BLTC Press Titles


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The Story of Doctor Dolittle

Hugh Lofting


The Characters of Theophrastus

Theophrastus


Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

Lewis Carroll


Tao Te Ching

Lao Tzu, James Legge (trans.)


Introduction to the study of history

by William Binnington Boyce

Excerpt:

2. While, however, these discoveries refer mainly to nations ocated between the east and south-east of the Mediterranean and the rivers Euphrates and Tigris, which flow into the Persian Gulf, we must not lose sight of the fact that the Mediterranean Sea is the real centre of the ancient world. Mommsen truly remarks, "The Mediterranean Sea .... at once separates and connects the three divisions of the old world. The shores of this inland sea were in ancient times peopled by various nations, belonging, in an ethnographical and philological point of view, to different races, but constituting in their historical aspect one whole. This historic whole has been usually, but not very appropriately entitled, the history of the ancient world. It is, in reality, the history of civilisation among the Mediterranean nations; and, as it passes before us in its successive stages, it presents four great phases of development,— the history of the Coptic or Egyptian stock dwelling on the southern shore; the history of the Aramean or Syrian nation, which occupied the east coast, and extended into the interior of Asia, as far as the Euphrates and Tigris; and the histories of the twin peoples, the Hellenes and Italians, who received as their heritage the countries

bordering on its European shores So far, therefore, as

cycles of culture admit of demarcation at all, we may record that cycle as an unity which has its culminating points, denoted by the names Thebes, Carthage, Athens, and Rome."1 AVe may add to these "culminating points," so closely connected with the Mediterranean, the additional names of Babylon, Nineveh, Phxnicia, and Israel (Tyre and Jerusalem). These nations in due course finished their work, after which, "new peoples who hitherto had only laved the territories of the states of the Mediterranean overflowed both its shores, severed the history of its south coast from that of the north, and transferred the centre of civilisation from the Mediterranean to the Atlantic Ocean. The distinction between ancient and modern history, therefore, is no mere accident, nor yet a mere matter of chronological convenience. What is called modern history is, in reality, the formation of a new cycle of culture, connected at several epochs of its development with the perishing or perished civilisation of the Mediterranean states, as that was connected with the primitive civilisation of the Indo-Germanic stock, but destined, like that earlier cycle, to traverse an orbit of its own."2 3. The earliest seats of civilisation are admitted to be the valleys and rich alluvial deposits of the rivers, the Euphrates and the Tigris, which empty themselves into the Persian Gulf, and the valley of

Mommsen, " History of Rome," vol. i. pp. 3, 4. 2 Ibid. p. 4.

the Nile. This latter river, conveying in its floods the fertile soils from the plains and mountains of Central Africa, has created the narrow strip of cultivatable land, hemmed in by the sandy desert for two or three miles on each side of the river, and then widening into a Delta formed by the various channels through which the mighty and once mysterious river reaches the Mediterranean: thus was formed the land of Egypt. So also are the Euphrates and Tigris; cultivation is mainly confined to their banks. The vast plain bordering on these banks, and which extends between these rivers to the Persian Gulf, forms a rich pasturage for cattle. One immense desert, beginning with the Saharan waste, which touches the Atlantic Ocean, and then eastward reaches as far as the Yellow Sea, crosses the eastern hemisphere. It is only interrupted by the valley of the Nile, by a narrow slip of land on the east of the Mediterranean, and again by the more extensive valleys of the Euphrates and Tigris. West of the Nile and the immediate west of the Euphrates, are mere seas of sand, scarcely above the level of the oceaa To the east of the Euphrates and Tigris the desert consists, for the most part, of a series of terraced plateaux, from three to ten thousand feet above the sea level. The land in the vicinity of these rivers is inundated yearly, and, being kept watered by canals in ancient times, produced rice and barley with an increase of two hundred for one. The southern plain of Chaldea is a land of incomparable fertility, yielding its fruits almost without labour; thus it is that in these plains all the races of the ancient world have successively encountered each other. Babylon and Memphis have been the two great centres of civilisation, though Babylon claims, with reason, the priority; they have even been rivals; the struggles of Egypt for superiority over the empires of Assyria and Babylonia, and the re-action of the strife, constitutes the military history of these ancient nations, until Alexander the Great united both under one government.1

4. It is not, therefore, surprising to find, from the notices in the book of Genesis and from the universal testimony of the historical traditions preserved by the Greeks, that the earliest attempts in the formation of distinct national governments were made in the plains bordering on the Euphrates, and in the valley of the Nile.

Babylonia, Chaldea, The Plains Of Shinar. The mythical history of Berosus, which traces the antiquity of the Babylonian kingdom to about 36,000 years before the Persian Conquest, may be


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