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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 24.djvu/152

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At Heliopolis, where were the most famous schools, religion, law, mathematics, medicine, and language were taught. Primary schools were provided for all classes; and libraries were attached to the temples. The old methods were adopted in the institutions founded at Alexandria by the Ptolemies, but, as these were intended for a mixed population of Egyptians, Greeks, and Hebrews, law and religion were excluded, to avoid controversy. Learned men were maintained by the state to prosecute research, and a botanical garden and a menagerie were added. The first Alexandrian Library was burned when Julius Caesar captured the place. The second disappeared at the time of the Arabian conquest. The university was restored by one of the caliphs two centuries after the conquest. The great University of Cairo, which has five thousand students, and practically includes all the. Alexandrian faculties except medicine, was founded by a Greek officer of the Fatimite caliphate, A. D. 969-970.


The Jackal, the Fox-Fables, and the Dog-Star.—Herr O. Keller, in a paper on "The Jackal in Antiquity," urges that the Western nations, who had foxes but no jackals, borrowed the traits ascribed to jackals, in Oriental fables, with the fables, and transferred them to their foxes. Thus the Grecian foxes were endowed with the attributes of two animals, and the most curious fox-fables of Æsop are in their origin Indian jackal-fables. Some of Æsop's fables represent the fox as the follower and servant of the lion, which he is not known to be in any sense. The jackal, however, is in the habit of following the lion at a respectful distance, and lives on what he can pick up from the deserted repasts of the king of beasts. This trait was observed by the ancient Indians, and it was a natural result of the observation that their vivid imaginations, discovering royal prerogatives in the lion, should endow his follower with the qualities of a minister and counselor, and make him to assist his majesty by using in his behalf the qualities of slyness and cunning in which the royal beast was deficient. The Greeks substituted foxes for jackals because they knew nothing about them, and their foxes came nearer than any other animal to answering the descriptions of them. The transfer was made easier by the gradual development of the fables from simple nature-stories into moral lessons, in the course of which absolute truth to nature grew less essential, and the representation of abstract qualities under purely conventional masks became more prominent. The incongruous association by the Greeks of the supposed evil influences of Sirius with the harmless dog are susceptible of a similar explanation. The Chinese, however, who also attributed evil qualities to the dog-star, called it the jackal-star, and appropriately; for as the heat and drought of which it is the forerunner are destructive to the crops, so likewise are the jackals, which make their home in the fields, and are constantly running through them in gangs, destroying myriads of plants, in search of their food. To the Egyptians, Sirius was also the jackal-star, but foreboded good, for it appeared just before the time of the inundation. The Mesopotamians also recognized in it a forerunner of beneficent inundations, and gave it the name of the dog, an animal which they held in high esteem. The Greeks borrowed the Mesopotamian name, and kept the Chinese idea, which harmonized well with the character of their own dog-days. The origin of the dog-star has been associated by some other writers with the idea that Sirius, the chief of the stars, was the shepherd-dog to the host of the heavenly sheep, represented by the other stars.


Deforestization and Floods in China.—The country of the lower Yangtse-Kiang in China suffered terribly from floods last July and August. Dr. Macgowan has taken advantage of a trip up the river, for the distribution of relief to sufferers, to make inquiry whether any connection existed between the inundations and the removal of the forests. China, old as it is, is not so old but that the process of denuding the land of trees may be distinctly traced. The treeless aspect of the hills of the lower Yangtse now attracts attention from every voyager; yet no mention is made of their barren condition by Ellis or Davis in their narratives of Lord Amherst's embassy in 1816, but wooded hills are alluded to; from which it would seem that the deforestization