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the Indian states that were tributary to his enemy.
Since the time of that monarch, the Indians have
enjoyed their liberty, plunged into an excess of
effeminacy, occasioned by the heat of their climate
and the richness of their soil.

The Greeks, before Alexander, travelled into India
in quest of science. There the celebrated Pilpay,
about two thousand three hundred years ago, wrote
those moral fables which have been translated into
almost every language of the known world. The
orientals, and particularly the Indians, treated all
subjects under the veil of fable and allegory: for
that reason Pythagoras, who studied among them,
expresses himself always in parables. The spirit
of Pilpay reigned a long time in India. Pachimere,
in the thirteenth century, translated several works
composed by their sages ; of these the following is
a very remarkable passage : " I have seen all the
sects recriminate upon each other the charge of
imposture : I have seen the magi dispute with rage
and fury, upon the first principle, and the ultimate
end : I have questioned them all, and found in those
chiefs of different factions, nothing but inflexible
obstinacy, sovereign contempt, and implacable hatred
for one another : I am, therefore, resolved to believe



4O Ancient and Modern History.

none of their doctrines. These doctors, in their
researches after truth, may be compared to a woman
who wants to introduce her gallant by a private pas-
sage, but cannot find the key of the door. Man-
kind in their vain inquiries may be likened to him
who climbs a tree where he finds a small morsel of
honey ; but scarce has he eaten it, when he himself
is devoured by the dragons that surround the tree
which he had ascended." Such was the manner of
writing practised among the Indians. Their genius
appears still plainer in the games they invented. Of
this sort, is the game which we by corruption call
chess. It is allegorical, like their fables; and con-
trived as the image or representation of war. The
word " sheck," which is prince, and " pion," that
signifies soldier, are still preserved in that part of the
East. The arithmetical figures we use, which the
Arabians imported into Europe about the time of
Charlemagne, are originally derived from India.
The antique medals, so much in request among the
Chinese virtuosi, may be urged as a proof that the
arts were cultivated by the Indians, before they
were known in China.

The sun's course was divided into twelve parts
from time immemorial. The year of the Brahmins,
and of the most ancient gymnosophists, always
began when the sun entered the constellation which
they call " Moschim," and is known among us by the
appellation of Aries. Their weeks always consisted
of seven days, a division of which the Greeks were



The Indies. 41

ignorant ; and their days were distinguished by the
names of the seven planets. Sunday they denomi-
nate " Mitradinam " : but it is not yet known
whether the word " Mitra," which among the
Persians signifies the sun, is originally a term in
the language of the magi, or in that of the sages
of India. It is very difficult to discover which of
these two nations taught the other ; but if the ques-
tion was to decide between India and Egypt, I should
conclude that the sciences were much more ancient
in the former of these countries. My conjecture is
founded on these circumstances: the land of India
is much more easily settled than that which bor-
ders upon the Nile, whose overflowing must have
for a long time thwarted the first inhabitants, before
they could master that river by digging canals:
besides, the soil of India is of a more varied fertility,
which must have greatly excited the curiosity and
industry of mankind. Some have imagined that the
human race was originally of Indostan, alleging that
the most helpless animal would be naturally pro-
duced in the gentlest climate; but the origin of
almost everything is concealed from our knowledge.
Who, for example, will venture to affirm that our
climates produced neither insects, herbs, nor trees,
when all these were found in the East?

India, in the time of Charlemagne, was known by
name only ; and the Indians did not know that any
such prince existed. The Arabians were solely pos-
sessed of maritime commerce, and, at the same time,



42 Ancient and Modern History.

supplied Constantinople and the Franks with the
commodities of India. The Venetians, indeed, went
to fetch them from Alexandria. The consumption of
them was not yet considerable in France, among
private persons; and they were long unknown in
Germany, and all the northern countries. The
Romans themselves carried on this traffic as soon as
they were masters of Egypt; thus the western
nations have always carried their silver and gold
into India, increasing the wealth of that country,
which was already so rich in its own nature. The
Indians being at all times a trading and industrious
people, were necessarily subjected to a regular
police ; and that people whom Pythagoras visited for
improvement, must have enjoyed the protection of
wholesome laws, without which the arts are never
cultivated ; but mankind, even in the midst of sen-
sible laws, have always indulged ridiculous customs.
That which constitutes the point of honor and relig-
ion among the women, inducing them to burn them-
selves on the bodies of their husbands, existed in
India from time immemorial, and is not yet abol-
ished. Their philosophers throw themselves alive
into funeral piles, through excess of fanaticism and
vainglory. Calan, or Calanus, who burned himself
in the presence of Alexander, was not the first who
set this example. One would imagine that a nation
where the philosophers, and even the women, thus
devoted themselves to death, must be a warlike and
invincible people: nevertheless, every prince that



Persia, Arabia and Mahomet. 43

attacked India has easily subdued it, since the time
of the ancient Sezac, known by the name of Bacchus.
It would be very difficult to reconcile the sublime
ideas which the Brahmins preserve of the Supreme
Being, with their superstition and fabulous mythol-
ogy, if history did not present the same sort of
contradictions among the Greeks and Romans. Some
Christians have been settled two hundred years on
the coast of Malabar, in the midst of these idolatrous
nations. A Syrian merchant, whose name was Mark
Thomas, settled on that coast with his family and
factors, in the sixth century, and there left his relig-
ion, which was Nestorianism. These sectaries, mul-
tiplying apace, assumed the name of " the Christians
of St. Thomas," and lived peaceably among the
idolaters : he that lives quietly is seldom persecuted
for his religion. Those Christians were entirely
ignorant of the Latin Church.

CHAPTER IV.

PERSIA, ARABIA, AND MAHOMET.

TURNING our attention towards Persia, we there
find, immediately before the period I hav.e chosen
as an era, the most important and sudden revolution
that we ever heard of upon earth. A new dominion,
religion, and system of morals had entirely changed
the face of these countries ; and this change extended
a great way into Asia, Africa, and Europe. That I
may form to myself a just idea of Mahometanism,



44 Ancient and Modern History.

which has given a new aspect to so many empires,
I will recapitulate those parts of the world that first
submitted to its doctrines. Before the time of Alex-
ander, Persia extended her sway from Egypt to
Bactria, beyond the country now known by the
name of Samarkand, and from Thrace to the river
Indus. Though divided and contracted under the
Seleucidae, it increased again under Arsaces the Par-
thian, about two hundred and fifty years before
Christ. The Arsacidse possessed neither Syria nor
the countries bordering on the Euxine Sea : but they
disputed the empire of the East with the Romans, to
whom they always opposed insurmountable barriers.
In the time of Alexander Severus, about the year 226
of the Christian era, a private soldier of Persia,
assuming the name of Artaxerxes, conquered this
kingdom from the Parthians, and established the
Persian empire, in extent nearly the same as it is in
these our days. You do not desire to examine in this
place who were the first Babylonians the Persians
conquered, nor in what manner those people boasted
four hundred years of astronomical observations,
though no more of these than a succession of nine-
teen hundred years could be found in the time of
Alexander. You have no intention to wander from
your subject, with a view to recollect the idea of the
greatness of Babylon, and those monuments more
specious than solid, whose very ruins are destroyed.
No remains of the Asiatic arts challenge, in any
degree, our attention, except the ruins of Persepolis



Persia, Arabia, and Mahomet. 45

described in several books, and exhibited in a variety
of copper plates. I know what admiration has been
excited by those fragments that escaped the torches
with which Alexander and the courtesan Thais
reduced Persepolis to ashes. But shall we give the
epithet of a masterpiece of art to this palace, built
at the foot of a chain of desert rocks? Certainly,
the columns that are still standing, can neither boast
of fine proportions nor elegant design. The capitals
overloaded with rude ornaments, are almost as high
as the shafts of the pillars. All the figures are as
hard and heavy as those with which our Gothic
churches are still unhappily adorned. They are
monuments of greatness, but not of taste ; and the
whole serves to confirm us in the opinion, that a
reader, in confining himself to the history of the arts,
would find but four ages in the annals of the world ;
namely, those of Alexander, Augustus, the Medici,
and Louis XIV.

The Persians, however, were always an ingenious
people. Locman, the same as ^Esop, was born at
Casbin. This tradition is much more probable than
that which derives him from Ethiopia, a country
that never produced philosophers. The maxims of
the ancient Zerdusht, called Zoroaster by the Greeks,
who have changed all the oriental names, still
existed. They are said to be nine thousand years
old; for the Persians, as well as the Egyptians,
Indians, and Chinese, push back the origin of the
world as much as other nations bring it forward. A



46 Ancient and Modern History.

second Zoroaster, in the reign of Darius, the son of
Hystaspes, did no more than bring this ancient relig-
ion to perfection. It is in these maxims that we
find the first notions of the immortality of the soul,
and of a future state of rewards and punishments.
There we see an express description of hell. Zoro-
aster, in the writings preserved by Sadder, feigns
that God had indulged him with a sight of hell, and
the pains reserved for the wicked: there, among
several kings, he perceived one without a foot, and
asked of God the reason of this mutilation. God
replied : " That wicked king did but one good action
in the whole course of his life. Going one day to the
chase, he saw a dromedary tethered at such a dis-
tance from his trough that he could not reach it so as
to eat his provender. He kicked the trough nearer
the animal ; and that foot I have placed in heaven,
the rest of him remains here in hell." This passage
which is very little known, shows the kind of philos-
ophy cultivated in those remote times : a species of
philosophy always allegorical, and sometimes very
profound. The Babylonians were the first who
admitted of intermediate beings between God and
man. The Jews did not bestow names upon the
angels, till the time of their captivity in Babylon.
The name of Satan, which first appeared in the Book
of Job, is a Persian word ; and Job is said to have
been of the same country. The word Raphael is used
by Tobit, who was captive in Nineveh, and wrote
in the Chajdaic language.



Persia, Arabia, and Mahomet. 47

The two principles of Zoroaster, Oromasdes, or
Ormuzd, the ancient of days, and Ahriman, the
genius of darkness, gave birth to the Manichaean
doctrine. It is the Osiris and Typhon of the Egyp-
tians ; the Pandora of the Greeks, the vain effort of
all the sages to explain the origin of good and evil.
This theology of the Magi was respected in the East,
under all governments; and in the midst of every
different revolution, the ancient religion was still
maintained in Persia, where neither the gods of
the Grecians, nor any other deities ever prevailed.

Nousturvan, or Cosroes the Great, towards the
end of the sixth century, had extended his empire
into part of Arabia Petraea, and Arabia Felix. From
thence he expelled the Abyssinian Christians, by
whom it had been invaded. He proscribed Chris-
tianity as much as he could within his own domin-
ions, driven to this severity by the treachery of his,
son-in-law, who embraced the Christian religion, and
raised a rebellion against his sovereign. In the last
year of this famous king's reign, Mahomet was
born at Mecca, in Arabia Petrsea, on May 5, 570.
His country was at this time involved in war,, for the
defence of her liberty, against the Persians and the
princes of Constantinople, who still retained the
name of Roman emperors. The children of Nous-
turvan the Great, unworthy of such a father, laid
waste their own country with civil war and patri-
cide. The successors of the wise Justinian entailed
contempt on the name of the empire. Mauritius was



48 Ancient and Modern History.

dethroned by the arm of Phocas, reinforced with
the intrigues of the patriarch of Cyriaca and other
bishops, whom he afterwards punished for having
served him so effectually. The blood of Mauritius
and his five children had flowed under the hands of
the executioner; and Pope Gregory the Great, a
bitter enemy to the patriarch of Constantinople,
endeavored to gain over the tyrant Phocas to his
interests by loading him with the most extravagant
praise, and condemning the memory of Mauritius,
whom, in his life, he had extravagantly extolled.

The empire of Rome, in the West, was annihilated.
A deluge of barbarians, Goths, Heruli, Huns, and
Vandals, overflowed Europe, when Mahomet laid
the foundation of the Mussulman religion and
power, in the deserts of Arabia.

Everybody knows that Mahomet was the younger
son of an indigent family ; that he was a long time
in the service of a woman called Khadijah, who
exercised the profession of a merchant in Mecca ;
that he married his mistress, and lived obscure to the
age of forty. It was not till then he displayed those
talents which showed him so much superior to all
his fellow citizens. He possessed a warm and nerv-
ous eloquence, destitute of art and method, such as
was necessary to harangue the Arabs; an air of
authority and insinuation, animated by piercing eyes,
and supported by a happy physiognomy : the intrep-
idity and liberality of an Alexander, and that sobri-
ety which Alexander wanted to be completely great



Persia, Arabia, and Mahomet. 49

in every part of his character. Love, the necessary
consequence of a warm constitution, to which he
owed so many wives and concubines, neither weak-
ened his courage, his application, nor his health. In
this manner he is described by the Arabian writers,
who were his contemporaries ; and his conduct veri-
fies the picture.

After having made himself entirely acquainted
with the character of his countrymen; their igno-
rance, credulity, and aptitude to enthusiasm, he
plainly perceived that he should be able to erect him-
self into a prophet. He feigned revelations; he
uttered predictions ; he gained credit with his own
family, which was perhaps the most difficult part of
his undertaking. In three years he had acquired
two and forty disciples who believed in him implic-
itly. Omar, who had been his persecutor, became
his apostle; and at the end of five years the num-
ber of these amounted to one hundred and fourteen.

He taught the Arabians, who worshipped the stars,
that their adoration was due to God alone, by whom
they were created; that the Jewish and Christian
books were corrupted and falsified; and therefore
ought to be held in abhorrence: that all mankind
were obliged, on pain of eternal punishment, to pray
five times a day, and give charity : above all things,
to acknowledge but one God ; to believe in Mahomet
as his last prophet ; and, in a word, to hazard their
lives for their religion. He forbade the use of wine,

because the use of it was attended with dangerous
Vol. 24 4



5<D Ancient and Modern History.

consequences. He retained the rite of circumcision,
which had been observed by the Arabians as well
as by the ancient Egyptians, instituted, in all prob-
ability, to prevent the first powers of manhood
from being abused; a practice by which youth
is often enervated. He allowed polygamy, a cus-
tom immemorial in all eastern countries. He made
no alteration in the system of morality, which has
always been fundamentally the same in every nation,
and which no legislator has presumed to cor-
rupt. In other respects, his religion was more slav-
ish than any other, in its lawful ceremonies, in the
number and form of prayers and ablutions. Nothing
hampers human nature more than practices it does
not require, especially if they must be daily renewed.
As a recompense for the righteous, he promised
immortality in a future state, where the soul should
be intoxicated with spiritual pleasures; and the
body, raised again to life with all its faculties, enjoy
every sensual delight. This religion is distinguished
by the appellation of Islamism, which signifies reve-
lation of the will of God. The book that contains
it is entitled the Koran, that is, " the book, the writ-
ing, or the reading," by way of excellence.

All the interpreters of this work agree, that the
morality it inculcates is contained in these words:
" Court those who drive you out ; give to those who
strip you ; forgive those who injure you ; do good to
all; and never dispute with the ignorant." He
should have rather warned his people to avoid dis-



Persia, Arabia, and Mahomet. 51

putes with the learned; but, in that part of the
world, they never dreamed that any other country
was enlightened with science.

Among the incoherent rhapsodies that abound in
this book, according to the oriental taste, we find,
nevertheless, some instances of the true sublime.
Mahomet, for example, speaking of the cessation of
the deluge, makes use of these expressions : " God
said, earth, swallow up thy waters : heaven, draw up
those streams thou hast poured forth. The heaven
and the earth obeyed." His definition of God is
really sublime. Being asked who was that Allah
whom he announced : " He it is who holds his being
of himself, and of whom all other beings hold their
existence: who neither engenders nor is engen-
dered ; and to whom nothing can be likened through
the whole extent of being."

True it is, the book is crowded with contradic-
tions, absurdities, and anachronisms. Through the
whole of it we perceive a total ignorance of the most
simple and best known principles of natural philoso-
phy. This is the touch-stone of the books which the
professors of false religion pretend to be" written
by divine inspiration; for God is neither ignorant
nor absurd : yet they are adored by the vulgar, who
cannot discern these errors, to palliate which the
imams employ a deluge of words.

Some people concluded, from an equivocal passage
of the Koran, that Mahomet could neither read nor
write; a circumstance which, if true, would have



52 Ancient and Modern History.

rendered his success still more prodigious. But it is
not at all likely that a man who had been so long
in trade should be ignorant of that which was so nec-
essary in traffic. It is still more improbable that a
man so well versed in the histories and mythology
of his country should be ignorant of that which even
the children practised. Besides, the Arabian authors
relate that Mahomet on his death-bed called for the
implements of writing.

He was persecuted at Mecca, and his flight from
that city, which is denominated " hejira," became
the era of his glory, as well as the foundation of
his empire. From a fugitive he started up a con-
queror. While a refugee at Medina, he made con-
verts of the people, and used them for the
accomplishment of his designs. He, first of all, with
one hundred and thirty men, defeated the inhabitants
of Mecca, who marched against him to the number of
a thousand. This victory, which appeared a miracle
in the eyes of his followers, persuaded them that
God fought for them as they fought for his glory.
From the first victory they presaged the conquest of
the world. Mahomet took Mecca, and saw his per-
secutors humbled at his feet. In nine years, by his
preaching and his arms, he conquered all Arabia, a
country as extensive as Persia, which neither the
Persians nor the Romans could subdue. In the
beginning of his success, he had written to Cosroes
II., sovereign of Persia, to the emperor Heraclius,
to the prince of the Copts, governor of Egypt, to the



Persia, Arabia, and Mahomet. 53

king of the Abyssinians, and to a monarch called
Mandar, who reigned over a province in the neigh-
borhood of the Persian gulf. He had the boldness
to propose that they should embrace his religion;
and what is more astonishing, two of these princes
actually turned Mahometans ; these were the kings
of Abyssinia, and this Mandar. Cosroes tore the
letter in a transport of indignation. Heraclius sent
valuable presents, by way of answer, to Mahomet.
The Coptic prince presented him with a maiden who
was deemed a masterpiece of nature, and known by
the epithet of the " Beautiful Mary."

Mahomet, at the expiration of nine years, believ-
ing himself strong enough to extend his conquests
and religion among the Greeks and Persians, began
with an invasion of Syria, at that time subject to
Heraclius, from whom he wrested divers cities. This
emperor, intoxicated with metaphysical disputes con-
cerning religion, who had espoused the doctrine of
the Monothelites, received, almost at the same time
two very singular proposals ; one from Cosroes, by
whom he had been long subdued, and the other from
Mahomet. The first insisted upon his embracing
the religion of the Magi, and Mahomet expressed
his desire that he should become a Mussulman.

The new prophet left it to the option of those he
conquered, either to profess his religion or pay a
tribute, which was regulated by the Koran at thir-
teen drachms of silver annually for every head of
a family. .Such a moderate tax plainly proves, that



54 Ancient and Modern History.

the people who submitted were extremely poor : but
the tribute has been greatly increased since that
period. Of all the legislators who have founded
religions, he alone extended his by dint of conquest.
Other nations have introduced their worship among
their neighbors with fire and sword ; but no founder
of a sect was at the same time a conqueror. This
privilege alone is, in the eyes of Mussulmans, an
incontestable proof that the Deity took especial care
to assist the efforts of their prophet.

At length Mahomet, having made himself master
of Arabia, and formidable to all his neighbors, was
attacked by a mortal distemper at Medina, in the
sixty-fourth year of his age ; and resolving that his
last moments should denote the hero and the saint,
exclaimed: "Let him whom I have injured or
oppressed appear, and I am ready to make repara-
tion." A man stood up, and demanded payment of
a sum that was due to him from the prophet : Ma-
homet ordered it to be paid immediately, and in a lit-
tle time expired, respected as a great man, even by
those who knew he was an impostor ; and revered as
a prophet by the balance of his countrymen.

His contemporaries of Arabia wrote very cir-
cumstantial details of his life. The whole savors
strongly of the barbarous simplicity of the times
called " heroic." His contract of marriage with his
first wife is expressed in these terms : " While
Khadijah continues to love Mahomet, and is in like
manner beloved of him." We find a minute descrip-



Persia, Arabia, and Mahomet. 55

tion of the banquets which his wives prepared, with
the very names of his swords and horses. One may
observe through the whole character of his people,
a strong conformity in manners with the ancient
Hebrews. I speak only of manners ; the same ardor
to engage in battle in the name of the Lord, the same
thirst after plunder, the same division of the spoil,
and every part of their conduct pointing towards


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