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1poken of by this poet any correspondence, or any order given in writing. They gave all their instructions and all their commissions verbally.
The only time that mention is made of writing in Homer is with relation to Bellerophon: he says, that Prætus sent that prince to carry to Jobate, a letter which contained an order to put him to death y. This letter, as far as we can judge, was written on tablets covered with wax *, It must be notwithstanding, that the error of writing so rarely as they did in the heroic times, was not continued, and writing must necessarily become more common between the space of time that passed from the war of Troy to the age of Homer. The degree of perfection to which we see in the time of that poet the Greek language was already brought, is a certain proof of it. It had then all the characters of a rich language, polished, regular, in a word, capable of all kinds of writing. But the Greek language could never have come to that purity and that elegancy, if, from the war of Troy to the age of Homer, the Greeks had not writ much *.
* Iliad. 1. 6. v. 168. 6.
We might perhaps remove the doubts about the signification of the terms ufed by Homer on this occasion; and it must be confessed, that these doubts
not without foundation. For Homer designs what Bellerophon Thewed to Praetus, only by the vague word auhaTle, literally, marks, higns. This manner of expression is fingular enough, and does not design alpha. betic writing but very vaguely. The word cureceta would agree better with hieroglyphics. Nevertheless I have thought I ought to follow the common manner of interpreting this passage.
y See Plin. 1. 13. sect. 20. & 27. 1. 33. fect:4. * We must observe, that Homer was born and brought up in Afiatic Greece; it was then in those countries that the Greek language began to be formed and perfected.
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Have treated of the origin of sciences in the first part of this work, I have even tried to unfold their progress:
I often could not do it, but by the help of many conje&tures. There now remains to us scarce any detail about the events that happened in that high antiquity: the ages which we now run over, will furnish us with more matter for our researches. The facts are sufficiently known, and even circumstantial enough. We shall see among some nations a remarkable progress, which must be attributed probably to the invention of alphabetic writing *.
'Before the discovery of that admirable art, the people had, it is true, some means to preserve the memory of their discoveries. But these succours were so imperfect, that they could contribute but weakly to the advance. ment of the sciences, and, if I may use the word, to their propagation. Alphabetic writing has removed all obstacles : the sciences are extended and multiplied. Different colonies, coming from Egypt and Asia, brought the sciences into Greece, and drew that part of Europe from barbarifm and ignorance. The sciences did not find at their first beginnings a soil or minds properly disposed. The fruits which they bore, were in small abundance, and came very late. It was by length of time that Greece was indebted for all sorts of knowledge which has so greatly distinguished them from other countries. But that flowness has been compensated by the beauty and the abundance of the productions of every sort which she has brought forth since.
The reader will perceive without doubt, that I here recall nearly the same ideas which I have already presented in the beginning of the preceding book. But as it is important, that he should not lose the view of the plan and the gradation which I have proposed in this work, I thought these repetitions necesfary. I even foresee, that I shall be forced till to make use of it more than once.
Whave seen before, that the history of Asia was al.
most entirely unknown to us in the ages which make our objeđ at present. The little that we have been able to collect, only regards the people who inhabited the coasts of that part of the world which are washed by the Mediterranean. The Phoenicians have been almost the only ones about whom history has furnished us at this time with any lights; they shall also be the only ones of whom I will speak in this article.
It is in Phoenicia that we find the first traces of a philofophic system of the origin and the formation of the world. We ought in effect to put in the rank of the first philofophers that Asia has produced, Sanchoniatho, of whom Eusebius has preserved for us á valuable fragmenta. This author wrote about the beginning of the ages we are at present running over : his work is, after the books of Moses, the most ancient monument which remains to us of antiquity. Sanchoniatho has transmitted to us, as well as a philosopher as an historian, the ancient traditions of the Phoenicians; I have often made use of the little that remains of his writings. It is one of the sources from whence I have drawn, in a great measure, the history of the arts and the discoveries in the first ages. It is com: monly thought, that Sanchoniatho was cotemporary with Joshua ,
* See at the end of the first vol. our dissertat. on the fragment of Sanchoniatho.
b See, ibid. what we think of this work. • See Bochart, chan. 1. 2.C. 2.; Fourmont, reflex. critiq, sur l'hift. des anc. peuples, t.1.p.36. & 37.
We also see that there is mention made in the book of Joshua of a city in Palestine, named Dabir. The sacred historian observes, that that city was formerly called Cariath-Sepherd. The name by which that city was original-. ly known, leads us to believe, that, in the early times, they had in Palestine public schools where they taught the sciences. Cariath-Sepher. in effect signifies the city of books, or of letters. A similar denomination feems to fhew, that they had commonly a great number of learned men assembled in that city. The sciences must confequently have been much cultivated in Palestine from the first ages after the deluge.
We ought not moreover to be surprised at this. These countries had been certainly the first which were policede: it is natural then that they ihould have produced in it very early many philosophers. Thus we see that the first systems of philofophy ascended among the Phænicians to very remote epocha's. This is what we learn from the writings of Sanchoniatho. That author has drawn from ancient works the ideas which he has propagated about disintangling the chaos, of the original state of the world, and of the first events which happened in it f. It is certain then, that, in the most early times, the Phoenicians had carried their speculations so far as to explain the manner in which the world had been formed. How obscure and how perplexed soever their cosmogony was, it supposes nevertheless some studies, some researches, and some reasonings. For the rest I do not think I ought to dwell upon the ideas these Asian philosophers had about the origin and formation of the world: and enow other critics and literati have already taken care to explain that system, for me to be dispensed with from gi. ving an account of it. I shall only remark, that the nearer we go to the ages bordering on the creation, the more traces we shall find of that great truth, which the presump
d Jom. C. 15. V. 15.
e See parti, book 1, f Eufeb. praep.evang. 1.1.p.31.
tion and rafhness of man has in vain endeavoured afterwards to obscure *.
One Moschus of Sidon furnithes us with the most ancient example of this foolish enterprise. He has been looked upon as the first who has lewed the absurd system of the formation of the world by the fortuitous concourse of atoms ; a system which, many ages afterwards, Epicurus endeayoured to renew in Greece. Strabo further tells us, that Moschus, of whom we now speak, wrote about the time of the war of Troy i. We cannot decide whether this opi. nion is well or ill founded, Strabo being, as I think, the only one of the ancients who has spoken of this Moschus.
With respect to the sciences properly so called, the na.
Eusebius, and after him some modern writers, have thought that the cosmogony of Sanchoniatho led to Atheism, because this author appears to give little, or no part to the sovereign being in the formation of the world. But Cudworth, in his intellectual system, pretends, and with reason, that Sanchoniatho admits two principles, of which one is an obscure and dark chaos; the other II væõpese, a spirit, or rather an intelligence endowed with goodness, who has arranged the world in the state in which it is. This sentiment is so much the more true, as Sanchoniatho had drawn his colmogony from the writings of Thaut; and the same Eusebius teaches us after Porphyry, that Thaut was the first who had writ of the gods in a manner more elevated than the vulgar superstition ; Syrmumbelus and Thuro, writers posterior to Thaut by many ages, have cleared up his theology concealed till their times under allegories and emblems. That obscurity and this enigmatic style have imposed on Eusebius, and the modern authors of whom I speak. Yet they could not hinder themselves from acknowledging and agreeing, that the design of Sanchoniatho was to give credit to idolatry. Now, nothing is more opposite to idolatry than Atheism.
In another fragment drawn from the same Sanchoniatho, it was said that Thaut had meditated much about the nature of the serpent called by the Phoenicians Agobodiywy, good genius. Philo teaches us, that Zaroafter, in his facred commentary on the ceremonies of the Persian religion, has spoken of this good genius in an admirable manner, by saying that this God is the master of all things, exempt from death, or eternal in his duration, without beginning, without parts, &c. Apud Eufeb. praep. evang. 1. 1. c. 10. p. 41. & 42. I ask if such ideas lead to Atheism?
I have already faid, Eusebius, and the modern authors who have followed him, have been deceived by the enigmatic style of Sanchoniatho. It was, besides, the general taste of the learned of antiquity, They affected to speak only in riddles, by emblems, and in a manner almost unintelligible. No philosopher of these ancient times has presented his doctrine plainly and simply. No one has even shewn any part of the fciences whatever it was, in a clear and intelligible manner. This tafte still reigns at this time in all the castern writings. Strabo, 1.16. p. 1098. b Id. ibid,