of the nationalities of these
peoples, the best proof that they were connected by language with each
other and with the modern Teutonic nations, is to be found in their
proper names. We have, for instance, among the Vandals such names as
Hilderic, Genseric, and the like; we compare them at once with Theodoric
and Alaric, which were names of famous Goths. Then as the Gothic
language has been preserved we recognize the termination _rîk_ or _rîks_
in Gothic, meaning a ‘king,’ and connected with the German _reich_, and
also with the Latin _rex_--Alaric becomes _al-rik_, ‘all-king,’
universal king. In Theodoric we recognize the Gothic _thiudarik_, ‘king
of the people.’ Again, this Gothic word _thiuda_ is really the same as
the German _deutsch_, or as ‘Dutch,’ and is the word of which ‘Teutonic’
is only a Latinized form. In the same way Hilda-rik in Gothic is ‘king
of battles;’ and having got this word from the Vandals we have not much
difficulty in recognizing Childeric, the usually written form of the
name of a Frankish king, as the same word. This change teaches us to
turn ‘CH’ of Frankish names in our history-books into ‘H,’ so that
instead of Chlovis (which should be Chlodoveus) we first get Hlovis,
which is only a softened form of Hlodovig, or Hludwig, the modern
Ludwig, our Louis. _Hlud_ is known to have meant ‘famous’[28] and _wig_
a ‘warrior,’ so that Ludwig means famous warrior. The same word ‘wig’
seems to appear in the word Merovingian, a Latinized form of
Meer-wig,[29] which would mean sea-warrior.

These instances show us the _kind_ of results we obtain by a comparison
of languages. In the case of these names, for instance, we have got
enough to show a very close relationship amongst the Vandals, the Goths,
and the Franks; and had we time many more instances might have been
chosen to support this conclusion. Here, of course, we have been
confining ourselves to one small _branch_ of a large family. The road,
the farther we go, is beset with greater difficulties and dangers of
mistake, and the student can do little unless he is guided by fixed
rules, which we should have to follow, supposing we were able to carry
on our inquiries into many and distant languages. We may, to some
extent, judge for ourselves what some of these guiding rules must be.

Those words which we have instanced as being common to English and
German, both we and the Germans have got by inheritance from an earlier
language. Yet there are in English hundreds of words which are not
acquired by inheritance from other languages, but merely by adoption;
hundreds of words have been taken directly from the Latin, or from the
Latin through the French, or from the Greek, and not derived from any
early language which was the parent of the Latin, Greek, and English.
How shall we distinguish between these classes of words? We answer, in
the first place, that the _simpler_ words are almost sure to be
inherited, because people, in however rude a state they were, could
never have done without words to express such everyday ideas as _to
have_, _to be_, _to laugh_, _to make_, _to kill_--_I_, _thou_, _to_,
_for_, _and_; whereas they might have done well enough without words
such as _government_, _literature_, _sensation_, _expression_, words
which express either things which were quite out of the way of these
primitive people, or commonish ideas in a somewhat grand and abstract

One of our rules, therefore, must be to begin by choosing the commoner
class of words, or, generally speaking, those words which are pretty
sure never to have fallen out of use, and which therefore must have been
handed down from father to son.

There is another rule--that those languages must be classed together
which have like grammatical forms. This is the rule of especial
importance in distinguishing a complete family of languages. For when
once a language has got into the inflected stage, though it may
hereafter lose or greatly modify nearly all its inflexions, it never
either sinks back into the agglutinative stage, or adopts the
grammatical forms of another language which is also in the inflected

These are the general rules, therefore, upon which we go. We look first
for the grammatical forms and then for the simple roots, and according
to the resemblance or want of resemblance between them we decide whether
two tongues have any relationship, and whether that relationship is near
or distant.

       *       *       *       *       *

[Sidenote: The Semitic races.]

Now it has in this way been found out that all inflected languages
belong to one of two families, called the Semitic and the Aryan. Let us
begin with the Semitic. This word, which is only a Latinized way of
saying Shemite, is given to the nations who are supposed to be descended
from Shem, the second son of Noah. The nations who have spoken languages
belonging to this Semitic family have been those who appear so much in
Old Testament history, and who played a mighty part in the world while
our own ancestors were still wandering tribes, and at an age when
darkness still obscured the doings of the Greeks and Romans. Foremost
among all in point of age and fame stand the Egyptians, who are believed
to have migrated in far pre-historic ages to the land in which they rose
to fame. They found there a people of a lower, a negro or half-negro
race, and mingled with them, so that their language ceased to be a pure
Semitic tongue. In its foundation, however, it was Semitic. The earliest
of the recorded kings of Egypt, Menes, is believed to date back as far
as 5000 B.C. Next in antiquity come the Chaldæans, who have left behind
them great monuments in the ancient cities Erech and Ur, and their
successors the Assyrians and Babylonians. Abraham, himself, we know, was
a Chaldæan, and from him descended the Hebrew nation, who were destined
to shed the highest honour on the Semitic race. Yet, so great may be the
degeneration of some races and the rise of others, so great may be the
divisions which thus spring up between peoples who were once akin, it is
also true that all those peoples whom the Children of Israel were
specially commanded to fight against and even to exterminate--the
Canaanites, the Moabites, and the Edomites--were likewise of Semitic
family. The Phœnicians are another race from the same stock who have
made their mark in the world. We know how, coming first from the coasts
of Tyre and Sidon, they led the way in the art of navigation, sent
colonies to various parts of the world, and foremost among these founded
Carthage, the rival and almost the destroyer of Rome. Our list of
celebrated Semitic races must close with the Arabs, the founders of
Mohammedanism, the conquerors at whose name all Europe used to tremble,
whose kingdoms once extended in an unbroken line from Spain to the banks
of the Indus.

[Sidenote: The Aryan races.]

Such a list gives no mean place to the Semitic family of nations; but
those of the Aryan stock are perhaps even more conspicuous. This family
(which is sometimes called Japhetic, or descendants of Japhet) includes
the Hindus and Persians among Asiatic nations, and almost all the
peoples of Europe. It may seem strange that we English should be related
not only to the Germans and Dutch and Scandinavians, but to the
Russians, Poles, Lithuanians, French, Spanish, Italians, Romans, and
Greeks as well; stranger still that we can claim kinship with such
distant peoples as the Armenians, Persians, and Hindus. Yet such is the
case, and the way in which all these different nations once formed a
single people, speaking one language, and their subsequent dispersion
over the different parts of the world in which we now find them, affords
one of the most interesting inquiries within the range of pre-historic
study. What seems actually to have been the case is this: In distant
ages, somewhere about the rivers Oxus and Jaxartes, and on the north of
that mountainous range called the Hindoo-Koosh, dwelt the ancestors of
all the nations we have enumerated, forming at this time a single and
united people, simple and primitive in their way of life, but yet having
enough of a common national life to preserve a common language. They
called themselves Aryas or Aryans, a word which, in its very earliest
sense, seems to have meant those who move upwards, or straight; and
hence, probably, came to stand for the noble race as compared with other
races on whom, of course, they would look down.[30]

How long these Aryans had lived united in this their early home it is,
of course, impossible to say; but as the tribes and families increased
in numbers, a separation would naturally take place. Large associations
of clans would move into more distant districts, the connection between
the various bodies which made up the nation would be less close, their
dialects would begin to vary, and thus the seeds of new nations and
languages would be sown. The beginning of such a separation was a
distinction which arose between a part of the Aryan nation, who stayed
at the foot of the Hindoo-Koosh Mountains, and in all the fertile
valleys which lie there, and another part which advanced farther into
the plain. This latter received the name _Yavanas_, which seems to have
meant the protectors, and was probably given to them because they stood
as a sort of foreguard between the Aryans, who still dwelt under the
shadow of the mountains, and the foreign nations of the plains. And now,
their area being enlarged, they began to separate more and more from one
another; while at the same time, as their numbers increased, the space
wherein they dwelt became too small for them who had, out of one, formed
many different peoples. Then began a series of _migrations_, in which
the collection of tribes who spoke one language and formed one people
started off to seek their fortune in new lands, and thus for ever broke
off association with their kindred and their old Aryan home. One by one
the different nations among the Yavanas (the protectors) were infected
with this new spirit of adventure, and though they took different
routes, they all travelled westward, and arrived in Europe at last.[31]

A not improbable cause has been suggested of these migrations. It is
known that, in spite of the immense volume of water which the Volga is
daily pouring into it, the Caspian Sea is gradually drying up, and it
has been conjectured as highly probable that hundreds of years ago the
Caspian was not only joined to the Sea of Aral, but extended over a
large district which is now sandy desert. The slow shrinking in its bed
of this sea would, by decreasing the rainfall, turn what was once a
fertile country into a desert; and if we suppose this result taking
place while the Aryan nations were gradually increasing in numbers, the
effect would be to drive them, in despair of finding subsistence in the
ever-narrowing fertile tract between the desert and the mountains, to
seek for new homes elsewhere. This, at any rate, is what they did. First
among them, in all probability, started the Kelts or Celts, who,
travelling perhaps to the south of the Caspian and the north of the
Black Sea, found their way to Europe, and spread far on to the extreme
west. At one time it is most likely that the greater part of Europe was
inhabited by Kelts, who partly exterminated and partly mingled with the
stone-age men whom they found there. As far as we know of their actual
extension in historic times we find this Keltic family living in the
north of Italy, in Switzerland, over all the continent of Europe west of
the Rhine, and in the British Isles; for the Gauls, who then inhabited
the northern part of continental Europe west of the Rhine, the ancient
Britons, and probably the Iberians, the ancient inhabitants of Spain,
belonged to this family.[32] The Highland Scotch, who belong to the old
blood, call themselves Gaels, and their language Gaelic, which is
moreover so like the language of the old Irish (who called themselves by
practically the same name--Gaedhill) that a Highlander could make
himself understood in Ireland; perhaps he might do so in Wales, where
the inhabitants are likewise Kelts. These words Gael and Gaedhill are of
the same origin and meaning as Gaul. In the early days of the Roman
republic the Gauls, as we know, inhabited all the north of Italy, and
used often to make successful incursions down to the very centre of the
peninsula. Beyond the Alps they extended as far as into Belgium, which
formed part of ancient Gaul. So much for the Kelts.

Another great family which left the Aryan home was that from which
descended the Greeks and Romans.[33] The primitive ancestors of these
two people have been called the Pelasgians (Pelasgi), the name which the
Greeks gave to their own ancestors who lived in the days before the name
Hellenes was used for the Greek nationality. There is evidence of a
certain early civilization, which is believed to have been that of these
primitive Pelasgi, in the centre of Asia Minor. And it seems probable
that the line of migration of this nationality passed to the south of
the Caspian Sea, then through Asia Minor, and finally, not all at once,
but in successive streams, some across the Hellespont or Dardanelles to
the north of Italy and the north of Greece, and some to the coast of
Asia Minor, and across by the islands of the Ægean to the mainland of
Greece. At every point upon the route there were left behind
remains--offshoots, as it were, or cuttings from the great Pelasgic
stem,--a primitive half-Greek stock in the centre of Asia Minor, a
barbarous half-Greek stock in Thrace and Macedon; while all along the
coasts of Asia Minor and the Greek Islands, and in the southern parts of
European Greece (more especially those which looked eastward) there
arose a much more cultivated race. For in these regions the Greeks came
in contact with the Phœnicians, and gathered much from the
civilizations of Egypt and Assyria. If there were remains of a primitive
Italian race in the north of Italy these were (in subsequent, but still
pre-historic years) blotted out by the spread of the Gauls beyond the

How little did these rival nationalities, the Greeks and Romans, deem
that their ancestors had once formed a single people! All such
recollections had been lost to the Greeks and Romans, who, when we find
them in historic times, had invented quite different stories to account
for their origin.

Next we come to two other great families of nations who seem to have
taken the same route at first, and perhaps began their travels together
as the Greeks and Romans did. These are the Teutons and the Slavs. They
seem to have travelled by the north of the Caspian and Black Sea,
extending over all the south of Russia, and down to the borders of
Greece; then gradually to have pushed on to Europe, ousting the Kelts
from the eastern portion, until we find them in the historical period
threatening the borders of the Roman empire on the Rhine and the Danube.
Probably the Teutons pushed on most to the west, and left the Slavs

The Teutonic family of nations first comes before us vaguely in the
history of the invasion of Gaul and Italy by the Cimbri and the
Teutones, which, as we know, was checked by Marius in the years 102 and
101 B.C. It is probable that both Cimbri and Teutones were of German
origin, though some have connected the name _Cimbri_ with _Cymri_, the
native name of the Welsh (whence _Cumberland_, etc.). This attack by the
Cimbri and Teutones was only an isolated attempt on behalf of the
Teutons. The great invasion of the Roman empire by them did not begin
till five centuries later, in 395 A.D. Of the nations who from this time
forward were engaged in the dismemberment of the empire, and in laying
the foundations of mediæval history, almost all seem to have been of
Teutonic origin. The chief among these nationalities were the
Goths--divided into two great nationalities, the Visi-Goths (West
Goths), and the Ostro-Goths (East Goths), who successively conquered
Italy, and founded kingdoms in Italy, South Aquitaine, and Spain. Then
there were the Vandals, the Burgundians, the Alani and the Suevi, who
invaded Gaul at the beginning of the fifth century, and passed on, some
of them, to found kingdoms in Spain and Africa. There were the Lombards
who succeeded the Ostro-Goths as conquerors of Italy; the Franks who
subdued the Burgundians and the Visi-Goths; the Bavarians who settled in
the Roman provinces of Vindelicia and Noricum, the English (Saxons,
Angles, and Jutes) who settled in the Roman province of Britain. All
these nations carved for themselves new states out of the fragments of
the Roman empire, and these states have for the most part remained
unchanged till our day. And of all those other German states, many of
which were acquired by driving back the Slavs (_e.g._ modern Saxony,
Prussia), we need not speak here. For we have already said what are the
modern nations which compose the Teutonic, or be it, for the words are
the same, the Deutsch, or Dutch family. They are the Scandinavians--that
is to say, the inhabitants of Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Iceland, the
English, the Dutch and Flemings (most of the old Keltic inhabitants of
Belgium were subsequently driven out by Teutonic invaders), and the

Lastly, we come to the Slavonians (Slavs), about whom and the
Panslavonic movement which is to weld all the Slavonic peoples into one
great nationality we have heard so much in recent years. The word Slav
comes from _slowan_, which in old Slavonian meant to ‘speak,’ and was
given by the Slavonians to themselves as the people who alone, in their
view, spoke intelligibly. Just so the Greek word βάρβαροι
(_barbaroi_), from which we get our word barbarians, arose, in obedience
to a like prejudice, only from the imitation of people babbling or
making unintelligible sounds--‘bar-bar-bar.’ But among the Germans who
conquered and enslaved the people, Slav became synonymous with the Latin
_servus_, and from them it passed on to express the idea of
slave--_esclave_, _schiavo_, etc. The Slavonic people once extended much
farther to the west in Northern Europe than they do at present--as far,
for instance, as the Elbe in Northern Germany. We begin to hear of them
in history about the age of Charlemagne--a little, that is, before the
end of the eighth century, A.D. The _Obotriti_ and the _Wiltzi_ are the
names of two Slavonic nations on the Baltic, of whom we hear much about
this time. But they can no longer be identified as the ancestors of any
existing race. In the reign of Charlemagne’s grandson, called Lewis the
German, we hear much of other Slavonic peoples whose names have more
meaning for us--the Sorabians, the Czechs (_i.e._ Bohemians), the Mähren
or Moravians, and the Carinthians, who, if they have as separate peoples
ceased to exist, have left behind them their names in the lands they

The same has been the case with other Slavonic peoples who appear later
in history--the Pomeranians and the Prussians (earlier Borussians) and
the Silesians. The people who now bear these names and inhabit these
countries are by origin almost exclusively Teutonic; but the names
themselves and the earlier inhabitants were not Teutons, but Slavs.

The existing Slavonic nationalities are the Russians, Lithuanians
(incorporated in Russia), the Poles, the Czechs or Bohemians, the
Bulgarians, Servians, Montenegrins, etc.,--most, in fact, of the nations
of the Southern Danube.

       *       *       *       *       *

[Sidenote: Pre-historic research through language.]

This is the classification of nationalities by their language. No
classification is perfect; and we know, as an historical fact, that many
nations have abandoned their original tongue, and adopted that of some
other people--their conquerors probably,--as the Gauls and Goths (or
Iberians) of France and Spain have adopted the Latin of the Romans, as
the Highland Scottish, the Irish, the Welsh and Cornishmen have adopted

But a classification by language is far more satisfactory than any other
sort of classification of nations. For when we think of nations we do
not think first of all of their _physique_. The most important thing to
know about them is not their hair was dark or red, their eyes brown or
blue. What we care most to learn are their national character, their
thoughts, their beliefs, their forms of social life. And for the days
when we have no national literature, no history, to guide us, almost the
only means of gaining reliable information upon these points is by a
study of the language of the people in question. Language holds within
it far better than do _tumuli_ or weapons, or articles of pottery or
woven-stuffs or ornaments, the records of long-past times, records of
material civilization and mental culture likewise. It holds these
records, as a chemist would say, in solution in it; not visible perhaps
to the mere passer-by; but if we know how to precipitate the solution it
is wonderful what results we obtain.

No sooner has he finished his classification of languages than a mine of
almost exhaustless wealth then opens before the philologist--a mine,
too, which has at present been only broached. He soon learns the laws
governing the changes of sound from one tongue into another. We have
noted experimentally some of these laws in the more simple relationships
of language, as between English and German, where ‘tag’ becomes ‘day,’
‘dorf’ ‘thorpe,’ and the like; and all relationships of language are
answerable to similar rules. There are laws for the change of sound from
Sanskrit into the primitive forms of Greek, Latin, German, English,
etc., just as there are laws of change between the first two or the last
two.[34] So we soon learn to recognize a word in one language which
reappears in altered guise in another. And it may be well imagined how
valuable such knowledge can be made. If we find a word common say to
Greek and Latin, signifying some simple object, a weapon, a tool, an
animal, a house, it is not over-likely that it will have changed from
the time when it was first employed: the words of this kind which are
now in use have, we know, little tendency to change. So that the time
when this word was first used is in all probability the time when the
_thing_ was first known to primitive man; and if the word is common to
the whole Aryan family, or if it is peculiar to a portion only, then it
is argued that the thing was known or unknown before the separation of
the Aryan folk. I do not, of course, say that rule is never at fault,
only that this is a better criterion than any other sort of research
would afford us, and that by this method of word-comparison we get no
bad picture of the world of our earliest Aryan ancestors.

It might well have happened that when the migrations began our ancestors
were still like the stone-age men of the shell-mounds, still in the
hunter condition; that they knew nothing of domesticated animals, or of
pastures and husbandmen: or it might be, again, that they had left the
pastoral state long behind, and that all their ideas associated
themselves with agriculture, with the division of the land, and with the
recurring seasons for planting. The evidence of language, dealt with
after the fashion we have described, points to the belief that the
ancient Aryans had only made some beginnings of agriculture, as a
supplement to their natural means of livelihood, their flocks and herds:
for among the words common to the whole Aryan race there are very few
connected with farming, whereas their vocabulary is redolent of the
herd, the cattle-fold, the herdsman, the milking-time. Even the word
daughter, which corresponds to the Greek _thugatêr_ and the Sanskrit
_duhitar_, means in the last language ‘the milker,’ and that seems to
throw back the practice of milking to a vastly remote antiquity.[35]

On the other hand, the various Indo-European branches have different
names for the plough, one name for the German races, another for the
Græco-Italic, and for the Sanskrit. And though _aratrum_ has a clear
connection with a Sanskrit root _ar_, it is not absolutely certain that
it ever had in this language the sense of ploughing, and not merely of
wounding, which is a still more primitive meaning of the same root,
whence came the expression for ploughing as of wounding the earth.

Or say we wish to form some notion of the social life of the Aryans. Had
they extended ideas of tribal government? Had they kings, or were they
held together only by the units of family life? Our answer would come
from an examination of their common word for ‘king.’ If they have no
common word, then we may guess that the title and office of kingship
arose among the separate Aryan people and received a name from each. Or
is it that their common word for king had first some simpler
signification, ‘father,’ perhaps, showing that among the Aryan folk the
social bond was still confined within the real or imaginary boundary of
the family? In fact we do find a common word for king in several of the
Aryan languages which has no subsidiary meaning less than that of
_directing_, or keeping straight. This is the Latin _rex_, the Gothic
_rîks_, Sanskrit _rîg_, etc., and its earliest ascertainable meaning was
‘the director.’ The Aryans then, even in those days, acknowledged as
supreme[36] some director chosen (probably) from out of the tribe, a
chief to lead their common warlike or migratory expeditions.

These are but illustrations of the method upon which are founded all
conclusions touching these our ancestors, and the manner of our
knowledge concerning them; far better obtained than merely by gazing
upon the instruments which have fallen from their hands, or the
monuments they might have raised to commemorate the dead. The
difference, in truth, between relics such as these which lie enclosed in
language, and the weapons and tombs of the Stone Ages, is exactly the
difference between Shakespeare’s statue in Westminster Abbey or his bust
at Stratford, and that ‘livelong monument’ whereof Milton spoke. By
perfecting beyond the power of any other race the wonderfully complex
faculty of speech the Aryans secured that their memory should be handed
on the more certainly, and with far greater completeness, than by
records left palpable to men’s eyes and hands. Many of their secret
thoughts might be unlocked by the same key. Already the same means are
being used to give us glimpses of their religious ideas. For the _names_
of the common Aryan gods can be arrived at by just the same comparative
method: it may well happen that a name which is only a proper name in
one language, can in another be traced to a root which unravels its
original meaning. It was so, we saw, with the word _daughter_. Here the
Sanskrit root seems to unravel the hidden--the lost, and so
hidden--meaning in the Greek or English words. So with a god, the
meaning of a name, concealed from the sight of those who used it in
prayer or praise, becomes revealed to _us_ by the divining rod of the
science of language.

And it is true, nevertheless, that the mine of wealth thus opened has as
yet been but cursorily explored.[37] There are far more and greater fish
in this sea than ever came out of it. Some day, perhaps, a strictly
scientific method may be found for classifying and tracing the changes
which words undergo. Sometimes a word is found greatly modified;
sometimes it survives almost intact between the different tongues. Is
there any reason for this? At present we cannot say.

The question might be answered by means of an elaborate classification
under the head of the alterations which words have undergone,[38] and
such a comparative vocabulary would lead to the solution of infinite
questions concerning the growth of nations. We should be able to look
almost into the minds of people long ago, better than we can examine the
minds of contemporary races in a lower mental condition, and see what
ideas took a strong hold upon them, what things they treated as
realities, what metaphorically, and how large for them was the empire of

Next there is the boundless field of proper names, both those of persons
and geographical names. These last in every country bear a certain
witness to the races who have passed through that country, and
show--roughly at least--the order of their appearance there. The older
geographical names will be those of natural features, rivers, mountains,
lakes, which have been never absent from the scene; the newer names will
be those bestowed upon the works of man. In our own country this is the
case. The names of our rivers (Thames, Ouse, Severn, Wye) are nearly all
Keltic, _i.e._ British; those of our towns are Teutonic, Saxon or Norse.
Some few Roman names linger on, as in the name and termination
‘Chester;’ but this, as meaning a place of strength, shows us clearly
the reason of its survival. Every European country has changed hands, as
ours has done; nay, every country in the world.[39] So here again we
have promise of plenty of work for the philologist in compiling a
‘Glossary of Proper Names’ with etymologies.

Lastly, let it not be forgotten that a great part of all that has been
done for the Aryan can be done likewise for the Semitic languages--a
field as yet little turned by the plough; and the reader will confess
the debt the world is likely some day to owe to Comparative Philology.



[Sidenote: Prehistoric nationalities.]

When we try and gather into one view the results of our inquiries upon
the kindreds and nations of the old world, it must be confessed we are
struck rather by the extent of our ignorance than of our knowledge. For
all the light we are able to shed, the movements and the passage of the
various races in this prehistoric time appear to the eye of the mind
most like the movement of great hosts of men seen dimly through a mist.
Or shall we say that we are in the position of persons living upon some
one of many great military highways, while before their eyes pass
continually bodies of troops in doubtful progress to and fro, affording
to them, where they stand, no indication of the order of battle or the
plan of the campaign? Still, to men in such a position there would be
more or less of intelligence possible in the way in which they watched
the steps of those who passed before them; and we, too, though we cannot
attempt really to follow the track of mankind down from the earliest
times, may yet gather some idea of the changing positions which from age
to age have been occupied by the larger divisions of our race.

In the Bible narrative continuous history begins, at the earliest, not
before the time of Abraham. In the earlier chapters of Genesis we find
only scattered notices of individuals who dwelt in one particular corner
of the world, nothing to indicate the general distribution of races, or
the continuous lapse of time. It is, moreover, a fact that, owing partly
to the associations of childhood, we are apt, by a too literal
interpretation, to rob the narrative of some part of its historical
value. Here, proper names, which we might be inclined to take for the
names of single individuals, often stand for whole races, and sometimes
for the countries which gave their names to the people dwelling in them.
‘Son of,’ too, must not be taken in its most literal meaning, but in the
wider, and in old languages the perfectly natural, sense of ‘descended
from.’ When nations kept the idea of a common ancestor before their
minds, in a way with which we of the present day are quite unfamiliar,
it was very customary to describe any one person of that people as the
‘son of’ the common ancestor. Thus a Greek who wished to bring before
his hearers the common nationality of the Greek people--the
Hellenes--would speak of them as being the sons of Hellen, of the
Æolians or Ionians as sons of Æolus or Ion. In another way, again, an
Athenian or Theban might speak of his fellow-citizens as sons of Athens
or of Thebes. Such language among any ancient people is not poetical or
hyperbolical language, but the usual speech of every day. It is in a
similar fashion that in the Bible narrative, centuries are passed
rapidly over. And if the remains of the stone ages lift a little the
veil which hides man’s earliest doings upon earth, it must be confessed
that the light which these can shed is but slight and partial. We catch
sight of a portion of the human race making their rude implements of
stone and bone, living in caves as hunters and fishers, without domestic
animals and without agriculture, but not without faculties which raise
them far above the level of the beasts by which they are surrounded.
Yet of these early men we may say we know not whence they come or
whither they go. We cannot tell whether the picture which we are able to
form of man of the earliest time--of the first stone age--is a general
or a partial picture; whether it represents the majority of his
fellow-creatures, or only a particular race strayed from the first home
of man.

[Sidenote: Black, yellow, red, and white races.]

We must therefore be content to resign the hope of anything like a
review of man’s life since the beginning. Before we see him clearly, he
had probably spread far and wide over the earth, and already separated
into the three or four most important divisions of the race. It is usual
to divide the human race into four divisions named after, but not
entirely founded upon, the colour of their skins. These divisions are
the black, yellow, red, and white races. I do not propose to go into any
elaborate description either of the peculiarities or the _habitat_ of
these four sections of humanity. The greater part of mankind have no
place in history properly so called. We know them only in the present,
their past is lost for ever. And the present volume being designed to
open the door to history is really not concerned with races such as
these. It will be enough very briefly to indicate the main
characteristics of the four races of mankind, and to refer the reader
for more information to the chapter in Mr. Tylor’s _Anthropology_
dealing with the subject.

[Sidenote: The Black Races.]

The black or negro race, then, consists of two divisions the negroes of
Africa, and the negroes of certain among the islands of the Pacific
bordering upon Australia and called Melanesia. This Melanesia, or ‘the
negro islands’ as we might call them, include Tasmania, New Guinea, and
a great number of smaller islands. But they do not include Australia
and New Zealand, the inhabitants of both which countries have physical
features differing from those of the genuine negro, though the
Australian type approaches very near to his. The colour of the skin is
not really the chief characteristic of this race, but far more so is the
very crisp hair (what is called wool), the very flat and broadened nose,
the broad lips, and the advanced under-jaw, or, as it is called, the
_prognathism_ of the face. This black race has never had anything that
deserves to be called either a literature or a history.

[Sidenote: The Red Races.]

The red race, which we will take next, is that which inhabits or, till
the Europeans came, inhabited the whole of America, North and South,
except the extreme North, the country of the Eskimo. We take these
people next because they are almost as unknown to history as are the
negroes. The peculiarities of the red races are their red skin, their
high cheek-bones, the straight black hair which, exactly opposite to
that of the negro, never curls.[40] This race has not been quite so
stationary as the negro. Some of its members, the Aztecs of Mexico, the
Incas of Peru, did attain to a considerable civilization. But they had
advanced no way in the art of writing or keeping records of their past,
which is thus wholly lost to us; and we have no means of connecting the
civilization of the red races with the civilization of that part of the
world which has had a history.

We are therefore left to deal with the two remaining classes, the yellow
and the white. The oldest, that is to say apparently the least changed,
of these is the yellow

[Sidenote: The Yellow Races.]

race, and perhaps their most typical representatives are the Chinese.
The type is a sufficiently familiar one. ‘The skull of the yellow race
is rounded in form. The oval of the head is larger than with Europeans.
The cheek-bones are very projecting; the cheeks rise towards the
temples, so that the outer corners of the eyes are elevated; the eyelids
seem half closed. The forehead is flat above the eyes. The bridge of the
nose is flat, the chin short, the ears disproportionately large and
projecting from the head. The colour of the skin is generally yellow,
and in some branches turns to brown. There is little hair on the body;
beard is rare. The hair of the head is coarse, and, like the eyes,
almost always black.’[41] In the present day the different families of
the globe have gone through the changes which time and variety of
climate slowly bring about in all; and the yellow race has not escaped
these influences. While some of its members have by a mixture with white
races or by gradual improvement, reached a type not easily
distinguishable from the European, others have, through the effect of
climate, approached more nearly to the characteristics of the black
family. We may, however, still class these divergent types under the
head of the yellow race, which we consequently find extending over a
vast portion of our globe. Round the North Pole the Eskimo, the Lapps,
and the Finns form a belt of people belonging to this division of
mankind. Over all Northern and Central Asia the various tribes of
Mongolian or Turanian race inhabiting the plains of Siberia and of
Tartary, and again the Thibetans, the Chinese, Siamese, and other
kindred peoples of Eastern Asia, are members of this yellow family. From
the Malay peninsula the same race has spread southward, passing from
land to land over the countless isles which cover the South Pacific,
until they have reached the islands which lie around the Australian
continent, the islands of _Polynesia_ in the South Pacific, and have
mingled with the negro race that had preceded them there and that
remains unmixed in the _Melanesian_ islands. The Maoris, the inhabitants
of New Zealand, belong to this yellow race; and the Australians,
_perhaps_, represent a mixture of negro and yellow races. In all, this
division of mankind covers an immense portion of the globe stretching
from Greenland in a curved line, through North America and China,
downwards to New Zealand, and again westward from China through Tartary
or Siberia, up to Lapland in the north of Europe. And it must be added
that many anthropologists consider the red races of America only a
variety of this wide-spread yellow race.

[Sidenote: The White Races.]

From the results of the previous chapter we see that to the yellow race
must be attributed all those peoples of Europe and Asia which speak
agglutinative languages, and therefore that for the white race are left
the inflected tongues. These it will be remembered, we divided into two
great families, the Semitic and the Aryan or Japhetic. We thus see that
from the earliest times to which we are able to point we have living in
Europe and Asia these three divisions of the human family, whom some
have looked upon as the descendants of Ham, Shem, and Japhet. What
relationship the other excluded races of mankind, the black and red,
bear to the Hamites, Shemites, and Japhetites, has not been suggested.
It seems more reasonable to consider Noah as merely the ancestor of the
white races, and, therefore, so far as our linguistic knowledge goes, of
the Semitic and Aryan families of speech only. But outside the pure
Semites there lived a race of a less pure nationality, springing,
probably, from a mixture of Semites with earlier black and yellow races.
These people we may distinguish as Hamites. A division of this race were
the Cushites, the stock from which the Egyptian, the Chaldæan, and many
of the Canaanite nations were mainly formed.

But though from the earliest times there were probably in Asia these
three divisions of mankind, their relative position and importance was
very different from what it is now. At the present time the Turanian
races are everywhere shrinking and dwindling before the descendants of
Japhet. At the moment at which I write it is the Aryan Slavs who are
pushing the yellow-skinned Tartars farther and farther back in Siberia
and Central Asia, and are endeavouring to push the Mongolian Turks from
their last foothold in Europe.[42] The Tartar races have had their era
of great conquest too, for to them belong those races--Huns, Avars,
Magyars--who have spread such devastation in Europe, to them belong such
conquerors as Attila, Genghis Khan, and Timûr Lenk (Tamerlane). In the
first few centuries after Mohammedism was introduced among them, the
Turanians of Central Asia rose into power. Several different Tartar
races in succession--Seljûks, Ayyûbites, Mongols (Moghuls), etc.--rose
upon the ruins of the Arab Chalifate, and invaded India, Persia, Africa,
and Europe. The last of these is the race of the Osmanlîs, or, as we
call them simply, the Turks. Their days of conquest are past, and
therefore, great as is the space which the Turanian people now occupy
over the face of the globe, there is reason to believe that in early
prehistoric times they were still more widely extended. In all
probability the men of the polished-stone age in Europe and Asia were of
this yellow-skinned Mongolian type. We know that the human remains of
this period seem to have come from a short and round-skulled people; and
this roundness of the skull is one of the chief marks of the Mongolians
as distinguished from the white races of mankind.

We know, too, that the earliest inhabitants of India belonged to a
Turanian, and therefore to a yellow, race; and that Turanians mingled
with one of the oldest historical Semitic peoples, and helped to produce
the civilization of the Chaldæans. And as, moreover, we find in various
parts of Asia traces of a civilization similar to that of Europe during
the latter part of the polished-stone age, it seems not unreasonable, in
casting our eyes back upon the remotest antiquity on which research
sheds any light, to suppose an early widespread Turanian or Mongolian
family extending over the greater part of Europe and Asia. These
Turanians were in various stages of civilization or barbarism, from the
rude condition of the hunters and fishers of the Danish shell-mounds to
a higher state reigning in Central and Southern Asia, and similar to
that which was afterwards attained towards the end of the polished-stone
age in Europe. The earliest home of these pure Turanians was probably a
region lying somewhere to the east of Lake Aral. ‘There,’ says a writer
from whom we have already quoted, ‘from very remote antiquity they had
possessed a peculiar civilization, characterized by gross Sabeism,
peculiarly materialistic tendencies, and complete want of moral
elevation; but at the same time, by an extraordinary development in some
branches of knowledge, great progress in material culture in some
respects, while in others they remained in an entirely rudimentary
state. This strange and incomplete civilization exercised over great
part of Asia an absolute preponderance, lasting, according to the
historian Justin, 1500 years.’[43]

As regards its pre-historic remains, we know that this civilization, or
half-civilization, was especially distinguished by the raising of
enormous grave-mounds and altar-stones, and it must have been
characterized by strong, if not by the most elevated, religious ideas,
and by a peculiar reverence paid to the dead. Now, we have seen that it
is by characteristics very similar to these that the civilization of
Egypt is distinguished, and Egypt, of all nations which have possessed a
history, is the oldest.

[Sidenote: Egypt.]

These are reasons, therefore, for considering the Egyptian civilization,
which is in some sort the dawn of history in the world, as the
continuation--the improvement, no doubt, but still the continuation--of
the half-civilization of the age of stone, a culture handed on from the
Turanian to the Cushite peoples. We may look upon this very primitive
form of culture as spreading first through Asia, and later on outwards
to the west. Four thousand and five thousand years before Christ are the
dates disputed over as those of Menes, the first recorded King of
Egypt.[44] And Egypt even at this early time seems to have emerged from
the age of stone, and been possessed, at least, of bronze, possibly of
iron. The later date, 4000 B.C., probably marks the beginning of the
stone-age life corresponding to the more extensive remains in Europe. It
was therefore with this early culture as it has been with subsequent
fuller civilizations--

    ‘Nosque ubi primus equis Oriens afflavit anhelis
     Illic sera rubens accendit lumina Vesper.’

The Egyptian civilization which (for us) begins with Menes, say 5000
B.C., reaches its zenith under the third and fourth dynasty, under the
builders of the pyramids some eight hundred or a thousand years
afterwards. Then in its full strength the Egyptian life rises out of the
past like a giant peak, or like its own pyramids out of the sandy
plains. It is cold and rigid, like a mass of granite, but it is so great
that it seems to defy all efforts of time. Even when the Egyptians first
come before us everything seems to point them out as a people already
old; whether it be their enormous tombs and temples, their elaborately
ordered social life, or their complicated religious system, with its
long mysterious ritual. For all this, the Egyptian life and thought
present two elements of character which may well spring from the union
of two distinct nationalities. Its enormous tombs and temples and its
excessive care for the bodies of the dead--for what are the pyramids but
exaggerations of the stone-age grave-mounds, and the temples but
improvements upon the megalithic dolmens?--recall the era of stone-age
culture. The evident remains of an early animal worship show a descent
from a low form of religion, such a religion as we find among Turanian
or African races. But with these co-existed some much grander features.
The Egyptians were intellectual in the highest degree,--in the highest
degree then known to the world; and, unlike the stone-age men, succeeded
in other than merely mechanical arts. In astronomy they were rivalled by
but one nation, the Chaldæans; in painting and sculpture they were at
the head of the world, and were as nearly the inventors of history as of
writing itself,--not _quite_ of either, as will be seen hereafter.
Mixed, too, with their animal worship were some lofty religious
conceptions stretching not only beyond _it_--the animal worship--but
beyond that ‘natural’ polytheism which was the earliest creed of our own
ancestors the Aryans, and a noble hope and ambition for the future of
the soul. Were these higher features due to the influx of Semitic blood?
It seems likely, when we remember how from the same race came a chosen
people to whom the world is indebted for all that is greatest in
religious thought.

[Sidenote: Chaldæa.]

During the fourth and fifth dynasties, or some three or four thousand
years before Christ, Egypt and the Egyptians do, as we have said, rise
up distinctly out of the region of mere conjecture. Three or four
thousand years before Christ--five or six thousand years ago: this is no
small distance through which to look back to the place where the first
mountain-peak of history appears in view. What was doing in the other
unseen regions round this mountain? Only probably in one other part of
the globe could there have been found at this date a civilization in the
smallest degree comparable to that of the Egyptians. This region is the
valley of the Tigrus and Euphrates.

The Tigro-Euphrates valley, or Mesopotamia, was in early days as regards
appearance and position very similar to the land of Egypt. These two
territories are in fact two oases in an immense band of desert, which
stretches from the western edge of the great Sahara (which is almost the
edge of Africa itself) in a curved sweep, through part of Arabia, part
of Persia, up to the great plains of central Asia; in other words, it
stretches across more than one-third of the circumference of the globe.
The Tigro-Euphrates oasis which the Greeks called Mesopotamia is in the
Bible called Chaldæa or the country of the Chaldees. In days known to
history, its inhabitants were a mixed people, of whom the oldest
element was undoubtedly Turanian; and this section of the nation had
probably descended from the country afterwards called Iran to the mouths
of the Tigris and Euphrates. These people are called by modern scholars
the Accadians, or the Shûmîro-Accadians.[45] They are the Accad of the
Bible. Mixed with them were a people of Semitic, or half-Semitic origin,
whose language is closely allied to the Hebrew and the Aramæan. If we
take the Biblical name for them, we should call them Hamites or
Cushites. But the best ethnological name would be that of Aramæans.

These two races mingled, and formed the nation of Chaldæans as known to
history; and in time the Semitic element predominated over the Turanian.
Nevertheless it was the Accadians who had brought to the common stock
the earliest elements of civilization. Their earliest tombs show them in
possession of both the metals bronze and iron, though of the latter in
such small quantities that it took with them the position of a precious
metal; ornaments were made from it as much as from gold. What is far
more important, the Accadians possessed a hieroglyphic writing similar
in character to that of the Egyptians, and, after their junction with
the Semite people, that developed into a syllabic alphabet.[46] We may
date the fusion of the Accadian and Aramæan peoples at about 4000 B.C.

It is in this country, be it remembered, in the Tigro-Euphrates basin,
that the Bible places the earliest history of the human race. ‘And it
came to pass that as they journeyed from the East they found a plain in
the land of Shinar; and they dwelt there.’[47] Here, too, is placed the
building of Babel, and the subsequent dispersion of the human family.
Here ruled Nimrod, ‘the son of Cush,’ the first of the kings of this
region of whom any authentic mention is made; though we have dynastic
lists of supernatural beings who were supposed to have reigned in
Chaldæa in far distant ages of the world, as we have in the case of
Egypt. Even of Nimrod’s reign no monumental records have yet come to
light. The cities which Nimrod built, says the Bible, were Erech [in
Accadian, Ounoug, or Ûrûk] and Ur [Accad. Urû]--these two are the
present Warkah and Mugheir,--Accad [Agadê] and Calneh. But the earliest
human king of whom we have anything like an authentic date is either
Sargon I., who may have reigned as early as 3800 B.C., or Ûrbagûs, who
seems to have ruled over all Mesopotamia, contemporaneously with the
fifth Egyptian dynasty (3900 or 2900 B.C.).

The Chaldean buildings of this period, like the contemporary Egyptian
ones, are of gigantic proportions, and like them seem to recall bygone
days, the grandiose conceptions of the later stone-age, those _tumuli_
and cromlechs which, spread over the face of the world, most undoubtedly
have suggested to subsequent nations of mankind the belief in a giant
race which had preceded them on earth--

              ‘The far-famed hold,
    Piled by the hands of giants
    For god-like kings of old.’

And thus, as has already been often said, this earliest civilization in
the world looks back to pre-historic days as much as forward to historic

Close beside Chaldæa, in the more mountainous country to the east, but
not far from the Persian Gulf, rose another civilization, that of the
Elamites, which may possibly have been not much later than the Chaldæan.
This, too, we may believe, was in its origin Turanian. The capital of
the country of Elam was Susa. Between 2300 and 2280 B.C., a king of
Susa, Kurdur-Nankunty, conquered the reigning king of Chaldæa, and
henceforward the two districts were incorporated into one country. The
accession of strength thus gained to his crown induced one of the kings
of the Elamitic line, Kudur-lagomer (Chedorlaomer) by name, to aspire
towards a wider empire (c. 2200 B.C.). He sent his armies against the
Semitic nations on his west, who were now beginning to settle down in
cities, and to enjoy their share of the civilization of Egypt and
Chaldæa. These he subdued, but after sixteen years they rebelled; and it
was after a second expedition to punish their recalcitrancy, wherein he
had conquered the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah, and had among the
prisoners taken Lot, the nephew of Abraham, that Chedorlaomer was
pursued and defeated by the patriarch. ‘And when Abram heard that his
brother was taken captive, he armed his trained servants, born in his
own house, three hundred and eighteen, and pursued them unto Dan. And he
divided himself against them, he and his servants, by night, and smote
them, and pursued them unto Hobah, which is on the left hand of
Damascus. And he brought back all the goods, and also brought again his
brother Lot, and his goods, and the women also, and the people.’[48]

The conquest of a powerful Chaldæan king by a handful of wandering
Semites seems extraordinary, and might have sounded a note of warning to
the ear of the Chaldæans. Their kingdom was destined soon to be
overthrown by another Semitic people. After a duration of about half a
thousand years for the Elamite kingdom, and some seven hundred years
since the time of Nimrod, the Chaldæan dynasty was overthrown and
succeeded by an Arabian one, that is, by a race of nomadic Shemites
from the Arabian plains; and after two hundred and forty-five years they
in their turn succumbed to another more powerful people of the same
Semitic race, the Assyrians. The empire thus founded upon the ruins of
the old Chaldæan was one of the greatest of the ancient world, as we
well know from the records which meet us in the Bible. Politically it
may be said to have balanced the power of Egypt. But the stability of
this monarchy rested upon a basis much less firm than that of Egypt; the
southern portion--the old Chaldæa--of which Babylon was the capital, was
always ready for revolt, and after about seven hundred years the
Babylonians and Medes succeeded in overthrowing their former conquerors.
All this belongs to history--or at least to chronicle--and is therefore
scarcely a part of our present inquiry.

To these primitive civilizations of Egypt, Chaldæa, and Susa we might,
if we could put faith in native records, be inclined to add a fourth.

[Sidenote: China.]

The _Chinese_ profess to extend their lists of dynasties seven, eight,
or even ten thousand years backward, but there is nothing on which to
rest such extravagant pretensions. Their earliest known book is believed
to date from the twelfth century before Christ. It is therefore not
probable that they possessed the art of writing more than fifteen
hundred years before our era, and before writing is invented there can
be no reliable history. The best record of early times _then_ is to be
found in the popular songs of a country, and of these China possessed a
considerable number, which were collected into a book--the _Book of
Odes_--by their sage Confucius.[49] The picture which these odes present
is of a society so very different from that of the time from which their
earliest book--the _Book of Changes_--dates, that we cannot refuse to
credit it with a high antiquity. From the songs we learn that before
China coalesced into the monarchy which has lasted so many years, its
inhabitants lived in a sort of feudal state, governed by a number of
petty princes and lords. The pastoral life which distinguished the
surrounding Turanian nations had already been exchanged for a settled
agricultural one, to which houses, and all the civilization which these
imply, had long been familiar. For the rest, their life seems to have
been then, as now, a simple, slow-moving life, not devoid of piety and
domestic affection. But it should be mentioned here that recent
researches seem to point to the conclusion, strange as it may appear,
that the Chinese civilization is closely connected with that of the
Accadians, and may have had an origin from some contact with the
Accadian peoples in their earliest homes in Central Asia. In any case it
hardly seems likely that this can be classed as the fourth civilization
which may have existed in the world when the pyramids were being built.
But it is without doubt after these three the next oldest of the
civilizations which the world has known. It seems to be remote alike
from the half-civilization of the other Mongolian people of the stone
age, and from the mixed Turanian-Semitic civilizations of Egypt and

To these early civilizations in the old world, may we add any from the
new, and believe in a great antiquity of the highest civilization of the
_red_ race? The trace of an early civilization in Mexico and Peru,
bearing many remarkable points of resemblance to the civilization of
Chaldæa, is undoubted. This _may_ have been passed on by the Chinese at
a very early date. But there is nothing to show that the identity in
some of the features of their culture extended to an identity in their
respective epochs.

[Sidenote: Assyrians, Phœnicians, Hebrews.]

A greater destiny, though a more tardy development, awaited the pure
Semitic and Japhetic races. Among the former we might notice many
nations which started into life during the thousand years following that
date of 3000 B.C., which we have taken as our starting-point. Of the
Assyrians we have already spoken. The next most conspicuous stand the
Phœnicians, who, either in their early home upon the seacoast of
Syria, or in their second home, the sea itself, or in one of their
countless colonies, came into contact with almost every one of the great
nations of antiquity, from the Egyptians, the Assyrians, and the
Israelites, to the Greeks and Romans.

But it is upon the life and history of the nomadic Shemites, and among
them of one chosen people, that our thoughts chiefly rest. Among the
prouder citied nations which inhabited the plains of the Tigris and
Euphrates, from the Mediterranean to the Caspian Sea, dwelt a numerous
people, more or less nomadic in their habits, under the patriarchal form
of government which belonged to their mode of life. Among such a people
the chief of one particular family or clan was summoned by a Divine call
to escape from the influence of the idolatrous nations around, and to
live that vagrant pastoral life which was in such an age most fitted for
the needs of purity and religious contemplation. It is as something like
a wandering Bedouin chieftain that we must picture Abraham, while we
watch him, now joining with one small city king against another, now
driven by famine to travel with his flocks and herds as far as Egypt.
Then again he returns, and settles in the fertile valley of the Jordan,
where Lot leaves him, and, seduced by the luxuries of a town life, quits
his flocks and herds and settles in Sodom, till driven out again by the
destruction of that city. And we are not now reading dry dynastic lists,
but the very life and thought of an early time.[50] To us--whose lives
are so unsimple--the mere picture of this simple nomadic life of early
days would have an interest and a charm; but it has a double charm and
interest viewed by the light of the high destiny to which Abraham and
his descendants were called. Plying the homely, slighted shepherd’s
trade, these people lived poor and despised beside the rich monarchies
of Egypt or Chaldæa; one more example, if one more were needed, how wide
apart lie the empires of spiritual and of material things.

Up to very late times the Children of Israel bore many of the
characteristics of a nomadic people. It was as a nation of shepherds
that they were excluded from the national life of Egypt. For long years
after their departure thence they led a wandering life; and though, when
they entered Palestine, they found cities ready for their
occupation--for the nations which they dispossessed were for the most
part settled people, builders of cities--and inhabited them, and,
growing corn and wine, settled partly into an agricultural life, yet the
chief wealth of the nation still probably consisted in their flocks, and
the greater portion of the people still dwelt in tents. This was,
perhaps, especially the case with the people of the north, for even so
late as the separation, when the ten tribes determined to free
themselves from the tyranny of Rehoboam, we know how Jeroboam cried out,
‘To your tents, O Israel.’ ‘So Israel departed unto their tents,’ the
narrative continues. After the separation we are told that Jeroboam
built several cities in his own dominions. The history of the Israelites
generally may be summed up as the constant expression and the ultimate
triumph of a wish to exchange their simple life and theocratic
government for one which might place them more on a level with their
neighbour states. At first it is their religion which they wish to
change, whether for the gorgeous ritual of Egypt or for the vicious
creeds of Asiatic nations; and after a while, madly forgetful of the
tyrannies of a Ramses or a Tiglath-Pileser, they desire a king to reign
over them in order that they may ‘take their place’ among the other
Oriental monarchies. Still their first two kings have rather the
character of military leaders, the monarchy not having become
hereditary; the second, the warrior-poet, the greatest of Israel’s sons,
was himself in the beginning no more than a shepherd. But under his son
Solomon the monarchical government becomes assured, the country attains
(like Rome under Augustus) the summit of its splendour and power, and
then enters upon its career of slow and inevitable decline.

[Sidenote: The Aryans.]

Now let us turn to the Japhetic people--the Aryans. It is curious that
the date of three thousand years before Christ, from which we started in
our glance over the world, should also be considered about that of the
separation of the Aryan people. Till that time they had continued to
live--since when we know not--in their early home near the Oxus and
Jaxartes, and we are able by the help of comparative philology to gain
some little picture of their life at the time immediately preceding the
separation. We have already seen how this picture is obtained; how,
taking a word out of one of the Aryan languages and making allowance for
the changed form which it would wear in the other tongues, if we find
the same word with the same meaning reappearing in all the languages of
the family, we may fairly assume that the _thing_ for which it stands
was known to the old Aryans before the separation. If, again, we find a
word which runs through all the European languages, but is not found in
the Sanskrit and Persian, we guess that in this case the thing was known
only to the Yavanas, the first separating body of younger Aryans, from
whom it will be remembered all the European branches are descended. Thus
we get a very interesting list of words, and the means of drawing a
picture of the life of our primæval ancestors. The earliest appearance
of the Aryans is as a pastoral people, for words derived from the
pastoral life have left the deepest traces on their language. Daughter,
we saw, meant originally ‘the milker;’ the name of money, and of booty,
in many Aryan languages is derived from that of cattle;[51] words which
have since come to mean lord or prince originally meant the guardian of
the cattle;[52] and others which have expanded into words for district
or country, or even for the whole earth, meant at first simply the
pasturage. So not without reason did we say that the king had grown out
of the head of the family, and the pens of sheepfolds expanded into
walled cities.

But though a pastoral, the ancient Aryans do not seem to have been a
nomadic race, and in this respect they differed from the Shemites of the
same period, and from the Turanians, by whom they were surrounded. For
the Turanian _civilization_ had pretty well departed from Asia by that
time, and having taught its lessons to Egypt and Chaldæa, lived on, if
at all, in Europe only. There it faded before the advance of the Celts
and other Aryan people, who came bringing with them the use of bronze
weapons and the civilization which belonged to the bronze age. The stone
age lingered in the lake dwellings of Switzerland, as we thought, till
about two thousand years before Christ or perhaps later, and it may be
that this date, B.C. 2000, which is also nearly that of Abraham,
represents within a few hundred years the entry of the Aryans into
Europe. The Greeks are generally believed to have appeared in Greece, or
at least in Asia Minor, about the nineteenth century before our era, and
they were probably preceded by the Latin branch of the Aryan family, as
well as by the Celts in the north of Europe. So that the period of one
thousand years which intervened between our starting-point and the call
of Abraham, the starting-point of the Hebrew history, and which saw the
growth and change of many great Asiatic monarchies, must for the Aryans
be only darkly filled up by the gradual separation of the different
nations, and their unknown life between this separation and the time
when they again become vaguely known to history.

       *       *       *       *       *

[Sidenote: Summary.]

The general result, then, of our inquiries into the grouping of nations
of the world in pre-historic times may be sketched in rough outline. At
a very early date, say 4000 or 5000 B.C., arose an extensive Turanian
half-civilization, which, flourishing probably in Central and Southern
Asia, spread in time and through devious routes to India and China upon
one side, on the other side to Europe. This was, at first at any rate, a
stone age, and was especially distinguished by the raising of great
stones and grave-mounds. This civilization was communicated to the
Egyptians and Chaldæans, a mixed people--Semite, Turanian,
Ethiopian--who were not strangers to the use of metals. As early as 3000
years before our era the civilization of Egypt had attained its full
growth, and had probably even then a considerable past. Chaldæa, too,
and the neighbouring Elam were both advanced out of their primitive
state; possibly so also were China, Peru, and Mexico. But the pure
Semite peoples, the ancestors of the Jews, and the Aryans, were still
pastoral races, the one by the banks of the Tigris and Euphrates, the
other by the banks of the Jaxartes and the Oxus. The first of these
continued pastoral and nomadic for hundreds of years, but about this
time the Western Aryans separated from those of the East, and soon after
added some use of agriculture to their shepherd life. Then between 3000
and 2000 B.C. came the separation of the various peoples of the Western
Aryans and their migration towards Europe, where they began to appear at
the latter date. After all the Western Aryans had left the East, the
older Aryans seem to have lived on for some little time together, and at
last to have separated into the nations of Iranians and Hindus, the
first migrating southward, and the second crossing the Hindoo-Koosh and
descending into the plains of the Indus and the Ganges. Thence they
drove away or exterminated most of the older Turanian inhabitants, as
their brethren had a short time before done to the Turanians whom they
found in Europe. Such, so far as we can surmise, were in rough outline
the doings of the different kindreds and nations and languages of the
old world in times long before history.



[Sidenote: Formation of settlements.]

We have seen, so far, that the early traces of man’s existence point to
a gradual improvement in the state of his civilization, to the
acquirement of fresh knowledge, and the practice of fresh arts. The rude
stone implements of the early drift-period are replaced by the more
carefully manufactured ones of the polished-stone age, and these again
are succeeded by implements of bronze and of iron. By degrees also the
arts of domesticating animals and of tilling the land are learnt; and by
steps, which we shall hereafter describe, the art of writing is
developed from the early pictorial rock-sculptures. Now, in order that
each step in this process of civilization should be preserved for the
benefit of the next generation, and that the people of each period
should start from the vantage-ground obtained by their predecessors,
there must have been frequent intercommunication between the different
individuals who lived at the same time; so that the discovery or
improvement of each one should be made known to others, and become part
of the common stock of human knowledge. In the very earliest times,
then, men probably lived collected together in societies of greater or
less extent. We know that this is the case now with all savage tribes;
and as in many respects the early races of the drift-beds seem to have
resembled some now existing savage tribes in their mode of life,
employing, to a certain extent, the same implements, and living on the
same sort of food, this adds to the probability of their gregariousness.
The fact, too, that the stone implements of the first stone period have
generally been found collected near together in particular places,
indicates these places as the sites of early settlements. Beyond this,
however, we can say very little of the social state of these early
stone-age people. Small traces of any burial-ground or tomb of so great
an antiquity have yet been found, and all that we can say of them with
any certainty is, that their life must have been very rude and
primitive. Although they were collected together in groups, these groups
could not have been large, and each must have been generally situated at
a considerable distance from the next, for the only means of support for
the men of that time was derived from hunting and fishing. Now it
requires a very large space of land to support a man who lives entirely
by hunting; and this must have been more particularly the case in those
times when the weapons used by the huntsman were so rude, that it is
difficult for us now to understand how he could ever have succeeded in
obtaining an adequate supply of food by such means. Supposing that the
same extent of territory were required for the support of a man in those
times as was required in Australia by the native population, the whole
of Europe could only have supported about seventy-six thousand
inhabitants, or about one person to every four thousand now in

Next to the cave-dwellings the earliest traces of anything like fixed
settlements which have been found are the ‘kitchen-middens.’ The extent
of some of these clearly shows that they mark the dwelling-place of
considerable numbers of people collected together. But here only the
rudest sort of civilization could have existed, and the bonds of society
must have been as primitive and simple as they are among those savage
tribes at the present time, who support existence in much the same way
as the shell-mound people did. In order that social customs should
attain any development, the means of existence must be sufficiently
abundant and easily procurable to permit some time to be devoted to the
accumulation of superfluities, or of supplies not immediately required
for use. The life of the primitive hunter and fisher is so precarious
and arduous, that he has rarely either the opportunity or the will for
any other employment than the supply of his immediate wants. The very
uncertainty of that supply seems rather to create recklessness than
providence, and the successful chase is generally followed by a period
of idleness and gluttony, till exhaustion of supplies once more compels
men to activity. That the shell-mound people were subject to such
fluctuations of supply we may gather from the fact that bones of foxes
and other carnivorous animals are frequently found in those mounds; and
as these animals are rarely eaten by human beings, except under the
pressure of necessity, we may conclude that the shell-mound people were
driven to support existence by this means, through their ill-success in
fishing and hunting, and their want of any accumulation of stores to
supply deficiencies.

The next token of social improvement that is observable is in the
tumuli, or grave-mounds, which may be referred to a period somewhat
later than that of the shell-mounds. These contain indications that the
people who constructed them possessed some important elements necessary
to their social progress. They had a certain amount of time to spare
after providing for their daily wants, and they did not spend that time
exclusively in idleness. The erection of these mounds must have been a
work of considerable labour, and they often contain highly finished
implements and ornaments, which must have been put there for the use of
the dead. They are evidences that no little honour was sometimes shown
to the dead; so that some sort of religion must have existed amongst the
people who constructed the ancient grave-mounds. The importance of this
element in early society is evident if we inquire further for whom and
by whom these mounds were erected. Now, they are not sufficiently
numerous, and are far too laborious in their construction, to have been
the ordinary tombs of the common people. They were probably tombs
erected for chiefs or captains of tribes to whom the tribes were anxious
to pay especial honour. We do not know at all how these separate tribes
or clans came into existence, and what bonds united their members
together; but so soon as we find a tribe erecting monuments in honour of
its chiefs, we conclude that it has attained a certain amount of
compactness and solidity in its internal relations. Amongst an
uneducated people there is probably no stronger tie than that of a
common faith, or a common subject of reverence. It is impossible not to
believe, then, that the people who made these great, and in some cases
elaborately constructed tombs, would continue ever after to regard them
as in some sort consecrated to the great chiefs who were buried under
them. Each tribe would have its own specially sacred tombs, and perhaps
we may here see a germ of that ancestor-worship which may be traced in
every variety of religious belief.

It has been supposed by some that a certain amount of

[Sidenote: Barter.]

commerce or barter existed in the later stone age. The reason for this
opinion is that implements of stone are frequently found in localities
where the stone of which they are made is not native. At Presigny le
Grand, in France, there exists a great quantity of a particular kind of
flint which seems to have been very convenient for the manufacture of
implements; for the fields there are covered with flint-flakes and chips
which have been evidently knocked off in the process of chipping out the
knives, and arrow-heads, and hatchets which the stone-age men were so
fond of. Now, implements made of this particular kind of flint are found
in various localities, some of which are at a great distance from
Presigny; and it has therefore been supposed that Presigny was a sort of
manufactory for flint weapons which were bartered to neighbouring
tribes, and by them again perhaps to others further off; and so these
weapons gradually got dispersed. But it is also possible that the tribes
of the interior, who would subsist almost exclusively by hunting, and
would therefore be of a more wandering disposition than those on the
sea-coast, may have paid occasional visits to this flint reservoir for
the purpose of supplying themselves with weapons of a superior quality,
just as the American Indians are said to go to the quarry of Coteau des
Prairies on account of the particular kind of stone which is found

In any case, whatever system of barter was carried on at that time was
of a very primitive kind, and not of frequent enough occurrence to
produce any important effects on the social condition of the people.
That that condition had already advanced to some extent beyond its
original rudeness, shows us that there existed, at all events, some
capacity for improvement among the tribes which then inhabited Europe;
but, when we compare them with modern tribes of savages, whose apparent
condition is much the same as theirs was, and who do not seem to have
made any advance for a long period, or, so far as we can judge, to be
capable of making any advance by their own unassisted efforts, we cannot
but conclude that the stone-age people, if left to themselves, would
only have emerged out of barbarism by very slow degrees. Now we know
that, about the time when bronze implements first began to be used, some
very important changes also occurred in the manners and customs of the
inhabitants of Europe. A custom of burning the dead superseded then the
older one of burial; domestic animals of various sorts seem to have been
introduced, and the bronze implements themselves show, both in the
elaborateness of their workmanship and the variety of their designs,
that a great change had come over European civilization. The greatness
and completeness of this change, the fact that there are no traces of
those intermediate steps which we should naturally expect to find in the
development of the arts, denote that this change was due to some
invading population which brought with it the arts that had been
perfected in its earlier home; and other circumstances point to the East
as the home from which this wave of civilization proceeded. Language has
taught us that at various times there have been large influxes of Aryan
populations into Europe. To the first of these Aryan invaders probably
was due the introduction of bronze into Europe, together with the
various social changes which appear to have accompanied its earliest
use. To trace then the rise and progress of the social system which the
Aryans had adopted previous to their appearance in Europe, we must go to
their old Asiatic home, and see if any of the steps by which this system
had sprung up, or any indications of its nature, may be extracted from
the records of antiquity.

       *       *       *       *       *

[Sidenote: The patriarchal family.]

Hitherto scarcely any attempt has been made to discover or investigate
pre-historic monuments in the East. We can no longer therefore appeal to
the records of early tombs or temples, to indications taken from early
seats of population; but though as yet this key to Aryan history has not
been made available, we have another guide ready to take us by the hand,
and show us what sort of lives our ancestors used to lead in their
far-off Eastern home. That guide is the science of Language, which can
teach us a great deal about this if we will listen to its lessons: a
rich mine of knowledge which has as yet been only partially explored,
but one from which every day new information is being obtained about the
habits and customs of the men of pre-historic times.

All that we know at present of the Aryan race indicates that its social
organization originated in a group which is usually called the
Patriarchal Family, the members of which were all related to each other
either by blood or marriage. At the head of the family was the
patriarch, the eldest male descendant of its founder; its other members
consisted of all the remaining males descended on the father’s side from
the original ancestor, their wives, and such of the women, also
descended on the father’s side from the same ancestor, as remained still
unmarried. To show more exactly what people were members of the ancient
patriarchal family, we will trace such a family for a couple of
generations from the original founder. Suppose, then, the original
founder married, and with several children, both sons and daughters. All
the sons would continue members of this family. The daughters would only
continue members until they married, when they would cease to be
members of the family of their birth, and become members of their
respective husbands’ families. So when the sons of the founder married,
their wives would become members of the family; and such of their
children as were sons would be members, and such as were daughters would
be members only until they married; and so on through succeeding
generations. On the founder’s death he would be succeeded as patriarch
by his eldest son. On the eldest son’s death, he would be succeeded by
_his_ eldest son, if he had a son; and if not, then by his next brother.
The patriarchal family also included in its circle, in later times at
all events, slaves and other people, who, although perhaps not really
relations at all, were _adopted_ into the household, assumed the family
name, and were looked upon for all purposes as if its actual members.
This little group of individuals seems originally to have existed
entirely independent of any external authority. It supported itself by
its own industry, and recognized no other law or authority than its own.
The one source of authority within this little state was the patriarch,
who was originally regarded, not only as the owner of all the property
of which the family was possessed, but also as having unlimited power
over the different individuals of which it was composed. All the members
lived together under the same roof, or within the same enclosure. No
member could say that any single thing was his own property. Everything
belonged to the family, and every member was responsible to the
patriarch for his actions.

[Sidenote: Custom and law.]

Originally the power of the patriarch may have been almost absolute over
the other members of the family, but it must very early have become
modified and controlled by the growth of various customs. Indeed, in
trying to picture to ourselves these early times, when as yet no
regular notions of law had arisen, it is important to remember how great
a force is possessed by custom. Even now, when we distinguish pretty
clearly between law and custom, we still feel the great coercive and
restraining powers of the latter in all the affairs of life. But when no
exact notions of law had been formed, it seemed an almost irresistible
argument in favour of a particular action that it had always been
performed before. There would thus spring up in a household certain
rules of conduct for the different members, certain fixed limits to
their respective family duties. Before any individual would be commanded
by the patriarch to do any particular duty, it would come to be inquired
whether it was customary for such a duty to be assigned to such an
individual. Before the patriarch inflicted any punishment on a member of
the family, it would come to be inquired whether and in what manner it
had been customary to punish the particular act complained of. Many
things would tend to increase this regard for custom. The obvious
advantages resulting from regularity and certainty in the ordering of
the family life would soon be felt, and thus a public opinion in favour
of custom would be created. Ancestor-worship, too, which plays so
conspicuous a part in early Aryan civilization, acted, no doubt, as a
powerful strengthener of the force of custom, as is indicated by the
fact that in many nations the traditionary originator of their laws is
some powerful ancestor to whom the nation is accustomed to pay an
especial reverence.

Resulting from this development of custom into law in the early family
life of the Aryans, we find that special duties soon became assigned to
persons occupying particular positions. To the young men of the
household were assigned the more active outdoor employments; to the
maidens the milking of the cows; to the elder women other household
duties. And the importance of knowing what the customs were also gave
rise to the family council, or ‘sabhâ,’ as it is called in Sanskrit,
which consisted of the elders of the family, the ‘sabhocita,’ presided
over by the ‘sabhapati,’ or president of the assembly. The importance
attached to the decisions of this council was so great, that the
‘sabyâ,’ or decrees of the ‘sabhâ,’ came to be used simply to express
law or custom. It is probable therefore that this assembly regulated to
a great extent the customs and laws of the family in its internal
management, and also superintended any negotiations carried on with
other families.

[Sidenote: The house-fire.]

To complete our picture of the patriarchal family, we have the
traditions of three distinct customs or rites affecting its internal
economy. Two of these rites, the maintenance of the sacred house-fire,
and the marriage ceremony, probably date back to a very remote period;
and the third, the custom of adoption, though of later development, may
be regarded, in its origin at least, as primitive. Fire is itself so
wonderful in its appearance and effects, so good a servant, so terrible
a master, that we cannot feel any surprise at its having attracted a
great deal of attention in early times. The traces of fire-worship are
so widely spread over the earth that there is scarcely a single race
whose traditions are entirely devoid of them. But the sacred house-fire
of the Aryans is interesting to us chiefly in its connection with other
family rites in which it played an important part. This fire, which was
perpetually kept burning on the family hearth, seems to have been
regarded in some sort, as a living family deity, who watched over and
assisted the particular family to which it belonged. It was by its aid
that the food of the family was cooked, and from it was ignited the
sacrifice or the funeral pyre. It was the centre of the family life; the
hearth on which it burned was in the midst of the dwelling, and no
stranger was admitted into its presence. That hearth was to each member
of the household as it were an _umbilicus orbis_, or navel of the
earth--_hearth_, only another form of _earth_.[53] When the members of
the family met together to partake of their meals, a part was always
first offered to the fire by whose aid the meal was prepared; the
patriarch acted as officiating priest in this as in every other family
ceremony; and to the patriarch’s wife was confided the especial charge
of keeping the fire supplied with fuel.

[Sidenote: Marriage.]

By _marriage_, as we have seen, a woman became a member of her husband’s
family. She ceased to be any longer a member of the household in which
she was born, for the life of each family was so isolated that it would
have been impossible to belong to two different families at once. So we
find that the marriage ceremony chiefly consisted in an expression of
this change of family by the wife. In general it was preceded by a
treaty between the two families, a formal offer of marriage made by the
intending husband’s family on his behalf, together with a gift to the
bride’s family, which was regarded as the price paid for the bride. If
all preliminary matters went forward favourably, then, on the day fixed
for the marriage, the different members of the bridegroom’s family went
to the household of the bride and demanded her. After some orthodox
delay, in which the bride was expected to express unwillingness to go,
she was formally given up to those who demanded her, the patriarch of
her household solemnly dismissing her from it and giving up all
authority over her. She was then borne in triumph to the bridegroom’s
house; and, on entering it, was carried over the threshold, so as not to
touch it with her feet; thus expressing that her entry within the house
was not that of a mere guest or stranger. She was finally, before the
house-fire, solemnly admitted into her husband’s family, and as a
worshipper at the family altar.

[Sidenote: Adoption.]

This ceremony was subject to a great many variations amongst the
different Aryan races; but in every one of them some trace of it is to
be found, and this always apparently intended to express the same idea,
the change of the bride’s family. _Adoption_, which in later times
became extremely common among the Romans--the race which seems in Europe
to have preserved most faithfully the old Aryan family type--originated
in a sort of extension of the same theory that admitted of the wife’s
entry into her husband’s family, as almost all the details of the
ceremony of adoption are copied from that of marriage. Cases must have
occurred pretty often where a man might be placed in such a position as
to be without a family. He may have become alienated from his own
kindred by the commission of some crime, or all his relatives may have
died from natural causes or been killed in war. In the condition in
which society was then, such a man would be in a peculiarly unenviable
position. There would be no one in whom he could trust, no one who would
be the least interested in him or bound to protect him. Thus wandering
as an outlaw, without means of defence from enemies, and unable to
protect his possessions if he chanced to have any, or to obtain means of
subsistence if he had none, he would be very desirous of becoming a
member of some other family, in order that he might find in it the
assistance and support necessary for his own welfare. It might also
sometimes happen, that owing to a want of male descendants some house
might be in danger of extinction. Now the extinction of a family was a
matter of peculiar dread to its members. Connected with the worship of
the hearth was the worship of the ancestors of the family. It was the
duty of each patriarch to offer sacrifices on stated occasions to the
departed spirits of his ancestors; and it was considered as a matter of
the utmost importance that these sacrifices should be kept up, in order
to insure the happiness of those departed spirits after death. So
important indeed was this rite held to be, that it was reckoned as one
of the chief duties which each patriarch had to perform, and the family
property was regarded as dedicated to this object in priority to every
other. It would therefore be the chief care of each head of a household
to leave male descendants, in order that the offerings for his own and
his ancestors’ benefit might be continued after his death. The only
person, however, capable of performing these rites was a member of the
same family, one who joined in the same worship by the same household
fire: so if all the males of a family were to die out, these rights must
of necessity cease.

The marriage ceremony had already supplied a precedent for introducing
members into a house who were not born in it. It was very natural, then,
that this principle should be extended to the introduction of males when
there was any danger of the male line becoming extinct. This was done by
the ceremony of adoption, which was in many respects similar to that of
marriage, being a formal renunciation of the person adopted by the
patriarch of his original family, in case he was a member of one, and a
formal acceptance and admission into the new family of his adoption, of
which he was thenceforward regarded as a regular member. This ceremony
exhibits in a very marked manner the leading peculiarity of the
patriarchal household. We see how completely isolated, in theory, such
a group was from the rest of the world; having its own distinct worship,
in which no one but its own members were permitted to share, reverencing
its own ancestors only, who might receive worship from none but their
descendants. So jealously was this separation of families guarded, that
it was impossible for a man or woman at the same time to worship at two
family shrines. While displaying its isolation in the strongest light,
adoption is nevertheless a mark of decay in the patriarchal family. It
is an artificial grafting on the original simple stock; and however
carefully men may have shut their eyes at first to its artificial
nature, it must have had a gradual tendency to undermine the reverence
paid to the principle of blood relationship.

Before we consider, however, the causes of decay of this form of
society, which we shall do in the next chapter, there are some other
indications of their manner of livelihood which will help us to
understand the social condition of these Aryan patriarchal families. We
have seen that, with the introduction of bronze into Europe, various
changes took place in the manner of men’s lives. One of these is the
regular domestication of animals. It is true that domestic animals were
by no means unknown before the bronze age in Europe: but until that time
this custom had not attained any great extension. In remains of
settlements whose age is supposed to be before the introduction of
bronze, by far the larger number of animals’ bones found are those
belonging to wild species, while those belonging to tame species are
comparatively rare. This shows that the principal part of the food of
those people who lived before the bronze age was obtained by hunting.
After the introduction of bronze, however, exactly the reverse is the
case. In these later remains the bones of domestic animals become much
more common, while those of wild animals are comparatively rare, which
shows what an important revolution had taken place in men’s habits.

[Sidenote: Introduction of the pastoral life.]

It must also be remembered that many remains supposed to belong to the
later stone age may, in fact, belong to societies that existed during
the bronze age, but who had not yet adopted the use of bronze, or else
from their situation were unable to obtain any. As yet so little is
known of how this metal was obtained at that time, that it is impossible
to say what situations would be least favourable for obtaining it; but
considering that tin, of which bronze is partly composed, is only found
in a very few places, the wonder is rather that bronze weapons are so
frequent amongst the different remains scattered over Europe, than that
they should be absent from some of them. Moreover, the races that
inhabited Europe before the Aryans came there would afterwards remain
collected together in settlements, surrounded by the invading
population, for a considerable length of time before they had either
been exterminated or absorbed by the more civilized race. These
aborigines would adopt such of the arts and customs of the Aryans as
were most within their reach. The increased population and the greater
cultivation of the land which followed the Aryan invasion would make it
more difficult to obtain food from hunting, and the aborigines would
therefore be compelled to adopt domestication of animals as a means of
support, which they would have little difficulty in doing, as they would
be able to obtain a stock to start from, either by raids on their
neighbours’ herds or, perhaps, by barter. But the manufacture of bronze
weapons, being a much more complicated affair than the rearing of
cattle, would take a much longer time to acquire. This perhaps may
account for the remains found in the lake-dwellings, some of which show
a considerable degree of social advance, but an entire ignorance of the
use of bronze, while in the later ones bronze weapons are also found. We
may, then, regard the domestication of animals, to the extent that it
was practised by the Aryans in their Asiatic home, as a new thing in
Europe, and as introduced by the Aryans. It was on their flocks and
herds that these races chiefly depended for subsistence, and the
importance of the chase as a means of livelihood was very much less with
them than it was with the old hunter-tribes that formed the earlier
population of Europe. This in itself was a great advance in
civilization. It implied a regular industry, and the possession of
cattle was not only a guarantee against want, but an inducement to a
more regular and orderly mode of living.

There are no lessons so important to uncivilized nations as those of
providence and industry, and the pastoral life required and encouraged
both these qualities. It was necessary to store up at one time of year
food to support the cattle during another period; to preserve a
sufficient number of animals to keep the stock replenished. The cows too
had to be milked at regular times, and every night the flocks and herds
had to be collected into pens to protect them from beasts of prey, and
every morning to be led out again to the pasture. All this shows the
existence of a more organized and methodical life than is possible to a
hunter-tribe. The pastoral life, moreover, seems to be one particularly
suited to the patriarchal type of society. Each little community is
capable of supplying its own wants, and is also compelled to maintain a
certain degree of isolation. The necessity of having a considerable
extent of country for their pasturage would prevent different families
from living very near each other. In its simplest state, too, the
pastoral life is a nomadic one; so that the only social connection which
can exist among such a people is one of kinship, for having no fixed
homes they can have no settled neighbours or fellow-countrymen. The
importance attached to cattle in this stage of civilization is evidenced
by the frequent use of words in their origin relating to cattle, in all
the Aryan languages, to express many of the ordinary incidents of life.
Not only do cattle occupy a prominent place in Aryan mythology, but
titles of honour, the names for divisions of the day, for the divisions
of land, for property, for money, and many other words, all attest by
their derivation how prominent a position cattle occupied with the early
Aryans. The patriarch is called in Sanskrit ‘lord of the cattle,’ the
morning is ‘the calling of the cattle,’ the evening ‘the milking time.’
The Latin word for money, _pecunia_, and our English word ‘fee’ both
come from the Aryan name for cattle. In Anglo-Saxon movable property is
called ‘cwicfeoh,’ or living cattle, while immovable property, such as
houses and land, is called ‘dead cattle.’ And so we find the same word
constantly cropping up in all the Aryan languages, to remind us that in
the pastoral life cattle are the great interest and source of wealth to
the community, and the principal means of exchange employed in such
commerce as is there carried on.

[Sidenote: Commerce.]

The commerce between different tribes or families seems to have been
conducted at certain meeting-places agreed upon, and which were situated
in the boundary-land or neutral territory between the different
settlements. Very frequently at war with each other, or at best only
preserving an armed and watchful quiet,--each side ready at a moment’s
notice to seize on a favourable opportunity for the commencement of
active hostilities,--continual friendly intercourse was impossible. So
that when they wished for their mutual advantage to enter into amicable
relations, it was necessary to establish some sort of special agreement
for that purpose. It is probable, then, that when they found the
advantages which could be derived from commercial exchanges, certain
places were agreed upon as neutral territory where these exchanges might
take place. Such places of exchange would naturally be fixed upon as
would be equally convenient to both parties; and their mutual jealousy
would prevent one tribe from permitting the free entrance within its own
limits of members of other tribes. Places, too, would be chosen so as to
be within reach of three or four different tribes; and thus the place of
exchange, the market-place, would be fixed in that border-land to which
no tribe laid any special claim. So we see that to commerce was due the
first amicable relations of one tribe with another; and perhaps our
market crosses may owe their origin to some remains of the old ideas
associated with assemblies where men first learnt to look upon men of
different tribes as brothers in a common humanity.

It took a long time, however, to mitigate that feeling of hostility
which seems to have existed in early times between different
communities. Even when they condescended to barter with each other they
did not forget the difference between the friend and the foe. In the
_Senchus Mor_, a book compiled by the old Irish or ‘Brehon’ lawyers,
this difference between dealing with a friend and a stranger is rather
curiously indicated in considering the rent of land. ‘The three rents,’
says the _Great Book of the Law_, as it is called, ‘are rack rent (or
the extreme rent) from a person of a strange tribe, a fair rent from one
of the tribe (that is one’s own tribe), and the stipulated rent, which
is paid equally by the tribe and the strange tribe.’ Such a distinction
is generally recognized in all early communities. In dealing with a man
of his own tribe, the individual was held bound in honour not to take
any unfair advantage, to take only such a price, to exact only such a
value in exchange, as he was legitimately entitled to. It was quite
otherwise, however, in dealings with members of other tribes. Then the
highest value possible might justly be obtained for any article; so that
dealings at markets which consisted of exchanges between different
tribes, came to mean a particular sort of trading, where the highest
price possible was obtained for anything sold. It is probable that this
cast, to a certain extent, a slur upon those who habitually devoted
themselves to this kind of trading. Though it was recognized as just to
exact as high a price as possible from the stranger, still the person
who did so was looked upon to a certain extent as guilty of a
disreputable action; viewed, in fact, much in the same light as usurious
money-lenders are viewed nowadays. They were people who did not offend
against the laws of their times, but who sailed so near the wind as to
be tainted, as it were, with fraud. Indeed, our word ‘monger,’ which
simply means ‘dealer,’ comes from a root which, in Sanskrit, means ‘to
deceive;’ so commerce and cheating seem to have been early united, and
we must therefore not be surprised if they are not entirely divorced
even in our own time.

Now ‘mark,’ which, as we know, means a boundary or border-land, comes
from a root which means ‘the chase,’ or ‘wild animals.’ So ‘mark’
originally meant the place of the chase, or where wild animals lived.
This gives us some sort of picture of these early settlements, whose
in-dwellers carried on their commerce with each other in such primitive
fashion. They were little spots of cleared or cultivated land,
surrounded by a sort of jungle or primeval forest inhabited only by wild
beasts. It was in such wild places as these that the first markets used
to be held. Here, under the spreading branches of the trees, at some
spot agreed upon beforehand,--some open glade, perhaps, which would be
chosen because a neighbouring stream afforded means of refreshment,--the
fierce distrustful men would meet to take a passing glimpse at the
blessings of peace. These wild border-lands which intervened also
explain to us how it was that so great an isolation continued to be
maintained between the different settlements. If their pasture-lands had
abutted immediately on each other, if the herds of one tribe had grazed
by the herds of another, there must have been much more intercommunion
and mutual trust than appears to have existed.

The value of cattle does not consist only in the food and skins which
they provide. Oxen have from a very early time been employed for
purposes of agriculture; and we find among the names derived from cattle
many suggesting that they must have been put to this use at the time
when those names arose. Thus the Greeks spoke of the evening as
βουλυτός (boulutos), or the time for the unyoking of oxen; and
the same idea is expressed in the old German word for evening, ‘àbant’
(Abend), or the unyoking. This, then, is the next stage in social
progress: when agriculture becomes the usual employment of man. With the
advance of this stage begins the decay of the patriarchal life, which,
as we shall see in the next chapter, gradually disappears and gives
place to fresh social combinations. Though we have hitherto spoken only
of the patriarchal life of the Aryans, it was a life even more
characteristic of the Semitic race. They were essentially pastoral and
nomadic in their habits, and they seem to have continued to lead a
purely pastoral life much longer than the Aryans did. In the Old
Testament we learn how Abraham and Lot had to separate because their
flocks were too extensive to feed together; and how Abraham wandered
about with his flocks and herds, his family and servants, dwellers in
tents, leading a simple patriarchal life, much as do the Arabs of the
present day. Long after the neighbouring people had settled in towns,
these Semitic tribes continued to wander over the intervening plains,
depending for food and clothing only on their sheep and cattle and



[Sidenote: The agricultural life.]

So long as people continued to lead a wandering shepherd life, the
institution of the patriarchal family afforded a sufficient and
satisfactory basis for such cordial union as was possible. It was a
condition of society in which the relations of the different members to
each other were extremely simple and confined within very narrow
boundaries; but these habits of life prevented the existence of any very
complicated social order, and at the same time gave a peculiar force and
endurance to those customs and ties which did exist. For while the
different tribes had no settled dwelling-places, the only cohesion
possible was that produced by the personal relations of the different
members one to another. Those beyond the limits of the tribe or
household could have no permanent connection with it. They were simply
‘strangers,’ friends or enemies, as circumstances might determine, but
having no common interests, connected by no abiding link, with those who
were not members of the same community. When a family became so numerous
that it was necessary for its members to separate, the new family,
formed under the influence of this pressure, would at first remember the
parent stock with reverence, and perhaps regard the patriarch of the
elder branch as entitled to some sort of obedience from, and possessing
some indefinite kind of power over, it after separation. It would,
however, soon wander away and lose all connection with its relatives,
forgetting perhaps in the course of time whence it had sprung, or
inventing a pedigree more pleasing to the vanity of its members. But
when men began to learn to till the soil, by degrees they had to abandon
their nomadic life, and to have for a time fixed dwelling-places, in
order that they might guard their crops, and gather, in the time of
harvest, the fruits of their labour. Cattle were no longer the only
means of subsistence, nor sufficiency of pasture the only limit to
migration. A part of their wealth was, for a time, bound up in the land
which they had tilled and sowed, and to obtain that wealth they must
remain in the neighbourhood of the cultivated soil. Thus a new
relationship arose between different families. They began to have
neighbours--dwellers on and cultivators of the land bordering their
own,--so that common interests sprang up between those who hitherto had
nothing in common, new ties began to connect together those who had
formerly no fixed relationship.

The adoption of agriculture changed likewise the relation of men to the
land on which they dwelt. Hitherto the tracts of pasture over which the
herdsman had driven his flocks and cattle had been as unappropriated as
the open sea, as free as the air which he breathed. He neither claimed
any property in the land himself, nor acknowledged any title thereto in
another. He had spent no labour on it, had done nothing to improve its
fertility; and his only right as against others to any locality was that
of his temporary sojourn there. But when agriculture began to require
the expenditure of labour on the land, and its enclosure, so as to
protect the crops which had been sown, a new distinct idea of the
possession of these enclosed pieces of land began to arise, so that a
man was no longer simply the member of a particular family. He had
acquired new rights and attributes, for which the patriarchal economy
had made no provision. He was the inhabitant of a particular locality,
the owner and cultivator of a particular piece of land. The effect of
this change was necessarily to weaken the household tie which bound men
together, by introducing new relations between them. The great strength
of that early bond had consisted in its being the only one which the
state of society rendered possible; and its force was greatly augmented
by the isolation in which the different nomadic groups habitually lived.
The adoption of a more permanent settlement thus tended in two ways to
facilitate the introduction of a new social organization. By increasing
the intercourse, and rendering more permanent the connection between
different families, it destroyed their isolation, and therefore weakened
the autocratic power of their chiefs; and at the same time, by
introducing new interests into the life of the members of a family, and
new relations between different families, it compelled sometimes the
adoption of regulations necessarily opposed to the principles of
patriarchal rule. We must remember, however, that the change from a
nomadic to a settled state took place very gradually, some peoples being
influenced by it much more slowly than others. Agriculture may be
practised to a certain extent by those who lead a more or less wandering
life, as is the case with the Tartar tribes, who grow buckwheat, which
only takes two or three months for its production; so that at the end of
that time they are able to gather their harvest and once more wander in
search of new pastures. And it is from its use by them that this grain
has received in French the name of _blé sarrasin_ (Saracen corn) or
simply _sarrasin_. We may suppose that the earliest agriculture
practised was something of this rude description; and even when tribes
learnt the advantage of cultivating more slowly germinating crops, they
would not readily abandon their nomadic habits, which long continuance
had rendered dear to them; but would only become agriculturists under
the pressure of circumstances. The hunter tribes of North American
Indians, and the Gipsies of Europe, serve to show us how deeply rooted
in a people may become the love of wandering and the dislike to settled

[Sidenote: The village community.]

It was probably to the difficulty of supporting existence produced by
the increase of population that the more continuous pursuit of
agriculture was due; and it would therefore be first regularly followed
by the less warlike tribes, whose territory had been curtailed by the
incursions of their bolder neighbours. No longer able to seek pasture
over so extended an area as formerly, and with perhaps an increasing
population, they would find the necessity of obtaining from the land a
greater proportionate supply of subsistence than they had obtained
hitherto. Agriculture would therefore have to be pursued more regularly
and laboriously, and thus the habit of settlement would gradually be
acquired. Under this influence we may discern a change taking place in
the social state of the Aryan tribes. Gradually they become less nomadic
and more agricultural; and as this takes place, there arises also a
change in the relations of peoples to each other. We should naturally
expect considerable variety in the effects produced on different nations
by the adoption of a settled life. The results depend upon climate and
locality, upon the kind of civilization chosen, and the special
idiosyncrasies of the people who adopt it. All these elements had their
share in moulding the life of the Aryans when they became an
agricultural people. Yet we find, nevertheless, one special type of
society to have been the prevailing type among them. This form of
society is called the Village Community. It possesses some features
apparently so peculiarly its own, that it would be difficult to decide
on the cause of its adoption or growth. It will be safer with our
present limited knowledge to be satisfied with noting the more marked
characteristics of this form of society, and the localities in which it
may be traced; and not attempt to determine whether it is to be regarded
as a natural resultant of the settlement of patriarchal families, or as
inherited or evolved by some particular groups of tribes.

The village community in its simplest state consisted of a group of
families, or households, whose dwellings were generally collected
together within an enclosure. To this group belonged a certain tract of
land, the cultivation and proprietorship of which were the subject of
minute regulations. The regulations varied in different localities to a
certain extent, but they were based on the division of the land into
three principal parts, viz. (1) the land immediately in the
neighbourhood of the dwellings, (2) another part specially set aside for
agricultural purposes, and (3) the remaining portion of the surrounding
open country, which was used only for grazing. Each of these divisions
was regarded as in some sort the common property of the village; but the
rights of individuals in some of them were more extensive than in
others. That part of the land which was annexed especially to the
dwellings was more completely the property of the different inhabitants
than any other. Each head of a house was entitled to the particular plot
attached to his dwelling, and probably these plots, and the dwellings to
which they were annexed, remained always practically in the ownership
of the same family. The area of this section, however, was very
insignificant when compared with the remainder of the communal estate.
In this the arable land was divided into a number of small plots, each
or several of which were assigned to particular households. The mode of
division was very various; but generally speaking, either each household
had an equal share assigned to it, or else a share in proportion to the
number of its males. Redistributions of the shares took place either at
stated periods, or whenever circumstances had rendered the existing
division inequitable. Each household cultivated the particular share
assigned to it, and appropriated to its own use the crops produced; but
individuals were never allowed themselves to settle the mode of
cultivation that they might prefer. The crops to be sown, and the part
of land on which they were to be sown, were all regulated by the common
assembly of the whole village, as were also the times for sowing and for
harvest, and every other agricultural operation; and these laws of the
assembly had to be implicitly followed by all the villagers. The third
portion, open or common land of the village, was not divided between the
households at all; but every member of the community was at liberty to
pasture his flocks and herds upon it.

In their relations to each other the villagers seem to have been on a
footing of perfect equality. It is probable that there existed generally
some sort of chief, but his power does not appear to have been very
great, and for the most part he was merely a president of their
assemblies, exercising only an influence in proportion to his personal
qualifications. The real lawgivers and rulers of this society were the
different individuals who constituted the assembly. These, however, did
not comprise all the inhabitants of the village. Only the heads of the
different families were properly included in the village assembly. But
the household had no longer the same extended circle as formerly, and,
so far as we can gather, there seems to have been little check on the
division of families and the formation of new households.

It must be borne in mind, however, that we have no existing institution
exactly resembling the village community, such as we may suppose it to
have originally been. As with the patriarchal family, we meet with it
only after it has undergone considerable modification, and we have to
reconstruct it from such modified forms and traditions as remain to us.
Many minor details of its nature are therefore necessarily matters of
speculation. The community, however, may still be found in a changed
form in several localities; notably among the peasantry in Russia, where
it bears the name of the _mir_, and among the native population of
India. Its former existence among the Teuton tribes is attested by the
clearest evidence. With each of these peoples, however, the form is
somewhat varied from what we may conclude to have been its original
nature; in each country it has been subject not only to the natural
growth and development which every institution is liable to, but to
special influences arising from the events connected with the nation’s
history, and from the nature and extent of its territory. But before we
inquire what these different influences may have been, let us notice
first certain leading characteristics of this group, and consider how
they probably arose.

The first thing that we notice is the change in the source of authority
in the Village Community as compared with that which existed in the
patriarchal family. The ruling power is no longer placed in the hands of
an individual

[Sidenote: The assembly of householders.]

chief, but is vested in an assembly of all the householders. The second
marked peculiarity is the common possession of nearly all the land by
the village, combined with the individual possession of goods of a
movable nature by the different members. These may be said to be the two
essentials of a true village community. Now the change from the
patriarchal to this later social form may have taken place by either of
two processes--the extension of an individual family into a community,
or the amalgamation of various families. Probably both of these
processes took place; but wherever anything like the formation of a
village community has been actually observed, and the process has
occasionally been discernible even in modern times in India, it is due
to the former of the two causes indicated. This mode of formation also
appears to have left the most distinct impress on society, and we will
therefore notice first how it probably acted.

When a family had devoted itself to agricultural pursuits, and settled
in a fixed locality, one of those divisions of its members might take
place which probably were of frequent occurrence in the nomadic state.
Although theoretically we speak of the patriarchal family as united and
indivisible, yet as a matter of fact we know that it could not always
have been so, and that families must frequently have either split up, or
else sent off little colonies from their midst. Now, we have seen how
marked an effect the settlement of the family must have had in
preserving a permanent connection between that family and the households
which sprang out of it. The separation between the older and the younger
households would be by no means so complete as formerly. The subsidiary
family would continue in close intercourse with the elder branch, and
would enjoy with it the use of the land which had been appropriated. In
course of time it might happen that a whole group of families would thus
become settled near each other, all united by a common origin and
enjoying in common the land surrounding the settlement. The desire for
mutual protection, which would often be felt, would alone be a strong
inducement to preserve the neighbourhood between those who through
kinship were allies by nature and tradition. Thus, though each separate
family would continue in its internal relations the peculiarities of the
patriarchal rule, the heads of the different families would be related
to each other by quite a new tie. They would not be members of one great
family all subservient to a common chief. They would be united simply by
the bond of their common interests.

In this way, no doubt, sprang up a new relationship between the family
chiefs, a relationship not provided for in the construction of the
patriarchal family. We might expect perhaps that a special pre-eminence
would be accorded to the original family from which the others had
separated, and possibly some traces of this pre-eminence may here and
there be discovered. Why we have not more traces of it may be difficult
to explain. For upon the whole the relationship among the different
heads of households seems generally to be one of equality. As we do not
know exactly by what process families became divided, it is useless to
speculate how this equality arose. Alongside of this new reign of
equality among the different patriarchs or heads of households, went a
decrease in the power of the patriarch within his own circle. The family
had ceased to be the bond of union of the community at large, albeit the
units composing the new combination were themselves groups constructed
on the patriarchal type; so that the fact that they were now only parts
of larger groups had the effect of weakening the force of patriarchal
customs. When the household was the only state of which an individual
was a member, to leave it was to lose all share in its rights and
property, to become an outlaw in every possible sense. But when the
family became part of the village, the facilities for separating from it
were necessarily increased. Households would more readily subdivide, now
that after separation their component parts continued united in the
community. Thus by degrees the old patriarchal life decayed, and gave
place to this new and more elastic social formation. The importance of
an individual’s relation to the family became less, that of the family
to the community became greater; so that in time the community took to
itself the regulation of many affairs originally within the exclusive
power of the patriarch.

With these changes in social life came new theories of rights and
obligations. A new lesson was learnt with regard to property. It is
difficult to discern whether, in the older, the patriarchal society, the
property was regarded as exclusively that of the chief, or as belonging
to the family collectively. The truth seems to be that the two ideas
were blended, and neither was conceived with any clearness or
completeness. In the village community for the first time the two forms
of property, personal and communal, became fully distinguished; each
kind, by defining and limiting, producing a clearer idea of the other.
The land, the bond of union, and the limit of the extent of the
community, remained the common property of all; in part, no doubt,
because the idea of possessing land was still so new that it had not
been thoroughly grasped. The produce of the land, whether corn or
pasture, was, on the other hand, rather regarded as a proper subject of
private possession. At first, perhaps, in obedience to the habits of an
earlier life, even this may have been looked upon as common property.
But it did not long continue so, as the separation of the households
remained too complete to permit of any community with regard to the
possessions of the individual homestead, or of the produce required for
the support of each household; and this enforced separation of household
goods soon extended to the live stock, and to the produce of the

[Sidenote: Law.]

The effects produced by their new relation to each other upon the
individual members of this group were very important. Hitherto such idea
of law as existed was confined to the mandates or traditional
regulations of the patriarchs. Law was at first inseparably connected
with religion. It was looked upon as a series of regulations handed down
by some ancestor who had received the regulations by Divine inspiration.
This notion of the origin of law is so general, that it is to be met
with in the traditions of almost every nation. Thus we find the
Egyptians reputing their laws to the teachings of Hermes (Thoth); while
the lawgivers of Greece, Minôs and Lycurgus, are inspired, the one by
Zeus the other by Apollo. So too the Iranian lawgiver Zoroaster is
taught by the Good Spirit; and Moses receives the commandments on Mount
Sinai. Now, though this idea of law is favourable to the procuring
obedience to it, it produces an injurious effect on the law itself, by
rendering it too fixed and unalterable. Law, in order to satisfy the
requirements and changes of life, should be elastic and capable of
adaptation; otherwise, regulations which in their institution were
beneficial will survive to be obnoxious under an altered condition of
society. But so long as laws are regarded as Divine commands they
necessarily retain a great degree of rigidity. The village community, in
disconnecting the source of law from the patriarchal power, tended to
destroy this association. The authority of the patriarch was a part of
the religion of the early Aryans; he was at once the ruler and the
priest of his family; and though this union between the two characters
long continued to have great influence on the conception of law, the
first efforts at a distinction between Divine and human commands sprang
from the regulations adopted by the assembly of the village. The
complete equality and the joint authority exercised by its members was
an education in self-government, which was needed to enable them to
advance in the path of civilization, teaching them the importance of
self-dependence and individual responsibility.

Those who learnt that lesson best displayed in their history the
greatness of its influence, having gained from it a vigour and readiness
to meet and adapt themselves to new requirements such as was never
possessed by those absolute monarchies which sprang out of an enlarged
form of the principle of patriarchal government. The history of the
various states which arose in Asia, each in its turn to be overwhelmed
in a destruction which scarcely left a trace of its social influence,
exhibits in a very striking manner the defects which necessarily ensue
when a people ignorant of social arts attempts to form an extensive
scheme of government. The various races who have risen to temporary
empire by the chances of war in the East, have been in very many
instances nomadic tribes whose habits had produced a hardihood which
enabled them to conquer with ease their effeminate neighbours of the
more settled districts, but whose social state was not sufficiently
advanced to allow them to carry on any extended rule. Used only to their
simple nomadic life, they were suddenly brought face to face with wants
and possessions of which they had hitherto had no experience, and which
lay beyond the bounds of their customs or ideas. They contented
themselves with exacting from the conquered such tribute as they could
extort, leaving their new subjects to manage their own affairs much as
they had done before, till the conquerors, gradually corrupted by the
luxuries which their position afforded, and having failed to make for
themselves any firm footing in their new empire, were in their turn
overwhelmed by fresh hordes of nomadic invaders.

Such, indeed, may be the fate of any nation. Such was the fate of Rome.
Her mighty empire, too, fell; but how different a record has she left
behind from that of the short-lived monarchies of the East! Having
learnt in her earliest infancy, better perhaps than any other nation,
how to reconcile the conflicting theories of the household and the
community, she never flagged in her study of the arts of government.
Early imbued with a love of law and order, her people discovered in due
time how to accommodate their rule to the various conditions of those
which came under their sway. Her laws penetrated to the remotest
boundaries of her state, and the rights of a Roman citizen were as
clearly defined in Britain as in Rome itself. Thus the Romans have left
behind them a system of law the wonder and admiration of all mankind,
one which has left indelible marks on the laws and customs, the arts and
civilization, of every country which once formed part of their

Such were among the changes resulting from the adoption of the village
community; but their influences only gradually asserted themselves, and
the extent of their development was very various among different
peoples. In India, the religious element in the household had always a
peculiar force, and its influence continued to affect to a great extent
the formation of the community. There this organization never lost sight
of the patriarchal power, and has exhibited a constant tendency to
revert to that more primitive social form. Among the Slavonic tribes the
community seems to have found its most favourable conditions, and some
of the reasons for this are not difficult to discern. The Slavs in
Russia have for a long time had open to them an immense tract of thinly
inhabited country, their only rivals to the possession of which were the
Finnish tribes of the north. Now, the village community is a form
peculiarly adapted for colonization, and this process of colonizing
fresh country by sending out detachments from over-grown villages seems
to have gone on for a long time in Russia; so that the communities which
still exist there present a complete network; all are bound by ties of
nearer or more distant relationship to each other; every village having
some ‘mother-village’ from which it has sprung.[55] Having a practically
boundless territory awaiting their settlement, none of those
difficulties in obtaining land which led to the decay of the village in
western Europe affected the Russians in their earlier history.

With the Teutons the village had a somewhat different history. It is
difficult to determine exactly to what extent it existed among them; but
traces of its organization are still discoverable among the laws and
customs of Germany and England. The warlike habits of the German tribes,
however, soon produced a marked effect on this organization. The chief
of the village, whether hereditary or elective, was under normal
conditions possessed of but little power. Among a warlike people,
however, the necessity for a captain or dictator must have been much
greater than with peaceful tribes; for war requires, more than any other
pursuit, that it should be directed by an individual mind. Among the
peaceful inhabitants of India or Russia the village head-man was
generally some aged and venerable father exercising a sort of paternal
influence over the others through the reverence paid to his age and
wisdom. The habits of the Teutons gave an excessive importance to the
strength and vigour of manhood, and they learnt to regard those who
exhibited the greatest skill in battle as their natural chieftains.



We have hitherto been occupied in tracing the growth of inventions which
had for their end the supply of material wants, or the ordering of
conditions which should enable men to live peaceably together in
communities, and defend the products of their labour from the attacks of
rival tribes and warlike neighbours. A very little research into the
relics of antiquity, however, brings another side of human thought
before us, and we discover, whether by following the revelations of
language or by examining into the traces left in ancient sites, abundant
proof to show that the material wants of life did not alone occupy the
thoughts of our remote ancestors any more than our own, and that even
while the struggle for life was fiercest, conjectures about the unseen
world and the life beyond the grave, and aspirations towards the
invisible source of life and light they felt to be around them, occupied
a large space in their minds. God did not leave them without witness at
any time, but caused the ‘invisible things to be shown by those that do
appear.’ And even in the darkest ages and among the least-favoured races
there were always to be found some minds that vibrated, however feebly,
to the suggestions of this teaching, and shaped out for themselves and
their tribe some conception of a Divine Ruler and His government of the
world from those works of His hands of which their senses told them.
Before commerce, or writing, or law had advanced beyond their earliest
beginnings, religious rites and funeral rites had no doubt been
established in every tribe, and men’s thoughts about God and His
relationship to His creatures had found some verbal expression, some
sort of creed in which they could be handed down from father to son and
form a new tie to bind men together. The task of tracing back these
rites and creeds to their earliest shape is manifestly harder than that
of tracing material inventions, or laws between man and man, to their
first germs, for we are here trenching on some of the deepest questions
which the human mind is capable of contemplating--nothing less, indeed,
than the nature of conscience and the dealings of God Himself with the
souls of His creatures. We must therefore tread cautiously, be content
to leave a great deal uncertain, and, making up our minds only on such
points as appear to be decided by revelation, accept on others the
results of present researches as still imperfect, and liable to be
modified as further light on the difficult problems in consideration is

[Sidenote: Explanation of mythology through the study of language.]

The study of language has perhaps done more than anything else to clear
away the puzzles which mythologies formerly presented to students. It
has helped in two ways: first, by tracing the names of objects of
worship to their root-forms, and thus showing their meaning and
revealing the thought which lay at the root of the worship; secondly, by
proving the identity between the gods of different nations, whose names,
apparently different, have been resolved into the same root-word, or to
a root of the same meaning, when the alchemy of philological research
was applied to them.

The discovery of a closer relationship than had been formerly suspected
between the mythologies of various nations is a very important one, as
it enables us to trace the growth of the stories told of gods and
heroes, from the mature form in which we first become acquainted with
them in the religious systems of the Greeks, Romans, and Scandinavians,
to the primitive shape in which the same creeds were held by the more
metaphysical and less imaginative Eastern peoples among whom they
originally sprang up. In some respects this task of tracing back the
poetical myths of Greek and Northern poets to the simpler, if grander,
beliefs of the ancient Egyptians or Chaldæans or Hindus is not unlike
our search in a perfected language for its earliest roots. We lose
shapeliness and beauty as we come back, but we find the form that
explains the birth of the thought, and lets us see how it grew in the
minds of men. One chief result arrived at by this comparison of creeds,
and by unravelling the meaning of the names of ancient gods and heroes,
is the discovery that a worship of different aspects and forces of
nature lies at the bottom of nearly all mythologies, and that the cause
of the resemblance between the stories told of the gods and heroes (a
resemblance which strikes us as soon as we read two or three of them
together) is that they are in reality only slightly different ways of
describing natural appearances according to the effect produced on
different minds, or to the variations of climate and season of the year.
Having once got the key of the enigma in our hands, we soon become
expert in hunting the parable through all the protean shapes in which it
is presented to us. The heroes of the old stories we have long loved
begin to lose their individuality and character for us. And instead of
thinking of Apollo, and Osiris, and Theseus, and Herakles, and Thor as
separate idealizations of heroic or godlike character; of Ariadne, and
Idun, and Isis as heroines of pathetic histories, our thoughts as we
read are busied in tracing all that is said about them to the aspects of
the sun in his march across the heavens, through the vicissitudes of a
bright and thundery eastern, or a gusty northern, day, and the tenderly
glowing and fading colours of the western sky into which he sinks when
his course is run.

Our first feeling on receiving this simple explanation of the old
stories of mythology is rather one of disappointment than of
satisfaction; we feel that we are losing a great deal--not the interest
of the stories only, but all those glimpses of deep moral meanings, of
yearnings after Divine teachers and rulers, of acknowledgment of the
possibility of communion between God and man, which we had hitherto
found in them, and which we are sure that the original makers of them
could not have been without. It seems to rob the old religions of the
essence of religion--spirituality--and reduce them to mere observations
of natural phenomena, due rather to the bodily senses than to any
instincts or necessities of the soul. But here the science of language,
with which we were about to quarrel as having robbed us, comes in to
restore to the old beliefs those very elements of mystery, awe, and
yearning towards the invisible, which we were fearing to see vanish
away. As is usually the case on looking deeper, we shall find that the
explanation which seemed at first to impoverish really enhances the
beauty and worth of the subject brought into clearer light. It teaches
us to see something more in what we have been used to call mere
nature-worship than appears at first sight.

When we were considering the beginnings of language, we learned that
all root-words were expressions of sensations received from outward
things, every name or word being a description of some bodily feeling, a
gathering-up of impressions on the senses made by the universe outside
us. With this stock of words--pictorial words, we may call them--it is
easy to see that when people in early times wanted to express a mental
feeling, they were driven to use the word which expressed the sensation
in their bodies most nearly corresponding to it. We do something of the
same kind now when we talk of _warm_ love, _chill_ fear, _hungry_
avarice, and _dark_ revenge--mixing up words for sensations of the body
to heighten the expression of emotions of the mind. In using these
expressions we are conscious of speaking allegorically, and we have,
over and above our allegorical phrases, words set aside especially for
describing mental actions, so that we can talk of the sensations of our
bodies and of our minds without any danger of confounding them together.
But in early times, before words had acquired these varied and enlarged
meanings, when men had only one word by which to express the glow of the
body when the sun shone and the glow of the mind when a friend was near,
the difficulty of speaking, or even thinking, of mental and bodily
emotions apart from each other must have been very great. Only gradually
could the two things have become disentangled from one another, and
during all the time while this change was going on an allegorical way of
speaking of mental emotions and of the source of mental emotions must
have prevailed. It is not difficult to see that while love and warmth,
fear and cold, had only one word to express them, the sun, the source of
warmth, and God, the source of love, were spoken of in much the same
terms, and worshipped in songs that expressed the same adoration and
gratitude. It follows, therefore, that while we acknowledge the large
proportion in which the nature element comes into all mythologies, we
need not look upon the worshippers of nature as worshippers of visible
things only. They felt, without being able to express, the Divine cause
which lay behind the objects whose grandeur and beauty appealed to their
wonder, and they loved and worshipped the Unseen while naming the seen
only. As time passed on and language developed, losing much of its
original significance, there was, especially among the Greeks and
Romans, a gradual divergence between the popular beliefs about the gods
and the spirit of true worship which originally lay behind them. People
no longer felt the influence of nature in the double method in which it
had come to them in the childhood of the race, and they began to
distinguish clearly between their bodies and their minds, between the
things that lay without and the emotions stirred within. Then the old
nature-beliefs became degraded to foolish and gross superstitions, and
yearning souls sought God in a more spiritual way.

The mythologies of the different Aryan nations are those which concern
us most nearly, entering as they do into the very composition of our
language, and colouring not only our literature and poetry, but our
cradle-songs and the tales told in our nurseries. We shall find it
interesting to compare together the various forms of the stories told by
nations of the Aryan stock, and to trace them back to their earliest

[Sidenote: Egyptian religion.]

But before entering on this task, it may be well to turn our attention
for a little while to a still earlier mythology, where the mingling of
metaphysical conceptions with the worship of natural phenomena is
perhaps more clearly shown than in any other, and which may therefore
serve as a guide to help us in grasping this connection in the more
highly coloured, picturesque stories we shall be hereafter attempting
to unravel. This earliest and least ornamented mythology is that of the
ancient Egyptians, a people who were always disposed to retain primitive
forms unchanged, even when, as in the case of their hieroglyphics, they
had to use the primitive forms to express thoughts which these forms
could not naturally convey. That they followed this course with their
religious ceremonies and in their manner of representing their gods, is
perhaps fortunate for us, as it enables us to trace with greater ease
the particular aspect of nature, and the mental sensation or moral
lesson identified with it, which each one of their gods and goddesses
embodied. We have the rude primitive form embodying an aspect or force
of nature, instead of a beautiful confusing story, merely for the most
part titles, addresses, and prayers, whose purport more or less reveals
the spiritual meaning which that aspect of nature conveyed to the

The chief objects of nature-worship must obviously be the same, or
nearly the same, in every part of the world, so that even among
different races, living far apart, and having no connection with each
other, a certain similarity in the stories told about gods and heroes,
and in the names and titles given to them, is observable. The sun, the
moon, the heavens and stars, the sea, the river, sunshine and darkness,
night and day, summer and winter,--these objects and changes must always
make the staple, the back-bone so to speak, round which all mythological
stories founded on nature-worship are grouped. But climate and scenery,
especially any striking peculiarity in the natural features of a
country, have a strong influence in modifying the impressions made by
these objects on the imaginations of the dwellers in the land, and so
giving a special form or colour to the national creed, bringing perhaps
some Divine attribute or some more haunting impression of the condition
of the soul after death, into a prominence unknown elsewhere. The
religion of the ancient Egyptians was distinguished from that of other
nations by several such characteristics, and in endeavouring to
understand them we must first recall what there is distinctive in the
climate and scenery of Egypt to our minds.

[Sidenote: Influence of nature in Egyptian religion.]

The land of Egypt is, let us remember, a wedge-shaped valley, broad at
its northern extremity and gradually narrowing between two ranges of
cliffs till it becomes through a great part of its length a mere strip
of cultivatable land closely shut in on each side. Its sky overhead is
always blue, and from morning till evening intensely bright, flecked
only occasionally, and here and there, by thin gauzy clouds, so that the
sun’s course, from the first upshooting of his keen arrowy rays over the
low eastern hills to his last solemn sinking in a pomp of glorious
colour behind the white cliffs in the west, can be traced unimpeded day
after day through the entire course of the year. Beyond the cliffs which
receive the sun’s first and last greeting stretches a boundless
waste--the silent, dead, sunlit desert, which no one had ever traversed,
which led no one knew where, from whose dread, devouring space the sun
escaped triumphant each morning, and back into which it returned when
the valley was left to darkness and night.

The neighbourhood of the desert, and the striking contrast between its
lifeless wastes and the richly cultivated plains between the hills, had,
as we can see, a great effect on the imaginations of the first
inhabitants of the land of Egypt, and gave to many of their thoughts
about death and the world beyond the grave an intensity unknown to the
dwellers among less monotonous scenery. The contrast was a perpetual
parable to them, or rather perhaps a perpetual _memento mori_. The
valley between the cliffs presented a vivid picture of active and
intense life, every inch of fruitful ground teeming with the results of
labour--budding corn, clustering vines, groups of palm-trees, busy
sowers and reapers and builders; resounding, too, everywhere with brisk
sounds of toil or pleasure. The clink of anvil and hammer, the creaking
of water-wheels, the bleating and lowing of flocks and herds, the tramp
of the oxen treading out the corn, the songs of women, and the laughter
of children playing by the river. On the other side of the cliffs, what
a change! There reigned an unbroken solitude and an intense silence,
such as is only found in the desert, because it comes from the utter
absence of all life, animal or vegetable: no rustle of leaf or bough, no
hum of an insect or whirr of a wing, breaks the charmed stillness even
for a minute. There is silence, broad, unbroken sunshine, bare cliffs,
rivers of golden sand--nothing else. Amenti, the ancient Egyptians
called the western desert into which, as it seemed to them, the sun went
down to sleep after his day’s work was done; Amenti, the vast, the
grand, the unknown; and it was there they built their most splendid
places of worship, there that they carried their dead for burial,
feeling that it spoke to them of rest, of unchangeableness, of eternity.

Another striking and peculiar feature of Egyptian scenery was the
beautiful river--the one only river--on which the prosperity, the very
existence, of the country depended. It, too, had a perpetual story to
tell, a parable to unfold, as it flowed and swelled and contracted in
its beneficent yearly course. They saw that all growth and life depended
on its action; where its waters reached, there followed fruitfulness and
beauty, and a thousand teeming forms of animal, vegetable, and insect
life; where its furthest wave stayed, there the reign of nothingness and
death began again. The Nile, therefore, became to the ancient Egyptians
the token and emblem of a life-giving principle in nature, of that
perpetual renewal, that passing from one form of existence into another,
which has ever had so much hopeful significance for all thinking minds.
Its blue colour when it reflected the sky was the most sacred of their
emblems, and was devoted to funeral decorations and to the adornments of
the dead, because it spoke to them of the victory of life over death, of
the permanence of the life-principle amid the evanescent and vanishing
forms under which it appeared. Of these two distinctive features of
nature in Egypt, the unexplored western desert and the unending river,
we must, then, think as exercising a modifying or intensifying effect on
the impressions produced on the minds of ancient Egyptians by those
aspects of nature which they had in common with other Eastern peoples.
Let us think what these are. First and most conspicuous we must put the
sun, in all his changing aspects, rising in gentle radiance over the
eastern hills, majestically climbing the cloudless sky, sending down
fierce perpendicular rays through all the hot noon, withdrawing his
overwhelming heat towards evening as he sloped to his rest, and painting
the western sky with colour and glory, on which the eyes of men could
rest without being dazzled, vanishing from sight at last behind the
white rocks in the west. And then the moon--white, cold, changeable,
ruling the night and measuring time. Besides these, the planets and
countless hosts of stars; the green earth constantly pouring forth food
for man from its bosom; the glowing blue sky at noon and the purple
midnight heaven; the moving wind; the darkness that seemed to eat up and
swallow the day.

[Sidenote: Sun-gods.]

[Sidenote: Amun.]

Now let us see how the ancient Egyptians personified these into gods,
and what were the corresponding moral or spiritual ideas of which each
nature-power spake to their souls. We shall find the mythology easier to
remember and understand if we group the personifications round the
natural objects whose aspects inspired them, instead of enumerating them
in their proper order as first, second, and third class divinities. So
for the present we will class them as Sun-gods, Sky-gods, Wind-gods,
etc.; and we will begin with the sun, which among ancient Egyptians
occupied the _first_ place, given, as we shall see, to the sky among our
Aryan ancestors. The sun, indeed, not only occupies the most conspicuous
position in Egyptian mythology, but is presented to us in so many
characters and under so many aspects that he may be said to be the chief
inspiration, the central object of worship, nothing else, indeed, coming
near to his grandeur and his mystery. It is to be remarked, however--and
this is a distinctive feature in the Egyptian system of worship--that
the _mystery_ of the sun’s disappearance during the night and his
reappearance every morning is the point in the parable of the sun’s
course to which the Egyptians attached the deepest significance, and to
the personification of which they gave the most dignified place in their
hierarchy of gods. Atum, or Amun, ‘the concealed one,’ was the name and
title given to the sun after he had sunk, as they believed, into the
under-world; and by this name they worshipped the concealed Creator of
all things, the ‘Dweller in Eternity,’ who was before all, and into
whose bosom all things, gods and men, would, they thought, return in the
lapse of ages. The figure under which they represented this their oldest
and most venerable deity was that of a man, sometimes human-headed and
sometimes with the man’s face concealed under the head and horns of a
ram--the word ‘ram’ meaning ‘concealment’ in the Egyptian language. The
figure was coloured blue, the sacred colour of the Source of life. Two
derivations are given for the name Amun. It means that which brings to
light; but it also expresses the simple invitation ‘Come,’ and in this
sense it appears to be connected with a sentence in the ritual, where
Atum is represented as dwelling alone in the under-world in the ages
before creation, and on ‘a day’ speaking the word ‘Come,’ when
immediately Osiris and Horus (light and the physical sun) appeared
before him in the under-world.

[Sidenote: Osiris.]

The aspect of the sun as it approached its mysterious setting exercised,
perhaps, a still greater power over the thoughts of the Egyptians, and
was personified by them in a deity, who, if not the most venerable, was
the best loved of all their gods. Osiris was the name given from the
earliest times to the kind declining sun, who appeared to men to veil
his glory, and sheathe his dazzling beams in a lovely, many-coloured
radiance, which soothed and gladdened the weary eyes and hearts of men,
and enabled them to gaze fearlessly and lovingly on the dread orb from
which during the day they had been obliged to turn their eyes. This was
the god who loved men and dwelt among them, and for man’s sake permitted
himself to be for a time quenched and defeated by the darkness--it was
thus that the ancient people read the parable of the sun’s evening
beauty and of his disappearance beneath the shades of night, amplifying
it, as the needs of the human heart were more distinctly recognized,
into a real foreshadowing of that glorious truth towards which the whole
human race was yearning--_the_ truth of which these shows of nature
were, indeed, speaking continually to all who could understand. The
return of Osiris every evening into the under-world invested him also,
for the ancient Egyptians, with the character of guardian and judge of
souls who were supposed to accompany him on his mysterious journey, or
at all events to be received and welcomed by him in Amenti (the realm of
souls) when they arrived there. Osiris therefore filled a place both
among the gods of the living and those of the dead. He was the link
which connected the lives of the upper and the under worlds together,
and made them one--the Lover and Dweller among men while yet in the
body, and also the Judge and Ruler of the spirit-realm to which they
were all bound. Two distinct personifications showed him in these
characters. As the Dweller among men and the Sharer of the commonness
and materiality of their earth-life, he was worshipped under the form of
a bull--the Apis, in which shape his pure soul was believed constantly
to haunt the earth, passing from one bull to that of another on the
death of the animal, but never abandoning the land of his choice, or
depriving his faithful worshippers of his visible presence among them.
In his character of Judge of the dead, Osiris was represented as a
mummied figure, of the sacred blue colour, carrying in one hand the rod
of dominion, and in the other the emblem of life, and wearing on his
head the double crown of Upper and Lower Egypt. In the judgment scenes
he is seated on a throne at the end of the solemn hall of trial to which
the soul has been arraigned, and in the centre of which stands the
fateful balance where, in the presence of the evil accusing spirit and
of the friendly funeral gods and genii who stand around, the heart of
the man is weighed against a symbol of Divine Truth.

Next in interest to the setting sun is the personification under which
the Egyptians worshipped the strong young sun, the victorious conqueror
of the night, who each

[Sidenote: Horus.]

[Sidenote: Ra.]

morning appeared to rise triumphant from the blank realm of darkness in
which the rays of yesterday’s sun had been quenched. They figured him as
the eldest son of Osiris, Horus, the vigorous bright youth who loved his
father, and avenged him, piercing with his spear-like ray the monster
who had swallowed him up. Horus is represented as sailing up the eastern
sky from the under-world in a boat, and slaying the serpent Night with a
spear as he advances. The ultimate victory of life over death, of truth
and goodness over falsehood and wrong, were the moral lessons which this
parable of the sun’s rising read to the ancient Egyptians. The midday
sun, ruling the heavens in unclouded glory, symbolized to them majesty
and kingly authority, and was worshipped as a great and powerful god
under the name of Ra, who was often identified with Amun and worshipped
as Amun-Ra. This was especially the case at Thebes.

[Sidenote: Ptah.]

Though these four appearances may well seem to exhaust all the aspects
under which the sun can be considered, there are still several other
attributes belonging to him which the ancient Egyptians noticed and
personified into other sun-gods. These we will enumerate more briefly.
Ptah, a god of the first order, worshipped with great magnificence at
Memphis, personified the life-giving power of the sun’s beams, and in
this character was sometimes mixed up with Osiris, and in the ritual is
spoken of also as the creative principle, the ‘word’ or ‘power’ by which
the essential deity revealed itself in the visible works of creation.
Another deity, Mandoo, appears to personify the fierce power of the
sun’s rays at midday in summer, and was looked upon as the god of
vengeance and destruction, a leader in war, answering in some measure,
though not entirely, to the war-gods of other mythologies.

[Sidenote: Sekhet-Pasht.]

There were also Gom, Moui, and Kons, who are spoken of always as the
_sons_ of the sun-god, those who reveal him or carry his messages to
mankind, and in them the _rays_, as distinguished from the _disk_ of the
sun, are apparently personified. The rays of the sun had also a feminine
personification in Sekhet or Sekhet-Pasht, the goddess with the
lioness’s head. To her several different and almost opposite qualities
were attributed: as, indeed, an observer of the burning and enlightening
rays of an Eastern sun might be doubtful whether to speak oftenest of
the baleful fever-heat with which they infect the blood, or of their
vivifying effects upon the germs of animal and vegetable life. Thus the
lioness-goddess was at once feared and loved; dreaded at one moment as
the instigator of fierce passions and unruly desires, invoked at another
as the giver of joy, the source of all tender and elevating emotions.
Her name, Pasht, means ‘the lioness,’ and was perhaps suggested by the
fierceness of the sun’s rays, answering to the lion’s fierce strength or
the angry light of his eyes. She was also called the ‘Lady of the Cave,’
suggesting something of mystery and concealment. Her chief worship was
at Bubastis; but, judging from the frequency of her representations,
must have been common throughout Egypt.

[Sidenote: Thoth.]

We will now take the second great light of the heavens, the moon, and
consider the forms under which it was personified by the Egyptians.
Rising and setting like the sun, and disappearing for regular periods,
the moon was represented by a god, who, like the god of the setting sun,
occupied a conspicuous position among the powers of the under-world, and
was closely connected with thoughts of the existence of the soul after
death, and the judgment pronounced on deeds done in the body. Thoth,
‘the Word,’ the ‘Lord of Divine Words,’ was the title given to this
deity; but though always making one in the great assemblage in the
judgment-hall, his office towards the dead does not approach that of
Osiris in dignity. He is not the judge, he is the recorder who stands
before the balance with the dread account in his hand, while the
trembling soul awaits the final sentence. His character is that of a
just recorder, a speaker of true words; he wears the ostrich feather,
the token of exact rigid evenness and impartiality, and yet he is
represented as having _uneven_ arms, as if to hint that the cold white
light of justice, untempered by the warmth of love, cannot thoroughly
apprehend what it seems to take exact account of, leaving, after all,
one side unembraced, unenlightened, as the moonlight casts dense shadows
around the spots where its beams fall. The silent, watching, peering
moon! Who has not at times felt an inkling of the parable which the
ancient Egyptians told of her cold eye and her unwarming rays which
enlighten chilly, and point out while they distort?

In spite of his uneven arms, however, Thoth (the dark moon and the light
moon) was a great god, bearing sway in both worlds in accordance with
his double character of the revealed and the hidden orb. On earth he is
the great teacher, the inventor of letters, of arithmetic, and
chronology; the ‘Lord of Words,’ the ‘Lover of Truth,’ the ‘Great and
Great.’ Thoth was sometimes represented under the form of an ape; but
most frequently with a human figure ibis-headed; the ibis, on account of
his mingled black and white feathers, symbolizing the dark and the
illumined side of the moon. Occasionally, however, he is drawn with a
man’s face, and bearing the crescent moon on his head, surmounted by an
ostrich feather; in his hand he holds his tablets and his recording

[Sidenote: Maut and Neit.]

The sky-divinities were all feminine among the Egyptians; representing
the feminine principle of receptivity, the sky being regarded by them
mainly as the abode, the home, of the sun and moon gods. The greatest of
the sky-deities was Maut, or Mut, the mother, who represents the deep
violet night sky, tenderly brooding over the hot exhausted earth when
the day was over, and wooing all living things to rest, by stretching
cool, protecting arms above and around them. The beginning of all
things, abysmal calm, but above all, motherhood, were the metaphysical
conceptions which the ancient Egyptians connected with the aspect of the
brooding heavens at midnight, and which they worshipped as the oldest
primeval goddess, Maut. The night sky, however, suggested another
thought, and gave rise to yet another personification. Night does not
bring only repose; animals and children sleep, but men wake and think;
and, the strife of day being hushed, have leisure to look into their own
minds, and listen to the still small voice that speaks within. Night was
thus the parent of thought, the mother of wisdom, and a personification
of the night sky was worshipped as the goddess of wisdom. She was named
Neit, a word signifying ‘I came from myself,’ and she has some
attributes in common with the Greek goddess of wisdom, Athene, whose
warlike character she shared. Nu, another sky-goddess, who personifies
the sunlit blue midday sky, may also on other accounts claim kinship
with the patroness of Athens. She is the life-giver--the joy-inspirer.
Clothed in the sacred colour which the life-giving river reflects, the
midday sky was supposed to partake of the river’s vivifying qualities,
and its goddess Nu is very frequently pictured as seated in the midst of
the tree of life, giving of its fruits to faithful souls who have
completed their time of purification and travel in the under-world, and
are waiting for admission to the Land of Aoura, the last stage of
preparation before they are received into the immediate presence of the
great gods.

[Sidenote: Saté and Hathor.]

Two other aspects of the sky were considered worthy of personification
and worship. The morning sky, or perhaps the eastern half of the morning
sky, which awaited the sun’s earliest beams, and which was called Saté,
and honoured as the goddess of vigilance and endeavour, and the
beautiful western sky at even, more lovely in Egypt than anywhere else,
to the exaltation of which the Egyptians applied their prettiest titles
and symbols. Hathor, the ‘Queen of Love,’ was the name they gave to
their personification of the evening sky, speaking of her at once as the
loving and loyal wife of the sun, who received the weary traveller, the
battered conqueror, to rest on her bosom after his work was done, and
the gentle household lady whose influence called men to their homes when
labour was finished, and collected scattered families to enjoy the
loveliest spectacle of the day, the sunset, in company. Hathor is
represented as a figure with horns, bearing the sun’s disk between them,
or sometimes carrying a little house or shrine upon her head.

[Sidenote: Kneph.]

The sky, however, with the ancient Egyptians, did not include the _air_;
that again was personified in a masculine form, and regarded as a very
great god, some of whose attributes appear to trench on those of Osiris,
and Ptah; Kneph was the name given to the god who embodied the air, the
living breath or spirit; and he was one of the divinities to whom a
share in the work of creation was attributed. He is represented in a
boat, moving over the face of the waters, and breathing life into the
newly created world. He was no doubt connected in the minds of pious
Egyptians with thoughts of that breath of God by whose inspiration man
became a living soul; but in his nature-aspect he perhaps especially
personified the wind blowing over the Nile valley after the inundation,
and seeming to bring back life to the world by drying up the water under
which the new vegetation was hidden.

[Sidenote: Isis.]

The soil of the country thus breathed upon, which responded to the rays
of Osiris and the breath of Kneph by pouring forth a continual supply of
food for men, was naturally enough personified into a deity who claimed
a large share of devotion, and was worshipped under many titles. Isis,
the sister-wife of Osiris, was the name given to her, and so much was
said of Isis, and so many stories told of her, that it appears at times
as if, under that single name, the attributes of all the other goddesses
were gathered up. Isis, was a personification, not of the receptive
earth only, but of the feminine principle in nature wherever perceived,
whether in the tender west that received the sun, or in the brooding
midnight sky that invited to repose, or in the cherishing soil that drew
in the sun’s warmth, and the breath of the wind, only to give them forth
again changed into flowers and fruit and corn. Isis of ‘the ten thousand
names’ the Greeks called her; and if we consider her as the embodiment
of all that can be said of the feminine principle, we shall not be
surprised at her many names, or at the difficulty of comprehending her
nature. She was, above all else, however, the wife of Osiris and the
mother of Horus, which certainly points to her being, or at all events
to her having been originally, a sky-goddess; but then again she is
spoken of as dressed in robes of many hues, which points to the changing
and parti-coloured earth. Some of her attributes

[Sidenote: Nephthys.]

seem to connect her with the dark moon, especially the fact that her
most important offices are towards the dead in the under-world, whose
government she is spoken of as sharing with her husband Osiris. In
pictures of the funeral procession she is drawn as standing at the head
of the mummied body during its passage over the river that bounds the
under-world, and in that position she represents the beginning; her
younger sister, Nephthys, the end, stands at the foot of the still
sleeping soul; the two goddesses thus summing up, with divinity at each
end, the little span of mortal life. In the judgment-hall, Isis stands
behind the throne of Osiris, drooping great protecting wings over him
and it. This quality of protecting, of cherishing and defending, appears
to be the spiritual conception worshipped under the form of the
many-named goddess. Isis is constantly spoken of as the protector of her
brother Osiris, and is drawn on the tomb with long drooping wings. She
is also frequently represented as nursing Horus, the son who avenged his
father, and in that character she wears the cow’s head, the cow being
sacred to Isis, as was the bull to Osiris.

But when we have made this summary there is one thing which should also
be borne in mind with regard to the religion of Egypt. Ancient Egypt,
which appears at first sight such a single and united empire, was in
reality (and in this respect it was something like the Chinese empire)
deeply infected with a sort of feudalism, in virtue of which the
different divisions (nomes) of the country did in reality constitute
something like different states. And each state tried to preserve its
sense of independence by having some special divinity or group of
divinities which it held in peculiar honour. So that the Egyptian
pantheon itself is infected by this republican spirit. Almost each
single god is supreme somewhere; elsewhere he may be almost overlooked.

[Sidenote: Animal-gods.]

The origin of the strangely intimate connection between these Egyptian
gods, and certain animals held to be sacred to them, and in some cases
to be incarnations of them, is a very difficult question to determine.
Two explanations are given by different writers. One is that the
animal-worship was a remnant of the religion of an inferior race who
inhabited Egypt in times far back, and who were conquered but not
exterminated by immigrants from Asia, who brought a higher civilization
and a more spiritual religion with them, which, however, did not
actually supersede the old, but incorporated some of its baser elements
into itself. Other writers look upon the animal-worship as but another
form of the unending parable from nature, which, as we have seen,
pervades the whole Egyptian mythology. The animals, according to this
view, being not less than the nature-gods worshipped as revelations of a
divine order, manifesting itself through the many appearances of the
outside world; their obedient following of the laws imposed on their
natures through instinct making them better witnesses to the Divine Will
than self-willed, disobedient man was found to be.

This is one of the problems which must be left to be determined by
further researches into unwritten history, or perhaps by a fuller
understanding of Egyptian symbols. That a great deal of symbolical
teaching was wrapped up in the Egyptians’ worship of animals may be
gathered by the lesson which they drew from the natural history of the
sacred beetle, whose habit of burying in the sand of the desert a ball
of clay, full of eggs, which in due course of time changed into
chrysalises and then into winged beetles, furnished them with their
favourite emblem of the resurrection of the body and the continued life
of the soul through the apparent death-sleep--an emblem which was
wanting to no temple, and without which no body was ever buried.
Thinking of this, we must allow that their eyes were not shut to the
teaching of the ‘visible things’ which in the ages of darkness yet spoke
a message from God.

We have now gone over the most important of the Egyptian gods,
connecting them with the natural appearances which seem to have inspired
them, so as to give the clue to a comparison with the nature-gods of the
Aryans, of which we shall speak in the next chapter. There were, of
course, other objects of worship, not so easily classed, among which we
ought to mention Hapi, the personification of the river Nile; Sothis,
the dog-star, connected with Isis; and two more of the funeral
gods--Anubis, who in his nature-aspect may be possibly another
personification of air and wind, and who is always spoken of as the
friend and guardian of pure souls, and represented at the death-bed
sometimes in the shape of a human-headed bird as helping the new-born
soul to escape from the body; and Thmei, the goddess of Truth and
Justice, who introduces the soul into the hall of judgment. The evil
powers recognized among the ancient Egyptians were principally
embodiments of darkness and of the waste of the desert, and do not
appear to have had any distinct conception of moral evil associated with
them. They are, however, spoken of in the book of the dead as enemies of
the soul, who endeavour to delude it and lead it out of its way on its
journey across the desert to the abode of the gods. Amenti was no doubt
the desert, but not only the sunlit desert the Egyptians could overlook
from their western hills--it included the unknown world beyond and
underneath, to which they supposed the sun to go when he sank below the
horizon, and where, following in his track, the shades trooped when
they had left their bodies. The story of the trials and combats of the
soul on its journey through Amenti to the judgment-hall, and its
reception by the gods, is written in the most ancient and sacred of
Egyptian books, the Ritual, or Book of the Dead, which has been
translated into French by M. de Rougé, and later by M. Pierret, and into
English by Dr. Birch. The English translation is to be found in the
Appendix to the fifth volume of Bunsen’s _Egypt’s Place in History_.

[Sidenote: Chaldæan religion.]

The mythologies of the other uninspired Semitic nations resemble the
Egyptian in the main element of being personifications of the powers of
nature. The Chaldæans directed their worship chiefly towards the
heavenly bodies as did the ancient Egyptians, but not exclusively. Their
principal deities were arranged in triads of greater and less dignity;
nearly all the members of these were personifications of the heavens or
the heavenly bodies. The first triad comprised Ana, the heavens or the
hidden sun, Father of the gods, Lord of Darkness, Ruler of a far-off
city, Lord of Spirits. By these titles, suggestive of some of the
attributes and offices towards the dead, attributed by the Egyptians to
Atum and Osiris, was the first member of their first order of gods
addressed by the Chaldæans. Next in order came Bil, also a sun-god: the
Ruler, the Lord, the Source of kingly power, and the patron and image of
the earthly king. His name has the same signification as Baal, and he
personifies the same aspect of nature, the sun ruling in the heavens,
whose worship was so widely diffused among all the people with whom the
Israelites came in contact. The third member of the first triad was Hoa
or Ea, who personified apparently the earth: Lord of the abyss, Lord of
the great deep, the intelligent Guide, the intelligent Fish, the Lord of
the Understanding, are some of his titles, and appear to reveal a
conception somewhat answering to that of Thoth. His symbol was a
serpent, and he was represented with a fish’s head, which connects him
with the Philistine’s god Dagon. The second triad comprised Sin, or
Urki, a moon-god, worshipped at Ur, Abraham’s city--his second name
Urki, means ‘the watcher,’ and has the same root as the Hebrew name for
‘angel’--San, the disk of the sun; and Vul, the air. Beneath these
deities in dignity, or rather perhaps in distance, came the five
planets, each representing some attribute or aspect of the deity, or
rather being itself a portion of deity endowed with a special
characteristic, and regarded as likely to be propitious to men from
being less perfect and less remote than the greater gods. These
planetary gods were called--Nebo (Mercury), the lover of light; Ishtar
(Venus), the mother of the gods; Nergal (Mars), the great hero; Bel
Merodach (Jupiter), the ruler, the judge; Nin (Saturn), the god of
strength. To these gods the chief worship of the Assyrians was paid, and
it was their majesty and strength, typifying that of the earthly king,
which Assyrian architects personified in the winged, man-headed bulls
and lions with examples of which we are familiar. The gods of the
Canaanite nations, Moloch, Baal, Chemosh, Baal-Zebub, and Thammuz, were
all of them personifications of the sun or of the sun’s rays, considered
under one aspect or another; the cruel gods, to whom human sacrifices
were offered, representing the strong, fierce summer sun, and the gentle
Thammuz being typical of the softer light of morning and of early
spring, which is killed by the fierce heat of midday and midsummer, and
mourned for by the earth till his return in the evening and in autumn.
Ashtoreth, the horned queen, symbolized by trees and worshipped in
groves, is the moon and also the evening star; but, like Isis, she seems
to gather up in herself the worship of the feminine principle in nature.
The Canaanites represented their gods in the temples by symbols instead
of by sculptured figures. An upright stone, either an aerolite or a
precious stone (as in the case of the great emerald kept in the shrine
of the Temple of Baal-Melcarth at Tyre), symbolized the sun and the
masculine element in nature; while the feminine element was figured
under the semblance of a grove of trees, the Ashara, sometimes
apparently a grove outside the temple, and sometimes a mimic grove kept

There was, however, behind and beyond all these, another and perhaps a
more ancient and more metaphysical conception of God worshipped by all
the Semitic peoples of Asia. His name, Il or El, appears to have been
for Chaldæans, Assyrians, Canaanites, and for the wandering tribes of
the desert, including the progenitors of the chosen people, the generic
name for God; and his worship was limited to a distant awful
recognition, unprofaned by the rites and sacrifices wherein the
nature-gods were approached. Il became a concealed, distant deity, too
far off for worship, and too great to be touched by the concerns of men,
among those nations with whom the outside aspects of nature grew to be
concealers instead of revealers of the Divine; while to the chosen
people the name acquired ever new significance, as the voice of
inspiration unfolded the attributes of the Eternal Father to His

This sketch of the heathen mythology of the Shemites is, it must be
owned, very barren in incident and character. It presents, indeed, no
more than a shadowy hierarchy of gods and heroes, through whose thin
personalities the shapes of natural objects loom with obtrusive
clearness. They may serve, however, as finger-posts to point the way
through the mazes of more complex, full-grown myths, and it must also be
remembered that we have not touched upon the later more ornamented
stories of the Egyptian gods, such as that of the death and
dismemberment of Osiris by his enemy Typhon, and the recovery of his
body, and his return to life through the instrumentality of Isis and



[Sidenote: Nature-worship.]

That morning speech of Belarius (in _Cymbeline_) might serve as an
illustration of a primitive religion, a nature-religion in its simplest

                    ‘Stoop, boys: this gate
    Instructs you how to adore the heavens, and bows you
    To morning’s holy office: the gates of monarchs
    Are arched so high, that giants may jet through
    And keep their impious turbans on, without
    Good-morrow to the sun. Hail, thou fair heaven!
    We house i’ the rock, yet use thee not so hardly
    As prouder livers do.’

Omit only that part which speaks the bitterness of disappointed hopes
which once centred round the doing as prouder livers do, and the rest
breathes the fresh air of mountain life, different altogether from our
life, free alike from its cares and temptations and moral
responsibilities. Belarius gazes up with an unawful eye into the
heavenly depths, and fearlessly pays his morning orisons. ‘Hail, thou
fair heaven!’ There is no sense here of sin, humility, self-reproach.
And in this respect--taking this for the moment as the type of an Aryan
religion--how strongly it contrasts with the utterances of Hebrew
writers! Is this the voice of natural as opposed to inspired religion?
Not altogether; for the Semitic mind was throughout antiquity imbued
with a deeper sense of awe or fear--awe in the higher religion, fear in
the lower--than ever belonged to the Aryan character. We see this
difference in the religions of Egypt and Assyria; and it will be
remembered that, when speaking of the earliest records of the Semitic
and Aryan races, we took occasion to say that it may very well have been
to their admixture of Semitic blood that the Egyptians stood indebted
for the mystic and allegorical part of their religious system; for among
all the Semitic people, whether in ancient or modern times, we may
observe a tendency--if no more--towards religious thought, and towards
thoughts of that mystic character which characterized the Egyptian

But the Aryans grew up and formed themselves into nations, and developed
the germs of their religion apart from external influence, and in a land
which from the earliest times had belonged to them alone. Their
character, their religion, their national life, were their own; and
though in after-times these went through distinctive modifications, when
the stems of nations that we know, Greeks, Latins, Germans, and the
rest, grew out of the Aryan stock, they yet bore amid these changes the
memory of a common ancestry. The land in which they dwelt was favourable
to the growth of the imaginative faculties, and to that lightness and
brightness of nature which afterwards so distinguished the many-minded
Greeks, rather than to the slow, brooding character of the Eastern mind.
There, down a hundred hillsides and along a hundred valleys trickled the
rivulets whose waters were hurrying to swell the streams of the Oxus and
the Jaxartes. And each hill and valley had its separate community,
joined, indeed, by language and custom to the common stock, but yet
living a separate simple life in its own home, which had, one might
almost say, its individual sun and sky as well as hill and river. No
doubt in such a land innumerable local legends and beliefs sprang up,
and these, though lost to us now, had their effects upon the changes
which among the many branches of the race the Aryan mythology
underwent--a mythology which before all others is remarkable for the
endless diversity of its legends, for the infinite rainbow-tints into
which its essential thoughts are broken.

[Sidenote: Sky-and sun-gods.]

Despite these divergences, the Aryans had a common chief deity--the sky,
the ‘fair heaven.’ This, the most abstracted and intangible of natural
appearances, at the same time the most exalted and unchanging, seemed to
them to speak most plainly of an all-embracing deity. And though their
minds were open to all the thousand voices of nature, and their
imaginations equal to the task of giving a personality to each, yet
none, not even the sun himself, imaged so well their ideal of a highest
All-Father as did the over-arching heaven.

The traces of this primitive belief the Aryan people carried with them
on their wanderings. This sky-god was the Dyâus (the sky) of Indian
mythology, the Zeus of the Greeks, the Jupiter of the Romans, and the
Zio, Tew, or Tyr of the Germans and Norsemen. For all these names are
etymologically allied. Zeus (gen. Dios) and Dyâus are from the same
root; so are Jupiter (anciently Diupiter) and the compound form
Dyâus-pitar (father Dyâus); and Zio and Tew also bear traces of the same
origin. Indeed, it is by the reappearance of this name as the name of a
god among so many different nations that we argue his having once been
the god of all the Atyan people. The case is like that of our word
_daughter_. As we find this reappearing in the Greek _thugatêr_, and the
Sanskrit _duhitar_, we feel sure that the old Aryans had a name for
daughter from which all these names are derived; and as we find the
Sanskrit name alone has a secondary meaning, signifying ‘the milker,’ we
conclude that this was the original meaning of the name for a daughter.
Just so, Zeus and Jupiter and Zio and Dyâus show a common name for the
chief Aryan god; but the last alone explains the meaning of that name,
for Dyâus signifies the sky.

This sky-god, then, stood to the old Aryans for the notion of a supreme
and common divinity. Whatever may have been the divinities reigning over
local streams and woods, they acknowledged the idea of one overruling
Providence whom they could only image to their minds as the
over-spreading sky. This, we may say, was the essential feature in their
religion, its chief characteristic; whereas to the Semitic nations, the
sun, the visible orb, was in every case the supreme god. The reason of
this contrast does not, it seems to me, lie _only_ in the different
parts which the sun played in the southern and more northern regions;
or, if it arises in the difference of the climate, it not the less forms
an important chapter in religious development. There are discernible in
the human mind two diverse tendencies in dealing with religious ideas.
Both are to be found in every religion, among every people; one might
almost say in every heart. The first tendency is an impulse upwards--a
desire to press the mind continually forward in an effort to idealize
the deity, but, by exalting or seeming to exalt Him into the highest
regions of abstraction, it runs the risk of robbing Him of all
fellowship with man, and man of all claims upon His sympathy and love.
Then comes the other tendency, which oftentimes at one stroke brings
down the deity as near as possible to the level of human beings, and
leaves him at the end no more than a demi-god or exalted man. One may be
called the metaphysical, the other the mythological tendency; and we
shall never be able to understand the history of religions until we
learn to see how these influences interpenetrate and work in every
system. They show at once that a distinction must be drawn between
mythology and religion. The supreme god will not be he of whom most
tales are invented, because, as these tales must appeal to human
interests and relate adventures of the human sort, they will cling more
naturally round the name of some inferior divinity. The very age of
mythology--so far as regards the beings to whom it relates[56]--is
probably rather that of a decaying religion.

In any case, there will probably be a metaphysical and a mythological
side to every system. Thus among the Egyptians, Amun, the concealed, was
the metaphysical god; but their mythology centred round the names of
Osiris and Horus. And just so with the Aryans, the sky was the original,
most abstracted, and most metaphysical god; the sun rose into prominence
in obedience to the wish of man for a more human divinity. If the
Semitic people were more inclined toward sun-worship, the Aryans
inclined rather toward heaven-worship; and the difference is consistent
with the greater faculty for abstract thought which has always belonged
to our race.

The two influences of which we have spoken are perfectly well marked in
Aryan mythology. The history of it may almost be said to represent the
rivalry between the sky-gods and the gods of the sun. It is on account
of his daily change that the last far less becomes the position of a
supreme god. Born each day in the east, faint and weak he battles with
the clouds of morning; radiant and strong he mounts into the midday sky;
and then, having touched his highest point, he turns to quench his beams
in the shadowy embrace of night. Even the Egyptians and Assyrians, in
view of these vicissitudes, were driven to invent a sort of abstract
sun, separated in thought from the mere visible orb. This daily course
might stand as an allegory of the life of man. The luminary who
underwent these changing fortunes, however great and godlike in
appearance, must have some more than common relationship with the world
below; he must be either a hero raised among the gods, or, better (for
of this thought the Aryans too had their dim foreshadowing), he is an
Avatar, an Incarnation of the Godhead, come down to take upon him for a
while the painful life of men. This was the way the sun-gods were
regarded by the Indo-European nations. Accordingly, while their deepest
religious feelings belonged to the abstract god Zeus, Jupiter among the
Greeks and Romans, Dyâus and later on Brahma (a pure abstraction) among
the Indians, the stories of their mythology belonged to a more human
divinity, who in most cases is the sun-god. He is the Indra[57] of the
Hindus, who wrestles with the black serpent, the Night, as Horus did
with Typhon; he is the Apollo of the Greeks, likewise the slayer of the
serpent, the Pythôn; or else he is Heracles (Hercules), the
god-man--sometimes worshipped as a god, sometimes as a demi-god
only--the great and mighty hero, the performer of innumerable labours
for his fellows; or he is Thor, the Hercules of the Norsemen, the enemy
of the giants and of the great earth-serpent, which represent the dark
chaotic forces of nature; or Frey, the bearer of the sword, or the mild
Balder, the fairest of all the gods, the best-beloved by gods and men.

It is clear that a different character of worship will belong to each
order of divinity. The sacred grove or the wild mountain-summit would be
naturally dedicated to the mysterious pervading presence; the temple
would be the natural home of the human-featured god; and this all the
more because men worshipped in forest glade or upon mountain-top before
they dedicated to their gods houses made with hands. Dyâus is the old,
the primevally old, divinity, the ‘son of time’ as the Greeks called
him.[58] Whenever, therefore, we trace the meeting streams of thought,
the _cult_ of the sun-god and the _cult_ of the sky, to the latter
belongs the conservative part of the national creed, his rival is the
reforming element. In the Vedic religion of India, Indra, as has been
said, has vanquished the older deity; we feel in the Vedas that Dyâus,
or even another sky-god, Varuna, though often mentioned, no longer
occupy a commanding place. Not, however, without concessions on both
sides. Indra could not have achieved this victory but that he partakes
of both natures. He is the sky as well as the sun, more human than the
unmoved _watching_ heavens, he is a worker for man, the sender of the
rain and the sunshine, the tamer of the stormwinds, and the enemy of

And if any one should examine in detail the different systems of the
Aryan people, he would, I think, have no difficulty in tracing
throughout them the two influences which have been dwelt upon, and in
each connecting these two influences with their sky-and sun-gods.
Whatever theory may be used to account for it, the change of thought is
noticeable. Man seems to awake into the world with the orison of
Belarius upon his lips; he is content with the silent unchanging
abstract god. But as he advances in the burden and heat of the day he
wishes for a fellow-worker, or at least for some potency which watches
his daily struggles with less of godlike sublime indifference. Hence
arise his sun-gods--the gods who toil and suffer, and even succumb and

[Sidenote: The earth-goddess.]

The sky-and the sun-gods, then, were, I think, the two chief male
divinities among the Aryan folk taken as a whole. There corresponded to
them in most Aryan creeds two female divinities, an older and a younger,
a wife and a maiden, such as were on the one side among the Greeks Hera
and Demeter, and on the other side Athene and Artemis,[59] or
Persephone, the daughter of Demeter. In the Norse creed, again, there is
Frigg, the wife of Odin, and Freyja, the sister of Frey. This last is
indeed not a maiden in the Eddic mythology. But the husband of Freyja is
a person of such very small importance that we may feel sure he is only
a sort of _addendum_ to her nature and surroundings, and that she is in
character very much the counterpart of her brother, a maiden-goddess--goddess
of spring-time and of love.

In respect to the elder, the married goddess, we may say, almost with
certainty, that she is the earth--the natural wife of the heavens, and
naturally thought of as the mother of all mankind--_Terra Mater_. We
know that the ancient Germans worshipped a goddess whom Tacitus calls
Nerthus (possibly a mistake for _Hertha_, Earth), and, he adds,
_Nerthus id est Terra Mater_. And in the Scandinavian offshoot of the
ancient German creed there can be no doubt that the same idea of Mother
Earth is embodied in the goddess Frigg, the wife of Odin.

The Romans had their native goddess Tellus, who was only obscured in
later times by such Greek or half-Greek divinities as Demeter or Cybele.
For this Demeter of the Greeks bears a name which most philologists are
agreed had a signification precisely the same as _Terra
Mater_--Gê-mêtêr. Demeter is but one of many wives of Zeus mentioned in
the Theogony of Hesiod. All of these wives, including Hera (Juno), the
highest in rank of them all, were probably at one time or another
personifications of the earth.

The Vedas, too, have their mother-goddess, their Mother Earth. This is
Prithvi, or Prithivi, the wide-stretching, generally called
Prithivi-mátar, which is also Earth-Mother. And some think this word
‘Prithvi’ is connected with that of the Northern Frigg.[60] And the
Vedas have their young maiden-goddess, who in the Vedas is called Ushas
the Dawn.

[Sidenote: Goddesses of Spring and Dawn.]

What is the nature-significance of this maiden-goddess? It is less easy
to determine than in the case of the other three divinities. One form of
the maiden-goddess is the divinity of the seed, like Persephone, that is
to say, a goddess of all vegetation, and hence of the spring. In the
Vedas, again, Ushas is a goddess of the dawn, an idea nearly allied to
that of Spring; and some people think that this is also the foundation
of Athenê’s nature. There are other characteristics of the
maiden-goddess which look as if she were an embodiment of the clouds;
but then the clouds are so nearly connected with the dawn that such an
idea can scarcely be said to contradict the other notion. The
maiden-goddess is in many cases born of the sea. Not only is Aphroditê,
or Venus, born of the sea, but Athenê is so likewise; at any rate one of
her names, Tritogeneia, implies this origin. The more common story of
Athenê’s birth, that she sprang from the head of her father, Zeus--this,
too, when we remember that Zeus is the sky, is not inconsistent with her
being the cloud.

When all is said, it must be owned that the nature-origin of this
maiden-goddess is not so obvious as in the case of the divinities of the
sky, sun, or earth. That only means that, as a nature-goddess, she is
not so necessary to the creed, but that on the other hand many objects
of nature--the dawn, the clouds, streams, the wind, sunshine--have
suggested the thought of this divinity, and that the suggestion found a
natural echo in the heart of mankind.

There are, of course, behind the greater nature-gods a number of other
natural forces--the sea, the wind, lightning, fire, streams, fountains,
the dawn, the clouds. These all receive their place in the Aryan
pantheon. But the characters of the lesser gods tend to echo those of
the greater. Sometimes two different but nearly allied objects of nature
are rolled into one to form a new god.

Thus the god of storms and thunder is often associated with the sky, as
are Zeus and Jupiter among the Greeks and Romans. Dyâus, the most
primitive form of sky-god, is the clear heaven. The name is connected
with a root _div_, to shine. But Zeus and Jupiter are the cloudy or
thundery skies. The Vedic Indra is often not unlike them. That is to
say, the sky-god, in their persons, has taken upon him the nature of the
god of storms. But despite these changes, we may still go back to the
gods of earth, and sky, and sun, and cloud as forming the backbone of
the Aryan creed taken as a whole.

       *       *       *       *       *

[Sidenote: Vedic religion of India.]

From this primitive stock different religious systems developed
themselves just as different nationalities sprang from the original
Aryan race. We can only form an adequate idea of what these religious
systems were like by studying them in the books of religion, of poetry,
and mythology which the various peoples have left behind them. And as a
matter of fact, we have really only three or four literatures of ancient
religion and mythology among the different branches of the Aryan people
from which much information can be gained. These are the Vedas for the
ancient Indians, Greek literature for the religion of the Greeks, and
the Old Norse poetry--what we may call the Eddaic literature--for the
religion of the Scandinavians. The Romans, before their literature
began, had almost exchanged their early creed for that of the Greeks;
the other German races (not Scandinavian) and the Slavs left no record
of their beliefs before they were converted to Christianity. Of the Zend
Avesta, the religious book of the Persians, we will speak hereafter.

[Sidenote: Indra.]

Naturally enough, each separate creed has developed many peculiar
features. In the religion of India, Indra, who had been the younger and
more active divinity--whether a sun-god or no we cannot be quite
sure--had, before the Vedas came to be written, almost completely ousted
Dyâus from the supreme position which he once occupied. The worship of
Indra is the central point of Vedic religion; and in many hymns of the
Vedas Indra has taken the character of a god of storms; almost as much
so as Zeus and Jupiter. It was the power of the god which was
especially worshipped. He was no doubt the god of battles _par
excellence_ to the ancient Indian. The Vedic hymnist calls upon him, as
the Psalmist calls upon Jehovah, to show his might and confound those
who dared to doubt his supremacy. For here in India, as in Palestine,
‘the wicked saith in his heart There is no God.’


_Indra speaks._

    ‘I come with might before thee, stepping first,
     And behind me move all the heavenly powers.

_The Poet speaks._

    ‘If thou, O Indra, wilt my lot bestow,
     A hero’s part dost thou perform for me.

    ‘To thee the holy drink I offer first;
       Thy portion here is laid, thy _soma_[61] brewed.
     Be, while I righteous am, to me a friend;
       So shall we slay of foemen many a one.

    ‘Ye who desire blessings bring your hymn
       To Indra, for the true is always true.
     “There is no Indra,” many say. “Who ever
       Hath seen him? Why should we his praise proclaim?”

_Indra speaks._

    ‘I am here, singer; look on me, here stand I.
       In might all other beings I surpass.
     Thy holy service still my strength renews,
       And thereby smiting, all things I smite down.

    ‘And as on heaven’s height I sat alone,
       To me thy offering and thy prayer rose up.
     Then spake my soul this word unto herself:
       “My votaries and their children call upon me.”’

The _character_ of Indra, then, is, as we find it in the Vedas, more
like that of a supreme Zeus than of any other divinity of the parallel
Aryan religious systems. But his _deeds_, the mythology connected with
his name, remind us of the deeds of Apollo. For he is the great
serpent-or dragon-slayer, like the Greek Apollo and the Northern Thor.
Heracles, too, as we remember, is a serpent-slayer. The ‘enemy’ whom
Indra is most constantly implored to strike are two serpents, Ahi and
Vritra. These are serpents of darkness, but they are also the concealers
of the water, and this water Indra sets free. ‘Him (the serpent) the god
struck with Indra-might, and set free the all-gleaming water for the use
of man.’ Therefore these serpents must also typify the clouds.

In going forth to fight, Indra is accompanied by a band of supernatural
heroes, who have no exact counterpart in any of the other Aryan
mythologies, and who are certainly beings, children we might say, of the
storm. Their name is the Maruts. And some of the many hymns dedicated to
them have a fine martial ring, like the tramp of armed men--


  ‘Where is the fair         assemblage of heroes,
  The men of Rudra,[62]       with their bright horses?
  For of their birth         knoweth no man the story,
  Only themselves,           their wondrous descent.

  ‘The light they flash      upon one another;
  The eagles fought,         the winds were raging;
  But this secret            knoweth the wise man,
  Once that Prishna[63]       her udder gave them.

  ‘Our race of heroes,       through the Maruts be it
  Ever victorious            in reaping of men.
  On their way they hasten,  in brightness the brightest,
  Equal in beauty,           unequalled in might.’

[Sidenote: Agni.]

The god who is most peculiar to the Vedic pantheon is Agni, the
Fire-god. The word _Agni_ is allied to the Latin _ignis_. No doubt Agni
has his representatives in the creeds of other Aryan peoples, in the
Hephæstus of the Greeks, or in the Vulcan of the Romans; probably in the
Loki of the Scandinavians. But these are all quite secondary beings:
Loki cannot be called a god at all. Agni, on the other hand, is one of
the very greatest of the Vedic deities. Only Indra has more hymns
dedicated to him than Agni. This shows how great was the reverence which
fire commanded among the Indians, and it is consistent with much that
has been said in an earlier chapter of the importance which primitive
people always attach, and which the native Indians to this day still
attach, to the sacred house-fire in their midst. It reminds us too of
the fire-worship of the Persians.[64]

Agni, however, is not only the house-fire. He has a double birth--one on
earth, one in the clouds. He descends as the lightning descends from
heaven. But, at the same time, he is born of the rubbing of two sticks,
and in the flame of the sacrifice he is imagined to ascend again to
heaven bringing with him the prayers of the worshipper. How well,
therefore, Agni was adapted to take the place of the younger god, the
friend of man, when Indra, once probably a sun-god, had (so to say)
removed himself from familiar approach by taking his throne high in


    ‘Agni is messenger of all the world.

           *       *       *       *       *

     Skyward ascends his flame the merciful,
       With our libations watered well;
     And now the red smoke seeks the heavenly way,
       And men enkindle Agni here.

    ‘We make of thee our Herald, Holy One;
       Bring down the gods unto our feast.
     O son of night, and all who nourish man,
       Pardon us when on you we call.

    ‘Thou, Agni, art the ruler of the house;
       Thou at the altar art our priest.
     O purifier, wise and rich in good,
       O sacrificer, bring us safely now.’

There are other genuine sun-gods in the Vedic creed, to whom hymns are
addressed. One of these is Mitra.[65] Mitra too is a friend of man--

    To man comes Mitra down in friendly converse.
    Mitra it was who fixed the earth and heaven.
    Unslumbering mankind he watches over.
    To Mitra then your full libations pour.’

But there are not many hymns addressed to Mitra alone. And he stands far
behind Indra or Agni in the Vedic creed as we actually find it. Another
sun-god--the disk of the sun, so to say--is Surya, the shiner. He is
sometimes called the eye of Mitra and Varuna. But in other places he is
said to come through heaven dragging his wheel. Yet great as he is, the
sun-god is compelled to follow his daily round. ‘He travels upon
changeless paths.’ Another sun-god is Savitar, whose name is almost
identical in meaning with Surya.

[Sidenote: Dawn and Evening.]

The writers of the Vedic hymns were very largely taken up with observing
and recording in their mythic fashion all the skyey phenomena from dawn
to sunset. For each changed aspect of the heavens, bright or cloudy,
calm or windy, they had a divinity. They sang to the fair young morning
as she came out of the chambers of darkness and opened the stalls for
the cattle to go forth to pasture; they sang the heavy labouring sun of
midday; they sang the stormy sky or the hurrying clouds; and at evening
they sang the evening sun sinking peacefully to rest and bringing ‘night
and peace’ to all the world. Wherefore, to bring to a close this picture
of the religion of the Vedas, we will give just two more hymns from that
vast collection, the Rig-Veda--a hymn to the morning, and a hymn to the
sun (Savitar) at sun-setting.


    ‘Dawn full of wisdom, rich in everything!
     Fairest! attend the singers’ song of praise.
     O thou rich goddess, old, yet ever young!
     Thou, all-dispenser, in due order comest.

    ‘Shine forth, O goddess, thine eternal morning,
     With thy bright cars our song of praise awakening.
     Thee draw through heaven the well-yoked team of horses--
     The horses golden-bright, that shine afar.

    ‘Enlightener of all being, breath of morning,
     Thou holdest up aloft the light of gods.
     Unto one goal ever thy course pursuing,
     Oh, roll towards us now thy wheel again!

    ‘Opening at once her girdle, she appears,
     The lovely Dawn, the ruler of the stalls.
     She, light-producing, wonder-working, noble,
     Up-mounted from the coast of earth and heaven.

    ‘Up, up, and bring to meet the Dawn, the goddess
     Bright beaming now, your humble song of praise.
     To heaven climbed up her ray the sweet due bearing,
     Joying to shine the airy space she filled.

    ‘With beams of heaven the Pure One was awakened,
     The Rich One’s ray mounted through both the worlds.
     To Ushas[66] goest thou, Agni, with a prayer
     For goodly wealth, when she bright-shining comes.’


    ‘Savitar the god arose, in power arose,
     His quick deeds and his journey to renew.
     He ‘tis who to all gods dispenses treasure,
     And blesses those that call him to the feast.

    ‘The god stands up and stretches forth his arm,
     Raises his hand and all obedient wait;
     For all the waters to his will incline,
     And the winds even on his path are stilled.

    ‘Now he unyokes the horses that have borne him,
     The wanderer from his travel now he frees,
     The serpent-slayer’s fury now is stayed;
     At Savitar’s command come night and peace.

     And now rolls up the spinning wife her web,
     The artificer now his cunning labour leaves,

           *       *       *       *       *

    And to the household folk beneath the roof,
    The household fire imparts their share of light.

           *       *       *       *       *

    ‘He who to work went forth is now returned,
     The longing of all wand’rers turns toward home;
     Leaving his toil, goes each man to his house:
     The universal mover orders so.

    ‘In the water settest thou the water’s heir,[67]
     On the firm earth badst the wild beast to roam;
     The bird[68] makes for his nest, cattle for their stall,
     To their own home all beasts the sun-god sends.’

[Sidenote: Greek religion.]

In Greece it would seem that the chief religious influences came from
Zeus (Jupiter[69]) and Apollo, and belonged, as appears, to two separate
branches of the same race who came together to form the Hellenic people.
The ancestors of the Greeks had, we know, travelled from the Aryan home
by a road which took them south of the Black Sea, and on to the
table-land of Asia Minor. So far a comparison of names and traditions
shows them advancing in a compact body. Here they separated; and, after
a stay of some centuries, during which a part had time to mingle with
the Semitic people of the land, they pushed forward, some across the
Hellespont and round that way by land through Thrace and Thessaly,
spreading as they went down to the extremity of the peninsula; others to
the western coast of Asia Minor, and then, when through the lapse of
years they had learnt their art from the Phœnician navigators who
frequented all that land, onward from island to island, as over
stepping-stones, across the Ægean.

[Sidenote: Zeus.]

The Pelasgic Zeus, however, is not quite the same being as is the Zeus
whom we are to fancy as the supreme god of the Hellenic race. This last,
we know, is called the Olympic Zeus. The Pelasgic god is a being who
loves solitary mountain heights or dark groves of trees. In this aspect
of his character he is very like the chief divinity of the Northmen,
Odin. And there can be no doubt that in his nature he is a god of
storms and wind. He is not the clear sky, as is the Vedic Dyâus (from
the root _div_, shining), and as had once been the supreme god of the
Aryan race. From that condition to the condition of a god of storms,
Zeus had already passed before we catch any sight of him under this name
Zeus--in other words, before we catch any sight of _him_ at all.

These Pelasgi were before all things the worshippers of pure nature.
Theirs were all those primitive elements in the Greek religion which
were caught up into the more developed creed, and, though they were
softened in the process of amalgamation with it, still showed above its
surface as masses of rock show upon a hillside, albeit they are covered
over by a thin covering of green. Those strange half-human beings like
Pan, the Arcadian god, like the Thessalian centaurs,--these belong to
the primitive creed of the Greeks. So long as they were confounded with
the phenomena of nature in which they took their rise, they were, in
every sense, natural enough. But when art took possession of them, and
tried to body them forth in visible shapes, they became monsters,
unformed, neither man nor beast.

The fact that the greatest shrines of Zeus were at Dodona in Epirus, and
in Elis, both states on the _western_ coast of Greece, would almost of
itself show that the worship of Zeus belonged more especially to the
first comers of the Greek race, who got pushed further westward as the
more enlightened people came in from the east; and while _these_ were
worshipping their gods in temples, the Pelasgic Greeks still worshipped
their Zeus in sacred groves like those of Dodona and of Elis.

The god, on the other hand, who is more especially the god of the newer
Greek people, the Dorians and the Ionians,

[Sidenote: Apollo.]

those who reformed the Greek race, and through whom the Pelasgic people
grew into the Hellenes, this god is Apollo.

Apollo is, we have said, in origin a sun-god. We see some traces of his
nature even in the statues which represent him, as in the abundant hair
which streams from his head, the picture of the sun’s rays.[70] But, of
course, long before historic days he had become much more than a mere
god of nature to his worshippers. He had become what we know him, the
ideal of youthful manhood as the Greeks admired it most, the ideal of
suppleness and strength, the ideal, too, of what we call ‘culture,’ of
poetry and music, and all that adds a grace to life.

Apollo’s chief shrines were rather on the eastern than on the western
side of Greece--at Delphi, for example, in Phocis. (Is it not
characteristic to find in this wise the oracle of Apollo at Delphi, the
oracle of Zeus at Dodona?) But Delphi is the most westerly of Apollo’s
favourite homes. Another, we know, was on the island of Delos, midway in
the Ægean, that island which the Greeks fancied the _umbilicus
orbis_--the navel of the world. Delphi and Delos are the shrines of
Apollo belonging to one out of the two great nationalities of the new
blood who reformed the nation of the Greeks. Delphi and Delos belong to
the Dorians. But among the Ionians of Asia Minor, who were the other
great reforming element in Greek life, Apollo had likewise many holy
places. And we know how, in the Iliad, he is represented as the champion
of the easterns, the Asiatic Greeks, against the westerns, the Greeks
of Greece proper. ‘Hear me,’ prays Glaucus, in the Iliad--‘hear me, O
king, who art somewhere in the rich realm of Lycea or of Troy; for
everywhere canst thou hear a man in sorrow, such as my sorrow is.’

Not but that these worshippers of Apollo were likewise worshippers of
Zeus. It was from the Dorians, whose ancient home was in Thessaly, in
the vale of Tempe, and under the shadow of Olympus, that sprang the
worship of the Olympian Zeus. This Olympian Zeus was the same as the
ancient god of the Pelasgians--the Pelasgian Zeus--the same, and yet
different, for he was the ancient storm-god, softened and made more
human by his contact with Apollo. In time this Olympian Zeus superseded
the Pelasgic god even in his own favourite seats, and we have the
phenomenon of the festival in his honour--the greatest festival of
Greece--the Olympia, being held in the plains of Elis, near the ancient
grove of the Pelasgian Zeus.

       *       *       *       *       *

[Sidenote: Hermes.]

As before by a comparison of words, so now in mythology by a comparison
of legends, we form our notion of the remoteness of the time at which
these stories first passed current. Not only, for instance, do we see
that Indra and Apollo resembled each other in character, but we have
proof that nature-myths--stories really narrating some process of
nature--were familiar alike to Greeks and Indians. The Vedas, the sacred
books from which we gather our knowledge of ancient Hindu religion, do
not relate their stories of the gods in the same way, or with the same
clearness and elaboration, that the Greek poets do. They are collections
of hymns, prayers in verse, addressed to the gods themselves, and what
they relate is told more by reference and implication than directly.
But even with this difference, we have no difficulty in signalizing some
of the adventures of Indra as almost identical with those of the son of
Lêtô. Let one suffice. The pastoral life of the Aryans is reflected in
their mythology, and thus it is that in the Vedas almost all the varied
phenomena of nature are in their turn compared to cattle. Indra is often
spoken of as a bull; still more commonly are the clouds the cows of
Indra, and their milk the rain. More than one of the songs of the
Rig-Veda allude to a time when the wicked Pa_n_is (beings of fog or
mist[71]) stole the cows from the fields of Indra and hid them away in a
cave. They obscured their footprints by tying up their feet or by making
them drag brushwood behind them. Then Indra sent his dog Sarama (the
dawn or breath of dawn), and she found out where the cattle were hidden.
But (according to one story) the Pa_n_is overcame her honesty and gave
her a cup of milk to drink, so that she came back to Indra and denied
having seen the cows. But Indra discovered the deception, and came with
his strong spear and conquered the Pa_n_is, and recovered what had been

Now turn to the Greek myth. The story here is cast in a different key.

    ‘Te boves olim nisi reddidisses
     Per dolum amotas, puerum minaci
     Voce dum terret, viduus pharetra
     Risit Apollo.’

Hermes (Mercury) is here the thief. He steals the cattle of Apollo
feeding upon the Pierian mountain, and conceals his theft much as the
Pa_n_is had done. Apollo discovers what has been done, and complains to
Zeus. But Hermes is a god, and no punishment befalls him like that which
was allotted to the Pa_n_is; he charms Apollo by the sound of his lyre,
and is forgiven, and allowed to retain his booty. Still, all the
essentials of the story are here; and the story in either case relates
the same nature-myth. The clouds which in the Indian tale are stolen by
the damp vapours of morning, are in the Greek legend filched away by the
morning breeze; for this is the nature of Hermes. And that some such
power as the wind had been known to the Indians as accomplice in the
work, is shown by the complicity of Sarama in one version of the tale.
For Sarama likewise means the morning breeze; and, in fact, _Sarama_ and
_Hermes_ are derived from the same root, and are almost identical in
character. Both mean in their general nature the wind; in their special
appearances they stand now for the morning, now for the evening breeze,
or even for the morning and evening themselves.

[Sidenote: Heracles.]

The next most important deity as regards the whole Greek race is
Heracles (Hercules). It is a great mistake to regard him, as our
mythology-books often lead us to do, as a demi-god or hero only.
Originally, and among a portion of the Greek race, he was one of the
mightiest gods; but at last, perhaps because his adventures became in
later tradition rather preposterous and undignified, he sank to be a
demi-god, or immortalized man. The story of Heracles’ life and labours
is a pure but most elaborate sun-myth. From his birth, where he
strangles the serpents in his cradle--the serpents of darkness, like the
Pythôn which Apollo slew--through his _Herculean_ labours to his death,
we watch the labours of the sun through the mists and clouds of heaven
to its ruddy setting; and these stories are so like to others which are
told of the Northern Heracles, Thor, that we cannot refuse to believe
that they were known in the main in days before there were either
Greek-speaking Greeks or Teutons. The closing scene of Heracles’ life
speaks the most eloquently of his nature-origin. Returning home in
victory--his last victory--to Trachis, Deianira sends to him there the
fatal white robe steeped in the blood of Nessus. No sooner has he put it
on than his death-agony begins. In the madness of his pain he dashes his
companion, Lichas, against the rocks; he tears at the burning robe, and
with it brings away the flesh from his limbs. Then, seeing that all is
over, he becomes more calm. He gives his last commands to his son,
Hyllus, and orders his funeral pile to be prepared upon mount Œta, as
the sun, after its last fatal battle with the clouds of sunset, sinks
down calmly into the sea. Then as, after it has gone, the sky lights up
aglow with colour, so does the funeral pyre of Heracles send out its
light over the Ægean, from its _western_ shore.

[Sidenote: Ares.]

I believe Ares to have been once likewise a sun-god. The special home of
his worship was warlike Macedon and Thrace. There can be no question,
however, that in pre-historic times his worship was much more widely
extended than we should suppose from reading Homer or the poets
subsequent to Homer. Traces of his worship are to be found in the Zeus
Areios at Elis, and in the Athenian Areopagus. But his natural home was
in the North. He was the national divinity of the Thracians. And I have
no doubt, as I have said, that he was once the sun-god of these Northern
people, and only in later times became an abstraction, a god of war and

[Sidenote: Dêmêtêr.]

Another deity who was distinctly of Aryan origin was Dêmêtêr (Ceres), a
name which is, as we have said, probably, none other than Gêmêtêr,
‘mother earth.’ She is the Greek equivalent of the Prithvi of the Vedas.
But whereas Prithvi has sunk into obscurity, Dêmêtêr was associated
with some of the most important rites of Greek religion. The association
of ideas which, face to face with the masculine godhead, the sun or sky,
placed the fruitful all-nourishing earth, is so natural as to find a
place in almost every system. We have seen how the two formed a part of
the Egyptian and Chaldæan mythologies. And we have seen that each branch
of the Aryan folk carried away along with their sky-and sun-worship this
earth-worship also. But among none of the different branches was the
great nature-myth which always gathers round the earth-goddess, woven
into a more pathetic story than by the Greeks. The story is that of the
winter death or sleep of earth, or of all that makes earth beautiful and
glad. And it was thus the Greeks told that world-old legend. Persephone
(Proserpina), or Corê, is the green earth, or the green verdure which
may be thought the daughter of earth and sky. She is, indeed, almost the
reduplication of Dêmêtêr herself; and in art it is not always easy to
distinguish a representation as of one or of the other. At spring-time
Persephone, a maiden, with her maidens, is wandering careless in the
Nysian plain, plucking the flowers of spring, ‘crocuses and roses and
fair violets,’[72] when in a moment all is changed. Hades, regent of
Hell, rises in his black-horsed golden chariot; unheeding her cries, he
carries her off to share his infernal throne and rule in the kingdoms of
the dead. In other words, the awful shadow of death falls across the
path of youth and spring, and Hades appears to proclaim the fateful
truth that all spring-time, all youth and verdure, are alike with hoary
age candidates for service in his Shadowy Kingdom. The sudden contrast
between spring flowers and maidenhood and death gives a dramatic
intensity to the scene and represents the quiet course of decay in one
tremendous moment.[73] To lengthen out the picture and show the slow
sorrow of earth robbed of its spring and summer, Dêmêtêr is portrayed
wandering from land to land in bootless search of her lost daughter. We
know how deep a significance this story had in the religious thought of
Greece; how the representation of it composed the chief feature of the
Eleusinian mysteries, and how these and other mysteries probably
enshrined the intenser, more hidden feelings of religion, and continued
to do so when mythology had lost its hold upon the popular mind. It is,
indeed, a new-antique story, patent to all and fraught for all with
solemnest meaning. So that this myth of the death of Proserpine has
lived on in a thousand forms through all the Aryan systems.

[Sidenote: Athenê and other goddesses.]

Persephone is one of the most characteristic of the maiden-goddesses of
whom we spoke above. The most literal and material interpretation of her
myth would show her to be an embodiment of the grain, which sinks into
the ground when it is sown and springs up again to live above the earth
for half the year. But in a wider sense I have no doubt that Persephone
is meant to typify the spring of which the grain might well be a sort of
symbol, or to typify vegetation generally. And this is one of the
natural characters belonging to the maiden-goddess. She is very
frequently a goddess of spring in some aspect or other--of spring as the
season of beauty and love. Such is the Freyja of the Norse mythology;
such, to some extent, are Aphroditê (Venus) and Artemis (Diana).[74]

There is, however, one divinity among the Greeks who seems to have a
somewhat different character, and who is so much more important a
maiden-goddess than any of these that she at once springs into our
thoughts when we are speaking of divinities of this class. I mean, of
course, Athenê (Minerva). But in the first place, the wide worship of
Athenê is partly accidental and due to her being the patroness of
Athens; in the second place, Athenê has taken so many ethical
characteristics, she is so advanced a conception of a divine being, that
she is not at all a good representative of a religion in its early
state. It would be rather confusing than otherwise to have to trace the
character of Athenê step by step out of the natural phenomenon from
which she sprang. I will only say here that I believe her to have been
originally born from the sea or from a river. She may once have actually
been a goddess of water. Afterwards she became, I think, the goddess of
the rivers of heaven or the clouds. And as the clouds hold the storm and
the lightning, Athenê is sometimes a storm-goddess, sometimes a goddess
of the lightning.[75] Or again, she may be the heaven which bears the
storm-cloud, the thundering heaven. We remember that Zeus and Athenê
each have the privilege of wearing the Ægis--the dreadful fringed Ægis,
which is, I think, the lightning-bearing cloud.

Artemis (Diana) is the moon-goddess, at least she is so in her character
as sister of Apollo. But there were really many different Artemises in
Greece. And very often she is a river-goddess. In the same way, there
were many different Aphroditês. The more sensuous the character in which
Aphroditê (Venus) appears, the more does she show her Asiatic birth; and
this was why the Greeks, when regarding her especially as the goddess of
love, called her Cypris, or Cytheræa, after Cyprus and Cythera, which
had been in ancient days stations for the Phœnician traders, and
where they had first made acquaintance with the Greeks. Aphroditê was
the favourite goddess of these mariners, as, indeed, a moon-goddess well
might be; and it was they who gave her her most corrupt and licentious
aspect. For she has not always this character even among the
Phœnicians; but oftentimes appears as a huntress, more like Artemis,
or armed as a goddess of battle, like Athenê. Doubtless, however,
goddesses closely allied to Aphroditê or Artemis, divinities of
productive nature and divinities of the moon, belonged to the other
branches of the Indo-European family. The _idea_ of these divinities was
a common property; the exact being in whom these ideas found expression
varied with each race.

       *       *       *       *       *

[Sidenote: Scandinavian religion.]

If we travel from India and from Hellas to the cold North, the same
characteristic features reappear. In the Teutonic religions, _as we know
them_,[76] Odin has taken the place of the old Aryan sky-god, Dyâus. The
last did, indeed, linger on in the Zio or Tyr of these systems; but he
had sunk from the position of a chief divinity. The change, however, is
not great. The god chosen to fill his place resembles him as nearly as
possible in character. Odin, or Wuotan,[77] whose name in its
etymological meaning is probably the god who moves violently or rushes
along,[78] was originally a god of the wind rather than of the
atmosphere of heaven. Yet along with this more confined part of his
character, he bears almost all the attributes of the exalted sky-god,
the Dyâus or Zeus; only he adds to these some parts peculiar to a god of
wind; and we can easily understand how, as these Aryan people journeyed
northwards, their wind-god grew in magnitude and power.

[Sidenote: Odin.]

It was Odin who lashed into fury their stormy seas, and kept the
impatient _vikings_ (fjord-men) forced prisoners in their sheltered
bays. He it was who rushed through their mountain forests, making the
ancient pine-tops bend to him as he hurried on; and men sitting at home
over their winter fires, and listening to his howl, told one another how
he was hastening to some distant battle-field, there to direct the
issue, and to choose from among the fallen such heroes as were worthy to
accompany him to Valhalla, the Hall of Bliss.[79] Long after the worship
of Christ had overturned that of the Æsir,[80] this, the most familiar
and popular aspect of Odin’s nature, lived on in the thoughts of men. In
the Middle Ages the wind reappears in the legend of the Phantom Army, a
strange apparition of two hosts of men seen to join battle in midair.
The peasant of the Jura or the Alps could tell how, when alone upon the
mountain-side, he had beheld the awful vision. Sometimes all the details
of the fight were visible, but as though the combatants were riding in
the air; sometimes the _sounds_ of battle only came from the empty space
above, till at the end a shower of blood gave the fearful witness a
proof that he was not the dupe of his imagination only.[81] In other
places, especially, for example, in the Harz mountains, the Phantom
Army gave place to the Wild Huntsman. This phantom hunt has many
different names in the different countries of Europe. With us it is
known best under the name of Herne the Hunter or of Arthur’s Chase. In
Brittany this last name is also used. In the Harz and in other places in
Germany the huntsman was called Hackelbärend or Hackelberg; and the
story went how he had been chief huntsman to the Duke of Brunswick, but
for impiety or for some dreadful oath, like that which had brought
vengeance on the famous Van der Decken, had been condemned to hunt for
ever through the clouds--for ever, that is, until the Day of
Judgment.[82] All the year through he pursues his way alone, and the
peasants hear his holloa, mingled with the baying of his two dogs.[83]
But for twelve nights--between Christmas and the Twelfth-night--he hunts
on the earth; and if any door is left open during the night, and one of
the two hounds runs in, he will bring misfortune upon that house.

Besides this wilder aspect of his character, Odin appears as the
heaven-god--all-embracing--the father of gods and men, like Zeus.
‘All-father Odin’ he is called, and his seat was on Air-throne; thither
every day he ascended and looked over Glad-home, the home of the gods,
and over the homes of men, and far out beyond the great earth-girding
sea, to the dim frost-bound giant-land on earth’s border. And whatever
he saw of wrong-doing and of wickedness upon the earth, that he set to
rights; and he kept watch against the coming of the giants over seas to
invade the abode of man and the citadel of the gods. Only these
last--the race of giants--he could not utterly subdue and exterminate;
for Fate, which was stronger than all, had decreed that they should
remain until the end, and only be overthrown at the Twilight of the Gods
themselves. But of this myth, which was half-Christian, we have not
space to speak at length here.

In this picture of Odin we surely see a fellow-portrait to that of the
‘wide-seeing’ Zeus. ‘The eye of Zeus, which sees all things and knows
all,’ says one poet; or again, as another says, ‘Zeus is the earth,
Zeus is the sky, Zeus is all, and that which is over all.’

[Sidenote: Tyr, Thor, and Balder.]

Behind Odin stands Tyr--of whom we have already spoken--and Thor and
Balder, who are, or originally were, two different embodiments of the
sun; Thor being also a god of thunder. He is in character very closely
allied to Heracles. He is the mighty champion, the strongest and most
warlike of all the gods. But he is the friend of man and patron of
agriculture,[84] and as such the enemy of the giant-race, which
represents not only cold and darkness, but the barren, rugged,
uncultivated regions of earth. Like Heracles, Thor is never idle,
constantly with some work on hand, ‘faring eastward to fight Trolls
(giants),’ as the Eddas often tell us. In one of these expeditions he
performs three labours, which may be paralleled from the labours of
Heracles. He nearly drains the sea dry by drinking from a horn; this is
the sun ‘sucking up the clouds’ from the sea, as people still speak of
him as doing. It corresponds to the turning the course of the Alpheus
and Peneus, which Heracles performs. Then he tries to lift (as he
thinks) a large cat from the ground, but in reality he has been lifting
the great mid-earth serpent (notice the fact that we have the sun at war
with a serpent once more) which encircles the whole earth, and he has by
his strength shaken the very foundations of the world. This is the same
as the feat of Heracles in bringing up Cerberus from the underworld. And
lastly, he wrestles, as he thinks, with an old woman, and is worsted;
but in reality he has been wrestling with Old Age or Death, from whom no
one ever came off the victor. So we read in Homer that Heracles once
wounded Hades himself, and ‘brought grief into the land of shades,’ and
in Euripides’ beautiful play, _Alcestis_, we see Heracles struggling,
but this time victoriously, with Thanatos, Death himself. In these
labours the Norse hero, though striving manfully, fails; but the Greek
is always victorious. Herein lies a difference belonging to the
character of the two creeds.

Balder the Beautiful--the fair, mild Balder--represents the sun more
truly than Thor does: the sun in his gentle aspect, as he would
naturally appear to a Norseman. His house is Breidablik, ‘Wide-glance,’
that is to say, the bright upper air, the sun’s home. He is like the son
of Lêtô seen in his benignant aspect, the best beloved among gods, the
brightener of their warlike life, beloved, too, by all things on earth,
living and inanimate, and lamented as only the sun could be--the chief
nourisher at life’s feast. For, when Balder died, everything in heaven
and earth, ‘both all living things and trees and stones and all metals,’
wept to bring him back again, ‘as thou hast no doubt seen these things
weep when they are brought from a cold place into a hot one.’ A modern
poet has very happily expressed the character of Balder, the sun-god,
the great quickener of life upon earth. Balder is supposed to leave
heaven to tread the ways of men, and his coming is the signal for the
new birth, as of spring-time, in the sleeping world.

    ‘There is some divine trouble
       On earth and in air;
     Trees tremble, brooks bubble,
       Ants loosen the sod,
     Warm footsteps awaken
       Whatever is fair,
     Sweet dewdrops are shaken
       To quicken each clod.
     The wild rainbows o’er him
       Are melted and fade,
     The light runs before him
       Through meadow and glade.
     Green branches close round him,
       Their leaves whisper clear--
     He is ours, we have found him,
       Bright Baldur is here.’[85]

[Sidenote: Frigg, Freyja, Frey.]

The earth-mother of the Teutons was Frigg, the wife of Odin; but perhaps
when Frigg’s natural character was forgotten, Hertha (Earth) became
separated into another personage. ‘Odin and Frigg,’ says the Edda,
‘divide the slain;’ and this means that the sky-god received the breath,
the earth-goddess the body. But on the whole Frigg plays an
insignificant part in our late form of Teuton mythology. Closely related
to her, as Persephone is related to Dêmêtêr, with a name formed out of
hers, stands Freyja, the goddess of spring and beauty and love; for the
Northern goddess of love might better accord with the innocence of
spring than could the Phœnician Aphroditê. Freyja has a brother
Freyr, who reduplicates her name and character, for he too is a sun-god
or a god of spring.

Very beautiful is the myth which reverses the sad story of Persephone
(and of Balder), and tells of the barren earth wooed by the returning
spring. Freyr one day mounted the seat of Odin which was called
air-throne, and whence a god might look over all the ways of earth. And
looking out into giant-land far in the north, he saw a light flash forth
as the aurora lights up the wintry sky.[86] And looking again, he saw
that a maiden wondrously beautiful had just opened her father’s door,
and that this was her beauty which shone out over the snow. Then Freyr
left the air-throne and determined to send to the fair one and woo her
to be his wife. Her name was Gerda.[87] Freyr sent his messenger Skirnir
to carry his suit to Gerda; and Skirnir told her how great Freyr was
among the gods, how noble and happy a place was Asgard, the home of the
gods. For all Skirnir’s pleading Gerda would give no ear to his suit.
But Freyr had given his magic sword (the sun’s rays) to Skirnir; and at
last the ambassador, tired of pleading, drew that and threatened to take
the life of Gerda unless she granted Freyr his wish. So she consented to
meet him nine nights hence in the wood of Barri. The nine nights typify,
it is thought, the nine winter months of the Northern year; and the name
of the wood, Barri, means ‘the green;’ the beginnings of spring in the
wood being happily imaged as the meeting of the fresh and the barren

All the elements of nature were personified by the spirit of Aryan
poetry, and it would be a hopeless task--wearisome and useless to the
reader--to give a mere category of the nature-gods in each system. Those
which had most influence upon their religious thought were they who have
been mentioned, the gods of the sky and sun and mother-earth. The other
elemental divinities were (as a rule) more strictly bound within the
circle of their own dominions. It is curious to trace the difference
between these strictly polytheistic deities--coequal in their several
spheres--and those others who arose in obedience to a wider ideal of a
godhead. We have seen that the Indians had a strictly elemental heaven
or sky, as well as their god Dyâus, and that they called him Varu_n_a, a
word which corresponds etymologically to the Greek Ouranos, the heaven.
In the later Indian mythology Varu_n_a came to stand, not for the sky,
but for the wide expanse of ocean, and so corresponds to the Greek
Poseidon, the Latin Neptune, and the Norse Œgir. All these were the
gods of the sea and of all waters. The wind, as we saw, combined in the
person of Odin with the character of a highest god; but in the Greek the
part was played by an inferior divinity, Hermes. In India there is a
wind-god (called Vaja); but the character is likewise divided among a
plurality of minor divinities, the Ma_r_uts. Of Agni, the god of fire,
corresponding to Hephæstus and Vulcan, we have spoken; and in the North
Fire is not a god at all, but an evil being called Loki. This is enough
to show that the worship of Agni rose into fervour after the separation
of the Aryan folk.

We postpone to the next chapter the mention of the gods of the

       *       *       *       *       *

[Sidenote: The Zend religion.]

The religions of which we have been giving this slight sketch have been
what we may call ‘natural’ religions, that is to say, the thoughts about
God and the Unseen world which without help of any special _vision_ seem
to spring up simultaneously in the minds of the different Aryan peoples.
But one among the Aryan religions still in pre-historic times broke off
abruptly from its relation with the others, and, under a teacher whom we
may fairly call god-taught, in beauty and moral purity passed far beyond
the rest.

This was the Zoroastrian, the faith of the Iranian (ancient Persian)
branch, or, as it is perhaps better called, the Zend or Mazdean
religion; a creed which holds a pre-eminence among all the religions of
antiquity, excepting alone that of the Hebrews. And that there is no
exaggeration in such a claim is sufficiently witnessed by the inspired
writings themselves, in which the Persian kings are frequently spoken
of as if they as much as the Hebrews were worshippers of Jehovah.
‘Cyrus the servant of God,’ ‘The Lord said unto my lord (Cyrus),’ are
constantly recurring expressions in Isaiah.

In some respects this Zoroastrianism seems to stand in violent
opposition to the Aryan religion. Nevertheless, at the back of the
religion of the Zend Avesta, which is the sacred book of the Iranian
creed, we can (as was before hinted) trace the outline of an earlier
natural religion essentially the same--so far as we can judge--with the
religion of the Vedas. And upon the whole we should be disposed to say
that Zoroastrianism appears to be not much else than a higher
development of that earlier system. At any rate, we may feel sure that
the older system was before the coming of the ‘gold bright’[88]
reformer, essentially a polytheism with only some yearnings towards
monotheism, and that Zoroaster settled it upon a firmly monotheistic
basis. This very fact leaves us little to say about the Iranian system
considered strictly as a religion. For when once nations have risen to
the height of a monotheism there can be little essential difference in
their beliefs; such difference as there is will be in the conception
they have of the character of their gods, whether it be a high, a
relatively high, or relatively low one; and this again is more perhaps a
question of moral development than of religion. Their one god, since he
made all things and rules all things, cannot partake of the exclusive
nature of any natural phenomenon; he cannot be a god of wind or water,
of sun or sky. The Zoroastrian creed did afterwards introduce (then for
the first time in the world’s history) a very important element of
belief, namely, of the distinct origin, and almost if not quite equal
powers, of the good and evil principles. But this was later than the
time of Zarathustra.

The name which Zarathustra taught the people to give to the one god was
unconnected with Aryan nature-names, Dyâus, or Varu_n_a, or Indra. He
simply called him the ‘Great Spirit,’ or, in the Zend, Ahura-mazda;[89]
in later Persian, Hormuzd or Ormuzd. He is the all-perfect, all-wise,
all-powerful, all-beautiful. He is the creator of all things. And--still
nearer to the Christian belief--before the creation of the world, by
means whereof the world itself was made, existed the _Word_. Some trace
of this same doctrine of the pre-existing Word (_Hanover_, in the
Zoroastrian religion) is to be found in the Vedas, where he is called
_Vach_. It would be here impossible to enter into an examination of the
question how far these early religions seem to shadow forth the mystical
doctrine of the _Logos_. The evil principle opposed to Ormuzd is
Angra-Mainyus (Ahrimanes), but in the true doctrine he is by no means
the equal of God, no more so than is Satan. The successive corruption of
pure Zoroastrianism after the time of its founder is marked by a
constant exaggeration of the power of the evil principle (suggested,
perhaps, by intercourse with devil-worshipping nations of a lower type)
until Ahrimanes becomes the rival of Ormuzd, coequal and co-eternal with

Such is the simple creed of the Persians, accompanied of course by rites
and ceremonies, part invented by the reformer, part inherited from the
common Aryan parentage. It is well known that the Persians built no
temples, but worshipped Ormuzd chiefly upon the mountain-tops; that they
paid great respect to all the elements--that is to air, water, and fire,
the latter most of all--a belief which they shared with their Indian
brethren, but stopped far short of worshipping any. That they held very
strongly the separate idea of the soul, so that when once a body had
lost its life, they considered it to be a thing wholly corrupt and evil;
a doctrine which carried in the germ that of the inherent evil of
matter, as the philosophical reader will discern.

It remains to say something of their religious books. The _Zend Avesta_
was supposed to comprise the teaching of Zoroaster, and was believed to
have been written by him. Only one complete book has been preserved--it
is called the _Vendidâd_. The _Zend_ language in which the _Avesta_ is
written is the oldest known form of Persian, older than that in use at
the time of Darius the Great; but this is no proof that it dates back to
the days of Zarathustra. Part of it is in prose and part in verse, and
as in every literature we find that the fragments of verse are they
which survive the longest, it has been conjectured that the songs of the
_Zend Avesta_ (Gâthâs they are called) may even have been written by the
great reformer himself.



[Sidenote: The death of the sun-god.]

If the sun-god was so natural a type of a man-like divinity, a god
suffering some of the pains of humanity, a sort of type of man’s own
ideal life here, it was natural that men should question this oracle
concerning their future life and their hopes beyond the grave. We have
seen that the Egyptians did so; seen how they watched the course of the
day-star, and, beholding him sink behind the sandy desert, pictured a
home of happiness beyond that waste, a place to be reached by the soul
after many trials and long wandering in the dim Amenti-land which lay
between. The Aryans dwelt, we believe, upon the slopes of the
Hindoo-Koosh or in the level plain beneath; and, if the conjecture be
reasonable that a great part of the land now a sandy desert was then
filled by an inland sea,[90] many of them must have dwelt upon its
borders and seen the sun plunge in its wave each evening. Then or
afterwards they saw this, and interpreted what they saw in the very
thought of Milton:--

    ‘Weep no more, woeful shepherds, weep no more,
     For Lycidas, your sorrow, is not dead,
     Sunk though he be beneath the watery floor.
     So sinks the day-star in the ocean-bed,
     And yet anon repairs his drooping head,
     And tricks his beams, and with new-spangled ore
     Flames in the forehead of the morning sky.’

And thus a belief grew up among them that after death their souls would
have to cross this ocean to some happy paradise which lay beyond in the
‘home of the sun.’

[Sidenote: Life in the tomb. The _double_.]

But there is another idea, more simple and material than this, and
therefore more natural to human nature in all its phases. This is the
notion that the dead man abides in his tomb, that he comes to life in it
after a certain fashion, and lives a new life there not greatly
different from his life on earth, only calmer and more stately--

    ‘Calm pleasures there abide, majestic pains.’

First of all, perhaps, the survivors are content to think of the dead
man as simply living in his underground house. To prevent him coming out
thence, the stone-age men, we noticed, scattered shards, flints, and
pebbles, before the mouth of the house. To that tomb they brought their
offerings of meat and drink. The notion of the soul is not yet separated
from that of the body. But that does not show that all the ideas of
those who confounded the two were purely materialistic. In common
parlance we often confound spiritual and material things quite as much;
and yet in our thoughts we have the power of separating them. We talk of
a good-hearted man, and yet we can distinguish between the purely
imaginary or spiritual entity here meant by ‘heart,’ and the mere
physical organ. I do not say that early man could have distinguished
between the idea of the dead body and the surviving soul. Probably he
could not. I only say that we are not to judge of his belief merely by
his rites and ceremonies.

So far as these ceremonies go, man began, we judge, by thinking first of
securing for the dead an everlasting habitation. And so he covered his
grave with an immense pile of earth.[91] The pile grew greater and
greater, and at last, as we saw, it took the shape of the pyramid. Then
came the entrance-chamber or _porch_ to the tomb, in which the survivors
offered sacrifices to the dead to keep him alive by the smell of the
burnt offering.

The Egyptians had very little power of abstracting the idea of the
immaterial soul from the material dead body. At any rate, they did not
(for a long time) conceive the soul as a purely immaterial being. They
thought of the immortal part of man as a sort of _double_ of the mortal
part. This double they called his _ka_. The _ka_ could not exist without
some material form, and therefore they took infinite pains to provide it
with a body of some kind. They mummified the dead body so as to make it
last as long as possible. But besides that, they made numerous images of
the dead; sometimes (if his state could afford it) large statues of
wood[92] or stone. And in addition to these they made a vast number of
smaller images, generally of pottery--those little mummy figures in blue
or green pottery,[93] of which we find such endless quantities buried in
the tombs. There was usually a secret chamber or passage practised in
the tomb to contain these mummied figures, and it was so arranged that
the scent of the sacrifice might come along it.[94]

All these ideas belong, we see, to the most _stationary_ notion of the
dead. If they were followed out logically, the soul would be considered
as tied for ever to the mummy, which lies below in a dark chamber, or to
the little images in their small passage within the wall of the tomb.
But the Egyptians did not carry out this idea logically. For we find
prayers upon the walls of their earliest tombs, that Osiris should give
to the dead, sheep, oxen, and farm-labourers, and ‘sport,’ or corn, and
wine, and dancers, and jesters--all the pleasures, in fact, which he had
had in life. Therefore the dead must really have been thought to have
the power of life and motion as he had enjoyed it upon earth,
inconsistent as such an idea is with the constant enchainment of the
_ka_ to some material belonging, to the mummy or to the image of

[Sidenote: The journey of the dead.]

Wherefore it came about that the Egyptians began to have a sort of
notion of _two_ souls--one the half-material _ka_, which remained in the
tomb; the other of an immaterial nature, which moved about.

But this notion of two souls arose because the Egyptians were _more_
precise and logical than most peoples have been in their speculations as
to the future state. Among other races we see a constant confusion
between the idea of resting in the tomb, and the idea of journeying to
another land generally in the wake of the sun. And the food and drink
placed on the tomb, instead of being the simple nourishment of the
dead, were designed merely as a temporary provision for him _on his way_
to the land of souls.

The expectation of a journey after death to reach the home of shades is
all but universal; and the opinion that the home of the departed lies in
the west is of an almost equally wide extension. The Egyptian religion,
with its wonderful Book of the Dead, gives as much weight to this side
of belief as to the other notion of resting in the tomb. To lengthen out
the soul’s journey, which was fancied to last thousands of years, and
give incident where all must have been really imaginary, the actual
journey of the mummy to its resting-place was lengthened after life to
portray the more ghostly wanderings of the spirit. As a rule, the cities
of the living in Egypt lay upon the eastern bank of the Nile; the tombs,
the cities of the dead, on the left or western bank, generally just
within the borders of the desert. Wherefore, as the body was carried
across the Nile to be buried in the desert, so the soul was believed to
begin his journey in the dim twilight region of Apap, king of the
desert, to cross a river more than once, to advance _towards the sun_,
light gradually breaking upon him the while, until at last he enters the
‘Palace of the Two Truths,’ the judgment-hall of Osiris (the sun). Last
of all, he walks into the sun itself, or is absorbed into the essence of
the deity.

In these two notions we have, I think, the germ of almost all the most
ancient belief touching the soul’s future. A confusion between the two
notions would imagine the soul making a journey through the earth to an
underground land of shades. So far as we know, this was the prevailing
feeling among the Hebrews. Old Hebrew writers (with whom the hopes of
immortality were not strong) speak of going down into the grave,[95] a
place thought of as a misty, dull, unfeeling, almost unreal abode.

[Sidenote: Journey to the sky.]

Finally, a third element--if not universal, common certainly to the
Aryan races--will be the conception of the soul separating from the body
altogether and mounting upwards to some home in the sky. All these
elements are found to exist and coexist in early creeds, and the force
of the component parts determines the colour of man’s doctrine about the
other world.

       *       *       *       *       *

[Sidenote: The other world of the Aryans.]

Among all the Aryan peoples the Greeks seem to have turned their
thoughts farthest away from the contemplation of the grave; and though
the voice of wonder and imagination could not quite be silent upon so
important a question, Hades and the kingdom of Hades filled a
disproportionately small space in their creed. They shrank from images
of Death, and adorned their tombs or cinerary urns with wreaths of
flowers and figures of the dancing Hours: it is doubtful if the god
Thanatos (Death) has ever been pictured by Greek art.[96] And from what
they have left on record concerning Hades and the realms of death, it is
evident that they regarded it _chiefly_ from its merely negative side,
in that aspect which corresponds most exactly to the notion of a dark
subterraneous kingdom, and not to that of a journey to some other
distant land. The etymology of their mythical King of Souls corresponds,
too, with the same notions. Hades means nothing else than A-eidês, the
unseen. And when it was said that the dead had gone to Hades, all that
was literally meant was that it had gone to the unseen place. But later
on, the place became personified into the grim deity whom we know in
Greek mythology, the brother of Zeus and Poseidon, he to whose share
fell, in the partition of the world, the land of perpetual night. The
underworld pictured by Homer is just of that voiceless, sightless
character which accords with the name of Hades. Even the great heroes
lose almost their identity, and all the joy and interest they had in
life. To ‘wander mid shadows a shadow, and wail by impassable streams,’
is henceforward their occupation.

Not that the Greek had _no_ idea of another world of the more heavenly
sort; ideas obtained as a joint inheritance with their brother nations;
only their thoughts and their poetry do not often centre round such
pictures. Their Elysian fields are a western sun’s home, just after the
pattern of the Egyptian; and so are their Islands of the Blest, where,
according to one tradition, the just Rhadamanthus had been transported
when he fled from the power of his brother Minôs.[97] Only, observe,
there is this difference between these Paradises and the Egyptian house
of Osiris--the latter was reached across the sandy desert, the former
are separated by the ocean from the abode of men. These are the
_Heavens_ of the Greek mythology; while the realm of Hades--or later on
the realm Hades--might by contrast be called their Hell. Let us look a
little nearer at this heaven-picture.

[Sidenote: The River of Death.]

The Caspian Sea--or by whatever name we call the great mediterranean sea
which lay before them--would be naturally, almost inevitably, considered
by the Aryans from their home in Bactria to bound the habitable world.
The region beyond its borders would be a twilight-land like the land of
Apap (the desert-king) of the Egyptians; and still farther away would
lie the bright region of the sun’s proper home. And these ideas would be
both literal--cosmological conceptions, as we should call them--and
figurative, or at least mythical, referring to the future state of the
soul. The beautiful expression of the Hebrew for that twilight western
region, ‘the valley of the shadow of death,’ might be used for the
Apap-land in its figurative significance, and not the less justly
because there creeps in here the other notion of death as of a
_descending_ to the land of shades, for the two ideas of the western
heaven and the subterraneous hell were never utterly separated, but,
among the Aryans at any rate, constantly acted and reacted upon one
another. So with the Greeks we have as a cosmological conception--or let
us say, more simply, a part of their world-theory--the encircling river
Oceanus, with the dim Cimmerian land beyond; and we have the Eylsian
fields and the islands of the blest for the most happy dead. And then by
a natural transfer of ideas the bounding river becomes the river of
death--Styx and Lethê--and is placed below the earth in the region of
death. Even the Elysian fields at last suffer the same change: they too
pass below the earth.

The Indian religion, too, has its river of death. ‘On the fearful road
to Yama’s door,’ says a hymn, ‘is the terrible stream Vaitara_n_î, in
order to cross which I sacrifice a black cow.’[98]

This river of death must be somehow crossed. The Greeks, we know, had
their grim ferryman.

    ‘Portitor has horrendus aquas et flumina servat
     Terribili squalore Charon: cui plurima mento
     Canities inculta jacet; stant lumina flamma,’ etc.

The Indians crossed their river of death by a bridge, which was guarded
by two dogs, not less terrible to evildoers than Charon and Cerberus.

‘A narrow path, an ancient one, stretches there, a path untrodden by
men, a path I know of.

‘On it the wise, who had known Brahma, ascend to the dwellings of
Svarga, when they have received their dismissal.’[99] So sings a poet.

Swarga is the Bright Land (_svar_, to shine), _i.e._ the Home of the
Sun. The names of the two guardian dogs, too, are interesting. They are
the sons of that Saramâ whom we have already seen sent by Indra to
recover his lost cattle, whose name signifies the breeze of morning.
Saramâ’s two sons, the dogs of Yama, being so closely connected with the
god of the under-world--as Saramâ is with Indra the sun-god--might be
guessed as the winds of evening or, more vaguely, the evening, as Saramâ
is the morning. They are so; and by their name of Sârameyas, are even
more closely related to Hermes than Saramâ was.[100] We now know why to
Hermes was allotted the office of Psychopomp, or leader of the shades to
the realm of Hades--or at least we partly know; for we see that he is
the same with the two dogs of Yama in the Indian myth. But they are also
connected by name with another much more infernal being, Cerberus. Their
individual names were _Cerbura_[101] the spotted, and Syama the black.
Thus the identity of nature is confirmed by the identity of name.

Death and Sleep are twin-brothers, and we need not be surprised to find
the Sârameyas, or rather _a_ god Sârameyas, addressed as a sort of god
of sleep, a divine hound, the protector of the sleeping household, as we
do find in a very beautiful poem of the Rig-Vedas.[102]

    ‘Destroyer of sickness, guard of the house; oh, thou who
        takest all shapes, be to us a peace-bringing friend.
     Bay at the robber, Sârameyas, bay at the thief; why bayest
        thou at the singer of Indra? why art thou angry with me?
        sleep, Sârameyas.
     The mother sleeps, the father sleeps, the dog sleeps, the
        clan-father[103] sleeps, the whole clan sleeps; sleep thou, Sârameyas.
     Those who sleep by the cattle, those who sleep by the wain,
        the women who lie on the couches, the sweet-scented ones,
        all these we bring to slumber.’

How these verses breathe of the fragrant air of early pastoral life! In
their names, again, of ‘black’ and ‘spotted’ it is very probable that
the dogs typified two appearances of night--black or starry.

[Sidenote: The heavenward journey.]

And yet we must remember that Hermes is not a god of night, or sleep,
but strictly and properly of the wind, and that his name, as that of
Sârameyas, bears this meaning in its construction. The god who bore away
the souls to the other world, however connected with the night, ‘the
proper time for dying,’ must have been originally the wind. And in this
we see an exquisite appropriateness. The soul is, in its original and
literal meaning, the breath[104]--‘the spirit does but mean the breath.’
What more natural, therefore, than that the spirit should be carried
away by the wind-god? This was peculiarly an Aryan idea. Yet let it not
be laid to the Aryans’ charge, as though their theories of the soul and
future life were less spiritual than those of other nations: quite the
contrary was the case. So far as they abandoned the notion of the
existence of the _body_ in another state and transferred the future to
the soul, their ideas became higher, and their pictures of the other
world more amplified. But how, it may be asked, did the Aryans pass to
their more spiritual conception of the soul? The more external causes of
this progress it is worth while briefly to trace.

The sun, it has been said, acted powerfully upon men’s minds in pointing
the hopes of futurity. And in sketching the sun-myth which lay concealed
in the story of the life of Heracles, we noticed one feature which
suggests thoughts about a not yet mentioned element in the funeral rites
of the Aryans. The fiery setting of the sun would itself suggest a fiery
funeral, and pre-eminently so to a race who seem to have been addicted
more than any other to this form of interment. Balder, the Northern
sun-god, likewise receives such a funeral, and this more even than the
death of Heracles exemplifies the double significance of the sun’s
westering course. For he sails away upon a burning ship. When,
therefore, this fire-burial was thoroughly established in custom as the
most heroic sort of end, it is not likely that men would longer rely
upon their belief that the body continued in an after-life. The thought
of the dead man living in his grave or travelling thence to regions
below must, or should, by the consistent be definitely abandoned. In
place of it, a theory of the vital faculty residing in the breath,
which almost amounts to a soul distinct from the body, is accepted. Or,
if the doubting brethren still require some visible representation of
this vital power, the smoke[105] of the funeral pyre may typify the
ascending soul. Nay, it would appear as though inanimate things likewise
had some such essence, which by the fire could be separated from their
material form. For what would formerly have been placed with the dead in
the grave is now placed upon the pyre. In the funeral of Patroclus
(_Il._ xxiii.) we have a complete picture of these reformed rites, which
seems to be applicable to all the Aryan folk; nor surely could we wish
for anything more striking and impressive. The fat oxen and sheep are
slain before the pyre, and with the fat from their bodies and with honey
the corpse is liberally anointed. Then twelve captives are sacrificed to
the manes of the hero; they and his twelve favourite dogs are burnt with
him upon the pile. We soon see the reason for the anointing of the
corpse with fat, and taking so much pains that it should be thoroughly
consumed. It was necessary for the peace of the shade that his body
should be thoroughly burned; for the funeral ceremony was looked upon as
the inevitable portal to Hades; without it the ghost still lingered upon
earth unable to cross the Stygian stream. So afterwards, when the pile
will not burn, Achilles prays to the North and the West Winds and pours
libations to them that they may come and consummate the funeral rite.
All night as the flame springs up Achilles stands beside it, calling
upon the name of his friend and watering the ground with libations from
a golden cup. Toward morning the flame sinks down; and then the two
winds, according to the beautiful language of mythology, return homeward
across the Thracian sea.

All the Aryan nationalities practised cremation in some form or other,
or had practised it; most only gave it up upon the introduction of
Christianity. The time is too remote, therefore, to say when this form
of interment was in truth a novelty; and the fact that the bronze age in
Europe is, as distinguished from that of stone, a corpse-burning age, is
one of the reasons which urge us to the conclusion that the bronze-using
invaders were of the Aryan family.[106] The Indians, owing to their
excessive reverence for Agni the fire-god, adhered to the practice most
faithfully; though the very same reason (namely, their regard for the
purity of fire) made the reformed Iranian religion utterly repudiate
it--a fact which might seem strange did we not know how Zoroastrianism
was sometimes governed by a spirit of opposition to the older
faith.[107] Among the Norsemen about the time of the introduction of
Christianity into Scandinavia, Burn? or Bury? became a test-question,
and a constant cause of dispute between the rival creeds.

[Sidenote: Other world of the Norsemen.]

In the Northern religion, too, therefore, we have the same leading ideas
which we have signalized in the Indian or Grecian systems. Especially
does that notion of the breath of the body, or the smoke of the funeral
pyre representing the soul of the hero and carried upward under care of
the wind, come prominently forward. This might be expected because, it
will be remembered, the wind in the Northern mythology is not, as with
the Indians, a servant of Yama only, or as with the Greeks a lesser
divinity, but is the first of all the gods. To Odin is assigned the task
of collecting the souls of heroes who had fallen in battle; and there
are few myths more poetical than that which pictures him riding to
battle-fields to execute his mission. He is accompanied by his
Valkyriur, ‘the choosers,’ a sort of Amazonian houris, half human,
half-godlike, who ride through the air in the form of swans; wherefore
they--who are originally, perhaps, the clouds--are often called in the
Eddas, Odin’s swan-maidens. It has been said that this myth lived on in
after-ages in the form of the _Phantom Army_ and _Herne the Hunter_: and
the essential part of it, the myth of the soul carried away by the wind,
lived on more obscurely in a hundred other tales, some of which we may
glance at in our next chapter upon _Mythology_. But while this idea of
the mounting soul is often clearly expressed--as, for instance, where in
Beowulf,[108] in the last scene, the hero is burnt by the seashore, it
is said of him that he _wand to wolcum_, ‘curled to the clouds,’
imaging well the curling smoke of the pyre--there still lingered on
other ideas of the death-home, a subterraneous land (Helheim, Hel’s
home) ruled over by the goddess Hel,[109] and an infernal Styx-like
stream, with the bridge of Indian mythology transferred to the lower
world. And so much were the three distinct ideas interwoven, that in the
myth of Balder each one may be traced. For here the sun-god, who is the
very origin and prototype of the two more exalted elements of the creed
of the heavenward journey,[110] has himself to stoop downward to the
gates of Hel. If this legend sanctified for the heathens the practice of
fire-burial, they had certainly so much excuse for their obstinate
adherence to the older custom, as one of the most beautiful myths ever
told might plead for them. We may look upon the story of the death and
burning of Balder in two aspects--first as an image of the setting sun,
next as an expression of men’s thoughts concerning death, and the course
of the soul to its future home. If in this latter respect the story
seems to mix up two different myths concerning the other world, we need
not be surprised at that.

Balder dies, as the sun dies each day, and as the summer dies into
winter. He falls, struck by a dart from the hand of his blind brother
Hödr (the darkness), and the shadow of death appears for the first time
in the homes of Asgard. At first the gods knew not what to make of it,
‘they were struck dumb with horror,’ says the Edda;[111] but seeing
that he is really dead, they prepare his funeral pyre. They took his
ship _Hringhorni_ (Ringhorn, the disk of the sun), and on it set a pile
of wood, with Balder’s horse and his armour, and all that he valued
most, to which each god added some worthy gift. And when Nanna, the wife
of Balder, saw the preparations, her heart broke with grief, and she too
was laid upon the pile. Then they set fire to the ship, which sailed out
burning into the sea.

But Balder himself had to go to Helheim, the dark abode beneath the
earth, where reigns Hel,[112] the goddess of the dead. Then Odin sends
his messenger, Hermödr, to the goddess, to pray her to let Balder return
once more to earth. For nine days and nine nights Hermödr rode through
dark glens, so dark that he could not discern anything until he came to
the river Gjöll (‘the sounding’--notice that here the Greek Cocytus
reappears), over which he rode by Gjöll’s bridge, which was pleasant
with bright gold. A maiden sat there keeping the bridge; she inquired of
him his name and lineage--for, said she, ‘Yestereve five bands of dead
men rid over the bridge, yet they did not shake it so much as thou hast
done. But thou hast not death’s hue upon thee; why, then, ridest thou
here on the way to Hel?’

‘I ride to Hel,’ answered Hermödr, ‘to seek Balder. Hast thou perchance
seen him pass this way?’

‘Balder,’ answered she, ‘hath ridden over Gjöll’s bridge. But yonder,
northward, lies the road to Hel.’

Hermödr then rode into the palace, where he found his brother Balder
filling the highest place in the hall, and in his company he passed the
night. The next morning he besought Hel, that she would let Balder ride
home with him, assuring her how great the grief was among the gods.

Hel answered, ‘It shall now be proved whether Balder be so much loved as
thou sayest. If, therefore, all things both living and lifeless weep for
him, then shall he return. But if one thing speak against him or refuse
to weep, he shall be kept in Helheim.’

And when Hermödr had delivered this answer, the gods sent off messengers
throughout the whole world, to tell everything to weep, in order that
Balder might be delivered out of Helheim. All things freely complied
with this request, both man and every other living thing, and earths,
and stones, and trees, and metals, just as thou hast no doubt seen these
things weep when they are brought from a cold place into a hot one. As
the messengers were returning, and deemed that their mission had been
successful, they found an old hag, named Thokk,[113] sitting in a
cavern, and her they begged to weep Balder out of Helheim. But she

    ‘Thokk will wail          Nought quick or dead
    With dry eyes             For carl’s son care I.
    Balder’s bale-fire.       Let Hel hold her own.’

So Balder remained in Helheim.

Such was the sad conclusion of the myth of which the memory is kept up
even in these days. For in Norway and Sweden--nay, in some parts of
Scotland, the _bale-fires_ celebrating the bale or death of the sun-god
are lighted on the day when the sun passes the highest point in the
ecliptic. Balder will not, said tradition, remain for ever in Helheim. A
day will come, the twilight of the gods, when the gods themselves will
be destroyed in a final victorious contest with the evil powers. And
then, when a new earth has arisen from the deluge which destroys the
old, Balder, the god of Peace, will come from Death’s home to rule over
this regenerate world. A sublime myth--if indeed it can be called a



[Sidenote: Diversity of myths.]

If we found it difficult to reduce to a consistent simplicity the
religious ideas of the Aryan races, what hope have we to find any thread
through the labyrinth of their unbridled imagination in dealing with
more fanciful subjects? The world is all before them where to choose;
nature, in her multitudinous works and ever-changing shows, is at hand
to give breath to the faculty of myth-making, and lay the foundation of
all the stories which have ever been told. The two elements concurrent
to the manufacture of mythologies are the varying phenomena in nature,
and that which is called the anthropomorphic (personifying) faculty in
man. I do not mean by this that all myths represent natural appearances.
Some simply relate events, real human experiences; all that is mythic
about such stories is that they are _misplaced_. Some one has gone
through the adventures, but not the person of whom they are told. Other
tales transfer in a like fashion human experiences to beings who are not
human, to animals, to trees and streams, maybe even to implements, to
spades and ploughs, to hatchets, swords, or ships. All these may be
subject of mere tale-telling. But what I understand by mythology are
the stories related of the gods--at all events, stories of supernatural
beings who are almost gods. And among the Aryan folk, as the gods are in
almost every instance the personifications of phenomena or powers of
nature, the myths of widest extension were necessarily occupied with

Religion being the greatest concern of man, the myths which allied
themselves most closely to his religious ideas would be those which
maintained the longest life and most universal acceptance. In reviewing
some of the Aryan myths--in a hasty and general review as it must needs
be--the preceding chapter will serve to guide us to the myths most
closely connected with religious notions, which have a chief claim upon
our attention. Indeed, reading in a converse manner, it was the fact
that so many myths clung around certain natural phenomena which allowed
us, with proper reservation, to point these out as the phenomena which
held the most intimate place in men’s minds and hearts. _With proper
reservations_, because the highest, most abstracted god does not lend
himself as a subject for the myth-making faculty. He stands apart from
the polytheistic circle: below him stand the nature-gods who are also
the heroes of the mythologies.

And now, with a backward glance to what has been already written, we may
expect the chief myth systems to divide themselves into certain classes
corresponding with the god--or natural phenomenon--that is their
concern. We may expect to find myths relating especially to the labours
of the sun, like those of Heracles and Thorr, or to the wind, like that
of Hermes stealing the cattle of Apollo, or to the earth sleeping in the
embrace of winter, or sorrowing for the loss of her greenery, or joying
again in her recovered life. And again we may look to find myths more
intimately concerned with death, and with the looked-for future of the
soul. These will mingle like mingling streams, but we shall often be
able to trace their origin.

But, to begin with, do not suppose that, if I say that a natural
phenomenon has given rise to a story, I mean to say that the story could
not have arisen except through this natural phenomenon. Or, to put it in
plainer language, do not suppose that if I say that this or that
adventure is related of the sun or of the wind, I mean that the
adventure was never heard of before the sun or wind was worshipped as a
god or idealized as a hero. If Indra, or Apollo, is called the
serpent-slayer, I do not mean that it is by the battle of the sun and
the clouds that men got the idea of slaying serpents. If the wind is
said to ride a-horseback over hill and dale, if the thunder-god is said
to hurl his hammer at the mountain-tops, I do not mean that men never
thought of horses or battle-hammers till they began to make stories
about the wind and sun. What I do mean is that certain special forms of
the myths related, _as we now see them_, were told of the Aryan god who
was some phenomenon of nature--the sun or whatever he might be. It is
necessary to give this word of caution, because the relationship of
mythology to religion has sometimes, by recent writings upon the
subject, been a good deal confused and obscured.

The diversity of the natural phenomena which give them rise will not in
any way hinder the myths from reproducing the _human_ elements which
have, since the world began held their pre-eminence in romance and
history. There will be love-stories, stories of battle and victory, of
magic and strange disguises, of suddenly acquired treasure, and, most
attractive of all to the popular mind, stories of princes and princesses
whose princedom is hidden under a servile station or beggar’s
gaberdine, and of heroes who allow their heroism to rust for a while in
strange inaction, that

                ‘Imitate the sun,
    Who doth permit the base contagious clouds
    To smother up his beauty from the world,
    That, when he please again to be himself,
    Being wanted, he may be more wondered at.’

Not necessarily because such heroes _were_ the sun, but rather that the
tales, appealing so intimately to the common sympathies of human nature,
attach themselves pre-eminently to the great natural hero, the sun-god.

[Sidenote: Sun-myths.]

To begin, then, with the sun-god. His love-stories relate most commonly
the pursuit of the dawn, a woman, by the god of day. She flies at the
approach of the sun; or, if the two are married in early morning, when
the day advances, the dawn dies or the sun leaves her to pursue his
allotted journey. We read how Apollo pursued Daphnê, while she still
fled from him, and at last, praying to the gods, was changed into a
laurel, which ever afterwards remained sacred to the son of Lêtô. There
is nothing new in the story; it might be related of any hero. Yet, as we
find Greek art so often busy with it, we might guess that it had
obtained for some reason a hold more than commonly firm upon the popular
imagination. And when we turn from the Greek to the Sanskrit we are able
to unravel the myth and show it, so far as the names are concerned,
peculiar to the sun-god. Daphnê (it is believed) is the Sanskrit Ahanâ,
that is to say, the Dawn.

A tenderer love-story is that which speaks of the sun and the dawn as
united at the opening of the day, but of the separation which follows
when the sun reveals himself in his true splendour. The parting,
however, will not be eternal, for the sun in the evening shall sink into
the arms of the west, as in the morning he left those of the east--all
the physical appearances at sundown will correspond with those of the
dawn--so in poetical language he will be said to return to his love
again at the evening of life. In right accord with its natural origin
and native attractiveness, we find this story repeated almost
identically as regards its chief incidents by all the branches of the
Aryan family. For an Indian version of it the reader may consult the
story of Urva_s_i and Pururavas, told by Mr. Max Müller from one of the
Vedas.[114] Urva_s_i is a fairy who falls in love with Pururavas, a
mortal, and consents to become his wife, on condition that she should
never see him without his royal garment on, ‘for this is the manner of
women.’ For a while they lived together happily; but the Gandhavas, the
fairy beings to whom Urva_s_i belonged, were jealous of her love for a
mortal, and they laid a plot to separate them. ‘Now, there was a ewe
with two lambs tied to the couch of Urva_s_i and Pururavas, and the
fairies stole one of them, so that Urva_s_i upbraided her husband and
said, “They steal my darlings as though I lived in a land where there is
no hero, and no man.” And Pururavas said, “How can that be a land
without heroes or men where I am?” and naked he sprang up. Then the
Gandhavas sent a flash of lightning, and Urva_s_i saw her husband naked
as by daylight. Then she vanished. “I come back,” she said; and went.’

Cupid loves Psyche as Pururavas Urva_s_i, but here the story is so far
changed that the woman breaks the condition laid upon their union. Not
this time by accident, but from the evil counselling of her two sisters,
Psyche disobeys her husband. They have long been married, but she has
never seen his face; and doubts begin to arise lest some horrid
monster, and not a god, may be the sharer of her couch. So she takes the
lamp, and when she deems her husband is fast locked in sleep, gazes upon
the face of the god of love.

                      ‘But as she turned at last
    To quench the lamp, there happed a little thing
    That quenched her new delight, for flickering,
    The treacherous flame cast on his shoulder fair
    A burning drop; he woke, and seeing her there,
    The meaning of that sad sight knew full well;
    Nor was there need the piteous tale to tell.’[115]

Here, it is true, we have wandered away from the adventures of the sun.
Cupid or Eros is in no sense a sun-god; nor has Psyche any proved
connection with Ushas, the Dawn. Once a sun-myth does not mean always a
sun-myth.[116] So much the contrary, that it is part of our business to
show how stories, first appropriated to Olympus or Asgard, may descend
to take their place among the commonest collection of nursery tales. It
is the case with this myth of the Dawn. The reader’s acquaintance with
nursery literature has probably already anticipated the kinship to be
claimed by one of the most familiar childish legends. But as one more
link to rivet the bond of union between _Urvasi and Pururavas_ and
_Beauty and the Beast_, let us look at a story of Swedish origin called
_Prince Hatt under the Earth_.

‘There was once, very very long ago, a king who had three daughters, all
exquisitely fair, and much more amiable than other maidens, so that
their like was not to be found far or near. But the youngest princess
excelled her sisters, not only in beauty, but in goodness of heart and
kindness of disposition. She was consequently greatly beloved by all,
and the king himself was more fondly attached to her than to either of
his other daughters.

‘It happened one autumn that there was a fair in a town not far from the
king’s residence, and the king himself resolved on going to it with his
attendants. When on the eve of departure, he asked his three daughters
what they would like for fairings, it being his constant custom to make
them some present on his return home. The two elder princesses began
instantly to enumerate precious things of curious kinds; one would have
this, the other that; but the youngest daughter asked for nothing. At
this the king was surprised, and asked her whether she would not like
some ornament or other; but she answered that she had plenty of gold and
jewels. When the king, however, would not desist from urging her, she at
length said, “There is one thing which I would gladly have, if only I
might venture to ask it of my father.” “What may that be?” inquired the
king; “say what it is, and if it be in my power you shall have it.” “It
is this,” replied the princess, “I have heard talk of the _three singing
leaves_, and them I wish to have before anything else in the world.” The
king laughed at her for making so trifling a request, and at length
exclaimed, “I cannot say that you are very covetous, and would rather by
half that you had asked for some greater gift. You shall, however, have
what you desire, though it should cost me half my realm.” He then bade
his daughters farewell and rode away.’

Of course he goes to the fair, and on his way home happens to hear the
three singing leaves, ‘which moved to and fro, and as they swayed there
came forth a sound such as it would be impossible to describe.’ The king
was glad to have found what his daughter had wished for, and was about
to pluck them, but the instant he stretched forth his hand towards them,
they withdrew from his grasp, and a powerful voice was heard from under
the earth saying, ‘Touch not my leaves.’ ‘At this the king was somewhat
surprised, and asked who it was, and whether he could not purchase the
leaves for gold or good words. The voice answered, “I am _Prince Hatt
under the Earth_, and you will not get my leaves either with good or bad
as you desire. Nevertheless I will propose to you one condition.” “What
condition is that?” asked the king with eagerness. “It is,” answered the
voice, “that you promise me the first living thing that you meet when
you return to your palace.”’ As we anticipate, the first thing which he
meets is his youngest daughter, who therefore is left with lamentation
under the hazel bush: and, as is its wont on such occasions, the ground
opens, and she finds herself in a beautiful palace. Here she lives long
and happily with Prince Hatt, upon condition that she shall never see
him. But at last she is permitted to pay a visit to her father and
sisters; and her stepmother succeeds in awakening her curiosity and her
fears, lest she should really be married to some horrid monster. The
princess thus allows herself to be persuaded to strike a light and gaze
on her husband while he is asleep. Of course, just as her eyes have
lighted upon a beautiful youth he awakes, and as a consequence of her
disobedience--(here the story alters somewhat)--he is struck blind, and
the two are obliged to wander over the earth, and endure all manner of
misfortunes before Prince Hatt’s sight is at last restored.

The sun is so apt to take the place of an almost super-human hero, that
most of the stories of such when they are purely mythical relate some
part of the sun’s daily course and labours. Thus in the Greek, Perseus,
Theseus, Jason, are in the main sun-heroes, though they mingle with
their histories tales of real human adventure. One of the most easily
traceable sun-stories is that of Perseus and the Gorgon. The later
representations of Medusa in Greek art give her a beautiful dead face
shrouded by luxurious snaky tresses; but the earlier art presents us
with a round face, distorted by a hideous grin from ear to ear, broad
cheeks, low forehead, over which curl a few flattened locks. We at once
see the likeness of this face to the full moon; a likeness which,
without regard to mythology, forces itself upon us; and then the true
story of Perseus flashes upon us as the extinction of the moon by the
sun’s light. This is the baneful Gorgon’s head, the full moon, which so
many nations superstitiously believed could exert a fatal power over the
sleeper; and when slain by the son of Danaê, it is the pale ghostlike
disc which we see by day. It is very interesting to see how the Greeks
made a myth of the moon in its--one may say--literal unidealized aspect,
in addition to the countless more poetical myths which spoke of the moon
as a beautiful goddess, queen of the night, the virgin huntress
surrounded by her pack of dogs--the stars. In the instance of Medusa
these two aspects of one natural appearance are brought into close
relationship, for Athênê--who is sometimes a moon-goddess--wears the
Gorgon’s head upon her shield.

As we have passed on to speak of the moon, we may as

[Sidenote: Moon-myths.]

well notice some of the other moon-myths: though in the case of these,
as of the myths of the sun, our only object must be to show the
characteristic forms which this order of tales assumes, so that the way
may be partly cleared for their detection; nothing like a complete list
of the infinitely varied shapes which the same nature-story can assume
being possible. One of the most beautiful of moon-myths is surely the
tale of Artemis (Diana) and Endymion. This last, the beautiful shepherd
of Latmos,[117] by his name ‘He who enters,’ is in origin the sun just
entering the _cave_ of night.[118] The moon looking upon the setting sun
is a signal for his long sleep, which in the myth becomes the sleep of
death. The same myth reappears in the well-known German legend of
Tannhäuser. He enters a mountain, the Venusberg, or Mount of Venus, and
is not sent to sleep, but laid under an enchantment by the goddess
within. In other versions of the legend the mountain is called not
Venusberg but Horelberg, and from this name we trace the natural origin
of the myth. For there was an old moon-goddess of the Teutons called
Horel or Hursel. She therefore is the enchantress in this case; and the
Christian knight falls a victim to the old German moon-goddess. It has
been supposed that the story of the massacre of St. Ursula and her
eleven thousand virgins--whose bones they show to this day at
Cologne--arose out of the same nature-myth; and that this St. Ursula is
also none other than Hursel, followed by her myriad troop of stars.[119]

       *       *       *       *       *

The northern religion, or say the old German creed its

[Sidenote: Northern sun-myths, etc.]

first cousin, has been fruitful in myths which were repeated all through
the Middle Ages and out of which the greater part of our popular tales
have sprung. Thor, originally the sun and now the god of thunder, the
champion of men, and the enemy of the Jötuns (giants), becomes in later
days Jack the Giant Killer; Odin, by a like descent, the Wandering Jew,
or the Pied Piper of Hamelin. And thus through a hundred popular legends
we can detect the natural appearance out of which they originally
sprang. Let us look at them first in their old heathen forms. Thor, the
hero and sun-god, the northern Heracles, distinguishes himself as the
implacable enemy of the rime-giants and frost-giants, the powers of cold
and darkness; and to carry on his hostilities, he makes constant
expeditions, ‘farings’ into giant-land, or Jötunheim, as it is called;
and these expeditions generally end in the thorough discomfiture of the
strong but rude and foolish personifications of barren nature.

One of these, the adventure to the house of Thrym,[120] is to recover
Thor’s hammer, which has been stolen by the giant and hidden many miles
beneath the earth. A spy is sent from Asgard (the city of the gods) into
Jötunheim, and brings back word that Thrym will not give up his prize
unless Freyja--goddess of Spring and Beauty--be given to him as his
bride; and at first Thor proposes this alternative to Freyja herself,
little, as may be guessed, to her satisfaction.

    ‘Wroth was Freyja and with fury fumed,
     All the Æsir’s hall under her trembled;
     Broken flew the famed Brisinga necklace.’[121]

But the wily Loki settles the difficulty. Thor shall to Jötunheim clad
in Freyja’s weeds,

    ‘Let by his side, keys jingle, and a neat coif set on his head.’

So taking Loki with him clad as a serving-maid, the god fares to Thrym’s
house, as though he were the looked-for bride. It must, one would
suppose, have been an anxious time for Thor and Loki, while unarmed they
sate in the hall of the giant; for the hero could not avoid raising some
suspicions by his unwomanly appearance and demeanour. He alone devoured,
we are told, an ox, eight salmon, ‘and all the sweetmeats women should
have,’ and he drank eight ‘scalds’ of mead. Thrym naturally exclaimed
that he never saw brides eat so greedily or drink so much mead. But the
‘all-crafty’ Loki sitting by, explained how this was owing to the hurry
Freyja was in to behold her bridegroom, which left her no time to eat
for the eight nights during which she had been journeying there. And so
again when Thrym says--

    ‘Why are so piercing Freyja’s glances?
     Methinks that fire burns from her eyes,’

Loki explains that for the same reason she had not slept upon her
journey; and the foolish, vain giant is gulled once more. At last the
coveted prize, the hammer, was brought in to consecrate the marriage,
and ‘Thor’s soul laughed in his breast, when the fierce-hearted his
hammer knew. He slew Thrym, the Thursar’s (giant’s) lord, and the
Jötun’s race crushed he utterly.’

At another time Thor engages Alvîs, ‘of the race of the Thursar,’[122]
in conversation upon all manner of topics, concerning the names which
different natural objects bear among men, among gods, among giants, and
among dwarfs, until he guilefully keeps him above earth till after
sunrise, which it is not possible for a dwarf or Jötun to do and live.
So Alvîs bursts asunder.[123] This tale shows clearly enough how much
Thor’s enemies are allied with darkness.

Thor is not always so successful. In another of his journeys[124] the
giants play a series of tricks upon him, quite suitable to the Teutonic
conception of the cold north, as a place of magic, glamour, and
illusion. One giant induces the thunderer to mistake a mountain for him,
and to hurl at _it_ the death-dealing bolt--his hammer Mjölnir.
Afterwards he is set to drain a horn which he supposes he can finish at
a draught, but finds that after the third pull at it, scarcely more than
the rim has been left bare; at the same time Loki engages in an eating
match with one Logi, and is utterly worsted. But in reality Thor’s horn
has reached to the sea, and he has been draining at that; while the
antagonist of Loki is the devouring fire itself. Next Thor is unable to
lift a cat from the ground, for it is in truth the great Midgard serpent
which girds the whole earth. Finally he is overcome in a wrestling match
with an old hag, whose name is Ella, that is Old Age or Death. Enough
has been said in these stories to show how directly the cloak of Thor
descends to the heroes of our nursery tales, Jack the Giant Killer and
Jack of the Bean-Stalk.

Not unconnected with the sun-god are the mythical heroes of northern
poetry, the Perseus or Theseus of Germany and Scandinavia. The famous
Sigurd the Volsung, the slayer of Fafnir, or his counterpart Siegfrid of
the Nibelung song, or again the hero of our own English poem
Beowulf,[125] are especially at war with dragons--which represent the
powers of darkness--or with beings of a Jötun-like character. They are
all discoverers of treasure; and this so far corresponds with the
character of Thor that the thunderbolt is often spoken of as the
revealer of the treasures of the earth, and that the sign of it was
employed as a charm for that purpose. And when we read the account of
these adventures we see how entirely unhuman in character most of them
were, and how much the incidents in the drama bear a reminiscence of the
natural phenomena from which they sprang.

This is especially the case with Beowulf. The poem is weird and
imaginative in the highest degree: the atmosphere into which we are
thrown seems to be the misty delusive air of Jötunheim, and the
unearthly beings whom Beowulf encounters must have had birth within the
shadows of night and in the mystery which attached to the wild unvisited
tracts of country. Grendel, a horrid ghoul who feasts on human beings,
whom Beowulf wrestles with (as Thor wrestles with Ella) and puts to
death, is described as an ‘inhabiter of the moors,’ the ‘fen and
fastnesses;’ he comes upon the scene ‘like a cloud from the misty hills,
through the wan night a shadow-walker stalking;’ and of him and his
mother it is said,

    ‘They a father know not,
     Whether any of them was
     Born before
     Of the dark ghosts.’

They inhabit, in a secret land, the wolves’ retreat, and in ‘windy

    Where the mountain stream
    Under the ness’s mist
    Downward flows.’

[Sidenote: Wind-myths.]

Of the myths which spring from the wind, and which may therefore be
reckoned the children of Odin, by far the most interesting are those
which attach to him in his part of Psycopomp, or soul-leader, and which
form a part, therefore, of an immense series of tales connected with the
Teutonic ideas of death as they were detailed in the last chapter. There
were many reasons why these occupied a leading place in middle-age
legend. The German race is naturally a gloomy or at least a thoughtful
one: and upon this natural gloom and thoughtfulness the influence of
their new faith acted with redoubled force, awaking men to thoughts not
only of a new life but of a new death. Popular religion took as strong a
hold of the darker as of the brighter aspects of Catholicism, and was
busy grafting the older notions of the soul’s future state upon the
fresh stock of revealed religion. Thus many of the popular notions both
of heaven and hell may be discovered in the beliefs of heathen Germany.
Let us, therefore, abandoning the series of myths which belong properly
to the Aryan religious beliefs as given in Chapter IX. (though upon
these, so numerous are they, we seem scarcely to have begun), turn to
others which illustrate our last chapter. Upon one we have already
touched; Odin, as chooser of the dead, hurrying through the air towards
a battle-field with his troop of shield-maidens, the Valkyriur;[126] or
if we like to present the simpler nature-myth, the wind bearing away the
departing breath of dying men, and the clouds which he carries on with
him in his course. For there is no doubt that these Valkyriur, these
shield-or swan-maidens, who have the power of transforming themselves at
pleasure into birds, were originally none other than the clouds; perhaps
like the cattle of Indra, they were at first the clouds of sunrise. We
meet with such beings elsewhere than in northern mythology. The
Urva_s_i, whose story we have been relating just now, after the
separation from her mortal husband changes herself into a bird and is
found by Pururavas in this disguise, sitting with her friends the
Gandhavas upon the water of a lake. This means the clouds of evening
resting upon the wide blue sky. The Valkyriur themselves, when they have
been married to men, often leave them, as the Indian fairy left her
husband; and lest they should do so it is not safe to restore them the
swan’s plumage which they wore as Valkyriur; should they again obtain
their old equipment they will be almost sure to don it and desert their
home to return to their old life. The Valkyriur, then, are clouds; and
in so far as they appear in the legends of other nations they have no
intimate connection with Odin. But when they are the clouds of sunset,
and when Odin in his character of soul-bearer becomes before all things
the wind of the _setting_ sun (that breeze which so often rises just as
the sun goes down, and which itself might stand for the escaping soul of
the dying day), then the Valkyriur make part of an ancient myth of
death. And almost all the stories of swan-maidens, or transformations
into swans, which are so familiar to the ears of childhood, are related
to Odin’s warrior maidens. If we notice the plot of these stories, we
shall see that in them too the transformation usually takes place at
sun-setting or sunrising. For instance, in the tale of the six swans in
Grimm’s _Household Stories_,[127] the enchanted brothers of the princess
can only reappear in their true shapes just one hour before sunset.

In Christian legends the gods of Asgard, subjected to the changes which
inevitably follow a change of belief, became demoniacal powers; and Odin
the chief god takes the place of the arch-fiend. For this part he is
especially suited by his character of conductor of the souls; if he
formerly led them to heaven, he now thrusts them down to hell. But so
many elements came together to compose the mediæval idea of the devil
that in this character the individuality of Odin is scarcely preserved.
At times a wish to revive something of this personal character was felt,
especially when the frequent sound of the wind awoke old memories; then
Odin re-emerges as some particular fiend or damned human soul. He is the
Wandering Jew, a being whose eternal restlessness well keeps up the
character of the wind blowing where it listeth: or he is, as we have
said, the Wild Huntsman of the Harz, and of many other places.

The name of this last being, Hackelberg, or Hackelbärend (cloak-bearer),
sufficiently points him out as Odin, who in the heathen traditions had
been wont to wander over the earth clad in a blue cloak,[128] and broad
hat, and carrying a staff. Hackelberg, the huntsman to the Duke of
Brunswick, had refused even on his death-bed the ministrations of a
priest, and swore that the cry of his dogs was pleasanter to him than
holy rites, and that he would rather hunt for ever upon earth than go to
heaven. ‘Then,’ said the man of God, ‘thou shalt hunt on until the Day
of Judgment.’ Another legend relates that Hackelberg was a wicked noble
who was wont to hunt on Sundays as on other days, and (here comes in the
_popular_ version) to impress the poor peasants to aid him. One day he
was joined suddenly by two horsemen. One was mild of aspect, but the
other was grim and fierce, and from his horse’s mouth and nostril
breathed fire. Hackelberg turned then from his good angel, and went on
with his wild chase, and now, in company of the fiend, he hunts and will
hunt till the last day. He is called in Germany the _hel-jäger_,
‘hell-hunter.’ The peasants hear his ‘hoto’ ‘hutu,’ as the storm-wind
rushes past their doors, and if they are alone upon the hillside they
hide their faces while the hunt goes by. The white owl, Totosel, is a
nun who broke her vows, and now mingles her ‘tutu’ (towhoo) with his
‘holoa.’ He hunts, accompanied by two dogs (the two dogs of Yama), in
heaven, all the year round, save upon the twelve nights between
Christmas and Twelfth-night.[129] If any door is left open upon the
night when Hackelberg goes by, one of the dogs will run in and lie down
in the ashes of the hearth, nor will any power be able to make him stir.
During all the ensuing year there will be trouble in that household, but
when the year has gone round and the hunt comes again, the unbidden
guest will rise from his couch, and, wildly howling, rush forth to join
his master. Strangely distorted, there lurks in this part of the story
a ray of the Vedic sleep-god Sârameyas.

‘Destroyer of sickness, guard of the house, oh, thou who takest all
shapes, be to us a peace-bringing friend.’

The Valkyriur in their turn are changed by the mediæval spirit into
witches. The Witches’ Sabbath, the old beldames on broomsticks riding
through the air, to hold their revels on the Brocken, reproduce the
swan-maidens hurrying to join the flight of Odin. And, again, changed
once more, ‘Old Mother Goose’ is but a more modern form of a middle-age
witch, when the thought of witches no longer strikes terror. And while
we are upon the subject of witches it may be well to recall how the
belief in witches has left its trace in our word ‘nightmare.’ _Mara_ was
throughout Europe believed to be the name of a very celebrated witch
somewhere in the North, though the exact place of her dwelling was
variously stated. It is highly probable that this name Mara was once a
byname of the death-goddess Hel, and it _may_ be etymologically
connected with the name of the sea (Meer), the sea being, as we have
seen, according to one set of beliefs, the home of the soul.

Odin, or a being closely analogous with him, reappears in the familiar
tale of the Pied Piper of Hameln, he who, when the whole town of Hameln
suffered from a plague of rats and knew not how to get rid of them,
appeared suddenly--no one knew from whence--and professed himself able
to charm the pest away by means of the secret magic of his pipe. But it
is a profanation to tell the enchanted legend otherwise than in the
enchanted language of Browning:--

    ‘Into the street the piper stept,
     Smiling first a little smile,
     As if he knew what magic slept
     In his quiet pipe the while;
     Then like a musical adept
     To blow the pipe his lips he wrinkled.’

Then the townsfolk, freed from their burden, refused the piper his
promised reward, and scornfully chased him from the town. On the 26th of
June he was seen again, but this time (Mr. Browning has not incorporated
this little fact) fierce of aspect and dressed like a _huntsman_, yet
still blowing upon the magic pipe.

Now it is not the rats who follow, but the children:--

    ‘All the little boys and girls,
     With rosy cheeks and flaxen curls,
     And sparkling eyes and teeth like pearls,
     Tripping and skipping, ran merrily after
     The wonderful music with shouting and laughter.’

And so he leads them away to Koppelberg Hill, and

    ‘Lo, as they reached the mountain side,
     A wondrous portal opened wide,
     As if a cavern were suddenly hollowed;
     And the Piper advanced and the children followed.
     And when all were in, to the very last,
     The door in the mountain side shut fast.’

[Sidenote: Myths of death and the other world.]

This too is a myth of death. It is astonishing when we come to examine
into the origin of popular tales how many we find that had at first a
funeral character. This Piper hath indeed a magic music which none can
disobey, for it is the whisper of death; he himself is the soul-leading
Hermes (the wind, the piper), or at least Odin, in the same office. But
the legend is, in part at any rate, Slavonic; for it is a Slavonic
notion which likens the soul to a mouse.[130] When we have got this
clue, which the modern folk-lore easily gives us, the Odinic character
of the Piper becomes very apparent. Nay, in this particular myth we can
almost trace a history of the meeting of two peoples, Slavonic and
German, and the junction of their legends. Let us suppose there had been
some great and long-remembered epidemic which had proved peculiarly
fatal to the children[131] of Hameln and the country round about. The
Slavonic dwellers there--and in prehistoric times some Slavs were to be
found as far west as the Weser--would speak of these deaths mythically
as the departure of the mice (_i.e._ the souls), and perhaps, keeping
the tradition, which we know to be universally Aryan, of a
water-crossing, might tell of the mice as having gone to the water. Or
further, they might feign that these souls were led there by a piping
wind-god: he, too, is the common property of the Aryan folk. Then the
Germans coming in, and wishing to express the legend in their
mythological form, would tell how the same Piper had piped away all the
_children_ from the town. So a double story would spring up about the
same event. The Weser represents one image of death, and might have
served for the children as well as for the mice: to make the legend
fuller, however, another image is selected for them, the dark,
‘concealed’ place, namely, Hel, or the cave of Night and Death.

The two images of death which occur in the last story rival each other
through the field of middle-age legend and romance. When we hear of a
man being borne along in a boat, or lying deep in slumber beneath a
mountain, we may let our minds wander back to Balder sailing across the
ocean in his burning ship _Hringhorni_, and to the same Balder in the
halls of Hel’s palace. The third image of death is the blazing pyre
unaccompanied by any sea-voyage. One or other of these three allegories
meets us at every turn. If the hero has been snatched away by fairy
power to save him from dying, and the last thing seen of him was in a
boat--as Arthur disappears upon the lake Avalon--the myth holds out the
hope of his return, and sooner or later the story of this return will
break off and become a separate legend. Hence the numerous
half-unearthly heroes, such as Lohengrin, who come men know not whence,
and are first seen sleeping in a boat upon a river. These are but broken
halves of complete myths, which should have told of the former
disappearance of the knight by the same route. Both portions really
belong to the tale of Lohengrin; he went away first in a ship in search
of the holy grail, and in the truest version[132] returns in like manner
in a boat drawn by a _swan_. In some tales he is called the Knight of
the Swan. He comes suddenly, in answer to a prayer to Heaven for help,
uttered by the distressed Else of Brabant. But he does not return at
once again to the Paradise which has sent him to earth. He remains upon
earth, and becomes the husband of Else, and a famous warrior; and part
of another myth entwines itself with his story. Else must not ask his
name; but she disobeys his imperative command, and this fault parts them
for ever. Here we have Cupid and Psyche, or Prince Hatt and his wife,
over again. The boat appears once more drawn by the same swan; Lohengrin
steps into it, and disappears from the haunts of men. We have already
seen how, through the Valkyriur, the swan is connected with ideas of
death. It remains to notice how they are naturally so connected by the
beautiful legend that the swan sings once only in his life, namely, when
he is leaving it--that his first song is his own funeral melody. A much
older form of the Lohengrin myth is referred to in the opening lines of
_Beowulf_, where an ancestor of that hero is said to have been found, a
little child, lying asleep in an open boat which had drifted, no one
knows whence, to the shore of Gothland.

Death being thus so universally symbolized by the River of Death, it is
easy to see the origin of the myth that ghosts will not cross living
water. It meant nothing else than that a ghost cannot return again to
life. Even witches cannot do so, as we know in the case of Tam
O’Shanter, that when he reached the Brig’ o’ Doon the pursuit was

Many are the impressive stories connected with the myth of the soul’s
transit over water--be it a River or a Sea of Death. In the dark days
which followed the overthrow of the Western Empire, when all the
civilization of its remoter territories had melted away, there grew up
among the fishermen of Northern Gaul a wild belief that the Channel
opposite them was the mortal river, and that the shores of this island
were the asylum of dark ghosts. The myth went, that in the villages of
the Gaulish coast the fishermen were summoned by rotation to perform the
dreadful task of ferrying over the departed spirits. At night a knocking
was heard on their doors, a signal of their duties, and when they
approached the beach they saw boats lying deep in the water as though
heavily freighted, but yet to _their_ eyes empty. Each stepping in, took
his rudder, and then by an unfelt wind the boat was wafted in one night
across a distance which, rowing and sailing, they could ordinarily
compass scarcely in eight. Arrived at the opposite shore (our coast),
they heard names called over, and voices answering as if by rota, and
they felt their boats becoming light. Then when all the ghosts had
landed they were wafted back to Gaul.[133]

The belief in the passage by the soul over a ‘Bridge’ which is the
bridge over the River of Death is as universal almost as the notion of
that River of Death itself. Many creeds see that bridge in the Milky
Way. The Vedic hymns do so. They call the Milky Way by many names, of
which the most common is the path of Yama, the way to the house of Yama,
and Yama is the ruler of the Dead--‘a narrow path,’ as we have already

‘A narrow path, an ancient one, stretches thither,[134] a path untrodden
by men, a path I know of.’

The Persians, too, knew the bridge under the name of Kinvad or Chinvad.
And from the Persians the Mohammedans get the same notion, which is
embodied in the Koran. There the Bridge of Death is called Es-Sirat. It
is finer than a hair and sharper than the edge of a sword, along which,
nevertheless, the soul of the good Moslem will be snatched across like
lightning or like the wind; but the wicked man or the unbeliever will
fall headlong thence into an abyss of fire beneath.

The Norsemen had their Bridge of Souls in the Gjallarbrû, ‘The
Resounding Bridge,’ over which Balder had to ride.[135] And when we read
the mediæval accounts of journeys to the other world, to Purgatory or
Hell, in almost every one we find that the passage over a Bridge--the
Brig’ o’ Dread of the ballad--is a part of the journey.

Among the sleepers underground whose legend reproduces the image of
death as simply a life within the tomb, the most celebrated are Kaiser
Karl in the Unterberg--the under-hill, or hill leading to the
under-world; or, as another legend goes, in the Nürnberg, which is
really the Niederberg (_im niedern Berg_), the down-leading hill; and
Frederick Red-Beard sleeping in like manner at Kaiserslautern, or under
the Rabenspurg (raven’s hill). Deep below the earth the old Kaiser sits,
his knights around him, their armour on, the horses harnessed in the
stable ready to come forth at Germany’s hour of need. His long red beard
has grown through the table on which his head is resting. Once, it is
said, a shepherd chanced upon the cave which leads down to the
under-ground palace, and awoke the Emperor from his slumber. ‘Are the
ravens still flying round the hill?’ asked Frederick. ‘Yes.’ ‘Then must
I sleep another hundred years.’

We cannot speak of all the images of Death which reappear in the popular
tales. Very many of these are taken from the funeral fire. We constantly
meet with stories of maidens who lie (asleep probably) surrounded by a
circle of flame, a hedge of fire. Through this the knight or hero must
ride to awaken his beloved. When Skirnir went down to woo the maiden
Gerda--the winter earth[136]--he found her house all surrounded by such
a hedge of fire. But oddly enough, there is another way of representing
the funeral fire symbolically as a circle of thorns, because thorns were
constantly used to form the funeral pyre of the Northmen. Thence a thorn
hedge takes the place of a hedge of flame, and it, or even a single
thorn, may become the symbol of the funeral fire, and so of death.

Here are two stories in which we see how one image may pass into the

In the tale of Sigurd the Volsung both these symbols are used; when
Sigurd first finds Brynhild she has been pricked by Odin with a
sleep-_thorn_, in revenge, because she took part against his favourite
Hialmgunnar; for she was a Valkyria. Sigurd awakes her. At another time
he rides to her through a circle of fire which she has set round her
house, and which no other man dared face. In the myth of Sigurd, twice
as it were riding through death to Brynhild, we see first of all a
nature-myth precisely of the same kind as the myth of Freyr and Gerda
(p. 230),[137] precisely the reverse of the myth of Persephone. Brynhild
is the dead earth restored by the kiss of the sun, or of summer.
Afterwards the part of Brynhild is taken by the Sleeping Beauty, and
Sigurd becomes the prince who breaks through the thorn-hedge. Observe
one thing in the last story. The prick from the sleep-thorn becomes a
prick from a spinning-wheel, and thus loses all its original meaning,
while the circle of fire is transformed into a thorn-hedge--proof
sufficient that they were convertible ideas.

Lastly, it remains to say that the stories of glass mountains ascended
by knights are probably allegories of death--heaven being spoken of to
this day by Russian and German peasants as a glass mountain.



[Sidenote: Lateness of the discovery of letters.]

Though it is true, as we have said before, that every manufactured
article involves a long chapter of unwritten history to account for its
present form, and the perfection of the material from which it is
wrought, there is no one of them, not the most artistic, that will so
well repay an effort to hunt it through its metamorphoses in the ages to
its first starting-point, as will the letters that rapidly drop from our
pen when we proceed to write its name. Each one of these is a
manufactured article at which a long, long series of unknown artists
have wrought, expanding, contracting, shaping, pruning, till at length,
the result of centuries of effort, our alphabet stands clear--a little
army of mute, unpretending signs, that are at once the least considered
of our inherited riches--mere jots and tittles--and the spells by which
all our great feats of genius are called into being. Does unwritten
history or tradition tell us anything of the people to whose invention
we owe them? or, on the other hand, can we persuade the little shapes
with which we are familiar to so animate themselves, and give such an
account of the stages by which they grew into their present likeness, as
will help us to understand better than we did before the mental and
social conditions of the times of their birth? One question, at least,
they answer clearly--we know that while in their earliest forms they
must have preceded the birth of History, they were the forerunners and
heralds of his appearance, and if we are obliged to relegate their
invention to the dark period of unrecorded events, we must place it at
least in the last of the twilight hours, the one that preceded daybreak,
for they come leading sunlight and certainty behind them. It will be
hard if these revealers of other births should prove to be entirely
silent about their own. Another point seems to grow clear as we think.
As letters are the elements by which records come to us, it is not in
records, or at least not in early records, that we must look for a
history of their invention. Like all other tools, they will have lent
themselves silently to the ends for which they were called into being.
For a long, long time, they will have been too busy giving the history
of their employers to tell us consciously anything about themselves. We
must leave the substance of records, then, and look to their manner and
form, if we would unravel the long story of the invention and growth of
our alphabet; and as it is easiest to begin with the thing that is
nearest to us, let us pause before one of our written words, and ask
ourselves exactly what it is to us.

[Sidenote: Writing the art of picturing sound.]

In discussing the growth of language, we surmised that words were at
first descriptive of the things they named, in fact, pictures to the
ear. What, then, is a written word? Is it, too, a picture, and what does
it picture, to the eye? When we have written the words _cat_, _man_,
_lion_, what have we done? We have brought the images of certain things
into our minds, and that by a form presented to the eye; but is it the
form of the object we immediately think of? No, it is the form of its
name; it is, therefore, the picture of a sound. To picture _sound_ is,
surely, a very far-fetched notion, one that may have grown out of many
previous efforts to convey thought from mind to mind; but certainly not
likely to occur first to those who began the attempt to give permanent
shape to the thoughts floating within them. So great and difficult a
task must have baffled the powers of many enterprisers, and been
approached in many ways before the first steps towards accomplishing it
were securely taken. We shall find that the history of our alphabet is a
record of slow stages of growth, through which the idea of sound-writing
has been evolved; the first attempts to record events were made in a
different direction. Since, as we have agreed, we are not likely to find
a record of how events were first recorded, and as the earliest attempts
are likely to have been imperfect and little durable, we must be content
to form our notions of the earliest stage in our grand invention, by
observing the methods used by savages now to aid their memories; and if
we wish to determine the period in the history of the human race when
such efforts are likely to have been first made, we must recall what we
have already learned of the history of primitive man, and settle at what
stage of his development the need for artificial aids to memory would
first press upon him.

Stories and poetry are not likely to have been the first things written
down. While communities were small and young, there was no need to write
painfully what it was so delightful to repeat from mouth to mouth, and
so easy for memories to retain; and when the stock of tradition and the
treasure of song grew so large in any tribe as to exceed the capacity of
ordinary memories (stronger, in some respects, before the invention of
writing than now), men with unusual gifts would be chosen and set apart
for the purpose of remembering and reciting, and of handing down to
disciples in the next generation, the precious literature of the tribe.
Such an order of ‘remembrancers’ would soon come to be looked upon as
sacred, or at least highly honourable, and would have privileges and
immunities bestowed on them which would make them jealous of an
invention that would lessen the worth of their special gift. The
invention of writing, then, is hardly likely to have come from the
story-tellers or bards. It was probably to aid the memory in recalling
something less attractive and more secret than a story or a song that
the first record was made.

So early as the time of the cave-dwellers, there was a beginning of
commerce. Traces have been found of workshops belonging to that period,
where flint weapons and tools were made in such quantities as evidently
to have been designed for purposes of barter, and the presence of amber
and shells in places far from the coast, speaks of trading journeys.
With bargains and exchange of commodities, aids to memory must surely
have come in; and when we think of the men of the Neolithic age as
traders, we can hardly be wrong in also believing them to have taken the
next step in civilization which trade seems to bring with it--the
invention of some system of mnemonics.

[Sidenote: Tallies.]

No man or woman would be likely to trust their bargaining to another
without giving him some little token or pledge by way of safeguard
against mistake or forgetfulness. It would be a very trifling,
transitory thing at first; something in the nature of a tally, or a
succession of knots or woven threads in a garment, allied to the knot
which we tie on our handkerchief overnight to make us remember something
in the morning. It seems hardly worthy of notice, and yet the invention
of that artificial aid to memory is the germ of writing, the little
seed from which such great things have come. Unfortunately, our
discoveries of stone-age relics have not yet furnished us with any
suggestion as to how the men of that epoch arranged and carried out the
aids to memory they probably had; but we can trace the process of
invention among still extant races.

Some tribes of Red Indians, for example, keep records on cords called
wampum, by means of beads and knots. When an embassy is sent from one
chieftain to another, the principal speaker carries one of these pieces
of wampum, and from it reads off the articles of the proposed treaty,
almost as easily as if it were from a note-book.

In the Eastern Archipelago, and in Polynesia proper, cord-records of the
same kind were in use forty years ago, and by means of them the
tax-gatherers in the island of Hawaii kept clear accounts of all
articles collected from the inhabitants of the island. The revenue-book
of Hawaii was a rope four hundred fathoms long, divided into portions
corresponding to districts in the island, and each portion was under the
care of a tax-gatherer, who by means of knots, loops, and tufts of
different shapes, colours, and sizes, managed to keep an accurate
account of the number of hogs, dogs, pieces of sandal-wood, etc., at
which each inhabitant of his district was rated. The Chinese, again,
have a legend that in very early times their people used little cords
marked by knots of different sizes, instead of writing.

But the people who brought the cord system of mnemonics to the greatest
perfection were the Peruvians. They were still following it at the time
of their conquest by the Spaniards; but they had elaborated it with such
care as to make it available for the preservation of even minute details
of the statistics of the country. The ropes on which they kept their
records were called _quipus_, from _quipu_, a knot. They were often of
great length and thickness, and from the main ropes depended smaller
ones, distinguished by colours appropriate to subjects of which their
knots treated--as, white for silver, yellow for gold, red for soldiers,
green for corn, parti-coloured when a subject that required division was
treated of. These dependent coloured strings had, again, other little
strings hanging from them, and on these exceptions were noted. For
instance, on the _quipus_ devoted to population--the coloured strings on
which the number of men in each town and village was recorded had
depending from them little strings for the widowers, and no doubt the
widows and the old maids had their little strings from the coloured cord
that denoted women. One knot meant ten; a double knot, one hundred; two
singles, side by side, twenty; two doubles, two hundred; and the
position of the knots on their string and their form were also of
immense importance, each subject having its proper place on the quipus
and its proper form of knot. The art of learning to read quipus must
have been difficult to acquire; it was practised by special
functionaries, called quipucamayocuna, or knot-officers, who, however,
seem only to have been able to expound their own records; for when a
quipus was sent from a distant province to the capital, its own officer
had to travel with it to explain it; a clumsy and cumbrous way of
sending a letter, it must be confessed.

Knot-records were almost everywhere superseded by other methods of
recording events as civilization advanced; but still they continued to
be resorted to under special circumstances, and by people who had not
the pens of ready writers. Darius made a quipus when he took a thong,
and tying sixty knots on it, gave it to the Ionian chiefs, that they
might untie a knot every day, and go back to their own land if he had
not returned when all the knots were undone. The Scythians, however,
who, about the same time, sent a message to Darius, afford us an example
of another way of attaching special meanings to certain objects, and
thereby giving a peculiar use as aids to memory,--writing letters with
objects instead of pen and ink, in fact. Here, however, symbolism comes
in, and makes the mnemonics at once prettier and less trustworthy as
capable of more than one interpretation. The Scythian ambassadors
presented Darius (as Herodotus tells us) with a mouse, a bird, a frog,
and an arrow, and the message with which they had been intrusted was
that, unless he could hide in the earth like a mouse, or fly in the air
like a bird, or swim in water like a frog, he would never escape the
arrows of the Scythians.

Of this last kind of mnemonic was the bow, too heavy for an ordinary man
to bend, which the long-lived Ethiopians sent to Cambyses; and the
twelve memorial stones which Joshua was directed to place in the river
Jordan, in order that the sons might ask the fathers, and the fathers
tell the sons what had happened in that place; and, again, such were the
yokes and bonds which Jeremiah put round his neck when he testified
against the alliance with Egypt before Zedekiah, and the earthen pot
that he broke in the presence of the elders of the people. Signs joined
with words and actions to convey a fuller or more exact meaning than
words alone could convey. Perhaps we ought hardly to call these last
examples helps to memory; they partake more of the nature of pictures,
and were used to heighten the effect of words. But we may regard them as
a connecting link between the merely mechanical tally, wampum and
quipus, and the effort to record ideas we must now consider--picturing.
It must, however, always be borne in mind that, though we shall speak of
these various methods of making records as stages of progress and
development, it is not to be supposed that the later ones immediately,
or indeed ever wholly, superseded the first any more than the
introduction of bronze and iron did away with the use of flint weapons.
The one method subsisted side by side with the other, and survived to
quite late times, as we see in such usages as the bearing forth of the
fiery cross to summon clansmen to the banner of their chieftain, and the
casting down of the knight’s glove as a gage of battle, or, to come down
to homely modern instances, the tallies and knots on handkerchiefs that
unready writers carry to help their memories even now.

Helps to memory of the kinds which we have been speaking of never get
beyond being _helps_. They cannot carry thought from one to another
without the intervention of an interpreter, in whose memory they keep
fast the words that have to be said; they strengthen tradition, but they
cannot change tradition into history, and are always liable to become
useless by the death of the man, or order of men, to whom they have been

[Sidenote: Picturing.]

A more independent and lasting method of recording events was sure to be
aimed at sooner or later; and we may conjecture that it usually took its
rise among a people at the period when their national pride was so
developed as to make them anxious that the deeds of some conspicuous
hero should be made known, not only to those interested in telling and
hearing of them, but to strangers visiting their country, and to remote
descendants. Their first effort to record an event, so as to make it
widely known, would naturally be to draw a picture of it, such that all
seeing the picture would understand it; and accordingly we find that
the earliest step beyond artificial helps to memory is the making of
rude pictures which aim at showing a deed or event as it occurred
without suggesting the words of a narrative; this is called ‘picturing’
as distinguished from picture-writing. That this, too, was a very early
art we may guess from the fact that rude pictures of animals have been
found among the relics of the earliest stone age. Whether or no we are
justified in conjecturing that the pictures actually found are rough
memorials of real hunting scenes, at least we learn from them that the
thought of depicting objects had come, and the skill to produce a
likeness been attained; and the idea of using this power to transmit
events lies so near to its possession, that we can hardly believe one to
have been long present without the other. To enable ourselves to imagine
the sort of picture-records with which the stone-age men may have
ornamented some of their knives, spears, and hammers, we must examine
the doings of people who have continued in a primitive stage of
civilization down to historic times.

Some curious pictures done by North American Indians have been found on
rocks and stones, and on the stems of pine-trees in America, which
furnish excellent examples of early picturing. Mr. Tylor, in his _Early
History of Mankind_, gives engravings of several of these shadowy
records of long-past events. One of these, which was found on the
smoothed surface of a pine-tree, consists merely of a rude outline of
two canoes, one surmounted by a bear with a peculiar tail and the other
by a fish, and beyond these a quantity of shapes meant for a particular
kind of fish. The entire picture records the successes of two chieftains
named Copper-tail Bear and Cat-fish, in a fishing excursion. Another
picture found on the surface of a rock near Lake Superior is more
elaborate, and interests us by showing a new element in picturing,
through which it was destined to grow into the condition of
picture-writing. This more elaborate picture shows an arch with three
suns in it--a tortoise, a man about to mount a horse, and several
canoes, one surmounted by the image of a bird. All this tells that the
chief called King-fisher made an expedition of three days across a lake,
and arriving safely on land, mounted his horse. The new element
introduced into this picture is symbolism, the same that transformed the
homely system of tallies into the Scythian’s graceful living message to
Darius. It shows the excess of thought over the power of expression,
which will soon necessitate a new form. The tortoise is used as a symbol
of dry land. The arch is, of course, the sky, and the three suns in it
mean three days. The artist who devised these ways of expressing his
thought was on the verge of picture-writing, which is the next stage in
the upward progress of the art of recording events, and the stage at
which some nations have terminated their efforts.

[Sidenote: Picture-writing.]

Picture-writing differs from picturing in that it aims at conveying to
the mind, not a representation of an event, but a narrative of the event
in words, each word being represented by a picture. The distinction is
of immense importance. The step from the former to the latter is one of
the greatest which mankind has ever made in the course of its progress
in civilization. When the step had been made the road toward the
acquisition of a regular alphabet lay _comparatively_ open. It was still
beset with difficulties, but none so great as the difficulty of making
this particular step. Let us try and fully understand this. We will take
a sentence and see how it might be conveyed by the two methods. _A man
slew a lion with a bow and arrows while the sun went down._ Picturing
would show the man with a drawn bow in his hand, the lion struck by the
arrow, the sun on the horizon. Picture-writing would present a series of
little pictures and symbols dealing separately with each word--a man, a
symbol for ‘slew,’ say a hand smiting, a lion, a connecting symbol for
‘with,’ and so on. We see at once how much more elaborate and exact the
second method is, and that it makes the telling of a continuous story
possible. We also discover that these various stages of writing
correspond to developments of language, and that as languages grow in
capacity to express nobler thoughts, a greater stress will be put upon
invention to render the more recondite words by pictures and symbols,
till at last language will outgrow all possibility of being so rendered,
and another method of showing words to the eye will have to be thought
of--for all languages at least that attain their full development. That
a great deal may be expressed by pictures and symbols, however, we learn
from the picturing and picture-writing of past races that have come down
to us, and from the present writing of the Chinese, who with their
radical language have preserved the pictorial character that well
accords with an early stage of language.

The Red Indians of North America have invented some very ingenious
methods of picturing time and numbers. They have names for the thirteen
moons or months into which they divide the year--Whirlwind moon, moon
when the leaves fall off, moon when the fowls go to the south, etc., and
when a hunter setting forth on a long expedition wished to leave a
record of the time of his departure for a friend who should follow him
on the same track, he carved on the bark of a tree a picture of the name
of the moon, accompanied with such an exact representation of the state
of the moon in the heavens on the night when he set out, that his
friends had no difficulty in reading the date correctly. The Indians of
Virginia kept a record of events in the form of a series of wheels of
sixty spokes, each wheel representing the life of a man, sixty years
being the average life of a man among the Indians. The spokes meant
years, and on each one a picture of the principal occurrences of the
year was drawn.

A missionary who accompanied Penn to Pennsylvania says that he saw a
wheel, on one spoke of which the first arrival of Europeans in America
was recorded. The history of this disastrous event for the Indians was
given by a picture of a white swan spitting fire from its mouth. The
swan, being a water-bird, told that the strangers came over the sea, its
white plumage recalled the colour of their faces, and fire issuing from
its mouth represented fire-arms, the possession of which had made them
conquerors. The North American Indians also use rude little pictures,
rough writing we may call it, to help them to remember songs and charms.
Each verse of a song is concentrated into a little picture, the sight of
which recalls the words to one who has once learned it. A drawing of a
little man, with four marks on his legs and two on his breast, recalls
the adverse charm, ‘Two days must you fast, my friend, four days must
you sit still.’ A picture of a circle with a figure in the middle
represents a verse of a love-song, and says to the initiated, ‘Were she
on a distant island I could make her swim over.’ This sort of picturing
seems to be very _near_ writing, for it serves to recall words--but
still only to recall them--it would not suggest the words to those who
had never heard the song before; it is only an aid to memory, and its
employers have only as yet taken the first step in the great discovery
we are speaking of. The Mexicans, though they had attained to much
greater skill than this in the drawing and colouring of pictures, had
not progressed much further in the invention. Their picture-scrolls do
not seem ever to have been more than an elaborate system of mnemonics,
which, hardly less than the Peruvian quipus, required a race of
interpreters to hand down their meaning from one generation to another.
This fact makes us regret somewhat less keenly the decision of the first
Spanish archbishop sent to Mexico, who, on being informed of the great
store of vellum rolls, and folds on folds of cloth covered with
paintings, that had been discovered at Anahuac, the chief seat of
Mexican learning, ordered the entire collection to be burnt in a heap--a
_mountain_ heap, the chroniclers of the time call it--lest they should
contain incantations or instructions for the practice of magical arts.
As some excuse for this notion of the archbishop’s, we will mention the
subjects treated of in the five books of picture-writing which Montezuma
gave to Cortez:--the first book treated of years and seasons; the second
of days and festivals; the third of dreams and omens; the fourth of the
naming of children; the fifth of ceremonies and prognostications.

The few specimens of Mexican writing which have come down to us, show
that, though the Aztecs had not used their picture-signs as skilfully as
some other nations have done, they had taken the first step towards
phonetic, or sound-writing; a step which, if pursued, would have led
them through some such process as we shall afterwards see was followed
by the Egyptians and Phœnicians, to the formation of a true alphabet.
They had begun to write proper names of chiefs and towns by pictures of
things that recalled the _sound_ of their names, instead of by a symbol
suggestive of the appearance or quality of the place or chieftain, or of
the _meaning_ of the names. It is difficult to explain this without
pictures; but as this change of method involves a most important step in
the discovery of the art of writing, we had better pause upon it a
little, and get it clear to our minds. There was a king whose name
occurs in a chronicle now existing, called Itz-co-atle, Knife-snake; his
name is generally written by a picture of a snake, with flint knives
stuck in it; but in one place it is indicated in a different manner. The
first syllable is still _pictured_ by a knife; but for the second,
instead of a snake, we find an earthen pot and a sign for water. Now the
Mexican name for pot is ‘co-mitle,’ for water ‘atle;’ read literally the
name thus pictured would read ‘Itz-comitle-atle,’ but it is clear, since
the name intended was ‘Itz-co-atle,’ that the pot is drawn to suggest
only the first syllable of its name, _co_, and by this change it has
become no longer a picture, but a phonetic, syllabic sign, the next step
but one before a true letter. What great results can be elaborated from
this change we shall see when we begin to speak of Egyptian writing.

We must not leave picture-writing till we have said something about the
Chinese character, in which we find the highest development of which
_direct_ representation of things appears capable. Though we should not
think it, while looking at the characters on a Chinese tea-paper or box,
every one of those groups of black strokes and dots which seem so
shapeless to our eyes is a picture of an object; not a picture of the
sound of its name, as our written words are, but a representation real
or symbolic of the thing itself. Early specimens of Chinese writing show
these groups of strokes in a stage when a greater degree of resemblance
to the thing signified is preserved; but the exigencies of quick
writing, among a people who write and read a great deal, have gradually
reduced the pictures more and more to the condition of arbitrary signs,
whose connection with the things signified must be a matter of habit and
memory. The task of learning a sign for every word of the language in
place of conquering the art of spelling does seem, at first sight, to
put Chinese children in a pitiable condition, as compared with
ourselves. To lessen our compassion, we may recall that the Chinese
language is still in a primitive condition, and therefore comprehends
very much fewer distinct sounds than do the languages we know, the same
sound being used to express meanings by a difference in intonation. This
difference could not easily be given in writing; it is therefore, with
the Chinese, almost a necessity to recall to the mind the thing itself
instead of its name.

[Sidenote: Ideographs.]

Beside the ordinary pictorial signs which convey a direct and simple
idea to the mind, men must in pictorial writing need a great number of
signs for ideas which cannot be pictured. All abstract ideas, for
instance, come under this head. But even some things which could
themselves be drawn are not always so portrayed. When a symbol, and not
a direct picture, is used for the thing or idea represented we call the
symbol an _ideograph_. We see, then, that pictorial signs may be used in
several different ways, sometimes as real pictures, sometimes as
ideographs, which again may be divided into groups as they are used--(1)
metaphorically, as a bee for industry; (2) enigmatically, as, among the
Egyptians, an ostrich feather is used as a symbol of justice, because
all the plumes in the wing of this bird were supposed to be of equal
length; (3) by syndoche--putting a part for the whole,--as two eyeballs
for eyes; (4) by metonomy--putting cause for effect,--as a tree for
shadow; the disk of the sun for a day, etc. This system of writing in
pictures and symbols requires so much ingenuity, such hosts of pretty
poetic inventions, that perhaps there is less dulness than would at
first appear in getting the Chinese alphabet of some six thousand signs
or so by heart. We will mention a few Chinese ideographs in
illustration. The sign for a man placed over the sign for a mountain
peak signifies a hermit; the sign for a mouth and that for a bird placed
side by side signify the act of singing; a hand holding a sweeping-brush
is a woman; a man seated on the ground, a son (showing the respectful
position assigned to children in China); an ear at the opening of a door
means curiosity; two eyes squinting towards the nose mean to observe
carefully; one eye squinting symbolises the colour white, because so
much of the white of the eye is shown when the ball is in that position;
a mouth at an open door is a note of interrogation, and also the verb to

[Sidenote: Determinative signs.]

Even Chinese writing, however, has not remained purely ideographic. Some
of the signs are used phonetically to picture sound, and this use must
necessarily grow now that intercourse with Western nations introduces
new names, new inventions, and new ideas, which, somehow or other, must
get themselves represented in the Chinese language and writing.

The invention of determinative signs--characters put beside the word to
show what class of objects a word belongs to--helps the Chinese to
overcome some of the difficulties which their radical language offers to
the introduction of sound-writing. For example, the word ‘Pa’ has eight
different meanings, and when it is written phonetically, a reader would
have to choose between eight objects to which he might apply it, if
there were not a determinative sign by its side which gives him a hint
how to read it. This is as if when we wrote the word ‘vessel’ we were to
add ‘navigation’ when we intended a ship; and ‘household’ when we meant
a jug or puncheon. The Chinese determinative signs are not, however,
left to each writer’s fancy. Two hundred and fourteen signs (originally
themselves pictures, remember) have been chosen out, and are always used
in this way. The classes into which objects are divided by these
numerous signs are minute, and do not appear to follow any scientific
method or arrangement. There is a sign to show that a written word
belongs to the class noses, another for rats, another for frogs, another
for tortoises. One is inclined to think that the helpful signs must be
as hard to remember as the words themselves, and that they can only be
another element in the general confusion. Probably their frequent
recurrence makes them soon become familiar to Chinese readers, and they
act as finger-posts to guide the thoughts into the right direction.
Determinative signs have always come in to help in the transitional
stage between purely ideographic and purely phonetic writing, and were
used by both Egyptians and Assyrians in their elaborate systems as soon
as the phonetic principle began to be employed among their ideographs.

It is an interesting fact that the Japanese have dealt with the Chinese
system of writing precisely as did the Phœnicians with the Egyptian
hieroglyphics. They have chosen forty-seven signs from the many
thousands employed by the Chinese, and they use them phonetically only;
that is to say, as true sound-carrying letters.



[Sidenote: Transition to phonetic writing.]

The step from picturing or picture-drawing to writing by pictures is, as
we have said, an immense one. But now we have to record one more step,
almost as great, which is the transition from the picturing of single
things--or, if you wish, single _ideas_--to the picturing, not of ideas
at all, but of sounds merely. This is the step we have now to follow
out, to trace the process through which picture-writing passed into
sound-writing, and to find out how signs (for we shall see they are the
same signs) which were originally meant to recall objects to the eye,
have ended in being used to suggest, or, shall we say, _picture_, sounds
to the ear. This is what we mean by _phonetic_ writing. A written word,
let us remember, is the picture of a sound, and it is our business to
hunt the letters of which it is formed through the changes they must
have undergone while they were taking upon themselves the new office of
suggesting sound. We said, too, that we must not expect to find any
written account of this change, and that it is only by examining the
_forms_ of the records of other events that this greatest event of
literature can be made out. What we want is to see the pictorial signs,
while busy in telling us other history, beginning to perform their new
duties side by side with the old, so that we may be sure of their
identity; and this opportunity is afforded us by the hieroglyphic
writing of the ancient Egyptians, who, being people disposed to cling to
everything that had once been done, never altogether left off employing
their first methods, even after they had taken another and yet another
step towards a more perfect system of writing; but carried on the old
ways and the new improvements side by side. The nature of their
language, which was in part radical and in part inflexional, was one
cause of this intermixture of methods in their writing; it had partly
but not entirely outgrown the stage in which picture-signs are most
useful. Ideograph is the proper name for a picture-sign, which, as soon
as picture-writing supersedes picturing, becomes the sign for a thought
quite as often as it is the sign for an object. Very ancient as are the
earliest Egyptian records, we have none which belong to the time when
the invention of writing was in the stage of picturing; we only
conjecture that it passed through this earliest stage by finding
examples of picturing mixed with their other kinds of writing. Each
chapter of the _Ritual_, the oldest of Egyptian books, has one or more
designs at its head, in which the contents of the chapter are very
carefully and ingeniously pictured; and the records of royal triumphs
and progresses which are cut out on temple and palace walls in
ideographic and phonetic signs, are always prefaced by a large picture
which tells the same story in the primitive method of picturing without

[Sidenote: Egyptian writing.]

The next stage of the invention, ideographic writing, the ancient
Egyptians carried to great perfection, and reduced to a careful system.
The signs for ideas became fixed, and were not chosen according to each
writer’s fancy. Every picture had its settled value, and was always
used in the same way. A sort of alphabet of ideographs was thus formed.
A heart drawn in a certain way always meant ‘love,’ an eye with a tear
on the lash meant ‘grief,’ two hands holding a shield and spear meant
the verb ‘to fight,’ a tongue meant ‘to speak,’ a footprint ‘to travel,’
a man kneeling on the ground signified ‘a conquered enemy,’ etc.
Conjunctions and prepositions had their fixed pictures, as well as verbs
and nouns; ‘also’ was pictured by a coil of rope with a _second_ band
across it, ‘and’ by a coil of rope with an arm across it, ‘over’ by a
circle surmounting a square, ‘at’ by the picture of a hart reposing near
the sign for water--a significant picture for such a little word, which
recalls to our minds the Psalm, ‘As the hart panteth after the
water-brooks,’ and leads us to wonder whether the writer were familiar
with the Egyptian hieroglyph.

So much was done in this way, that we almost wonder how the need for
another method came to be felt; perhaps a peculiarity of the Egyptian
language helped the splendid thought of picturing _sound_ to flash one
happy day into the mind of some priest, when he was laboriously cutting
his sacred sentence into a temple wall. The language of ancient Egypt,
like that of China, had a great many words alike in sound but different
in meaning, and it could not fail to happen that some of these words
with two meanings would indicate a thing easy to draw, and a thought
difficult to symbolize; for example, the ancient Egyptian word _neb_
means a basket and a ruler; and _nefer_ means a lute and goodness. There
would come a day when a clever priest, cutting a record on a wall, would
bethink him of putting a lute instead of the more elaborate symbol that
had hitherto been used for goodness. It was a simple change, and might
not have struck any one at the time as involving more than the saving
of a little trouble to hieroglyphists, but it was the germ out of which
our system of writing sprang. The priest who did _that_ had taken the
first step towards picturing sound, and cut a true phonetic sign--the
true if remote parent, in fact, of one of the twenty-four letters of our
own alphabet.

Let us consider how the thought would probably grow. The writers once
started on the road of making signs stand for sounds would observe how
much fewer sounds there are than objects and ideas, and that words even
when unlike are composed of the same sounds pronounced in different
succession. If we were employed in painting up a notice on a wall, and
intended to use ideographs instead of letters, and moreover if the words
manage, mansion, manly, mantles, came into our sentence, should we not
begin each of these words by a figure of a man? and again, if we had to
write treacle, treason, treaty, we should begin each with a picture of a
tree; we should find it easier to use the same sign often for part of a
word, than to invent a fresh symbol for each entire word as we wrote it.
For the remaining syllables of the words we had so successfully begun we
should have to invent other signs, and we should perhaps soon discover
that in each syllable there were in fact several sounds, or movements of
lips or tongue, and that the same sounds differently combined came over
and over again in all our words. Then we might go on to discover exactly
how many movements of the speaking organs occurred in ordinary speech,
and the thought of choosing a particular picture to represent each
movement might occur; we should then have invented an alphabet in its
earliest form. That was the road along which the ancient Egyptians
travelled, but they progressed very slowly, and never quite reached its
end. They began by having syllabic signs for proper names. Osiri was a
name that occurred frequently in their sacred writings, and they
happened to have two words in their language which made up its
sound--_Os_ a throne, _iri_ an eye. Hence a small picture of a throne
came to be the syllabic sign for the sound _os_, the oval of an eye for
the sound _iri_; in like manner Totro, the name of an early king, was
written by a hand _Tot_ and a circle _ro_, and thus a system of spelling
by syllables was established. Later they began to divide syllables into
movements of the speaking organs, and to represent these movements by
drawing objects whose name began with the movement intended. For
example, a picture of a lion (_labo_) was drawn, not for the whole sound
(_labo_), but for the liquid _l_; an owl (_mulag_) stood for the labial
_m_; a water-jug (_nem_) for _n_. They had now, in fact, invented
letters; but though they had made the great discovery they did not use
it in the best way. They could not make up their minds to keep to
phonetic writing, and throw away their pictures and ideographs. They
continued to mix all these methods together, so that when they painted a
lion--it might be a picture and mean _lion_, it might be a symbolic sign
and mean _pre-eminence_, or it might be a true letter and stand for the
liquid _l_. The Egyptians were obliged to invent a whole army of
determinative signs, like those now employed by the Chinese, which they
placed before their pictures to show when a group was to be read
according to its sound, when it was used symbolically, and when it was a
simple representation of the object intended.

We have already pointed out how among the Egyptian monuments, the
sculptures on the tombs and temples, and in many of the more important
_papyri_--as, for example, their Book of the Dead itself--we have
specimens of all the three methods by which ideas may be conveyed to
the _eye_. We have first the picture of some event--the king, say,
offering sacrifice to a god,--then we have each separate word of the
sentence first recorded by ideographs, then spelled by ordinary letters.

Another source of difficulty in deciphering the writing of the ancient
Egyptians, is that they were not content with a single sign for a single
sound; they had a great many different pictures for each letter, and
used them in fanciful ways. For example, if _l_ occurred in the name of
a king or god, they would use the lion-picture to express it, thinking
it appropriate; but if the same sound occurred in the name of a queen,
they would use a lotus-lily as more feminine and elegant. They had as
many as twenty different pictures which could be used for the first
letter of our alphabet _a_, and thirty for the letter _h_, one of which
closely resembles our capital H in form, being two upright palm-branches
held by two arms which make the cross of the H. No letter had fewer than
five pictures to express its sound, from which the writer might choose
according to his fancy; or perhaps, sometimes, according to the space he
had to fill up on the wall, or obelisk, where he was writing, and the
effect in form and colour he wished his sentence to produce. Then again,
all their letters were not quite true letters (single breathings). The
Egyptians never got quite clear about vowels and consonants, and
generally spelt words (unless they _began_ with a vowel sound) by
consonants only, the consonants carrying a vowel breathing as well as
their own sound, and thus being syllabic signs instead of true letters.

Since much of the writing of the ancient Egyptians was used ornamentally
as decoration for the walls of their houses and temples, and took with
them the place of the tapestry of later times, the space required to
carry out their complex system of writing was no objection to it in
their eyes; neither did they care much about the difficulty of learning
so elaborate an array of signs, as for many centuries the art of reading
and writing was almost entirely confined to an order of priests whose
occupation and glory it was. When writing became more common, and was
used for ordinary as well as sacred purposes, the pictorial element
disappeared from some of their styles of writing, and quick ways of
making the pictures were invented, which reduced them to as completely
arbitrary signs, with no resemblance to the objects intended, as the
Chinese signs now are.

[Sidenote: Hieratic and Demotic writing.]

The ancient Egyptians had two ways of quick writing, the Hieratic (or
priestly), which was employed for the sacred writings only, and the
Demotic, used by the people, which was employed for law-papers, letters,
and all writing that did not touch on religious matter or enter into the
province of the priest. Yet, though literature increased and writing was
much practised by people engaged in the ordinary business of life (we
see pictures on the tombs of the great man’s upper servant seated before
his desk and recording with reed-pen and ink-horn the numbers of the
flocks and herds belonging to the farm), little was done to simplify the
art of writing by the ancient Egyptians. Down to the latest times when
Hieroglyphics were cut, and Demotic and Hieratic characters written, the
same confusing variety of signs were employed--pictorial, ideographic,
symbolic, phonetic--all mixed up together, with nothing to distinguish
them but the determinative signs before spoken of, which themselves
added a new element to the complexity.

It was left for a less conservative and more enterprising people than
the ancient Egyptians to take the last and greatest step in perfecting
the invention which the ancient

[Sidenote: The Phœnician alphabet.]

Egyptians had brought so far on its road, and by throwing away all the
first attempts, to allow the serviceable, successful parts of the system
to stand out clear. The Phœnicians, to whom tradition points as the
introducers of our alphabet into Europe, and who, during early ages,
were in very close political and trading connection with the ancient
Egyptians, are now believed to be the authors of the improvement by
which we benefit. They did not invent the alphabet which the Greeks
learned from them; they could have had no reason to invent signs, when
they must have been well acquainted with the superabundance that had
been in use for centuries before they began to build their cities by the
sea-shore. What they probably did was to choose from the Egyptian
characters, with which all the traders of the world must have been
familiar, just so many phonemes or sound-carrying signs as represented
the sounds of which their speech was made up; and rejecting all others,
they kept strictly to these chosen ones in all their future writings.
This was a great work to have accomplished, and we must not suppose that
it was done by one man, or even in one generation; as probably it took a
very long time to perfect the separation between vowels and consonants:
a distinction which had already been made by the ancient Egyptians, for
they had vowel signs, though, as before remarked, they constantly made
their consonants carry the vowels, and spelt words with consonants
alone. You will remember that consonants are the most important elements
of language, and constitute, as we have said before, the bones of words;
but also that distinctions of time, person, and case depend in an early
stage of language very much on vowels; and you will therefore understand
how important to clearness of expression it was to have clearly defined
separate signs for the vowels and diphthongs that had, so to speak, all
the exactitude of meaning in their keeping. The Phœnicians, of all
the people in the early world, were most in need of a clear and precise
method of writing: for, being the great traders and settlers of ancient
times, one of its principal uses would be to enable them to communicate
with friends at a distance by means of writings which should convey the
thoughts of the absent ones, or the private instructions of a trader to
his partner without need of an interpreter.

The advantages of simplicity and clearness had been less felt by
Egyptian priests while inscribing their stately records on walls of
temples and palaces, and on the tapering sides of obelisks which were
meant to lift sacred words up to the eye of Heaven rather than to expose
them to those of men. They believed that a race of priests would
continue, as long as the temples and obelisks continued, who could
explain the writing to those worthy to enter into its mysteries; and
they were not sorry, perhaps, to keep the distinction of understanding
the art of letters to their own caste.

It was not till letters were needed by busy people, who had other things
to do besides studying, that the necessity for making them easy to
learn, and really effective as carriers of thought across distances, was
sincerely felt. Two conjectures as to the method pursued by the
Phœnicians in choosing their letters and adapting them to their own
language have been made by the learned. One is, that while they took the
forms of their letters from the Egyptian system of signs, and adopted
the principle of making each picture of an object stand for the first
sound of its name, as _labo_ for _l_, they did not give to each letter
the value it had in the Egyptian alphabet, but allowed it to mean for
them the first sound of its name in their own language. For example,
they took the sign for an ox’s head and made it stand for the sound
_a_, not because it was one of the Egyptian signs for ‘_a_’ but because
Aleph was the name for an ox and ‘_a_’ was its first syllable. This,
which seems a natural method enough, is, however, not the method which
was followed by the Japanese in choosing their alphabet from signs; and
more recent investigations prove such a close resemblance between the
earliest forms of Phœnician letters, and early forms of signs for the
same sounds in Hieratic character, that a complete descent in
sound-bearing power, as well as in form, is now claimed for our letters
from those hieroglyphics, which, in our ignorance of the relationship,
we used to consider a synonymous term for something unintelligible. The
Semitic language spoken by the Phœnicians was richer in sounds than
the less developed language spoken by the ancient Egyptians; but as the
Egyptians used several signs for each letter, the Phœnicians easily
fell into the habit of giving a slightly different value to two forms
originally identical, and thus provided for all the more delicate
distinctions of their tongue. A close comparison of the forms of the
letters of the earliest known Canaanite inscriptions with Hieratic
writing of the time of the Old Empire reveals a resemblance so striking
between fifteen of the Phœnician letters and Hieratic characters
carrying the same sounds, that a conviction of the derivation of one
from the other impresses itself on even a careless observer. The
correspondence of the other five Canaanite letters with their Hieratic
counterparts is less obvious to the uneducated eye, but experts in such
investigations see sufficient likeness even there to confirm the theory.

The gradual divergence of the Phœnician characters from their
Hieratic parents is easily accounted for by the difference of the
material and the instrument employed by the Phœnicians and Egyptians
in writing. The Hieratic charracter was painted by Egyptian priests on
smooth papyrus leaves with a brush or broad pointed reed pen. The
Canaanite inscriptions are graven with a sharp instrument on hard stone,
and as a natural consequence the round curves of the Hieratic character
become sharp points, and there is a general simplification of form and a
throwing aside of useless lines and dots, the last remnants of the
picture from which each Hieratic character originally sprang. The
_names_ given later to the Phœnician letters, Aleph, an ‘ox;’ Beth, a
‘house;’ Gimel, a ‘camel;’ Daleth, a ‘door;’ are not the names of the
objects from which the forms of these letters were originally taken. The
Hieratic ‘A’ was taken from the picture of an eagle, which stood for ‘A’
in hieroglyphics; ‘B’ was originally a sort of heron; ‘D,’ a hand with
the fingers spread out. New names were given by the Phœnicians to the
forms they had borrowed, from fancied resemblances to objects which, in
their language, began with the sound intended, when the original
Egyptian names had been forgotten. It is hard for us to see a likeness
between our letter ‘A’ and an ox’s horns with a yoke across; or between
‘B’ and the ground-plan of a house; ‘G’ and a camel’s head and neck; ‘M’
and water; ‘W’ and a set of teeth; ‘P’ and the back of a head set on the
neck; but our letters have gone through a great deal of straightening
and putting into order since they came into Europe and were sent out on
their further westward travels. The reader who has an opportunity of
examining early specimens of letters on Greek coins will find a freedom
of treatment which makes them much more suggestive of resemblances, and
the earlier Phœnician letters were, no doubt, more pictorial still.
The interesting and important thing to be remembered concerning our
letters is that each one of them was, without doubt, a picture once, and
gets its shape in no other way than by having once stood for an object,
whose name in the ancient people’s language began with the sound it
conveys to us.

These Phœnician letters, born on the walls of Egyptian tombs older
than Abraham, and selected by Phœnician traders who took their boats
up to Memphis at or before Joseph’s time, are the parents of all the
alphabets now used in the world, with the exception of that one which
the Japanese have taken from Chinese picture-writing. The Phœnicians
carried their alphabet about with them to all the countries where they
planted trading settlements, and it was adopted by Greeks, and by the
Latins from the Greeks, and then gradually modified to suit the
languages of all the civilized peoples of east and west.[138] The Hebrew
square letters are a form of divergence from the original type, and even
the Sanskrit character in all its various styles can be traced back to
the same source by experts who have studied the transformations through
which it has passed in the course of ages. It is, of course, easy to
understand that these ubiquitous little shapes which through so many
centuries have had the task laid on them of spelling words in so many
different languages must have undergone some variations in their values
to suit the tongues that interpreted them.

The original family of twenty letters have not always kept together, or
avoided the intrusion of new comers. Some of the languages they have had
to express, being in an early

[Sidenote: Runes.]

stage of development, have not wanted even so many as twenty letters,
and have gradually allowed some of them to fall into disuse and be
forgotten; an instance of this we find in the alphabet of the northern
nations--the Gothic--which consisted only of sixteen _runes_--called by
new names; they have been handed down either directly from the Greek, or
from the Greek through the Roman alphabet, and furnished with mystic
meanings and with names peculiar to themselves.

[Sidenote: Additional letters.]

In languages where nicer distinctions of sound were called for than the
original twenty Phœnician signs carried, a few fresh letters were
added, but in no case has any quite new form been invented. The added
letters have always been a modification of one of the older
forms--either a letter cut in half, or one modified by an additional
stroke or dot. In this way the Romans made _G_ out of _C_, by adding a
stroke to one of its horns. _V_ and _U_, _I_ and _J_ were originally
slightly different ways of writing one letter, which have been taken
advantage of to express a new sound when the necessity for a greater
number of sound-signs arose; _W_, as its very name shows, is only a
doubled form of _V_. At first sight it seems a simple thing enough to
invent a letter, but let us remember that such a thing as an arbitrarily
invented letter does not exist anywhere. To create one out of nothing is
a feat of which human ingenuity does not seem capable. Every single
letter in use anywhere (we can hardly dwell on this thought too long)
has descended in regular steps from the pictured object in whose name
the sound it represents originally dwelt. Shape and sound were wedded
together in early days by the first beginners of writing, and all the
labour bestowed on them since has only been in the way of modification
and adaptation to changed circumstances. No wonder that, when people
believed a whole alphabet to have been invented straight off, they also
thought that it took a god to do it. Thoth, the Great-and-great, with
his emblems of justice and his recording pencil; Oannes, the
Sea-monster, to whom all the wonders of the under-world lay open; Swift
Hermes, with his cap of invisibility and his magic staff; One-eyed Odin,
while his dearly purchased draught of wisdom-water was inspiring him
still. No one indeed--as we see plainly enough now--but a hero like one
of these, was equal to the task of inventing an alphabet.

[Sidenote: Cuneiform writing.]

Before we have quite done with alphabets, we ought to speak of another
system of ancient writing, the cuneiform; which, though it has left no
trace of itself on modern alphabets, is the vehicle which preserves some
of the most interesting and ancient records in the world. The cuneiform
or arrow-shaped character used by the ancient Chaldeans, Assyrians,
Babylonians, and Persians, is supposed to owe its peculiar form to the
material on which it was habitually graven by those who employed it. It
arose in a country where the temples were built of unburned brick
instead of stone, and the wedge-shaped form of the lines composing the
letters is precisely what would be most easily produced on wet clay by
the insertion and rapid withdrawal of a blunt-pointed stick or reed.
Like all other systems, it began in rude pictures, which gradually came
to have a phonetic value, in the same manner as did the Egyptian
hieroglyphics. The earliest records in this character are graven on the
unburned bricks of pyramidal-shaped temples, which a little before the
time of Abraham began to be built by a nation composed of mixed Shemite,
Cushite, and Scythian (_i.e._ Turanian) peoples round the shores of the
Persian Gulf. The invention of the character is ascribed in the records
to the Turanian race, the Accadians, who are always designated by the
sign of a wedge, which was equivalent to calling them the writers, or
the literary people. The Accadians discovered this writing; but it was
taken up and wrought to much greater perfection by their successors, the
Shemites. In their hands it became the vehicle in which the history of
the two great empires of Babylon and Nineveh, and the achievements of
ancient Persian kings, have come down to us. For when Nineveh fell
before the Persians, they adopted the cuneiform writing of the

We have all seen and wondered at the minute writing on the Assyrian
marbles and tablets in the British Museum, and stood in awe before the
human-headed monster gods--

    ‘Their flanks with dark runes fretted o’er,’

whose fate, in surviving the ruin of so many empires, and being brought
from so far to enlighten us on the history of past ages, can never cease
to astonish us. When we look at them again, let us spare a thought to
the history of the character itself. Its mysteries have cost even
greater labour to unravel than hieroglyphics themselves. To the latest
times of the use of cuneiform by the Achæmenidæ, pictorial, symbolic,
and phonetic groups continued to be mixed together, and a system of
determinative signs was employed to show the reader in what sense each
word was to be taken. But this system of writing never reached the
perfection attained by the Egyptian hieroglyphs. It never advanced to
the use of what may be called true letters, never beyond the use of
syllabic signs. So that in time it was superseded by alphabets descended
from the Egyptian. The symbolism, too, of the cuneiform writing is very
complex, and the difficulty of reading the signs used phonetically is
greatly increased by the fact of the language from which they acquired
their values (a Turanian one) being different from the Semitic tongue,
in which the most important records are written.

Of other systems of writing, chiefly pictorial, known in the ancient
world, such as the Hittite and the Cypriot--or, again, of the
picture-writing of many other savage tribes beside the North American
Indians, it is not necessary to speak. For we are not writing a history
of alphabets, but of the acquisition of the _art_ of writing by



[Sidenote: Vortices of national life.]

At this point, where we are bringing our inquiries to a conclusion, we
would fain look a little nearer into the mists which shroud the past,
and descry, were it possible, the actual dawn of history for the
individual nations; would see, not only how the larger bodies of men
have travelled through the prehistoric stages of their journey, but how,
having reached its settled home, each people begins to emerge from the
obscurity that surrounds its early days. What were the exact means, we
ask, whereby a collection of nomadic or half-nomadic tribes separated,
reunited, separated again, and developed upon different soils the
qualities which distinguish them from all others? What _is_, in fact,
the beginning of real national life?

The worlds which circle round the sun, or rather, the multitudinous
systems of orbs which fill space, might pose a like inquiry. There was a
time when _these_ which are now distinct worlds were confounded as a
continuous nebula, a thin vapour of matter whirling round in one
unchanging circle. In time, their motion became less uniform,
vortices--as the word is--set in, smaller bodies of vaporous matter
which, still obeying the universal movement, set up internal motions
among themselves, and cooling, separated into separate orbs. How like is
all this process to the history of nations! These, confounded once
together in one unstable mass of wandering tribes, have in like manner
separated from their nebulous brethren, and, setting up their internal
vortices, have coalesced into nations. And yet as a system of planets,
albeit with their own distinctive motions, do all revolve in one
direction round one central force, so the different families of nations,
which we may call the planets of a system, seem in like manner compelled
by a power external to themselves in one particular course to play a
particular part in the world’s history. The early stone-age Turanians,
the Cushite civilizers of Egypt and Chaldæa, the Semitic people, may all
be looked upon as different systems of nations, each with its mission to
the human race. Thus, too, the Aryan people, after they had once become
so separated as to lose all family remembrance, are found working
together to accomplish an assigned destiny, migrating in every
direction, and carrying with them everywhere the seeds of a higher

The rays of history are seen gradually spreading from Egypt up through
Mesopotamia to the nations of Palestine--not yet the land of the
Hebrews--then to Asia Minor, and so to Greece. That is the land-root of
civilization. We are speaking rather of succession in time than of
actual succession by inheritance. We cannot tell, at any rate, that
Chaldæa was in any way indebted to Egypt for its early civilization, or
Egypt to Chaldæa. But with the exception of that blank, the rest of the
progress of civilization by inheritance does follow pretty clearly. The
Assyrian Empire inherited from the old Babylonian Empire. And the
nations of Palestine inherited from Egypt and Assyria both. On the
borders of Asia Minor were two peoples who commanded--for a time, at
any rate--the trade routes from Palestine and Mesopotamia into Asia
Minor. These two peoples were the Hittites[139] and the Phœnicians.
One commanded the trade route by land, the other commanded it by sea. Of
the first we know at present very little--little more than that they had
a capital at Karkemish; that they commanded the navigation of the
Orontes and the Upper Euphrates; and that they were at one time strong
enough to stand at the head of a confederation of peoples who made war
upon Egypt when at the summit of her power. There can be little doubt
that the Hittites passed on to the peoples of Asia Minor, who were in
blood nearly allied to the Greeks, some of the civilization of the
Semitic peoples farther south, and that these peoples passed the same on
to the Greeks of Asia Minor.

But of course the Phœnicians must still be reckoned as the great
transporters of civilization from Egypt and from Asia to the rest of the
world. They could hardly be said to possess a country; but they
possessed cities of vast importance and no small magnificence along the
coast of Palestine--Lamyra, Aradus, Byblos, Sydon, Tyre. From these
centres went out that boundless maritime enterprise which made the
Phœnicians the trading people of the world. Very early--in
pre-historic ages--the Phœnicians had possessed themselves of Cyprus.
From that point to the Grecian coast of Asia Minor, or to the coasts and
islands on either side of the Ægean, was an easy transition; then on to
the Mediterranean, to Sicily and Italy, but more especially to the
island of Sardinia; or again to Egypt and the farther coasts of Africa
on to Spain, and finally, through the Pillars of Heracles, to the
far-off ‘tin islands’ of the west, which were, it is likely enough, the
British Isles. This is, in brief, the picture of the doings of the
Phœnicians long before the days of history had begun to dawn upon the
Aryan nations of the Mediterranean.

If we desire to get any idea of the process by which the separation of
the Aryan peoples became completed, we must put quite upon one side the
idea of a nation as we see it now. Now, when we speak the word, we think
of a political unit subject to one government, stationary, and confined
within pretty exact limits of space. But very different were the nations
during the process of their formation; there was scarcely any political
unity among them, their homes were unfixed, their members constantly
shifting and changing combinations, like those heaps of sand we see
carried along in a cyclone. Let us, then, forget our political atlases,
with their different colours and well-marked boundaries, and think not
of the inanimate adjunct of a nation, the soil on which it happens to
dwell, but of the nation as the men of whom it is made up. The earliest
things we discern are those vortices set up in the midst of a
homogeneous people, an attractive power somewhere in the midst of them
which draws them into closer fellowship. It acts like the attractive
power of a crystal in selecting from any of the surrounding matters the
fragments most suited to its proper formation. Thus the earliest
traditions of a people are generally the history of some individual
tribe from which the whole nation feigns itself descended; either
because of its actual pre-eminence from the beginning, the power it had
of drawing other tribes to share its fortunes, or because, out of many
tribes drawn together by some common interest or sentiment, the bards of
later days selected this one tribe from among the others, and adopted
its traditions for their own. If we remember this, much that would
otherwise appear a hopeless mass of contradiction and ambiguity is
capable of receiving a definite meaning.

[Sidenote: The Greeks.]

The first rays of European history shine upon the island-dotted sea and
bounding coasts of the Ægean. Here sprang into life the Greek people,
who have left behind so splendid a legacy of art and philosophy. These,
as has been already said, made their entry into Europe traversing the
southern shores of the Euxine, along which passed, still as one people,
the ancestors of the Greeks and the Italians. The former, at all events,
seem to have delayed long upon their route, and it was upon these
shores, or perhaps rather in the tableland of ancient Phrygia, that
first began the separation of two races who reunited to form the Greek
nation. Some, the older race, the Pelasgi, made their way to the
Hellespont, and by that route into European Greece; the others, the
Ionians as they subsequently became, passed onward to the sea-shore of
Asia Minor, and, tempted no doubt by the facilities of the voyage,
crossed from this mainland to the neighbouring islands, which lie so
thickly scattered over the Ægean that the mariner passing from shore to
shore of Asiatic and European Greece need never on his voyage lose sight
of land. They did not, however, find these islands deserted, or occupied
by savages only. The Phœnicians had been there beforehand, as they
were beforehand upon almost every coast in Europe, and had made
mercantile stations and established small colonies for the purposes of
trading with the Pelasgi of Greece. The adventurous Ionians were thus
brought early into contact with the advanced civilization of Asia, and
from this source gained in all probability a knowledge of navigation,
letters, and some of the Semitic mythical legends. Thus while the
mainland Greeks had altered little of the primitive culture, the germs
of a Hellenic civilization, of a Hellenic life, were being fostered in
the islands of the Ægean. We see this reflected in many Greek myths--in
the legend, for example, of Minôs and his early Cretan kingdom; in the
myth of Aphroditê springing from the sea by Cythera; and in the worship
of Phœbus Apollo which sprang up in Delos. Legend spoke of two
Minôses--one, the legislator of Crete, representative of all that was
most ancient in national policy, and for that reason transferred to be
the judge of souls in Hell; the second, he who made war against the
Athenians, and compelled them to pay their dreadful yearly tribute of
seven youths and seven maidens to be devoured of the Minotaur in the
Cretan labyrinth. Until Theseus came. No doubt the two Minôses are but
amplifications of one being, who, whether mythical or historical, is an
echo in the memory of Greeks of the still older Cretan kingdom. In both
tales Minôs has a dreadful aspect; perhaps because this ‘Lord of the
Isles’ had been inimical to the early growing communities of the

The myths of Aphroditê and Apollo have been already commented upon as
enfolding within them the history of their origin. Aphroditê is
essentially an Asiatic divinity; she springs to life in a Phœnician
colony. But Phœbus Apollo is before all things the god of the Ionian
Greeks; and as _their_ first national life begins in the islands, _his_
birth too takes place in one of these, the central one of all, Delos. In
Homer, Delos, or Ortygia, is feigned to be the central spot of the

Thus the Greeks were from the beginning a commercial people. Before
their history began, there is proof that they had established a colony
in the Delta of the Nile; and the frequent use of the word _Javan_[140]
in the Bible--which here stands for Ionians--shows how familiar was
their name to the dwellers in Asia. Wherever these mariners came in
contact with their brethren of the continent, they excited in them the
love of adventure, and planted the germs of a new life, so that it was
under their paramount influence that these primitive Greeks began to
coalesce from mutually hostile tribes into nations. In Northern Greece
it was that the gathering together of tribes and cities first began.
These confederations were always based primarily upon religious union,
the protection of a common deity, a union to protect and support a
common shrine. They were called Amphictyonies, confederations of
neighbours, a name which lived long in the history of Greece. These
amphictyonies seem first to have arisen in the north. Here too the words
_Hellenic_, _Hellenes_, first spring up as national epithets. Hellas
never extended farther north than the north of Thessaly, and was
naturally marked off from foreign countries by Olympia and Pierus. But
the term spread southwards till it embraced all Greek-speaking lands to
the extremity of the peninsula, and over the islands of the Ægean, and
the coast of Asia Minor, on to the countless colonies which issued from
Greek shores; for Hellas was not a geographical term, it included all
the peoples of true Hellenic speech, and distinguished them from the
_barbaroi_, the ‘babblers,’ of other lands.

The two great nations of the Græco-Italic family kept up some knowledge
of each other after they had forgotten the days of their common life,
and, strange to say, in days before either of the two races had come to
regard itself as a distinct people, each was so regarded by the other.
The Italians classed the Greeks in the common name of Græci or Graii,
and the Greeks bestowed the name of Ὀπικός upon the nation of
the Italians. It is curious to reflect upon the different destinies
which lay ahead of these two races, who came under such similar
conditions into their new homes. Whether it were through some
peculiarity in their national character, or a too-rapid civilization, or
the two great influences of a changeful character and adventurous life,
the Greeks never cemented properly together the units of their race; the
Italians, through a much slower process of integration, lived to weld
their scattered fragments into the most powerful nation the world has
ever seen.

[Sidenote: The Romans.]

This second half, then, of the Græco-Italic family, crossing the
Hellespont like (or with) the first dwellers in Greece proper, proceeded
onwards until, skirting the shores of the Adriatic, they found out a
second peninsula, whose fertile plains tempted them to dispute the
possession of the land with the older inhabitants. Who were these older
inhabitants? In part they must have been those lake-dwellers of northern
Italy to whom reference was made in our second chapter, and who were
evidently closely allied to the stone-age men of Switzerland; but
besides these we have almost no trace of the men who were dispossessed
by the Italic tribes, and these last, who pushed to the farthest
extremity of the peninsula, must have completely absorbed, or completely
exterminated, the aborigines. The process by which the Italians spread
over the land is altogether hidden from us. Doubtless their several
seats were not assigned to the different branches at once, or without
bloodshed. Though still no more than separate tribes, we are able to
divide the primitive Italians into stocks of which the southern most
resembled the ancient type of the Pelasgic family; those in the centre
formed the Latin group; while north of these (assuming that they, too,
were Aryans) lay the Etruscans, the most civilized of all the three. At
this time the tribes seem to have acknowledged no common bond, nothing
corresponding to the word Hellenic had sprung up to unite their
interests: existence was as yet to the strongest only. And while the
land was in this chaotic state, one tribe, or small confederacy of
tribes, among the Latin people began to assert its pre-eminence. We see
them dimly looming through a cloud of fable, daring, warlike,
unscrupulous in their dealings with their neighbours, firm in their
allegiance to each other. This tribe gradually increased in strength and
proportions till, from being a mere band of robbers defending themselves
within their rude fortifications, they grew in the traditions of their
descendants, and of the other tribes whom in course of time they either
subdued or absorbed, to be regarded as the founders of Rome. They did
not accomplish their high destiny without trials and reverses. More
powerful neighbouring kingdoms looked on askance during the days of
their rise, and found opportunity more than once to overthrow their city
and all but subdue their state. Their former brethren, the Celts,[141]
who had been beforehand of all the Aryan races in entering Europe, and
now formed the most powerful people in this quarter of the globe,
several times swept down upon them like a devastating storm. But after
each reverse the infant colony arose with renewed Antæan vigour.

Thus in Italy, the development from the tribal to the national state was
internal. No precocious maritime race awoke in many different centres
the seeds of nationality; rather this nationality was a gradual growth
from one root, the slow response to a central attractive force. The
energy of Rome did not go out in sea adventure, or in the colonization
of distant lands; but it was firmly bent to absorb the different people
of her own peninsula, people of like blood with herself, but in every
early stage of culture from an almost nomadic condition to one of
considerable advancement in the arts of peace.

[Sidenote: The Celts.]

When from the Greeks and Romans we turn to the Celts and Teutons, we
must descend much lower in the records of history before we can get any
clear glimpse at these. The Celts, who were probably the first Aryans in
Europe, seem gradually to have been forced farther and farther west by
the incursions of other peoples. At one time, however, we have evidence
that they extended eastward, at least as far as the Rhine, and over all
that northern portion of Italy--now Lombardy and part of Sardinia--which
to the Romans went by the name of Cisalpine Gaul. The long period of
subjection to the Roman rule which Gaul experienced, obliterated in that
country all traces of its early Celtic manners, and we are reduced for
our information concerning these to the pages of Roman historians, or to
the remains of Celtic laws and customs preserved in the western homes of
the race. The last have only lately received a proper attention. The
most primitive Irish code--the Brehon laws--has been searched for traces
of the primitive Celtic life. From both our sources we gather that the
Celts were divided into tribes regarded as members of one family. These
clans were ruled over by chiefs, whose offices were hereditary, or very
early became so. They were thus but slightly advanced out of the most
primitive conditions,--they cannot be described as a nation. Had they
been so, extensive and warlike as they were, they would have been
capable of subduing all the other infant nationalities of Aryan folk. As
it was, as mere combinations of tribes under some powerful chieftain
(Cæsar describes just such), they gave trouble to the Roman armies even
under a Cæsar, and were in early days the most dreadful enemies of the
Republic. Under Brennus, they besieged and took Rome, sacked the city,
and were only induced to retire on the payment of a heavy ransom. A
hundred years later, under another Brennus, they made their way into
Thrace, ravaged the whole country, and from Nicomedes, King of Bithynia,
obtained a settlement in Asia Minor in the district which from them
received the name of Galatia. The occurrence of those two chiefs named
Brennus shows us that this could hardly have been a mere personal name.
It is undoubtedly the Celtic Brain, a king or chieftain, the same from
which we get the mythic Bran,[142] and in all probability the Irish
O’Brien. The recognition of the Celtic fighting capacity in the ancient
world is illustrated by another circumstance, and this is more
especially interesting to us of the modern world, whose army is so
largely made up of Celts from Ireland and Scotland (Highlanders). Hierôn
I., the powerful tyrant of Syracuse, founded his despotism, as he
afterwards confessed, chiefly upon his standing army of thirty thousand
Gaulish mercenaries whom he kept always in his pay.

For the rest, we know little of the internal Celtic life and of the
extent of its culture. Probably this differed considerably in different
parts, in Gaul for instance, and in Ireland. The slight notices of
Gaulish religion which Cæsar and Pliny give refer chiefly to its
external belongings, to the hereditary sacerdotal class, who seem also
to have been the bardic class; of its myths and of their real
significance we know little more than what can be gathered by analogy of
other nations. We may assert that their nature-worship approached most
nearly to the Teutonic form among those of all the Aryan peoples.

Peculiarly interesting to us are such traces as can be

[Sidenote: The Teutons.]

gleaned of the Teutonic race. The first time we have seen that they show
themselves upon the stage of history is possibly in company with the
Celts, supposing for a moment that the Cimbri, who in company with the
Teutones, the Tigurini, and the Ambrones were defeated by Marius (B.C.
101), were Celts.[143] What branch of the German family (if any) the
Teutones were, is quite uncertain. Again, in the pages of Cæsar we meet
with several names of tribes evidently of German origin. The Treviri,
the Marcomanni (Mark men, men of the march or boundary), Allemanni
(all-men, or men of the great or the mixed[144] nation), the Suevi
(Suabians), the Cherusci--men of the sword, perhaps the same as
_Saxons_, whose name has the same meaning.

It is not till after the death of Theodosius at the end of the fourth
century of our era that the Germans fill a conspicuous place on the
historical canvas. By this time they had come to be divided into a
number of different nations, similar in most of the elements of their
civilization and barbarism, closely allied in languages, but politically
unconnected, or even opposed. Most of these Teutonic peoples grew into
mighty nations and deeply influenced the future of European history. It
is therefore right that we pass them rapidly in review. 1. The Goths had
been long settled in the region of the Lower Danube, chiefly in the
country called Mœsia, where Ulfilas, a Gothic prince who had been
converted to Christianity, returned to preach to his countrymen, became
a bishop among them, and by his translation of the Bible into their
tongue, the Mœso-Gothic, has left a perpetual memorial of the
language. During the reign of Honorius, the son of Theodosius, a
portion of this nation, the West-or Visi-goths, quitted their home and
undertook under Alaric (All-king) their march into Italy, thrice
besieged and finally took Rome. Then turning aside, they founded a
powerful kingdom in the south of Gaul and in Spain. A century later the
East-Goths (Ostro-Goths), under the great Theodoric (People’s-king)
again invaded Italy and founded an Ostrogothic kingdom upon the ruins of
the Western Empire. 2, 3, 4, 5. The Suevi, Alani, Burgundians, and
Vandals crossed the Rhine in 405, and entered Roman territory, never
again to return to whence they came. The Burgundians (City-men) fixed
their abode in East-Central Gaul (Burgundy and Switzerland), where their
kingdom lasted till it was subdued by the Franks; but the other three
passed on into Spain, and the Vandals (Wends[145]) from Spain into
Africa, where they founded a kingdom. 6. The Franks (Free-men), having
been for nearly a century settled between the Meuse and the Scheldt,
began under Clovis (Chlodvig, Hludwig, Lewis) (A.D. 480) their career of
victory, from which they did not rest until the whole of Gaul owned the
sway of Merovingian kings. 7. The Longobardi (Long-beards, or men of the
long borde, long stretch of alluvial land), who after the Ostrogoths had
been driven out of Italy by the Emperor of the East, founded in defiance
of his power a second Teutonic kingdom in that country--a kingdom which
lasted till the days of Charlemagne. 8. And last, but we may safely say
not least, the Saxons (Sword-men, from _seaxa_, a sword), who invaded
Britain, and under the name of Angles (Engle) founded the nation to
which we belong, the longest-lived of all those which rose upon the
ruins of the Roman Empire.

The condition of the German people, even so late as the time when they
began their invasion of the Roman territory, was far behind that of the
majority of their Aryan fellows. It is likely that they were little more
civilized than the Greeks and Romans were, in days when they lived
together as one collection of tribes. For the moment when we catch sight
of these--the Greeks and Romans--in their new homes, we see them settled
agriculturists, with no trace left of their wandering habits. It was not
so with the Teutons: they knew agriculture certainly, they had known it
before they separated from the other peoples of the European family (for
the Greek and Latin words for plough reappear in Teutonic speech[146]);
but they had not altogether bid adieu to their migratory life--we see
them still flowing in a nebulous condition into the Roman lands. Even
the Tartars of our day--the very picture of a nomadic people--practise
some form of agriculture. They plant buckwheat, which, growing up in a
few months, allows them to reap the fruits of their industry without
tying them long to a particular spot. The Teutons were more stationary
than the Tartars, but doubtless they too were constantly shifting their
homes--choosing fresh homesteads, as Tacitus says they did, wherever any
spot, or grove, or stream attracted them. The condition of society
called the village community, which has been described in a former
chapter, though long abandoned by the cultivated Greeks and Romans, was
still suitable to the exigencies of _their_ life; but these exigencies
imposed upon it some fresh conditions. Their situation, the situation of
those who made their way into the western countries of Europe, was
essentially that of conquerors; for they must keep in subjection the
original inhabitants, whether Romans or Celts; and so all their social
arrangements bent before the primary necessity of maintaining an
effective war equipment. Age and wisdom were of less value to the
community than youthful vigour. The patriarchal chief, chosen for his
reputation for wisdom and swaying by his mature counsels the free
assemblies of the states, gives place with them to the leader, famous
for his valour and fortunes in the field, by virtue of which he exacts a
more implicit obedience than would be accorded in unwarlike times, until
by degrees his office becomes hereditary; the partition of the conquered
soil among the victors, and the holding of it upon conditions of
military service, conditions which led so easily to the assertion of a
principle of primogeniture, and thence, by slow but natural stages, to
the conditions of tenure known as _feudal_; these are the marks of the
early Teutonic society.

Such germs of literary life as the Teutons possessed were enshrined in
ballads, such as all nations possess in some form. The re-echoes of
these have come down to us in the earliest known poems by men of
Teutonic race, all of which are unfortunately of very recent date. All
are distinguished by the principle of versifying which is essentially
Teutonic; the trusting of the cadence, not to an exact measurement of
syllables or quantities, but to the pauses or beats of the voice in
repetition, the effect of these beats being heightened by the use of
alliteration. Poems of this true Teutonic character, though many of them
in their present shape are late in date, are the well-known old German
lay of _Hadubrand and Hildebrand_, the old Scandinavian poems which we
call Eddic poems, our old English poem _Beowulf_, and the _Bard’s Tale_
and the _Fight of Finnesburg_, and finally that long German poem called
the _Nibelungen_, or say the poem out of which this long one has been
made. These poems repeat old mythic legends, many of which have for
centuries been handed down from father to son, and display the mythology
and religion of our German ancestors, such as in a former chapter we
endeavoured to sketch them out. Slight as they are, they are of
inestimable value, in that they help us to read the mind of heathen
Germany, and to weigh the significance of the last great revolution in
Europe’s history--a revolution wherein we, through our ancestors, have
taken and through ourselves are still taking part, and in which we have
therefore so close an interest.

But having carried the reader down to this point, our task comes to an
end. Even for Europe, the youngest born as it were in the world’s
history, when we have passed the epoch of Teutonic invasion, the star of
history _sera rubens_ has definitely risen. Nations from this time
forward emerge more and more into the light, and little or nothing falls
to the part of pre-historic study.



     ⁂ For the convenience of the reader, authorities are cited
     whenever it is possible in an English form, and if not in an
     English, in a French.


  Christy and Lartet, _Reliquiæ Aquitanicæ_.
  Davis and Thurnam, _Crania Britannica_.
  Dawkins, _Cave Hunting_.
  Dawkins, _Early Man in Britain_.
  Evans, _Stone Implements of Great Britain_.
  Evans, _Bronze Implements of Great Britain_.
  Geikie, _The Great Ice Age_.
  Greenwell, _British Barrows_.
  Keller, _The Lake-Dwellings of Switzerland_ (trs. Lee).
  Lyell, _Antiquity of Man_.
  Lubbock, _Pre-historic Times_.
  Mortillet, _Origine de la Navigation et de la Pêche_.
  Mortillet, _Promenades Préhistoriques à l’Exposition_.
  Mortillet, _Le Préhistorique, L’Antiquité de l’homme_.
  Montelius, _La Suède Préhistorique_.
  Tylor, _Anthropology_.
  Tylor, _Early History of Mankind_.
  Tylor, _Primitive Culture_.
  Troyon, _Habitations Lacustres_.
  Worsaae, _The Pre-history of the North_ (trs. Simpson).

And numerous articles in the Archæological and Anthropological journals
of England, France, and Germany.

Pp. 8, and 14-15. _Antiquity of Man._--The question concerning the
history of Palæolithic man which presses the most immediately for
solution, is that which has been just touched upon here: whether the
variety of animal remains with which the remains of men are found
associated, do really point to an immensely lengthened period of his
existence, in this primitive state. We have said that human bones are
found associated with those of the mammoth (_Elephas primigenius_),
those of the woolly rhinoceros, and with the remains of other animals
whose existence seems to imply a cold-temperate, or almost frigid,
climate; at another place, or a little lower in the same river bed (the
higher gravel beds are the oldest), we may find the bones of the
hippopotamus, an animal which in these days is never found far away from
the tropics. The conclusion seems obvious: man must have lived through
the epoch of change--enormously long though it was--from a cold to an
almost tropical climate. Some writers have freely accepted this view,
and even gone beyond it to argue the possibility of man having lived
through one of the great climatic revolutions which produced an Ice Age.
(See the arguments on this head in Mr. Geikie’s _Ice Age_.) And in a
private letter, written from the West Indies, Kingsley says that he sees
reason for thinking that man existed in the Miocene Era. (See _Life of

On the other hand, these rather startling theories have not yet received
their _imprimatur_ from the highest scientific authorities. There are
many ways in which they clash with the story which the stone-age remains
seem to tell of man’s primitive life. For instance, the civilization of
the caves is to all appearance in advance of that of the drift-beds; and
yet, as we have seen (p. 18), the cave men must have existed during the
earlier part of the stone age, that of the mammoth. Here we see
evidences of a decided improvement, an advance; whereas between the
drift-remains associated with the mammoth and those associated with the
hippopotamus are seen few or none.

P. 9. _Cave-drawings or carvings._--The best representations of these
are to be found in the work of Christy and Lartet given above.

P. 19. The ideas which savages or primitive men associate with drawings
or representations of things (as also with the _names_ of things) are
sometimes exceedingly complex and difficult of apprehension--for us.
This the following example may show:--

In the earliest Egyptian tombs the beautiful and realistic drawings have
long attracted the attention of archæologists, both on account of their
intrinsic merit, and from the curious contrast which they present to the
more conventional religious drawing and sculpture of a later date.
Though the drawings of the first class are found exclusively upon the
walls of tombs, they have apparently no connection either with ideas of
death or with religious observances. They seem to represent merely the
earthly and secular life of the entombed man: here he is superintending
his labourers at their work, here he is hunting, here he is reclining at
the banquet and watching the performances of fools or dancing-girls.
This is what a mere study of the drawings suggests. A more complete
study of the inscriptions which accompany them have, however, convinced
Egyptian archæologists that the object of these wall-paintings is not
merely decorative or representative, in the sense in which drawings are
representative to us. Their essential use is what we may call magical.
They are believed to contain (and this is a universal savage belief as
touching drawings or sculptures of any kind) some elements of the things
they represent. Thus the tomb-paintings would be a kind of _doubles_ of
the things which the deceased enjoyed in this life. And they would be
placed in the tomb in order that the _double_ of the deceased (what the
Egyptians called his _ka_) might enjoy the usufruct of them in the new

This is the simplest _magic_ use of the copies or representation of
things in early Egyptian tombs. But the idea of the makers of these
drawings seems often to be more complicated than this. The drawings by
being placed in the tombs are supposed to give the _ka_ of the deceased
(_not_ in the tomb, but far away in the land of shades) the enjoyment of
the doubles of the things which he enjoyed in life. In this instance the
drawings are not the actual possessions which the dead man has, but they
correspond to, or influence, or in a certain sense create in the land of
shades new possessions, the doubles of the old.

These subtle and complex notions are by no means to be expressed by the
conventional words _magic_, _animism_, etc., loosely thrown about by

Pp. 47 and 52. _Weaving._--The art of platting, which carries in it the
germ of the art of weaving, is of immemorial, undiscoverable antiquity.
There can hardly have been a time when men did not weave together twigs
or reeds to form a rude tent covering--a primitive house. And one proof
of the immense antiquity of this practice is given by the numerous names
for twigs, reeds, etc., in different languages which are derived from
words signifying to twist or weave. The word _weave_ itself (Ger.
_weben_) is connected with a Sanskrit root _vê_, meaning much the same
thing; and we find this same root _vê_ appearing again in the Latin,
_vimen_ a twig, and _vitis_, a vine, the last so named from its
tendrils, which we should judge were used for platting before they were
used for producing grapes. From the same root, again, and for the same
reason, are derived the Latin _viburnum_, briony; the Slavonic _wetle_,
willow; the Sanskrit _vetra_, reed. The Latin _scirpus_, reed, and the
Greek γρῖφος, a net, are allied; but these may not be
instances quite in point.

Such rude platting as this is a very different thing from the
elaborately woven cloths found among the remains of the lake-villages,
whose construction involves also the art of _spinning_.

P. 54. The view put forward in this chapter concerning the race of the
neolithic men in Europe, is that which seems to the writer most
consistent with _all_ the facts known, concerning the distribution of
pre-historic man. As was said in the Preface, the students in different
branches of pre-historic inquiry have not begun yet to collate
sufficiently the results of their researches, and their opinions
sometimes clash. We have to reconcile the pre-historic anthropologist
and the ethnologist with the student of comparative philology. Most of
the former are agreed that the earliest inhabitants of this quarter of
the globe were most allied in character to the Lapps and Finns; and were
consequently of what we have distinguished (Chapter V.) as the
yellow-skinned family. But they are far from agreed that the
bronze-using men were not of the same race; and some (Keller for
instance) are violently opposed to the notion that the substitution of
metal for stone was a sudden transition, and due to foreign importation.
In some instances there is evidence that the change was gradual.

But the evidence on the other side is stronger. The human remains found
with the bronze weapons are generally clearly distinguishable (in
formation of skull, etc.) from those associated with the implements of
stone. The funeral rites of the bronze-age men were as a rule different
from those of the stone-age men; for while the former generally buried
their dead, the latter seem generally to have burnt theirs (see Grimm,
_Ueber das Verbrennen der Leichen_). Now we have strong reason for
believing that the Aryan races (see Chapters IV., V.) practised this
sort of interment; and we have further reason for thinking that the use
of metals was known to them before their entry into Europe (see Pictet,
_Les Origines Indo-Européennes_ and Grimm, _Geschichte der deut.
Sprache_). Moreover, these Aryans unless their original home were in
Europe (see p. 99, _note_), must have come in at some time, and when
they did come, they must have produced an entire revolution in the life
of its inhabitants. No time seems so appropriate for their appearance as
that which closes the age of stone.

This theory does not preclude the possibility of, in many places, a
side-by-side existence of stone users and bronze users, or even a
gradual extension of the art of metallurgy; and these conditions would
be especially likely to arise in such secluded spots as the
lake-dwellings. Therefore, Dr. Keller’s arguments are not impeached by
the theory that the Aryans were the introducers of bronze into Europe.


  Bopp, _Comparative Grammar of the Sanskrit Zend, etc._ (trs.).
  Bréal, _Principes de Philologie Comparée_.
  Geiger, _Contributions to the History of the Development
        of the Race_ (trs.).
  Grimm, _Geschichte der deutschen Sprache_.
  Grimm, _Ueber den Ursprung der Sprache_.
  Kuhn, _Zeitschrift für vergleichende Sprachforschung_.
  Müller, Max, _Lectures on the Science of Language_.
  Müller, Max, _Sanskrit Literature_.
  Peile, _Introduction to Greek and Latin Etymology_.
  Pictet, _Les Origines Indo-Européennes_.
  Sayce, _Introduction to the Science of Language_.
  Wilson, _Introduction to the Rig Veda Sanhita_.

Agreeably to the plan enunciated in the first chapter (pp. 4-6) I have
used up all the more generally admitted facts and theories to form what
seemed to me a reasonable account of the growth of language; to form an
account too which should subserve one great end of this volume, by
stimulating the thoughts of the reader at the same time that it pointed
out the nature of the evidence upon which conclusions are founded,
thereby preparing the reader to pursue the enquiry upon his own account.

The science of Comparative Philology is, however, in too unripe a
condition to allow us to speak with dogmatic assurance with regard to
its inferences; even those which seem fundamental have been, and may
again, be called in question. It is right here, therefore, to remind the
reader that it is quite upon the cards that further research may end by
upsetting the generally accepted theory of the growth of inflexions in
language. Even now there is a school of philologists and anthropologists
that denies the premise upon which this theory rests--the _radical_
origin of all language. This school maintains that, instead of speech
beginning in monosyllabic root-sounds, as is generally supposed, it
begins in extremely elaborate and complicated sounds which are in fact
nothing else than sentences; that it is only by the wear and tear of use
that the sentence has got split up into its component sounds, which have
then taken the character of monosyllabic roots.

This theory was first set on foot by a writer (Waitz) who is an
anthropologist rather than a student of language, and it might be
distinguished as the anthropological theory of the origin of speech. We
have no space here for a full discussion of its merits. It will be
enough to indicate some _à priori_ arguments in its favour.

1. It would make the language of primitive man analogous to a state of
things which many people think they have discovered as typical of the
most primitive savages--namely, a state of society which, in its
customs, marriage laws, etc., differs from modern society in being not
more simple, but infinitely more complex.

2. This supposed original expressive sentence and its subsequent
analysis would have considerable analogy to what we ourselves have just
seen is the history of writing, which begins with a more or less
elaborate picture; then the parts of the picture are split up, and by
the wear and tear of frequent use these parts are added together in
separate items to form picture-_writing_, which is quite a different
thing from picturing, and which is the immediate parent of writing as we
know it. An analogy of this kind cannot be without weight.

On the other hand, it must be pointed out that the strongest arguments
in favour of this view are the _à priori_ arguments. True, we do not
know enough of the languages of the world to speak with dogmatic
assurance. But the history of all the languages which have been closely
studied points away from the anthropological theory.

Again, the first argument in favour of Waitz’s theory is itself clearly
founded upon a paradox. It can scarcely be seriously maintained that
while we can trace the growth of implements, such as spears and knives,
from the simplest possible form upwards, such implements as speech and
social laws have been ready made in a highly complex form. Argument
number two serves to expose the grossness of this paradox. It would be
as reasonable to maintain that mankind had begun by drawing pictures
before they learnt to draw the elements out of which the pictures were

The whole theory, therefore, belongs to the category of theories which
explain _obscurum per obscurius_. It may be, and no doubt is,
practically impossible to explain in any _natural_ way how speech arose.
But at all events it is easier to understand how it may have arisen in a
simple form and grown to one more complex, than to imagine it beginning
in a complex state and by detrition resolving into simple elements.

P. 68. _Consonantal and vowel sounds._--The fact that even in Aryan
roots the consonants have more weight than the vowel sounds will be
evident merely from the instances given in the course of this and the
following chapter--_fly_, _flee_, _flew_ (_w_ is here a vowel sound);
_night_, _Nacht_; _knight_, _Knecht_; _Raum_, _room_; _asmi_, _esmi_
(_eimi_), _sum_, etc. This general rule holds good for almost all
languages, and seems necessarily to do so from the stronger character of
the consonantal and the weaker character of the vowel sounds.

But the _relative_ importance of vowels and consonants is very different
in different classes of language. In the Aryan tongues the essential
root is made up of vowels and consonants, and the variations upon the
root idea are _generally_ expressed by additions to the root and not by
internal changes in it. In this way, as we saw, most grammatical
inflexions are made: hom-o, hom-inis, am-o, am-abam, τύπτω, ἒτυτον,
ἒτυψον, etc. But in Semitic languages the root consists of
the consonants only, and the inflexions are produced by internal
changes, changes of the vowels which belong to a consonant. For example,
in Arabic the three consonants _k-t-l_ (_katl_) represent the abstract
notion of the act of killing. From them we get _kátil_, one who kills;
_kitl_ (pl. _aktal_), an enemy; _katala_, he slew; _kutila_, he was
slain. From _z-r-b_ (_zarb_), the act of striking; _zarbun_, a striking
(in concrete sense); _zarábun_, a striker; _zaraba_, he struck;
_zuriba_, he was struck. Compare these with occido, occidi, occisor, or
with τύπτω, τέτυφα, etc., and we see that in the Aryan tongues
the radical remains almost unchanged, and the inflexions are made _ab
extra_; but in the Semitic language the inflexions are made by changes
of vowel sound within the framework of the root consonants.

The usual grammatical root in Arabic is composed of three consonants, as
in the examples given above. Most of the Semitic languages are in too
fully formed a state to allow us to see whether or no these roots, which
are of course at the least dissyllabic, grew up out of single sounds;
but a comparison with some languages of the Semitic family (_e.g._
Egyptian) which are still near to their early radical state, show us
that they have probably done so.

The Coptic language, which is the nearest we can get to the tongue of
the ancient Egyptians, is extremely interesting in that it displays the
processes of grammar formation, as has just been said, in a more
intelligible shape than we find in the higher Semitic tongues.

P. 98. We are here speaking, be it remembered, of families of
_language_. The ethnology of a people is not necessarily the same as its
language; so that when we speak of a family of language including the
tongues of a certain number of races, we do not imply that they were
wholly of the same ethnic family. This caution is especially necessary
as regards the earliest great pre-historic nations who seem to have been
what are called Cushites--anything but pure Semites (see Chapter
V.)--but whose languages may properly be ranged in the Semitic family.
The Egyptian, for instance, was more nearly monosyllabic than any other
Semitic tongue (Chapter XIII.); yet such inflexions as it has show an
evident relationship with Hebrew and other Semitic languages (see
Appendix to Bunsen’s _Egypt’s Place in Universal History_).


  Brugsch, _Recueils de Monuments Égyptiens_.
  Brugsch, _Histoire d’Égypt_.
  Brugsch, _Matériaux pour servir_, etc.
  Bunsen, _Egypt’s Place_, etc. (ed. Dr. Birch).
  Ebers, _Egyptian History_.
  Flower, W. H., _Races of Men_.
  Legge, _Chinese Classics, with Introduction, etc._
  Lenormant, _Manual of the Ancient History of the East_ (trs.).
  Lepsius, _Chronologie der Egypten_.
  Mariette Pasha, _Abrégé de l’Histoire d’Égypte_.
  Maspero, _Histoire Ancienne des Peuples de l’Orient_.
  Maury, _Le Livre et l’Homme_.
  Rawlinson, _Herodotus, with Notes_.
  Rawlinson, _Five Great Monarchies_, etc.
  Rougé (Vte. de), _Examen de l’Ouvrage de M. Bunsen_.
  Sayce, _Ancient Empires of the East_.
  Tylor, _Anthropology_.

P. 119. The word Turanian is untenable as an ethnic term. It can be
used--though with a somewhat loose signification--to distinguish those
languages which are in the agglutinative stage. But the reader must be
careful not to suppose that it comprises a class of nearly allied
peoples, as the Aryan and Semitic families of language, upon the whole,
do. The only race which includes the Turanian peoples of Europe and Asia
includes also those who speak monosyllabic languages: this is the yellow
race, and is of course a division of the widest possible kind.

P. 122. Touching the relationship of the Egyptians to the negroes a
variety of opinions are held. There can be no question that their types
of face forbid us to doubt that there was some relationship between
them; while the representations of negroes upon the ancient monuments of
Egypt show that from the remotest historical period there was a marked
distinction between the peoples, and that from that early time till now
the negroes have not changed in the smallest particular of ethnical
character. On the other hand, many people consider the Egyptians and the
Accadians to have been essentially the same people, the Cushites--or as
some call them Hamites--a race which perhaps anciently spread from
Susiana across Arabia and the Red Sea to Abyssinia and Egypt.

P. 123. The names _Chaldæan_ and _Assyrian_ are used with a variety of
significations by Orientalists, and in a way likely to be confusing to
the general reader. He will do well, therefore, to bear the following
facts in mind:--

1. The Tigris and the Euphrates, after both taking their rise in the
Caleshîn Dagh mountain in the Armenian highlands, soon separate by a
wide sweep, the Euphrates flowing south-west and towards the
Mediterranean, the Tigris flowing south-east towards the Persian Gulf.
But instead of flowing _into_ the Mediterranean, the Euphrates again
turns first due south, then south-east, so that it thenceforward flows
parallel with the Tigris. They approach nearer and nearer, until about
Bagdad they are separated by some twenty miles only; but here they once
more begin to increase the distance between them, and do not again
approach until just before they unite to fall into the Persian Gulf. In
ancient days they never united, as the Persian Gulf spread more than a
hundred miles farther inland than it does to-day.

The territory enclosed between these two great streams, with the
addition of some territory to the east of the Tigris and west of the
Euphrates, is that which the Greeks called Mesopotamia. Lower
Mesopotamia begins about the point where the streams approach the
nearest, and this Lower Mesopotamia is the territory distinguished by
the name _Chaldæa_.

Territorially this Chaldæa was in ancient days divided into two
districts--Shûmir in the south, and Accad in the north.

The earliest known inhabitants of these districts were a Turanian race,
who from their territorial possessions should properly be called the
Shûmir-Accadians or Shûmiro-Accadians. But it is common to call them
simply Accadians (or Accad), and their language, an agglutinative or
Turanian one, Accadian likewise.

Here therefore is the first element of confusion--between the smaller
territorial division, Accadia, and the larger ethnic division, which
includes all the primitive inhabitants of Chaldæa.

2. But there mingled with these primitive Accadians a Semitic race, and
gradually transformed them, so that the speech of the country changed
from being a Turanian or agglutinative, to being a Semitic and inflected

Now, these Semitic people are probably the Chaldæans of the Bible; at
any rate the Bible seems to take no account of the primitive Turanian
stock. Its Chaldæans are a people allied by nationality to the Shemites,
though perhaps so far mixed with an earlier stock as to be what we may
call proto-Semitic.

Here is the second element of confusion, a confusion between the
unchanged land of Chaldæa and the two races who in succession inhabited

3. Finally, the language of the Semitic (or proto-Semitic) Chaldæans was
practically the same as that of the people who rose into a nation in
Upper Mesopotamia, viz. the Assyrians. The Assyrians, as is said in
Chapter V., founded an empire which overthrew the ancient Chaldæan or
Babylonian empire,--for from its largest town the empire is also called
the Babylonian--and was in its turn overthrown by an alliance between
the revolted Babylon and the King of Media.

The third element of confusion then arises from applying to the language
of the Semitic Chaldæans the name Assyrian, which involves no
participation in the empire of the Assyrians.

It is probable that these elements of confusion have not always been
avoided in the preceding chapters. But with the aid of this note they
will no longer present difficulties to the reader.

It will be seen that both the Egyptians and Chaldæans of Genesis, chap.
x., are a Semitic people so far as regards the character of their
language, and belong in the main to the white race. So far as regards
their ethnic character, they were probably more mixed than the peoples
(Hebrews, Assyrians proper, etc.) who are called the children of Shem,
and therefore we may call them proto-Semitic.

The term Hamitic is altogether misleading, and had better be unused in
ethnical classifications. The real meaning, if we follow the intention
of its use in the Bible, is to distinguish from the purer Semites
(Hebrews, Moabites, etc.) what we may call the proto-Semites; that is, a
number of races, such as the Egyptians and Chaldæans, as well as the
Canaanites generally, who spoke Semitic languages, but were very
probably of impure blood, very likely of Semitic and Turanian
intermixture. If the word Hamitic be used to include the rest of the
inhabitants of the world who were not Semitic or Aryan, then, though it
will not be very useful, no objection can be taken to its employment.
But in that case we shall be obliged, forming our classification by the
known rather than by the unknown, to include the Canaanites (who spoke
Semitic languages) in the Semitic family; and this will be in direct
contradiction to the use of Hamitic in the Bible narrative.


  Coulanges, _La Cité Antique_.
  Grimm, _Deutsche Rechts-Alterthümer_.
  Lavalaye, _La Propriété et ses Formes Primitives_.
  Maine, _Ancient Law_.
  Maine, _Village Communities_.
  Maine, _Early Institutions_.
  Maurer, _Geschichte der Dorf-Verfassung_.
  Nasse, _Agricultural Communities of the Middle Ages_ (translated by Ouvry).
  Pictet, _Les Origines Indo-Européennes_.

In the account here given of the two most important social forms, the
patriarchal family and the village community, the endeavour has been
rather to present such a picture of them as may exhibit their chief
peculiarities in a sufficiently clear and striking manner, than to enter
into a minute examination of the various remains from which the picture
has been constructed. It must not be supposed, however, that the
representations here given can be completely verified from existing
information. They are rather to be looked upon as typical of what these
forms may have been in their earliest stage and under favourable
circumstances. We only meet with traces of them when undergoing decay.
Although the writer fully recognizes the importance of the researches of
McLellan and others concerning the earlier conditions of society, no
attempt has been made to give an account of the results which have been
arrived at in this field of inquiry. Two reasons may be assigned for
this omission. Firstly, the intrinsic difficulties of treating the
subject in a manner suitable to the ‘general reader’ are, it is
conceived, a sufficient excuse for the omission. Secondly, the results
at present attained are so vague that the mere statement of them would
be valueless without entering into great detail. All that can as yet
fairly be regarded as established is either that the Aryan and Semitic
races have at one time possessed social customs and practices similar to
those which are found in the most barbarous people; or that they have
during some period of their history so far amalgamated with, or been
influenced by, other races that had just emerged from this state, as to
absorb into their traditions and customs traces of a social condition of
a much lower and more primitive kind than that in which we first find
them. If we try to form any conception of what the earlier state may
have been, we at once see that the results at present attained are
almost purely negative. All that can be predicated is that at one time a
large proportion of the human race did _not_ possess the notions of the
family and the marriage tie which were entertained by people in the
patriarchal state; that they did _not_ trace blood relationship in the
same way. What particular customs immediately preceded or led to the
patriarchal family, whether this latter is to be considered as the
original social type, and the lower forms are to be regarded as derived
from it, or _vice versâ_--to these questions no satisfactory answer can
at present be given.

Each step indeed in social change is to be looked upon, to a great
extent, as simply a phenomenon to be noted, the causes for which it is
impossible to determine accurately. This is especially the case with the
village community. The extent of its distribution would incline one to
the belief that it is a natural or necessary result of a certain stage
of social development; while the elaborate and artificial nature of its
construction points to the probability of some common origin from which
its developments might be traced. The greatest difficulty, however, lies
in trying to assign to this institution its due effect on civilization:
for it is frequently found in close combination with institutions to
which its spirit seems most strongly opposed. Thus while we find it
flourishing among the Germanic tribes, we also discover among them a
tendency to the custom of primogeniture much more marked than is
discoverable among other Aryan races. Yet this custom scarcely seems to
find a place in the pure village community beyond the limits of each
individual household. At the same time the patriarchal power was
certainly less among the Germans than among the early Romans, and
probably also less than among the Slavs.


  Bournouf, _Commentaire sur le Yaçna_.
  Bugge, _Sæmundar Edda_.
  Bunsen, _God in History_ (trs.).
  Bunsen, _Egypt’s Place_, etc.
  Busching, _Nibelungen Lied_.
  Cox, _Mythology of the Aryan Nations_.
  Edda den ældra ok Snorra.
  Grimm, Deutsche Mythologie.
  Grimm, Ueber das Verbr. der Leichen.
  Grimm, Heldenbuch.
  Keary, Outlines of Primitive Belief.
  Kuhn, Herabkunft des Feuers.
  Kuhn, _Sagen, Gebräuche u. Mährchen_.
  Kuhn, in _Zeitsch f. v. Sp._ and _Z. f. deut. Alt_.
  Lang, _Myth, Ritual, and Religion_.
  Lepsius, _Todtenbuch_.
  Maspero, _Histoire Ancienne_, etc.
  Müller, Op. cit.
  Müller, _Lectures on the Science of Religion_.
  Müller, _Chips from a German Workshop_.
  Müller, _Origin and Growth of Religion_ (Hibbert Lectures).
  Müller, _Sacred Books of the East_, vol. iv. Zend Avesta (Darmesteter).
  Preller, _Griechische Mythologie_.
  Ralston, _Songs of the Russian People_.
  Ralston, _Russian Folk-tales_.
  Rawlinson, Op. cit.
  Rougé (Vte. de), _Études sur le Rituel des Égypt_.
  Sayce, _Religion of the Ancient Babylonians_.
  Simrock, _Handbuch der. d. Myth_.
  Tiele, _Outlines of the History of Religion_ (trs.).
  Vigfusson and Powell, _Corpus Poeticum Boreale_.
  Welcker, _Griechische Götterlehre_.
  Wuttke, _Deutsche Volksaberglaube_.

The origin and history of religion and mythology is (as we might expect)
a matter of keen controversy; and I cannot anticipate that the reader
would rise from the perusal of all the books given in the above list
with his mind not confused upon many points on which they touch. To
explain the position taken up in Chapters VIII.-XI., I will add the
following notes, which may help the reader over some difficult and
disputed questions.

1. In the first place, we have confined our attention altogether to the
essential framework of the religious system or the myth-system with
which we were concerned. The _irrational element_ is omitted, and the
mere process of omitting this relieves us from entering upon many points
which are strongly controverted at this moment. For instance, the work
of Mr. A. Lang cited above (and which I specially mention here, as it is
a good deal upon the _tapis_ at the present moment) is altogether
occupied in combating a certain theory of Mr. Max Müller’s, that the
irrational element in Aryan mythologies (Greek and Sanskrit especially)
could be shown to have arisen in most instances from _an abuse of
language_, or, more exactly, from an oblivion of the true meaning of
some essential word or name contained in the myth, whereby a wholly
mistaken and wholly irrational element has been incorporated into the
history of the god or hero.

This theory Mr. A. Lang combats by adducing the evidence that these
irrational parts in mythology may be _survivals_ of thought from an
earlier age in the history of the people, when what seemed irrational
(and often disgusting) to their literary successors, and seems
irrational and disgusting to us, seemed neither one nor the other.

Into this controversy we are not required to enter. But it is important
to point out to the reader how completely this lies outside the sphere
of study which we have chosen; the more so because, through some
criticisms of Mr. Lang’s book, a notion has gained currency (among those
presumably who have not read the book in question) that Mr. Lang has
revolutionized the whole study of religion and mythology, whereas he
only proposes to deal with one section, and that a small one, of it.

Nor can it fairly be said that we are bound in these chapters to pay
much attention to the _irrational element_ in belief. If we were writing
a complete treatise upon flint implements, we should be bound to include
not only those flints which had been clearly chipped with a definite
design, and which followed well-established forms, but with pieces of
abnormal shape, and even with flakes and cores, the _detritus_, so to
say, which had been left aside when the more available flints had been
chosen. If, again, we were dealing completely with the history of
village communities or systems of land tenure, we should be bound in
like fashion to treat of abnormal as well as normal forms. But obviously
that is not what is expected in the chapters of this book. We only
profess to treat of early civilization under its more usual aspects and
in its completest form. So with early beliefs; we only profess to
concern ourselves with what is rational and normal in the creeds with
which we are dealing.

There are always certain drawbacks, certain new liabilities to error,
which follow the step of each fresh advance in science. The shadow of
this kind which attends the comparative method which had been adopted
with such splendid results, not only in many natural sciences, but in
almost all branches of pre-historic study--the comparative study of
laws, institutions, language, myths, and creeds--is a tendency to
confound the condition of these things with which we are actually
concerned with their condition at some previous time. As Mr. Tylor
admirably says about language, that, interesting as it is to trace the
history of words, our understanding of their actual meaning is not
always facilitated by a misty sense that at some previous time they
meant something else, so we may say of many other things--laws, for
example, and customs, or, still more, myths and religions.

It will be obvious, for instance, that our appreciation of the place in
history of certain personages will be very little affected by tracing
some of the stories told about them to quite different countries and
periods in the history of the world. Suppose (for example) that we
should find in New Zealand legends a story closely analogous to the
story of Harold’s oath to William the Bastard. It would be by no means
safe to affirm that, if we sifted the multitudinous legends of the
world, we should not be able to find some pretty close analogy to
William’s celebrated trick of concealing the venerated relics beneath
the altar. How, it may be asked, would such a discovery affect our
estimate of the parts which William and Harold played as the rival
claimants for the English throne? If the reader can answer that question
he can decide the influence which studies into the religion of the
Maoris or Andaman Islanders are likely to have over his estimate of the
_rational_ parts of an historic creed. Such a discovery as we have
imagined would suggest the possibility that some remote channel of
tradition had fathered an old myth upon Harold and William. But it would
give us no clue as to how well it fitted upon their characters, how far
it gained general currency at the time. Upon these questions alone
depends our estimate of the position which the two historic personages
occupied in the world of their day. For a story which is generally
believed is almost the same as a story which is true.

Or, if the reader prefers a story which is really a myth, take the
history of Hasting at the siege of Luna, with which most readers will be
acquainted, and how he gained an entry into the town by feigning death
and obtaining that his body should be carried within the walls for
Christian burial. _That_ is undoubtedly a myth; it is found to be
sporadic among the histories of the Vikings and of the Normans, their
descendants. Should we discover that a very similar story has been
current among the Incas of Peru, how far could that discovery affect our
estimate of the supposed character of Hasting?

When the reader has made up his mind upon this subject he will be in a
position, we have said, to estimate the weight which we ought to attach
to discoveries of this kind in reference to historic creeds; because the
heroes of these creeds are evidently in the position of historic
personages for those who hold the belief. As long as the Norsemen think
that they hear Odin rushing along at night upon his horse Sleipnir, Odin
is for them an historic personage; as long as Greeks think that it is
Zeus who is ‘thundering from Ida,’ Zeus is as real to them as William
the Bastard was to the English nation--more real than Hasting was to
Dudo. And I maintain that an understanding of what the Greeks thought
about Zeus, or the Norsemen about Odin, is very little furthered by (in
Mr. Tylor’s words) a vague notion that at some other time they thought
something quite different.

We may, however, legitimately go a little way behind the date of our
documents. Our comprehension of the feudal system of land tenure is not
much assisted by comparing it with systems in use among the Zulus; but
it is useful to study the land tenure prevalent among the German
nationalities before the feudal system properly so called was
introduced. In the same way, behind the actual religious ideas shadowed
forth in the Vedic hymns, in Homer, or in the Eddaic poems, we may, I
maintain, legitimately go back to a time when the divine beings of these
creeds were more nearly identified with natural phenomena out of which
they sprang. It is just this condition of the Aryan creeds which I have
sought to portray in the chapters devoted to the subject. In the actual
documents before us the gods of Greece or Scandinavia do not take the
guise of the heaven, or the sun, or the wind. But enough remains in
their natures to show that it was out of these phenomena that they
emerged to become the independent personalities which we know. This is
what is meant by the _nature_ or _origins_ of Indra, Zeus, Odin, etc.,
as the expressions are used above.

P. 195. I take the liberty of transcribing a passage from Mr. Max
Müller’s Lectures on the Science of Religion.

‘One of the oldest names of the deity, among the Semitic nations, was
El. It meant strong. It occurs in the Babylonian inscriptures as Ilu,
God, and in the very name of Bab-il, the gate or temple of Il. In
Hebrew, it occurs both in its general sense, as strong, or hero, and as
a name of God. We have it in _Beth-el_, the House of God, and in many
other names. If used with the article as ha-El, the Strong One, or the
God, it always is meant in the Old Testament for Jehovah, the true God.
El, however, always retained its appellative power, and we find it
applied therefore, in parts of the Old Testament, to the God of the
Gentiles also.

‘The same El was worshipped at Byblus, by the Phœnicians, and he was
called there the Son of Heaven and Earth. His father was the son of
Eliun, the most high god, who had been killed by wild animals. The son
of Eliun who succeeded him was dethroned, and at last slain by his own
son _El_, whom Philo identifies with the Greek Kronos, and represents as
the presiding deity of the planet Saturn. In the Himyaritic inscriptions
too the name of El has been discovered.

‘With the name of El, Philo connected the name of Elohim, the plural of
Eloah. In the battle between _El_ and his father, the allies of El, he
says, were called Eloeim, as those who were with Kronos were called
Kronioi. This is no doubt a very tempting etymology of _Eloah_; but as
the best Semitic scholars, and particularly Professor Fleischer, have
declared against it, we shall have, however reluctantly, to surrender

‘Eloah is the same word as the Arabic Ilâh, God. In the singular,
_Eloah_ is used synonymously with El; in the plural, it may mean gods in
general, or false gods: but it becomes in the Old Testament the
recognized name for the true God, plural in form but singular in
meaning. In Arabic Ilâh without the article means a god in general; with
the article Al-Ilâh, or Allâh, becomes the name of the God of Abraham
and Moses.’

P. 197. _Nature-Worship._--The part which the phenomena of nature play
in training the thoughts of uncultivated men toward religion, and
poetry, and hero-worship, and legendary lore, has been made the subject
of warm controversy. And it may not be altogether amiss if we bestow a
little thought upon the question, and upon the character of evidence by
which this nature-worship is thought to be established.

That it is in no sense a degradation of our estimate of man to suppose
that his thoughts were led upward from the contemplation of the objects
of sense which lay around to the contemplation of a Higher Being beyond
the region of sensible things, will become, it is to be hoped, clear
upon a little reflection, and upon a candid examination of what has been
said in pp. 173-176. But still it may fairly be asked, Did this process
of deifying the powers of nature take place? Why should not the human
mind have come independently by the direct revelation of God’s voice
speaking in the hearts of men to a notion of a God ruler of the world,
and then, by a natural process of decay, proceed thence to a polytheism,
a pantheon of beings who were supposed to rule over the different
phenomena of nature, just as the different members of a cabinet hold
sway over the various branches of national government?

This was, until comparatively recent years, the received opinion
concerning mythology, and it is one which tacitly keeps its place in the
writings of many scholars, especially of those who have been brought up
almost exclusively upon the study of classical languages and classical
religions: for it is only after a wide study, and a comparison of many
different religions in many different stages, that the conviction of the
opposite truth forces itself upon one. It is obvious that for the
purpose of a scientific knowledge of the formation of religious systems,
we must not observe them in their fullest development, but rather turn
to such of their brother-religions as have remained in a more stunted
condition. Nor, again, should we deal, except very cautiously, with an
extremely imaginative people, like the Greeks; for with them changes
from any primitive form will be much more rapid and more complete than
the changes in some more meagre systems. The fragmentary Teutonic myths,
and the relics of these in mediæval superstition, are for this purpose
sometimes more trustworthy than those of Greece; and partly on this
account, partly because they are less familiar to the reader, we have
drawn largely upon them for illustration in our chapters upon Aryan
religion and Folk-tales.

The most useful of all, however, is the religion of the Vedas, in so far
as the Vedas give us an insight into the earliest faith of the people of
India. Here we may often detect the etymology of a name which would be
inexplicable if we only knew it in Greek or Latin and Norse. We have
seen how this is the case in respect of the word Dyâus; and how the
etymology of this word clearly shows, what from themselves we should
never discover, that Zeus and Jupiter and Tyr are names which had
originally the same meaning as a natural phenomenon. We say
_originally_, because the Sanskrit is found by numberless examples
(whereof we gave one, _duhitar_) to show an origin for many words whose
origin is lost in other Aryan languages, and therefore to stand nearest
to the primitive tongue of the Aryans. In this lies the whole force of
the argument. If the old Aryans once used the same word for ‘heaven’ and
for ‘god,’ it is impossible to believe that they had the power of
separating at will the two ideas which we receive from these two words:
for an examination of formal logic shows us that notions do not become
completely distinguishable until they receive individual names. The
inference is obvious that a considerable number, at any rate, of the
gods of our Aryan ancestors were nature-gods in the strictest sense.

It is equally true, however, that such divinities tend to fall into
certain forms, and accommodate themselves to ideals which, or the germs
of which, we may believe pre-existed in the human mind. It is thus that
we have noticed the sun-gods and the heaven-gods fulfilling their
separate functions, and answering to certain defined needs in the human

P. 230. _Persephonê and Balder._--The true _tragedy_ of the death of
summer is in the Norse religion portrayed in the myth of Balder, the
sun-god, which in respect of its force and intention fully answers to
the Persephonê myth. It has often been a subject of surprise that
Balder’s-bale, Balder’s death, was not celebrated at a time of year
appropriate to mourning for the loss of the sun-god, but at the summer
solstice, when Balder attains his fullest might and brightest splendour.
Why choose such a day as that to think of his mournful bedimming in the
wintry months? It seems to show a strange, gloomy, and forecasting
nature on the part of our Norse ancestors to be always reflecting that
in the midst of life--in the midst of our brightest, fullest life--we
are in death.

I imagine that the custom of celebrating Balder’s-bale in this way arose
not entirely from the desire to preach this melancholy sermon; though in
part no doubt this desire was the cause of it. It arose also from a
dramatic instinct inducing men for the sake of a strong contrast to
surround the sun-god with all the images of summer at the time when they
were thinking of his death. It gives a dramatic intensity to the moment;
and thus it corresponds exactly with the picture of Persephonê playing
in the meadows in spring-time surrounded by all the attributes of
spring, just as Hades rises from the earth to bear her for ever from the
light of day.

P. 241. _Thanatos._--Thanatos and Hypnos belong to the region of
allegory rather than pure mythology. For in pure mythology the place of
the first is taken by Hades. In Vedic mythology their part is played by
the two Sâramayas; one probably chiefly a divinity of Death, the other
of Sleep, and the two being brothers, as of course Death and Sleep are.

It has been suggested that among a group of figures sculptured upon the
drum of a column brought from the Artemesium (Temple of Diana) at
Ephesus, one is a representation of Thanatos, Death. The figure is that
of a boy, as young and comely as Love, but of a somewhat passive
expression, and with a sword girt upon his thigh, which Eros never
wears. His right hand is raised as though he were beckoning: and with
him stand Dêmêtêr and Hermes, both divinities connected with the rites
of the dead. Save in this instance--if it be an instance--Thanatos is
unknown to early Greek art. Hypnos when he appears wears a fair womanish
face with closed eyes, scarcely distinguishable from the artistic
representation of the Gorgon. As the moon, this last is in some sense a
being of sleep and death.

P. 255. Myths and the rules of their interpretation have been made of
late years the subject of controversy almost as keen as that which has
raged round that primary question concerning the existence of
_nature-worship_ which we have discussed above. In this (XI.) and the
previous chapters the writers have endeavoured to keep before the reader
only those features in a myth which are essential towards the
information we are seeking. For instance, the number of myths which can
in any system be traced to the phenomena of the sun is a matter of the
highest importance, as showing the influence which a certain set of
phenomena had upon the national mind: but of much less significance is
the question of the exact origin of the different features in these
legendary tales. If any given tale be found to originate _solely_ in a
confusion of language, a mistaken, misinterpreted epithet, then it has
almost no interest for us as an interpreter of the popular thought and
feeling: unless indeed the shape which the story takes should reproduce
(as it probably will) some one of the universal forms which seem to
stand ready in the human mind for the moulding of its legends.

With regard to the particular question of sun (and other nature) myths
and their occurrence, the question which stands between rival disputants
is something of this sort: ‘All myths, that is, all primitive legends,’
says one party which may be regarded as the philological school, ‘are
found, if we examine closely enough into the meaning of the proper names
which occur in them, to represent originally some natural phenomenon,
which is in nine cases out of ten (at least for southern nations) a
story of some part of the sun’s daily course, some one of his
innumerable aspects.’ ‘Is it conceivable,’ say their opponents (we may
call these the anthropologists) ‘that man could ever have been in such a
condition that all his attention was turned upon the workings of nature
or upon the heavenly bodies? Far more probable is it, that these stories
arose from a variety of natural causes, real traditions of some hero,
reminiscences of historical events transformed in the mist of
exaggeration, or the legacy of days when men had strange and almost
inconceivable ideas about the world they live in, when they thought
animals spoke and had histories like men, that men could and frequently
did become trees, and trees men, etc., etc. Indeed, so strange and
senseless are the notions of primitive men, that it is wasted labour to
try and interpret them.’ This is a rough statement of the two heads of
argument. The second, so far as merely negative, must fall before
positive proof, as that the nature-myth hidden in an immense number of
stories can be by philology satisfactorily unravelled. There is,
however, also positive proof on the other side, when many stories, which
as nature-myths interpreted on philological principles should only have
existed among the people of a particular linguistic family, are found
among other races who have no real relation whatever to the first.

Both these sets of facts can be adduced, and to reconcile them in every
case would no doubt be hard. On the whole, however, it will perhaps be
found that, as has just been said, certain moulds for the construction
of stories seem to exist already in the human mind, obeying some natural
craving, and into these, as into a Procrustean bed, the myth more or
less easily must fit. These primitive forms do not, however, preclude
the undoubted existence--strange as such a phenomenon may appear--of an
especial mythopæic age connected with man’s observations of the
phenomena of nature--an age in which natural religions gained their
foundation, and when the doings of the external world had a much deeper
effect upon man’s imagination than in later times they have ever had.

P. 266. Thor’s journey to the house of giant Utgardloki (out-world
fire--fire of the under-world of Chapter X., and Chapter XI., p.
278)--is not told in the elder Edda, but appears at some length in the
Edda of Snorro (Daemisögur 44-48). There can be little question of the
antiquity of the tale, closely connected as it is with the labours of
Hercules as well as with all the most important elements in the Norse
mythology. But it may very easily be that it has undergone some
modifications before appearing in its present form; and we should be
naturally inclined to signalise as modern additions those parts of the
story which have an allegorical rather than a truly mythical character.
Allegory is a thing altogether distinct from real myth, and when it
springs up shows that the mythical character of the story is falling
into oblivion. The former is a growth of self-conscious fancy, while the
latter is the child of genuine belief. For instance--as an illustration
of the difference between allegory and mythology--I should be inclined
to signalise the appearance of the beings Logi (fire) and Elli (old age)
as a fanciful, an invented element in the story. Logi and Elli are not
important enough to be genuine deities of Fire and Age. In fact, the
former element has already received its personification in the person of
Loki. Yet the incidents with which they are associated may well have
formed an integral character of the older legend; and in the case of
Elli I feel pretty sure they must have done so.

What I imagine to have been the real case is this. Thor’s journey to
Utgardloki is a story closely parallel to the myth of the Death of
Balder, and tells once more the story of the sun-god descending to the
under-world. This fact is clearly shown by the name of the giant, who is
nothing else than a personification of the funeral fire, the fire which
surrounds the abode of souls (pp. 275, 278). All the powers with whom
Thor strives are personifications in some way of death--all, or almost
all. He tugs as he thinks at a cat and cannot lift it from the ground;
but the cat is Jormundgandr, the great mid-earth serpent, in part the
personification of the sea, but also (by reason of this) the
personification of the devouring hell ‘rapax Orcus’ (compare Cerberus
and the Sârameyas, and notice the middle age change of Orcus to Ogre).
He (or, in the story as we now have it, Loki) contends with a
personification of the death-fire, not with a mere allegorical
representation of fire in its common aspect. And again he contends not
with Elli, old age, but with Hel, the goddess of the under-world.

This is the original form into which I read back the mythical journey to
Utgardloki. It is easy to see how the story got changed. Loki is made to
accompany Thor instead of to fight against him; the later mythologists
not being able to understand how Loki could sometimes be a god and dwell
in Asgard, sometimes be a giant of Jotunheim. With this change the
others would easily creep in. Logi is invented to fight with Loki, and
Elli in place of Hel appears in obedience to a desire for allegory in
the place of true myth.


  Edkins, _Introduction to Study of the Chinese Characters_.
  Lenormant, _Essai sur la Propagation de l’Alphabet Phénicien_.
  Mahaffy, _Prolegomena to History_.
  Rawlinson, _Five Monarchies_.
  Rougé (Vte de), _Origine Égyptienne de l’Alphabet Phénicien_.
  Taylor, _The Alphabet_.
  Tylor, _Early History of Mankind_.

None of the Semitic alphabets can be considered as quite complete; as a
complete alphabet requires a subdivision of sounds into their smallest
divisions, and an appropriate sign for each of these. But none of the
Semitic alphabets in their original forms seem to have possessed these
qualifications. They never get nearer to the expression of vowel sounds
than by letters which may be considered half vowels. Each of their
consonants (in Phœnician, Hebrew, Arabic) carried a vowel sound with
it, and was therefore a syllabic sign and not a true letter.

No account is here given of the theory that the Chinese and the
Babylonian writing are derived from the same source, as this new and
startling theory is not sufficiently upon the _tapis_ to be treated of
in a book of this kind. The reader who is desirous of informing himself
upon the subject may do so (as far as is yet possible) by obtaining the
pamphlet by M. Terrien de la Couperie, _Early History of Chinese
Civilization_, wherein this theory was first expounded, as also another
and subsequent _brochure_, _History of Archaic Chinese Writing_.


  Curtius, _History of Greece_ (trs.).
  Gibbon, with notes by Milman, etc.
  Latham, _Germania of Tacitus_.
  Latham, _Nationalities of Europe_.
  Von Maurer, Op. cit.
  Mommsen, _Die unterital. Dialekten_.
  Mommsen, _Roman History_ (trs.).

P. 320. Following Mommsen, the Etruscans are here spoken of as though
belonging to the Italic family. This is liable to grave doubts; but the
question is at present too unsettled to admit of satisfactory discussion
in this place.



“_Abant_,” the word, 154.

Abraham, Bible history begins with, 113, 129;
  and Lot, 126, 155.

Accad, 125.

Accadians, 124, 128;
  the inventors of cuneiform writing, 311.

Adoption, ceremony of, among the Aryans, 146.

Agglutinative languages, 79, 81, 83, 88 _et seq._;
  spoken by the yellow race, 118.

Agni, 210; hymn to, 211;
  the Indian fire-god, 248.

Agricultural life, the, gives rise to new relations, 156.

Ahanâ, 257.

Ahura-mazda, the god of Zoroastrianism, 234.

Air-god of the Egyptians, 188.

Alani, the, 104, 325.

Alaric, 325.

Alphabet, the Phœnician, 304 _et seq._

Amenti, 179.

Amun, 181, 201.

Ana, 193.

Ancestor worship, 143;
  of the Aryans, 147.

Angles, the, 325.

Animal gods of the Egyptians, 191.

Animal worship of the Egyptians, 123.

Anubis, 192.

Aphroditê, 206, 224;
  an Asiatic divinity, 318.

Apollo, 202, 209, 214;
  the god of the Dorians and Ionians, 216;
  shrines of, 216;
  the sun-god pursuing Daphne, 257;
  found in the mythology of all branches of the Aryan family, 258.

Aral, lake, the region of, the home of the Turanians, 120.

Aramæans, 124.

_Aratrum_, the word, 108.

Ares, the national divinity of the Thracians, 220.

Armenians, 99.

Art, the earliest rudiments of, 17.

Artemis, 204, 223 _et seq._;
  and Endymion, the story of, a moon myth, 263.

“Arthur’s Chase,” 226.

Aryans, 98;
  the origin of, 99;
  evidence of language concerning, 108;
  the early, a pastoral people, 132;
  their entry into Europe, 133;
  their social system, 140;
  their faculty for abstract thought, 201;
  the other world of, 241 _et seq._;
  possessed a spiritual conception of the soul, 246;
  separation of, 316;
  their languages, 90;
  two main divisions of, 91;
  their mythology, remarkable for diversity of its legends, 199;
  their religion contrasted with Semitic, 197;
  the sky-god in, 199.

Ashara, the, 195.

Ashtoreth, 194.

Assyrians, the, 98, 129;
  their gods, 193 _et seq._

Athene, 204 _et seq._, 222.

Attila, 119.

Australians, the, 118.

Avars, the, 119.

Aztec picture writing, 292.

Aztecs of Mexico, the, 116.

Baal, 193.

Baal Chemosh, 194.

Baal Zebub, 194.

Babel, 124.

Babylon, 127.

Babylonians, the, 98.

Bæda, quotation from, 1.

Balder, 203;
  a sun-god, 229, 246;
  the myth of his death, 250 _et seq._

Barbarians, origin of word, 105.

Barbarossa, legend of, 278.

Barter in the stone age, 139.

Bavarians, the, 104.

“Beauty and the Beast,” 259.

Bel Merodoch, 194.

Beowulf, 327; the poem of, 267;
  the Lohengrin myth in, 276.

Bible narrative, an aid to prehistoric study, 2;
  itself corrected and enlarged by prehistoric inquiry, 5;
  continuous history begins with Abraham, 113.

Bil, Assyrian sun-god, 193.

Black races, the, 115.

Bow, earliest use of the, 50.

Brahma, 202.

Brehon laws, the, 322.

Brennus, 322.

Bridge of death, the, 277.

Bronze age, the, 54;
  domestication of animals in, 148.

Bronze introduced into Europe by the Aryans, 140.

Bronze weapons, found throughout Europe, 149.

Browning’s “Pied Piper of Hameln,” 272.

Bulgarians, the, 106.

Burgundians, the, 104, 325.

Burial customs, 40.

Burial mounds. See TUMULI.

Canaanites, the, 98; their gods, 195.

Carinthians, the, 105.

Case endings, origin of, 75.

Caspian Sea, the boundary of the Aryan home, 243.

Cattle, place of, in Aryan mythology, 151.

Cave-dwellers, 49;
  implements of, 15;
  drawings of, 18;
  used fire, 20;
  skeletons of, 21.

Celts, the, 101, 322;
  their fighting capacity, 323.

Cerberus, 245.

Chaldæa, 123.

Chaldæans, 98;
  a mixed people, 124;
  their buildings, 125;
  their civilization, traces of, found in that of Mexico and Peru, 128;
  their religion, 193.

Cherdorlaomer, 126.

China, 127.

Chinese, 117;
  kept in a primitive condition by the early invention of writing;
  their characters, symbolic, 293 _et seq._;
  determinitive signs of, 295;
  their civilization connected with that of the Accadians, 128.

Cimbri, the, 103.

Civilization, successive steps in the earliest, 135.

Clovis, 325.

Commerce of Cave-dwellers, 52;
  among the Aryans, 152.

Confucius, 127.

Cord records, 284.

Crab, the word, 68.

Cromlechs, 42.

Cuneiform writing, 310.

Cupid and Psyche, the myth of, 258.

Cushites, the, 119.

Cybele, 205.

Czechs, the, 105.

Dagon, 194.

Daphne, the dawn, 257.

Daughter, signification of the word, 108, 110, 132, 200.

Dawn and evening in the Veda, 212.

Death, the region of, 236 _et seq._;
  Aryan idea of, 237;
  Egyptian idea of, 238;
  a journey to the sky, 241;
  the Indian conception of, 244;
  the river of, 243;
  and sleep, 243; myths of, 273;
  the various images of, in popular tales, 278.

Delphi, 216.

Demeter, 204, 205;
  and Persephone, 220 _et seq._

Determinitive signs, 295.

_dic_ the Latin root, 70.

Domestication of animals in second stone age, 50;
  in the bronze age, 148.

Drift implements, 10;
  form a class apart, 11;
  types of, 13.

Drift period, men of the, 49.

Druid circles, so-called, 42.

Dutch, 99, 104.

Dyâus, 199, 202, 207.

Eadwine, King, 1.

Earth-goddess of the Aryans, 204.

Eddic poems, 327.

Egypt, history begins in, 52, 121;
  peculiar features of nature in, 178;
  the land-root of civilization, 314.

Egyptians, 97.

Egyptian civilization, the continuation of that of the stone age, 121;
  intellectual character of, 122.

---- idea of death and the soul, 238 _et seq._

---- life and thought, two elements in the character of, 122.

---- religion, 176;
  how distinguished from that of other nations, 178;
  influence of nature on, 178;
  nature gods of, 181;
  distinctive feature of, 181;
  divinities of, 181 _et seq._

---- writing, 298 _et seq._;
  mixed character of, 301;
  difficulty in deciphering, 302;
  Hieratic and Demotic, 303.

El. See IL.

Elamites, 125.

Elysian Fields, 242.

English, the, 104.

_Erde_ and _Herde_, 94.

Erech, 125.

Eskimo, the, 117.

Etruscans, the, 320.

Fee, the word, 151.

“Fight of Finnsburg,” 327.

Finnish tongues, 90.

Finns, the, 117.

Flemings, the, 104.

Flint weapons of Presigny, 139.

Franks, 104, 325.

French, the, 99.

Frey, 203, 204.

Freyja, 204;
  the goddess of spring, beauty, and love, 230.

Freyr, 230.

Frigg, 204, 205, 230.

Gaedhill, 101.

Gaels, 101.

Gaulish myth of a sea of death, 276.

Gauls, the, 101.

Genghis Khan, 119.

Geological periods, length of, 7.

Gerda, 231.

German and English, kinship of, 92.

Germans, the, 99.

Gesture language gives no insight into the origin of language, 62.

_Gewiss_, the word, 66.

Gipsies, 159.

Glass mountains, the stories of, allegories of death, 279.

Goths, the, 324.

Government, an extensive scheme of, impossible to a people
        ignorant of social arts, 167.

Græco-Italic family, the, 319.

Grammatical terminations accounted for, 74.

Greek conception of the realms of death, 241 _et seq._

Greeks, 99, 102;
  appearance of in Europe, 133;
  their religion, 214;
  the first European nation, 317;
  from the beginning a commercial people, 318.

Grimm’s laws, 107.

Hackelberg, the wild huntsman of the Harz, 270.

Hades, 241.

Hadubrand and Hildebrand, the lay of, 327.

Hamites, the, 119.

Hapi, 192.

Hathor, 188.

Hel, 250.

Hellenes, 102;
  first use of the word as a national epithet, 319.

Hera, 204.

Heracles, 202, 209;
  life and labors of, 218.

Hermes, 217 _et seq._;
  the wind god, 232, 244.

Herne the Hunter, 226, 249.

Hieratic and Demotic writing of the Egyptians, 303.

Hieroglyphic writing of the Egyptians, 298.

Hindoos, 98.

History, prerequisite conditions of, 3.

Hittites, the, 315.

Hoa, 193.

Hormuzd, 234.

Horus, 184, 196, 201.

House-fire, the sacred, among the Aryans, 144.

Householders, assembly of, in the village community, 163.

Human victims found in tumuli, 37.

Huns, the, 119.

Hunter, life of the primitive, 137.

Iberians, the, 101.

Ideographs, groups of, 294.

Il, the most ancient conception of God known to the Semites, 195.

Implements of later stone age, 39.

Incas of Peru, 116.

Indians, the North American, 159;
  “picturing” of, 288, 290 _et seq._

Indra, 202, 206;
  hymn to, 208;
  character of, 209;
  resembles Apollo, 217.

Inflected language, 79, 81, 83;
  spoken by the white race, 118;
  divisions of, 118.

Inflections, growth of, 70;
  the third stage in the formation of language, 72.

Ishtar, 194.

Isis, 189, 195, 196.

Israel, the children of a nomadic people, 130.

Italians, 99; the primitive, 320.

“Jack the Giant Killer,” 264.

Japanese use of Chinese characters, 296.

“_Javan_” in the Bible for Ionians, 318.

Jupiter, 199, 202, 206, 207.

Kaiser Karl in the Unterberg, 278.

Karkemish, 315.

Kinship in languages, 91.

Kitchen-Middens. See SHELL MOUNDS.

Kneph, 188.

Kurdur-Nankunty, a king of Susa, 126.

Lake dwellings, bronze weapons found in the later, 150.

Lake villages, the, 44;
  construction of, 45;
  object of 46;
  civilization of, 47, 52.

Language, the growth of, 55;
  five stages in, 81;
  arrested by the invention of writing, 84;
  change in, resolved into two forces, 85;
  classification by, 106;
  holds the records of past times, 106;
  the key to the early Aryan civilization, 141.

_Langue d’oil_ and _langue d’oc_, 66.

Lapps, the, 117.

Letters, invention and growth of, 280 _et seq._;
  invention of, by the Egyptians, 301.

Law first connected with religion, 166.

_Leiche_, the word, 93.

Lithuanians, the, 99, 105.

Lohengrin, myth, 275, 276.

Loki, 210.

Lombards, the, 104.

Longobardi, the, 325.

Lot, 126.

Mâ, the Sanskrit root, 68.

Magyars, the, 119.

Mammoth age, the, 10.

Mammoth, drawing of a, by a prehistoric man, 18.

Man, the earliest traces of, 6;
  his first stages of life, 16.

“Man,” the one who measures, 68.

Mankind, progress of, in the stone ages, 48 _et seq._

Maoris, the, 118.

Mara, the name, 272.

Mark, the word, 153.

Marriage ceremony among the Aryans, 145.

Maruts, the hymn to, 209.

Maut, an Egyptian divinity, 187

Melanesia, 115.

Menes, 121.

Mesopotamia, 123.

Milky Way, the, a river of death, 277.

Minôs, 318.

Mir, the Russian, 162.

Mitra, 211.

Mnemonics, different systems of, 284 _et seq._

Moloch, 194.

Monger, the word, 153.

Mongolians, marks of the, 120.

Monosyllabic language, 78, 81, 83.

Montenegrins, the, 106.

Moon, “the measurer,” 68.

Moon-gods of the Egyptians, 185.

Moon myths, 262 _et seq._

Moravians, the, 105.

Moses receives the law, 166.

Mound-builders, their religion, 40.

Mythologies, the relationship between different, 173;
  of the different Aryan nations, 176.

Mythology explained through the study of language, 172, 173;
  the earliest, 177;
  of the Shemites barren in incident and character, 195;
  the stories related of the gods, 255.

Myths, diversity of, 254;
  of death and the other world, 273.

Nation, the beginnings of, 313, 316.

Nations of the prehistoric world, 133.

Nature worship at the bottom of most mythologies, 173;
  this does not imply an absence of spirituality, 176;
  the objects of, everywhere the same, 177;
  in Aryan religions, 197.

Neanderthal, 15;
  skeleton discovered in, 22.

Nebo, 194.

Negroes of Africa and Melanesia, 115.

Neit, 187.

Neolithic era, 13, 29.

Nephthys, 190.

Nergal, 194.

Nerthus, 204.

New Guinea, 115.

Nibelungen, the, 327.

Nile, the, significance of to the Egyptians, 180;
  the personification of, 192.

Nimrod, 125.

Nin, 194.

Noah, 118.

Norsemen, the other world of the, 249.

_Obotriti_, the, 105.

O’Brien, origin of the name, 323.

Odin, 204, 224 _et seq._;
  the heaven god, 227;
  collects the souls of heroes slain in battle, 249, 268;
  as the Wandering Jew, etc., 264;
  as the “Pied Piper” of Hameln, 264, 272;
  as the arch fiend, 270.

“Old Mother Goose,” 272.

Osiri, the name, how written by the Egyptians, 301.

Osiris, 182, 193, 196, 201.

Ostro-Goths, the, 104.

Ouse, the, prolific in drift implements, 11.

Oxus, the, 99.

Palæolithic era, 13, 25.

Pan, 215.

Pastoral life, qualities involved in, 150;
  a nomadic one, 151.

Patriarch, the authority of a, part of Aryan religion, 167.

Patriarchal family, the, 141.

Patriarchal customs, 142.

Patroclus, funeral of, a picture of Aryan rites, 247.

_Pecunia_, the word, 151.

Pelasgi, 102, 320;
  the worshippers of pure nature, 215.

Persephone, 204, 221 _et seq._

Perseus and the Gorgon, a sun story, 262.

Persians, 98.

Perthes, M. Boucher de, 11.

Peruvian system of mnemonics, 284.

Phantom army, the legend of, 225, 249.

Phœbus Apollo, the god of the younger Greeks, 318.

Phœnicians, 98, 129;
  commercial needs gave rise to their alphabet, 305;
  the transporters of civilization, 315;
  in Europe, 317.

Phœnician alphabet, 304;
  how formed, 305;
  resemblance to Hieratic writing of Egyptians, 306;
  the parent of all existing alphabets except Japanese, 308;
  how modified, 309.

Phonetic signs, origin of, 299 _et seq._

Phonetic writing, transition to, 297.

Picture records, 287.

Picture writing, 289 _et seq._

Picturing, 287;
  distinguished from picture-writing, 290.

“Pied Piper of Hameln,” the, 264, 272;
  a Slavonic legend, 273.

Poles, the, 99, 105.

Polynesian islands, 118.

Pomeranians, the, 105.

Pottery, broken, strewed at the grave’s mouth, 40.

Prehistoric conditions, our knowledge of, uncertain, 4.

Prehistoric studies, aids to, 2;
  of events, rather than chronological, 6.

Prince Hatt under the earth, the Swedish story of, 260.

Prithvi, 205, 220.

Proper names, researches into, 111;
  in the Bible often stand for races, 114.

Prussians, the, 105.

Ptah, 184.

Pyramids, a sort of tumuli, 53.

Python, the, 202.

Quipus, the Peruvian cord records, 285.

Ra, 184.

Red races, 116;
  considered by some a variety of the yellow race, 118.

Religion of the mound-builders, 40;
  first signs of, 51.

Religious rites hard to trace back, 172.

Rents, the three, 152.

Rex, the, 95, 109.

Rivers, English, the names of, Keltic, 111.

Romans, the, 99, 102, 320;
  development as a nation, internal, 321.

Rome, her proficiency in the arts
of government, 168.

Root sounds, 67.

Runes, Gothic, 309.

Russians, the, 99, 105.

Russian village communities, 169.

Sabhâ, the, 144.

St. Ursula, the myth of, 263.

San, 194.

Sarama, 218; the Sons of, 244.

Sargon I., 125.

_Sarrasin_, the word, 159.

Sati, 188.

Savitar, hymn to, 213.

Saxons, 325.

Scandinavians, 99, 104.

Sea coast, gradual protrusion of, 34.

Sea of death, the, mythical, 276.

Sekhet-Pasht, 185.

Semitic languages. See ARYAN.

Semitic races, 97.

Semitic religion infused with awe, 198.

Servians, the, 106.

Shell mounds, 29, 34;
  proofs of their antiquity, 35, 136.

_Sheol_, 241, note.

Siamese, the, 117.

Sigurd the Volsung, 267;
  fire and thorn hedge used in the tale of, 278.

Silesians, 105.

Sin, 194.

Skirnir, 231.

Sky-divinities of the Egyptians, 187.

Sky-god of the Aryans, 200.

Slavonians, the, 103, 104;
  pushing back the Tartars, 119.

Social life, early, 135.

Soil-deity of the Egyptians, 189.

Somme, the, drift implements first discovered in the bed of, 11.

“Son of,” how used in the Bible, 114.

Sorabians, the, 105.

Sothis, 192.

Sound and sense, connection of, 61.

Spanish, the, 99.

Speech, the origin of, indiscoverable, 59.

Stone age, the two periods of, 12.

Stone age, the old, man’s life in, 24;
  animals of, 26.

Stone age, the later, 28;
  theories to account for the transition to, 28;
  continuous history begins with, 29;
  man of, in Denmark, 30;
  navigation of, 30;
  domestic animals in, 32, 36;
  men of, not cannibals, 32;
  burial mounds of, 36;
  human victims in, 37;
  classes of implements of, 38;
  pottery of, 39;
  ornaments, 41;
  burial customs of, 40;
  tumuli, the truest existing representatives of, 43;
  also called the polished stone age, 43;
  duration of, in Europe, 44;
  civilization of, 47 _et seq._;
  successive steps in, 49 _et seq._;
  first signs of religion in, 51;
  civilization of, 52;
  implements of, different materials of, 50;
  people, little known of their social state, 136.

Stone ages, progress of mankind in, 48 _et seq._

Stonehenge, 36, 42.

Suevi, the, 104, 325.

Sun, supreme god of the Semitic nations, 200;
  hopes of futurity suggested by, 246.

Sun-god, the death of, 236.

Sun-gods of the Egyptians, 181 _et seq._;
  how regarded by the Indo-European nations, 202.

Sun-heroes, the different, 262.

Sun-myths, 257.

Surya, 211.

Susa, 126.

Swan, the, connected with ideas of death, 275.

Swarga, 244.

Symbolical teaching of the Egyptians, 191.

Tallies, the invention of, the germ of writing, 283.

Tannhäuser, the legend of, 263.

Tartar class of languages, 89.

Tartar races, invasion of the, 119.

Tasmania, 114.

Tellus, 205.

Teutonic family of nations, 103, 104.

Teutons, village history of the, 169;
  divisions of, 324;
  an agricultural people, 326;
  conquerors, 326;
  feudal, 327;
  poems of, 327.

Tew, 199.

Thanatos, 241.

Thammuz, 194.

Thibetans, the, 117.

Thmei, 192.

Thor, 202;
  labors of, 228;
  as “Jack the Giant Killer,” 264;
  the recovery of his hammer, 264.

Thoth, 185, 194.

“Time and Tide,” 94.

Timûr Link (Tamerlaine), 119.

Tomb-builders, the, 36.

Towns, English, the names of Teutonic, etc., 111.

Tumuli, 36; contents of, 37;
  pottery found in, 52, 125;
  civilization of the builders of the, 138.

Turanian languages, 88.

Turanians of Central Asia, 119;
  the early inhabitants of India were, 120.

Turks, the, 119.

Typhon, 196, 202.

Tyr, 228.

Ulfilas, 324.

Ur of the Chaldees, 125.

Urki, 194.

Urvasi and Pururaras, the story of, 258.

Ushas, 205.

Vandals, 104, 325.

Van der Decken, 226.

Valkyriur, the, 249, 269;
  changed into witches, 272, 275.

Varuna, 203; corresponds to Ouranos, 231.

Vedic religion of India, 207.

Verb endings, origin of, 75.

Village community, the, 159;
  features and regulations of, 160;
  relation of the members to each other, 161;
  correspondence of the Russian _Mir_ to, 162;
  source of authority in, 162;
  essentials of a true, 163;
  assembly of householders, 163;
  origin of, 163;
  the ideas of personal and communal property arise in, 165;
  origin of, distinction between
divine and human law, in, 167;
  changes resulting from the adoption of, 68;
  chief of the Teuton, possessed of but little power, 170.

Visi-Goths, 104.

Vortices of national life, 313.

Vritra, 209.

Vul, 194.

Wampum, 284.

“Wandering Jew,” the, 264, 270.

White races, 118.

_Wiltzi_, 105.

Wind-myths, 268.

Words, significant and _in_-significant, 57 _et seq._;
  formation of, by joining others, 72.

Writing, the art of picturing sound, 281;
  the invention of, 282.

Yaranas, 100, 132.

Yellow races, 117.

_Yes_, origin of the word, 65.

Zend Avesta, 207, 233, 235.

Zend language, the, 235.

Zend religion, the, pre-eminence of, 232.

Zeus, 199, 202, 206;
  the Olympic and Pelasgic, 214;
  shrines of, at Dodona and in Elis, 215, 227.

Zio, 199.

Zoroaster, 166.

Zoroastrianism, 233.


 [1] Bæda, ii. 13.

 [2] See Appendix.

 [3] Mr. Evans in his _Stone Implements of Great Britain_ divides those
 of the River Drift into Flakes, Pointed Implements, and Sharp-rimmed

 [4] Most of these carved implements were discovered by Mr. Christy and
 M. Lartet, and left by the former to the French Museum of Prehistoric
 Antiquities at St. Germains. Exact copies of these in plaster, as well
 as several carved bones, may however be seen at the British Museum;
 and during the last year the national collection has been greatly
 enriched by the acquisition of several beautiful specimens of cave
 carvings from the collection of M. Pecadeau de l’Isle.

 [5] See Appendix.

 [6] It is curious that there are no remains in Scandinavia which can
 with certainty be called palæolithic. It would seem as though during
 this era the countries remained too cold for habitation.

 [7] Both in Switzerland and in the neighbourhood of the Pyrenees.

 [8] _In height_, that is. The distance of coast-line which disappears
 owing to the mere volcanic depression, or the distance of coast-line
 which appears on the other shore from volcanic upheaval (independently
 of river deposits, etc.), depends of course upon the level of the
 coast. It would not, however, be generally more than a yard or two.

 [9] Probably as altars or perhaps as gods themselves. I desire to
 speak with great caution of the rude stone monuments of Europe; for of
 all branches of prehistoric study this has been the least developed by
 modern research.

 [10] It seems highly probable that the invention of some sort of malt
 liquor followed upon the growth of corn. Tacitus mentions such a
 liquor as having been drunk by the Germans of his day. He is doubtless
 describing a sort of beer.

 [11] But not sheep apparently; at least not in Western Europe. In
 these islands the sheep did not appear before the time of Julius Cæsar.

 [12] _Hamlet_, act v., sc. 1.

 [13] M. Troyon has started the idea that the crouched attitude of the
 dead--_repliée_, as he describes it: he declares that it does not
 in the least resemble the crouched attitude which men of some races
 assume when sleeping--was imposed upon the dead with a symbolical
 meaning, viz. that it was meant to imitate the position of the
 child in the womb of its parent, and as such to enfold the hope of
 resurrection in the act of entombment. The idea is a poetical one, but
 I much doubt whether it has pre-existed in other minds before finding
 a place in that of M. Troyon. The author, however, should be heard in
 defence of his own theory, and may be so in the _Revue Arch._, ix. 289.

 [14] Some of the varieties of grain found in these lake-dwellings are
 not otherwise known to botanists.

 [15] The Phœnicians are said by tradition to have invented the
 manufacture of glass. But there is no proof of this.

 [16] Of course the making of very rude huts of branches and leaves may
 have been practised by these--such huts as formed the only shelter of
 the Tasmanians down to our day. For an imaginative description of the
 most primitive house, see Violet de Duc, _The Houses of Men in all
 Ages_, ch. i.

 [17] The simile is Mr. Max Müller’s.

 [18] In English we have _grind_, _grate_, (_s_)_cra_(_pe_), _grave_
 (German _graben_, ‘to dig;’ Eng. ‘grub.’) All words for writing mean
 cutting, because all writing was originally graving on a stone: thus
 the Latin _scribo_ (corrupted in the French to _écris_), in the Greek
 is _grapho_, in the German _schreibe_. These words, as well as the
 English _write_, are known to be all from the same root; it is not
 pretended that they are _proofs_ of a natural selection of sound; but
 they may be instances of it.

 [19] The reader, however, may be referred to Tylor’s _Early History of
 Mankind_, ch. iv., for much interesting information on the subject.

 [20] _Yes_ is probably not the same word as the German _ja_ (whose
 significant form is lost), though our _yea_ is.

 [21] See below, pp. 70-80.

 [22] These two words have, it is true, quite changed their meanings;
 but our _knight_ rose to its honourable sense from having come to be
 used only for the servants or attendants of the king (in battle),
 while the German word retained its older sense of servant, groom, only.

 [23] See above, p. 66.

 [24] The reader who does not know Latin may easily recognize the
 kindred forms in French, Italian, Spanish, etc.

 [25] Mr. Max Müller calls it the _terminational_ stage.

 [26] _Agone_ is possibly from a stronger form _âgan_, ‘to pass away.’

 [27] To get the full sound of the _th_, this should be said not as we
 pronounce our article _the_ (which really has the sound _dhe_), but
 like the first part of Thebes, theme, etc.

 [28] Cf. the Greek _klutos_.

 [29] Stephen, _Lectures on the History of France_.

 [30] This is the theory of Aryan origins still most generally
 accepted. It has, however, been maintained by several philologists
 that there is no evidence of an Asiatic origin of the European nations.

 [31] See Chapter I.

 [32] Among the Iberians, however, the Celtic blood was much diluted
 with an infusion of that of an earlier Turanian race allied to the
 modern Basques.

 [33] Or say, rather, the people of Italy. Only the Etruscans
 must probably be excepted from the category, and the Gauls, who
 subsequently settled themselves in Cisalpine Gaul.

 [34] The principal among these laws were elaborated by Jacob Grimm,
 and hence called ‘Grimm’s Laws.’ They may be seen in his _Teutonic
 Grammar_, and also in his _History of the German Tongue_.

 [35] Because they would be hardly likely to give a fresh name to such
 an intimate relationship as the daughter. On the other hand, it seems
 necessary that the Aryan race must have been in the hunter state at
 some period, and equally necessary that they must _then_ have had a
 word for daughter. Milking, it may be urged, might be practised before
 the domestication of animals. See also Chapter VI.

 [36] Supreme, because his title became a supreme title among these
 _different_ Aryan stocks.

 [37] And this without any reproach to the industry of those at work.
 The volumes of Kühn’s _Zeitschr. für vergleichende Sprachforschung_,
 Lazarus and Steinthal’s _Zeitsch. f. Völkerpsychologie_, M. Pictet’s
 fascinating _Origines indo-européennes_, etc., are storehouses which
 display the treasures already obtained.

 [38] Such a book as we have imagined would form a natural sequel to
 the principles of comparative grammar as laid down by Bopp, etc. It
 would differ from a mere comparative dictionary in the arrangement,
 showing the nature and extent of modification which each word had
 undergone--where, for instance, Grimm’s laws of change hold good,
 where not; the cases of the survival of archaic forms (agreeable to
 Grimm’s _second law_); and, if they could be discovered as the result
 of such a classification, the determining causes of such survival
 among any of the different races.

 [39] I have been told that the late Lord Strangford, a great linguist,
 and a comparative philologist to boot, could always find amusement
 for an idle half-hour in a book which the reader would probably think
 of, if asked to name the most uninteresting of created things--I mean
 Bradshaw, English or foreign; and his interest lay in extracting the
 hidden meaning and history which lay concealed in these lists of
 geographical names.

 [40] It is found that the peculiarity of curling or not curling in
 hair depends upon the form, the form in _section_, of the individual
 hairs. The woolly hairs are oval in section, the straight ones round.

 [41] Lenormant, _Manual of the Ancient History of the East_, vol. i.,
 p. 55.

 [42] Not that this particular foothold has descended to the Turks from
 early times. See the next paragraph.

 [43] Lenormant, _Manual_, i. 343. It should be remarked that the
 authority of Justin on such a point is not high.

 [44] Mariette’s date is B.C. 5004, Lepsius’s 3892,
 Wilkinson’s only 2700. Wilkinson’s chronology, however, founded upon
 the theory of _contemporaneous dynasties_ in the lists of Manetho, has
 now been generally rejected.

 [45] Shûmîr was a portion of the country inhabited by the Accadians.

 [46] See Chapter XIII.

 [47] Gen. xi. 2.

 [48] Gen. xiv.

 [49] Kung-foo-tse was his real name.

 [50] ‘Fool! why journeyest thou wearisomely in thy antiquarian
 fervour to gaze on the stone pyramids of Geeza, or the clay stones
 of Sacchara? These stand there, as I can tell thee, idle and inert,
 looking over the desert, foolishly enough, for the last three thousand
 years; but canst thou not open thy Hebrew BIBLE, or even
 Luther’s version thereof?’ _Sartor Resartus._

 [51] For example, the Hindee _rupee_, the Latin _pecunia_, and our

 [52] As the Sanskrit _gôpa_, ‘a prince,’ the Slavonic _hospodar_ (from
 _gôspada_) contains the word _gô_, our ‘cow,’ and means the protector
 of the cattle; from the same root, Sanskrit _gavya_, ‘pasturage,’
 Saxon _gê_, ‘county,’ Greek _gaia_, or _gê_, ‘earth.’

 [53] See above, page 94.

 [54] Cattle were probably originally communal property: and were
 appropriated to individuals at a later stage than other movable goods.
 In the Roman law we find that they could only be transferred by the
 same forms as were required for the conveyance of land: being classed
 amongst the ‘res mancipi.’

 [55] The same connection between ‘mother’ and ‘daughter’ villages also
 once existed to a large extent in Germany.

 [56] That is to say, the stories themselves may be old enough; the
 application of them to some special members of a pantheon marks the
 condition of the creed.

 [57] The etymology of Indra’s name is uncertain. It cannot therefore
 be said whether or no he was originally a sun-god, though he has many
 of the attributes of one. In the Vedas he is also a god of storms.

 [58] Welcker maintains (_Griech. Götterlehre_) that the title, Son
 of Time, belonged to Zeus before Kronos (Chronos) was invented as a
 personality to be the father of Zeus.

 [59] I purposely leave out Aphrodite (Venus) from this category, as
 she partakes so much of the nature of an Oriental goddess.

 [60] Not directly, however; see Grimm, D. M., vol. i., p. 252.

 [61] Soma was the mystic (and no doubt intoxicating) drink used in the
 sacrifices, and poured as libation to the gods. It was personified as
 a divinity.

 [62] The _flash_, the father of the Maruts (?).

 [63] The dew? (=Prokris?) imaged here as a cow. She is the mother of
 the Maruts.

 [64] Though the character of this has been a good deal exaggerated in
 the popular notions of the religion of the ancient Persians.

 [65] Mitra is associated with the idea of the sun. But I incline to
 think that originally he was rather the wind of morning, or even the
 morning _sky_. He is almost always linked in the hymns with Varuna,
 who most certainly was at one time the sky (ούρανός), and once a
 supreme god. See what is said below of Surya.

 [66] The Dawn. See p. 205.

 [67] The fish.

 [68] Literally, ‘the egg’s son.’

 [69] It has been already said that the Latin mythology, _as we know
 it_, is almost all borrowed directly from the Greek. It is obviously
 right, therefore, to call the deities by their Greek, and not, as was
 till recently always done, by their Latin names. The Latin gods had
 no doubt much of the character of their Greek brethren; but it is to
 the Greek poets that we are really indebted for what we know about
 them. In this chapter, for the sake of clearness, the Latin name is
 generally given in parentheses after the Greek one.

 [70] To appreciate this we must compare the representations of Apollo
 with those of Helios, who was simply and frankly a sun-god even to
 the later Greeks, and we see that they are essentially the same
 personality. Even in the very early statues of Apollo, where the
 artist had not the skill to make wide, flowing locks, the hair is
 always indicated with great care and some elaboration of detail.

 [71] A word allied to our _fen_.

 [72] Homeric hymn to Dêmêtêr.

 [73] See Appendix. _Persephone and Balder._

 [74] Albeit that Aphroditê like Athenê is likewise a goddess sprung
 from water--from the sea.

 [75] As she springs from the head of Zeus, the storm-cloud.

 [76] Our knowledge of Teutonic mythology is chiefly gathered from the
 Norsemen, and in fact almost exclusively from Icelandic literature.
 The most valuable source of all is the collection of sacred songs
 which generally goes by the name of _Edda den Ældra_, the Elder Edda.

 [77] Odhinn is the Norse, Wuotan the German, Wodan or Wodin the
 English name.

 [78] Or else the god who inspires. (See _Corp. Poet Bor._, Introd., p.

 [79] Literally, ‘The Hall of the Slain,’ _i.e._ the hall of heroes.

 [80] Æsir, pl. of As or Ans, the general Norse name for a god.

 [81] One of the last appearances of such a phantom army is graphically
 described by Mr. Motley in his _History of the Dutch Republic_.
 The occasion was a short time before the battle of Mookerhyde, in
 which the army of Prince Louis of Nassau was defeated, and himself
 slain:--‘Early in February five soldiers of the burgher guard at
 Utrecht, being on their midnight watch, beheld in the sky above them
 the representation of a furious battle. The sky was extremely dark
 except directly over their heads, where for a space equal in extent
 to the length of the city, and in breadth to that of an ordinary
 chamber, two armies in battle array were seen advancing upon each
 other. The one moved rapidly up from the north-west, with banners
 waving, spears flashing, trumpets sounding, accompanied by heavy
 artillery and by squadrons of cavalry. The other came slowly forward
 from the south-east, as if from an entrenched camp, to encounter
 their assailants. There was a fierce action for a few moments, the
 shouts of the combatants, the heavy discharge of cannon, the rattle
 of musketry, the tramp of heavy-armed foot-soldiers, and the rush of
 cavalry being distinctly heard. The firmament trembled with the shock
 of the contending hosts, and was lurid with the rapid discharges of
 their artillery.... The struggle seemed but short. The lances of the
 south-eastern army seemed to snap ‘like hempstalks,’ while their firm
 columns all went down together in mass beneath the onset of their
 enemies. The overthrow was complete--victors and vanquished had faded;
 the clear blue space, surrounded by black clouds, was empty, when
 suddenly its whole extent where the conflict had so lately raged was
 streaked with blood, flowing athwart the sky in broad crimson streaks;
 nor was it till the five witnesses had fully watched and pondered over
 these portents that the vision entirely vanished.’ (Vol. ii., p. 526.)

 [82] The story of Van der Decken, the Flying Dutchman, is surely (more
 especially since its dramatization by Wagner) too well known to need
 relation. Van der Decken, or Dekken, seems to mean ‘the man with the
 cloak;’ he too is probably a changed form of Odin.

 [83] It may be as well to say here that every detail of the legend is
 found upon a critical inquiry to be significant. His name Hackelbärend
 (cloak-bearer) connects him with Odin, the wind-god. His two dogs
 connect him with two dogs of Sanskrit mythology, also signifying the

 [84] See Uhland, _Der Mythus von Thor_.

 [85] _Baldur; a Song of Divine Death_, by Robert Buchanan.

 [86] This scarcely holds as a simile, for in fact the light _is_ the
 aurora. It need hardly be said, therefore, that the comparison is not
 found in the original story.

 [87] _I.e._ Garðr a general name for earth, expanded from the confined
 meaning of inclosure, _yard_ (allied to οἶκος, _hortus_); just as γαῖα
 is connected with a cow-inclosure.

 [88] The meaning of Zoroaster, or rather Zarathustra, his true name.
 The reader may usefully consult M. James Darmesteter’s _Zend Avesta_
 (_Sacred Books of the East_, vol. iv.), in which he will see how much
 of this religion is (in the opinion of M. Darmesteter) simply an early
 nature-religion parallel to that of the Vedas.

 [89] Hence the name Mazdean applied to this creed.

 [90] See Chapter IV., p. 100.

 [91] Or the graves of those whom he desired specially to honour. We
 can guess at the process of his thought pretty well. First, the body
 is buried deep, or earth is thrown over it in a heap, to keep it from
 being torn up by wild beasts. Then as the covering of the body gets to
 be thought a special insurance of vitality to the soul, the practice
 is exaggerated more and more until we get the great grave-mounds and
 the pyramids.

 [92] Wooden statues were very common in the earliest Egyptian
 dynasties. But they belong to these only.

 [93] Blue or green is the colour of Osiris, who represents the soul.
 (See Chapter VII.)

 [94] The Egyptian tombs having generally an upper chamber for the
 sacrifices or funeral feasts, and a chamber in the earth beneath for
 the mummy.

 [95] _Sheol_ is the Hebrew word generally translated ‘grave’ in our
 version. Very different from the teaching of modern religion is the
 following passage:--

    ‘_Sheol_ shall not praise the Jehovah,
     The dead shall not celebrate Thee:
     They that go down into the pit shall not hope for Thy truth.
     The living, the living, shall praise Thee as I do this day.’
                       (Isa. xxxviii. 18, 19.)

 [96] Still, this effect of their art on us may arise from the
 disappearance of some monuments which had a very different character,
 _e.g._ the _campo santo_ pictures, as we may call them, of Polygnotus
 at Delphi. (See Pausanias, x. 28.)

 [97] The reason why the ‘blameless Ethiopians’ were honoured by name
 and by the company of the gods, is most likely to be found in the fact
 of their living, as Homer thought, so near the western border of the

 [98] Weber, in Chamb. 1020.

 [99] V_r_hadâra_n_yaka, _Ed. Pol._, iii. 4-7.

 [100] According to the proper laws of change from Sanskrit to Greek,
 Sârameyas = Έρμείας, Έρμής

 [101] Wilson, _As. Res._, iii. 409.

 [102] vii. 6, 15.

 [103] Father of the ‘family’ in its larger sense. (See the chapter on
 Early Social Life.)

 [104] ψυχή, _spiritus_, Geist, ghost, all from the notion of breathing.


    ψυχή δἐ κατἀ χθονὀς, ἠΰτε καπνός, ᾤχετο
             (_Il._ xxiii, 100.)

    ‘And to its home beneath the earth like _smoke_
     His soul went down.’

 [106] The suggestion of Grimm (_Ueber das Verb. der Leichen_), that
 burying may have been used by an agricultural people, by those who
 were wont to watch the sown seed spring into new life, whereas burning
 is the custom of shepherd races, is not supported by a wide survey
 of the facts. The Aryans were not essentially pastoral, on the whole
 less so than the Turanian people who buried (see Herod., I. 4, for the
 Scythians), and less so again than the Semites, who did the same.

 [107] The Vendidâd relates how after that Auramazda had created
 sixteen perfect localities upon earth, Ahrimanes came after (like the
 sower of tares), and did what in him lay to spoil the paradises, by
 introducing all sorts of noxious animals and other abominations, such
 as the practice of burning the dead body or giving it to the water.
 The Iranians, as is well known, suspended their dead upon a sort of
 grating, and left them to be devoured of wild birds.

 [108] _Beowulf_, the oldest poem in our language (in Early English),
 is considered to have been written somewhere about A.D.
 700. It relates the adventures of a prince of Jutland or of Southern
 Sweden. Though made and sung in a Christian country, it breathes the
 spirit of an earlier (heathen) time, as the instance of the burning of
 Beowulf alone would testify.

 [109] Hel, from _helja_, ‘to conceal,’ answered identically to Hades.

 [110] This heavenward journey may be described as at first a
 haven-ward one (_i.e._ across the sea); later as a really heavenward
 one through the air, with the wind-god.

 [111] This is the Younger, or Prose Edda, of Snorro (Dæmisaga 49), not
 that called the Edda of Sæmund--the _Elder_ Edda. Undoubtedly the myth
 of Balder is largely infused with Christian elements.

 [112] Hel, in Norse mythology, is a person, the regent of Helheim.
 Just in the same way Hades is in Homer always a god, never a place.
 The idea concerning Helheim seems to have been that all who were not
 slain in battle went to its dark shore.

 [113] _i.e._ Dokkr, _dark_. She sits in a cave, because both day and
 night are imagined as coming from a cave. So Shelley sings--

    ‘Swiftly walk over the western cave,
            Spirit of Night,
     Out of thy misty eastern cave.’

 [114] Or, strictly speaking, the Brahmana of the Yagur Veda. The
 Brahmana is the scholiast (as it were) or _targum_ of the original
 text. Urva_s_i is Ushas, the Dawn.

 [115] Morris, _Earthly Paradise_: Cupid and Psyche.

 [116] I have no doubt there is another element in all these stories,
 not inconsistent with but complementary to the first--namely, what I
 will call a _mystery_ element connected with a descent to the world of
 shades, such as formed the staple of the Eleusinian mysteries. Thus
 I think Pururavas is the hidden sun (the dark Osiris as it were).
 He might call himself Pururavas _under the earth_ as Prince Hatt is
 Prince Hatt _under the earth_. This would explain how the story got
 to be connected with Psyche (the Soul). It may be said, too, that
 there is often a _mystery_ element connected with such notions as the
 concealment of names, etc.

 [117] Connected with Lêthê, _concealment_ or _forgetfulness_, as with
 Lêto, the mother of Apollo. All signify the darkness.

 [118] See last chapter, p. 252. Endymion is found by Artemis sleeping
 in a cave of Latmos.

 [119] See Baring-Gould, _Curious Myths_, etc.

 [120] He is actually a reduplication of Thor; for his name means
 _thunder_, as does Thor’s. Thor is of course much more than a god of
 thunder only; but his hammer is undoubtedly the thunder-bolt. Thrym
 represents the same power associated with beings of frost and snow,
 the winter thunder, in fact. This stealing Thor’s hammer is merely a
 repetition of the idea implied by his name and character.

 [121] Which Freyja wore.

 [122] Giant does not really translate Thurs. Most of the Thursar
 were giants as opposed to the Dvargar, the dwarfs. But this Alvîs
 (all-wise) is spoken of as a dwarf.

 [123] There is a clear recollection of this in the end of

 [124] This story, be it said, comes only from the younger Edda. No
 hint of it in the older.

 [125] ‘Beowulf,’ we have said, is thought to have been first composed
 in English at the end of the seventh century. There was probably an
 earlier and more simple version of the poem which has come down to
 us. I do not mean to say that either Beowulf or Sigurd are simply
 personifications of the sun; only that some of their belongings and
 adventures have descended to them from sun-heroes.

 [126] Valkyria, sing.; Valkyriur, pl.

 [127] _Kinder-u. Hausmärchen._

 [128] _I.e._ the sky. See Grimm, _Deutsche Myth._, s.v. (Hackelberg);
 and also two very interesting articles by A. Kühn, _Zeitsch. für
 deutsch. Alterth._, v. 379, vi. 117, showing relationship of
 Hackelbärend and the Sârameyas.

 [129] These twelve nights occupy in the middle-age legends the place
 of a sort of battle-ground between the powers of light and darkness.
 One obvious reason of this is that they lie in midwinter, when the
 infernal powers are the strongest. Another reason, perhaps, is that
 they lie between the great Christian feast and the great heathen one,
 the feast of Yule. Each party might be expected to put forth its full

 [130] Perhaps for a reason like that which made the beetle a symbol of
 the soul or immortality among the Egyptians, namely, because the mouse
 hibernates like the sleeping earth. It is worth noticing that Anubis,
 the Egyptian psychopomp, is also a wind-god.--A. K.

 [131] The appearance of _children_ in the story need not, however,
 necessarily mean that the mortality had specially affected the
 children. It may only have been an expression like the Latin
 _manes_--the little ones--used for the souls of the departed. We know
 how constantly in mediæval art the soul is represented as drawn out of
 the body in the form of a child.

 [132] There are at least six different versions of the same legend
 given in Grimm’s _Deutsche Sagen_.

 [133] This myth is related by Procopius (_B. G._, iv.). There is
 little doubt that this island, which _he_ calls Brittia (and of course
 distinguishes from Britannia), is really identical with it. The _wall_
 which he speaks of as dividing it is proof sufficient.

 [134] To the house of Yama.

 [135] See above, p. 251.

 [136] See above, p. 231.

 [137] The fortune which accompanies a myth is very curious. That
 of Freyr and Gerda is by no means conspicuous in the Edda, and I
 should not have been justified in comparing it in importance with the
 Persephone myth, _but_ that precisely the same story forms a leading
 feature in _the_ great Norse and Teuton epic, the Volsung and Nibelung

 [138] It is interesting to note that _one_ of the proofs that the
 Greek _alphabet_ is derived from the Phœnician is precisely similar
 to the proof that the Sanskrit _Dyâus_ or _duhitar_ are earlier
 forms than Zeus or _daughter_. Because in Greek _alphabet_ means
 only _alpha_ (α) _beta_ (β), but in Phœnician _alpha_ or _aleph_ and
 _beta_ or _beth_ have distinct meanings--‘ox’ and ‘house’--the objects
 supposed to be symbolized by the first two Phœnician letters. See

 [139] Or Khita.

 [140] The word would be more correctly spelt _Yawân_. It is known that
 Iôn has been changed from Ivôn, or rather Iwôn, by the elision of the

 [141] _i.e._ the Gauls.

 [142] For the story of Bran’s head, which spoke after it was cut off,
 and which is in its natural interpretation probably the sun, see Mr.
 M. Arnold’s _Celtic Literature_.

 [143] Or if the Teutones were really Germans. Some have denied this
 (see Latham’s _Germania_, Appendix). But, I think, without sufficient

 [144] Latham’s _Germania_.

 [145] And therefore possibly Slaves, Wend being a name applied by
 Teutons to Slaves.

 [146] _e.g._ Old German, _aran_, to plough = _arare_, etc.

Typographical errors corrected by the etext transcriber:

party exterminated=> partly exterminated {pg 101}

certain among the the islands=> certain among the islands {pg 115}

of the Semitic=> of the Semetic {pg 118}

the Ayran people=> the Aryan people {pg 199}

have the Elsyian fields=> have the Elysian fields {pg 243}

the Egyptian heiroglyphics=> the Egyptian hieroglyphics {pg 311}

closely alied to=> closely allied to {pg 320}

the ancient Egptian=> the ancient Egyptian {pg 339}

case in repect of=> case in respect of {pg 351}

in Phenician=> in Phœnician {pg 357}

to the Eyptians=> to the Egyptians {pg 364}

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