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The Americana: a universal reference library, comprising the arts ..., Volume 10 online

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winning struggle with Babylon for supremacy.
Both countries courted the favor of the pow-
erful Pharaohs. For the first time in history
we have great states in relations of war and
peace with one another — the beginning of di-
plomacy and ^world-politics." Assyria (1125
B.C.) suddenly created an empire which ex-
tended northward to the sources of the two
rivers and westward to the Mediterranean. She
advanced beyond Egypt in the organization and
administration of conquered countries, but her
empire soon fell to pieces, partly from internal
exhaustion and partly because of invasions from

Before the rise of the Assyrian empire the
Hittites bad conquered eastern Asia Minor and
had wrested northern Syria from Egypt; but
their power was as speedily overthrown by
swarms of invaders of unknown race from
Asia Minor, who then made a fierce assault, upon

Before the end of the millennium the Phoe-
nicians had planted many trading-stations on
the islands and coasts of the Mediterranean and
had created a ^world-commerce." Sidon was
at first the leading city, and afterward Tyre.
Their civilization, with that of all Syria, was
fundamentally Chaldean, affected to some extent
by Egyptian commerce and conquest. About
1000 B.C. the Greeks adopted their phonetic

Vox* 10 — 38

Among the immigrants from Arabia into
the civilized districts of Hither Asia were the
Aramaeans, who established themselves in north-
ern Syria with their capital at Damascus, and
the Hebrews, who conquered the country in
southern Syria now known as Palestine (1150
B.c). At first their government was a the-
ocracy represented by prophets and 1( judges,*
but soon (about 1050 b.c.) they established a

In this period the creative energy of the
Egyptians had exhausted itself. Life became
artificial ; wealth, flowing in from conquests, sub-
stituted magnificence for taste, and in the end
enfeebled the national spirit. On account of
the wars the military class came into great
prominence; the king, more than before, be-
came the proprietor of the state, and the priests
gained control of the material as well as of
the spiritual activities of the nation. In Hither
Asia, also, artistic and industrial civilization
suffered through the decline of Chaldea ; for
the Assyrian genius was chiefly political and
military rather than artistic or intellectual. The
Hebrews, however, were moving in the direction
of monotheism, and Phoenicia was spreading
Oriental civilization abroad over the Mediterra-
nean lands.

Of enormous importance for history was the
development of civilization in the /Egean re-
gion. The beginnings of the Bronze Age —
proto-Mycenaean — are represented by the third,
fourth, and fifth cities at Troy (2000-1500 b.c),
followed by the fully developed Mycenaean civ-
ilization, represented by the sixth city at Troy,
by Tiryns, Mycenae, and many other cities on
the Greek peninsula, in Crete and the /Egean
islands. Characteristic of the civilization are
massive fortifications, large palaces, immense
tombs, wonderfully skilful work in gold, in
vase-making, gem-cutting, and inlaying with
precious metals, also excessive ornamentation of
apparel and effeminate luxury. Toward the
close of the millennium this culture began rap-
idly to decline.

Parallel to this development in the .fligean,
yet little affected by it, the Etruscans of central
and northern Italy were creating a peculiar civil-
ization, — less artistic and less grand than the
Mycenaean, — which did not reach its height
till the following millennium.

IV. The Growth and Decline of the Syrian
Kingdoms; the Rise of the Assyrian Empire;
the Epic Age in Greece, 1000-700 B. C. — Tyre,
taking the place of Sidon, became the centre of
the world's commerce. Under king David the
Hebrews developed a great political power; but
after the death of Solomon they split into two
kingdoms, Judah and Israel. Damascus, which
had belonged to the realm of David, again be-
came the capital of an independent Aramaean
kingdom. Near the end of the period, however,
all Syria excepting Tyre fell under the Assyrian
yoke. The people of Damascus (about 730
B.C.) and Israel (722 b.c.) were carried into
captivity, and Judah became tributary. Baby-
lon, too, was definitely conquered (728 b.c).
Egypt, again declining, divided into many
small principalities, while Ethiopia rose to a
power of the first importance. Her king con-
quered the Nile valley to its mouth in 728 B.C.
But the greatest political event of the period
was the rise of the Assyrian empire. Through
persistent warfare carried on bv a line of able

Digitized by



kings for crushing frequent rebellion as well as
for new conquests, the empire reached the
height of glory, though not yet its widest ex-
tent, under Sargon (722-705 b.c).

Great progress was made in civilization. The
Hebrews, afflicted by Assyria, were purging
themselves of polytheism, and under the lead
of inspired prophets were learning to look upon
Jehovah as the only God, almighty, pure, and
jealous, who demanded of his worshippers not
only ceremonial exactness but clean hearts and
spiritual devotion. With the Assyrians, not-
withstanding their strong religious nature, po-
litical motives were dominant. For strength-
ening their empire they adopted the plan (1) of
recruiting their armies partly from conquered
peoples, (2) of transplanting populations from
one part of the empire to another, to break
up local attachments and weaken the power of
resistance, (3) of organizing some of the con-
quered countries into provinces ruled by Assyr-
ian officials, though many were still left under
their native rulers. In government and admin-
istration, accordingly, Assyria was at this time
the most progressive of nations.

The centre of interest in the growth of
civilization, however, shifted to the iEgean re-
gion, where in this age the Ionic Greeks pro-
duced the first European literature — the < Iliad )
(q.v.) and the ( Odyssey > (q.v.) Colonists in a
strange country, the Ionians were not in a con-
dition to cultivate the Mycenaean arts, but drew
their subsistence from grazing, agriculture, and
war. With a high degree of refinement, mixed
with barbarity, they possessed remarkably virile,
elastic minds. In contrast with the slavish
Orientals, the Greeks, represented by the Ionians,
were in spirit free. To them neither nature
nor religion was terrible; their gods were in-
tensely human, generally the helpers, never the
implacable enemies of man. Combined with this
intellectual liberty and boldness was a rare
sense of fitness and proportion, manifested in
the Homeric poems referred to above. In
Greek manhood, virility, freedom, intelligence,
and taste combined to produce a civilization
which was already rapidly advancing beyond that
of the Orient.

V. The Fall of Assyria and the Rise of the
Persian Empire; in Greece Colonial Expansion
and the Awakening of a National Consciousness;
the Struggle Between Asia and Europe, in which
Greece Becomes the Centre of Interest in the
World's Politics; in the Central Mediterranean
Region the Political Growth of Carthage and
Etruria; at Rome the Primitive Kingship and
the Beginning of the Republic, 700-479 B. C. —
Early in the period Lydia became a conquering
state, and reached the height of its imperial
power under Croesus (560-546 b.c), who
ruled nearly all Asia Minor west of the Halys
River. Egypt fell under the Assyrian power
(664 b.c. ) ; but soon throwing off the yoke,
it enjoyed a long period of independence (645-
525 b.c). Before the loss of Egypt the As-
syrian empire reached from Thebes on the
Nile nearly to the Caspian Sea, and from the Per-
sian Gulf nearly to the Black Sea — the great-
est extent of country yet united under one ruler.
In Nineveh, their new capital, the kings built
magnificent palaces of brick, adorned with rep-
resentations of their wars in sculptured re-
liefs. They established libraries, too, of Baby-
Ionian learning. But they had already ceased

to make political progress, and they failed to
give their empire an organic unity, and to in-
spire the conquered nations with loyalty to the
central government. Suddenly the empire was
overthrown by a combination of the Babylonians
and the Medes, who destroyed Nineveh in 606
b.c. With this event Assyria disappeared from

Two empires — the Median and the Baby-
lonian — divided between them the Assyrian do-
main. The former lay in the north of Hither
Asia, the latter in the south. Under Neb-
uchadnezzar (606-562 b.c). Babylon became
the largest and wealthiest city in the world,
a brilliant seat of industry and commerce. He
destroyed Jerusalem, carried Judah into captiv-
ity (586 b.c), and conquered Tyre. Of the
other empire the ruling people were the Medes.
who inhabited the plateau between the Tigris
Valley and the Caspian Sea. Their sway ex-
tended westward, on the north of Babylonia,
to the Halys River, and southward over their
Persian kinsmen. Both empires, however, were
short-lived; in 550 b.c. Cyrus, an Elamitic
prince, at the head of a Persian revolt, estab-
lished himself master of the Median realm.
This event made the empire Persian. After
conquering Lydia (546 B.C.) and Babylon (538
B.c), Cyrus proceeded to subdue the coun-
tries to the east and northeast of Persia;
so that at his death (529 b.c) his empire
extended from the ^gean Sea to the Indus
River, and from the Persian Gulf to the Jax-
artes River — an area perhaps five or six times
as great as that of the Assyrian empire. His
son and successor Cambyses added Egypt (525
b.c), and Darius, the following king (522-
485 b.c), completing an organization begun by
Cyrus, divided the empire into twenty satrapies
(provinces), each under a governor termed
satrap. This magistrate, appointed by the king,
exercised full military and civil authority over
his province, subject to royal regulations and
commands. Though checked by the continual
presence of a royal secretary and by the occa-
sional visits of the king's ^eye* (inspector), the
satrap enjoyed the splendor and nearly all the
power of a sovereign. Darius also built roads
throughout the empire, distributed the taxes
equitably, and established a system of gold and
silver coins. He annexed Thrace to his empire,
and made an unsuccessful attempt to conquer

In the beginning of this period the Greeks
were extending the sphere of their influence
through colonization. About 750 b.c they had
begun to settle in southern Italy and Sicily;
and for two centuries the movement ojf expan-
sion continued, till their settlements extended
from Naucratis, Egypt, to the Pillars of Her-
cules, and from the northern coast of the Black
Sea to Libya. With colonial enterprise the in-
dustries and commerce kept full pace. They
manufactured armor, artistic bronze- ware, and
tastefully painted vases. From Lydia they
learned the art of weaving and dyeing fine
^ woolens as well as of coining money; from
Egypt they derived the elements of astronomy,
of surveying, and of the other practical sciences.
Great intellectual progress took place; lyric
poetry flourished in all parts of Greece — a kind
of poetry which shows that the Greeks were ac-
tively thinking on all subjects suggested by
their exoandinjz environment They made a

Digitized by



beginning of geography, history, and philosophy.
Thinking led to religious and moral progress;
the Greeks began to exercise self-restraint and
moderation in life. Their sympathies widened
with their intelligence; they discovered that
they were all of one blood, one speech, and
one religion, and began to call themselves by
the common name of Hellenes. They became
aware, too, of the differences between themselves
and foreigners, whom they termed ^barbarians *
and of their own superiority to all other races.
Conflicts with foreigners made the Greeks feel
that they ought to combine for mutual defense.
In the preceding age (1000-700 b.c.) their
whole country was divided among a multitude
of small city-states, each under an independent
king. While in the more progressive parts of
the nation in the period now before us the gov-
ernment was rapidly developing from kingship
through aristocracy, oligarchy or timocracy, and
tyranny in the direction of democracy, a corre-
sponding movement was going on toward po-
litical unity. The city of Sparta, after uniting
by conquest Laconia, Messenia, and Cynuria in
the strong military state of Lacedamon, built
up the Peloponnesian league with herself as
leader. The basis of her superior military organ-
ization was the phalanx. Under the fear of
Persian invasion this power expanded into an
Hellenic league of all the loyal Greek states
on the peninsula and on the neighboring islands.
In Sicily a similar league grew up under Syra-
cuse for defense against two formidable pow-
ers, Etruria and Carthage. The Etruscan domin-
ion extended from the Alps to the vicinity of
the present Naples, and probably included the
then insignificant city of Rome, which after
having been ruled from the earliest times by
kings set up a republic in 509 b.c. The Etrus-
cans, now at the height of their development,
were equally powerful by land and sea. Even
more formidable to the Greeks was Carthage,
the greatest Phoenician colony, which united
under its leadership all the other Phoenician
settlements in the western Mediterranean region.
By means of enormous wealth, accumulated
through commerce, this city recruited a vast
army of mercenaries, with which she hoped to
overwhelm the western Greeks.

Checked by the growth of foreign powers,
Greek colonial expansion came to an end about
550 b.c. Then the boundary of free Hellas on
the east was pushed back by the Lydian and
Persian conquests in Asia Minor. A revolt of
the Ionians against Darius,— in which the in-
surgents were aided by the mother country,—
precipitated between Asia and Europe a conflict
destined to affect the whole future history of
the world. An army sent into Greece by Da-
rius, was beaten back by the Athenians at Mara-
thon in 490 b.c. Ten years afterward, Xerxes,
son and successor of Darius, led a vast host
into Greece, hoping to overwhelm the free little
countrv by the sheer force of numbers. But his
fleet was shattered in the battle of Salamis (480
B.C.) and his army destroyed at Plataea by the
forces of the Hellenic league (479 b.c). Mean-
time at Himera, Sicily, the despot of Syracuse
destroyed the invading mercenary army of Car-
thage (480 B.C.). The Greeks met with bril-
liant success both in the East and in the West:
those of their race in Asia Minor were liberated ;
all were relieved from fear of foreigners; Greek

civilization was free to develop without the re-
straint of alien rule; Greece came out of the
struggle strong, proud, self-conscious, ready for
great achievements in peace and in war.

VI. The Culmination and Decline of Greek
Political Power and of Greek Civilisation; the
Hellenization of the Orient; the Unification of
Italy Under Rome, 479-264 B. C— The splendid
naval force which Athens furnished for the war,
together with superior statesmanship, placed her
at the head of a new league of maritime Greek
states, known as the Delian Confederacy (or-
ganized 477 B.c). Rivalry for the headship of
Greece between democratic Athens and oligarchic
Sparta led to the Peloponnesian war, which in-
volved a great part of the Greek world (431-
404 b.c), and which ended in the establishment
of Spartan supremacy (404-471) over east-
ern Greece, while nearly all western Greece was
united under Syracuse. Oppression on the one
hand, and on the other the love of the Greeks
for city-autonomy, caused the downfall of both
political powers. For a short time under Epa-
minondas (371-362 B.C.) Thebes attempted to
take the place of Sparta, but in vain ; the Greek
state-system, — consisting of leagues and he-
gemonies of cities, — was rapidly crumbling.
Meanwhile Macedon, a territorial state under
King Philip, taking advantage of the political
disunion and mutual jealousies of the city re-
publics, began to encroach on free Hellas. After
defeating the combined forces of Athens and
Thebes at Chaeronea (338 B.C.) he imposed
his protectorate upon the Hellenic state-system.
His son Alexander the Great in a series of bril-
liant campaigns (334-331 b.c.) conquered the
Persian empire, and afterward extended its
boundaries to the northeast and the east. His
empire was the largest the world had known.
Among his improvements was the specialization
of administrative functions, financial, judicial,
and military. When he died, the empire after
a long struggle among his generals ultimately
divided into three great states, — Egypt, Asia
(the Seleucid empire), and Macedon, including
Greece. To regain and preserve their liberty
many of the cities of eastern Greece entered
into two federal unions, the ^tolian and the
Achaean. These institutions, though long known
to the Greeks, came into favor too late to save
them from the domination — not of Macedon
but of Rome. The western Greeks, however,
were first to meet their fate.

After adopting a Republican constitution
Rome engaged with her neighbors in a long,
desperate struggle for existence (509-431 b.c).
Then by securing the headship of Latium (431-
406 B.C.) and by the conquest of Veii she be-
came one of the strongest powers in Italy. A
series of wars with the Latins, Samnites, and
Italiot Greeks (343-290 B.C.) gave her control
of all Italy south of the Rubicon River. The
success of the Romans was due to their improve-
ment on the Greek phalanx, their strict disci-
pline and obedience to authority, their laborious
patience in fortifying acquired territory, and
their liberality in the treatment of conquered
peoples. The political system which in this
period they gradually built up oil the basis of
Italian nationality recognized various gradations
of rights and obligations among the communities
of the system from the tributary subjection of
the Gauls to the full Roman citizenship. Though

Digitized by



partly federal, the system left to Rome absolute
control of foreign and military affairs. At the
close of the period (264 B.C.) Rome and Car-
thage were the great powers of the western
Mediterranean ; those of the East were Macedon,
Egypt, and the Seleucid empire.

The century and a half (479-322 B.C.) fol-
lowing the Graeco- Persian war was in some re-
spects the most brilliant in the history of civil-
ization. The tremendous energy roused in
Greece by the war displayed itself under the
guidance of taste and reason in every field of
activity. A wave of independence, overthrowing
tyrannies and oligarchies, established popular
governments in many cities, and intensified the
democracies already existing. In Periclean
Athens, which depended economically upon the
labor of slaves and tributes from dependent al-
lies, the citizens enjoyed a more liberal educa-
tion and a wider range of political and social
privileges than have ever fallen to any other
community known to history. In close relation
with this political and social development archi-
tecture, sculpture, and literature reached ideal
perfection. The fifth century produced the Attic
drama (^Eschylus, Sophocles, Euripides, and
Aristophanes), the noblest historical writing
(Herodotus and Thucydides), and the inimitable
Parthenon and Erechtheum. But the Pelopon-
nesian war exhausted the energy and resources
of eastern Greece. The growing refinement and
love of peace which characterized the following
century is indicated by the fact that the inhab-
itants of the city-states shirked military service,
so that war came largely into the hands of mer-
cenaries drawn from the less cultured territorial
states. Thought prevailed over action ; and in
art strength was to some extent sacrificed to
beauty and finish. While poetry declined, ora-
tory and philosophy reached the height of their
development in Demosthenes, Plato, and Aris-
totle, who brought classic Greek literature to
a close.

Following the conquests of Alexander, com-
merce, colonization, and administrative policy
spread Hellenic civilization over the Orient.
In the post-classic period (after 322 B.C.) Per-
gamum and Alexandria became the most fa-
mous scats of Hellenistic culture, which was
distinguished for painstaking scholarship rather
than for creative power. The West, too, was
falling under Hellenic influence. Rome adopted
from the Greeks not only the phalanx, but also
various deities and religious ideas, the alpha-
bet, — either directly or through the Etruscans,
— and other rudiments of civilization. From
the Etruscans chiefly came the impetus to the
building of public works, — temples, sewers,
roads, bridges, fortifications, — in which the
Romans showed creative genius. But to the
end of the period they paid little attention to
learning; they were without literature and had
few if any schools. A realistic, practical peo-
ple, they were narrow and unamiable in private
and business relations, but excellent warriors
and citizens. Duty and Discipine were the great
commandments to which the family and society,
citizens and soldiers, yielded religions obedience.
These heroic virtues were not the least impor-
tant factor in the creation of their empire.

VII. The Expansion of the Roman Poiver
over the Mediterranean World; the Growth of
Plutocracy and the Decline of the Republic,
264-27 B. C. — The extension of the power of

Rome over the peninsula brought her into
collision with Carthage, which had occupied
nearly the whole of Sicily and was now threat-
ening southern Italy. Not only did Rome feel
bound to protect Italy, but her growing com-
mercial class desired by conquest to extend its
opportunities for trade and speculation. The
First Punic War (264-241 B-c.) may be com-
pared in character and importance with the
recent war between the United States and Spain,
which resulted in the occupation of the Philip-
pine Islands by the former power. To meet the
Carthaginians on their own element, Rome
built a navy, and thus equipped herself for
transmarine conquests. As a result of the
war, Carthage surrendered Sicily to Rome in
addition to paying a heavy indemnity. This
island became the first Roman province (227
B.C.). Sardinia and Corsica, acquired soon after
the war, were organized into a second province.
Then by conquering the Gauls in the north of
Italy (225-222 B.C.) the Romans extended their
swav to the Alps. In the Second Punic War
(218-201 B.C.) the Carthaginian Hannibal, one
of the most eminent generals of all time,
invaded Italy, defeated one Roman army after
another, desolated the country, and came near
wrecking the power of Rome. Her preservation
was due to the wisdom of the senate, to the
solidity of Roman character, and to the tie of
common interests and of kindred blood which
bound the Italians together against the alien
intruder. This war of defense shows Rome
at her best. Peace brought her two provinces
in Spain and the destruction of her rival's navy.
So greatly superior was now her strength that
the conquest of the civilized world had become
merely a question of a few years. In another
series of successful wars (200-146 b.c) she
acquired Macedon, Greece, Asia Minor, and
the country about Carthage. Corinth and Car-
thage were destroyed, and most of the acquired
territory was organized into provinces. At this
date (146 b.c) Rome was the only great power
in the entire Mediterranean basin. The further
growth of her empire consisted mainly in the
conversion of protected and dependent coun-
tries into provinces and an occasional conquest.
To Pompey belongs the subjugation of Syria
(65-62 b.c), which alone remained of the Seleu-
cid empire, and to Julius Caesar the more impor-
tant conquest of Gaul (58-50 ac). Egypt, long
dependent, became a province in 30 b.c. The
Roman empire, consisting of provinces and de-
pendent allies, now included the whole circuit
of the Mediterranean.

Some advantages came to the world from
Roman rule: while in the East Graeco-Oriental
culture continued undisturbed, Latin civilization,
which was falling more and more under Hellenic
influence, gradually permeated the provinces of
the West; throughout the empire the cities re-
tained their own laws and self-administration
under the government of their wealthy class ; all
parts but the frontiers enjoyed lasting peace.

Online LibraryWilfrid RichmondThe Americana: a universal reference library, comprising the arts ..., Volume 10 → online text (page 157 of 185)