Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 74.djvu/76

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72
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY

those along the Euphrates. Its character appears from the architecture, the engineering works, the agricultural operations as much as from the literature and the science. When one views the ruins at Karnak and considers that the rock on which the Egyptian sculptor labored is one of the most intractable granites known, he marvels at the sculptors' skill as much as he admires the genius of the architects who planned the gigantic structures. If instead of granite from Syene the material had been soft Pentelican marble, the dainties of Grecian architecture and the grandeur of Egyptian might have been united at Karnak.

The Greeks competed long with the Phœnicians for control of Mediterranean trade; their colonies were in Asia Minor, Italy and Sicily as those of the Phœnicians were in northern Africa and the west. When Psammetichus ended the seclusion of Egypt by opening her ports and by enlisting Greek mercenaries into his army, travelers from Grecian colonies found their way thither, gathered fragments of Egyptian philosophy, literature, science and art and carried them back to their own land to be fused with similar fragments from Arabia, Mesopotamia and Phœnicia, just as seventeen hundred years later the Crusaders brought home with them the knowledge of oriental civilization. The philosophy and literature of Greece originated in her commercial colonies. When Athens and her immediate allies, after the Persian war, wrested commercial supremacy from the Phœnicians, the Piræus was enlarged and Athens became at once the commercial and the intellectual center of the world. Then, the art and thought of other lands unfolded through Grecian genius into wondrous proportions — with a background of no history and a foreground of the dark ages, it seemed to be a veritable Melchisedec, without ancestor, without descendant. Only within the last thirty years has its true place been determined.

Those whose energies are expended in bitter sneers against commerce either forget or ignore the truth that Athens was preeminently commercial. They seem to think that the city was enveloped by an atmosphere of pure intellectuality amid which the necessary merchants moved in a state of semi-asphyxiation. Some years ago, a writer in a religious paper, lamenting modern degeneracy, asserted that in Athens the street boys competed in making verses whereas in New York the street boys play marbles. No doubt some Athenian boys engaged occasionally, just as some New York boys do now, in the possibly lofty game of verse-making, but from what is known of the Athenians and of the Greeks from the earliest times to our own day one may suppose with more probability that the Athenian boys' favorite sport was that of matching small coins. Commerce was never disreputable in Athens; Aristotle is said to have been an apothecary, and Plato an exporter of