Oldalképek
PDF
ePub

ones in splendor. The hieroglyphs of Egypt and the Greek historians both state that Rhamses-Sesostris (about 1450 B.C.,) extended his conquests as far as India. He must have come in contact with and probably overcame the Assyrian monarchs. The same hieroglyphs bear evidence that from that date, if not. before, down to the 22d dynasty, that is, to about 900, the two nations were in continued intercourse, by turns warlike and commercial. They likewise came in contact during the reign of Salmanasar, who pushed his conquests even to Abyssinia. Of the two periods, the last seems entitled to claim the remains in question. It is possible, however, that those buildings which cannot be later than 606 B.C. belong to the first, and are in fact older than 870 B.C.

The age of the earlier palaces can only be determined when their inscriptions are decyphered. The task is one of exceeding difficulty, but several of the ripest and most erudite scholars of Europe have devoted themselves to its accomplishment.

There are a few later inscriptions in a cursive character, to.be read from right to left, but the greater portion are cuneiform, cuneatic, wedge-formed, or arrow-headed. These are read from left to right, and are so termed because the lines, by the combination of which characters are formed, resemble wedges or the barbed heads of arrows. To most persons, it would be a difficult task to read a letter in their own vernacular, written in the simplest cypher, where each letter is represented by a peculiar character. If the same word may be spelt in many ways, or written by contractions or symbols; if every letter may be replaced by any one of several characters, and every character may be used for either of two or three letters; if characters entirely unlike are equivalent, and if the writer may so change the form of any character that it can scarcely be recognized, the task becomes puzzling to the most experienced decyphering clerk in a bureau of state. If, in addition to all this, the cypher is in a language we do not know, a language no longer spoken, and without dictionaries, grammars or any other works by which it may be learned; if from this cypher alone we must first make out its words, and then guess, as best we may, their meaning, we are like the wise men of Chaldea, whom the king required first to find out his dream and then to interpret it. Yet something like this must be done to read the Assyrian cuneiform inscriptions. We see characters apparently alphabetic, but their values are unknown. The same words or groups of characters occur again and again. and there is not a single character for which others, of entirely different form, are not repeatedly substituted. The same word or name is often spelt in various ways, and there are evidently contractions, but of what words remains yet to be discovered. It is presumed that the inscriptions are in the ancient Assyrian language. But what was that language? Semitic, Zend or Median? Probably the first, though it may have contained some elements of the other two. At best, it was an ancient Semitic dialect, that has since disappeared, and now exists only on these tablets. From their mysterious writings we must spell out its words, and then, by comparing them with analogous words in other Semitic dialects, endeavor to work out their meaning. On every side difficulties rise; but rise only to be surmounted.

The hieroglyphics of Egypt presented such a difficulty, until the Rosetta Stone was discovered, bearing a long edict in hieroglyphics, in the demotic and in Greek. The obelisks of Egypt were soon legible. The Himyaritic inscriptions of Arabia were long looked* on as an unfathomable mystery; yet they have yielded up their secret to the patient investigations of Gesenius, Roediger, Fresnel and others. More recently, the cuneiform inscriptions of Persia have attracted attention, and Major Rawlinson has succeeded in decyphering the Persian portion of the trilingual inscription at Behistuu.

Comparing the cuneiform inscriptions found at Nineveh, Babylon and elsewhere, we may divide them into five classes, based more on geographical distinctions than on difference of language: 1. The primitive Assyrian, comparatively simple in its character, and found in the earlier monuments of Nimroud; 2. Later Assyrian. more complex in its structure, and found at Khorsabad, Konyunjik and the south-west palace; 3. TheElymean; 4. The primitive Babylonian, found in the ruins at Hilla and Niffer, conjectured to be the sites where two sovereigns of Babylon erected palaces. This is the most complex and intricate variety. 5. The Achasmenian-Babylonian, used in later ages by the Persian monarchs in their trilingual inscriptions. It is found at Behistun, accompanying a Median and a Persian inscription, each of the three versions being written in a peculiar variety of the cuneiform character. Having already translated the Persian, Major Rawlinson has devoted himself to the Achaemenian-Babylonian portion, with such success that we may hope soon to possess at least the general meaning and import of the inscriptions at Nineveh.

Mr. Layard gives us a sample of the results which may be expected when those efforts shall be crowned with success. He makes us acquainted, by sight, with what he believes to be the names, in cuneiform letters, of several kings, connected with the ruins he has explored. We have, 1. A king whose name alone occurs; 2. His son; 3. His grand-son, the builder of the north-west or earliest palace discovered; 4. Son of 3, and builder of central palace. He likewise built palaces at Baasheikha and Kelah Shergat. 5. Son of 4; 6. Grandson of 4, and builder of the western palace. This genealogy confirms the conclusion previously arrived at, from the similar style of art in those edifices. After a blank of unknown length we find 7, a subsequent king; 8. His son and successor; 9. His grand-son, builder of some undetermined palace, from which slabs, bearing his name and genealogy, were taken for the south-west palace. Another blank occurs, likewise of indefinite duration. Next follow 10, a king not clearly made out; 11. His son, the builder of Khorsabad and Karamles; 12. Another king, not of direct descent, appears to have succeeded, but this is not clearly made out; 13. Son of 12 or 11, and builder of Konyunjik; 14. Sou of 13, and builder of south-west or latest palace. Some points of this list are only conjectural, and the whole needs confirmation; yet it will serve as a foreshadowing of future discoveries.

It is remarkable that No. 3, the builder of the earliest palace, and No. 14, the builder of the latest palace, bore the same name. The last, who is conjectured to be Saracus or Chinaladin, is stated by some to have borne the Assyrian name of Ninus. Can it be that in No. 3 we have that almost fabulous monarch, whose embellishments and mighty structures caused his capital to be called the City of Ninus?

This, and many other more important and interesting questions, can only be answered when the inscriptions are fully decyphered. Meanwhile, we are left to ponder over the mysterious history and warning fate of Nineveh, the great city. Assyria, Babylon and Egypt have fallen, thousands of years ago, China, that othf r empire of ancient civilization, still continues to exist. Why this different lot? The mind goes back to the counsels of that Divine Justice which metes out to nations, as to individuals, the reward or punishment due to their deeds. The man dies and his soul enters on an after life that knows no end; nations and cities die and are no more.

"Muoiono le citta, muoiono i regni

Copra i fasti e le pompe arena ed erba." Tasso, Ger. Lift, xv., 20.

In that after life the individual receives the chief award due to his virtues or his sins. Nations and cities receive theirs in this world. We need but look at the social misery of our own times, the wild spirit of anarchy and excess that has seized the minds of men, and contemplate the yet darker abyss into which sinful nations are even now plunging, to know that the Hand that laid Nineveh waste can yet punish. L.

Art. II.—Free School System In South-carolina.

1. Reports on the Free School System, to the General Assembly of South-Carolina, at the Regular Session of 1339.

2. Suggestions relative to the Free School System in South-Carolina, submitted to the Special Committee of Five appointed to report, Sfc. 1846.

3. Report on the Free School System in South-Carolina; by R. F. W. Allston, Esq. 1846.

That the attention of the intelligent of our State is directed with increasing interest to the education of the people, is cause of congratulation to every well wisher to his country. And it is when interest is generally awakened in behalf of our common schools, that the reflecting and practical observer has most reason to tremble for the cause of popular education. So universal is the complaint of the deficiency of our schools, nay, so general is the cry that they are not only defective but absolutely useless, that we feel that some exercise of moral courage is necessary to enable one to attempt their apology. As it is our intention, in the course of the present paper, not only to do this but even to vindicate them, we insist that before we shall have been condemned we may be admitted to a hearing. We entreat that we shall not be charged with a desire to maintain a paradox until we shall have failed to establish a complete vindication of our free school system.

It may serve to remove some of the difficulties with which this subject is always encumbered, if we establish as a basis the precise amount of instruction which it is the duty of the State to furnish to her citizens. All persons are now disposed to admit that it is desirable, nay, that it is necessary, to the well-being of the citizen, that he should possess the rudiments of education, that he should be able to read, to write, and to cast accounts. So far, education seems to be necessary; beyond this point it is merely a luxury.

And we beg at the outset to be understood. We repudiate most religiously the cant of the day which calls on the State to educate the masses in order that they may preserve their liberties. Nothing in the history of the world can warrant the opinion that there is any necessary connection between knowledge and freedom. Some of the most despotic States ofi Europe (Prussia, for example,) have most carefully attended to the education of the masses. The history of all times has shown that tyrants and despots have never wanted the pens of the most intelligent and learned of their subjects to defend their conduct before the world. Indeed, the spirit of liberty is instinctive rather than reasonable—the teaching of nature rather than the deduction of reason. No process of sophistry, no amount of ignorance, could permanently enslave the descendants of the Teuton race; no degree of refinement, no perfection of philosophy, has been able to impart to the Celto-Roman race a higher practical idea of liberty than that which is expressed in the doctrine of equality. But the experience of the world has taught us that equality is not liberty, and that same experience may teach those who

« ElőzőTovább »