Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 42.djvu/362

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346
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

but the rule is far from being general, and the development of the arts does not always correspond with the mental and social development of nations. While there are peoples to which works of art are the most important manifestation of their genius, there are others high in the scale of civilization with which art has only played a secondary part. If we were obliged to write the history of the civilization of each people, and could take one element, that element would vary from one people to another. It would be arts for one, political or military institutions, or industries, by which others would be known best. This fact will account for the arts having suffered very unequal transformations in passing from some peoples to others.

The Egyptians and the Romans, among ancient nations, present characteristic examples of inequality in the development of the different elements of their civilization, and even of the different branches of which each of these elements is composed.

The Egyptians were weak in their literary efforts, and their paintings were mediocre, but in sculpture and architecture they produced masterpieces which the Greeks were able to excel during only a short period of their history.

The Romans were not in want of teachers or of models, for they had the Egyptians and the Greeks, but they never succeeded in creating an art characteristic of themselves; no people perhaps ever betrayed less originality in their productions in this field. But they raised the other elements of civilization to the highest point. Their military organization assured them the domination of the world; their political and judicial institutions are still patterns for us; and their literature inspired the centuries that followed them.

The Greeks, who manifested the highest superiority in the most diverse branches, may likewise be cited to prove the want of parallelism between the development of the various elements of civilization. Their literature was already brilliant in the Homeric epoch; but modern discoveries in archæology show that in the same period their sculptures were grossly barbaric, and were simply crude imitations of Egyptian and Assyrian work.

The Hindus most pointedly illustrate this inequality of develment. Few peoples have equaled them in architecture; in philosophy their speculations go to a depth to which European thought has only recently arrived; in literature they produced admirable works, even though they fell short of those of the Greeks and Latins. But they were mediocre and far below the Greeks in statuary, and were nullities in the domain of scientific and historical knowledge, while they betray an absence of precision which we meet in equal degree among no other people.

There are, further, races which, without ever having occupied