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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 34.djvu/696

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brave men for their earthly deities. The Turk, who bows implicitly to the vicegerent of Allah, is too proud to lie.

In intellectual capacity the people of the Iranic plateau held but a low rank, not only in comparison with their Semitic neighbors, but absolutely as a race. They had, indeed, or rather one profound thinker among them had, excogitated a religious system—the Zoroastrian—which is held to be of a cast considerably superior to the religions of the neighboring nations; but in all other respects their inferiority was marked. Of the Semitic Babylonians the historian observes that, "among the moral and mental characteristics of the people the first place is due to their intellectual ability. . . . Their wisdom and learning are celebrated by the Jewish prophets, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Daniel. The Father of History records their valuable inventions; and Aristotle was not ashamed to be beholden to them for scientific data. They were good observers of astronomical phenomena, careful recorders of such observations, and mathematicians of no small repute." Of the Persians, on the other hand, he remarks that "we can not justly ascribe to them any high degree of intellectual excellence." The remains of their architecture and sculpture which have come down to us display, he considers, a comparatively inferior artistic ability; and "to science," he declares, "they had contributed absolutely nothing." It is deserving of note that not one of the great inventions and discoveries which have promoted the progress and welfare of the human race seems to have been of Aryan origin. For the alphabet, the smelting of metals, the making of glass, shipbuilding, the mariner's compass, the methods of agriculture and of textile manufactures, the laws of geometry and astronomy, the world has been indebted to other races. We might be inclined to ascribe the backwardness of the Aryans in these respects to the disadvantages of their situation; but we notice that they seem as a race incapable of appreciating and adopting the gains of other intellects. At the present day travelers find the Persians the least advanced of the Oriental races. They are behind even the Turks, and are far below the Chinese and the Japanese. They are now, as of old, a brave, handsome, and showy race, prepossessing and courtly, but are still shamefully servile, vilely cruel, scornful of science, and fatally unprogressive.

It is a common opinion that the excellence of the Aryan language affords evidence of high intellectual capacity in its framers. That there is some warrant for this view may be admitted; but it must be remembered that the opinion arose while the science of comparative philology was in its infancy. The wider linguistic knowledge of our times shows it to have been a greatly exaggerated estimate, the product to a large extent of mere ignorance and the conceit of race. Capacity for expression is the main test of