Page:The Outline of History Vol 1.djvu/206

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But let us return now to the history preserved for us in the Aryan epics.

The Sanscrit epics tell a very similar story to that underlying the Iliad, the story of a fair, beef-eating people—only later did they become vegetarians—coming down from Persia into the plain of North India and conquering their way slowly towards the Indus. From the Indus they spread over India, but as they spread they acquired much from the dark Dravidians they conquered, and they seem to have lost their bardic tradition. The vedas, says Mr. Basu, were transmitted chiefly in the households by the women....

The oral literature of the Keltic peoples who pressed westward has not been preserved so completely as that of the Greeks or Indians; it was written down many centuries later, and so, like the barbaric, primitive English Beowulf, has lost any clear evidence of a period of migration into the lands of an antecedent people. If the pre-Aryans figure in it at all, it is as the fairy folk of the Irish stories. Ireland, most cut off of all the Keltic-speaking communities, retained to the latest date its primitive life; and the Táin, the Irish Iliad, describes a cattle-keeping life in which war chariots are still used, and war dogs also, and the heads of the slain are carried off slung round the horses' necks. The Táin is the story of a cattle raid. Here too the same social order appears as in the Iliad; the chiefs sit and feast in great halls, they build halls for themselves, there is singing and story-telling by the bards and drinking and intoxication.[1] Priests are not very much in evidence, but there is a sort of medicine man who deals in spells and prophecy.

  1. No Greek heroes, in Homer or the heroic tradition, ever get drunk. In the comic tradition they do, and of course centaurs and barbarians do. — G. M.