Open main menu

Page:History of Architecture in All Countries Vol 1.djvu/83

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
Sect. XVIII.
51
INTRODUCTION.

temples of Egypt are a truer expression of the feelings and aspirations of their builders than we can obtain from any other source. The Parthenon at Athens brings the age of Pericles more clearly before our eyes in all its perfection of art than any written page. The Flavian Amphitheatre and the Baths of Carracalla enable us to realize imperial Rome more vividly than even the glowing pages of Tacitus. Our MediƦval cathedrals are a living record of the faith and feelings of peoples, who have left, besides these, but few materials by which one could judge of their aspirations or of their civilization; while, if we wish to know in what India differed from Europe in those ages, and in what respect she still resembled it, it is to her contemporary temples that we must turn, and they tell us in a language not to be mistaken wherein lay the differences, and still how nearly like the civilizations at one time were. All this, and infinitely more, we may learn from a record, which, though often ruined and nearly obliterated, never deceives. Where it first was placed, there it still remains to tell to future generations what at that spot, at some previous time, men thought and felt; what their state of civilization enabled them to accomplish, and to what stage they had attained in their conception of a God.

Besides, however, the advantages to be obtained in an artistic point of view from treatinsi: architecture in a narrative rather than in a static form, there is, as pointed out above, still another, which, though of minor importance, still adds immensely to the interest of the subject. It is that, when so treated, the art affords one of the clearest and most certain tests known of the ethnographic relations of people one to another. It may, therefore, be as well before proceeding further to explain as briefly as is consistent with intelligibility what is meant by Architectural Ethnography.