Page:The Harvard Classics Vol. 51; Lectures.djvu/18

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essay, to coordinate the great epochs of history, from the earliest to the most recent times.

The practical limit of history extends over a period of about three thousand years, goes back, in other words, to about 1000 B. C. Beyond that we have merely scraps of archaeological evidence; names of pictures engraved on stone, to show that in periods very remote considerable monarchies flourished in Egypt, along the Euphrates, and in other directions. It was not these people who were to set their imprint on later ages, it was rather what were then merely untutored and unknown wandering tribes of Aryans, which, working their way through the great plains of the Volga, the Dnieper, and the Danube, eventually forced their way into the Balkan and the Italian peninsulas. There, with the sea barring their further progress, they took on more settled habits, and formed, at some distant epoch, cities, among which Athens and Rome were to rise to the greatest celebrity. And about the year 1000 B. C., or a little later, Greece emerges from obscurity with Homer.

Just as Greece burst from her chrysalis, a Semitic people, the Jews, were producing their counterpart to Homer. In the Book of Joshua they narrated in the somber mood of their race the conquest of Palestine by their twelve nomad tribes, and in the Pentateuch and later writings they recorded their law and their religion. From this starting point, Homer and Joshua, whose dates come near enough for our purpose, we will follow the history of the Mediterranean and of the West.


First the great rivers, the Nile and the Euphrates, later the great inland sea that stretched westward to the Atlantic, were the avenues of commerce, of luxury, of civilization. Tyre, Phocæa, Carthage, and Marseilles were the early traders, who brought to the more military Aryans not only all the wares of east and west but language itself, the alphabet. Never was a greater gift bestowed on a greater race. With it the Greeks developed a wonderful literature that was to leave a deep impress on all Western civilization. They wove their early legends into the chaste and elegant verse of the Homeric epics,