Page images
PDF
EPUB

The Mathematical and Physical Sciences, especially Astronomy and Geometry, were well known in ancient Egypt. Alchymy and Astrology were held in honour. Sculpture was highly developed; and Architecture soared into immense proportions, of which abundant evidence survives in those colossal pyramids and obelisks that still astonish travellers. Diodorus, the Greek historian, mentions that it took 360,000 men for twenty years to build one of the pyramids--a conclusive proof of the absolute manner in which the Government disposed of the masses.

This is a brief epitome of the ancient civilization of Egypt, the second on record. It seems evident that its character and duration must, as in the case of Asia, be attributed to physical causes; for it endures to this day almost the same as it was twenty centuries and more before our era.

A MYSTERY.

AMERICA.

THE occupants of the American continent are much given to fancy that, however inscrutable the origin of other parts of the world may be, they, at least, can boast of living in a land whose history is of yesterday. It should not be forgotten, however, that for unknown centuries before Columbus and his successors arrived, America was inhabited, not merely by wandering and savage tribes, but by a settled and civilized people. Two nations-Mexico and Peru-the one north and the other south of the equator, but under exactly the same physical conditions as regards climate and soil, were found by the astonished Europeans in possession of

civilization little inferior to their own. It is a very remarkable fact that the religious, political, and social features of both these countries were almost identical with those of India and Egypt. In America, as in Asia and Africa, all the wealth and power were monopolized by the Upper Classes, whilst the lower were in a state of helpless subjection; the authority of the Priest was higher than that of the King; and the Government was despotic. In both continents, too, we find the same gods and idols worshipped; in both we find the people divided into castes, the lower classes performing all the labor, and subject to rigorous restraints against any attempt to better their condition. The lower classes in Mexico and

Peru," says Prescott, “could follow no craft, engage in no labor or amusement, save such as the law prescribed. They could not change their residence or their dress, or even marry without the consent of the Government.

Mexico and Peru also resembled Egypt and India in the progress they had made in the Arts. In Architecture, Sculpture, Painting, and Music, these American communities were fully as advanced as those of Asia and Africa. In Astronomy also, and some other Sciences, Mexico and Peru had made some progress; and we are told by Prescott that they were skilled in Manufacture and Agriculture, and distinguished by much social refinement. Various authors bear testimony to the splendour of their temples and palaces; the extent of their fortifications, roads, and canals; the beauty of their arms, ornaments, vases, tapestry, and costumes. The pyramids in Mexico are compared by M'Culloch to those of Egypt; and Prescott tells us that the royal residence in Peru occupied twenty thousand men for fifty years, and that two hundred thousand men were employed on the royal residence in Mexico. He adds that the Mexican Monarchs, like those of ancient Asia and Egypt, had control of immense masses of men, and would sometimes turn the whole population of a conquered city, including the women, into the public works.

Various thinkers, and none more than Buckle, attribute the condition of Mexico and Peru, just as they attribute the condition of India and Egypt, almost wholly to physical causes. They maintain that the subjection of the lower classes in Mexico and Peru was due to the fact that food was cheap and labor redundant—the banana, potato, and maize being as plentiful in these countries as rice in India and dates in Egypt. It is both singular and striking that not merely the physical features, but the social condition of the two countries, remain to-day pretty much what they were before Cortes or Pizarro visited their shores. It would seem that neither Christianity, nor the Republican Institutions which have been since introduced there, have done much towards ameliorating the condition of the great mass of the population.

THIRD CIVILIZATION.

EUROPE.

The civilization which followed those already recorded in Asia and Africa, and which soared far beyond them, appeared in Europe some 2000 years before Christ. This may be considered as the third civilization, for no date can be assigned to that found existing in Mexico and Peru.

It will be seen that the startling development of intellect, which gradually arose in Europe, utterly eclipsed all that had gone before ; but it cannot be denied that, in Religion and Government, the models bequeathed by Asia and Africa were, in the main, reproduced. Political power, wealth, and education, were, as hitherto, monopolized by the Upper Classes; and the masses still continued in the same condition of ignorance, poverty, and dependence. Religion, though stripped of many of the features which in Asia made it hideous, and in Africa degrading, was in nowise better calculated to exalt and advance Humanity. In this respect, the third civilization, though so far superior in its intellectual progress, was really no improvement on the first and second. All these civilizations must be regarded alike, and denominated alike. They were all Heathen, all Pagan : that is, all were founded on the theory that the Majority of mankind were slaves, and the Minority their natural masters. Consequently, the

« PreviousContinue »