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405
CIVILIZATION

as he had earlier conquered space. He could now transmit the record of his deeds and his thoughts to remote posterity. Thus he stood at the portals of what later generations would term secure history. He had graduated out of barbarism, and become in the narrower sense of the word a civilized being. Henceforth, his knowledge, his poetical dreamings, his moral aspirations might be recorded in such form as to be read not merely by his contemporaries but by successive generations of remote posterity. The inspiring character of such a message is obvious. The validity of making this great culminating intellectual achievement the test of “civilized” existence need not be denied. But we should ill comprehend the character of the message which the earlier generations of civilized beings transmit to us from the period which we term the “dawning of history” did we not bear constantly in mind the long series of progressive stages of “savagery” and “barbarism” that of necessity preceded the final stage of “civilization” proper. The achievements of those earlier stages afforded the secure foundation for the progress of the future. A multitude of minor arts, in addition to the important ones just outlined, had been developed; and for a long time civilized man was to make no other epochal addition to the list of accomplishments that came to him as a heritage from his barbaric progenitor. Indeed, even to this day the list of such additions is not a long one, nor, judged in the relative scale, so important as might at first thought be supposed. Whoever considers the subject carefully must admit the force of Morgan’s suggestion that man’s achievements as a barbarian, considered in their relation to the sum of human progress, “transcend, in relative importance, all his subsequent works.”

Without insisting on this comparison, however, let us ask what discoveries and inventions man has made within the historical period that may fairly be ranked with the half-dozen great epochal achievements that have been put forward as furnishing the keys to all the progress of the prehistoric periods. In other words, let us sketch the history of progress during the ten thousand years or so that have elapsed since man learned the art of writing, adapting our sketch to the same scale which we have already applied to the unnumbered millenniums of the prehistoric period. The view of world-history thus outlined will be a very different one from what might be expected by the student of national history; but it will present the essentials of the progress of civilization in a suggestive light.

Without pretending to fix an exact date,—which the historical records do not at present permit,—we may assume that the most advanced race of men elaborated a system of writing not less than six thousand years before the beginning of the Christian era. Holding to the Civilization proper. terminology already suggested for the earlier periods, we may speak of man’s position during the ensuing generations as that of the First or Lowest Status of civilization. If we review the history of this period we shall find that it extends unbroken over a stretch of at least four or five thousand years. During the early part of this period such localized civilizations as those of the Egyptians, the Sumerians, the Babylonians and the Hittites rose, grew strong and passed beyond their meridian. This suggests that we must now admit the word “civilization” to yet another definition, within its larger meaning: we must speak of “a civilization,” as that of Egypt, of Babylonia, of Assyria, and we must understand thereby a localized phase of society bearing the same relation to civilization as a whole that a wave bears to the ocean or a tree to the forest. Such other localized civilizations as those of Phoenicia, Carthage, Greece, Rome, Byzantium, the Sassanids, in due course waxed and waned, leaving a tremendous imprint on national history, but creating only minor and transitory ripples in the great ocean of civilization. Progress in the elaboration of the details of earlier methods and inventions took place as a matter of course. Some nation, probably the Phoenicians, gave a new impetus to the art of writing by developing a phonetic alphabet; but this achievement, remarkable as it was in itself, added nothing fundamental to human capacity. Literatures had previously flourished through the use of hieroglyphic and syllabic symbols; and the Babylonian syllabics continued in vogue throughout western Asia for a long time after the Phoenician alphabet had demonstrated its intrinsic superiority.

Similarly the art of Egyptian and Assyrian and Greek was but the elaboration and perfection of methods that barbaric man had practised away back in the days when he was a cave-dweller. The weapons of warfare of Greek and Roman were the spear and the bow and arrow that their ancestors had used in the period of savagery, aided by sword and helmet dating from the upper period of barbarism. Greek and Roman government at their best were founded upon the system of gentes that barbaric man had profoundly studied,—as witness, for example, the federal system of the barbaric Iroquois Indians existing in America before the coming of Columbus. And if the Greeks had better literature, the Romans better roads and larger cities, than their predecessors, these are but matters of detailed development, the like of which had marked the progress of the more important arts and the introduction of less important ancillary ones in each antecedent period. The axe of steel is no new implement, but a mere perfecting of the axe of chipped flint. The Iliad represents the perfecting of an art that unnumbered generations of barbarians practised before their camp-fires.

Thus for six or seven thousand years after man achieved civilization there was rhythmic progress in many lines, but there came no great epochal invention to usher in a new ethnic period. Then, towards the close of what historians of to-day are accustomed to call the middle Great inventions of the middle ages. ages, there appeared in rapid sequence three or four inventions and a great scientific discovery that, taken together, were destined to change the entire aspect of European civilization. The inventions were gunpowder, the mariner’s compass, paper and the printing-press, three of which appear to have been brought into Europe by the Moors, whether or not they originated in the remote East. The scientific discovery which must be coupled with these inventions was the Copernican demonstration that the sun and not the earth is the centre of our planetary system. The generations of men that found themselves (1) confronted with the revolutionary conception of the universe given by the Copernican theory; (2) supplied with the new means of warfare provided by gunpowder; (3) equipped with an undreamed-of guide across the waters of the earth; and (4) enabled to promulgate knowledge with unexampled speed and cheapness through the aid of paper and printing-press—such generations of men might well be said to have entered upon a new ethnic period. The transition in their mode of thought and in their methods of practical life was as great as can be supposed to have resulted, in an early generation, from the introduction of iron, or in a yet earlier from the invention of the bow and arrow. So the Europeans of about the 15th century of the Christian era may be said to have entered upon the Second or Middle Status of civilization.

The new period was destined to be a brief one. It had compassed only about four hundred years when, towards the close of the 18th century, James Watt gave to the world the perfected steam-engine. Almost contemporaneously Arkwright and Hargreaves developed revolutionary processes Steam machinery.of spinning and weaving by machinery. Meantime James Hutton and William Smith and their successors on the one hand, and Erasmus Darwin, François Lamarck, and (a half-century later) Charles Darwin on the other, turned men’s ideas topsy-turvy by demonstrating that the world as the abiding-place of animals and man is enormously old, and that man himself instead of deteriorating from a single perfect pair six thousand years removed, has ascended from bestiality through a slow process of evolution extending over hundreds of centuries. The revolution in practical life and in the mental life of our race that followed these inventions and this new presentation of truth probably exceeded in suddenness and in its far-reaching effects the metamorphosis effected at any previous transition from one ethnic period to another. The men of the 19th century, living now in the period that may be termed the Upper Status