Open main menu

Page:History of Architecture in All Countries Vol 1.djvu/101

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
Part II.
69
INTRODUCTION.

nations; but to posterity it cannot sujiply the place of the more permanent arts, whose absence is so much felt in attempting to realize the feelings or aspirations of a people like this.[1]

As regards the useful arts, the Semites were always more pastoral than agricultural, and have not left in the countries they inhabited any traces of such hydraulic works as the earlier races executed; but in commerce they excelled all nations. The Jews—from their inland situation, cut off from all access to the sea—could not do much in foreign trade; but they always kept up their intercourse with Assyria. The Phœnicians traded backwards and forwards with every part of the Mediterranean, and first opened out a knowledge of the Atlantic; and the Arabs first commenced, and for long afterwards alone carried on, the trade with India. From the earliest dawn of history to the present hour, commerce has lieen the art wliich the Semitic nations liave cultivated with the greatest assiduity, and in which they consequently have attained the greatest, and an unsurpassed success.

In Asia and in Africa at the present day, all the native trade is carried on by Arabs; and it need hardly be remarked that the monetary transactions of the rest of the world are practically managed by the descendants of those who, one thousand years before Christ, traded from Eziongeber to Ophir.


Sciences.

Although, as before mentioned, Astronomy was cultivated with considerable success both in Egypt and Chaldea, among the more contemplative Turanians, nothing can be more unsatisfactory than the references to celestial events, either in the Bible or the Koran, both betraying an entire ignorance of even the elements of astronomical science; and we have no proof that the Phcenicians were at all wiser than their neighbors in this respect.

The Semitic races seem always to have been of too poetical a temperament to excel in mathematics or the mechanical sciences. If there is one branch of scientific knowledge wdiich they may be suspected of having cultivated with success, it is the group of natural sciences. A love of nature seems always to have prevailed with them,


  1. All round the shores of the Mediterranean are found the traces of an art which has hitherto been a stumbling-block to antiquarians. Egyptian cartouches and ornaments in Assyria, which are not Egyptian; sarcophagi at Tyre, of Egyptian form, but with Phœnician inscriptions, and made for Tyrian kings; Greek ornaments in Syria, which are not Greek; Roman frescoes or ornaments, and architectural displays at Carthage, and all over Northern Africa, which however are not Roman. In short, a copying art something like our own, imitating everything, understanding nothing. I am indebted to my friend Mr. Franks for the suggestion that all this art may be Phœnician, in other words, Semitic, and I believe he is right.