Page:Myths of the Hindus & Buddhists.djvu/21

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CHAPTER I : MYTHOLOGY OF THE INDO-ARYAN RACES

The Study of Mythology

IN the early history of man Asia formed a vast breeding-ground of civilization of which countries like Egypt, Arabia, Greece, India, and China were the extremities. Egypt and Arabia were destined later, from their geographical positions, to be overrun and suffer destruction of their culture. Greece and pre-eminently India formed what may be called culs-de-sac. Here, as if up the long shores of some hidden creek, would be forced the tidal wave of one epoch after another, each leaving on the coast a tide-mark that perhaps none of its successors would be able entirely to cover. Hence, in India, we may hope to discover means of studying, as nowhere else in the world, the succession of epochs in culture.

Civilization develops by new conjunctions of tribes and races, each with its individual outlook, the result of that distinctive body of custom which has imposed itself upon them through the geographical conditions of what ever region formed their cradle-land and school. Western Asia is one of the central areas of the world. Here by the very necessities of the configuration the great high ways from North to South and East to West meet, and mercantile cities points of barter and exchange will grow up at the crossways. Equally obvious is it that India and the remote parts of the Nile Valley will form seats of occupation and production. Here race upon race will settle and combine. Here agricultural nations will grow up. Here civilization will accumulate. And here we may look to see the gradual elaboration of schemes of thought which will not only bear their own history