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Page:History of Architecture in All Countries Vol 1.djvu/96

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Part II.
HISTORY OF ARCHITECTURE.

III.—SEMITIC RACES.

From the extraordinary influence the Semitic races have had in the religious development of mankind, we are apt to consider them as politically more important than they really ever were. At no period of their history do they seem to have numbered more than twenty or thirty millions of souls. The principal locality in which they developed themselves was the small track of country between the Tigris, the Mediterranean and the Red Sea; but they also existed as a separate race in Abyssinia, and extended their colonies along the northern coast of Africa. Their intellectual development has been in all ages so superior to that of the Turanian races, that they have subdued them mentally wherever they came in contact with them; and notwithstanding their limited geographical extension, they have influenced the intellect of the Aryan tribes to a greater extent than almost any of their own congeners.

If anything were required to justify the ethnographer in treating the various families of mankind as distinct and separate varieties, it would be the study of the history of the Semitic race. What they were in the time of Abraham, that they are at the present day. A large section of them sojourned in Egypt, among people of a different race, and they came out as unmixed as oil would do that is floated on water. For the last two thousand years they have dwelt dispersed among the Gentiles, without a nationality, almost without a common language, yet they remain the same in feature, the same in intellectual development and feeling, they exhibit the same undying repugnance to all except those of their own blood, which characterized the Arab and the Jew when we first recognize their names in history. So unchangeable are they in this respect, that it seems in vain to try to calculate how long this people must have lived by themselves, separated from other races, that they should have thus acquired that distinctive fixity of character nothing can alter or obliterate, and which is perhaps even more wonderful intellectually than are the woolly hair and physical characteristics of the negro, though not so obvious to the superficial observer.


Religion.

From the circumstance of our possessing a complete series of the religious literature of the Semitic race, extending over the two thousand years which elapsed between Moses and Mahomet, we are enabled to speak on this point with more precision than we can regarding the doctrines of almost any other people.

The great and distinguishing tenet of this race when pure is and always seems to have been the unity of God, and his not being born of man. Unlike the gods of the Turanians, their Deity never was man,