Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 19.djvu/528

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

incrusted with glittering silver. Within, on the southern wall, was a painting in white, presenting the moon as a beautiful woman; on either side along the eastern and western walls, on massive thrones of silver, were seated the dead queens of Peru, embalmed and arrayed in regal splendor.

In an elegant pavilion, covered with plates of the precious metal, adjoining the mansion, were apartments for the accommodation of her waiting-maids, the stars.

There was also an elaborate circular Temple of the Moon on a lofty hill near Quito, so arranged that the moonlight, falling through certain openings, shone directly on a silver image suspended from a blue roof emblazoned with stars.

Priesthoods and orders of priestesses existed in ancient Greece, Italy, India, Egypt, Britain, and America, fearful penalties attaching to broken vows or neglect of offices.

Many astronomers, whose quoted works are lost, flourished before Christ; their curious theories have been preserved in ancient writings of a later period. It is exceedingly interesting to trace, step by step, the changes of opinion wrought by gradual discovery in regard to the physical condition of the moon. This—orb variously supposed to be a brilliant disk-shaped body formed from mist congealed by fire; a mass of fiery and opaque elements; a circle of porous substance like pumice-stone, receiving light from a luminous ether; and a sphere, one half of which was burning—was finally pronounced by Anaxagoras, the Greek philosopher, in the year 500 b. c, to be an earth with mountains and valleys like our own.

For this opinion, and his belief that the moon was as large as the Peloponnesus, Anaxagoras was ridiculed by the learned men of his time. Six hundred years later, Plutarch supported the views of his ancient predecessor; but it was not until the application of the first telescope that any certain knowledge of the planet was gained. This instrument caused a complete revolution of ideas in astronomy. Galileo's plains, mountains, and valleys, were facts, whereas those of Anaxagoras had been matters of conjecture. Imagination soon peopled the moon with a peculiar race of beings, covered it with grand forests and cities, and all that pertains to a habitable world. Fortifications were discovered; consequently, the Lunarians were a warlike people. Certain bright points on the dark portion of the moon's disk were proclaimed to be conflagrations, or volcanic eruptions, or perhaps fireworks in honor of some lunar event.

A German astronomer proposed the building of an immense triangle on the plains of Siberia as a means of mathematical correspondence with the moon's inhabitants, believing they would build one in reply. A brother scientist, commenting on this novel signal-service, naïvely declared that "many more foolish projects had been carried out successfully."