Page:The Outline of History Vol 1.djvu/638

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XXXI

SEVEN CENTURIES IN ASIA (CIRCA 50 B.C. TO A.D. 650)

§ 1. Justinian the Great. § 2. The Sassanid Empire in Persia. § 3. The Decay of Syria under the Sassanids. § 4. The First Message from Islam. § 5. Zoroaster and Mani. § 6. Hunnish Peoples in Central Asia and India. § 7. The Great Age of China. § 8. Intellectual Fetters of China. § 9. The Travels of Yuan Chwang.
 

§ 1

IN the preceding two chapters we have concentrated our attention chiefly on the collapse in the comparatively short space of four centuries of the political and social order of the western part of the great Roman Empire of Cæsar and Trajan. We have dwelt upon the completeness of that collapse. To any intelligent and public-spirited mind living in the time and under the circumstances of St. Benedict or Cassiodorus, it must have seemed, indeed, as if the light of civilization was waning and near extinction. But with the longer views a study of universal history gives us, we can view those centuries of shadow as a phase, and probably a necessary phase, in the onward march of social and political ideas and understandings. And if, during that time, a dark sense of calamity rested upon Western Europe, we must remember that over large portions of the world there was no retrogression.

With their Western prepossessions European writers are much too prone to underrate the tenacity of the Eastern empire that centred upon Constantinople. This empire embodied a tradition much more ancient than that of Rome. If the reader will look at the map we have given of its extent in the sixth century, and if he will reflect that its official language had then become Greek, he will realize that what we are dealing with here is only nominally

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