Johann Joachim Eschenburg.

Manual of classical literature : from the German of J.J. Eschenburg, with additions online

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(Scribed as possessing, before the arrival of the later colonies, a system of religion,
with priests and mysteries ; as having some knowledge of architecture, navigation, and
military arts, particularly fortification; and even using some sort of written language,
if not an actual alphabet of letters.

For such views of the culture of the Pelasgi, see Sddosser and Leo, as referred to above, § 33;— also Wachsmuth, and Hcrmami,
as cited P. IV. § 13. 3 and § 33. Compare § 45. 1.

2. The second period alluded to was distinguished by the colony of the Phoenician
Cadmus, who settled in Boeotia, B. C. 1493, and founded the city originally bearing
his own name, afterwards called Thebes. This colony is the most celebrated of all



33 ha^ing contributed more than any other to the cuhivation of the Greeks. The
greatest benefit conferred by it was the an of alphabetic writing, which, according to
the common opinion, was introduced by Cadmus (§ 45).

The following passase from VVachler may be pertinent here ; it indicates his opinion respect-
ins the Pplasgi, while it confirms the remarks above respecting the iiitiuence of the colonies on
Grnpk civilization. "The early history of Greece is obscure, and depends mostly on historical
tc.iiiliinalions and conjectures. Its inhabitants came frrmi Asia through Thrace. The first emi-
prajits were called Pelasp-i, and appear to be connected with the original inhabitants, who had
already received something in their culture and language from Asia. They were followed by
tht^ Hellenes, probably a kindred tribe from the Caucasus. By the contemporaneous settlement
ot" f'lrf'iirners more civilized, in different places, the foundations of social order and civil govern-
ii'i'tit were laid ; as by the Egyptian Cecrops (B. C. 1530), in Attica ; by Danaus (B. C. 1500), in
Araos; by the Phoenician Cadmus (about B. C. 1500), in Bceotia; and the Phrygian Pelops, in

VVachler s Getchicbte der Literatur, vol. i. p. 99. Lpz. 1S33. 4. vols. 8.— Cf. Schm, Hisfoire dela Litterature Greeque, L. I. Ch.
I. as cited P. V. § 7. 9.—Larchcr, Hist, de CaJmus, Mem. Acad. Inscr. vol. 48. p. 37.

§ 35.* Respecting the origin of the Greek language, it must be remarked,
that there has been much discussion, with comparatively little light. Various
theories, conflicting with each other, and some of them sufficiently absurd, have
been advocated. Nothing very definite and satisfactory has yet been adduced.
The researches made within a few years past, in what has been called the science
of comparative philology, have enabled the later critics to class many of the
ancient languages, including the Greek, in families, on the ground of certain
common resemblances. But it seems beyond the reach of learning to determine
precisely the descent of the Grecian tongue.

There are two facts recorded in the Bible, which must be kept in view^, in
every just inquiry respecting the origin of the inhabitants of Greece and the
descent of their language; viz., the confusion of tongues at Babel (B. C. 2247),
and the consequent dispersion of the human family.

Before we notice the bearing of these facts, we will advert to some of the accounts
which have been given of the origin of the Greek language.

1. The following are the remarks of Eschenburg, presented in the original of this
work in another place, but appropriate here.

Of the origin of the Greek language it may be said, that it was partly domestic and partly
foreign. Its origin was domestic, in as much as its basis and primary stock was the vernacular
toncue of the earliest inhabitants, who are by many considered to have been the Pelasgi,
although, as has been su?ge?ted, this may he a name, under which were comprehended all the
e:irly occupants of Greece that had come from beyond the sea. But the language must have
experienced a very great foreign influence not only from the colonies successively planted in
Greece, but from the intercourse, by commerce and otherwise, with the people occupying the
coasts of Asia, with the Phoenicians and the Egyptians. In the most ancient monuments of the
'anguage, especially the poetical, and in some very old proverbial fragments, there are evident
traces of orientalism. Comp. $ 3fe.

2. Some of the various theories are glanced at, in the following extract from a
" Synopsis of a course of Lectures on the History of Greek Literature," by Edward
Everett; which, it is much to be regretted, he did not complete and publish.

" 1. The descent of the nations of the earth has naturally led to inquiries into the descent of their languages. The permanencs
of the radical forms of language, amidst the changes of what is external, has encouraged these inqa'ries.

" 2. In inquiring after the supposed original language, various theories have respectively ascribed that character to the Hebrew
the Teutonic, the Celtic, the Flennish, the Gothic. A writer of the present day maintains, that German was the court language of
Rome in the lime of Augustus. (Cf. Postdlm de originibus seu de Hebraicae linguae et gentis antiquitate et de variorum linguarum
affiuitate, &c. K Afuner, aber die Ursprache.)

" 3. The Greek has been derived by some from the Asiatic, and by others from the northern languages ; and by a third hypothesu
has been made itself the original language. The defenders of this last opinion are Von der Hardt and Ericus. (Of. Harlesii Intro,
in Hislor. Ling. G'jec. i. 12, 13, and Davies's Celtic Researches, p. 243 )

» 4. Descent of the Greek from the Scythian or Gothic maintained by Ihre. (Cf. Dissertat. de originibus ling. Lat. et Gric inter.
MaesoGothos reperiundis. Also Analecta Ulphiana.) Fr«m the Egyptian by Marsham (Cf. Canon. Chronic, p 119), and Lord
Monboddo. Frxim the Hebrew by Konig, Oger, and many others. From the Ethiopian by Alhvood. (Cf. Literary Antiquities of
Greece, by P. AUwood. Lond. 1799. 4. p. -344.) By Nils Iddman from the Finnish By Linhard from the Sclavonian. By Webb
from the Chinese."

For a notice of some of these theories, see also Harles, Introduction, &c. (as cited P. V. § 7. 9.) Prolegomena, \ 4.

§ 36.* The vernacular tongue of the first inhabitants of Greece was somehow
formed from that one language which survived the deluge and was the sole
language of the earth until the confusion of tongues at Babel. (Cf. Gen. xi. i.)
This must be admitted in all correct reasoning on the subject. The confusion
of tongues and the consequent dispersion of the human family occurred ()nly
about 300 years earlier than the period to which the traditions already mention-


ed respecting the population of Greece must be referred. It is not certain pre-
cisely what changes took place in that language at the confusion; but probably
no one will suppose them to have been such as to form several absolutely new
and essentially different tongues. The effect of confounding and separating
the people surely might be accomplished by such changes in pronunciation and
structure as would leave the original language remaining substantially the same
in all the new ones, as their basis.

1. The languages of western Asia, although differing from each other in various
particulars, are found to constitute a family possessing some radical characteristics in
common. There can be little doubt, that a resemblance, somewhat analogous to this,
although less obvious, and confined probably to the roots in their simplest forms, may
be traced among all the early oriental tongues.

Whether the "one language and one speech," that underwent the changes of the
confusion, was the language of Adam altered and improved by the successive genera-
tions of the Antediluvians, all using the same tongue, or was one of several varieties
formed out of it before the flood, is of no great importance to decide, even if we had
the means of doing it with certainty. Nor does it seem of much consequence, whether,
or not, we consider the Hebrew as the best representative of the language of Noah and
his descendants previous to the confusion. It is, at least, quite certain that the He-
brew is one of the earliest of the languages known to have existed in western Asia.
Many have beheved it the original language of Eden, preserved from age to age in those
families that maintained in the greatest degree the fear of God and cherished most the
arts and duties of social life.

See Shuckford (as cited § 6), Bk. ii. The Armenians have a notion, that Ihej- still speak the language of Noah.— Sniiift and

T>ungAr, Researches in Armenia. Bost. 1S33. 2 vols. 12. (i. p. 16.)

2. It may be important to remark here, that since the modern researches in compara-
tive philology, and the investigations made by Bopp and others in relation to the San-
scrit language, the critics have discriminated particularly two classes or families among
the languages of Asia. One is called the Semitic family, and the other the Sanscrit
or the htdo- Germanic.

Sirikin? affinities, it is asserted, unite together, in each of these families, their respective members. It is also admitted that some

»«sembUnces, allhou'h slighter, may be traced between the two families. Cf. Ewald's Hebrevv Grammar, 1833. (pp. 4-8.) —

^binsoii's Hebrew Lexicon of Gesenius. Boston, 1S36. (p. iv.)— iJ. Lepaius, Uber d. Crsprung und d. Verwandtschaft der Zabl
worter in d. IndoGermanischen, Semitischen, und d. Koptischen Sprache ; in his Zwei Sprachvergltichende Mhandlungen, &c
<erl. 1836. 8. pp. 150.

3. The Semitic or Shemitish family comprehends the Hebrew and Syriac and other
languages of southwestern Asia. All these are supposed by most of the German philo-
logians to have been derived from one common original. Some imagine this original to
have been richer than any of its offspring, and think that the Arabic has preserved
more of the character of the primitive stock than any other member of the family.

Cf. M. Sluart, on the Shemitish languages, in his Hebrew Grammar (Introduction). Ando. 1823. 8. — J. Ferki^u, in the Sib.
Repository. Oct., 1837. p. 4S9.—Heitgstenberg is said (A. D. 1835) to teach in his lectures, that the Arabic is the oldest language
of the Semitic fanjily, and most resembles the supposed original (Urspracht). — Baron de Merian, Principes de I'Elude comparative
des Langues, with observations on the roots of the Semitic tongues by Klaproth. Par. 1828. 8.

4. The Sanscrit family includes the languages of India and Persia. The Latin and
Greek are assigned to the same family, on account of certain affinities which are point-
ed out; and likewise the I'eutonic, by which term the whole stock of German
languages has been designated. This family is sometimes called also I ndo- Germanic,
because it includes languages thus traced from India to Germany. I'he Sanscrit is
considered as the oldest of the family; the Persian and Latin are ranked next ; and then
the Greek. — The Chinese is not included in this family.

F. Bopp, System of the Sanscrit Language, &c Berlin, 1825. 4. — Cf. BH. Repertory, vol. ii. 1826. — F. Bopp, Vergleichende
Grammatik des Sanskrit, Zend, Griechischen, Lateinischen, Gothischen, &c. Berlin, 1833. 4.— .S. F. Poll, Elyniologische Forsch.
nngen auf dem Gebiete der IndoGermanischen Sprachen, insbesondere des Sanskrit, Griechischen, &c. Lemgo 1st Th. 1833. 2d
Tb. 1837. 8. "Good.'" — Encydopxdia .imencana, articles, Iiidia?i Langnases, Gcrmatt Language, Teutonic, kc. — A classifica-
tion of all the known languiges of the world is given in the work entitled Milhridales, by /. C. Adilung and J S. Voter.— k brief
view of the various languages is also given in Balbi'a Atlas Ethnographique du Globe. Par. 1826. fol. — /. Bonoorth, Diet, of
Anglo-Saxon Language « ith a preface on the origin of the Germanic Tongues, Map of Languages, &c. Loud. 1S38. 8. 1st ed.
W. B. IViiining, Manual of Comparative Philology. Lond. I83S. 8.—/. W. Donaldson, New Cratylus, or Contributions towaraj
a more accurate knowledge of the Greek Language. Lond. 1839. 8.

§ 37.* The fact of the dispersion mentioned by Moses must also be kept in
view in our inquiries respecting the first inhabitants of Greece and the origin of
the Greek language. The common opinion ascribes the first settling of Asia
Minor, the isles of the ^Egean, and the coasts of Greece, to the descendants of



Japheth. These families or tribes, of course, carried with them their languages
as modified by the confusion. How soon some of these families may have
reached the southern parts of Greece cannot be known. Some etymologists
have supposed the name lonians ('Iwi/f 5), by which the Greeks were very early
designated, to be derived from Javan, the son of Japheth (Gen. x. 2). The
name Javan was used by the Hebrews to designate the people and country of
the lonians. And it is admitted by some who place no confidence in this
etymologv, that the Greeks were called lonians before the time of the ("Iwr)
mentioned in the Greek traditions.

See J. Parsont, Remainsof Japhet, or Historical Enquiries into the Affinity and Origin of the European Lansuages. Lond. 1767. 4.
— Jarnitson, Disserlat. on the Origin of the Greeks —Shuckford, Conn. Sac and Prof Hist. B. iii —Gesenius, Heb. Lex. by
E. Kobinsoii, Boston, 1S36.— Cf. JtosenmUiler, Schol. in yet. Test. Gen. X. 2 ; and his Bibliscbe Geographie.. vol. 3, p. 3S9.

§ 33.* The various and learned researches into the origin of the Greek lan-
guage seem to furnish nothing more satisfactory than is suggested by these few
facts and considerations. From the seats occupied by the human race immedi-
ately after the flood in a central part of Asia, the families of Japheth migrated
towards the northwest to tiieir assigned portions of the earth, carrying with
them a language or languages radically the same with those left in Asia in the
families of Shem. Whatever length of time therefore might elapse before the
rich vales of Greece were occupied by them, or whatever family may have first
entered them, the real basis of the language may be considered the same. In
this view of the subject, some variety of the language of Noah, kindred to the
early languages of central Asia, and possessing a radical resemblance to them,
was the foundation on which was built the beautiful and polished superstructure
of the Greek.

It IS easy to account for the disappearance of a great part of the original resemblance
between the Greek and the oriental dialects. I'he tribes of Greece, being removed
from the centre of civilization, gradually sunk down to a state of almost perfect barbar-
ism, and in this state their own traditions first present them to us. And after they began
to awake, under the impulse from the colonies already spoken of, there were frequent
emigrations, revolutions, amalgamations, and other changes of society, calculated
greaiiy to modify the language. So that, admitting a much greater degree of resem-
blance to have once existed, the subsequent traces of it might not be more numerous
than are actually found.

Bopp. as above cited § 36.—Barthe2emy, Sur les rapports des Ungues Egyptienne, Phenicienne, et Grecque. Mem. Acad. In
»crip. xxxii. 212.—/ A. Emesti, de Vestigiis lingua Hebraicx in lingua Grxca; in his Opuscula Philologica, Leyden, Bat. 1764. 8.
—Milfurd'a Hist. vol. i. p. 122. ed. Bost. 1823.

§ 39.* The causes of the great perfection, to which the Greek language attain-
ed, are in vain sought for. No theory of its first basis and origin affords an
answer to the question, how it acquired, in form, harmony, and power that-
wonderful degree of excellence, which it has universally been acknowledged to
possess. This it certainly gained at a very early period, for the language exist-
ed in all its essential perfection in the time of Homer; this it gained also in cir-
cumstances apparently not very favorable to the refinement of language, in the
midst of the migrations, the wars, the conquests and expulsions, the enthusiasm
and lawlessness, of the heroic ages.

1. Some, in explaining this, refer to the delightful climate and beautiful scenery of
Greece, as these undoubtedly tended to soften the character of the inhabitants and in-
spire them with delicate sensibilities, and so indirectly to mellow and adorn their lan-
guage. Another source of improvement to it has been pointed out in the early rise of
republican institutions, and the obvious advantages enjoyed by a speaker in the populai
assemblies, who could best win attention and sway the judgment by the superior excel-
lence of his diction. Some regard is hkewise due to the conjecture, which ascribes
much of the polish of tlie Grecian tongue to those bards of the heroic ages, who cele-
brated with poetry and music the deeds of their ancestors, or of bold and enterprising
chieftains, or sung the praises of the gods ; as their rythmical effusions, their hymns and
invocations, might naturally promote the flexibility and sw^eetness of the language.
But after all that can be said, the perfection of this language remains an unexplained
phenomenon in the history of letters.

2. It is not more so, however, than the wonderful copiousness, flexibility, and appa-
rently artificial structure, of several of the aboriginal languages of America. The truth
is no theoretical reasoning can be relied on in relation to a subject, which in its nature
is so changeable as human language, a thing so airy and fleeting as " winged words"


and sounds of breath. We may explain facts if we can, but as in all other cases, so
here, whether we can explain them or not, we must take them as tiiey are.

See Barton, New Views on the Origin of the American Aborigines.—/)!* Ponceau, Prelim. Dissertation, Trans.iction» of Lit and
Hist. Depart, of American Phil. Soc. vol. i. Cf. North Amer. Review, vol. ii. first series, p. ]19.—Pricftard, Phys. Hist. B. viii.

§ 40.* It has already been remarked, that the first impulse that served to
rouse the Greeks from the torpor of barbarism, was given by colonies from the
east planted among them. Various descriptions and allusions in Homer make
it evident, that a very considerable improvement had taken place in the condi-
tion of Grecian society antecedently to his time. The general sourcq of this
culture was the knowledge and civilization of the east. 'I'he influence upon the
Greeks from the east was felt in other ways besides through the colonies just
mentioned; and particularly by means of commerce. C'ommerce was at this
early period chiefly in the hands of the Phoenicians. This adventurous people
carried their merchandize to the western extremities of the Mediterranean, and
surely could not overlook the numerous islands and cities of Greece. Nor is
it improbable that some of those bold enterprises against the people of the east,
which are related of the heroic ages, exerted upon the Greeks some favorable
reflex influence, especially the siege and capture of Troy.

See A. H. L. Hceren, Reflections on the Politics of Ancient Greece, translated by G. Bancrojt. Boat. 1824. 8. (ch. iii.)

§ 41. The influence of eastern nations upon the early culture of the Greeks manifests
itself in several particulars. It appears in their religion, in one point especially ; and
that is, the fact, that the gods of Greek mythology were at first viewed merely as
symbols, or representatives of sensible objects, such as rivers, mountains, the sun, &c.
or of the invisible powers of nature. As such symbols, these gods, under the same
or similar names, existed in the eastern nations, especially in fc^gypt. In the same
sense, that is, as designed to represent allegorically the appearances and changes of the
material world, they were first used by the Greeks ; but afterwards came to be con-
sidered as possessing personal attributes, and at length the popular creed embraced them
as beings having a real and present existence.

Some of the peculiar early institutions of the Greeks, as the mysteries and the oracles,
show also this influence of the east. Great as is the obscurity hanging over the nature
and design of the Greek mysteries, their foreign origin is not doubted, and the proto-
types ol many of them are found in the rites and superstitions of Egypt. Phcenicia, and
Crete. 'I'o such a source may be traced the mysteries of Bacchus and Adonis, the
rites of the Curetes and Dactyli, and the Eleusinian, most celebrated of all. One of
the earliest oracles, that of Dodona, seems to have been started by a female slave once
employed in the service of an Egyptian temple ; and that of Delphi, which gained the
highest renown, is ascribed to the artifice of a company of Cretan priests.

See Heertn, as cited 5 W.-Ktt/ord, History of Greece, ch. iii. § 2. cited P. II. § 7. 7. (rfj.-f. SMestl, Lect. ii. cited P. II. \ 7, 8.
-Cf. P. IV. § 70-78.

% 42. The influence of eastern cultivation may be noticed likewise in relation to the
arts. Even in the time of Homer, Phoenician artists were considered by the Greeks as
superior in skill and elegance. Whenever the poet speaks of an article of peculiar beauty
and excellence, it is usually said to be of Phoenician workmanship ; as, for instance,
the silver bowl which Achilles proposed as a prize in the games at the funeral of Patro-
clua (II. *. 743); " Sidonian artists wrought it, and Phoenicians brought it over the
sea." Hence it is obvious where Grecian artists were looking for patterns and models.

It also may be worthy of remark, that we perceive an oriental stamp injhe subjects
and spirit of the fragments of the earliest Greek poetry. They are chie'"/ hymns to
the gods, or metrical fables respecting the origin of the world, the formation of man
the primeval happiness, the subsequent apostacy, and the miseries which soon over
whelmed the race. They exhibit views respetiting the nature and attributes of one
supreme God much more spiritual than subsequently prevailed, and more consonan
with the truths of revelation. They seem to be tinctured with traditionary recollec
tions of the patriarchal and antediluvian ages of Asiatic society.

See F. Schlegel, Lect. on Hist. Lit. (Lect. ii.)— Cf. P. V. ^ 12, 15.— Also, on various coincidences in Grecian fiction wilh facts ii
Scripture history, see references, P. II. ^ 5. I,

§ 4.3.* In alluding to the circumstances connected with the early culture of
the Greeks, it is proper to notice the bards or minstrels, 'Aot66t, already men-
tioned (§ 39). They were of a class such as is generally found in every age of
semi-barbarous heroism and chivalry. They strolled from one prince's hall to
another's, or were attached to a favorite chieftain and family, or employed and
supported in connection with the temples and worship of the gods. They either
6ung their own verse, or recited, as was generally the p' actice of hose calle<l


rhapsodists ('Pa-^/oSot), the compositions of others. Greek iiUTa-urc h?d ita
origin in these performances. After the time of Homer, his poe.Tis M'ere the
principal theme of the rhapsodists, who rehearsed his poetry, accompinyino- it
with music, and sometimes adding- comments or explanations of their own.

§ 44.* Nor should we overlook here those meeting^s for purposes of festivity,
and trial of bodily strength and activity, to which the Greeks were ver}'^ early ac-
customed. They exerted, beyond doubt, some influence on Grecian culture, espe
cially when they became such illustrious occasions as were, in particular, the
fimr 7ialional games. It is only necessary here just to advert to these, as having
their rise in this early period. The Olympian, after many years of occasional
suspension and renewal, were at last solemnly established 776 B. C, and were
subsequently supported with increasing splendor. The other three, Pythian,
Isthmian, and Nemean, were not fully established as regular festivals until a
much later time; but still had been long in existence, and occasionally much

The Amphidyonic Council^ which was of very early origin, may also be sup-
posed to have exerted some influence upon the general improvement of the
Greeks. It has commonly been considered as from the beginning an institution
more strictly of a political character than the festivals just named; and as proba-
bly designed to support a kind of law of nations among the different states, and
promote the tranquillity and happiness of the whole country. Some writers,
however, have maintained, that it was not a political assembly but wholly a
religious one.

Online LibraryJohann Joachim EschenburgManual of classical literature : from the German of J.J. Eschenburg, with additions → online text (page 67 of 153)