Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 37.djvu/799

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THE MIGRATION OF SYMBOLS.

ond modification—which was justified after the event by the legend of Mercury throwing down his rod between two fighting serpents—reveals a symbolic intent, or is due, as most of the learned think, to a fancy of Greek art. But, in either case, the innovation made it possible for the caduceus to be preserved in modern symbolism to represent the two ever-present attributes of Mercury—Industry and Commerce. In like manner it has been perpetuated in India, where it was introduced by the Greeks, till our time; and M. Guimet observed numerous examples of it among the votive offerings in some of the Vishnuite temples. Nothing is lost in symbolism that is worthy to live and can be transformed.

Symbols are also subject to the law of the struggle for existence. It was artistic perfection that secured the longevity of the thunderbolt—another figure which was long believed to be of Hellenic origin-Nearly all peoples have represented the fire from the sky by an arm, sometimes also by a bird of strong and rapid flight. It was symbolized among the Chaldeans by a trident. Cylinders going back to the most ancient ages of Chaldean art exhibit a water-jet gushing from a trident which is held by the god of the sky or of the storm. The Assyrian artist who first, on the bas-reliefs of Nimroud or Malthai, doubled the trident or transformed it into a trifid fascicle, docile to the refinements and elegancies of classic art, by that means secured for the ancient Mesopotamian symbol the advantage over all the other representations of thunder with which it could compete. The Greeks, like the other Indo-European nations, seem to have represented the storm-fire under the features of a bird of prey. When they received the Asiatic figure of the thunderbolt, they put it in the eagle's claws and made of it the scepter of Zeus, explaining the combination, after their habit, by the story of the eagle bringing thunder to Zeus when he was preparing for the war against the Titans. Latin Italy transmitted the thunderbolt to Gaul, where, in the last centuries of paganism, it alternated, on the Gallo-Roman monuments, with the two-headed hammer. It is also found on amulets of Germany, Scandinavia, and Brittany. In the East it penetrated to India, following Alexander, where it is found competing with other symbols having the same significance. Siva, who succeeded Zeus on the coins of the Indo-Scythian kings, after the light of Grecian civilization was extinguished in the Northeast and in India, holds in his hand sometimes the thunderbolt and sometimes the trident; and while the latter remains exclusively the arm of the god in the later imagery of the Hindoo sects, the thunderbolt found its way to the Buddhists, who carried it with their symbolism to China and Japan. It is still met under the form of the dordj, a little bronze instrument in the shape of a