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The Ancient East by D. G. Hogarth

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of himself, which he appears to have enjoined increasingly on his
followers, his subjects and his allies, as time went on, was consciously
devised to meet and captivate the religiosity of the East. In Egypt he
must be Ammon, in Syria he would be Baal, in Babylon Bel. He left the
faith of his fathers behind him when he went up to the East, knowing as
well as his French historian knew in the nineteenth century, that in
Asia the "dreams of Olympus were less worth than the dreams of the Magi
and the mysteries of India, pregnant with the divine." With these last,
indeed, he showed himself deeply impressed, and his recorded attitude
towards the Brahmans of the Punjab implies the earliest acknowledgment
made publicly by a Greek, that in religion the West must learn from the

Alexander, who has never been forgotten by the traditions and myths of
the East, might possibly, with longer life, have satisfied Asiatic
religiosity with an apotheosis of himself. His successors failed either
to keep his divinity alive or to secure any general acceptance of their
own godhead. That they tried to meet the demand of the East with a new
universal cult of imperial utility and that some, like Antiochus IV, the
tyrant of early Maccabaean history, tried very hard, is clear. That they
failed and that Rome failed after them is writ large in the history of
the expansion of half-a-dozen Eastern cults before the Christian era,
and of Christianity itself.

Only in the African province did Macedonian rule secure a religious
basis. What an Alexander could hardly have achieved in Asia, a Ptolemy
did easily in Egypt. There the _de facto_ ruler, of whatever race, had
been installed a god since time out of mind, and an omnipotent
priesthood, dominating a docile people, stood about the throne. The
Assyrian conquerors had stiffened their backs in Egypt to save
affronting the gods of their fatherland; but the Ptolemies, like the
Persians, made no such mistake, and had three centuries of secure rule
for their reward. The knowledge that what the East demanded could be
provided easily and safely even by Macedonians in the Nile valley alone
was doubtless present to the sagacious mind of Ptolemy when, letting all
wider lands pass to others, he selected Egypt in the first partition of
the provinces.

The Greek, in a word, had only his philosophies to offer to the
religiosity of the East. But a philosophy of religion is a complement
to, a modifying influence on, religion, not a substitute sufficient to
satisfy the instinctive and profound craving of mankind for God. While
this craving always possessed the Asiatic mind, the Greek himself, never
naturally insensible to it, became more and more conscious of his own
void as he lived in Asia. What had long stood to him for religion,
namely passionate devotion to the community, was finding less and less
to feed on under the restricted political freedom which was now his lot
everywhere. Superior though he felt his culture to be in most respects,
it lacked one thing needful, which inferior cultures around him
possessed in full. As time went on he became curious, then receptive, of
the religious systems among whose adherents he found himself, being
coerced insensibly by nature's abhorrence of a vacuum. Not that he
swallowed any Eastern religion whole, or failed, while assimilating what
he took, to transform it with his own essence. Nor again should it be
thought that he gave nothing at all in return. He gave a philosophy
which, acting almost as powerfully on the higher intelligences of the
East as their religions acted on his intelligence, created the
"Hellenistic" type, properly so called, that is the oriental who
combined the religious instinct of Asia with the philosophic spirit of
Greece--such an oriental as (to take two very great names), the Stoic
apostle Zeno, a Phoenician of Cyprus, or the Christian apostle, Saul the
Jew of Tarsus. By the creation of this type, East and West were brought
at last very near together, divided only by the distinction of religious
philosophy in Athens from philosophic religion in Syria.

The history of the Near East during the last three centuries before the
Christian era is the history of the gradual passing of Asiatic religions
westward to occupy the Hellenic vacuum, and of Hellenic philosophical
ideas eastward to supplement and purify the religious systems of West
Asia. How far the latter eventually penetrated into the great Eastern
continent, whether even to India or China, this is no place to discuss:
how far the former would push westward is written in the modern history
of Europe and the New World. The expansion of Mithraism and of
half-a-dozen other Asiatic and Egyptian cults, which were drawn from the
East to Greece and beyond before the first century of the Hellenistic
Age closed, testifies to the early existence of that spiritual void in
the West which a greater and purer religion, about to be born in Galilee
and nurtured in Antioch, was at last to fill. The instrumentality of
Alexander and his successors in bringing about or intensifying that
contact and intercourse between Semite and Greek, which begot the
philosophic morality of Christianity and rendered its westward expansion
inevitable, stands to their credit as a historic fact of such tremendous
import that it may be allowed to atone for more than all their sins.

This, then, the Seleucids did--they so brought West and East together
that each learned from the other. But more than that cannot be claimed
for them. They did not abolish the individuality of either; they did not
Hellenize even so much of West Asia as they succeeded in holding to the
end. In this they failed not only for the reasons just considered--lack
of vital religion in their Macedonians and their Greeks, and
deterioration of the Hellenism of Hellenes when they ceased to be
citizens of free city-states--but also through individual faults of
their own, which appear again and again as the dynasty runs its course;
and perhaps even more for some deeper reason, not understood by us yet,
but lying behind the empirical law that East is East and West is West.

As for the Seleucid kings themselves they leave on us, ill-known as
their characters and actions are, a clear impression of approximation to
the traditional type of the Greek of the Roman age and since. As a
dynasty they seem to have been quickly spoilt by power, to have been
ambitious but easily contented with the show and surface of success, to
have been incapable and contemptuous of thorough organization, and to
have had little in the way of policy, and less perseverance in the
pursuit of it. It is true that our piecemeal information comes largely
from writers who somewhat despised them; but the known history of the
Seleucid Empire, closed by an extraordinarily facile and ignominious
collapse before Rome, supports the judgment that, taken one with
another, its kings were shallow men and haphazard rulers who owed it
more to chance than to prudence that their dynasty endured so long.

Their strongest hold was on Syria, and in the end their only hold. We
associate them in our minds particularly with the great city of Antioch,
which the first Seleucus founded on the Lower Orontes to gather up trade
from Egypt, Mesopotamia and Asia Minor in the North Syrian country. But,
as a matter of fact, that city owes its fame mainly to subsequent Roman
masters. For it did not become the capital of Seleucid preference till
the second century B.C.--till, by the year 180, the dynasty, which had
lost both the Western and the Eastern provinces, had to content itself
with Syria and Mesopotamia alone. Not only had the Parthians then come
down from Turkestan to the south of the Caspian (their kings assumed
Iranian names but were they not, like the present rulers of Persia,
really Turks?), but Media too had asserted independence and Persia was
fallen away to the rule of native princes in Fars. Seleucia on Tigris
had become virtually a frontier city facing an Iranian and Parthian
peril which the imperial incapacity of the Seleucids allowed to develop,
and even Rome would never dispel. On the other flank of the empire a
century of Seleucid efforts to plant headquarters in Western Asia Minor,
whether at Ephesus or Sardes, and thence to prosecute ulterior designs
on Macedonia and Greece, had been settled in favour of Pergamum by the
arms and mandate of the coming arbiter of the East, the Republic of
Rome. Bidden retire south of Taurus after the battle of Magnesia in 190,
summarily ordered out of Egypt twenty years later, when Antiochus
Epiphanes was hoping to compensate the loss of west and east with gain
of the south, the Seleucids had no choice of a capital. It must
thenceforth be Antioch or nothing.

That, however, a Macedonian dynasty was forced to concentrate in north
Syria whatever Hellenism it had (though after Antiochus Epiphanes its
Hellenism steadily grew less) during the last two centuries before the
Christian era was to have a momentous effect on the history of the
world. For it was one of the two determining causes of an increase in
the influence of Hellenism upon the Western Semites, which issued
ultimately in the Christian religion. From Cilicia on the north to
Phoenicia and Palestine in the south, such higher culture, such
philosophical study as there were came more and more under the influence
of Greek ideas, particularly those of the Stoic School, whose founder
and chief teacher (it should never be forgotten) had been a Semite, born
some three hundred years before Jesus of Nazareth. The Hellenized
University of Tarsus, which educated Saul, and the Hellenistic party in
Palestine, whose desire to make Jerusalem a southern Antioch brought on
the Maccabaean struggle, both owed in a measure their being and their
continued vitality to the existence and larger growth of Antioch on the

But Phoenicia and Palestine owed as much of their Hellenism (perhaps
more) to another Hellenized city and another Macedonian dynasty--to
Alexandria and to the Ptolemies. Because the short Maccabaean period of
Palestinian history, during which a Seleucid did happen to be holding
all Syria, is very well and widely known, it is apt to be forgotten
that, throughout almost all other periods of the Hellenistic Age,
southern Syria, that is Palestine and Phoenicia as well as Cyprus and
the Levant coast right round to Pamphylia, was under the political
domination of Egypt. The first Ptolemy added to his province some of
these Asiatic districts and cities, and in particular Palestine and
Coele-Syria, very soon after he had assumed command of Egypt, and making
no secret of his intention to retain them, built a fleet to secure his
end. He knew very well that if Egypt is to hold in permanency any
territory outside Africa, she must be mistress of the sea. After a brief
set-back at the hands of Antigonus' son, Ptolemy made good his hold when
the father was dead; and Cyprus also became definitely his in 294. His
successor, in whose favour he abdicated nine years later, completed the
conquest of the mainland coasts right round the Levant at the expense of
Seleucus' heir. In the event, the Ptolemies kept almost all that the
first two kings of the dynasty had thus won until they were supplanted
by Rome, except for an interval of a little more than fifty years from
199 to about 145; and even during the latter part of this period south
Syria was under Egyptian influence once more, though nominally part of
the tottering Seleucid realm.

The object pursued by the Macedonian kings of Egypt in conquering and
holding a thin coastal fringe of mainland outside Africa and certain
island posts from Cyprus to the Cyclades was plainly commercial, to get
control of the general Levant trade and of certain particular supplies
(notably ship-timber) for their royal port of Alexandria. The first
Ptolemy had well understood why his master had founded this city after
ruining Tyre, and why he had taken so great pains both earlier and later
to secure his Mediterranean coasts. Their object the Ptolemies obtained
sufficiently, although they never eliminated the competition of the
Rhodian republic and had to resign to it the command of the Aegean after
the battle of Cos in 246. But Alexandria had already become a great
Semitic as well as Grecian city, and continued to be so for centuries to
come. The first Ptolemy is said to have transplanted to Egypt many
thousands of Jews who quickly reconciled themselves to their exile, if
indeed it had ever been involuntary; and how large its Jewish population
was by the reign of the second Ptolemy and how open to Hellenic
influence, may be illustrated sufficiently by the fact that at
Alexandria, during that reign, the Hebrew scriptures were translated
into Greek by the body of Semitic scholars which has been known since as
the Septuagint. Although it was consistent Ptolemaic policy not to
countenance Hellenic proselytism, the inevitable influence of Alexandria
on south Syria was stronger than that consciously exerted by Antiochus
Epiphanes or any other Seleucid; and if Phoenician cities had become
homes of Hellenic science and philosophy by the middle of the third
century, and if Yeshua or Jason, High Priest of Jehovah, when he applied
to his suzerain a hundred years later for leave to make Jerusalem a
Greek city, had at his back a strong party anxious to wear hats in the
street and nothing at all in the gymnasium, Alexandria rather than
Antioch should have the chief credit--or chief blame!

Before, however, all this blending of Semitic religiosity with Hellenic
philosophical ideas, and with something of the old Hellenic mansuetude,
which had survived even under Macedonian masters to modify Asiatic
minds, could issue in Christianity, half the East, with its dispersed
heirs of Alexander, had passed under the common and stronger yoke of
Rome. Ptolemaic Alexandria and Seleucid Antioch had prepared Semitic
ground for seed of a new religion, but it was the wide and sure peace of
the Roman Empire that brought it to birth and gave it room to grow. It
was to grow, as all the world knows, westward not eastward, making
patent by its first successes and by its first failures how much
Hellenism had gone to the making of it. The Asian map of Christianity at
the end, say, of the fourth century of the latter's existence, will show
it very exactly bounded by the limits to which the Seleucid Empire had
carried Greeks in any considerable body, and the further limits to which
the Romans, who ruled effectively a good deal left aside by their
Macedonian predecessors--much of central and eastern Asia Minor for
example, and all Armenia--had advanced their Graeco-Roman subjects.

Beyond these bounds neither Hellenism nor Christianity was fated in that
age to strike deep roots or bear lasting fruit. The Farther East--the
East, that is to say, beyond Euphrates--remained unreceptive and
intolerant of both influences. We have seen how almost all of it had
fallen away from the Seleucids many generations before the birth of
Christ, when a ring of principalities, Median, Parthian, Persian,
Nabathsean, had emancipated the heart of the Orient from its short
servitude to the West; and though Rome, and Byzantium after her, would
push the frontier of effective European influence somewhat eastward
again, their Hellenism could never capture again that heart which the
Seleucids had failed to hold. This is not to say that nothing of
Hellenism passed eastward of Mesopotamia and made an abiding mark.
Parthian and Sassanian art, the earlier Buddhist art of north-western
India and Chinese Turkestan, some features even of early Mohammedan art,
and some, too, of early Mohammedan doctrine and imperial policy,
disprove any sweeping assertion that nothing Greek took root beyond the
bounds of the Roman Empire. But it was very little of Hellenism and not
at all its essence. We must not be deceived by mere borrowings of exotic
things or momentary appreciations of foreign luxuries. That the
Parthians were witnessing a performance of the Bacchae of Euripides,
when the head of hapless Crassus was brought to Ctesiphon, no more
argues that they had the Western spirit than our taste for Chinese
curios or Japanese plays proves us informed with the spirit of the East.

The East, in fine, remained the East. It was so little affected after
all by the West that in due time its religiosity would be pregnant with
yet another religion, antithetical to Hellenism, and it was so little
weakened that it would win back again all it had lost and more, and keep
Hither Asia in political and cultural independence of the West until our
own day. If modern Europe has taken some parts of the gorgeous East in
fee which were never held by Macedonian or Roman, let us remember in our
pride of race that almost all that the Macedonians and the Romans did
hold in Asia has been lost to the West ever since. Europe may and
probably will prevail there again; but since it must be by virtue of a
civilization in whose making a religion born of Asia has been the
paramount indispensable factor, will the West even then be more creditor
than debtor of the East?


The authorities cited at the end of Prof. J. L. Myres' _Dawn of History_
(itself an authority), in the Home University Library, are to a great
extent suitable for those who wish to read more widely round the theme
of the present volume, since those (e.g. the geographical works given in
_Dawn of History_, p. 253, paragraph 2) which are not more or less
essential preliminaries to a study of the Ancient East at any period,
mostly deal with the historic as well as the prehistoric age. To spare
readers reference to another volume, however, I will repeat here the
most useful books in Prof. Myres' list, adding at the same time certain
others, some of which have appeared since the issue of his volume.

For the history of the whole region in the period covered by my volume,
E. Meyer's _Geschichte Alterthums_, of a new edition of which a French
translation is in progress and has already been partly issued, is the
most authoritative. Sir G. Maspero's _Histoire ancienne des peuples de
l'Orient classique_ (English translation in 3 vols. under the titles
_The Dawn of Civilization_ (Egypt and Chaldaea); _The Struggle of the
Nations_ (Egypt, Syria, and Assyria); _The Passing of the Empires_) is
still valuable, but rather out of date. There has appeared recently a
more modern and handy book than either, Mr. H. R. Hall's _The Ancient
History of the Near East_ (1913), which gathers up, not only what was in
the books by Mr. Hall and Mr. King cited by Prof. Myres, but also the
contents of Meyer's and Maspero's books, and others, and the results of
more recent research, in some of which the author has taken part. This
book includes in its scope both Egypt and the Aegean area, besides
Western Asia.

For the special history of Babylonia and Assyria and their Empires, R.
W. Rogers' _History of Babylonia and Assyria_, 2 vols., has been kept up
to date and is the most convenient summary for an English reader. H.
Winckler's _History of Babylonia and Assyria_ (translated from the
German by J. A. Craig, 1907) is more brilliant and suggestive, but needs
to be used with more caution. A. T. Olmstead's _Western Asia in the Days
of Sargon of Assyria_ (1908) is an instructive study of the Assyrian
Empire at its height.

For the Hittite Empire and civilization J. Garstang's _The Land of the
Hittites_ (1910) is the best recent book which aims at being
comprehensive. But it must be borne in mind that this subject is in the
melting-pot at present, that excavations now in progress have added
greatly to the available evidence, and that very few of the Boghazkeui
archives were published when Garstang's book was issued. D. G. Hogarth's
articles on the Hittites, in Enc. Brit, and Enc. Brit. Year-book,
summarize some more recent research; but there is no compendium of
Hittite research which is really up to date.

For Semitic Syrian history, Rogers and Winckler, as cited above, will
probably be found sufficient; and also for the Urartu peoples. For
Western Asia Minor and the Greeks, besides D.G. Hogarth's _Ionia and
the East_, the new edition of Beloch's _Griechische Geschichte_ gives
all, and more than all, that the general reader will require. If German
is a difficulty to him, he must turn to J.B. Bury's _History of Greece_
and to the later part of Hall's _Ancient History of the Near East_,
cited above. For Alexander's conquest he can go to J. Karst, _Geschichte
des hellenistischen Zeitalters_, Vol. I (1901), B. Niese, _Geschichte
der griechischen und makedonischen Staaten_ (1899), or D.G. Hogarth,
_Philip and Alexander of Macedon_ (1897); but the great work of J.G.
Droysen, _Das Hellenismus_ (French translation), lies behind all these.

Finally, the fourth English volume of A. Holm's _History of Greece_
(1898) and E.R. Bevan's _House of Seleucus_ (1902) will supply most
that is known of the Hellenistic Age in Asia.

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