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AN HISTORICAL COMPARISON.

343

still stands on the pinnacle of fortune ; the transition is irrosistibly rapid and easy from a demagoguical victor to a tyrannical despot. Cæsar was not perfectly clear also with himself about his ambitious sentiments, and constantly had in his mouth the saying of Eteocles in Euripides : “For the sake of sovereignty one may act wrong, in other things not.” As victor, he shrank so little from the name of absolute ruler and tyrant, that he rather seemed to desire it. “Sylla," he said, " did not understand the rudiments of the governing art, by his having laid down the dictatorship. The republic was nothing but an empty name; men might speak more reserved with him, and honour his words as laws." Towards the end of his life, he was wont to start in his sleep. He was doomed inevitably to fall, great as he was, and he had a prescient feeling of it. He was indeed great, as he fell, since he found Brutus one of his worthy opponents and avengers.

Cæsar paved the way for far worse tyrants than himself, -for a Tiberius, Caligula, Nero; he was in his fall an instructive warning, example, and type for them, but in vain. If the republic at that time could no longer exist, the new monarchical constitution should nevertheless have been founded altogether more solidly, morally, and justly. There are times equally capable of a twofold direction, where the fate of mankind hangs as it were by a thread, by a hair. If now the age of Cæsar and Augustus had been such ? If it could be shown to be probable that the history of mankind would now be clear of some atrocious centuries, if Cæsar bad either not conquered or had used this victory more wisely and greatly? The sophists will hear nothing of this, they who think they know so accurately why everything bad that has ever come to pass was necessary and forced to come to pass. Notwithstanding this, these are useful, instructive questions and problems for a more exalted historical standard of morals and judgment.

Weighed together in this balance, the preponderance inclines to the side of the youthfully inspired Alexander, whose historical causality and action were more fruitful for the future than destructive for the present. If nation too be compared with nation, the dissolution of Hellenic freedom and civilization presents a less austere and joyless spectacle than the moral fall of the old strict Roman world. We are in the one case still exalted in our minds by the last glorious soaring flight of beautiful Grecian enthusiasm ; whereas here, in the Roman western land, everything sinks down into monotonous lethargy, until the new sun of a sublimer and divine faith rises above the old ruins of dilapidated and fallen paganism.

ON THE

BEGINNING OF OUR HISTORY,

AND

THE LAST REVOLUTION OF THE EARTH;

AS THE PROBABLE EFFECT OF A COMET.

(A Critique on Rhode': Work,* published at Breslau, 1819.)

At all times, amongst all nations and classes, the origin of history, and of man has always been, as it still is, before every other, that branch of study which most interests us and evokes our faculty of research. The knowledge of antiquity, which partly and in its ultimate object is similarly directed to the gratification of this natural and ineradicable inquisitiveness, occupies a very important place in our present German literature, it is promoted zealously from the most different sides, it is cultivated with corresponding success. While new treasures and sources are being continually opened for us in Indian, Persian, Egyptian documents and monuments, or important elucidations of them given to us ; while even Grecian antiquity, with all that is intimately allied to it, is drawn forth from the narrow circle of ordinary philology by the deep acumen of Creuzer, leading us back to the sources of all heathen theology, we are no less conducted by a geography, that really embraces both earth and men, in Ritter's genial mode of treating it, as well as by other discoveries, whether geognostic or relating to the natural history of the earth, or by a new arrangement and utilization of what was previously known, to that point where history may undoubtedly become a science, no longer having merely a middle, but a beginning and end also. This is, however,

* J. G. Rhode Ueber den Anfang unserer Geschichte und die letzte Revolution: der Erde, als wahrscheinliche Wirkung eines Kometen.

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said, supposing that that can be termed a science, which in point of fact is only the common remembrance of collective humanity, as soon as everything spurious shall have been separated, and a clear interpretation added to that remembrance of the primeval period, to our own development from the beginning. From all sides this copious supply of new sources and new ideas streams in upon us, enabling us to understand antiquity completely and more correctly, so that all, which now seems still to be wanting, is a sure key for the unlocking of all these treasures, by which we may be enabled accurately to solve the riddle of the past in all its plenitude of manifold shapes. Where already such a number of lineaments, so many single words of the whole, if we may be allowed such an expression, become suddenly tinged with light, solve themselves as it were, and irradiate too much that was previously dark; there we may well hope that all can equally become clear and intelligible, so soon as the light shall radiate forth to illumine and arrange. « On the grade, which our knowledge of collective antiquity has now attained,” says our author in the preface (p. 2), “ every investigator will look out for a firm spot to stand on, whence he may scan the wide field of his inquiry, so as to arrange with method and system the objects as they become visible to him." I perfectly agree with him, when he adds, “ According to my view, that spot for standing on, can, and should only rest on an historical foundation, which must especially be solidly established, if that be in any way possible."

The author now arranges in a twofold manner those writers who have meritoriously advanced the higher knowledge of antiquity; inasmuch as he on the one part presents to us an extremely remarkable, a very simple, and yet so explanatory an hypothesis, based on geography, concerning the last revolution of the earth and the great flood, from which also, in the author's opinion, not indeed the first history of man proceeds, but yet that history immediately affecting us, the wellknown (second) commencement of history; on the other hand, however, points out in the Zendavesta the evident traces of a most remarkable concordance with this very hypothesis of his, and generally speaking is convinced that he has found in the doctrine of Zoroaster, in the sacred traditions and writings of the old Parsees, the richest and most genuine source of olden history and religion or doctrine of revelation.

THE LAST REVOLUTION OF THE EARTH.

347

As far as regards the mode in which the author treats his subject, I cannot enough praise it. Clear and lucid as his style is, so is also the current of his thoughts, simple, directed straight onward to the essential. Bold and decisive in the acceptance of a great fact, or of a new supposition, as soon as he believes himself authorized to it and finds it adequately grounded, he, nevertheless, never in any way loses himself in too systematical a working out of all the details by petty over-nice grovelling, or by rash poetical starts. In the solving of some very intricate particular mythological question, many antiquarian investigators, like those mentioned above, may, no doubt, surpass him in critical acumen and learning. His really historical sense transcends in this, that in the course of his investigation he does not disturb what is unessential, what is isolated, that he keeps much open and free for ulterior and more close determination, that he confines himself to the principal thing, and only cares to establish the grand historical main facts of primeval history, and the results so simple, but of such after-importance, that spring from them.

I perfectly agree with the author also respecting the principle in the method of his inquiries; for I hold it to be, as he does, very possible to separate what is historical from the mythical part of the old traditions, and to extract the most essential facts of universal primeval history from the weblike envelope of mythology ; 80 soon as light shall have once pierced this chaos, that is, so soon as the firm point of commencement, or the central point itself, shall have been found for such investigations, and for the opening of man's history.

What I, however—this principle having been once accepted --can less concede or explain, is why the author in his first result (p. 6), should say, “ That the history of man begins with the last great revolution of the earth ;" for if, as he adds, the reminiscence of a former period remained to them notwithstanding, an element has been taken up into his assertion that perfectly neutralizes the whole. If the reminiscence of a former epoch remained, and was preserved in the only conceivable mode, by sacred tradition, by historical or poetical myth, why should not the historical be as well capable of being separated from this tradition and myth of the aptediluvian period, as the author attempts to do from the subsoquevt myth since the last revolution of the earth? The

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