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RE The u
SIA was the cradle of the human
The exact date of the Creation and Fall of man cannot be determined with any degree of certainty, neither can the interval be
tween the Creation and the Deluge be ascertained. On these facts chronologists are absurdly at variance; but the difficulty of assigning the exact time of those events does not in any way diminish the evidence of their actual occurrence. It is supposed that the descendants of Shem, the eldest of Noah's sons, after the dispersion of mankind at Babel, went to the East, and populated Asia; those of Ham, with few exceptions, passing into Africa, and those of Japhet journeying to the West, where they occupied different parts of Europe.
The oldest monarchies of which history gives us any account are those of Babylonia and Assyria in Asia, and Egypt and Ethiopia in Africa.
The fertile regions watered by the Euphrates and Tigris were formerly inhabited by Semitic tribes, including the Babylonians and Syrians. Nimrod, "a mighty hunter before the Lord," is named as the founder of the Babylonian Empire, and of its chief city, Babylon. This city was built in the form of a square, and about 22 centuries B.C. The river Euphrates flowed through it. A century later, Ninus is said to have built the great city of Nineveh, on the banks of the Tigris, and to have subjected the Babylonians.
Semiramis, the wife and successor of Ninus, is accredited with having embellished Babylon with magnificent works--the famous hanging gardens raised on terraces--and with having constructed roads, canals, and buildings of every description.
The Assyrian Empire fell gradually into such decay that the warlike rulers of the Medes took possession of Nineveh, and reduced the last king, the sensual Sardanapalus, to such straits, that he burnt himself in his palace, together with his wives and treasure, B.C. 888. One hundred and twenty-five years after the reign of Salmanasser, B.C. 605, Ninevah was taken and destroyed by the Medes and Chaldeans, and the victors divided the land amongst themselves. Babylon fell to the lot of the Chaldeans. But the splendor of Babylon soon passed away, though for a time it flourished under Nebuchadnezzar. After the Medes, B.C. 600, came the Persians. The Chaldeans made Babylon a wondrous and beautiful city. Its architecture was noble, and it was surrounded by a broad and lofty wall, said to have had a length of sixty miles. The ten Imperial palaces on the banks of the Euphrates, the square and lofty temple of Baal, the god of the sun, magnificently adorned with statues and ornamerits of gold, together with the hanging gardens, formed the most conspicuous objects. The Chaldeans, in building, made use of burnt bricks, and their buildings were of remarkable beauty and solidity. To the Chaldeans we owe much astronomical observation, the division of weights and measures, and the elements of geometry and medicine. It was during the reign of Belshazzar that Cyrus took this remarkable city, of which nothing now remains but masses of ruin and mounds of rubbish.
EGYPT. Egypt, or the “black earth," so named by the old inhabitants, to distinguish it from the dazzling Lybian desert, is a long fruitful valley, which the Greeks called “a gift of the Nile," since
it owes its very existence to that celebrated and tor- were so dissatisfied at this proceeding, that they tuous river. The valley of the Nile was divided, even migrated into Nubia, where they founded a state of at a remote period, into three parts. First, Upper
Among the successors of Psammeticus, Egypt, "where the vast and striking ruins of Necho, B.C. 600, the founder of the Egyptian naval Thebes, with their gigantic fragments of statues and maritime power, and the fighting Amasis, are and columns, their colossal sphinxes (lions with particularly worthy of mention. At the bloody batwomen's heads), the tombs of kings hewn in the tle of Pelusiun (Suez), the son of Amasis lost his bare rock, the subterranean catacombs, and the kingdom to the Persians. For two hundred years colossal statue of Memnon, that uttered musical subsequent to this victory, the Persians reigned over sounds at the rising of the sun, yet testify to the Egypt, the Egyptians, however, refusing to become former splendor and magnificence of the priestly amalgamated with their conquerors, and steadfastly city." Secondly, Middle Egypt, with its capital, retaining their own language, manners, institutions Memphis, the vicinity of which is also distinguished and customs. Since its final conquest by the Perby the magnificent remains of an historical antiquity. sians, the prophecy of Ezekiel, that "there shall be Among them are the ruins of the Labyrinth, and no more a prince of the land of Egypt,” has been the Pyramids, which to this hour are gazed upon literally fulfilled, for not one native ruler has ever with amazed awe, as the very miracles of architect- occupied the throne for a period of over 2,000 ural science. Thirdly, Lower Egypt, with its an- years. cient metropolis, Heliopolis, which was afterwards eclipsed by Alexandria. Two branches of the Nile inclose Lower Egypt, and, together with the sea,
The people of Phænicia dwelt on the narrow
strip of coast between the Mediterranean and give it the triangular form wherein it derives its
Lebanon, and in many populous towns, the forename, Delta. The early history of Egypt is involved in fable, but
most being Tyre and Sidon. The favorable sitit is conceded that the first king was called Menes,
uation of their country made them sailors, and and that he founded the famous city of Memphis,
the cedar of Lebanon supplied the material for probably about 2,700 years B.C. Sesostris, B.C.
ship-building. Not only did the Phænicians navi1500, who reduced the Ethiopians to tribute, and
gate the coasts and islands of the Mediterranean,
but they are said to have doubled the Cape of who is said to have reigned over a considerable portion of Asia and Africa, is particularly mentioned
Good Hope, in a voyage of three years' duration
taken at the instance of Necho, King of Egypt. as one of Egypt's most fighting monarchs. After him, Moris and Cheops are the most renowned
They established colonies on Crete and Cyprus,
in Northern Africa, notably Carthage. Sidon kingly names. The first, on account of the lake that he constructed, and which was named after
was brought completely under the dominion of him, and which appears to have served the purpose
Tyre, when the country was invaded by Shalmanof regulating the inundations of the Nile; the sec
eser, King of Assyria. Having revolted against ond, as the builder of the largest of the Pyramids.
the Persians in 351 B.C., Sidon was fired by its own
inbabitants and entirely destroyed. It was, howThis marvellous monument is four hundred and fifty feet high, and it took the labor of 100,000 men
ever, afterwards rebuilt and both cities, in 332 B.C., for forty years. The lives and actions of these
were compelled to submit to Alexander the Great. ancient kings are enveloped in the mist of ages. About the middle of the 7th century, some light
SYRIA AND PALESTINE. begins to play upon them, at the date when the Syria was the name given to an enormous royal house of Sais, in Lower Egypt, assumed the region east of the Mediterranean, and Damascus sovereignty in the person of Psammeticus. With a was its oldest and most important city, important view to emasculating the power of the priests, even in the times of Abraham. King David dePsammeticus entered into an alliance with the feated the Syrians and reduced Damascus, which Greeks, and received Greek soldiers and colonists later on was successively reduced by the Assyrinto Egypt Egyptians, to the number of 240,000, ians, Persians, Macedonians, and Romans PalesNATIONS
tine lay between the Mediterranean and the force, after their passage of the Red Sea, proved the Valley of the River Jordan, extending one hun- destruction of their pursuers. dred and forty-five miles from north to south, During the forty years that Moses led a disconwith an average breadth of fifty miles. With- tented people, who pined after the flesh-pots of in this small area were enacted the most momen- Egypt, the Ten Commandments were delivered to tous events in the world's history. While the him on Mount Sinai. These, with divine laws, , whole world recognized and venerated the Invisible were preserved in the ark of the Covenant. Moses Being in the forces and phenomena of nature and did not lead his people into the promised land. He the heavens, one nation of shepherds, of Semitic gazed from the top of Mount Nebo on the beaudescent, dwelling in Mesopotamia, held to the be- teous plains of Jordan and then died, B.c. 1450, lief in one God. Abram (Abraham), one of the leaving Joshua as his successor. ancestors of this nomadic race, left his native past- After the death of Joshua followed the periods ures at the command of Jehovah, and settled him- of the Judges, which lasted about five centuries. self with his family and cattle in “the promised The most renowned among them are Gideon, land," Canaan (Palestine), where they received from Jephtha, Samson, and Deborah. The last of the the inhabitants the name of the “Strangers from Judges was Samuel, B.c. 1095, who overthrew the the other side.” Isaac, who was born to Abraham Philistines and founded the schools whence proby Sarah, continued the race, whilst Ishmael, ceeded those inspired oracles of the people, distinAbraham's son by Hagar, is regarded as the pro- guished in the Bible by the name of Prophets. genitor of the Arabs. By Rebekah, Isaac had two Samuel, B.C. 1095, anointed Saul, of the tribe of sons, Esau and Jacob. Jacob had twelve sons, B.C. Benjamin, to be king, and subsequently, as Saul 1750, of whom Joseph was the most distinguished. did not abide by the Commandments, the shepherd His brothers becoming jealous of him sold him to lad, David, of the tribe of Judah, whose harp playsome travelling merchants who took him with them ing was the soother of Saul's melancholy. When into Egypt. Joseph was rewarded with prosperity Saul threw himself in despair upon his sword, David by God on account of his virtue and his integrity was recognized as king. in the face of temptation. He attained high de- The reign of David lasted from 1055 to 1019 B.C., gree, saved Egypt from famine, and was permitted and is the glorious period of Jewish history. He to bring his father and brethren into the fertile conquered Zion, and ordered that the ark of the pasture lands of Goshen.
Covenant be brought there. The kingdom of Israel The Hebrews were called Israelites from Jacob's now stretched from the Mediterranean to the Eusurname of Israel. Of the twelve tribes of Israel nine phrates, and from Syria to the Red Sea. David was and a half occupied the west, and two and a half a great poet, and his “Psalms" will live for all time. the east of the Jordan. At first they were prosper- After David came Solomon the Wise, for whom ous in Goshen, but evil times came to them, they was reserved the honor of erecting the great Tembecame disliked, and Pharaoh, alarmed at their ple of Jehovah on Mount Moriah. He formed allisuperior numbers, gave orders that all their newly- ances with the surrounding nations, and built a born male children should be drowned in the Nile, superb navy, B.C. 975. The history of his wisdom B.c. 1500. Luckily for the infant Moses, who was and his folly, his prosperity and wealth, and his fall exposed in a basket amongst the bulrushes on the into idolatry and sin should be sought in 1 Kings, river's bank, he was espied by the daughter of ii.-xi. Pharaoh, who taking pity on him caused him to be When Solomon had departed, the kingdom was saved and brought up at the Egyptian court. At divided, in consequence of the tyranny of his son the age of forty he fled to the deserts of Arabia, Re-ho-boam, against whom ten tribes revolted. Two having become inspired with the lofty purpose of tribes remained true, forming the Kingdom of becoming the deliverer of his people from Egyptian Judah, with Jerusalem, containing the ark of the bondage. The ten plagues sent over the land Covenant, as its capital. When the land was threatcaused Pharaoh to consent to the departure of the ened by the Babylonians and Assyrians, Isaiah reIsraelites, and the attempt to bring them back by ferred to the coming Messiah as the only Saviour. B.C. 722, foreigners entered the land, and their Cyrus overthrew the empire of Babylon. · As the intermixture with the remaining Israelites gave rise Babylonians, in full security of the inpregnability to the Samaritans. Judah after holding out for over of their city, were celebrating a festival, and their one hundred and thirty years subsequent to the fall voluptuous king, Belshazzar, was irreverently deof Israel, became tributary to Assyria. Jerusalem filing the sacred vessels of the Jews, the Persians was besieged by Sennacherib, but the pious Heze- entered the town by an arm of the Euphrates, the kiah sat upon the throne, and the host of the waters of which they had drained off, killing the Assyrians was almost entirely destroyed in a single king, and subduing the entire country. Not long night. It was on this occasion that the shadow on afterward Cyrus, in war with the Massagete, was the sun-dial was made to move back to confirm the made prisoner. He was decapitated and his head waning faith of Hezekiah (2 Kings, xx., 9).
· flung into a vessel filled with blood. To Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon fell Jerusalem,
Cambyses, the victorious and tyrannical son of B.C. 600. He took the city, plundered the temple,
Cyrus, succeeded his father, B.C. 529. The chief and carried away the king and the chief inhabitants,
event of his reign was the invasion and conquest of
Egypt, B.c. 525. Two of his mighty armies, howoppressing them with a heavy hand. The last
ever, found their graves in the sandy deserts of king, Zedekiah, tried the chances of war with Nebu- Libya. Cambyses died of a wound accidently rechadnezzar, but was routed, and borne away with ceived from his own sword. the greater part of his people into the seventy years'
After his death, seven illustrious Persians agreed
to ride in the direction of the rising sun, and to Babylonian captivity. One of the prisoners, the
make king of him whose horse was the first to prophet Daniel, arrived at high honor. The restor- neigh. To Darius fell the throne and sceptre. ation of the Jews took place B.c. 536, in pursuance During the thirty-six years of his reign he perof an edict of Cyrus, the great Persian monarch.
fected the organization of the empire, dividing it
into twenty provinces, over which he placed govMEDES AND PERSIANS.
ernors called “satraps," and selected Susa as his
capital in the spring, Ecbatana in summer, and Media and Persia possessed a remarkable religion Babylon in the winter. founded by the ancient sage Zoroaster. They wor- Darius with an immense army crossed the Bosshipped fire under priests called Magi, and believed
phorus by means of a bridge of boats, to advance
against the Scythians, a barbarous race dwelling in in the Spirit of Good, and the Spirit of Evil, each hav
what is now known as Turkey in Europe. In this ing an army of minor spirits at command. Media had
expedition he was unsuccessful, the then formidits foot on the neck of Persia till Cyrus rose up to able General “ famine" coming to the rescue of the free his country. In the short space of twenty-nine Scythians. The Ionians, a Grecian colony located years, B.C. 558–529, he created for Persia a vast
on the western coast of Asia Minor, having re
volted, and having been assisted by some of the Empire, extending from the Egean Sea, beyond
Greeks, Darius resolved upon bringing the whole of the Euphrates, including the conquered countries
Greece under the Persian yoke. Of the great battle of Media, Assyria, Babylonia, Asia Minor and of Marathon, one of the decisive battles of the Syria. Croesus, who possessed such enormous
world, full details are given further on in the his
tory of Greece. Darius died B.C. 485, to be sucwealth that his name has become proverbial,
ceeded by his son Xerxes, who also attempted to reigned in Sardis, the principal city of Lydia. bring Greece into subjection, failing, however, most Cyrus overthrew him, took the city, and ordered disastrously; the famous three hundred Spartans him to be burnt alive. Cresus, as he waited for under Leonidas, in the Pass of Thermopylæ, dying this agonizing sentence to be carried out, hethought
to a man in defence of the gates of their country. him of what Solon the Sage had once said to him,
The son and successor of Xerxes, Artaxerxes, re
ceived as a legacy the task of subjecting Greece. that “no man could be considered happy before He was finally compelled to make peace after the death.” These words occurring to the condemned war had continued fifty years, B.C. 449. king, he cried out “Oh! Solon! Solon !” Cyrus The subsequent history of Persia is of no imporasking what these words meant, had the story re
tance except as it is connected with that of Greece.
Alexander the Great conquered the last king, Darius lated to him, and was so much struck by the truth
III., and Persia became a part of the Macedonian of Solon's words that he instantly set Crosus at Empire (B.C. 329), having lasted a few years over liberty.