duce a purely modern form of mental activity, which oftentimes not only leads to certitude in the experimental science, but even evokes new phenomena. Thales already was acquainted with "the soul of amber," and the power of the Heracleian Stone was well known to the ancients as a matter of simple curiosity. But they never got beyond the first crude observation of those effects out of which the modern mind has developed a whole world of facts and ideas.
In the time of Alexander the Great, however, interest in remarkable natural curiosities was so far developed that he used to send back from his expeditions such objects to his teacher Aristotle. But how little was done later by the Romans toward utilizing the unparalleled opportunities they enjoyed for increasing the knowledge of Nature! From every quarter of their immense empire they gathered animals for their vulgar shows and feasts. At enormous expense they raised all manner of animals for food. We read, too, of their aviaries. But we learn nothing of any establishment in Rome for exhibiting plants and animals—a or a botanic garden—such as we find even among the Aztecs.
Without scientific observation, experiment, and sound theory, no enduring progress can be made in the useful arts. Such progress necessarily depends on conscious utilization of natural forces observed in their orderly workings. Of this, on the whole, the ancients had no idea. True, they carried to a high state of perfection some few branches of useful art. In architecture, road-making, and bridge-building, in bronze-casting and the art of cutting precious stones, they were masters. The art of fortification and the siege enginery of the later Romans are truly wonderful. But, if we would estimate aright the degree of technical skill reached by the ancients, we must compare it with the results attained by other nations. The technical skill wherein they excelled belongs to a comparatively low grade of culture. In architecture, for instance, the Egyptians, too, as well as the Assyrians, the Hindoos, and even the Peruvians under the Incas, were very proficient. A much higher degree of culture is marked by the invention of the mariner's compass, gunpowder, and printing. Next comes the steam-engine, an invention which we owe to modern European civilization.
The second of these stages of technical evolution the ancients never attained. On the other hand, it was reached at a comparatively early date by the civilized peoples of Eastern Asia, who, in other respects, seem barbarous as compared with the Greeks and Romans. These Asiatics, it is true, only employed the compass on land-journeys, used gunpowder only for fireworks, and they did not in printing employ movable types, owing to the clumsiness of their mode of writing. But, even in their pottery and textile fabrics, the classic nations were surpassed by the Hindoos, the Chinese, and the Japanese. The ancient civilization always stood, so to speak, with one foot in the bronze age.
- Prescott, "Conquest of Mexico," vol. i., p. 124, et seq.; vol. ii., pp. 60, 108, et seg.