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Page:History of Architecture in All Countries Vol 1.djvu/98

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Part II.

either then or now, derive their sanctity from the buildings. They are the spots where God's prophets stood and communicated His will to man. It is true that in after ages a Roman Tetrarch and a Turkish Sultan surrounded these two Semitic cells with courts and cloisters, which made them wonders of magnificence in the cities where they existed; but this does not affect the conclusion that no Semitic race ever erected a durable building, or even thought of possessing more than one temple at a time, or cared to emulate the splendor of the temple-palaces of the Turanians.


Although no Semitic race was ever quite republican, which is a purely Aryan characteristic, they never sank under such an unmitigated despotism as is generally found among the Turanians. When in small nuclei, their form of government is what is generally called patriarchal, the chief being neither necessarily hereditary, nor necessarily elective, but attaining his leadership ]xartly by the influence due to age and wisdom, or to virtue, partly to the merits of his connections, and sometimes of his ancestors; but never wholly to the latter without some reference at least to the former.

In larger aggregations the difficulty of selection made the chiefship more generally hereditary; but even then the power of the King was always controlled by the authority of the written law, and never sank into the pure despotism of tlie Turanians. With the Jews, too, the sacred caste of the Levites always had considerable influence in checking any excesses of kingly power; but more was due in this respect to their peculiar institution of prophets, who, protected by the sacredness of their office, at all times dared to act the part of tribunes of the people, and to rebuke with authority any attempt on the part of the King to step beyond the limits of the constitution.


One of the most striking characteristics in the morals of the Semitic races is the improvement in the position of woman, and the attempt to elevate her in the scale of existence. If not absolutely monogamic, there is among the Jews, and among the Arabic races where they are pure, a strong tendency in this direction; and but for the example of those nations among whom they were placed, they might have gone further in this direction, and the dignity of mankind have been proportionately improved.

Their worst faults arise from their segregation from the rest of mankind. With them war against all but those of their own race is an obligation and a pleasure, and it is carried on with a relentless