Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 13.djvu/141

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been validated.




JUNE, 1878.


By F. L. OSWALD, M. D.

"WHAT can we learn from the ancient Greeks?" was the theme which the Florentine Art-School proposed to the competitors for the De Rossi prize last year: the most suggestive theme, perhaps, that could be recommended to the consideration of the nineteenth century.

"Neither in delicacy of execution nor in grandeur of conception can we measure ourselves with the Greeks of the ante-Alexandrian era," says L'Abbate Pintore, "The Painter Priest," as the successful competitor signs himself, "nor would it be easy to say in what they were not our superiors."

The latter question would, indeed, be difficult to answer, even if we should extend its application, which the Painter Priest probably restricts to art-matters; and the theory which ascribes our progress in secular as well as in spiritual insight to the "revealed light" of our religion can hardly be reconciled with the fact that, in the very branches of knowledge which refer to the conduct of human life, our latest and best ideas were anticipated by those Nature-taught heathens, while even in the objective sciences our fancied superiority would be sadly reduced, if we should subtract the chance discoveries and technical details which are the cumulative bequest of all preceding generations.

It does really suggest a general revision of our physical and meta-physical standards, if we consider in how many senses of the word the proudest progress of our latter-day civilization is but a return to the standpoints which the pagan inhabitants of a Mediterranean peninsula occupied twenty-four centuries ago. After an infinitude of political experiments with absolute and most puissant monarchs, elective monarchs, constitutional monarchs, and figure-head monarchs, the most ad-