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earliest Eoman civil institutions, and thus upon the whole
of Boman life. The reflex action of this influence, in its re-
motely derived consequences, may be said to be still poUtically

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operative even at the present day^ in as far as througk Borne
it has for centuries promoted, or at least has given a pecu-
liar character to the civilisation of a large portion of the
human race. (^^)

A peculiar characteristic of the Tuscans, which is espe-
cially deserving of notice in the present work, was the dis-
position to cultivate intimate relations with cextain natural
pheenomena. Divination, which was the occupation of the
caste of equestrian and warrior priests, occasioned the daily
observation of the meteorological processes of the atmo-
sphere. The "Fulguratores^' occupied themselves with the
examination of the direction of lightnings, with''' drawing
them down,*' and ''turning them aside/^ {^^) They dis-
tinguished carefully between lightnings from the elevated
r^on of clouds, and lightnings sent from below by Saturn
(an earth god), {^®^) and called Satumjan lightnings: a distinc-
tion which modem physical science has considered deserving
of particular attention. Thus there arose official records of
tiie occurrence of thunderstorms. (^^) The " Aqusehcium'*
practised by the Etruscans, the supposed art of finding water
and drawing forth hidden springs, implied in the Aquileges
an attentive examination of the natural indications of
the stratification of rocks, and of the inequalities of the
ground. Diodorus praises their habits of investigating
nature ; it may be remarked in addition, that the high-bom
and powerful sacerdotal caste of the Tarquinii offered the
laie example of favouring physical knowledge.

Before proceeding to the Greeks, — ^to that highly gifted
race in whose intellectual culture our own is most deeply
rooted, and through whom has been transmitted to us an
important part of all the earlier views of nature, and know-
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ledge of countries and of nations, — we have named the more
ancient seats of civilisation in Egypt, Phoenicia, and Etruria;
and have considered the basin of the Mediterranean, in its
peculiarities of form and of geographical position relatively
to other portions of the earth's surface, and in regard to the
influence which these have exerted on commercial inter-
course with the West Coast of Africa, with the North of
Europe, and with the Arabian and Indian Seas. No por-
tion of the earth has been the theatre of more frequent
changes in the possession of power, or of more active and
varied movement under mental influences. The progressive
movement propagated itself widely and enduringly through
the Greeks and the Eomans, and especially after the
latter had broken the Phobnicio-Carthaginian power. ^ That
which we call the begiiming of history, is but the record
of later generations. It is a privilege of the period at
which we live, that by brilliant advances in the general and
comparative study of languages, by the more careful search
•for monuments, and by their more certain interpretation, the
historical investigator finds that his scope of vision enlarges
daily; and penetrating through successive strata, a higher
antiquity begins to reveal itseK to his eyes. Besides the
difierent cultivated nations of the Mediterranean which we
have named, there are also others shewing traces of ancient
civilisation, — as in Western Asia the Phrygians and Lycians,
— ^and in the extreme west the Turduli and Turdetani. {^^^)
Strabo says of the latter, "they are the most civilised of all
tiie Iberians; they have the art of writing, and possess
written books of old memorials, and also poems and laws in
metrical verse, to which they ascribe an age of six thousand
years/' I have -referred to these particular instances as

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indicating how much of ancient cultivation, even in Euro-
pean nations, has disappeared without leaving traces which
we can foUow; and for the sake of shewing that the history
of early cosmical views, or of the physical contemplation of
which we treat, is necessarily confined within restricted limits.

Beyond the 48th degree of latitude, north of the sea of
Azof and of the Caspian, between the Don, the Volga, and
the Jaik, where the latter flows from the southern and auri-
ferous portion of the Ural, Europe and Asia melt as it were
into each other in wide plains or steppes. Herodotus, and
before him Pherecydes of Syros, considered the whole of
Northern Scythian Asia (Siberia), as bflonging to Sarmatic
Europe, (^^o) and even as forming a part of Europe itself.
Towards the south, Europe and Asia are distinctly separated;
but the far projecting peninsula of Asia Minor, and the
varied shores and islands of the ^gean Sea, forming, as it
were, a bridge between the two continents, have afforded an
easy transit to races, languages, manners, and civilisation.
Western Asia has been from the earliest times the great
highway of nations migrating from the East, as was the
north-west of Hellas for the Blyrian races. The archipelago
of the -^Egean, divided under Phoenician, Persian, and Greek
dominion, formed the intermediate link between the Greek
world and the far East.

When the Phrygian was incorporated with the Lydian
and the latter with the Persian empire, the circle of ideas of
the Asiatic and European Greeks was enlarged by the
contact. The Persian sway was extended by the warlike
enterprises of Cambyses and Darius Hystaspes, from Cyren^
and the Nile to the fruitful lands on the Euphrates and the
Indus. A Greek, Scylax of Karyanda, was employed io

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examine the course of the Indus, from the then kmgdom ot
Eashmeer (Easpepyrus), {^^^) to the mouth of the river.
The Greeks had carried on an active intercourse with
Egypt (with Naucratis and the Pelusiac arm of the Nile)
under Psammetichus and Amasis, (^^) before the Persian
conquest In these various ways many Greeks were with-
drawn from their native knd, not only in the plantation ci
distant colonies which we shall have occasion to refer to in
the sequel, but also as hired soldiers, forming the nucleus cl
foreign armies, in Carthage, (*^) Egypt, Babylon, Persia;,
and the Bactrian country round the Oxus.-

A deeper consideration of the individual character and
popular temperament of the different Greek races has shewn,
that if a grave and exclusive reserve in respect to all beyond
their own boundaries prevailed amongst the Dorians, and par-
tially among theiBolians, the gayer Ionic race, on the other
hand, were distinguished by a vividness of life, incessantly
stimulated by energetic love of action, and by eager desire
of investigation, to expand towards the world without as weD
as to expatiate in inward contemplation. Directed by the ob-
jective tendency of their mode of thought, and embellished
by the richest imagination in poetry and art, Ionic life,
when transplanted in the colonised cities to other shores,
scattered every where the beneficent germs of progressive

As the Grecian landscape possesses in a high degree the
peculiar charm of the intimate blending of lami and sea„ (i^)
so likewise was the broken configuration of the coast line,
^hich produced this blending, well fitted to invite to eariy
navigation, active commercial intercourse, and contact with
strangers. The dominiqn of the sea by the Cretans and

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Khodians was followed by the expeditions of the Samians^
Phocseans, Taphians, and Thesprotians, which, it must be
admitted, were at first directed to carrying off captives and
to plunder. Hesiod's aversion to a maritime life may
probably be regarded as an individual sentiment, though it
may also indicate that at an early stage of civilisation inex*
perience and timidity arising from want of knowledge of
nautical affairs prevailed on the mainland of Greece. On
the other hand, the most ancient legendary stories and myths
relate to extensive wanderings, as if the youthful fancy of
mankind delighted in the contrast between these ideal
creations and the restricted reality. Examples of these are
seen in the journeyings of Dionysus and of the Tynan
Hercules (Melkart, in the temple at Gadeira), the wan-
derings of lo, (^95) • and those of the often resuscitated
Aristeas, of the marvellous Hyperborean Abaris, in whose
guiding arrow {^^^) some have thought that they recognised
the compass. We see in these journeyings the reciprocal
reflection of occurrences and of ancient views of the world, and
we can even trace the reaction of the progressive advance in
the latter on the mixed mythical ancl historical narrations.
In the wanderings of the heroes returning from Troy, Aris-
tonichus makes Menelaus circumnavigate Africa, (^^7) and
sail from Gadeira to India five hundred years before Nechos.
In the period of which we are now treating, i, e, in the
history of the Greek world previous to the Macedonian ex-
peditions to Asia, three classes of events especially influenced
the Hellenic view of the universe; these were the attempts
made to penetrate beyond the basin of the Mediterranean
towards the East, the attempts towards the West, and the f oun*
dation of numerous colonies from the Straits of Hercules to the

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N(»rtli Eastern part of the Euxine. These Greek colonics.
wa*e far more varied in their political constitution^ and far
more favourable to Hie progress of intellectual cultivation^
than those of the Phoeniciims and Carthaginians in the
iEgean Sea, in Sicily, Iberia, and on the North and West
Coasts of Africa.

The pressing forwards towards the East about twelve
oentaries before our era and a century and a half after
Samses Miamoun (Sesostris), when regarded as an historical
event, is called the " expedition of the Argonauts to Colchis/'
The actual realily which, in this narration, is clothed in a
mythical garb, or mingled with ideal features to which the
minds of the narrators gave birth, w^s the fulfilment
of a national desire to open the inhospitable Euxine. The
legend of Prometheus, and tiie unbinding the chains of the
fire-bringing Titan on the Caucasus by Hercules in jour-
neying eastward, — the ascent of lo from the valley of the
Hybrites (^9®) towards the Caucasus, — ^and the mythus of
Hiryxus and Helle, — all point to the same path on which
Hicenician navigators had earlier adventured.

Before the Doric and iEolic migration, the Boeotian Or-
chomenus, near the north end of the Lake of Copais, was a
rich commercial city of the Minyans. The Argonautic ex-
pedition, however, began at lolchus, the chief seat of the
Thessahan Minyans on the Pagasaean Gulf. The locality of
the legend, which, as respects the aim and supposed termi-
nation of the enterprise, has at different times undergone
various modifications, (^^9) became attached to the mouth of
the Phasift (Bion), and to Colchis, a seat of more ancient
civilisation^ instead of to the undefined distant land of ^Ea.
The voyages of the Milesians, and the numerous town?

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planted by them on the Euxine, procmred i^ moie exact
knowledge of the north and east boundaries (^ that sea^ thrift,
giving to th^ geographical portion (d the mytbus more*
definite outlines. An important series o^ new views begaa
at the same time to open; the west coast of the neighbour*,
ing Caspian had long been the only one known, and Heca-»
teens still r^arded this western shore {^^) a^ that of the
encircling eastern ocean ; it was the venerable fiatb^ of
history who first taught the fact, which after him wui
again contested for six centuries until the time of Ptolemy,
that the Caspian Sea is a closed be^ surrcmnded by
land on every side.

In the north east comer of the Black Sea an ext^isive
field was also opened to ethnok^« Men were astonished
at the multiplicity of languages which they eiveountered ; (^^)
and the want of skilful interpreters (the first aids and rougk
instruments of the compa^ve study of languages) was
strongly felt. The exchange of c(wmod^es led traders be-»
yond the Mseotic OuK (which was su{^K)sed to be of fae
larger dimensions than it really is), through the steppe
where the horde of the central Kirghis now pasture their
herds, — and through a chain of Scythian-Scoktic tribes of
the Argippseans aad Issedones (who I take to be of Indo;^
Germanic {^^) origm), to the Arimaspes {^ dwelling on
the northern declivity of the Altai, apd possessii^ much
gold. Here is the ancient " kingdcmi of the Griffin,^^ the
site of the meteorological mythus of the Hyperboreans, (^o*)
which has wandered with Hercules far to the westward.

It may be conjectured that the part of Northern Asia
above alludec' to (which has again be^n rendered cele-
brated in oui own d^ys by the Siberian gold washings), as

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well as the large quantity of gold which, in the time of
Herodotus, had been accumulated among the Massagetse
(a tribe of Grothic descent), became, by means of the inter-
course opened with the Euxine, an impwtant source of
wealth and luxury to the Greeks. I place the locality of
this source between the 58d and 55th degrees of latitude*
The region of auriferous sand, of which the Daradas
(Darders or Derders, mentioned in the Mahabharata, and
in the fragments of Megasthenes,) gave intelligence to the
travellers, and with which the often repeated fable of the
gigantic ants became connected, owing to the accidental
double meaning of a name, (^os) belongs to a more southern
latitude, 35*^ or 37^ It would fall (according to which oi
two combinations was preferred), either in the Thibetian
high land east of the Bolor chain, between the Himalaya and
Kuen-liin, west ofJskardo ; or north of those mountains, to-
wards the desert of Gobi, which is also described as being rich
in gold by the Chinese traveller and accurate observer Hiuen-
thsang, in the beginning of the seventh century of our era.
How much more accessible to the trade of the Milesian
colonies on the north east of the Euxine, must have been
the ^old of the Arimaspes and the Massagetse ! It has
appeared to me suitable to the subject of the present portion
of my work, to allude thus generally to all that belongs to
an important and still recently operating result of the
opening of the Euxine, and of the first advances of the
Greeks towards the East.

The great event, so productive of change, of the Doric
migration and the return of the Heraclidse to the Pelopon-
nesus, falls about a century and a half after the semi.

mythical expedition of the Argonauts, i. e. after the opening


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of the Euxine to Greek navigation and commerce. This
migration, together with the foundation of new states and
new institutions, first gave rise to the systematic establish-
ment of colonial dties, which marks an important epoch in
the Instory of Greece, and which became most influential on
intellectual cultivation based on enlai^d views of the
natural world. Hie more intimate connection of Europe
and Asia was especially dependent on the estabUshment of
eolonies; they formed a chain from Sinope, Dioscurias, and
the Taufic Panticapseum, to Saguntom and Gyrene; the
lattar founded from the rainless Thera.

By no ancient nation were more numerous, or for the
most part more powerful, colinial cities established; but
it should also be remarked, that four or five centuries
elapsed from the foundation of the oldest ^olian colonies,
among which Mytilene and Smyrna were chiefly distin-
guished, to the foundation of Syracuse, Croton, and Gyrene*
The Indians and the Malays only attempted the formation
■of feeble settlements on the East Goast of Africa, in Soco-
tora (Diosoorides), and in the South Asiatic Archipelago.
The Phoenicians had, it is true, a highly advanced colonial
system, extoiding over a still lai^r space than the Grecian,
stretching (although with wide interruptions between the
stations) from the Persian Gulf to Geme on the West Goast
of Africa. No mother country has ever founded a colony
which became at once so powerful in conquest and in com-
merce as Garthage. But Garthage, notwithstanding her
greatness, was far inferior to the Greek colonial cities in all
that belongs to intellectual culture, and to the most noble
and beautiful creations of art.

Lot- UB not forget that th^e flourished at the same tuna

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many populous Gvefk cities in Asia liixioT, on the shores of
the ^ge«n Sea, in Lower Italy^ and in Sicily; that Miletus
4ind Massilia became^ like Carthage^ the founders ol fresh
colonies ; that Syracuse^ at the summit of its power^ fought
against Athens^ and i^ainst the amues of Hannibal and of
Hamilcar; and that Miletus was for a long time the first
commerdal city in tiie world after Tyre and Carthage.

Whilst a life so rich in intellectual movement and anima-
tion was thus developed externally by the activity of a people
whose internal state was so often violently agitated^ and whilst
the native cultivaticm, transplanted to other shores, -prdpa^
gated itself a&esh, and prosperity increased, new germs
of mental national devdopment were every where elicited.
Conmiunily of language and of worship bound together
the most distant members, and through them the mother
country took part in the wide circle of the life of other
nations. Foreign dements wa:e received into tiie Gred:
world without detracting anything from th3 greatness of its
.own independent character. No doubt the influence of con«
tact with the East, axtd with Egypt before it had beeome
Persian, more than a hundred years before the im&sion of
Cambyses, — must have been more permanent in its niiturc,
than the influence of the settlements of Cecrops from Sais,
.of Cadmus from Fhceniciay and of Danaus fr(»n Chemmis,
the reality of which has been much contested, and is at least
wrapped in obscurity.

The peculiar characteristics which, pervading i3sB "whole
oi^nisation of the Ghreek colonies, distinguished them from
all others, and e^pecullyfrom the PhcBnieian, arose from'tho
distinctness and original diversity of the races into which
the parent nation was divided. In the Hellenic colonies.

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as in all that belanged to ancient Greece, there existed a
mixture of uniting and dissevering fOTces, whidi by their
opposition imparted variely of tone, form, and character, not
only to ideas and feelings, but also to poetic and artistic
conceptions, and gave to all that rich luxuriance and fulness
of life, in which apparently hostile forces are resolved, accord-
ing to a higher universal order, into combining harmony.

If Miletus, Ephesus, and Ckdophon were Ionic, Cos,
Bhodes, and Halicamassus Doric, and Ooton and Sybaris
Achaian, yet in the midst of dl thfe diversity, and even
where, as in lower Italy, towns founded by different races
stood side by side, the ]^wer of the Homeric songs exer-
cised over all alike its tiniting spdl. Notwithstanding the
deeply rooted contrasts of manners and of political institu-
tions, and notwithstanding the fluctuations of the latter,
• still Greek nationalily remabed unbroken and undivided,
and the wide range of ideas and of types of art, achieved
by the several races, was regarded as the ccHnmon property
of the eniire united nation.

There still remains to notice, in tiie present section, the
third point to which I before referred, as having been, con-
currently with the opening of the Euxine, and the establish-
ment of colonies along the margin of the Mediterranean,
influential on the enlargement of physical views. The
foundation of Tartessus and Gades, where a temple was
dedicated to the wandering divinity Melkart (a son of
Baal), and the colony of Utica, more anci^t than Carthage,
lemind us that Phoenician ships had sailed in the open'
ocean for several centuries, when the straits, which Pindar
termed the ''Gadeirian Gate'' {^), were still dosed to the
Greeks. As the Milesians in the'Eadt, 'by opening tbe

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Euxine (^o^), laid the groimdwork of comnmnications whicb
led to an active overland commerce with the north of Europe
and Asia^ and in much later times with the Oxus and the
Indus, so the Samians (^os) and the Phocseans (209) ^ere the
first among the Greeks who sought to penetrate to the west
beyond the limits of the Mediterranean.

ColsBUs of Samos sailed for Egypt, where at that
time an intercourse with the Greeks (which perhaps was
only the renewal of former communications) had begun
to take place under Psammetichus ; he was driven by
easterly winds and tempests to the island of Platea, and
thence, Herodotus significantly adds ^^ not without divine
'direction/^ through the. Straits into the ocean. It was not
merely the magnitude of the unexpected gain of a commerce
opened with the Iberian Tartessus, but still more the dis-
covery in space, the entrance into a world before unknown
or thought of only in mythical conjectures, which gave to
this event grandeur and celebrity throughout the Mediter-
ranean, wherever the Greek tongue was understood. Here,
beyond the Pillars of Hercules (earlier called the PiUars of
Briareus, of -^gaeon, and of Cronos), at the western margin
of the Earth, on the way to the Elysian regions and to the
Hesperides, the Greeks first saw the primeval waters of the
all-encircling ocean {lapayot) {^^^)^ the origin, as they believed^
of all rivers.

On arriving at ttie Phasis, the explorers of the Euxine
had found that sea terminated by a shore, beyond which a
fabled ''Sun lake^^ was supposed to exist; but the Greeks
who reached the Atlantic, on looking southward from
Gadeira and Tartessus, gazed onward into a boundless
i^on. It was this which^ for fifteen hundred years, gave

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to the ''gate of the interior sea'* a peculiar importance.
Ever stretching forwards towards that which lay beyond,
one maritime people after another, Phoenicians, Greeks,
Arabians, Catalans, Majorcans, frenchmen from Dieppe
and La Eochelle, Grenoese, Venetians, Portuguese, and
Spaniards, made successive efforts to penetrate onwards in
the Atlantic Ocean, which was long regarded as a miry,
shallow, misty sea of darkness (mare tenebrosum) ; until, as
it were station by station, by the Canaries and the Azores,
they at last arrived at the New Continent, which, however,
Northmen had already reached at an earlier period and by
another route.

"When the expeditions of Alexander were making known
to the Greeks the regions of the East, considerations on
the form of the Earth were leading the great Stagirite
(211) to the idea of the nearness of India to the Pillars
of Hercules; Strabo even formed the conjecture, that in
the northern hemisphere — perhaps in the parallel which
passes through the Pillars, through the island of Bhodes,
and through Thinse — '' there might exist intermediately be-
tween the shores of western Europe and eastern Asia several
other hahitahle lands'* (212). The assignment of the
locality of such lands in the continuation of the length of
the Mediterranean was connected with a grand geographical
view put forward by Eratosthenes and extensively enter-
tained in antiquity, according to which the whole of the
old continent, in its widest extent from west to east, nearly
in the parallel of 36^, would form an almost continuous line
of elevation (213).

But the expedition of Coteus of Samos not only marked
an epoch which offered to the Greek ra«es, and to the

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nations which inherited their civilisation^ new prospects and
a new outlet for maritime enterprises^ — ^it was also the means
of making known a fact by which the range of physical
ideas was more immediately enlarged. A great natund
phenomencm which^ by the periodical upraising of the level
of the sea^ renders visiUe the relations which connect tiie
Earth with the Moon and tiie Sun^ now first permanently

Online LibraryAlexander von HumboldtCosmos, Volume 2 → online text (page 11 of 43)