Popular Science Monthly/Volume 34/March 1889/The Aryans in Science and History

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search


FROM the Bay of Bengal westward, through northern India, Afghanistan, Beloochistan, Persia, Armenia, Asia Minor, and on through Europe to its farthest bounds — and thence, in modern times, crossing the Atlantic and spreading over both Americas — one great linguistic family occupies a vaster space, peopled by a larger number of famous and powerful nations, than belong to any other ethnic kindred. But this pre-eminence of the Indo-European stock has not always existed. There was a period in the early history of the civilized world when the Hamito-Semitic family was more widely diffused than any other; and at a later time, when the Arabian empire stretched from India to Spain, this preponderance seemed to be restored. Even in our day the Chinese language and literature are probably spoken and read by a larger population than is claimed by any other race. But there can be no question that during the last two centuries the communities speaking languages of the first-named family, or at least some among them, have been the dominant nations of the globe.

In the brief term of less than a century which has elapsed since the connections and limits of this great family have been ascertained, various designations have been applied to it—Indo-European, Indo-Germanic, Indo-Celtic, Aryan. The latter name, being the least cumbrous, is gradually gaining acceptance, even among those who dissent from the inference which its use might seem to imply. The term "Aryan" properly belongs to the easternmost group of these languages, comprising the tongues of ancient Persia and northern India. But scholars like Penka, Poesche, Sayce, Taylor, and others, who contest the Asiatic origin of the Aryan race, are still willing to accept its Asiatic name.

When it was first discovered that most European nations spoke languages of the Aryan (or Indo-Persian) stock, the conclusion was at once drawn that these European Aryans must look for their ancestral home in the East. As no one doubted that all the nations of this stock had sprung from one source, it was natural to inquire in what place the primitive Aryan tribe had its original seat. It was natural also to adopt the view that this seat was to be found somewhere in that portion of central Asia to which the traditions embodied, however vaguely, in the earliest known compositions of Aryan origin, the Vedas and the Zend-Avesta, seemed to point. This region, which comprehends ancient Persia and Bactria, has, from the earliest times of which we have any knowledge, been the home of Aryan communities. The reasons for accepting it as the peculiar seat of the race seemed conclusive to ethnologists until a very recent date. Of late years some scholars of high rank, both in Germany and in England, have been led to adopt the suggestion, first made by the late eminent English philologist. Dr. Latham, that the Aryans may have been of European origin. Their arguments were well summed up in the interesting address delivered last year before the Section of Anthropology in the British Association by the president of the section. Prof. Sayce. They have since been fully considered and discussed by Prof. Max Müller in his recent work, "Biographies of Words, and the Home of the Aryans." His decision is that to which the great majority of ethnologists have long since given their assent, namely, that the preponderant weight of argument points to an Asiatic home for the race. Some of the grounds for this conclusion will presently be shown; but, in the first instance, it becomes necessary to fix the locality of this primitive seat somewhat more definitely than it is placed in Prof. Max Müller's essay. He finds that the Aryan home must have been "somewhere in Asia," but declines to say more.

This conclusion, it is evident, is too indefinite for science; nor does it seem likely that the learned author, if he had cared to be more precise, would have had any difficulty in drawing a much narrower limit. The "method of elimination" is easily sufficient for this end. From the whole of Asia we strike out at once, by the common consent of ethnologists, its eastern third, comprising China, Japan, and Thibet, and along with it, by like consent, the three great southern peninsulas, the Indo-Chinese, the Indian, and the Arabian. With Arabia the rest of the ancient Semitic countries, Mesopotamia, Syria, and Phoenicia, will be erased from the problem. The immense expanse of Siberia will also disappear; for, though one bold speculator has sought a frigid home for the early Aryans in that region, he has, as might be supposed, gained no adherents to his theory. No one proposes Asia Minor; and Armenia and the Caucasus seem put out of the question by the fact that our earliest historical knowledge of those regions shows them inhabited mainly by non-Aryan tribes.

The limits of the pristine Aryan home are thus readily and inevitably narrowed down to those already suggested—the bounds of ancient Persia and Bactria—that "vast plateau of Iran," as Archdeacon Farrar has well styled it, in which the mother-tongue of the Sanskrit and Zend was once spoken by the united community, from whose divided septs the Vedas and the Zend-Avesta have been bequeathed to us. In that region, as we have every reason to believe, the Aryan race was found in its purest condition. When, therefore, we seek to ascertain the physical and mental traits which properly belong to this remarkable race, we naturally turn our attention to that Medo-Persian people, in whom the character of the unmixed stock was first distinctly manifested. The results of such an inquiry may yield some valuable fruits to ethnological science.

But before proceeding with this branch of our study it will be necessary, if our search for the origin of the Aryan race is to be conducted on strictly scientific lines and to be carried back to the very germ of the race, to bear in mind the self-evident truth that every linguistic stock must have originated in a single household. Somewhere on earth there must have been an "Aryan family-pair," the progenitors of the breed; and all the speakers of the primitive Aryan tongue must once have been gathered, as has been well said, "under one roof." In an address which I had the honor of delivering before this section[1] two years ago, I endeavored to point out the conditions under which such a household must have been formed, and to show that it must necessarily have originated in some isolated spot where a little brood or a pair of orphan children, left alone at too early an age to have a completed language, could have found the means of subsistence. This must have been in some region where severe frost is unknown, and where food could readily be obtained by very young children all the year round. No such spot can be found in Europe, a fact which would make the rise of a new linguistic stock in that quarter of the globe, under its present climatic conditions, difficult to comprehend. But in the Aryan territory already described such a district presents itself at once in the semi-tropical belt which borders the Persian Gulf and the Indian Ocean, and is known in modern geography as the Deshtistan, or "low country," of the province of Fars—that province which has always been deemed the original seat of the Persian people. In this coast district, as we are told by Prof. Rawlinson, snow never falls and there is but little rain. Heavy dews, however, occur at night, so that the mornings are often fresh and cool. Most of the region is dry and barren; but along the streams there is moisture, and the fruits of the tropics thrive. The sandy shore abounds in shell-fish and especially in oysters. On the northern coast of the Mexican Gulf, where the climate and other conditions are somewhat similar to those of this Aryan belt, I have seen from my open window in midwinter, while the magnolias were blooming near and the orange-trees showed their belated fruit, the little children of five or six years old wading at low tide in the shallow water, feeling with their naked feet for the shell-fish and gathering them into their baskets .for breakfast. As wild fruits and edible roots also abound along this coast, affording abundant nutriment at all seasons, it is not surprising that several peculiar linguistic stocks among the American languages appear to have originated in that genial region —just as others are found under similar conditions along the coast of California. There is, therefore, nothing improbable in the supposition that the first Aryan family—the orphan children, perhaps, of Semitic or Acadian fugitives from Arabia or Mesopotamia —grew up and framed their new language on the southern seaboard of Persia. As the number of their descendants increased, they would naturally spread northward over the province of Fars, and thence into the wide regions bounded by the Tigris, the Indus, and the Oxus, which we have recognized as the primitive seat of the Aryan power.

In pursuing our inquiry into the distinctive characteristics of this race it will not be necessary to resort to many authorities. All the important evidence has been carefully brought together by Prof. Rawlinson in his well-known work, "The Seven Great Monarchies of the Ancient Eastern World." His lucid summaries are fortified by numerous references, and his conclusions are confirmed in the main by every writer who has treated on the subject. As regards the physical traits of the race, he presents us (in the third chapter of his history of the "Median Empire") with a picture which, according to our ideas, is highly prepossessing. "The general physical character of the ancient Aryan race," he observes, "is best gathered from the sculptures of the Achæmenian kings, which exhibit to us a very noble variety of the human species—a form tall, graceful, and stately; a physiognomy handsome and pleasing, often somewhat resembling the Greek; the forehead high and straight; the nose nearly in the same line, long and well formed, sometimes markedly aquiline; the upper lip short, commonly shaded by a mustache; the chin rounded and generally covered with a curly beard. The hair evidently grew in great plenty, and the race was proud of it." The color of the skin can not be determined from this source; but from other authorities and from the descriptions of ancient travelers we learn that it varied, and still varies, much as in central and southern Europe, from a fair and almost blond hue, with blue or gray eyes, in the northern highlands, to a clear brunette in central Persia, and an almost negro swarthiness along the torrid shores of the Persian Gulf. The Aryan complexion yields readily to climatic influences, and those who think they find the primitive type of the race solely in that small fraction of it which offers us fair skins, blue eyes, and flaxen hair, assuredly fail to observe in anthropology the rules of evidence which govern inquiries in every other branch of science.

Of the moral qualities of the race, the account given by the historian—whom no one will suspect of hostile prejudice—is not altogether so favorable. "Among their moral characteristics" he tells us, "the one most obvious is their bravery"—which (we are elsewhere told) was combined with a remarkable and persistent energy. "But this valor" he adds, "was of the merciless kind." Not only did their armies (in Scriptural phrase) "dash to pieces" the fighting men of the nations opposed to them, allowing apparently no quarter, but the women and children suffered indignities and cruelties at the hands of the savage warriors which the pen unwillingly records." Spoil, it would seem, was disregarded in comparison with insult and vengeance; and the brutal soldiery cared little for silver or gold, provided they could indulge freely in that thirst for blood which man shares with the hyena and the tiger." This inclination to cruelty, as he shows more fully in his subsequent account of the Persians, was a marked characteristic of the race. Their ordinary punishments were of the most barbarous nature. They were not content with merely putting their criminals or enemies to death, but sought out ingeniously the methods of execution that would cause the most protracted torture. Crucifixion, impalement, flaying alive, and the terrible infliction of "the boat," described with revolting minuteness by Plutarch in his life of Artaxerxes, were common methods. Scourging and mutilation—the lopping of hands and feet, the tearing out of eyes—were the usual "secondary punishments."

This propensity to cruelty seems to be, in a certain way, connected with another governing trait of the Aryan character—a trait which, at first thought, might appear to be not merely alien but opposed to that propensity. This trait may be described as a constant and overwhelming sense of reverence. When we peruse the earliest known compositions of this race, the Vedas and the Avesta, and compare them with the Hebrew Scriptures and the poems of Homer and Hesiod, we observe one striking difference. With the Hebrews and Greeks religion was much, but their own people, their national history, their laws and institutions, their homes and their families, had a large place in their thoughts. With the early Aryans, of the unmixed race, their gods were all in all. Everything else, in comparison, was too insignificant to be dwelt upon for a moment. In this great mass of their primitive literature we find not a word relating to their history, except the merest hints, thrown out incidentally and, in a manner, unconsciously. With them man. and his interests were as nothing. Why should not this worthless being, if he became offensive, be treated like a noxious insect or poisonous reptile—be crushed, impaled, flayed, or buried alive? Thus we may see how, with this naturally bloodthirsty people, religion, which in other minds has led to the extreme of charity and self-sacrifice, might be combined with the worst exhibitions of cruelty.

This same overpowering sense of reverence, directed toward their earthly rulers, became an excessive servility, which made the Aryans incapable of freedom. On this important point the exact expressions of the historian deserve to be cited. "The feeling of the Persian toward his king," he tells us, "is one of which moderns can with difficulty form a conception. In Persia the monarch was so much the state that patriotism itself was, as it were, swallowed up in loyalty; and an absolute, unquestioning submission, not only to the deliberate will but to the merest caprice of the sovereign, was, by habit and education, so ingrained into the nature of the people that a contrary spirit scarcely ever manifested itself. In war the safety of the sovereign was the first thought and the principal care of all. . . . Uncomplaining acquiescence in all the decisions of the monarch—cheerful submission to his will, whatever it might chance to be—characterized the conduct of the Persians in time of peace. . . . The father, whose innocent son was shot before his eyes by the king in pure wantonness, instead of raising an indignant protest against the crime, felicitated him on the excellence of his archery. Unfortunates, bastinadoed by the royal order, declared themselves delighted because his majesty had condescended to recollect them. A tone of sycophancy and servility was thus engendered, which, sapping self-respect, tended fatally to lower and corrupt the entire character of the people."

He who is servile to his rulers is usually tyrannical toward his inferiors. We learn from the Greek historians what the government of the Persian monarch and his satraps was in their day, and modern travelers find that the lapse of twenty-five centuries has made no change in this respect, and little in any other. So far as history gives us information, no self-governing community has ever been found among any purely Aryan people.

One fine trait, however, which the ancient authors ascribe to the Persians should be recorded to their honor—their truthfulness. According to Herodotus, every young Persian was taught by his preceptors three main things—"to ride, to draw the bow, and to speak the truth. . . . In the Zend-Avesta, and more especially in its earliest and purest portions," continues Prof. Rawlinson, "truth is strenuously inculcated. Ahura-Mazda himself is 'true,' 'the father of all truth,' and his worshipers are bound to conform themselves to his image." This quality of truthfulness is not commonly deemed to be consistent with servility; but we must remember that the servility of the Aryans was the fruit, not of the timidity of conquered serfs, but of the reverence of brave men for their earthly deities. The Turk, who bows implicitly to the vicegerent of Allah, is too proud to lie.

In intellectual capacity the people of the Iranic plateau held but a low rank, not only in comparison with their Semitic neighbors, but absolutely as a race. They had, indeed, or rather one profound thinker among them had, excogitated a religious system—the Zoroastrian—which is held to be of a cast considerably superior to the religions of the neighboring nations; but in all other respects their inferiority was marked. Of the Semitic Babylonians the historian observes that, "among the moral and mental characteristics of the people the first place is due to their intellectual ability. . . . Their wisdom and learning are celebrated by the Jewish prophets, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Daniel. The Father of History records their valuable inventions; and Aristotle was not ashamed to be beholden to them for scientific data. They were good observers of astronomical phenomena, careful recorders of such observations, and mathematicians of no small repute." Of the Persians, on the other hand, he remarks that "we can not justly ascribe to them any high degree of intellectual excellence." The remains of their architecture and sculpture which have come down to us display, he considers, a comparatively inferior artistic ability; and "to science," he declares, "they had contributed absolutely nothing." It is deserving of note that not one of the great inventions and discoveries which have promoted the progress and welfare of the human race seems to have been of Aryan origin. For the alphabet, the smelting of metals, the making of glass, shipbuilding, the mariner's compass, the methods of agriculture and of textile manufactures, the laws of geometry and astronomy, the world has been indebted to other races. We might be inclined to ascribe the backwardness of the Aryans in these respects to the disadvantages of their situation; but we notice that they seem as a race incapable of appreciating and adopting the gains of other intellects. At the present day travelers find the Persians the least advanced of the Oriental races. They are behind even the Turks, and are far below the Chinese and the Japanese. They are now, as of old, a brave, handsome, and showy race, prepossessing and courtly, but are still shamefully servile, vilely cruel, scornful of science, and fatally unprogressive.

It is a common opinion that the excellence of the Aryan language affords evidence of high intellectual capacity in its framers. That there is some warrant for this view may be admitted; but it must be remembered that the opinion arose while the science of comparative philology was in its infancy. The wider linguistic knowledge of our times shows it to have been a greatly exaggerated estimate, the product to a large extent of mere ignorance and the conceit of race. Capacity for expression is the main test of the excellence of a language; and, though the Aryan speech undoubtedly ranks well in this quality, there are found to be many languages in America and in Africa which decidedly surpass it. In certain other characteristics it is anything but admirable. Those who created and fashioned it seem to have been endowed with a peculiar linguistic talent or language-making faculty, which was not under the control of any logical force. What could be more absurd than the preposterous gender-system which the Sanskrit, the Greek, and the German have inherited from this Aryan mother-tongue, and from whose ridiculous trammels the speakers of all the later derived idioms in Asia and Europe have been for centuries striving to shake themselves free? The senseless superfluity of declensions and conjugations, the needless variety in the methods of forming the plural, the inordinate perplexity of the irregular verbs, are only a few of the evidences to be noted of the striking deficiency in logical and classifying power which, amid all their unquestioned excellences, the earlier Aryan languages everywhere betray.

But, it will naturally be asked, if the primitive Aryans were really a people of such moderate endowments, both in intellect and in morality, how do we explain the immense progress and the admitted headship and mastery among the nations of the world which their descendants have attained in Europe? The answer is ready at hand, and, indeed, almost self-evident. The people of Europe are of mixed race. They are Aryan exactly as the modern Peruvians are Spanish, or as the modern Egyptians are Arab. There is good reason to believe that primeval Europe was inhabited by tribes belonging to. various races, differing considerably in character, but all of them distinguished by a love of freedom and a sentiment of personal independence. These traits caused the population to be broken up into numerous petty communities, each of which fell an easy prey to the Aryan invaders. The latter were not only, as we have seen, a race of remarkably brave and energetic warriors, but they had also the immense advantage, for an invading force, of a disposition which led them to render implicit obedience to their rulers. It is this trait of character which in Africa has often enabled the leader of a horde to establish his sway over a vast agglomeration of disconnected tribes. It is evident that in such a case, as in the case of the Turkish conquest of Asia Minor and eastern Europe, the subdued populations may be superior to their conquerors in every quality except in the capacity for combined effort.

The earlier inhabitants of Europe seem to have been of three distinct races—in the southeast Semitic, in the southwest Iberian, in the north and center Uralian. The Semitic tribes, which peopled Greece and probably a part of Italy and of the Mediterranean islands, belonged apparently to that branch which is variously styled Hamitic, Proto-Semitic, Libyan, and North African. Issuing probably from Asia in the earliest ages, it peopled Egypt and Barbary, and made its way even to the Canary Islands. That it spread northward at various points across the Mediterranean there can hardly be a doubt. Its purest modern representatives are the Berbers, the hardy mountaineers of the Atlas range, of features and complexion almost European, and in character possessing precisely the traits which the Aryans lacked. This character can not be better shown than by copying the concise description given by Dr. Topinard in his "Anthropology." Of the Berber, regarded as the type of this race, he says: "A lively sentiment of equality, of charity, of his own dignity and of his personal liberty, a great desire for activity, love of labor, economy, attachment to his home, are his moral characteristics." All these traits appear in those most famous members of the Proto-Semitic stock, the ancient Egyptians, and with them a love of science and art and a strong inclination for literary production. Such, apparently, were the people in Greece and the adjacent islands and coast-lands of the Mediterranean, on whom the Aryans imposed their government and language and certain traits of their character How large an element of the Hellenic people this aboriginal population contributed is shown by the language. In that, as in all mixed tongues, the grammar is mainly from one source; it is almost purely Aryan. But the vocabulary shows a large infusion of words which can not possibly have come from any other source than from a subject race thus conquered and absorbed. Prof. Sayce, in the address already referred to, informs us that "Mr. Wharton has found, by a careful analysis of the Greek lexicon, that out of twenty-seven hundred and forty primary words only fifteen hundred can be referred with any probability to an Indo-European origin." To what linguistic stock this non Aryan element in the Greek language belonged is a question which remains for philologists to determine; but every indication of locality and of physical type, of moral and mental traits, and of early Hellenic tradition embodied in the legends of Ægyptus, Danaus, and Cadmus, points to a Proto-Semitic origin. To this primitive race, whatever it may have been, were evidently due all the finer and nobler qualities of the Greek character and intellect. To their Aryan conquerors they owed, along with an increased comeliness and grace of shape and feature, their martial energy, their amenability to discipline, and doubtless certain barbarous usages, such as their custom of putting to death in cold blood their enemies taken in battle.

The Iberian race resembles the North African so closely in physical, mental, and moral traits that, but for the total difference between the Berber and the Basque languages, ethnologists would be inclined to class them together. The Iberians, however, perhaps from their more northern and rugged abode, seem to have been a sturdier race, and more stubborn in maintaining their independence or reasserting it after a defeat. They occupied apparently the Spanish Peninsula, the greater part of France, the British Islands, Corsica, Sardinia, and probably a large portion of Italy, where they seem to have been mingled with the Semitic Pelasgians. The Aryan conquest, which in their case was incomplete, made little change in their character, except in Italy. In the far west the Celts have always shown the genuine Iberian character—the strong family affections, the love of home, the cheerfulness under all troubles, the sense of personal and tribal independence, and the jealous impatience of arbitrary power. To these traits the Aryans added in Italy a stronger infusion than was perhaps found anywhere else of their warlike and disciplined energy, and of their tendency to barbarity in war and to the infliction of cruel punishments in time of peace.

When the Aryan invaders entered the northern and central portions of Europe, they found that region occupied by tribes of the Uralian or Finnish type. On this point, and on the general question of the early peopling of Europe, I may cite the opinion pronounced, after many years of study, by one of the most eminent anthropologists of Europe, whose conclusions will be admitted by all to be entitled to the greatest weight—M. de Quatrefages. Referring in one of his recent works—"Hommes Fossiles et Homines Sauvages"—to the "Finnish group," he observes: "This group has for European ethnogeny a very great importance. We know to what hypotheses, to what discussions, it has given rise. Both have been often premature, because the facts that were needed to establish the conclusions were not yet discovered. The 'Finnish theory,' to use the expression of Latham, is certainly wrong when it regards the whole of Europe as having been inhabited, before the arrival of the Aryans, by a single race, extending from Gibraltar to the Arctic Ocean—a race of whose existence the Finns would be merely the evidence. It is in the right when it admits the existence of a pre-Aryan population. This is a fact which can not now be questioned. We may affirm, moreover, that this population was not homogeneous; that it numbered several very distinct races; that these races have not been annihilated; that they have borne an important part in the formation of the existing populations, and that, in certain cases at least, they constituted in them the preponderant element." It is, of course, highly satisfactory to find that the conclusions to which linguists have been led by philological data are thus fully confirmed by the minute and careful studies of the physical types of European races,, ancient and modern, which, have been pursued by this distinguished investigator for nearly half a century.

M, de Quatrefages proceeds to show the evidences of the former extension of the Finnish race through the countries now occupied by the Slavonic and Teutonic populations. Of one particular tribe his opinion will astonish those ethnologists who have held up this peculiar sept as the most primitive and typical remnant of the Aryan race. The Lithuanians, he finds, are in the main of Uralian origin. "Though they speak an Aryan idiom, they are nevertheless," he affirms, "not Aryan in blood. They are the brothers of the Esthonians, and if these are Finnish, as all the world agrees, the others are Finnish likewise."

Among the Finns he finds two distinct types. That which comprises the great majority of the people has a decidedly Mongol cast. The other inclines to the Aryan type. He has no doubt that among the so-called Finns and their congeners there has been a strong infusion of Aryan blood; and this admixture will sufficiently explain the traces of the Aryan language which many scholars, including Diefenbach, Weske, Cuno, and, lately. Canon Taylor, have pointed out in the Uralian dialects. The people of the proper Finnish type are of medium stature, sturdy and muscular, with large and square heads, long, broad, and square faces, the lower jaw strongly developed, the nose small and rather wide, the mouth large, the complexion fair, deepening to olive gray; the eyes small, sometimes slightly oblique, the iris a grayish blue or bluish gray; the hair flaxen in hue, or sometimes of a reddish yellow, straight and silky. In character they are serious, manly, thoughtful, taciturn, slow in movement, both physically and mentally; very conservative, disposed to live at peace with the authorities; somewhat suspicious and vindictive; patient and resolute under suffering; not demonstrative, but kind and helpful to their neighbors; and at bottom thoroughly honest and faithful.

In all these traits, both physical and moral, we see clearly the basis of the Slavonic type and, to a large extent, of the Teutonic; though here apparently there has been some admixture of another primitive element, probably the Iberian. Over all is impressed, and more especially, as might be expected, among the higher classes, the influence of the Aryan conquerors, who, to use the striking expression applied by the poet Campbell to the Normans in England, have "high-mettled the blood" of the race. Under this influence the Uralo-Aryan nations of northern and central Europe, while still patient, conservative, and long-enduring, have become capable of united action, of strenuous effort, and of a resulting progress in thought and freedom which the Aryans themselves, in their primitive seats, have never been able to compass.

Nothing is more certain than that the immense advance of the European Aryans (so styled) beyond those of Asia has been due mainly to the aboriginal races whom the Asiatic invaders overcame by virtue of their superior organization, but whose posterity still constitutes the main element in the population of Europe. The simple comparison of the Iranians, ancient and modern, with the nations of the West, affords ample evidence on this point. Of the ancient Persians we have had a vivid portraiture from Rawlinson. Their modern descendants are described to us by a late traveler, Mr. Arthur Arnold, an English gentleman of keen discernment and of much experience among Oriental races. In his recent work, "Through Persia by Caravan," he gives an account of the government and the people, which shows them both to be much as they were in the days of Xerxes. Of all governments above the grade of savagery, the Persian seems to be the worst; and all that can be said for it is that it faithfully reflects the character of its people. The ordinary punishments are still, as in former days, death and the bastinado; and each of these punishments is inflicted with the most ingenious refinement of cruelty. Shortly before Mr. Arnold's arrival, the governor of Ears had endeavored to repress crime in that province by a special exhibition of energy. "He tried," we are told, "throat-cutting, and left the bleeding bodies exposed to the view of all comers in the public square of Shiraz. He tried crucifixion, nailing the wretches by the hands and feet to the walls of the town, and leaving them under a guard of soldiers to die of exhaustion and starvation. Finally^ he tried burial alive in pits, or cylinders of brick-work, of depth such as to allow the criminal's head to appear above the top;" in which condition, we are told, "the miserable men were in their dying hours barbarously ill-treated, on their exposed and defenseless heads, by the rabble and soldiery of Shiraz."

Such is the race whose ancestors achieved the conquest of Europe some two or three thousand years before the Christian era, subduing gradually the scattered and disorganized tribes of Semitic, Iberian, and Uralian origin. As has been already noted, the two traits of Aryan character which, in addition to the personal valor shared by them with their opponents, especially insured the success of the invaders, were their worship of hereditary rank—a base sentiment, almost unknown to the other great races of mankind—and their ruthless cruelty to the conquered. The former trait gave them union and discipline, the other made them terribly formidable. Both traits have survived to our own day in the dominant class throughout Europe. In the feudal system, the state of society to which these qualities gave rise attained its highest development. A carnival of tyranny, superstition, and cruelty prevailed for several centuries throughout the finest portion of Europe. At length a change occurred. The subject races grew in strength. Various causes conduced to this result—the invention of gunpowder and of printing, the discovery of America, the advance of science, and, finally, the operation of that natural law by which oppressed populations, unless kept down by massacre, tend to increase faster than their oppressors. At last the struggle came to a head in France, just a hundred years ago, when, with the destruction of the Bastile, the Iberian race in that country regained the control of its own destinies, and the ascendency of hereditary rank, with its resulting system of arbitrary, corrupt, and cruel government, was swept away. In the British Islands, where the oppression was less severely felt, the reconquest has advanced, during the past two or three centuries, by more gradual steps—from the Great Rebellion to the Reform Bill of 1832, when the Uralian Saxons regained a substantial equality—and thence to the later movement of the present day, when the still earlier Iberian stratum of population is rising to the light and to its due share in the government.

It is not, of course, to be inferred that the members of any European aristocracy are all necessarily, or even probably, of Aryan descent. There has, undoubtedly, been a large and often repeated intrusion of members of other races into their ranks. In ancient India, where the three higher castes, the Brahmans, Kshatriyas, and Vaisyas, claimed, and doubtless rightly, to be of Aryan origin, it is certain that many Sudras, from the aboriginal races, have found, from time to time, admission among them. But the descendants of these intruders speedily became absorbed in the caste which they had entered, and assumed all its characteristics. When the hereditary or patrician principle was once introduced into Europe by the Aryans—the principle that the son of a noble was superior in political rights to the son of a commoner—a genuine caste was at once established; and this caste, while its membership has been partially changed, has, by the force of position and of interfusion of blood, remained the same in character to our day. Many a Norman baron was of plebeian origin, but the Norman baronage was none the less an Aryan caste. The father of Front-de-Boeuf may have been an Iberian peasant, but his children and grandchildren became the members of a privileged aristocracy, closely allied by blood and intermarriage with all the other European aristocracies, and sharing with them the traits of character which they had inherited from the Aryan conquerors.

If any are disposed, even in the face of the striking evidence of India and its caste-system, to question whether the results of a conquest made in Europe probably not less than four thousand years ago can be so clearly evident at the present day, they may be reminded of two facts which, in different ways, will serve to confirm what has been said on this point. The conquest of France, Spain, England, and other portions of Europe, by the Romans took place about two thousand years ago. The evidences and results of this conquest, in the languages, institutions, features, and character of the conquered nations, are everywhere apparent at the present day. No one dreams of doubting them, and this simply because we have written and monumental evidence of the facts. Why should we doubt that the results of a conquest made two thousand years earlier may survive in equal vigor, though in the nature of things no written or monumental record of it can have come down to our time? The memorials of it which remain are of a different, but, to an ethnologist, not less convincing character. One of these may be noted in the other fact to which reference has been made. A very high authority in comparative philology. Dr. Friedrich Müller, in his great work on Linguistic Science (Grundriss der Sprachwissenschaft), after remarking that the numerical system of the Indo-Germanic languages rests on the decimal system, adds that the Celtic alone shows traces of the vigesimal system, which are to be referred to the influence of the Basque language. The Iberian Basques reckon by digits to twenty, which is, in their language, a distinct word, hogei (or oguei); forty is berrogei, "two hogeis"; eighty is "four hogeis"; and ninety-seven would be "four hogeis and ten-seven." The Celtic has a double system. Twenty is fiche, a corruption of the Aryan term; for forty the Celt can say either cethor cha, an Aryan contraction of "four-tens," or dá fichit, "two twenties." Ninety-seven is either "nine tens and seven," or, as in the Basque, "four twenties and ten-seven." Now, the French language, as is well known, adopts both methods, in different parts of its ascending scale. As far as sixty it proceeds by the decimal system; then it abruptly changes to the vigesimal. The Frenchman, when for ninety-seven he says "four-twenties-ten-seven" (quatre-vingt-dix-sept), has no idea—unless he is a philologist—that he is translating an ancient Iberian idiom into a corrupt form of Aryan speech. If we consider what this fact really signifies, we shall see that the whole ethnological history of France is embodied in it. This French system of enumeration, now in actual use, tells us that the people who employ it are mainly of Iberian origin; that an Aryan language in its most corrupt and disintegrated form, the Celtic, was once imposed upon them; that this has again given place to the Latin form, which has been further mangled and debased by the influence of a still later Teutonic conquest; and that through the whole of these overlying strata, caste imposed upon caste, the vigorous Iberian element has forced its way to the light, and governs to this day, in this composite population, that most striking manifestation of the intellectual development of a race — its higher numeral system.

It would be easy to add many other illustrations from history, from physical traits, and from linguistic data, but they will hardly be deemed necessary. The conclusion to which we are brought by all the evidence is, that while the conquering energy of the European nations is doubtless due to the infusion of Aryan blood, their higher intellectual qualities and their love of freedom are derived almost entirely from the earlier races, who form the main elements in the mixed European breed. The gradual elimination of the Aryan blood and character, with the return of these earlier elements to ascendency, is the most impressive and important phenomenon in the modern history of Europe, and indeed of the civilized world. We see its results in the extension of free institutions, in the growth of science, in the multiplicity of inventions, in the lessened barbarity of war, in the abolition of slavery, in the increased sense of brotherhood among nations, in the diffusion of education, in the countless societies for charity and for learning, and in all the other evidences of material and moral progress which distinguish our age.

Rule Segment - Span - 40px.svg Rule Segment - Span - 40px.svg Rule Segment - Flare Left - 12px.svg Rule Segment - Span - 5px.svg Rule Segment - Circle - 6px.svg Rule Segment - Span - 5px.svg Rule Segment - Flare Right - 12px.svg Rule Segment - Span - 40px.svg Rule Segment - Span - 40px.svg
  1. The present article was read before the Section of Anthropology, in the American Association for the Advancement of Science, at its meeting in August, 1888. The "Vice-Presidential address" referred to is published in the Proceedings of the Association for 1886.