John Lord.

Beacon Lights of History, Volume 14 The New Era; A Supplementary Volume, by Recent Writers, as Set Forth in the Preface and Table of Contents online

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large area among the highlands of Mashonaland, far towards the equator,
produce nearly all the crops of the temperate zones. It is not yet
certain, however, that South Africa will ever raise enough wheat for a
great white population. On the northern slopes of the hills, east and
northeast of Cape Town, are thousands of acres of grapes. Cape Colony is
becoming one of the important wine countries; and in February and March,
large quantities of grapes, peaches, nectarines, and plums are placed
in cool rooms on steamships and sent fresh to British markets almost
before English fruit trees are in bloom.

East of the grape region is an area peculiarly adapted for the
cultivation of tobacco; and east of the tobacco district, north of the
coastal belt of wheat in a region of sandy scrub, the bush country, are
the ostrich farms, in the hands mainly of men of considerable capital,
who supply nearly all the feathers derived from the domesticated
ostrich. The plumes are sometimes worth as much as $200 a pound, the
ordinary feathers bringing from $5 to $7 a pound. Natal is unique in two
of its agricultural industries, being the only colony that is producing
tea and important quantities of cane sugar.

But gold, widely scattered over the country on the interior plateau,
exceeds in value all the other exports together. The world never saw
such a development of gold mining in a small area as has occurred on the
Witwatersrand, where Johannesburg stands. The Witwatersrand (White River
Slope) is a slight elevation, the water parting between rivers, about
one and a half miles wide and 125 miles long. On twenty-five miles of
the rand, at and near Johannesburg, more gold was produced in the year
before the Boer war than was yielded by any other country in the world,
The other rich mining regions of the Transvaal and other parts of South
Africa have been completely dwarfed by the wonderful product of the
rand. The surveys in Matabeleland and Mashonaland show gold-bearing
areas 5,000 square miles in extent, which as yet have practically no
development. The mining companies on the rand and elsewhere are now
preparing for far larger operations than ever before.

The Kimberley diamond mines, turning out more than $20,000,000 worth of
rough stones a year, supply nearly all the diamonds of commerce. Two
other diamond centres in the Orange River Colony have scarcely been
touched, and diamonds are found on the Limpopo River and in other
regions where no mining has been undertaken. The minerals of South
Africa, including iron and coal, bid fair to be for many years the
largest sources of wealth; and in wool, hides, mohair, fresh fruits, and
some other products, South Africa may rival other parts of the world.

There are no good natural harbors except Delagoa Bay in Portuguese East
Africa, but by great expenditure the harbors of Cape Town, Port
Elizabeth, East London, and Durban have been adapted for great commerce.
Many persons mistakenly regard Cape Town as the chief commercial centre
of South Africa. It is so only in respect of the export of gold and
diamonds. As it is not centrally situated for business with the
interior, more of the things that South Africa sells to and buys from
the rest of the world, excepting gold and diamonds, pass through Port
Elizabeth than through any other port. Here is centred the largest
wholesale trade.

What South Africa needs is more railroads and more white labor.
Manufacturing industries on an important scale are yet to come, for as
yet the white population is too sparse to develop anything but the
natural products of the country.

The broad summing up of the future work in Africa is that the native
will be taught to help himself. The destiny of the continent depends
largely upon his development, for great parts of Africa may never be
adapted to become the home of many white men. The most powerful motives,
philanthropic and selfish, incite and will sustain the work of helping
these millions to rise to a higher plane of humanity. This work, now
well begun, is the great task which in the present century will call for
all the knowledge, patience, humanity, and justice that may be brought
to bear upon the problem of reclaiming Africa.


Livingstone's "Missionary Travels," "A Narrative of an Expedition to the
Zambesi," and "Last Journeys;" Blaikie's "Livingstone's Personal Life;"
Stanley's "How I found Livingstone."

Stanley's "Through the Dark Continent," "The Congo and the Founding of
its Free State," "In Darkest Africa;" Schweinfurth's "The Heart of
Africa;" Burton's "The Lake Regions of Central Africa;" Speke's "Journal
of the Discovery of the Source of the Nile;" Thomson's "To the Central
African Lakes and Back;" Barth's "Travels and Discoveries in Central
Africa;" Theal's "Compendium of South African History;" Greswell's
"Geography of Africa South of the Zambesi"; Noble's "The Redemption of
Africa" (A History of African Missions).

No comprehensive compendium of the history of African exploration has
yet been written. Our knowledge of the geography, peoples and resources
of Africa is treated with considerable detail in a number of works such
as Reclus's "Africa" (in "The Earth and Its Inhabitants") and Sievers's
"Afrika" (German). A very large part of the exploratory enterprises in
Africa have not been described in books, but only in the reports of the
explorers, printed with their original maps in the publications of many
geographical and missionary societies.





It was twenty-three long centuries ago that a Greek soldier of fortune,
who had the honor to be also a disciple of Socrates, was leading ten
thousand mercenaries back to their native land after their famous
failure to set the Younger Cyrus on the throne of Persia. Clearchus and
the other generals had been treacherously murdered. Dispirited, almost
hopeless, on their way to the longed-for Black Sea, in anticipation of
the perilous and tedious journey, past wild mountains and wilder Kurds,
they toiled up the valley of the Tigris River. Of one incident of their
journey their historian and leader makes no record. They reached the
spot where now stands the city of Mosul. On the bank of the river their
eyes fell on a bare and lofty hill. They did not know, they never
suspected, - Xenophon wrote no word of it, - that under that hill lay
buried the ruins of one of the mightiest conquering cities that had ever
ruled the world. From the palaces of that hill, Ninus and Semiramis and
Sardanapalus had led their conquering armies, all now covered
with silence.

Two centuries earlier, in 606 B.C., there had occurred one of the most
tremendous catastrophes recorded in all the grim annals of war. After a
thousand years of primacy in the East, but twenty years after the death
of Sardanapalus (the Greek name of Asshurbanapal), who had carried his
armies to Egypt and had made his capital the centre of the world's
culture and magnificence, as it was of its cruel and hated power,
Nineveh was captured, buried, and utterly desolated by a horde of savage
Scythians from the mountains of the north and east, such people as we
now call the Kurds. Its palaces had no lofty Greek columns to stand for
memorials, as at Palmyra or Persepolis; and when the outer casings of
brick and alabaster were cracked away, and the ashes of the upper
stories and the clay of the inner constructions, soaked by the rains,
covered the ruins of temple and palace, nothing was left to mark the
site but the grass-covered hill. No wonder that the learned scholar of
Socrates saw nothing, knew nothing of the city, most glorious and most
detested of all the cities of the earth. But in its day the overthrow of
Nineveh and the destruction of the Assyrian Empire had been the most
terrible event in the world's history. How the Hebrew prophets gloated
over it! "Where now is the den of the lions, and the feeding-place of
the young lions, where the lion and the lioness walked, the lion's
whelp, and none made them afraid? Wo to the bloody city; it is all full
of lies and rapine; the prey departeth not. The noise of the whip, and
the noise of the rattling of wheels, and prancing horses, and bounding
chariots, the horsemen mounting, and the flashing sword, and the
glittering spear, and a multitude of slain, and a great heap of corpses,
and there is no end of the bodies. There is no assuaging of the hurt;
thy wound is grievous; all that hear the report of thee clap their hands
over thee: for upon whom hath not thy wickedness passed continually?"
And another prophet had uttered the curse: "The pelican and the
porcupine shall lodge in the capitals thereof; their voice shall sound
in the windows; desolation shall be in the thresholds; for he hath laid
bare the cedar-work. This is the joyous city that dwelt carelessly, that
said in her heart, 'I am, and there is none besides me!' How is she
become a desolation, a place for beasts to lie down in! Every one that
passeth by her shall hiss, and wag his hand."

Thus fell Nineveh, amid the universal rejoicing of the nations, and
thus, seventy years later, fell Babylon also, which, in the short
interval, Nebuchadnezzar had made more magnificent than even Nineveh had
been, beautified for its capture by Cyrus. But before Babylon was the
capital of Chaldea, or Nineveh the capital of Assyria, the city of Calah
had been the seat of its kings, and a mighty mound - they call it Nimroud
now - "as high as St. Paul's steeple," old travellers loved to say - marks
the place on the east bank of the Tigris, twenty miles south of Nineveh;
and, before Calah, Assyria had an earlier capital forty miles still
nearer the Babylonian border, at Asshur, now Kalah-Shergat, on the west
of the Tigris; and each capital had its palaces and records, and all are
now equally buried in clay and utter oblivion. And before the Babylon of
Nebuchadnezzar, and long centuries before Nineveh or Calah or Asshur,
there had been mighty kingdoms in Babylonia, of which the world had
quite forgot the names, only vague rumors remaining in song or legend of
Nimrod and Chedorlaomer and Ur of the Chaldees, - only what was preserved
in the dimmest records of the Hebrew Scriptures. Empires were lost,
buried in chiliads of forgetfulness; would they ever be recovered?

And how much else was lost, what kingdoms, what empires buried before
Hebrew or Greek history began to take notice of the world outside and
put them in books, no one knew, no one knows even yet, although so much
has been found. The fame of Egypt was never quite forgotten, nor all its
history, for Egypt was the world's granary, and closely accessible to
the ships of Corinth and Rome; and Egypt never lost her civilization in
all her long succession of enslavement. But what memory had been kept of
the Ionia and Greece of the days before Homer? What of the early
civilization of Cyprus and Crete? Only the name of Minos, a judge in
Hell. What of Persia and Elam? Were they uninhabited before the times of
Xerxes and Cyrus? And who were these kings, Cyrus and Xerxes, whose
names burst upon us with dim light out of a black antiquity? Even they
were but shadows on a screen, just seen and disappearing. What kings and
kingdoms came before them and passed away? Has history no record? Not a
word. Only black vacuity has been left behind them. And there was that
other empire of the East, that of the Hittites, which we now know ruled
Asia Minor and Syria and contested the rule of the world with Assyria
and Egypt centuries before Agamemnon and Achilles, but so utterly buried
and forgotten that not a line of its history was left, not even enough
to let the sharpest scholar ask a question or suspect that it ever built
capitals and fought victories and produced a civilization the harvest of
which we still enjoy. Nothing was left of them but their names in a
Hebrew list of tribes, - "Amorites and Jebusites and Hivites and

Yet all these lost tribes, nay, lost nations, had left their records
behind them, only they were buried under ground and out of sight. What
a travesty it is on history and civilization, what an impeachment of the
glory of these later Christian centuries, that the lands which these old
empires crowded with a busy population should now be among the most
desolate and inaccessible on the face of the earth! There we see the
curse of the Moslem religion, and still more of the Turkish government.
Wherever the Turk has carried the sword and the Koran, there is blight
and death. Only as soldiers and scholars of Europe have forced their way
into these seats of ancient empires has it been possible to ask and
learn what is buried beneath their gray desolation.

The man who did more than any other to awaken the interest of the world
in the search for forgotten empires was Sir Henry Layard, the excavator
of Nineveh. But before his day another man had startled the world with
what we may call the discovery of Egypt. That man was Napoleon
Bonaparte, the man whose sword was a ploughshare turning up the fallow
fields of Europe, and sowing strange crops of tyranny and liberty, and
whose ambition it was to set up a new throne in the land of the Pharaohs
and Ptolemies. The mighty ruins of Karnak and the imperishable pyramids
filled him with amazement, and he set the scholars of France at work to
publish in massive folios the wonders of that most ancient land. Then
was found the Rosetta Stone, with its inscription in two
languages, - Greek, which any scholar could read, and the Egyptian
hieroglyphics, which no living man could read. But here was the key. The
words _Ptolemy_ and _Cleopatra_ were in the Greek text, and it was not
hard to find what were the combinations of characters that stood for
these words in the Egyptian. The letters _p, t_, and _l_ were in both
names. The hieroglyphic signs found in both names must be these three
letters. That beginning gave all the other signs in both words, and the
rest of the alphabet soon followed. Justly great is the fame of the
Frenchman Champollion, who has the honor of having first deciphered and
read this lost language, and opened to us the secret treasures of its
history and religion.

But with the exploration of Egypt the scholarship of the world was
satisfied for fifty years. No one seemed to think to ask what might be
hid under the soil of nearer Palestine and Syria and Asia Minor; much
less did they seek to uncover the buried capitals of Assyria and
Babylonia. Scholarship was devoted to books, to old manuscripts in
convent libraries, to recovering what the wise men of Greece and Rome
had written, and trying to wrest new facts out of their blundering old
compilations of ancient history. It did not occur to them that a hundred
kings and ten thousand merchants and priests might have left the stories
of their conquests or contracts or liturgies, unrotted in the wet soil,
imperishably preserved to be the record of commerce and empires as old
and as great as those of Egypt, but far deeper covered with oblivion.
But there they were, kept safe for twenty, thirty, fifty centuries,
until the man should come whose mission it was to find them.

More than one such man came in the middle of the last century, but one
man is pre-eminent, and typical of all the rest, Sir Austen Henry
Layard. Before him one Frenchman, M. Paul Émile Botta, had made a fine
dash on a palace city a dozen miles north of Nineveh, and had opened
wonders such as the world had never seen before. But the man whose
energy was fullest of impulse, whose enthusiasm compelled British
Ambassadors and Ministers and Parliaments to do his bidding, who aroused
the world to the importance of the exploration and disinterment of the
monuments of Babylonia and Assyria, was the Englishman Layard.

He had a youthful passion for adventure, and slender means to gratify
it. I wish you could see him as he is pictured in the volume which gives
the story of his early adventures, before he had settled on his life-work
of exploration. There he stands clad in his Bakhtiyari costume, the
dress of a mountain tribe in Persia which asserted its independence of
Teheran. It is a well-knit frame, fit to endure hardships. He stands
holding the tall matchlock, the curved scimetar by his side, and the
long pistol and the dagger in his belt. Above the yellow shoes and
parti-woven stockings a red silk robe falls to his ankles, and over that
a green silk garment reaches to his knees, and yet over that a shorter
and richly embroidered coat, with open sleeves, is held close about the
body by a wide silken sash woven in the brightest of red and gold, and
holding the weapons attached to his waist. On his head is a low flat
cap, visorless in front, but with a broad bow in place of a feather, all
striped with the richest embroidery, and with a wide tassel of the same
material falling far down his back. But the face, with its short beard
dyed dark with henna, and its blue eyes, is not that of a warrior, but
of a serious scholar or diplomatist. And he needed all the force of
courage and all the arts of diplomacy for the work he had to do.

Layard's early training was in the line of preparation for his life's
work. Much of his boyhood was spent in Italy, where he acquired a taste
for the fine arts, and as much knowledge of them as a child could obtain
who was constantly in the society of artists and connoisseurs. At about
the age of sixteen he was sent to England to study the law, for which he
was destined by his parents. After six years in the office of a
solicitor, and in the chambers of an eminent conveyancer, - for that is
the way that lawyers were educated then, - he determined to leave
England and seek a career elsewhere. He had a relative in Ceylon, who
gave him hopes of securing a position there, and for Ceylon he started.
A friend of his, ten years older, was bound for the same destination,
both fond of adventure, and they agreed to go together, and to go as far
as they could by land instead of taking the long sea journey around the
Cape of Good Hope. Across Europe they passed to Constantinople, through
Austria, Dalmatia, Montenegro, Albania, and Bulgaria; thence across Asia
Minor to Syria and Palestine; thence to Aleppo and down the Tigris to
Baghdad. It was an extraordinary and adventurous journey, often
dangerous; but greater danger was to follow. Layard had learned some
Turkish, and now he spent the long weeks in Baghdad in the study of
Persian; his companion was quite familiar with Arabic. Before they left
England they had received good advice from Sir John MacNeill, the
British representative at the court of the Shah: "You must either travel
as important personages, with a retinue of servants and an adequate
escort, or alone, as poor men, with nothing to excite the cupidity of
the people amongst whom you will have to mix. If you cannot afford to
adopt the first course, you must take the latter." The latter they were
forced to take.

Many a young man has the gift to acquire languages - almost any Oriental
can talk three or four - and the ability to rough it and live on the fare
of the people, though barbarous; and many a man has the spirit of
adventure; but this young man had one peculiar and unusual qualification
that directed him to his future career. As a child, he had read the
"Arabian Nights" with intense delight, with their stories centred about
Baghdad. Then every book of Eastern adventure, every bit of travel in
Syria, Arabia, or Persia that he could find he had eagerly devoured. It
was his day and night's longing that he might visit strange lands of
history and make explorations and discoveries. So wherever he was, he
visited every ruin and tried to copy every inscription. If his companion
would not turn aside to visit some region of renown and danger, he would
go alone and join him later. As they came down the river Tigris in their
boat, they passed the immense mound of Nimroud, and so impressed was
Layard by it that he then, scarce twenty-three years old, resolved that
some day he would search and learn what was hidden under it; but little
did he imagine what wonderful monuments he was to find there only a few
years later.

Without a servant, as poor men, in a caravan of fanatical and hostile
Persian pilgrims returning from the shrines, just travellers trying to
go by land through Persia and Afghanistan to India and Ceylon, they
left Baghdad. It was a time of unusual danger, for the British Minister
had been recalled from the Persian Court, and war with England was
threatened. They were taken for spies, and sent to the presence of the
Shah, and forbidden to follow the route they had chosen and which had
been marked out for them by the Council of the Royal Geographical
Society, to report on rivers and mountains and ruins not yet explored.
They were insulted and robbed, and their lives were often in danger; but
at last they received from the Shah their firmans. Now they separated.
His companion felt that he must go by the quickest route to his
destination; but Layard had no definite date before him, and he was
anxious to perform the commissions of the Geographical Society, and so
he plunged alone into fresh dangers.

But there is no space to tell the rest of the story of his adventures
among the Bakhtiyari, of his copying of inscriptions, of his return to
Baghdad and his decision to give up the plans of life in Ceylon, and of
his return from Baghdad again to Shuster and Persepolis and other
ancient cities of Persia, and his exploration of the Karun River and his
geographical paper on the subject, his opening of British trade, and his
return to Constantinople. At Mosul he found that M. Botta was planning
to explore the mounds across the Tigris that covered ancient Nineveh,
and he warmly encouraged his plans. At Constantinople he visited Sir
Stratford Canning and delivered to him despatches that had been confided
to his care, in view of a threatened war between Persia and Turkey. Here
he was kept in the service of the British Embassy, and intrusted with
important and delicate negotiations and investigations which were so
highly appreciated by Sir Stratford that he kept him as his attaché.

Meanwhile M. Botta had begun his excavations of a palace of King Sargon
at Khorsabad and was sending his reports and drawings to Paris. They
were all sent by way of Constantinople, and, by M. Botta's generosity,
were all seen by Mr. Layard. So deeply was he interested in them, and so
intense was his desire to carry on excavations himself, that he secured
his release from the Embassy, and also a grant of three hundred dollars
from Sir Stratford's own purse, which, with what he could spare from his
own money, would, he hoped, suffice to begin the work, when, if anything
of value appeared, it was trusted that funds would be secured from
English friends of Oriental learning. Thus, six years after leaving
England, Mr. Layard, well equipped in knowledge of the people and in
diplomatic experience, was ready to launch on his great career, which
brought him fame and earned him the post in later years of British
Ambassador at the Porte, which Sir Stratford had held, and - what is far
greater - gave to the world the larger part of its knowledge of the lost
empires of Assyria and Babylonia.

With these few hundred dollars, and contributing every penny of his own
income, in October of 1845, he left Constantinople without companion or
servant, went by steamer to Samsoun, and then as fast as post-horses
could climb or gallop over mountains and plains, he reached Mosul in
twelve days.

Here at last he was fitted for his task, supplied for the accomplishment
of his passion. The Arabs say: "I had a horse, but no desert; I had a
desert, but no horse; now I have a desert and a horse, and shall I not
ride?" His boyhood, with the artists of Italy, and learning the
languages of the continent, had fitted him for his task; then his study
of all the books of Eastern travel, then half a year wandering with a
trained companion through Asia Minor and Syria, scarcely leaving untrod
one spot hallowed by tradition, or unvisited one ruin consecrated by
history, with no protection but his arms, living with the people and
learning their prejudices and customs. Then an irresistible desire had
brought him to the regions beyond the Euphrates, and the mystery of
Assyria, Babylonia, and Chaldea had fascinated him, so that he had
visited the land of Nimrod, seen the site of their old buried capitals,
had been the guest in the tents of Shammar and Aneyzah Arabs, and even

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Online LibraryJohn LordBeacon Lights of History, Volume 14 The New Era; A Supplementary Volume, by Recent Writers, as Set Forth in the Preface and Table of Contents → online text (page 19 of 26)