صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

parison with each other, so as to elicit valuable proofs of early communion and transition of ideas between them. His book embraces the weights and measures prevalent throughout all the countries known to us in the ancient world. Babylon, Syria, Phenicia, Judaea, Egypt, Sicily, Italy, and Rome: and the comparative metrology of these nations is presented to us in a way analogous to the Vergkichende Grammatik of Bopp, in regard to the extensive family of the Indo-Germanic languages; it exhibits the diffusion of institutions, originating in the very ancient civilization of Babylon, to the neighbouring countries whose period of settled ordinances and commerce was more recent.

Though this transition must have taken place anterior to recorded history, and, therefore, in a manner which we cannot now fathom, yet the reality of the fact, is sufficiently proved by its lasting and ascertained results. In cases where the weights and measures of two different nations are found to be in a precise and definite ratio one to the other,—either exactly equal, or exact multiples and parts of each other,—we may fairly presume, either that the one has borrowed from the other, or that each has borrowed from some common source, (Metrol. c. ii. § 3.) Where the ratio is inaccurate, or simply approximative, it is to be treated as accidental and undesigned.

I request particular attention to this distinction between a precise ratio, and a ratio merely approximative, which M. Boeckh lays down very clearly, and which he justly announces as the cardinal principle of his metrological reasonings. To a great extent, he has succeeded in exhibiting an analogy, both interesting and hitherto unknown, between the metrical and statical systems of the various countries to which his work relates. But I must at the same time add, that there are several of his conclusions which appear to me very imperfectly supported, and some even which are not to be reconciled with the evidence. In a subject so obscure and perplexed from beginning to end, this is by no means wonderful.

In investigating the subject of the ancient weights and measures, in so far as they afford evidence of communion or analogous proceeding between the different nations of antiquity, the great point to be attended to is the normal system as it was fixed by law, abstracting from those imperfections which attended the execution of it in detail. All mechanical processes in antiquity were carried on far more loosely and inaccurately than they are at present: pieces of money, as well as weights and measures, were both less durable and less exact, in spite of the solicitude of the ancient governments. We know by the evidence of inscriptions, with respect to Athens, that normal weights and measures were preserved under custody of a public officer in the chapel of the Hero Stephanephorus; that copies of these were made and distributed for private use; and that strict watch was directed to be kept for the purpose of excluding fraudulent or incorrect weights and measures in the shops and the market1. The case was similar at Rome, and seemingly also at Jerusalem (Metrol. c. ii. § 3). In this manner the theoretical perfection of the standard was maintained in the minds of the people as it was when originally adopted, in spite of imperfect execution in practice.

M. Boeckh enters upon his subject, in the third chapter of the work, by an investigation of the Roman liquid measure, quadrantal or amphora, in its relation to the Roman pound weight. According to the Silian plebiscite, as reported by Festus, the legal definition of a quadrantal was, a vessel containing 80 pounds weight of wine or water: the congius being one-eighth part of it, and containing 10 pounds weight of the same. By this regulation the dimensions of the vessels containing liquids were made dependent, not upon cubical measurement, but upon weight, like the imperial gallon in England. Now the Attic liquid measure called xoSs> was tne exact equivalent of the Roman congius; and the Attic fiCT-pij'njr, the largest unity of liquid measures at Athens, contained 12 x<fer, and was equivalent to I£ amphora, or quadrantalia. Such a definite ratio does undoubtedly indicate either some common original from which both systems must have been deduced, or an imitation of one of them by the other. M. Boeckh seeks to deduce both one and the other from the East, where it will be presently shewn that the Chaldaeans at Babylon had adopted in very early times

1 Boeckh, Corpus Inscript. Greecar, No. 123—150.

a system of determining their cubic measures by ultimate reference to a given weight.

"If," (he says, iii. 4, p. 26) "we regard this relation of the weights and measures, based upon a given weight of water, which is the keystone of the Roman system—and if we carry the application of this water-weight backwards to the chief measures of the ancient world—we shall find a connection really and truly organic between the systems of the different people of antiquity, and we shall arrive at last at the fundamental unity of weight and measure in the Babylonian system; so that this supposition is found to be verified in all its consequences and details. To give some preliminary intimation of this—I shall shew that, the Grecian (or, more accurately, the ^Eginaean) and the Roman pound are in the ratio of 10 : 9: the ^Eginoean pound is half the ^Eginsean mina: but. the cubical measures stood normally in the ratio of the weights; and therefore the Grecian cubic foot was to the Roman as 10 : 9—and as the Roman cubic foot weighs 80 pounds of rain-water, so also the Grecian cubic foot weighs 80 Grecian or ^Eginaean pounds, equal to 40 /Eginaean mina:. The unity of weight (in Greece) however is, not 40 mina?, but 60 mina?, or a talent. In the original institutions of the people of antiquity every thing has its reason, and we find scarcely any thing purely arbitrary: nevertheless, this unity of weight, the talent, does not coincide with the unity of measure—neither with the cubic foot, nor with any other specific cubical denomination. But the coincidence reveals itself at once, as soon as we discover that the Babylonian cubic foot, standing as it does in the ratio of 3 : 2 to the German cubic foot, weighs 60 yEginaan mime (= 60 Babylonian minse = 1 Babylonian talent) of rain-water.1'

M. Boeckh here promises more than his volume will be found to realise. He does, indeed, satisfactorily shew that the Babylonian talent was identical with, and was the original prototype of, the /Eginaean talent, and that the standard and scale of weight was strikingly and curiously similar in Asia, in Egypt, and in Greece. But he has not, I think, made out the like with regard to the Grecian measures, either of length or of capacity, and his proof of the ratio of 3 : 2 between the Babylonian and the Grecian foot will be found altogether defective. Nor has he produced adequate evidence to demonstrate, either the ratio of 10:9 between the Grecian or ^Eginaean pound and the Roman pound—or that of 1: 2 between the jEginaean pound and the ^Eginaean mina—the ratio between the Grecian cubic foot and the Roman cubic foot, too, as also that between the Grecian cubic foot and any given Grecian weight, is, as he proposes it, inadmissible. In fact, there is no such thing (properly speaking) as an ^Eginaean pound weight: nor is there any fixed normal relation between Grecian weight and Grecian measures, either of length or of capacity,—though there is a fixed normal relation between Babylonian weight and Babylonian measures, as also between Roman weight and Roman measures.

The Greek scale of weight consisted of the talent, the mina, the drachma, and the obolus: the talent consisting of 60 minse— the mina of 100 drachmae—the drachma of 6 obols. The scale of weight in Sicily and Italy was essentially and originally different, having for its unit the pound—always divided into twelve ounces, except in central Italy, north of the Apennines, where it contained only ten ounces. These denominations were universal throughout Sicily and Italy, though the pound, in one part of Italy and another, was not the same absolute weight, any more than the talent in Greece. M. Boeckh, as well as all other writers on the subject, recognises this radical distinction between the Hellenic population on the one hand, and the earliest inhabitants, both of Italy and Sicily, on the other, in respect, both to the denomination and divisions, of the statical and monetary scale. And I may here remark, that the supposition of identity of Pelasgian race between the original population of Epirus, and that of the south-eastern regions of Italy, announced with confidence by Niebuhr, and adopted by K. O. Miiller, becomes open to doubt from our finding no mention of pound weight or ounce weights among the Epirots. The Corinthian colonies on the coast of Epirus—Leukas, Anaktorium, and Ambrakia, as well as the island of Korkyra— pursued a system of coinage purely Hellenic, consisting of talents, minae, and drachmae. But the Corinthian colony of Syrakuse, as well as every other Hellenic establishment, either in Sicily or Italy, adopted a mixed system, in which talents, minae, and drachmae, were blended together with pounds and ounces—not according to any one uniform principle, but varying from town to town both in Italy and Sicily. The statical denominations prevalent among the Italian and Sicilian Greeks, arising as they do out of a compound of two systems originally distinct, present questions full of perplexity, and such as can hardly be solved with our existing stock of information.

The words talent, drachma, and obolus, are genuine Greek, and of Grecian origin: the first of the three even occurs in Homer, though in a sense quite different from that which it subsequently bore in Greece—denoting, seemingly, a definite, but small, weight1. But the systematic graduation of weights in Greece seems of a date later than the Odyssey; and the word mna, or mina, which forms the central point of the scale, has no root in the Greek language. It is of Chaldaic origin, and has also been discovered by Champollion among the ancient hieroglyphic writing of Egypt, {Metrol. iv. 2. p. 39). The etymology of this word points to the quarter from whence the Greeks received their scale of weight: and it will be found that there is sufficient analogy between the scales adopted in Greece, Judaea, Phenicia, and Egypt, to warrant a belief that all of them were derived from one common origin— the Chaldaic priesthood at Babylon. We are told by Herodotus, that the Greeks adopted from the Babylonians the sun-dial,

'Aristotle had said (Schol. Ven. ad Iliad, xxiii. 269), that the talent in Homer was a weight altogether undefined. M. Boeckh agrees with him, (Metrol. iv. 1, p. 33). But surely this opinion cannot be reconciled with the assertion that " Odysseus weighed out ten talents of gold," (Iliad, xix. 247. Xpiio-ou ti ericas 'OSuaev? Setca nravra TaXavra)'. or even with the specification of a definite number of talents of gold—ten talents, two talents, &c. (Odyss. iv. 526, and other passages cited in Damm's Lexicon). The word Takavrov originally means a scale, as is well known, and is often so used by Homer.

In the Iliad and Odyssey, as well as in the Hesiodic Works and Days, reference occurs to the chief measures of length and of area: opyvta, Trijxvs, irovv, anrSafxr), Swpov, TrXedpov, yvi): but no

precise or definite measure of capacity is noticed in them—fierpov and dp.tpi(popeiis are of unknown bulk. But the scale of dry measure is at least as old as the Hesiodic poem, called The Catalogue of Women, as we may ascertain by the occurrence of the word /ieSip.voe, which only belongs to the language as a technical denomination of measure. See the story of Mopsus and Kalehas, Hesiod ap. Strab. xiv. p. 921. Fragm. ed. Gaisf. xiv.

Mupioi elmv upiOfidii' UTcip fxeTpov ye jue'di/ivos.

The word Juesi/ukos seems to belong to the same family as fieTpov, metior, which is said to be traceable to a Sanskrit root. (Curtius, De Nominum Gnecorum Formatiane, Linguarum Cognalarum Ratione habita, p. 48. Berlin, 1842).

« السابقةمتابعة »