Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 13.djvu/147

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THE AGE OF GYMNASTICS.

years," and satisfied, as any reasonable man might be who had witnessed one hundred and fifty rotations of the four seasons, and enjoyed all their blessings in perfect health.

There is no doubt that the military triumphs of the ancient Greeks were the natural result of their physical education. "A nation," says Jean Jacques Rousseau, "which can boast of 20,000 men, is not vincible." Virility as well as virtue was originally derived from a word which means simply strength, just as our Anglo-Saxon ancestors used to speak of the best man of a parish, without special reference to the most regular church-goer. Strength is the parent of valor and self-confidence, and confidence in the valor and strength of armed companions begets that national heroism which enabled the republican Greeks, the Swiss, the Circassians, and the Montenegrins, to defy the most powerful and numerically superior of their would-be conquerors.

Not to their political but to their physical constitutions these nations owed their long independence. The historical records of the last three thousand years demonstrate the strange fact that international wars, almost without a single exception, ended by the victory of northern nations over their southern rivals. The Carthaginians, originally natives of Phœnicia, conquered the Numidian principalities, but were in turn conquered by their Roman neighbors; Rome, victorious against all her southern, southeastern, and southwestern rivals, was herself struck down by the iron arm of the Visigoth, the north-Spanish Christians overcoming the south-Spanish Moors, the northern Turks wresting the sceptre from their southern fellow-Mohammedans, the north Mongol Tartars oppressing the south-Mongol Chinese, the North-German Prussians bullying the southern members of the Confederation, the Northmen of Scandinavia conquering Normandy, Brittany, and Great Britain, the house of Hapsburg eclipsed by the house of Hohenzollern, a North-Italian kingdom absorbing the southern states of the peninsula—the same phenomenon, in hundred variations, repeating itself from China to Peru, from the Trojan War to the civil war of the North American States.

What does all this mean, but that the fortune of war is biased by bodily strength? Rome was not vanquished by the intellectual superiority of the Visigoths, nor Maria Theresa by the moral merits of Frederick's cause, but we may safely assume that in all international contests the physical advantage was on the side of the northern champion. The climate and the comparative sterility of a cold country necessitate a continual struggle with the adverse powers of Nature, and beget that hardy and robust constitution which is the basis of all military efficiency. But, this incidental advantage which northern races derive from the inclemency of their latitude, any nation might secure in a more direct and much more agreeable way, by introducing a thorough and popular system of physical education.

The fallen races, as the nations of Southern Europe and South Amer-