Abbildungen der Seite
[merged small][ocr errors]

983. End of the 21st dynasty. 982. First year of Sheshonk, the first king of the 22nd

dynasty. 962. The 21st year of the reign of Sheshonk Sesak corresponds

with the fifth year of king Rehoboam *. A few years ago an approximation to a correct calculation of the lapse of time in the formation of a part of the earth's surface was made by Sir Charles Lyell, after a visit to the valley of the Mississippi, in the United States. That accomplished geologist described the bed of mud and sand deposited by the river Mississippi, which extended, in the delta of the river, over an area of about 13,600 square statute miles, to a depth of at least 528 feet, or the tenth of a mile, and which in the upper part of the bed included an area of at least 13,600 square statute miles, to a depth of 264 feet. Observations had been made on the average width, depth, and velocity of the stream, and experiments on the proportion of sediment carried down by the river, proved that every year, 3,702,758,400 cubic feet of solid matter were brought down by the river. After a careful investigation of details, Sir Charles Lyell and his friends demonstrated that a period of at least 100,500 years had elapsed in the formation of the alluvial deposit of the Mississippit.

Sir Charles Lyell described, in 1846, the above-mentioned result of scientific calculations of the antiquity of a

* Egypt's Place in Universal History, by Chevalier Bunsen, Ph.D. and D.C.L., vol. ii. p. 578. London, 1854.

+ Second Visit to the United States, by Sir Charles Lyell, vol. ü. p. 250.

[blocks in formation]

portion of the earth's surface; and in addressing the British Association for the Advancement of Science on the subject, he expressed his regret, that there should still prevail one creed for the philosopher and another creed for the multitude, declaring, at the same time, his deep conviction, which was shared by his scientific friends in the Assembly, that “the further we extend our researches into the wonders of creation in time and space, the more do we exalt, refine, and elevate our conceptions of the Divine Artificer of the Universe.”




HISTORY. AMONG all the civilized nations of antiquity, the dawn of genuine history (whether more or less authentic) is preceded by a series of myths and legends', whose patriotic object it uniformly is, to trace the origin and to exalt the early glories of the people.

A narrative may be recognised as mythic, when it refers to a period in which no written records could have existed, when things not cognizable by the senses or beyond the reach of human experience are related in it as historical facts, and when these statements of supposed facts are interwoven with rude conceptions of nature and of the Deity, or when they betray throughout a tincture of the marvellous.

Legends may be defined to be those traditions of early times which were transmitted by oral communication, with

1 “Mythen und Sagen” in the German VOL. I.


in the German.


out being fixed in writing, and which gradually assumed an altered form in the language of the people, and were constantly transformed by new ideas, increasing knowledge, and events of a later date (all of which were insensibly incorporated with the older elements, and at times threw them completely into the shade); until at length these traditions were seized upon and appropriated by the poet and the historian, so that they were never committed to writing until long after the nation, among whom they arose, had arrived at maturity and independence, and had begun to pay attention to its history.

According to ordinary usage, the myth, strictly speaking, is rather philosophical in its character, inasmuch as it is principally concerned with objects beyond the reach of experience; and the legend is so far historical, that an actual fact may lie at the foundation of it, yet each may occasionally happen to assume the appearance of the other. Thus while the myth is sometimes founded on actual observation, and real facts are blended in it with original speculations, the legend is also at times little more than a fiction, purposely contrived to adapt the existing state of things, or some particular occurrence, to certain patriotic purposes; as, for instance, when all connexion with a kindred race is indignantly disowned, when, to gratify a popular prejudice, a slight is thrown on some neighbouring nation, or when observances of recent date are referred to a remote antiquity: in such cases, the legend sinks to the level of a popular tale or fable, and can only in the loosest sense be entitled to retain the name.

Genealogy is the favourite source from which popular legends are mostly derived, and particularly in the East. Even at the present day, the Arab Bedoween transmits


the long register of his heroic forefathers as a sacred heirloom to his children, composes romances to embellish and immortalize their deeds, summons his eastern fancy to fill up any breaks that may occur; and, as his favourite heroes become more mythic and more sacred as they are further removed from the reality of the present, he adorns them with a kind of historical setting like a glory ; in default of facts and characters, he readily supplies a thread from popular fiction or his own conjecture, to connect the separate fragments, and easily invents new names to prolong this poetical string of pearls to the highest possible antiquity. While thus, among the more enlightened Greeks, history depended on observation, examination, and research, it rested in the East on tables of pedigree; and hence among the Hebrews it derived its very name of tolědoth, or generations. The scanty annals of the Arabs, which were never recognised as history until after the time of Mohammed, are nothing more than such separate legends of particular tribes; and the genealogy of their prophet, carried back as far as Joktan, is entitled to precisely the same degree of credence as the pedigree of the Osman emperors derived from Adam, the fabulous dynasties of the Hindoos and Egyptians, or the succession of the patriarchs, and the subsequent genealogies of the Hebrews [previous to an historical period].

When at length a people acquire a national literature, the contemporary genealogies pass by degrees into the historical form; the mythic legend and pure history then stand in the same relation to each other, as two diverging lines, whose angle of junction forms the first accredited fact; and while the historical line grows more and more distinct as it proceeds, the mythic line retreats further

« ZurückWeiter »