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Beacon Lights of History, Volume III by John Lord

Part 2 out of 4

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of study.

There is now no doubt that the exteriors of the Grecian temples were
ornamented in color,--perhaps with historical pictures, etc.,--although
as the traces have mostly disappeared it is impossible to know the
extent or mode of decoration. It has been thought that the mouldings
also may have been gilded or colored, and that the background of the
sculptures had some flat color laid on as a relief to the raised
figures. We may be sure, however it was done, that the effect was not
gaudy or crude, but restrained within the limits of refinement and good
taste by the infallible artistic instinct of those masters of the

It is not the magnitude of the Greek temples and other works of art
which most impresses us. It is not for this that they are important
models; it is not for this that they are copied and reproduced in all
the modern nations of Europe. They were generally small compared with
the temples of Egypt, and with the vast dimensions of Roman
amphitheatres; only three or four would compare in size with a Gothic
cathedral,--the Parthenon, the Temple of Olympian Zeus at Athens, and
the Temple of Diana at Ephesus; even the Pantheon at Rome is small,
compared with the later monuments of the Caesars. The traveller is
always disappointed in contemplating the ruins of Greek buildings so far
as size is concerned. But it is their matchless proportions, their
severe symmetry, the grandeur of effect, the undying beauty, the
graceful form which impress us, and make us feel that they are perfect.
By the side of the Colosseum they are insignificant in magnitude; they
do not cover acres, like the baths of Caracalla. Yet who has copied the
Flavian amphitheatre; who erects an edifice after the style of the
Thermae? All artists, however, copy the Parthenon. That, and not the
colossal monuments of the Caesars, reappears in the capitals of Europe,
and stimulates the genius of a Michael Angelo or a Christopher Wren.

The flourishing period of Greek architecture was during the period from
Pericles to Alexander,--one hundred and thirteen years. The Macedonian
conquest introduced more magnificence and less simplicity. The Roman
conquest accelerated the decline in severe taste, when different orders
began to be used indiscriminately.

In this state the art passed into the hands of the masters of the world,
and they inaugurated a new era in architecture. The art was still
essentially Greek, although the Romans derived their first knowledge
from the Etruscans. The Cloaca Maxima, or Great Sewer, was built during
the reign of the second Tarquin,--the grandest monument of the reign of
the kings. It is not probable that temples and other public buildings in
Rome were either beautiful or magnificent until the conquest of Greece,
after which Grecian architects were employed. The Romans adopted the
Corinthian style, which they made even more ornamental; and by the
successful combination of the Etruscan arch with the Grecian column they
laid the foundation of a new and original style, susceptible of great
variety and magnificence. They entered into architecture with the
enthusiasm of their teachers, but in their passion for novelty lost
sight of the simplicity which is the great fascination of a Doric
temple. Says Memes:--

"They [the Romans] deemed that lightness and grace were to be attained
not so much by proportion between the vertical and the horizontal as by
the comparative slenderness of the former. Hence we see a poverty in
Roman architecture in the midst of profuse ornament. The great error was
a constant aim to lessen the diameter while they increased the elevation
of the columns. Hence the massive simplicity and severe grandeur of the
ancient Doric disappear in the Roman, the characteristics of the order
being frittered down into a multiplicity of minute details."

When the Romans used the Doric at all, they used a base for the column,
which was never done at Athens. They also altered the Doric capital,
which cannot be improved. Again, most of the Grecian Doric temples were
peripteral,--surrounded with pillars on all the sides. But the Romans
built with porticos on one front only, which had a greater projection
than the Grecian. They generally were projected three columns, while the
Greek portico had usually but a single row. Many of the Roman temples
are circular, like the Pantheon, which has a portico of eight columns
projected to the depth of three. Nor did the Romans construct hypaethral
or uncovered temples with internal columns, like the Greeks. The
Pantheon is an exception, since the dome has an open eye; and one great
ornament of this beautiful structure is in the arrangement of internal
columns placed in the front of niches, composed of antae, or pier-formed
ends of walls, to carry an entablature round under an attic on which the
cupola rests. The Romans also adopted coupled columns, broken and
recessed entablatures, and pedestals, which are considered blemishes.
They again paid more attention to the interior than to the exterior
decoration of their palaces and baths,--as we may infer from the ruins
of Hadrian's villa at Tivoli and the excavations of Pompeii.

The pediments (roof-angles) used in Roman architectural works are
steeper than those made by the Greeks, varying in inclination from
eighteen to twenty-five degrees, instead of fourteen. The mouldings are
the same as the Grecian in general form, although they differ from them
in contour; they are less delicate and graceful, but were used in great
profusion. Roman architecture is overdone with ornament, every moulding
carved, and every straight surface sculptured with foliage or historical
subjects in relief. The ornaments of the frieze consist of foliage and
animals, with a variety of other things. The great exuberance of
ornament is considered a defect, although when applied to some
structures it is exceedingly beautiful. In the time of the first Caesars
Roman architecture had, from the huge size of the buildings, a character
of grandeur and magnificence. Columns and arches appeared in all the
leading public buildings,--columns generally forming the external and
arches the internal construction. Fabric after fabric arose on the ruins
of others. The Flavii supplanted the edifices of Nero, which ministered
to debauchery, by structures of public utility.

The Romans invented no new principle in architecture, unless it be the
arch, which was known, though not practically applied, by the Assyrians,
Egyptians, and Greeks. The Romans were a practical and utilitarian
people, and needed for their various structures greater economy of
material than was compatible with large blocks of stone, especially for
such as were carried to great altitudes. The arch supplied this want,
and is perhaps the greatest invention ever made in architecture. No
instance of its adoption occurs in the construction of Greek edifices
before Greece became a part of the Roman empire. Its application dates
back to the Cloaca Maxima, and may have been of Etrurian invention. Some
maintain that Archimedes of Sicily was the inventor of the arch; but to
whomsoever the glory of the invention is due, it is certain that the
Romans were the first of European nations to make a practical
application of its wonderful qualities. It enabled them to rear vast
edifices with the humblest materials, to build bridges, aqueducts,
sewers, amphitheatres, and triumphal arches, as well as temples and
palaces. The merits of the arch have never been lost sight of by
succeeding generations, and it is an essential element in the
magnificent Gothic cathedrals of the Middle Ages. Its application
extends to domes and cupolas, to floors and corridors and roofs, and to
various other parts of buildings where economy of material and labor is
desired. It was applied extensively to doorways and windows, and is an
ornament as well as a utility. The most imposing forms of Roman
architecture may be traced to a knowledge of the properties of the arch,
and as brick was more extensively used than any other material, the arch
was invaluable. The imperial palace on Mount Palatine, the Pantheon
(except its portico and internal columns), the temples of Peace, of
Venus and Rome, and of Minerva Medica, were of brick. So were the great
baths of Titus, Caracalla, and Diocletian, the villa of Hadrian, the
city walls, the villa of Mecaenas at Tivoli, and most of the palaces of
the nobility,--although, like many of the temples, they were faced with
stone. The Colosseum was of travertine, a cheap white limestone, and
faced with marble. It was another custom to stucco the surface of brick
walls, as favorable to decorations. In consequence of the invention of
the arch, the Romans erected a greater variety of fine structures than
either the Greeks or Egyptians, whose public edifices were chiefly
confined to temples. The arch entered into almost every structure,
public or private, and superseded the use of long stone-beams, which
were necessary in the Grecian temples, as also of wooden timbers, in the
use of which the Romans were not skilled, and which do not really
pertain to architecture: an imposing edifice must always be constructed
of stone or brick. The arch also enabled the Romans to economize in the
use of costly marbles, of which they were very fond, as well as of other
stones. Some of the finest columns were made of Egyptian granite, very
highly polished.

The extensive application of the arch doubtless led to the deterioration
of the Grecian architecture, since it blended columns with arcades, and
thus impaired the harmony which so peculiarly marked the temples of
Athens and Corinth; and as taste became vitiated with the decline of
the empire, monstrous combinations took place, which were a great fall
from the simplicity of the Parthenon and the interior of the Pantheon.

But whatever defects marked the age of Diocletian and Constantine, it
can never be questioned that the Romans carried architecture to a
perfection rarely attained in our times. They may not have equalled the
severe simplicity of their teachers the Greeks, but they surpassed them
in the richness of their decorations, and in all buildings designed for
utility, especially in private houses and baths and theatres.

The Romans do not seem to have used other than semicircular arches. The
Gothic, or Pointed, or Christian architecture, as it has been variously
called, was the creation of the Middle Ages, and arose almost
simultaneously in Europe after the first Crusade, so that it would seem
to be of Eastern origin. But it was a graft on the old Roman arch, in
the curve of the ellipse rather than the circle.

Aside from this invention of the arch, to which we are indebted for the
most beautiful ecclesiastical structures ever erected, we owe everything
in architecture to the Greeks and Romans. We have found out no new
principles which were not known to Vitruvius. No one man was the
inventor or creator of the wonderful structures which ornamented the
cities of the ancient world. We have the names of great architects, who
reared various and faultless models, but they all worked upon the same
principles, and these can never be subverted; so that in architecture
the ancients are our schoolmasters, whose genius we revere the more we
are acquainted with their works. What more beautiful than one of those
grand temples which the cultivated heathen Greeks erected to the worship
of their unknown gods!--the graduated and receding stylobate as a base
for the fluted columns, rising at regular distances in all their severe
proportion and matchless harmony, with their richly carved capitals
supporting an entablature of heavy stones, most elaborately moulded and
ornamented with the figures of plants and animals; and rising above
this, on the ends of the temple, or over a portico several columns deep,
the pediment, covered with chiselled cornices, with still richer
ornaments rising from the apices and at the feet, all carved in white
marble, and then spread over an area larger than any modern churches,
making a forest of columns to bear aloft those ponderous beams of stone,
without anything tending to break the continuity of horizontal lines, by
which the harmony and simplicity of the whole are regulated! So
accurately squared and nicely adjusted were the stones and pillars of
which these temples were composed, that there was scarcely need even of
cement. Without noise or confusion or sound of hammers did those
temples rise, since all their parts were cut and carved in the distant
quarries, and with mathematical precision. And within the cella, nearly
concealed by surrounding columns, were the statues of the gods, and the
altars on which incense was offered, or sacrifices made. In every part,
interior and exterior, do we see a matchless proportion and beauty,
whether in the shaft or the capital or the frieze or the pilaster or the
pediment or the cornices, or even the mouldings,--everywhere grace and
harmony, which grow upon the mind the more they are contemplated. The
greatest evidence of the matchless creative genius displayed in those
architectural wonders is that after two thousand years, and with all the
inventions of Roman and modern artists, no improvement has been made;
and those edifices which are the admiration of our own times are deemed
beautiful as they approximate the ancient models, which will forever
remain objects of imitation. No science can make two and two other than
four; no art can make a Doric temple different from the Parthenon
without departing from the settled principles of beauty and proportion
which all ages have indorsed. Such were the Greeks and Romans in an art
which is one of the greatest indices of material civilization, and which
by them was derived from geometrical forms, or the imitation of Nature.

The genius displayed by the ancients in sculpture is even more
remarkable than their skill in architecture. Sculpture was carried to
perfection only by the Greeks; but they did not originate the art, since
we read of sculptured images from the remotest antiquity. The earliest
names of sculptors are furnished by the Old Testament. Assyria and Egypt
are full of relics to show how early this art was cultivated. It was not
carried to perfection as early, probably, as architecture; but rude
images of gods, carved in wood, are as old as the history of idolatry.
The history of sculpture is in fact identified with that of idols. The
Egyptians were probably the first who made any considerable advances in
the execution of statues. Those which remain are rude, simple, uniform,
without beauty or grace (except a certain serenity of facial expression
which seems to pervade all their portraiture), but colossal and grand.
Nearly two thousand years before Christ the walls of Thebes were
ornamented with sculptured figures, even as the gates of Babylon were
made of sculptured bronze. The dimensions of Egyptian colossal figures
surpass those of any other nation. The sitting statues of Memnon at
Thebes are fifty feet in height, and the Sphinx is twenty-five,--all of
granite. The number of colossal statues was almost incredible. The
sculptures found among the ruins of Karnak must have been made nearly
four thousand years ago. They exhibit great simplicity of design, but
have not much variety of expression. They are generally carved from the
hardest stones, and finished so nicely that we infer that the Egyptians
were acquainted with the art of hardening metals for their tools to a
degree not known in our times. But we see no ideal grandeur among any of
the remains of Egyptian sculpture; however symmetrical or colossal,
there is no diversity of expression, no trace of emotion, no
intellectual force,--everything is calm, impassive, imperturbable. It
was not until sculpture came into the hands of the Greeks that any
remarkable excellence in grace of form or expression of face was
reached. But the progress of development was slow. The earliest carvings
were rude wooden images of the gods, and more than a thousand years
elapsed before the great masters were produced whose works marked the
age of Pericles.

It is not my object to give a history of the development of the plastic
art, but to show the great excellence it attained in the hands of
immortal sculptors.

The Greeks had an intuitive perception of the beautiful, and to this
great national trait we ascribe the wonderful progress which sculpture
made. Nature was most carefully studied by the Greek artists, and that
which was most beautiful in Nature became the object of their imitation.
They even attained to an ideal excellence, since they combined in a
single statue what could not be found in a single individual,--as Zeuxis
is said to have studied the beautiful forms of seven virgins of Crotona
in order to paint his famous picture of Venus. Great as was the beauty
of Phryne or Aspasia or Lais, yet no one of them could have served for a
perfect model; and it required a great sensibility to beauty in order to
select and idealize what was most perfect in the human figure. Beauty
was adored in Greece, and every means were used to perfect it,
especially beauty of form, which is the characteristic excellence of
Grecian statuary. The gymnasia were universally frequented; and the
great prizes of the games, bestowed for feats of strength and agility,
were regarded as the highest honors which men could receive,--the
subject of the poet's ode and the people's admiration. Statues of the
victors perpetuated their fame and improved the sculptor's art. From the
study of these statues were produced those great creations which all
subsequent ages have admired; and from the application of the principles
seen in these forms we owe the perpetuation of the ideas of grace and
beauty such as no other people besides the Greeks had ever discovered,
or indeed scarcely appreciated. The sculpture of the human figure became
a noble object of ambition in Greece, and was most munificently
rewarded. Great artists arose, whose works adorned the temples of Greece
so long as she preserved her independence, and when that was lost, her
priceless productions were scattered over Asia and Europe. The Romans
especially seized what was most prized, whether or not they could tell
what was most perfect. Greece lived in her marble statues more than in
her government or laws; and when we remember the estimation in which
sculpture was held among the Greeks, the great prices paid for
masterpieces, the care and attention with which they were guarded and
preserved, and the innumerable works which were produced, filling all
the public buildings, especially consecrated places, and even open
spaces and the houses of the rich and great, calling from all classes
admiration and praise,--we cannot think it likely that so great
perfection will ever be reached again in those figures which are
designed to represent beauty of form. Even the comparatively few statues
which have survived the wars and violence of two thousand years,
convince us that the moderns can only imitate; they can produce no
creations equal to those by Athenian artists. "No mechanical copying of
Greek statues, however skilful the copyist, can ever secure for modern
sculpture the same noble and effective character it possessed among the
Greeks, for the simple reason that the imitation, close as may be the
resemblance, is but the result of the eye and hand, while the original
is the expression of a true and deeply felt sentiment. Art was not
sustained by the patronage of a few who affect to have what is called
_taste_; in Greece the artist, having a common feeling for the beautiful
with his countrymen, produced his works for the public, which were
erected in places of honor and dedicated in temples of the gods."

It was not until the Persian wars awakened among the Greeks the
slumbering consciousness of national power, and Athens became the
central point of Grecian civilization, that sculpture, like architecture
and painting, reached its culminating point of excellence under Phidias
and his contemporaries. Great artists had previously made themselves
famous, like Miron, Polycletus, and Ageladas; but the great riches which
flowed into Athens at this time gave a peculiar stimulus to art,
especially under the encouragement of such a ruler as Pericles, whose
age was the golden era of Grecian history.

Pheidias, or Phidias, was to sculpture what Aeschylus was to tragic
poetry,--the representative of the sublime and grand. He was born four
hundred and eighty-four years before Christ, and was the pupil of
Ageladas. He stands at the head of the ancient sculptors, not from what
_we_ know of him, for his masterpieces have perished, but from the
estimation in which he was held by the greatest critics of antiquity. It
was to him that Pericles intrusted the adornment of the Parthenon, and
the numerous and beautiful sculptures of the frieze and the pediment
were the work of artists whom he directed. His great work in that
wonderful edifice was the statue of the goddess Minerva herself, made of
gold and ivory, forty feet in height, standing victorious, with a spear
in her left hand and an image of victory in her right, with helmet on
her head, and her shield resting by her side. The cost of this statue
may be estimated when we consider that the gold alone used upon it was
valued at forty-four talents, equal to five hundred thousand dollars of
our money,--an immense sum in that age. Some critics suppose that this
statue was overloaded with ornament, but all antiquity was unanimous in
its admiration. The exactness and finish of detail were as remarkable as
the grandeur of the proportions. Another of the famous works of Phidias
was a colossal bronze statue of Athene Promachos, sixty feet in height,
on the Acropolis between the Propylaea and the Parthenon. But both of
these yielded to the colossal statue of Zeus in his great temple at
Olympia, represented in a sitting posture, forty feet high, on a
pedestal of twenty feet. The god was seated on a throne. Ebony, gold,
ivory, and precious stones formed, with a multitude of sculptured and
painted figures, the wonderful composition of this throne. In this his
greatest work the artist sought to embody the idea of majesty and
repose,--of a supreme deity no longer engaged in war with Titans and
Giants, but enthroned as a conqueror, ruling with a nod the subject
world, and giving his blessing to those victories which gave glory to
the Greeks. So famous was this statue, which was regarded as the
masterpiece of Grecian art, that it was considered a calamity to die
without having seen it; and this served for a model for all subsequent
representations of majesty and power in repose among the ancients. It
was removed to Constantinople by Theodosius I., and was destroyed by
fire in the year 475 A.D. Phidias executed various other famous works,
which have perished; but even those that were executed under his
superintendence which have come down to our times,--like the statues
which ornamented the pediment of the Parthenon,--are among the finest
specimens of art that exist, and exhibit the most graceful and
appropriate forms which could have been selected, uniting grandeur with
simplicity, and beauty with accuracy of anatomical structure. His
distinguishing excellence was ideal beauty, and that of the
sublimest order.

Of all the wonders and mysteries of ancient art the colossal statues of
ivory and gold were perhaps the most remarkable, and the difficulty of
executing them has been set forth by the ablest of modern critics, like
Winckelmann, Heyne, and De Quincey. "The grandeur of their dimensions,
the perfection of their workmanship, the richness of their materials,
their majesty, beauty, and ideal truth, the splendor of the architecture
and pictorial decoration with which they were associated,--all conspired
to impress the beholder with wonder and awe, and induce a belief of the
actual presence of the god."

After the Peloponnesian War a new school of art arose in Athens, which
appealed more to the passions. Of this school was Praxiteles, who aimed
to please without seeking to elevate or instruct. No one has probably
ever surpassed him in execution. He wrought in bronze and marble, and
was one of the artists who adorned the Mausoleum of Artemisia. Without
attempting the sublime impersonation of the deity, in which Phidias
excelled, he was unsurpassed in the softer graces and beauties of the
human form, especially in female figures. His most famous work was an
undraped statue of Venus, for his native town of Cnidus, which was so
remarkable that people flocked from all parts of Greece to see it. He
did not aim at ideal majesty so much as at ideal gracefulness; his works
were formed from the most beautiful living models, and hence expressed
only the ideal of sensuous charms. It is probable that the Venus de
Medici of Cleomenes was a mere copy of the Aphrodite of Praxiteles,
which was so highly extolled by, the ancient authors; it was of Parian
marble, and modelled from the celebrated Phryne. His statues of Dionysus
also expressed the most consummate physical beauty, representing the god
as a beautiful youth crowned with ivy, and expressing tender and dreamy
emotions. Praxiteles sculptured several figures of Eros, or the god of
love, of which that at Thespiae attracted visitors to the city in the
time of Cicero. It was subsequently carried to Rome, and perished by a
conflagration in the time of Titus. One of the most celebrated statues
of this artist was an Apollo, many copies of which still exist. His
works were very numerous, but chiefly from the circle of Dionysus,
Aphrodite, and Eros, in which adoration for corporeal attractions is the
most marked peculiarity, and for which the artist was fitted by his
dissolute life.

Scopas was the contemporary of Praxiteles, and was the author of the
celebrated group of Niobe, which is one of the chief ornaments of the
gallery of sculpture at Florence. He flourished about three hundred and
fifty years before Christ, and wrought chiefly in marble. He was
employed in decorating the Mausoleum which Artemisia erected to her
husband,--one of the wonders of the world. His masterpiece is said to
have been a group representing Achilles conducted to the island of Leuce
by the divinities of the sea, which ornamented the shrine of Domitius in
the Flaminian Circus. In this, tender grace, heroic grandeur, daring
power, and luxurious fulness of life were combined with wonderful
harmony. Like the other great artists of this school, Scopas exhibited
the grandeur and sublimity for which Phidias was celebrated, but a
greater refinement and luxury, as well as skill in the use of drapery.

Sculpture in Greece culminated, as an art, in Lysippus, who worked
chiefly in bronze. He is said to have executed fifteen hundred statues,
and was much esteemed by Alexander the Great, by whom he was extensively
patronized. He represented men not as they were, but as they appeared to
be; and if he exaggerated, he displayed great energy of action. He aimed
to idealize merely human beauty, and his imitation of Nature was carried
out in the minutest details. None of his works are extant; but as he
alone was permitted to make the statue of Alexander, we infer that he
had no equals. The Emperor Tiberius transferred one of his statues (that
of an athlete) from the baths of Agrippa to his own chamber, which so
incensed the people that he was obliged to restore it. His favorite
subject was Hercules, and a colossal statue of this god was carried to
Rome by Fabius Maximus, when he took Tarentum, and afterward was
transferred to Constantinople; the Farnese Hercules and the Belvidere
Torso are probably copies of this work. He left many eminent scholars,
among whom were Chares (who executed the famous Colossus of Rhodes),
Agesander, Polydorus, and Athenodorus who sculptured the group of the
"Laocooen." The Rhodian school was the immediate offshoot from the school
of Lysippus at Sicyon; and from this small island of Rhodes the Romans,
when they conquered it, carried away three thousand statues. The
Colossus was one of the wonders of the world (seventy cubits in height);
and the Laocooen (the group of the Trojan hero and his two sons encoiled
by serpents) is a perfect miracle of art, in which pathos is exhibited
in the highest degree ever attained in sculpture. It was discovered in
1506, near the baths of Titus, and is one of the choicest remains of
ancient plastic art.

The great artists of antiquity did not confine themselves to the
representation of man, but also carved animals with exceeding accuracy
and beauty. Nicias was famous for his dogs, Myron for his cows, and
Lysippus for his horses. Praxiteles composed his celebrated lion after a
living animal. "The horses of the frieze of the Elgin Marbles," says
Flaxman, "appear to live and move; to roll their eyes, to gallop,
prance, and curvet; the veins of their faces and legs seem distended
with circulation. The beholder is charmed with the deer-like lightness
and elegance of their make; and although the relief is not above an inch
from the background, and they are so much smaller than nature, we can
scarcely suffer reason to persuade us they are not alive." The Greeks
also carved gems, cameos, medals, and vases, with unapproachable
excellence. Very few specimens have come down to our times, but those
which we possess show great beauty both in design and execution.

Grecian statuary began with ideal representations of the deities, and
was carried to the greatest perfection by Phidias in his statues of
Jupiter and Minerva. Then succeeded the school of Praxiteles, in which
the figures of gods and goddesses were still represented, but in mortal
forms. The school of Lysippus was famous for the statues of celebrated
men, especially in cities where Macedonian rulers resided. Artists were
expected henceforth to glorify kings and powerful nobles and rulers by
portrait statues. From this period, however, plastic art degenerated;
nor were works of original genius produced, but rather copies or
varieties from the three great schools to which allusion has been made.
Sculpture may have multiplied, but not new creations; although some
imitations of great merit were produced, like the Hermaphrodite, the
Torso, the Farnese Hercules, and the Fighting Gladiator. When Corinth
was sacked by Mummius, some of the finest statues of Greece were carried
to Rome; and after the civil war between Caesar and Pompey, the Greek
artists emigrated to Italy. The fall of Syracuse introduced many works
of priceless value into Rome; but it was from Athens, Delphi, Corinth,
Elis, and other great centres of art that the richest treasures were
brought. Greece was despoiled to ornament Italy.

The Romans did not create a school of sculpture. They borrowed wholly
from the Greeks, yet made, especially in the time of Hadrian, many
beautiful statues. They were fond of this art, and all eminent men had
statues erected to their memory. The busts of emperors were found in
every great city, and Rome was filled with statues. The monuments of the
Romans were even more numerous than those of the Greeks, and among them
some admirable portraits are found. These sculptures did not express
that consummation of beauty and grace, of refinement and sentiment,
which marked the Greeks; but the imitations were good. Art had reached
its perfection under Lysippus; there was nothing more to learn. Genius
in that department could soar no higher. It will never rise to
loftier heights.

It is noteworthy that the purest forms of Grecian art arose in its
earlier stages. From a moral point of view, sculpture declined from the
time of Phidias. It was prostituted at Rome under the emperors. The
specimens which have often been found among the ruins of ancient baths
make us blush for human nature. The skill of execution did not decline
for several centuries; but the lofty ideal was lost sight of, and gross
appeals to human passions were made by those who sought to please
corrupt leaders of society in an effeminate age. The turgidity and
luxuriance of art gradually passed into tameness and poverty. The
reliefs on the Arch of Constantine are rude and clumsy compared with
those on the column of Marcus Aurelius.

It is not my purpose to describe the decline of art, or enumerate the
names of the celebrated masters who exalted sculpture in the palmy days
of Pericles or even Alexander. I simply speak of sculpture as an art
which reached a great perfection among the Greeks and Romans, as we have
a right to infer from the specimens that have been preserved. How many
more must have perished, we may infer from the criticisms of the ancient
authors. The finest productions of our own age are in a measure
reproductions; they cannot be called creations, like the statue of the
Olympian Jove. Even the Moses of Michael Angelo is a Grecian god, and
Powers's Greek Slave is a copy of an ancient Venus. The very tints which
have been admired in some of the works of modern sculptors are borrowed
from Praxiteles, who succeeded in giving to his statues an appearance of
living flesh. The Museum of the Vatican alone contains several thousand
specimens of ancient sculpture which have been found among the debris of
former magnificence, many of which are the productions of Greek artists
transported to Rome. Among them are antique copies of the Cupid and the
Faun of Praxiteles, the statue of Demosthenes, the Minerva Medica, the
Athlete of Lysippus, the Torso Belvedere sculptured by Apollonius, the
Belvidere Antinous, of faultless anatomy and a study for Domenichino,
the Laocooen, so panegyrized by Pliny, the Apollo Belvedere, the work of
Agasias of Ephesus, the Sleeping Ariadne, with numerous other statues of
gods and goddesses, emperors, philosophers, poets, and statesmen of
antiquity. The Dying Gladiator, which ornaments the capitol, is alone a
magnificent proof of the perfection to which sculpture was carried
centuries after the art had culminated at Athens. And these are only a
few which stand out among the twenty thousand recovered statues that now
embellish Italy, to say nothing of those that are scattered over Europe.
We have the names of hundreds of artists who were famous in their day.
Not merely the figures of men are chiselled, but of animals and plants.
Nature in all her forms was imitated; and not merely Nature, but the
dresses of the ancients are perpetuated in marble. No modern sculptor
has equalled, in delicacy of finish, the draperies of those ancient
statues as they appear to us even after the exposure and accidents of
two thousand years. No one, after a careful study of the museums of
Europe, can question that of all the nations who have claimed to be
civilized, the ancient Greeks and Romans deserve a proud pre-eminence in
an art which is still regarded as among the highest triumphs of human
genius. All these matchless productions of antiquity are the result of
native genius alone, without the aid of Christian ideas. Nor with the
aid of Christianity are we sure that any nation will ever soar to
loftier heights than did the Greeks in that proud realm which was
consecrated to Paganism.

We are not so certain in regard to the excellence of the ancients in the
art of painting as we are in regard to sculpture and architecture, since
so few specimens of painting have been preserved. We have only the
testimony of the ancients themselves; and as they had so severe a taste
and so great a susceptibility to beauty in all its forms, we cannot
suppose that their notions were crude in this great art which the
moderns have carried to such great perfection. In this art the moderns
doubtless excel, especially in perspective and drawing, and light and
shade. No age, we fancy, can surpass Italy in the fifteenth and
sixteenth centuries, when the genius of Raphael, Correggio, and
Domenichino blazed with such wonderful brilliancy.

Painting in some form, however, is very ancient, though not so ancient
as are the temples of the gods and the statues that were erected to
their worship. It arose with the susceptibility to beauty of form and
color, and with the view of conveying thoughts and emotions of the soul
by imitation of their outward expression. The walls of Babylon were
painted after Nature with representations of different species of
animals and of combats between them and man. Semiramis was represented
as on horseback, striking a leopard with a dart, and her husband Ninus
as wounding a lion. Ezekiel describes various idols and beasts portrayed
upon the walls, and even princes painted in vermilion, with girdles
around their loins. In ages almost fabulous there were some rude
attempts in this art, which probably arose from the coloring of statues
and reliefs. The wooden chests of Egyptian mummies are covered with
painted and hieroglyphic presentations of religious subjects; but the
colors were laid without regard to light and shade. The Egyptians did
not seek to represent the passions and emotions which agitate the soul,
but rather to authenticate events and actions; and hence their
paintings, like hieroglyphics, are but inscriptions. It was their great
festivals and religious rites which they sought to perpetuate, not ideas
of beauty or of grace. Thus their paintings abound with dismembered
animals, plants, and flowers, with censers, entrails,--whatever was used
in their religious worship. In Greece also the original painting
consisted in coloring statues and reliefs of wood and clay. At Corinth,
painting was early united with the fabrication of vases, on which were
rudely painted figures of men and animals. Among the Etruscans, before
Rome was founded, it is said there were beautiful paintings, and it is
probable that these people were advanced in art before the Greeks. There
were paintings in some of the old Etruscan cities which the Roman
emperors wished to remove, so much admired were they even in the days of
the greatest splendor. The ancient Etruscan vases are famous for designs
which have never been exceeded in purity of form, but it is probable
that these were copied from the Greeks.

Whether the Greeks or the Etruscans were the first to paint, however,
the art was certainly carried to the greatest perfection among the
former. The development of it was, like all arts, very gradual. It
probably began by drawing the outline of a shadow, without intermediate
markings; the next step was the complete outline with the inner
markings,--such as are represented on the ancient vases, or like the
designs of Flaxman. They were originally practised on a white ground;
then light and shade were introduced, and then the application of colors
in accordance with Nature. We read of a great painting by Bularchus, of
the battle of Magnete, purchased by a king of Lydia seven hundred and
eighteen years before Christ. As the subject was a battle, it must have
represented the movement of figures, although we know nothing of the
coloring or of the real excellence of the work, except that the artist
was paid munificently. Cimon of Cleona is the first great name connected
with the art in Greece. He is praised by Pliny, to whom we owe the
history of ancient painting more than to any other author. Cimon was not
satisfied with drawing simply the outlines of his figures, such as we
see in the oldest painted vases, but he also represented limbs, and
folds of garments. He invented the art of foreshortening, or the various
representations of the diminution of the length of figures as they
appear when looked at obliquely; and hence was the first painter of
perspective. He first made muscular articulations, indicated the veins,
and gave natural folds to drapery.

A much greater painter than he was Polygnotus of Thasos, the
contemporary of Phidias, who came to Athens about the year 463
B.C.,--one of the greatest geniuses of any age, and one of the most
magnanimous, who had the good fortune to live in an age of exceeding
intellectual activity. He painted on panels, which were afterward let
into the walls, being employed on the public buildings of Athens, and on
the great temple of Delphi, the hall of which he painted gratuitously.
He also decorated the Propylaea, which was erected under the
superintendence of Phidias. The pictures of Polygnotus had nothing of
that elaborate grouping, aided by the powers of perspective, so much
admired in modern art. His greatness lay in statuesque painting, which
he brought nearly to perfection by ideal expression, accurate drawing,
and improved coloring. He used but few colors, and softened the rigidity
of his predecessors by making the mouth of beauty smile. He gave great
expression to the face and figure, and his pictures were models of
excellence for the beauty of the eyebrows, the blush upon the cheeks,
and the gracefulness of the draperies. He strove, like Phidias, to
express character in repose. He imitated the personages and the subjects
of the old mythology, and treated them in an epic spirit, his subjects
being almost invariably taken from Homer and the Epic cycle.

Among the works of Polygnotus, as mentioned by Pliny, are his paintings
in the Temple at Delphi, in the Propylaea of the Acropolis, in the
Temple of Theseus, and in the Temple of the Dioscuri at Athens. He
painted in a truly religious spirit, and upon symmetrical principles,
with great grandeur and freedom, resembling Michael Angelo more than any
other modern artist.

The use of oil was unknown to the ancients. The artists painted upon
wood, clay, plaster, stone, parchment, but not upon canvas, which was
not used till the time of Nero. They painted upon tablets or panels, and
not upon the walls,--the panels being afterward framed and encased in
the walls. The stylus, or cestrum, used in drawing and for spreading the
wax colors was pointed on one end and flat on the other, and generally
made of metal. Wax was prepared by purifying and bleaching, and then
mixed with colors. When painting was practised in watercolors, glue was
used with the white of an egg or with gums; but wax and resins were also
worked with water, with certain preparations. This latter mode was
called encaustic, and was, according to Plutarch, the most durable of
all methods. It was not generally adopted till the time of Alexander the
Great. Wax was a most essential ingredient, since it prevented the
colors from cracking. Encaustic painting was practised both with the
cestrum and the pencil, and the colors were also burned in.

Fresco, or water-color, on fresh plaster, was used for coloring walls,
which were divided into compartments or panels. The composition of the
stucco, and the method of preparing the walls for painting, is described
by the ancient writers: "They first covered the walls with a layer of
ordinary plaster, over which, when dry, were successively added three
other layers of a finer quality, mixed with sand. Above these were
placed three layers of a composition of chalk and marble-dust, the upper
one being laid on before the under one was dry; by which process the
different layers were so bound together that the whole mass formed one
beautiful and solid slab, resembling marble, and was capable of being
detached from the wall and transported in a wooden frame to any
distance. The colors were applied when the composition was still wet.
The fresco wall, when painted, was covered with an encaustic varnish,
both to heighten the color and to preserve it from the effects of the
sun or the weather; but this process required so much care, and was
attended with so much expense, that it was used only in the better
houses and palaces." The later discoveries at Pompeii show the same
correctness of design in painting as in sculpture, and also considerable
perfection in coloring. The great artists of Greece--Phidias and
Euphranor, Zeuxis and Protogenes, Polygnotus and Lysippus--were both
sculptors and painters, like Michael Angelo; and the ancient writers
praise the paintings of these great artists as much as their sculpture.
The Aldobrandini Marriage, found on the Esquiline Mount during the
pontificate of Clement VIII., and placed in the Vatican by Pius VII., is
admired both for drawing and color. Polygnotus was praised by Aristotle
for his designs, and by Lucian for his color.

Dionysius and Mikon were the great contemporaries of Polygnotus, the
former being celebrated for his portraits. His pictures were deficient
in the ideal, but were remarkable for expression and elegant drawing.
Mikon was particularly skilled in painting horses, and was the first who
used for a color the light Attic ochre, and the black made from burnt
vine-twigs. He painted three of the walls of the Temple of Theseus, and
also the walls of the Temple of the Dioscuri.

A greater painter still was Apollodorus of Athens. Through his labors,
about 408 B.C., dramatic effect was added to the style of Polygnotus,
without departing from his pictures as models. "The acuteness of his
taste," says Fuseli, "led him to discover that as all men were connected
by one general form, so they were separated each by some predominant
power, which fixed character and bound them to a class. Thence he drew
his line of imitation, and personified the central form of the class to
which his object belonged, and to which the rest of its qualities
administered without being absorbed. Agility was not suffered to destroy
firmness, solidity, or weight; nor strength and weight, agility.
Elegance did not degenerate into effeminacy, nor grandeur swell to
hugeness." His aim was to deceive the eye of the spectator by the
semblance of reality: he painted men and things as they really appeared.
He also made a great advance in coloring: he invented chiaro-oscuro.
Other painters had given attention to the proper gradation of light and
shade; he heightened this effect by the gradation of tints, and thus
obtained what the moderns call _tone_. He was the first who conferred
due honor on the pencil,--_primusque gloriam penicillo jure contulit_.

This great painter was succeeded by Zeuxis, who belonged to his school,
but who surpassed him in the power to give ideal form to rich effects.
He began his great career four hundred and twenty-four years before
Christ, and was most remarkable for his female figures. His Helen,
painted from five of the most beautiful women of Croton, was one of the
most renowned productions of antiquity, to see which the painter
demanded money. He gave away his pictures, because, with an artist's
pride, he maintained that their price could not be estimated. There is
a tradition that Zeuxis laughed himself to death over an old woman
painted by him. He arrived at illusion of the senses, regarded as a high
attainment in art,--as in the instance recorded of his grapes, at which
the birds pecked. He belonged to the Asiatic school, whose headquarters
were at Ephesus,--the peculiarities of which were accuracy of imitation,
the exhibition of sensuous charms, and the gratification of sensual
tastes. He went to Athens about the time that the sculpture of Phidias
was completed, which modified his style. His marvellous powers were
displayed in the contrast of light and shade, which he learned from
Apollodorus. He gave ideal beauty to his figures, but it was in form
rather than in expression. He taught the true method of grouping, by
making each figure the perfect representation of the class to which it
belonged. His works were deficient in those qualities which elevate the
feelings and the character. He was the Euripides rather than the Homer
of his art. He exactly imitated natural objects, which are incapable of
ideal representation. His works were not so numerous as they were
perfect in their way, in some of which, as in the Infant Hercules
strangling the Serpent, he displayed great dramatic power. Lucian highly
praises his Female Centaur as one of the most remarkable paintings of
the world, in which he showed great ingenuity of contrasts. His Jupiter
Enthroned is also extolled by Pliny, as one of his finest works. Zeuxis
acquired a great fortune, and lived ostentatiously.

Contemporaneous with Zeuxis, and equal in fame, was Parrhasius, a native
of Ephesus, whose skill lay in accuracy of drawing and power of
expression. He gave to painting true proportion, and attended to minute
details of the countenance and the hair. In his gods and heroes, he did
for painting what Phidias did in sculpture. His outlines were so perfect
as to indicate those parts of the figure which they did not express. He
established a rule of proportion which was followed by all succeeding
artists. While many of his pieces were of a lofty character, some were
demoralizing. Zeuxis yielded the palm to him, since Parrhasius painted a
curtain which deceived his rival, whereas the grapes of Zeuxis had
deceived only birds. Parrhasius was exceedingly arrogant and luxurious,
and boasted of having reached the utmost limits of his art. He combined
the magic tone of Apollodorus with the exquisite design of Zeuxis and
the classic expression of Polygnotus.

Many were the eminent painters that adorned the fifth century before
Christ, not only in Athens, but in the Ionian cities of Asia. Timanthes
of Sicyon was distinguished for invention, and Eupompus of the same
city founded a school. His advice to Lysippus is memorable: "Let Nature,
not an artist, be your model." Protogenes was celebrated for his high
finish. His Talissus took him seven years to complete. Pamphilus was
celebrated for composition, Antiphilus for facility, Theon of Samos for
prolific fancy, Apelles for grace, Pausias for his chiaro-oscuro,
Nicomachus for his bold and rapid pencil, Aristides for depth of

The art probably culminated in Apelles, who was at once a rich colorist
and portrayer of sensuous charm and a scientific artist, while he added
a peculiar grace of his own, which distinguished him above both his
predecessors and contemporaries. He was contemporaneous with Alexander,
and was alone allowed to paint the picture of the great conqueror.
Apelles was a native of Ephesus, studied under Pamphilus of Amphipolis,
and when he had gained reputation he went to Sicyon and took lessons
from Melanthius. He spent the best part of his life at the court of
Philip and Alexander, and painted many portraits of these great men and
of their generals. He excelled in portraits, and labored so assiduously
to perfect himself in drawing that he never spent a day without
practising. He made great improvement in the mechanical part of his art,
inventing some colors, and being the first to varnish pictures. By the
general consent of ancient authors, Apelles stands at the head of all
the painters of their world. His greatest work was his Venus Anadyomene,
or Venus rising out of the sea, in which female grace was personified;
the falling drops of water from her hair gave the appearance of a
transparent silver veil over her form. This picture cost one hundred
talents, was painted for the Temple of Aesculapius at Cos, and afterward
placed by Augustus in the temple which he dedicated to Julius Caesar.
The lower part of it becoming injured, no one could be found to repair
it; nor was there an artist who could complete an unfinished picture
which Apelles left. He feared no criticism, and was unenvious of the
fame of rivals.

After Apelles, the art of painting declined, although great painters
occasionally appeared, especially from the school of Sicyon, which was
renowned for nearly two hundred years. The destruction of Corinth by
Mummius, 146 B.C., gave a severe blow to Grecian art. This general
destroyed, or carried to Rome, more works than all his predecessors
combined. Sulla, when he spoiled Athens, inflicted a still greater
injury; and from that time artists resorted to Rome and Alexandria and
other flourishing cities for patronage and remuneration. The
masterpieces of famous artists brought enormous prices, and Greece and
Asia were ransacked for old pictures. The paintings which Aemilius
Paulus brought from Greece required two hundred and fifty wagons to
carry them in the triumphal procession. With the spoliation of Greece,
the migration of artists began; and this spoliation of Greece, Asia, and
Sicily continued for two centuries. We have already said that such was
the wealth of Rhodes in works of art that three thousand statues were
found there by the conquerors; nor could there have been less at Athens,
Olympia, and Delphi. Scaurus had all the public pictures of Sicyon
transported to Rome. Verres plundered every temple and public building
in Sicily.

Thus Rome was possessed of the finest paintings in the world, without
the slightest claim to the advancement of the art. And if the opinion of
Sir Joshua Reynolds is correct, art could advance no higher in the realm
of painting, as well as of statuary, than the Greeks had already borne
it. Yet the Romans learned to place as high value on the works of
Grecian genius as the English do on the paintings of the old masters of
Italy and Flanders. And if they did not add to the art, they gave such
encouragement that under the emperors it may be said to have been
flourishing. Varro had a gallery of seven hundred portraits of eminent
men. The portraits as well as the statues of the great were placed in
the temples, libraries, and public buildings. The baths especially were
filled with paintings.

The great masterpieces of the Greeks were either historical or
mythological. Paintings of gods and heroes, groups of men and women, in
which character and passion could be delineated, were the most highly
prized. It was in the expression given to the human figure--in beauty of
form and countenance, in which all the emotions of the soul, as well as
the graces of the body were portrayed--that the Greek artists sought to
reach the ideal, and to gain immortality. And they painted for a people
who had both a natural and a cultivated taste and sensibility.

Among the Romans portrait, decorative, and scene painting engrossed the
art, much to the regret of such critics as Pliny and Vitruvius. Nothing
could be in more execrable taste than a colossal painting of Nero, one
hundred and twenty feet high. From the time of Augustus landscape
decorations were common, and were carried out with every species of
license. Among the Greeks we do not read of landscape painting. This has
been reserved for our age, and is much admired, as it was at Rome in the
latter days of the empire. Mosaic work, of inlaid stones or composition
of varying shades and colors, gradually superseded painting in Rome; it
was first used for floors, and finally walls and ceilings were
ornamented with it. It is true, the ancients could show no such
exquisite perfection of colors, tints, and shades as may be seen to-day
in the wonderful reproductions of world-renowned paintings on the walls
of St. Peter's at Rome; but many ancient mosaics have been preserved
which attest beauty of design of the highest character,--like the Battle
of Issus, lately discovered at Pompeii; and this brilliant art had its
origin and a splendid development at the hands of the old Romans.

Thus in all those arts of which modern civilization is proudest, and in
which the genius of man has soared to the loftiest heights, the ancients
were not merely our equals,--they were our superiors. It is greater to
originate than to copy. In architecture, in sculpture, and perhaps in
painting, the Greeks attained absolute perfection. Any architect of our
time, who should build an edifice in different proportions from those
that were recognized in the great cities of antiquity, would make a
mistake. Who can improve upon the Doric columns of the Parthenon, or
upon the Corinthian capitals of the Temple of Jupiter? Indeed, it is in
proportion as we accurately copy the faultless models of the age of
Pericles that excellence with us is attained and recognized; when we
differ from them we furnish grounds of just criticism. So in
sculpture,--the finest modern works are inspired by antique models. It
is only when the artist seeks to bring out the purest and loftiest
sentiments of the soul, such as only Christianity can inspire, that he
may hope to surpass the sculpture of antiquity in one department of that
art alone,--in expression, rather than in beauty of form, on which no
improvement can be made. And if we possessed the painted Venus of
Apelles, as we can boast of having the sculptured Venus of Cleomenes, we
should probably discover greater richness of coloring as well as grace
of figure than appear in that famous picture of Titian which is one of
the proudest ornaments of the galleries of Florence, and one of the
greatest marvels of Italian art.

* * * * *


Winckelmann's History of Ancient Art; Mueller's Ancient Art and its
Remains; A.J. Guattani, Antiquites de la Grande Grece; Mazois,
Antiquites de Pompeii; Sir W. Gill, Pompeiana; Donaldson's Antiquities
of Athens; Vitruvius, Stuart, Chandler, Clarke, Dodwell, Cleghorn, De
Quincey, Fergusson, Schliemann,--these are some of the innumerable
authorities on Architecture among the ancients.

In Sculpture, Pliny and Cicero are the most noted critics. There is a
fine article in the Encyclopaedia Britannica on this subject. In Smith's
Dictionary are the Lives and works of the most noted masters. Mueller's
Ancient Art alludes to the leading masterpieces. Montfaucon's Antiquite
Expliquee en Figures; Specimens of Ancient Sculpture, by the Society of
Dilettanti, London, 1809; Ancient Marbles of the British Museum, by
Taylor Combe; Millin, Introduction a l'Etude des Monuments Antiques;
Monuments Inedits d'Antiquite figuree, recuellis et publies par
Raoul-Rochette; Gerhard's Archaeologische Zeitung; David's Essai sur le
Classement Chronologique des Sculpteurs Grecs les plus celebres.

In Painting, see Mueller's Ancient Art; Fuseli's Lectures; Sir Joshua
Reynolds's Lectures; Lanzi's History of Painting in Italy (translated by
Roscoe); and the Article on "Painting," Encyclopaedia Britannica, and
Article "Pictura," Smith's Dictionary, both of which last mentioned
refer to numerous German, French, and other authorities, should the
reader care to pursue the subject. Vitruvius (on Architecture,
translated by Gwilt) writes at some length on ancient wall-paintings.
The finest specimens of ancient paintings are found in catacombs, the
baths, and the ruins of Pompeii. On this subject Winckelmann is the
great authority.



2000-100 B.C.

It would be absurd to claim for the ancients any great attainments in
science, such as they made in the field of letters or the realm of art.
It is in science, especially when applied to practical life, that the
moderns show their great superiority to the most enlightened nations of
antiquity. In this great department of human inquiry modern genius
shines with the lustre of the sun. It is this which most strikingly
attests the advance of civilization. It is this which has distinguished
and elevated the races of Europe, and carried them in the line of
progress beyond the attainments of the Greeks and Romans. With the
magnificent discoveries and inventions of the last three hundred years
in almost every department of science, especially in the explorations of
distant seas and continents, in the analysis of chemical compounds, in
the wonders of steam and electricity, in mechanical appliances to
abridge human labor, in astronomical researches, in the explanation of
the phenomena of the heavens, in the miracles which inventive genius has
wrought,--seen in our ships, our manufactories, our printing-presses,
our observatories, our fortifications, our laboratories, our mills, our
machines to cultivate the earth, to make our clothes, to build our
houses, to multiply our means of offence and defence, to make weak
children do the work of Titans, to measure our time with the accuracy of
the planetary orbits, to use the sun itself in perpetuating our
likenesses to distant generations, to cause a needle to guide the
mariner with assurance on the darkest night, to propel a heavy ship
against wind and tide without oars or sails, to make carriages ascend
mountains without horses at the rate of thirty miles an hour, to convey
intelligence with the speed of lightning from continent to continent and
under oceans that ancient navigators never dared to cross,--these and
other wonders attest an ingenuity and audacity of intellect which would
have overwhelmed with amazement the most adventurous of Greeks and the
most potent of Romans.

But the great discoveries and inventions to which we owe this marked
superiority are either accidental or the result of generations of
experiment, assisted by an immense array of ascertained facts from which
safe inductions can be made. It is not, probably, the superiority of
the European races over the Greeks and Romans to which we may ascribe
the wonderful advance of modern society, but the particular direction
which genius was made to take. Had the Greeks given the energy of their
minds to mechanical forces as they did to artistic creations, they might
have made wonderful inventions. But it was not so ordered by Providence.
At that time the world was not in the stage of development when this
particular direction of intellect could have been favored. The
development of the physical sciences, with their infinite multiplicity
and complexity, required more centuries of observation, collection and
collation of facts, deductions from known phenomena, than the ancients
had had to work with; while the more ethereal realms of philosophy,
ethics, aesthetics, and religion, though needing keen study of Nature
and of man, depended more upon inner spiritual forces, and less upon
accumulated detail of external knowledge. Yet as there were some
subjects which the Greeks and Romans seemed to exhaust, some fields of
labor and thought in which they never have been and perhaps never will
be surpassed, so some future age may direct its energies into channels
that are as unknown to us as clocks and steam-engines were to the
Greeks. This is the age of mechanism and of science; and mechanism and
science sweep everything before them, and will probably be carried to
their utmost capacity and development. After that the human mind may
seek some new department, some new scope for its energies, and an age of
new wonders may arise,--perhaps after the present dominant races shall
have become intoxicated with the greatness of their triumphs and have
shared the fate of the old monarchies of the East. But I would not
speculate on the destinies of the European nations, whether they are to
make indefinite advances until they occupy and rule the whole world, or
are destined to be succeeded by nations as yet undeveloped,--savages, as
their fathers were when Rome was in the fulness of material wealth
and grandeur.

I have shown that in the field of artistic excellence, in literary
composition, in the arts of government and legislation, and even in the
realm of philosophical speculation, the ancients were our
school-masters, and that among them were some men of most marvellous
genius, who have had no superiors among us. But we do not see among them
the exhibition of genius in what we call science, at least in its
application to practical life. It would be difficult to show any
department of science which the ancients carried to any considerable
degree of perfection. Nevertheless, there were departments in which they
made noble attempts, and in which they showed large capacity, even if
they were unsuccessful in great practical results.

Astronomy was one of these. In this science such men as Eratosthenes,
Aristarchus, Hipparchus, and Ptolemy were great lights of whom humanity
may be proud; and had they been assisted by our modern inventions, they
might have earned a fame scarcely eclipsed by that of Kepler and Newton.
The old astronomers did little to place this science on a true
foundation, but they showed great ingenuity, and discovered some truths
which no succeeding age has repudiated. They determined the
circumference of the earth by a method identical with that which would
be employed by modern astronomers; they ascertained the position of the
stars by right ascension and declination; they knew the obliquity of the
ecliptic, and determined the place of the sun's apogee as well as its
mean motion. Their calculations on the eccentricity of the moon prove
that they had a rectilinear trigonometry and tables of chords. They had
an approximate knowledge of parallax; they could calculate eclipses of
the moon, and use them for the correction of their lunar tables. They
understood spherical trigonometry, and determined the motions of the sun
and moon, involving an accurate definition of the year and a method of
predicting eclipses; they ascertained that the earth was a sphere, and
reduced the phenomena of the heavenly bodies to uniform movements of
circular orbits. We have settled by physical geography the exact form
of the earth, but the ancients arrived at their knowledge by
astronomical reasoning. Says Whewell:--

"The reduction of the motions of the sun, moon, and five planets to
circular orbits, as was done by Hipparchus, implies deep concentrated
thought and scientific abstraction. The theories of eccentrics and
epicycles accomplished the end of explaining all the known phenomena.
The resolution of the apparent motions of the heavenly bodies into an
assemblage of circular motions was a great triumph of genius, and was
equivalent to the most recent and improved processes by which modern
astronomers deal with such motions."

Astronomy was probably born in Chaldaea as early as the time of Abraham.
The glories of the firmament were impressed upon the minds of the rude
primitive races with an intensity which we do not feel, with all the
triumphs of modern science. The Chaldaean shepherds, as they watched
their flocks by night, noted the movements of the planets, and gave
names to the more brilliant constellations. Before religious rituals
were established, before great superstitions arose, before poetry was
sung, before musical instruments were invented, before artists
sculptured marble or melted bronze, before coins were stamped, before
temples arose, before diseases were healed by the arts of medicine,
before commerce was known, those Oriental shepherds counted the anxious
hours by the position of certain constellations. Astronomy is therefore
the oldest of the ancient sciences, although it remained imperfect for
more than four thousand years. The old Assyrians, Egyptians, and Greeks
made but few discoveries which are valued by modern astronomers, but
they laid the foundation of the science, and ever regarded it as one of
the noblest subjects that could stimulate the faculties of man. It was
invested with all that was religious and poetical.

The spacious level and unclouded horizon of Chaldaea afforded peculiar
facilities of observation; and its pastoral and contemplative
inhabitants, uncontaminated by the vices and superstitions of subsequent
ages, active-minded and fresh, discovered after a long observation of
eclipses--some say extending over nineteen centuries--the cycle of two
hundred and twenty-three lunations, which brings back the eclipses in
the same order. Having once established their cycle, they laid the
foundation for the most sublime of all the sciences. Callisthenes
transmitted from Babylon to Aristotle a collection of observations of
all the eclipses that preceded the conquests of Alexander, together with
the definite knowledge which the Chaldaeans had collected about the
motions of the heavenly bodies. Such knowledge was rude and simple, and
amounted to little beyond the fact that there were spherical
revolutions about an inclined axis, and that the poles pointed always to
particular stars. The Egyptians also recorded their observations, from
which it would appear that they observed eclipses at least sixteen
hundred years before the beginning of our era,--which is not improbable,
if the speculations of modern philosophers respecting the age of the
world are entitled to credit. The Egyptians discovered by the rising of
Sirius that the year consists of three hundred and sixty-five and
one-quarter days; and this was their sacred year, in distinction from
the civil, which consisted of three hundred and sixty-five days. They
also had observed the courses of the planets, and could explain the
phenomena of the stations and retrogradations; and it is asserted too
that they regarded Mercury and Venus as satellites of the sun. Some have
maintained that the obelisks which the Egyptians erected served the
purpose of gnomons for determining the obliquity of the ecliptic, the
altitude of the pole, and the length of the tropical year. It is thought
even that the Pyramids, by the position of their sides toward the
cardinal points, attest Egyptian acquaintance with a meridional line.
The Chinese boast of having noticed and recorded a series of eclipses
extending over a period of thirty-eight hundred and fifty-eight years;
and it is probable that they anticipated the Greeks two thousand years
in the discovery of the Metonic cycle,--or the cycle of nineteen years,
at the end of which time the new moons fall on the same days of the
year. The Chinese also determined the obliquity of the ecliptic eleven
hundred years before our era. The Hindus at a remote antiquity
represented celestial phenomena with considerable exactness, and
constructed tables by which the longitude of the sun and moon were
determined, and dials to measure time. Bailly thinks that thirty-one
hundred and two years before Christ astronomy was cultivated in Siam
which hardly yields in accuracy to that which modern science has built
on the theory of universal gravitation.

But the Greeks after all were the only people of antiquity who elevated
astronomy to the dignity of a science. They however confessed that they
derived their earliest knowledge from the Babylonian and Egyptian
priests, while the priests of Thebes claimed to be the originators of
exact astronomical observations. Diodorus asserts that the Chaldaeans
used the Temple of Belus, in the centre of Babylon, for their survey of
the heavens. But whether the Babylonians or the Egyptians were the
earliest astronomers is of little consequence, although the pedants make
it a grave matter of investigation. All we know is that astronomy was
cultivated by both Babylonians and Egyptians, and that they made but
very limited attainments. They approximated to the truth in reference
to the solar year, by observing the equinoxes and solstices and the
heliacal rising of particular stars.

The early Greek philosophers who visited Egypt and the East in search of
knowledge, found very little to reward their curiosity or industry,--not
much beyond preposterous claims to a high antiquity, and to an esoteric
wisdom which has not yet been revealed. Plato and Eudoxus spent thirteen
years in Heliopolis for the purpose of extracting the scientific
knowledge of the Egyptian priests, yet they learned but little beyond
the fact that the solar year was a trifle beyond three hundred and
sixty-five days. No great names have come down to us from the priests of
Babylon or Egypt; no one gained an individual reputation. The Chaldaean
and Egyptian priests may have furnished the raw material of observation
to the Greeks, but the latter alone possessed the scientific genius by
which undigested facts were converted into a symmetrical system. The
East never gave valuable knowledge to the West; it gave the tendency to
religious mysticism, which in its turn tended to superstition. Instead
of astronomy, it gave astrology; instead of science, it gave magic,
incantations, and dreams. The Eastern astronomers connected their
astronomy with divination from the stars, and made their antiquity reach
back to two hundred and seventy thousand years. There were soothsayers
in the time of Daniel, and magicians, exorcists, and interpreters of
signs. They were not men of scientific research, seeking truth; it was
power they sought, by perverting the intellect of the people. The
astrology of the East was founded on the principle that a star or
constellation presided over the birth of an individual, and that it
either portended his fate, or shed a good or bad influence upon his
future life. The star which looked upon a child at the hour of his birth
was called the "horoscopus," and the peculiar influence of each planet
was determined by the astrologers. The superstitions of Egypt and
Chaldaea unfortunately spread among both the Greeks and Romans, and
these were about all that the Western nations learned from the boastful
priests of occult Oriental science. Whatever was known of real value
among the ancients is due to the earnest inquiries of the Greeks.

And yet their researches were very unsatisfactory until the time of
Hipparchus. The primitive knowledge was almost nothing. The Homeric
poems regarded the earth as a circular plain bounded by the heaven,
which was a solid vault or hemisphere, with its concavity turned
downward. This absurdity was believed until the time of Herodotus, five
centuries after; nor was it exploded fully in the time of Aristotle. The
sun, moon, and stars were supposed to move upon or with the inner
surface of the heavenly hemisphere, and the ocean was thought to gird
the earth around as a great belt, into which the heavenly bodies sank at
night. Homer believed that the sun arose out of the ocean, ascended the
heaven, and again plunged into the ocean, passing under the earth, and
producing darkness. The Greeks even personified the sun as a divine
charioteer driving his fiery steeds over the steep of heaven, until he
bathed them at evening in the western waves. Apollo became the god of
the sun, as Diana was the goddess of the moon. But the early Greek
inquirers did not attempt to explain how the sun found his way from the
west back again to the east; they merely took note of the diurnal
course, the alternation of day and night, the number of the seasons, and
their regular successions. They found the points of the compass by
determining the recurrence of the equinoxes and solstices; but they had
no conception of the ecliptic,--of that great circle in the heaven
formed by the sun's annual course,--and of its obliquity when compared
with our equator. Like the Egyptians and Babylonians, the Greeks
ascertained the length of the year to be three hundred and sixty-five
days; but perfect accuracy was lacking, for want of scientific
instruments and of recorded observations of the heavenly bodies. The
Greeks had not even a common chronological era for the designation of
years. Herodotus informs us that the Trojan War preceded his time by
eight hundred years: he merely states the interval between the event in
question and his own time; he had certain data for distant periods. The
Greeks reckoned dates from the Trojan War, and the Romans from the
building of their city. The Greeks also divided the year into twelve
months, and introduced the intercalary circle of eight years, although
the Romans disused it afterward, until the calendar was reformed by
Julius Caesar. Thus there was no scientific astronomical knowledge worth
mentioning among the primitive Greeks.

Immense research and learning have been expended by modern critics to
show the state of scientific astronomy among the Greeks. I am amazed
equally at the amount of research and its comparative worthlessness; for
what addition to science can be made by an enumeration of the
puerilities and errors of the Greeks, and how wasted and pedantic the
learning which ransacks all antiquity to prove that the Greeks adopted
this or that absurdity![1]

[Footnote 1: The style of modern historical criticism is well
exemplified in the discussions of the Germans whether the Arx on the
Capitoline Hill occupied the northeastern or southwestern corner, which
take up nearly one half of the learned article on the Capitoline in
Smith's Dictionary.]

The earliest historic name associated with astronomy in Greece was
Thales, the founder of the Ionic school of philosophers. He is reported
to have made a visit to Egypt, to have fixed the year at three hundred
and sixty-five days, to have determined the course of the sun from
solstice to solstice, and to have calculated eclipses. He attributed an
eclipse of the moon to the interposition of the earth between the sun
and moon, and an eclipse of the sun to the interposition of the moon
between the sun and earth,--and thus taught the rotundity of the earth,
sun, and moon. He also determined the ratio of the sun's diameter to its
apparent orbit. As he first solved the problem of inscribing a
right-angled triangle in a circle, he is the founder of geometrical
science in Greece. He left, however, nothing to writing; hence all
accounts of him are confused,--some doubting even if he made the
discoveries attributed to him. His philosophical speculations, which
science rejects,--such as that water is the principle of all
things,--are irrelevant to a description of the progress of astronomy.
That he was a great light no one questions, considering the ignorance
with which he was surrounded.

Anaximander, who followed Thales in philosophy, held to puerile
doctrines concerning the motions and nature of the stars, which it is
useless to repeat. His addition to science, if he made any, was in
treating the magnitudes and distances of the planets. He constructed
geographical charts, and attempted to delineate the celestial sphere,
and to measure time with a gnomon, or time-pillar, by the motion of its
shadow upon a dial.[2]

[Footnote 2: Dr. E.H. Knight, in his "American Mechanical Dictionary"
(i. 692), cites the Scriptural account of the beautiful altar seen by
King Ahaz of Jerusalem, in Damascus, when he went thither to greet
Tiglath-Pileser, the Assyrian who had helped him against his Samarian
enemy. Ahaz erected a similar altar at Jerusalem, and also a _sun-dial,_
the same one mentioned in the account of the miraculous cure of his son
Hezekiah. "This," says Dr. Knight, "was probably the first dial on
record, and is one hundred and forty years before Thales, and nearly
four hundred before Plato and Aristotle, and just a little previous to
the lunar eclipses observed at Babylon, as recorded by Ptolemy.... The
Hebrew word [for this dial] is said by Colonel White of the Bengal army
to signify a _staircase_, which much strengthens the inference that it
was like the equinoctial dial of the Indian nations and of Mesopotamia,
from whence its pattern is assumed to have been derived."]

Anaximenes of Miletus taught, like his predecessors, crude notions of
the sun and stars, and speculated on the nature of the moon, but did
nothing to advance his science on true grounds, except by the
construction of sun-dials. The same may be said of Heraclitus,
Xenophanes, Parmenides, and Anaxagoras: they were great men, but they
gave to the world mere speculations, some of which are very puerile.
They all held to the idea that the heavenly bodies revolved around the
earth, and that the earth was a plain; but they explained eclipses, and
supposed that the moon derived its light from the sun. Some of them
knew the difference between the planets and the fixed stars. Anaxagoras
scouted the notion that the sun was a god, and supposed it to be a mass
of ignited stone,--for which he was called an atheist.

Socrates, who belonged to another school, avoided all barren
speculations concerning the universe, and confined himself to human
actions and interests. He looked even upon geometry in a very practical
way, valuing it only so far as it could be made serviceable to
land-measuring. As for the stars and planets, he supposed it was
impossible to arrive at a true knowledge of them, and regarded
speculations upon them as useless.

It must be admitted that the Greek astronomers, however barren were
their general theories, laid the foundation of science. Pythagoras
taught the obliquity of the ecliptic, probably learned in Egypt, and the
identity of the morning and evening stars. It is supposed that he
maintained that the sun was the centre of the universe, and that the
earth revolved around it; but this he did not demonstrate, and his whole
system was unscientific, assuming certain arbitrary principles, from
which he reasoned deductively. "He assumed that fire is more worthy than
earth; that the more worthy place must be given to the more worthy; that
the extremity is more worthy than the intermediate parts,--and hence,
as the centre is an extremity, the place of fire is at the centre of the
universe, and that therefore the earth and other heavenly bodies move
round the fiery centre." But this was no heliocentric system, since the
sun moved, like the earth, in a circle around the central fire. This was
merely the work of the imagination, utterly unscientific, though bold
and original. Nor did this hypothesis gain credit, since it was the
fixed opinion of philosophers that the earth was the centre of the
universe, around which the sun, moon, and planets revolved. But the
Pythagoreans were the first to teach that the motions of the sun, moon,
and planets are circular and equable. Their idea that the celestial
bodies emitted a sound, and were combined into a harmonious symphony,
was exceedingly crude, however beautiful "The music of the spheres"
belongs to poetry, as well as to the speculations of Plato.

Eudoxus, in the fifth century before Christ, contributed to science by
making a descriptive map of the heavens, which was used as a manual of
sidereal astronomy to the sixth century of our era.

The error of only one hundred and ninety days in the periodic time of
Saturn shows that there had been for a long time close observations.
Aristotle--whose comprehensive intellect, like that of Bacon, took in
all forms of knowledge--condensed all that was known in his day into a
treatise concerning the heavens. He regarded astronomy as more
intimately connected with mathematics than any other branch of science.
But even he did not soar far beyond the philosophers of his day, since
he held to the immobility of the earth,--the grand error of the
ancients. Some few speculators in science (like Heraclitus of Pontus,
and Hicetas) conceived a motion of the earth itself upon its axis, so as
to account for the apparent motion of the sun; but they also thought it
was in the centre of the universe.

The introduction of the gnomon (time-pillar) and dial into Greece
advanced astronomical knowledge, since they were used to determine the
equinoxes and solstices, as well as parts of the day. Meton set up a
sun-dial at Athens in the year 433 B.C., but the length of the hour
varied with the time of the year, since the Greeks divided the day into
twelve equal parts. Dials were common at Rome in the time of Plautus,
224 B.C.; but there was a difficulty in using them, since they failed at
night and in cloudy weather, and could not be relied on. Hence the
introduction of water-clocks instead.

Aristarchus is said to have combated (280 B.C.) the geocentric theory so
generally received by philosophers, and to have promulgated the
hypothesis "that the fixed stars and the sun are immovable; that the
earth is carried round the sun in the circumference of a circle of
which the sun is the centre; and that the sphere of the fixed stars,
having the same centre as the sun, is of such magnitude that the orbit
of the earth is to the distance of the fixed stars as the centre of the
sphere of the fixed stars is to its surface." Aristarchus also,
according to Plutarch, explained the apparent annual motion of the sun
in the ecliptic by supposing the orbit of the earth to be inclined to
its axis. There is no evidence that this great astronomer supported his
heliocentric theory with any geometrical proof, although Plutarch
maintains that he demonstrated it. This theory gave great offence,
especially to the Stoics; and Cleanthes, the head of the school at that
time, maintained that the author of such an impious doctrine should be
punished. Aristarchus left a treatise "On the Magnitudes and Distances
of the Sun and Moon;" and his methods to measure the apparent diameters
of the sun and moon are considered theoretically sound by modern
astronomers, but practically inexact owing to defective instruments. He
estimated the diameter of the sun at the seven hundred and twentieth
part of the circumference of the circle which it describes in its
diurnal revolution, which is not far from the truth; but in this
treatise he does not allude to his heliocentric theory.

Archimedes of Syracuse, born 287 B.C., is stated to have measured the
distance of the sun, moon, and planets, and he constructed an orrery in
which he exhibited their motions. But it was not in the Grecian colony
of Syracuse, but of Alexandria, that the greatest light was shed on
astronomical science. Here Aristarchus resided, and also Eratosthenes,
who lived between the years 276 and 196 B.C. The latter was a native of
Athens, but was invited by Ptolemy Euergetes to Alexandria, and placed
at the head of the library. His great achievement was the determination
of the circumference of the earth. This was done by measuring on the
ground the distance between Syene, a city exactly under the tropic, and
Alexandria, situated on the same meridian. The distance was found to be
five thousand stadia. The meridional distance of the sun from the zenith
of Alexandria he estimated to be 7 deg. 12', or a fiftieth part of the
circumference of the meridian. Hence the circumference of the earth was
fixed at two hundred and fifty thousand stadia,--which is not very
different from our modern computation. The circumference being known,
the diameter of the earth was easily determined. The moderns have added
nothing to this method. He also calculated the diameter of the sun to be
twenty-seven times greater than that of the earth, and the distance of
the sun from the earth to be eight hundred and four million stadia, and
that of the moon seven hundred and eighty thousand stadia,--a close
approximation to the truth.

Astronomical science received a great impulse from the school of
Alexandria, the greatest light of which was Hipparchus, who flourished
early in the second century before Christ. He laid the foundation of
astronomy upon a scientific basis. "He determined," says Delambre, "the
position of the stars by right ascensions and declinations, and was
acquainted with the obliquity of the ecliptic. He determined the
inequality of the sun and the place of its apogee, as well as its mean
motion; the mean motion of the moon, of its nodes and apogee; the
equation of the moon's centre, and the inclination of its orbit. He
calculated eclipses of the moon, and used them for the correction of his
lunar tables, and he had an approximate knowledge of parallax." His
determination of the motions of the sun and moon, and his method of
predicting eclipses evince great mathematical genius. But he combined
with this determination a theory of epicycles and eccentrics which
modern astronomy discards. It was however a great thing to conceive of
the earth as a solid sphere, and to reduce the phenomena of the heavenly
bodies to uniform motions in circular orbits. "That Hipparchus should
have succeeded in the first great steps of the resolution of the
heavenly bodies into circular motions is a circumstance," says Whewell,
"which gives him one of the most distinguished places in the roll of
great astronomers." But he did even more than this: he discovered that
apparent motion of the fixed stars round the axis of the ecliptic, which
is called the Precession of the Equinoxes,--one of the greatest
discoveries in astronomy. He maintained that the precession was not
greater than fifty-nine seconds, and not less than thirty-six seconds.
Hipparchus also framed a catalogue of the stars, and determined their
places with reference to the ecliptic by their latitudes and longitudes.
Altogether he seems to have been one of the greatest geniuses of
antiquity, and his works imply a prodigious amount of calculation.

Astronomy made no progress for three hundred years, although it was
expounded by improved methods. Posidonius constructed an orrery, which
exhibited the diurnal motions of the sun, moon, and five planets.
Posidonius calculated the circumference of the earth to be two hundred
and forty thousand stadia, by a different method from Eratosthenes. The
barrenness of discovery from Hipparchus to Ptolemy,--the Alexandrian
mathematician, astronomer, and geographer in the second century of the
Christian era,--in spite of the patronage of the royal Ptolemies of
Egypt, was owing to the want of instruments for the accurate measure of
time (like our clocks), to the imperfection of astronomical tables, and
to the want of telescopes. Hence the great Greek astronomers were unable
to realize their theories. Their theories however were magnificent, and
evinced great power of mathematical combination; but what could they do
without that wondrous instrument by which the human eye indefinitely
multiplies its power? Moreover, the ancients had no accurate almanacs,
since the care of the calendar belonged not so much to the astronomers
as to the priests, who tampered with the computation of time for
sacerdotal objects. The calendars of different communities differed.
Hence Julius Caesar rendered a great service to science by the reform of
the Roman calendar, which was exclusively under the control of the
college of pontiffs, or general religious overseers. The Roman year
consisted of three hundred and fifty-five days; and in the time of
Caesar the calendar was in great confusion, being ninety days in
advance, so that January was an autumn month. He inserted the regular
intercalary month of twenty-three days, and two additional ones of
sixty-seven days. These, together with ninety days, were added to three
hundred and sixty-five days, making a year of transition of four hundred
and forty-five days, by which January was brought back to the first
month in the year after the winter solstice; and to prevent the
repetition of the error, he directed that in future the year should
consist of three hundred and sixty-five and one-quarter days, which he
effected by adding one day to the months of April, June, September, and
November, and two days to the months of January, Sextilis, and
December, making an addition of ten days to the old year of three
hundred and fifty-five. And he provided for a uniform intercalation of
one day in every fourth year, which accounted for the remaining
quarter of a day.

Caesar was a student of astronomy, and always found time for its
contemplation. He is said even to have written a treatise on the motion
of the stars. He was assisted in his reform of the calendar by
Sosigines, an Alexandrian astronomer. He took it out of the hands of the
priests, and made it a matter of pure civil regulation. The year was
defined by the sun, and not as before by the moon.

Thus the Romans were the first to bring the scientific knowledge of the
Greeks into practical use; but while they measured the year with a great
approximation to accuracy, they still used sun-dials and water-clocks to
measure diurnal time. Yet even these were not constructed as they should
have been. The hour-marks on the sun-dial were all made equal, instead
of varying with the periods of the day,--so that the length of the hour
varied with the length of the day. The illuminated interval was divided
into twelve equal parts; so that if the sun rose at five A.M., and set
at eight P.M., each hour was equal to eighty minutes. And this rude
method of measurement of diurnal time remained in use till the sixth
century. Clocks, with wheels and weights, were not invented till the
twelfth century.

The last great light among the ancients in astronomical science was
Ptolemy, who lived from 100 to 170 A.D., in Alexandria. He was
acquainted with the writings of all the previous astronomers, but
accepted Hipparchus as his guide. He held that the heaven is spherical
and revolves upon its axis; that the earth is a sphere, and is situated
within the celestial sphere, and nearly at its centre; that it is a mere
point in reference to the distance and magnitude of the fixed stars, and
that it has no motion. He adopted the views of the ancient astronomers,
who placed Saturn, Jupiter, and Mars next under the sphere of the fixed
stars, then the sun above Venus and Mercury, and lastly the moon next to
the earth. But he differed from Aristotle, who conceived that the earth
revolves in an orbit around the centre of the planetary system, and
turns upon its axis,--two ideas in common with the doctrines which
Copernicus afterward unfolded. But even Ptolemy did not conceive the
heliocentric theory,--the sun the centre of our system. Archimedes and
Hipparchus both rejected this theory.

In regard to the practical value of the speculations of the ancient
astronomers, it may be said that had they possessed clocks and
telescopes, their scientific methods would have sufficed for all
practical purposes. The greatness of modern discoveries lies in the
great stretch of the perceptive powers, and the magnificent field they
afford for sublime contemplation. "But," as Sir G. Cornewall Lewis
remarks, "modern astronomy is a science of pure curiosity, and is
directed exclusively to the extension of knowledge in a field which
human interests can never enter. The periodic time of Uranus, the nature
of Saturn's ring, and the occultation of Jupiter's satellites are as far
removed from the concerns of mankind as the heliacal rising of Sirius,
or the northern position of the Great Bear." This may seem to be a
utilitarian view, with which those philosophers who have cultivated
science for its own sake, finding in the same a sufficient reward, can
have no sympathy.

The upshot of the scientific attainments of the ancients, in the
magnificent realm of the heavenly bodies, would seem to be that they
laid the foundation of all the definite knowledge which is useful to
mankind; while in the field of abstract calculation they evinced
reasoning and mathematical powers that have never been surpassed.
Eratosthenes, Archimedes, and Hipparchus were geniuses worthy to be
placed by the side of Kepler, Newton, and La Place, and all ages will
reverence their efforts and their memory. It is truly surprising that
with their imperfect instruments, and the absence of definite data,
they reached a height so sublime and grand. They explained the doctrine
of the sphere and the apparent motions of the planets, but they had no
instruments capable of measuring angular distances. The ingenious
epicycles of Ptolemy prepared the way for the elliptic orbits and laws
of Kepler, which in turn conducted Newton to the discovery of the law of
gravitation,--the grandest scientific discovery in the annals of
our race.

Closely connected with astronomical science was geometry, which was
first taught in Egypt,--the nurse and cradle of ancient wisdom. It arose
from the necessity of adjusting the landmarks disturbed by the
inundations of the Nile. There is hardly any trace of geometry among the
Hebrews. Among the Hindus there are some works on this science, of great
antiquity. Their mathematicians knew the rule for finding the area of a
triangle from its sides, and also the celebrated proposition concerning
the squares on the sides of the right-angled triangle. The Chinese, it
is said, also knew this proposition before it was known to the Greeks,
among whom it was first propounded by Thales. He applied a circle to the
measurement of angles. Anaximander made geographical charts, which
required considerable geometrical knowledge. Anaxagoras employed
himself in prison in attempting to square the circle. Thales, as has
been said, discovered the important theorem that in a right-angled
triangle the squares on the sides containing the right angle are
together equal to the square on the opposite side of it. Pythagoras
discovered that of all figures having the same boundary, the circle
among plane figures and the sphere among solids are the most capacious.
Hippocrates treated of the duplication of the cube, and wrote elements
of geometry, and knew that the area of a circle was equal to a triangle
whose base is equal to its circumference and altitude equal to its
radius. The disciples of Plato invented conic sections, and discovered
the geometrical foci.

It was however reserved for Euclid to make his name almost synonymous
with geometry. He was born 323 B.C., and belonged to the Platonic sect,
which ever attached great importance to mathematics. His "Elements" are
still in use, as nearly perfect as any human production can be. They
consist of thirteen books. The first four are on plane geometry; the
fifth is on the theory of proportion, and applies to magnitude in
general; the seventh, eighth, and ninth are on arithmetic; the tenth on
the arithmetical characteristics of the division of a straight line; the
eleventh and twelfth on the elements of solid geometry; the thirteenth
on the regular solids. These "Elements" soon became the universal study
of geometers throughout the civilized world; they were translated into
the Arabic, and through the Arabians were made known to mediaeval
Europe. There can be no doubt that this work is one of the highest
triumphs of human genius, and it has been valued more than any single
monument of antiquity; it is still a text-book, in various English
translations, in all our schools. Euclid also wrote various other works,
showing great mathematical talent.

Perhaps a greater even than Euclid was Archimedes, born 287 B.C. He
wrote on the sphere and cylinder, terminating in the discovery that the
solidity and surface of a sphere are two thirds respectively of the
solidity and surface of the circumscribing cylinder. He also wrote on
conoids and spheroids. "The properties of the spiral and the quadrature
of the parabola were added to ancient geometry by Archimedes, the last
being a great step in the progress of the science, since it was the
first curvilineal space legitimately squared." Modern mathematicians may
not have the patience to go through his investigations, since the
conclusions he arrived at may now be reached by shorter methods; but the
great conclusions of the old geometers were reached by only prodigious
mathematical power. Archimedes is popularly better known as the inventor
of engines of war and of various ingenious machines than as a
mathematician, great as were his attainments in this direction. His
theory of the lever was the foundation of statics till the discovery of
the composition of forces in the time of Newton, and no essential
addition was made to the principles of the equilibrium of fluids and
floating bodies till the time of Stevin, in 1608. Archimedes detected
the mixture of silver in a crown of gold which his patron, Hiero of
Syracuse, ordered to be made; and he invented a water-screw for pumping
water out of the hold of a great ship which he had built. He contrived
also the combination of pulleys, and he constructed an orrery to
represent the movement of the heavenly bodies. He had an extraordinary
inventive genius for discovering new provinces of inquiry and new points
of view for old and familiar objects. Like Newton, he had a habit of
abstraction from outward things, and would forget to take his meals. He
was killed by Roman soldiers when Syracuse was taken; and the Sicilians
so soon forgot his greatness that in the time of Cicero they did not
know where his tomb was.

Eratosthenes was another of the famous geometers of antiquity, and did
much to improve geometrical analysis. He was also a philosopher and
geographer. He gave a solution of the problem of the duplication of the
cube, and applied his geometrical knowledge to the measurement of the
magnitude of the earth,--being one of the first who brought
mathematical methods to the aid of astronomy, which in our day is almost
exclusively the province of the mathematician.

Apollonius of Perga, probably about forty years younger than Archimedes,
and his equal in mathematical genius, was the most fertile and profound
writer among the ancients who treated of geometry. He was called the
Great Geometer. His most important work is a treatise on conic sections,
which was regarded with unbounded admiration by contemporaries, and in
some respects is unsurpassed by any thing produced by modern
mathematicians. He however made use of the labors of his predecessors,
so that it is difficult to tell how far he is original. But all men of
science must necessarily be indebted to those who have preceded them.
Even Homer, in the field of poetry, made use of the bards who had sung
for a thousand years before him; and in the realms of philosophy the
great men of all ages have built up new systems on the foundations which
others have established. If Plato or Aristotle had been contemporaries
with Thales, would they have matured so wonderful a system of
dialectics? Yet if Thales had been contemporaneous with Plato, he might
have added to the great Athenian's sublime science even more than did
Aristotle. So of the great mathematicians of antiquity; they were all
wonderful men, and worthy to be classed with the Newtons and Keplers of
our times. Considering their means and the state of science, they made
as _great_ though not as _fortunate_ discoveries,--discoveries which
show patience, genius, and power of calculation. Apollonius was one of
these,--one of the master intellects of antiquity, like Euclid and
Archimedes; one of the master intellects of all ages, like Newton
himself. I might mention the subjects of his various works, but they
would not be understood except by those familiar with mathematics.

Other famous geometers could also be named, but such men as Euclid,
Archimedes, and Apollonius are enough to show that geometry was
cultivated to a great extent by the philosophers of antiquity. It
progressively advanced, like philosophy itself, from the time of Thales
until it had reached the perfection of which it was capable, when it
became merged into astronomical science. It was cultivated more
particularly by the disciples of Plato, who placed over his school this
inscription: "Let no one ignorant of geometry enter here." He believed
that the laws by which the universe is governed are in accordance with
the doctrines of mathematics. The same opinion was shared by Pythagoras,
the great founder of the science, whose main formula was that _number_
is the essence or first principle of all things. No thinkers ever
surpassed the Greeks in originality and profundity; and mathematics,
being highly prized by them, were carried to the greatest perfection
their method would allow. They did not understand algebra, by the
application of which to geometry modern mathematicians have climbed to
greater heights than the ancients; but then it is all the more
remarkable that without the aid of algebraic analysis they were able to
solve such difficult problems as occupied the minds of Archimedes and
Apollonius. No positive science can boast of such rapid development as
geometry for two or three hundred years before Christ, and never was the
intellect of man more severely tasked than by the ancient

No empirical science can be carried to perfection by any one nation or
in any particular epoch; it can only expand with the progressive
developments of the human race itself. Nevertheless, in that science
which for three thousand years has been held in the greatest honor, and
which is one of the three great liberal professions of our modern times,
the ancients, especially the Greeks, made considerable advance. The
science of medicine, having in view the amelioration of human misery and
the prolongation of life itself, was very early cultivated. It was,
indeed, in old times another word for _physics_,--the science of
Nature,--and the _physician_ was the observer and expounder of physics.
The physician was supposed to be acquainted with the secrets of
Nature,--that is, the knowledge of drugs, of poisons, of antidotes to
them, and the way to administer them. He was also supposed to know the
process of preserving the body after death. Thus Joseph, seventeen
hundred years before the birth of Christ, commanded his physician to
embalm the body of his father; and the process of embalming was probably
known to the Egyptians before the period when history begins. Helen, of
Trojan fame, put into wine a drug that "frees man from grief and anger,
and causes oblivion of all ills." Solomon was a great botanist,--a realm
with which the science of medicine is indissolubly connected. The origin
of Hindu medicine is lost in remote antiquity. The Ayur Veda, written
nine hundred years before Hippocrates was born, sums up the knowledge of
previous periods relating to obstetric surgery, to general pathology, to
the treatment of insanity, to infantile diseases, to toxicology, to
personal hygiene, and to diseases of the generative functions.

Thus Hippocrates, the father of European medicine, must have derived his
knowledge not merely from his own observations, but from the writings of
men unknown to us and from systems practised for an indefinite period.
The real founders of Greek medicine are fabled characters, like Hercules
and Aesculapius,--that is, benefactors whose fictitious names alone
have descended to us. They are mythical personages, like Hermes and
Chiron. Twelve hundred years before Christ temples were erected to
Aesculapius in Greece, the priests of which were really physicians, and
the temples themselves hospitals. In them were practised rites
apparently mysterious, but which modern science calls by the names of
mesmerism, hydropathy, the use of mineral springs, and other essential
elements of empirical science. And these temples were also medical
schools. That of Cos gave birth to Hippocrates, and it was there that
his writings were begun. Pythagoras--for those old Grecian philosophers
were the fathers of all wisdom and knowledge, in mathematics and
empirical sciences as well as philosophy itself--studied medicine in the
schools of Egypt, Phoenicia, Chaldaea, and India, and came in conflict
with sacerdotal power, which has ever been antagonistic to new ideas in
science. He travelled from town to town as a teacher or lecturer,
establishing communities in which _medicine_ as well as _numbers_
was taught.

The greatest name in medical science in ancient or in modern times, the
man who did the most to advance it, the greatest medical genius of whom
we have any early record, was Hippocrates, born on the island of Cos,
460 B.C., of the great Aesculapian family. He received his instruction
from his father. We know scarcely more of his life than we do of Homer
himself, although he lived in the period of the highest splendor of
Athens. Even his writings, like those of Homer, are thought by some to
be the work of different men. They were translated into Arabic, and were
no slight means of giving an impulse to the Saracenic schools of the
Middle Ages in that science in which the Saracens especially excelled.
The Hippocratic collection consists of more than sixty works, which were
held in the highest estimation by the ancient physicians. Hippocrates
introduced a new era in medicine, which before his time had been
monopolized by the priests. He carried out a system of severe induction
from the observation of facts, and is as truly the creator of the
inductive method as Bacon himself. He abhorred theories which could not
be established by facts; he was always open to conviction, and candidly
confessed his mistakes; he was conscientious in the practice of his
profession, and valued the success of his art more than silver and gold.
The Athenians revered Hippocrates for his benevolence as well as genius.
The great principle of his practice was _trust in Nature_; hence he was
accused of allowing his patients to die. But this principle has many
advocates among scientific men in our day; and some suppose that the
whole successful practice of Homoeopathy rests on the primal principle
which Hippocrates advanced, although the philosophy of it claims a
distinctly scientific basis in the principle _similia similibus
curantur_. Hippocrates had great skill in diagnosis, by which medical
genius is most severely tested; his practice was cautious and timid in
contrast with that of his contemporaries. He is the author of the
celebrated maxim, "Life is short and art is long." He divides the causes
of disease into two principal classes,--the one comprehending the
influence of seasons, climates, and other external forces; the other
including the effects of food and exercise. To the influence of climate
he attributes the conformation of the body and the disposition of the
mind; to a vicious system of diet he attributes innumerable forms of
disease. For more than twenty centuries his pathology was the foundation
of all the medical sects. He was well acquainted with the medicinal
properties of drugs, and was the first to assign three periods to the
course of a malady. He knew but little of surgery, although he was in
the habit of bleeding, and often employed the knife; he was also
acquainted with cupping, and used violent purgatives. He was not aware
of the importance of the pulse, and confounded the veins with the
arteries. Hippocrates wrote in the Ionic dialect, and some of his works
have gone through three hundred editions, so highly have they been
valued. His authority passed away, like that of Aristotle, on the
revival of science in Europe. Yet who have been greater ornaments and
lights than these two distinguished Greeks?

The school of Alexandria produced eminent physicians, as well as
mathematicians, after the glory of Greece had departed. So highly was it
esteemed that Galen in the second century,--born in Greece, but famous
in the service of Rome,--went there to study, five hundred years after
its foundation. It was distinguished for inquiries into scientific
anatomy and physiology, for which Aristotle had prepared the way. Galen
was the Humboldt of his day, and gave great attention to physics. In
eight books he developed the general principles of natural science known
to the Greeks. On the basis of the Aristotelian researches, the
Alexandrian physicians carried out extensive inquiries in physiology.
Herophilus discovered the fundamental principles of neurology, and
advanced the anatomy of the brain and spinal cord.

Although the Romans had but little sympathy with science or philosophy,
being essentially political and warlike in their turn of mind, yet when
they had conquered the world, and had turned their attention to arts,
medicine received a good share of their attention. The first physicians
in Rome were Greek slaves. Of these was Asclepiades, who enjoyed the
friendship of Cicero. It is from him that the popular medical theories
as to the "pores" have descended. He was the inventor of the
shower-bath. Celsus wrote a work on medicine which takes almost equal
rank with the Hippocratic writings.

Medical science at Rome culminated in Galen, as it did at Athens in
Hippocrates. Galen was patronized by Marcus Aurelius, and availed
himself of all the knowledge of preceding naturalists and physicians. He
was born at Pergamos about the year 130 A.D., where he learned, under
able masters, anatomy, pathology, and therapeutics. He finished his
studies at Alexandria, and came to Rome at the invitation of the
Emperor. Like his imperial patron, Galen was one of the brightest
ornaments of the heathen world, and one of the most learned and
accomplished men of any age. He left five hundred treatises, most of
them relating to some branch of medical science, which give him the name
of being one of the most voluminous of authors. His celebrity is founded
chiefly on his anatomical and physiological works. He was familiar with
practical anatomy, deriving his knowledge from dissection. His
observations about health are practical and useful; he lays great stress
on gymnastic exercises, and recommends the pleasures of the chase, the
cold bath in hot weather, hot baths for old people, the use of wine, and
three meals a day. The great principles of his practice were that
disease is to be overcome by that which is contrary to the disease
itself,--hence the name Allopathy, invented by the founder of
Homoeopathy to designate the fundamental principle of the general
practice,--and that nature is to be preserved by that which has relation
with nature. His "Commentaries on Hippocrates" served as a treasure of
medical criticism, from which succeeding annotators borrowed. No one
ever set before the medical profession a higher standard than Galen
advanced, and few have more nearly approached it. He did not attach
himself to any particular school, but studied the doctrines of each. The
works of Galen constituted the last production of ancient Roman
medicine, and from his day the decline in medical science was rapid,
until it was revived among the Arabs.

The physical sciences, it must be confessed, were not carried by the
ancients to any such length as geometry and astronomy. In physical
geography they were particularly deficient. Yet even this branch of
knowledge can boast of some eminent names. When men sailed timidly along
the coasts, and dared not explore distant seas, the true position and
characteristics of countries could not be ascertained with the
definiteness that it is at present. But geography was not utterly
neglected in those early times, nor was natural history.

Herodotus gives us most valuable information respecting the manners and
customs of Oriental and barbarous nations; and Pliny wrote a Natural
History in thirty-seven books, which is compiled from upwards of two
thousand volumes, and refers to twenty thousand matters of importance.
He was born 23 A.D., and was fifty-six when the eruption of Vesuvius
took place, which caused his death. Pliny cannot be called a scientific
genius in the sense understood by modern savants; nor was he an original
observer,--his materials being drawn up second-hand, like a modern
encyclopaedia. Nor did he evince great judgment in his selection: he had
a great love of the marvellous, and his work was often unintelligible;
but it remains a wonderful monument of human industry. His Natural
History treats of everything in the natural world,--of the heavenly
bodies, of the elements, of thunder and lightning, of the winds and
seasons, of the changes and phenomena of the earth, of countries and
nations, of seas and rivers, of men, animals, birds, fishes, and plants,
of minerals and medicines and precious stones, of commerce and the fine
arts. He is full of errors, but his work is among the most valuable
productions of antiquity. Buffon pronounced his Natural History to
contain an infinity of knowledge in every department of human
occupation, conveyed in a dress ornate and brilliant. It is a literary
rather than a scientific monument, and as such it is wonderful. In
strict scientific value, it is inferior to the works of modern research;
but there are few minds, even in these times, who have directed
inquiries to such a variety of subjects as are treated in Pliny's

If we would compare the geographical knowledge of the ancients with that
of the moderns, we confess to the immeasurable inferiority of
the ancients.

Eratosthenes, though more properly an astronomer, and the most
distinguished among the ancients, was also a considerable writer on
geography, indeed, the first who treated the subject systematically,
although none of his writings have reached us. The improvements he
pointed out were applied by Ptolemy himself. His work was a presentation
of the geographical knowledge known in his day, so far as geography is
the science of determining the position of places on the earth's
surface. When Eratosthenes began his labors, in the third century before
Christ, it was known that the surface of the earth was spherical; he
established parallels of latitude and longitude, and attempted the
difficult undertaking of measuring the circumference of the globe by the
actual measurement of a segment of one of its great circles.

Hipparchus (beginning of second century before Christ) introduced into
geography a great improvement; namely, the relative situation of
places, by the same process that he determined the positions of the
heavenly bodies. He also pointed out how longitude might be determined
by observing the eclipses of the sun and moon. This led to the
construction of maps; but none have reached us except those that were
used to illustrate the geography of Ptolemy. Hipparchus was the first
who raised geography to the rank of a science. He starved himself to
death, being tired of life.

Posidonius, who was nearly a century later, determined the arc of a
meridian between Rhodes and Alexandria to be a forty-eighth part of the
whole circumference,--an enormous calculation, yet a remarkable one in
the infancy of astronomical science. His writings on history and
geography are preserved only in quotations by Cicero, Strabo,
and others.

Geographical knowledge however was most notably advanced by Strabo, who
lived in the Augustan era; although his researches were chiefly confined
to the Roman empire. Strabo was, like Herodotus, a great traveller, and
much of his geographical information is the result of his own
observations. It is probable he was much indebted to Eratosthenes, who
preceded him by three centuries. The authorities of Strabo were chiefly
Greek, but his work is defective from the imperfect notions which the
ancients had of astronomy; so that the determination of the earth's
figure by the measure of latitude and longitude, the essential
foundation of geographical description, was unknown. The enormous
strides which all forms of physical science have made since the
discovery of America throw all ancient descriptions and investigations
into the shade, and Strabo appears at as great disadvantage as Pliny or
Ptolemy; yet the work of Strabo, considering his means, and the
imperfect knowledge of the earth's surface and astronomical science in
his day, was really a great achievement. He treats of the form and
magnitude of the earth, and devotes eight books to Europe, six to Asia,
and one to Africa. The description of places belongs to Strabo, whose
work was accepted as the text-book of the science till the fifteenth
century, for in his day the Roman empire had been well surveyed. He
maintained that the earth is spherical, and established the terms
_longitude_ and _latitude_, which Eratosthenes had introduced, and
computed the earth to be one hundred and eighty thousand stadia in
circumference, and a degree to be five hundred stadia in length, or
sixty-two and a-half Roman miles. His estimates of the length of a
degree of latitude were nearly correct; but he made great errors in the
degrees of longitude, making the length of the world from east to west
too great, which led to the belief in the practicability of a western
passage to India. He also assigned too great length to the
Mediterranean, arising from the difficulty of finding the longitude with
accuracy. But it was impossible, with the scientific knowledge of his
day, to avoid errors, and we are surprised that he made so few.

Whatever may be said of the accuracy of the great geographer of
antiquity, it cannot be denied that he was a man of immense research and
learning. His work in seventeen books is one of the most valuable that
have come down from antiquity, both from the discussions which run
through it, and the curious facts which can be found nowhere else. It is
scarcely fair to estimate the genius of Strabo by the correctness and
extent of his geographical knowledge. All men are comparatively ignorant
in science, because science is confessedly a progressive study. The
great scientific lights of our day may be insignificant, compared with
those who are to arise, if profundity and accuracy of knowledge be made
the test. It is the genius of the ancients, their grasp and power of
mind, their original labors, which we are to consider.

Thus it would seem that among the ancients, in those departments of
science which are inductive, there were not sufficient facts, well
established, from which to make sound inductions; but in those
departments which are deductive, like pure mathematics, and which
require great reasoning powers, there were lofty attainments,--which
indeed gave the foundation for the achievements of modern science.

* * * * *


An exceedingly learned work (London, 1862) on the Astronomy of the
Ancients, by Sir George Cornewall Lewis, though rather ostentatious in
the parade of authorities, and minute on points which are not of much
consequence, is worth consulting. Delambre's History of Ancient
Astronomy has long been a classic, but is richer in materials for a
history than a history itself. There is a valuable essay in the
Encyclopaedia Britannica, which refers to a list of special authors.
Whewell's History of the Inductive Sciences may also be consulted with
profit. Dunglison's History of Medicine is a standard, giving much
detailed information, and Leclerc among the French and Speugel among the
Germans are esteemed authorities. Strabo's Geography is the most
valuable of antiquity; see also Polybius: both of these have been
translated and edited for English readers.



4000-50 B.C.

While the fine arts made great progress among the cultivated nations of
antiquity, and with the Greeks reached a refinement that has never since
been surpassed, the ancients were far behind modern nations in
everything that has utility for its object. In implements of war, in
agricultural instruments, in the variety of manufactures, in machinery,
in chemical compounds, in domestic utensils, in grand engineering works,
in the comfort of houses, in modes of land-travel and transportation, in
navigation, in the multiplication of books, in triumphs over the forces
of Nature, in those discoveries and inventions which abridge the labors
of mankind and bring races into closer intercourse,--especially by such
wonders as are wrought by steam, gas, electricity, gunpowder, the
mariner's compass, and the art of printing,--the modern world feels its
immense superiority to all the ages that have gone before. And yet,
considering the infancy of science and the youth of nations, more was
accomplished by the ancients for the comfort and convenience and luxury
of man than we naturally might suppose.

Egypt was the primeval seat of what may be called material civilization,
and many arts and inventions were known there when the rest of the world
was still in ignorance and barbarism. More than four thousand years ago
the Egyptians had chariots of war and most of the military weapons known
afterward to the Greeks,--especially the spear and bow, which were the
most effective offensive weapons known to antiquity or the Middle Ages.
Some of their warriors were clothed in coats of brass equal to the steel
or iron cuirass worn by the Mediaeval knights of chivalry. They had the
battle-axe, the shield, the sword, the javelin, the metal-headed arrow.
One of the early Egyptian kings marched against his enemies with six
hundred thousand infantry, twenty thousand cavalry, and twenty-three
thousand chariots of war, each drawn by two horses. The saddles and
bridles of their horses were nearly as perfect as ours are at the
present time; the leather they used was dyed in various colors, and
adorned with metal edges. The wheels of their chariots were bound with
hoops of metal, and had six spokes. Umbrellas to protect from the rays
of the sun were held over the heads of their women of rank when they
rode in their highly-decorated chariots. Walls of solid masonry, thick
and high, surrounded their principal cities, while an attacking or
besieging army used movable towers. Their disciplined troops advanced to
battle in true military precision, at the sound of the trumpet.

The public works of Egyptian kings were on a grand scale. They united
rivers with seas by canals which employed hundreds of thousands of
workmen. They transported heavy blocks of stone, of immense weight and
magnitude, for their temples, palaces, and tombs. They erected obelisks
in single shafts nearly one hundred feet in height, and they engraved
the sides of these obelisks from top to bottom with representations of
warriors, priests, and captives. They ornamented their vast temples with
sculptures which required the hardest metals. Rameses the Great, the
Sesostris of the Greeks, had a fleet of four hundred vessels in the
Arabian Gulf, and the rowers wore quilted helmets. His vessels had
sails, which implies the weaving of flax and the twisting of heavy
ropes; some of his war-galleys were propelled by forty-four oars, and
were one hundred and twenty feet in length.

Among their domestic utensils the Egyptians used the same kind of
buckets for wells that we find to-day among the farmhouses of New
England. Skilful gardeners were employed in ornamenting grounds and in
raising fruits and vegetables. The leather cutters and dressers were
famous for their skill, as well as workers in linen. Most products of
the land, as well as domestic animals, were sold by weight in carefully
adjusted scales. Instead of coins, money was in rings of gold, silver,
and copper. The skill used by the Egyptians in rearing fowls, geese, and
domestic animals greatly surpassed that known to modern farmers.
According to Wilkinson, they caught fish in nets equal to the seines
employed by modern fishermen. Their houses as well as their monuments
were built of brick, and were sometimes four or five stories in height,
and secured by bolts on the doors. Locks and keys were also in use, made
of iron; and the doorways were ornamented. Some of the roofs of their
public buildings were arched with stone. In their mills for grinding
wheat circular stones were used, resembling in form those now employed,
generally turned by women, but sometimes so large that asses and mules
were employed in the work. The walls and ceilings of their buildings
were richly painted, the devices being as elaborate as those of the
Greeks. Besides town-houses, the rich had villas and gardens, where they
amused themselves with angling and spearing fish in the ponds. The
gardens were laid in walks shaded with trees, and were well watered from
large tanks. Vines were trained on trellis-work supported by pillars,
and sometimes in the form of bowers. For gathering fruit, baskets were
used somewhat similar to those now employed. Their wine-presses showed
considerable ingenuity, and after the necessary fermentation the wine
was poured into large earthen jars, corresponding to the amphorae of the

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