Зображення сторінки
PDF
ePub

of the religious system itself most nearly connected with the civil was that which he chiefly altered; and in the introduction of a simpler ritual in religion, he was perhaps the author of a greater degree of independence in life. But the distinguishing feature of Zoroaster's reform is one we have not yet directly observed. It belongs to him entirely, or to the characteristics of his nation, which he alone was able to seize and act upon. Every condition of the Persians was to be fashioned according to the superior conditions or classes. The husbandman was bound, not only to sow the grain “in purity,” but to imitate the courage and to follow the battles of the noble. The noble, in his turn, was encouraged to aspire after the virtue and the prečminence of the king; while the king would look upwards to the divinities of the Persian skies, if he believed in them, and strive, as he knew how, to resemble their perfections. These were the elements, at least, of universal progress. The classes, instead of being fortified by insurmountable barriers against the efforts of their own members to leave them or those of inferior men to penetrate within them, were hereditary only to the indolent or the unfortunate. No one was too humble to hope for social as well as personal improvement; and had the spirit of the reformer corresponded with the words he uttered to his countrymen, there might have been aroused an individual activity amongst the Persians, before which the Greeks might have quailed at Thermopylae or Plataea.

But it was not for the Persian nation to maintain its dominion. It relaxed its rigidity more than any race we have yet here known;" it professed a purer religion than any other people, save only one, of all antiquity; but the wars which had been the means of its rise were the appointed instruments of its downfall. The prayer of Zoroaster for immortality,” that he might establish the practice of his laws throughout all ages, was vain. His visions of patriarchal benevolence in the monarchy, on whose fate that of the nation and that of the empire both depended, were dissipated by his own exhortations to combat and fanatical wrath against all disbelievers;" and the separation at which he connived, in religion and in government, of the Persians from their subjects, was as ruinous to them as to those they oppressed and scorned. Real unity of law or liberty was impossible amongst a multitude of races bound to different associations and different institutions: it was not even conceivable to the reformer, or to the monarch, or to their posterity.

In the first glow, indeed, of dominion, the Persians were inspired with a vigor which was irresistible while it endured; but when their morning chant had been sung upon their battle-grounds, the day grew weary to them, and they lost the enthusiasm and the dignity which had distinguished them under their early monarchs. The nobles, ready to imitate the kings of later reigns, forsook their manlier habits for effemimacy and incapability; while the people, indebted to the lucky accident of a merciful sovereign for any freedom they could enjoy, decreased in numbers, forgetting their loyalty and their pride. But it was at the court of the king or in the palaces of the satraps that the decline was most apparent and most foreboding; and in laboring through the tedious history of Persian despotism, it is really difficult to remember its better days and better offices that were yet so soon exhausted. The truth remains, that a government to be free, or a religion to be pure, must be fortified and consecrated by other means than exclusiveness or warfare. The empire of Persia was a trial of wider principles of government and of broader bands of union among men than had before been brought into action. Had it been more successful, the utmost liberty consistent with its character would have been greatly imperfect; but as it happened, the freedom confined to the conquerors alone was lost by them at length under a ruthless despotism. Yet the trial brought its advantages. At the time the East was reduced beneath a single government, the West was exalting itself with the liberty its people had more fortunately obtained. To them were opened the stores of elder days; and though at first they stood confounded, they soon began to claim their shares,

59 As in Herodotus (I. 135) we read that the Persians were ready to adopt the customs of other nations.

60 Anquetil, Vie de Zoroastre.

6. It ought to be mentioned, perhaps, that there are also various

stories of Zoroaster's intercourse with the Brahmins, the Jewish doctors, and even with Pythagoras. See De Guigniaut's notes to Creuzer's Religions, etc., Tom. I. pp. 689, 690.

and at last broke in, with sword and fire, to storm the strongholds, which disappeared as if by enchantment before their arms. This process, if it may thus be styled, of acquaintance, information, and destruction, was the great result of the Persian dominion; great, because in the successive shocks of change and passion on either side, the columns of the heathen temple were weakened for their approaching downfall.”

62 See the wonderful Chapter XLV. of the Prophet Isaiah.

[ocr errors][merged small]

“In dem Epos des Weltverkehrs tiber die Meere beginnen die Phönizier.” — REIchARD, Erinn. Staatsk, des Alt., II.

“It is hardly possible to overrate the value, for the improvement of human beings, of things which bring them into contact with persons dissimilar to themselves, and with modes of thought and action unlike those with which they are familiar. — MILL, Pol. Econ., Book III. ch. 17. THE Phoenicians were among the nations whom Cyrus subdued;' but the days of their activity began before and continued after their submission to the Persian conqueror. For nearly seven centuries” they dwelt by “the sea and the coasts of Jordan,” remarkable as a people, above all others, for the commerce which attracted them to distant lands and various races of men. The country they inhabited was narrow and mountainous. It thrust them out into the waters which rolled upon its shores, and forced them, as it were, to live by enterprise and remote adventure. Their ships," catching the breezes of the Mediterranean, sailed to all the neighbouring

1. About A. C. 550.

Herod., III. 91. 2 A. C. 1000–300. They were subdued, however, by Nebuchadmezzar about three centuries before the latter date. 3. Numbers, XIII. 29. 4 For the building of which, as

Heeren remarks, their forest-covered mountains furnished the ready means. See his Researches, etc., Vol. II.

sect. 1. Compare the Odyssey,

XV. 415 : —

‘Poivukes . . . . . vavorik\vrot àvöpes,
K. T. A.

« НазадПродовжити »