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That history will become less picturesque we may readily own, if we restrict that term to the vivid anecdote or the brilliant rencontre; but there are other elements of deeper meaning which are not so easily invalidated. A village custom, a clause from an ancient statute, or a time-worn inscription, may possess as vivid an interest, if we have but the key to decipher them. As our researches extend, and our knowledge becomes deeper, we are continually turning up new relies of the past. Thus of how recent a date is Comparative Philology, which has unveiled to us the mysteries of language, and shewn that our words are not only the ready money of daily life, but historical medals as well.
The anecdotes and incidents will go, we fear, - for how many have already gone! Thus the long cherished story of the recital by Herodotus of his unfinished history at the Olympian games, with the boy Thucydides among his audience, has vanished before closer scrutiny; dates are insuperably stubborn, and Herodotus and Thucydides were born too near each other to allow of such a rencontre. The story in fact rests on the authority of Lucian, who lived six hundred years after the event, if it happened, in itself suspicious enough; and Lucian's character for accuracy is too low to warrant any extraordinary trust.
Again, Belisarius begging for bread with "give an obol to Belisarius," was long received as a fact, but when traced to its source, it seems quite untrustworthy, as it first appears in a random compilation by that poor “Greek witling” (as Milton calls him) Tzetzes, a monk of the twelfth century. The legend of Fair Rosamund's fate is undoubtedly false, and can be traced up to no contemporary authority ; in fact the further back we carry our search, the less of the story is known; and in this instance, we can distinctly trace the growth of the fable through successive chroniclers.
We need hardly remind our readers of the parallel instance in oriental history, in the story of Mahmúd and the jewel-filled idol at Somnath, which has been proved to be in itself impossible, as the idol was a solid stone block, in fact a common Linga column. It is encouraging to find that the story is equally overthrown by a scrutiny of authorities, and Professor Wilson (in the Asiatic Journal, May, 1843) has traced it back to its earliest extant mention, in Abulfeda, at the commencement of the thirteenth century. Every later author adds something of his own, until the idol, which in this writer was only five cubits high, two of which are set in the ground, and which is destroyed by a fire lighted ruund it to split the hardness of the stone, becomes in the gradual growth of fiction an idol in human figure, which Mahmúd bursts open with his ase, and thus discovers an immense
store of jewels in its belly. This is the account in Ferishta (A. D. 1600), whence it has been copied into our general histories.
The whole history of the early Mohammedan conquests, as we have it in Gibbon, and the popular writers who follow him, abounds with apocryphal stories. The only authority accessible to the general reader, and which Gibbon mainly consulted, is Ockley's history of the Saracens, a work displaying great learning and diligence, but unfortunately chiefly based on an author who little merited such confidence. The history by Wákidi, which he has incorporated into his work, is now considered a mere romance, by some writer, who lived between the close of the eleventh and the middle of the fourteenth century.*
In conclusion, we would take as a further illustration of the method of historical evidence an instance treated at length by Isaac Taylor in his excellent though scarce work on the process of historical proof. We have taken this especially, because we are for once enabled to prove the correctness of the verdict, by later discoveries unknown at the time to the writer,
The question is the authenticity of the account that Xerxes cut a trench through the narrow isthmus of the promontory of Mount Athos, that his second fleet might coast from gulf to gulf without doubling the dangerous headland, where his former fleet was wrecked. Several modern writers have rejected the story altogether, relying on its inherent improbability, and on the language of the Roman satirist, Juvenal, who expressly adduces it to support his epithet, “ Græcia mendax," and whose words imply that it was generally disbelieved in his time.
Let us examine the evidence in favour of the account. The primary witness is Herodotus, who gives a detailed account of the whole undertaking, entering minutely into particulars ; and Thucydides, who possessed estates in the neighbourhood, and had commanded the Athenian fleet there, alludes to the canal as still in existence, and well-known to his readers. Similarly, the orators Lysias and Isocrates confidently affirm the fact; and in later times, the historians Diodorus Siculus and Justin relate it without hesitation, though of course their evidence will weigh but little in the scale. Lysias and Isocrates, as orators, lose their advantage of proximity to the time by the suspicion of rhetorical exaggeration ; but here our cavils must stop,—we can challenge no other witness. The testimony of Herodotus and Thucydides remains distinct and unshaken, and is alone sufficient to establish the point. The Athenians, by their possessions at Amphipolis and elsewhere, were constantly in communication with those coasts; and it is impossible that two such writers could have joined in mentioning as a fact, what so many of their readers could have at once disproved, if it were false. Of course Juvenal's sneer is put out of court as evidence by th~ 500 years which had intervened ; and the internal improbabilities can weigh little in themselves, when we remember an eastern despot's caprices, and his unlimited power to gratify them.
* Ergo libri isti nec seculo undecimo exeunte antiquiores, nec medio seculo decimo quarto juniores.—Hamaker, Pref: ad Incerti Auct. Lib.
+ We are glad to see that the Calcutta University has introduced the subject of historical evidence into its course of study for the B. A. degree ; and that Isaac Taylor's two works (the one mentioned above, and that on the transmission of ancient books,) are recommended as text-books. Sir John Stoddart's reprint at the head of our article, contains some valuable remarks on early his. tory; and there is an admirable summary of the subject in chap. vii. of Sir G. C. Lewis' " Methods of observation and reasoning in Politics."
Judging therefore by the rules of evidence alone, Isaac Taylor gave an unhesitating verdict for Herodotus.
But in this case, we are not left to criticism ; the verdict has been unexpectedly confirmed by different evidence. Modern travellers, in this, as in a thousand other instances, have confirmed the truthfulness of the father of history, and we read the following in the latest edition of his works : “ The canal was traced
by Carlyle (ap. Walpole's Turkey, i., p. 224,) throughout the whole of its extent. It is about a mile and a quarter long,
and twenty-five yards across. It has been much filled up by mud " and rushes. Its bottom is in many places very little above the ' level of the sea, in some parts of it corn is sown, in others there
are pools of water. It runs in fact from the Gulf of Monte Santo to the bay of Erso in the Gulf of Contessa. Other travellers speak of a singular mound, which rises as a natural citadel over the village of Erso, the ancient Acanthus; and there, Herodotus tells us, Artachães died, the superintendent of the canal, and a man of royal blood, whom Xerxes ordered to be buried with royal pomp, and "the whole army raised his mound.”.
Art. I.–1.-Zend : Is it an original Language? By John ROMER,
late E. I. C. C. S. and M. R. A. S. London, 1855. 2. Outlines of Comparative Philology, with a sketch of the lan
guages of Europe arranged upon philologic principles, and a brief History of the Art of Writing. By M. SCHELE DE VERE of the University of Virginia. New York.
MDCCCLIII. 3. Christianity and Mankind, their Beginnings and Prospects.
By CHRISTIAN CHARLES JOSIAH BUNSEN, D.D., D.C.L., D.P.H., in seven volumes. Philosophical Section-Outlines of the Philosophy of Universal History applied to Language
and Religion. London, 1854. 4. Twelve Lectures on the connexion between Science and Reveal.
ed Religion delivered in Rome. By CARDINAL WISEMAN.
Fifth edition, 1853. 5. Bibliothecae Sanskritae sive Recensus Librorum Sanskritorum
hucusque typis vel lapide exscriptorum critici specimen concinnavit JOANNES GILDEMEISTER, PROFESSOR MARBUR
GENSIS. Bonnae ad Rhenum. MDCCCXLVII. 6. Modern Investigations on Ancient India, a Lecture delivered
in Berlin, March 4, 1854. By Professor A. WEBER. Translated from the German. By FANNY METCALFE. Leipzig, 1857.
T is true of Sciences as well as of individuals, that eminence
and acknowledged value must be reached through obstacles of no common magnitude, and trials of no common intensity. Through suffering is the soul perfected, through much tribulation only is it allowed to enter into the hidden arcana of truth, and to understand its revelations, humbly yet hopefully, without
passion, prejudice or sloth. The ancient philosophers were right in principle at least, when they demanded as the price of those instructions which they communicated, that their disciples should purge their souls of the dross of earthly passion, and the errors of too hasty generalization, ere being allowed to gaze upon the full display of the mysteries of those esoteric doctrines, a knowledge of which was reserved for only a favoured few. What this kind of 'noviciate effected for the ancient systems, and many of the secret societies of the middle ages, has been brought about in more modern times, and especially since the days of Bacon, by the persecution which infant Sciences have had to bear, by the opposition that they have invariably met with, from men of limited, conservative and prejudiced minds, or from bigotted religionists, who, assuming that their own interpretation of Scripture was correct, denied the truth of facts that in nature seemed opposed to it. Thus Truth has ever had to undergo a baptism of fire, which disengaged from it the counterfeit that so often passed under its name or in company with it, and fitted it for the high function of reconciling doubts and contraries, and elevating man to that position for which his Creator originally destined him.
The recent and rapid birth of new Sciences, during the last sixty years, is one of the most striking features of modern times. We are now reaping the fruits of that silent and toilsome elaboration of first principles which engaged the schoolmen, and finally resulted in the principles on which modern civilization is based. And not merely have new Sciences sprung into being, but those that formerly existed, have received new additions to their evidences, a new extension of their facts, and a clearer manifestation of their principles. Time is an all important element in the development of truth. It was not enough that the Genius of Science fled from Europe for ten long and dreary centuries, or hid herself and wrought secretly in the womb of mediæval times, but even when she gave birth to Bacon, and such exponents of his principles as Newton and Boyle, the first had to throw himself on posterity and look to the future for that reputation which was denied him by contemporaries. That future, which, with a consciousness of greatness and prophetic eye he saw, came only so late as the end of last century. Then it was that his principles became more fully appreciated, the spirit of his great‘Instauratio' understood, and the rules of his inductive philosophy carried out carefully into practice. Then it was that new Sciences were evolved under their application to nature, and through Reid and Kant, even mental philosophy received an impetus, and was placed upon a basis, which all the quibbles of sophists and the doubts of sceptics shall never injure nor overthrow. The principle which has led to such important results, has been denoted by