The Story of Civilization

11-volume set of books covering Western history
(Redirected from Our oriental heritage)

The Story of Civilization, by husband and wife Will and Ariel Durant, is an 11-volume set of books covering Western history for the general reader.

If the average man had had his way there would probably never have been any state. Even today he resents it, classes death with taxes, and yearns for that government which governs least. If he asks for many laws it is only because he is sure that his neighbor needs them; privately he is an unphilosophical anarchist, and thinks laws in his own case superfluous. In the simplest societies there is hardly any government.

Quotes edit

I - Our Oriental Heritage (1935) edit

Our Oriental Heritage online at the Internet Archive
  • I wish to tell as much as I can, in as little space as I can, of the contributions that genius and labor have made to the cultural heritage of mankind — to chronicle and contemplate, in their causes, character and effects, the advances of invention, the varieties of economic organization, the experiments in government, the aspirations of religion, the mutations of morals and manners, the masterpieces of literature, the development of science, the wisdom of philosophy, and the achievements of art. I do not need to be told how absurd this enterprise is, nor how immodest is its very conception … Nevertheless I have dreamed that despite the many errors inevitable in this undertaking, it may be of some use to those upon whom the passion for philosophy has laid the compulsion to try to see things whole, to pursue perspective, unity and understanding through history in time, as well as to seek them through science in space. … Like philosophy, such a venture [as the creation of these 11 volumes] has no rational excuse, and is at best but a brave stupidity; but let us hope that, like philosophy, it will always lure some rash spirits into its fatal depths.
    • Preface
The Establishment of Civilization edit
  • Man is not willingly a political animal. The human male associates with his fellows less by desire than by habit, imitation, and the compulsion of circumstance; he does not love society so much as he fears solitude. He combines with other men because isolation endangers him, and because there are many things that can be done better together than alone; in his heart he is a solitary individual, pitted heroically against the world.
  • If the average man had had his way there would probably never have been any state. Even today he resents it, classes death with taxes, and yearns for that government which governs least. If he asks for many laws it is only because he is sure that his neighbor needs them; privately he is an unphilosophical anarchist, and thinks laws in his own case superfluous. In the simplest societies there is hardly any government. Primitive hunters tend to accept regulation only when they join the hunting pack and prepare for action. The Bushmen usually live in solitary families; the Pygmies of Africa and the simplest natives of Australia admit only temporarily of political organization, and then scatter away to their family groups; the Tasmanians had no chiefs, no laws, no regular government; the Veddahs of Ceylon formed small circles according to family relationship, but had no government; the Kubus of Sumatra "live without men in authority" every family governing itself; the Fuegians are seldom more than twelve together; the Tungus associate sparingly in groups of ten tents or so; the Australian "horde" is seldom larger than sixty souls. In such cases association and cooperation are for special purposes, like hunting; they do not rise to any permanent political order.
    • Ch. III : The Political Elements of Civilization, p. 21
The Near East edit
  • "For barbarism is always around civilization, amid it and beneath it, ready to engulf it by arms, or mass migration, or unchecked fertility. Barbarism is like the jungle; it never admits its defeat; it waits patiently for centuries to recover the territory it has lost." (page 265)
  • The civilization of Babylonia was not as fruitful for humanity as Egypt’s, not as varied and profound as India’s, not as subtle and mature as China’s. And yet it was from Babylonia that those fascinating legends came which, through the literary artistry of the Jews, became an inseparable portion of Europe’s religious lore; it was from Babylonia, rather than from Egypt, that the roving Greeks brought to their city-states and thence to Rome and ourselves, the foundations of mathematics, astronomy, medicine, grammar, lexicography, archeology, history, and philosophy. The Greek names for the metals and the constellations, for weights and measures, for musical instruments and many drugs, are translations, sometimes mere transliterations, of Babylonian names.
India and Her Neighbors edit
XIV : The Foundations of India edit
  • In the days when historians supposed that history had begun with Greece, Europe gladly believed that India had been a hotbed of barbarism until the “Aryan” cousins of the European peoples had migrated from the shores of the Caspian to bring the arts and sciences to a savage and benighted peninsula. Recent researches have marred this comforting picture—as future researches will change the perspective of these pages. In India, as elsewhere, the beginnings of civilization are buried in the earth, and not all the spades of archaeology will ever quite exhume them.
  • Nothing should more deeply shame the modern student than the recency and inadequacy of his acquaintance with India. Here is a vast peninsula of nearly two million square miles; two-thirds as large as the United States, and twenty times the size of its master, Great Britain; 320,000,000 souls, more than in all North and South America combined, or one-fifth of the population of the earth; an impressive continuity of development and civilization from Mohenjo-daro, 2900 B.C. or earlier, to Gandhi, Raman and Tagore; faiths compassing every stage from barbarous idolatry to the most subtle and spiritual pantheism; philosophers playing a thousand variations on one monistic theme from the Upanishads eight centuries before Christ to Shankara eight centuries after him; scientists developing astronomy three thousand years ago, and winning Nobel prizes in our own time; a democratic constitution of untraceable antiquity in the villages, and wise and beneficent rulers like Ashoka and Akbar in the capitals; minstrels singing great epics almost as old as Homer, and poets holding world audiences today; artists raising gigantic temples for Hindu gods from Tibet to Ceylon and from Cambodia to Java, or carving perfect palaces by the score for Mogul kings and queens — this is the India that patient scholarship is now opening up, like a new intellectual continent, to that Western mind which only yesterday thought civilization an exclusively European thing.
    • Ch. XIV : The Foundations of India § I : Scene of the Drama
XVI : From Alexander to Aurangzeb edit
  • The Mohammedan Conquest of India is probably the bloodiest story in history. It is a discouraging tale, for its evident moral is that civilization is a precarious thing, whose delicate complex of order and liberty, culture and peace may at any time be overthrown by barbarians invading from without or multiplying within.
    • Ch. XVI : From Alexander to Aurangzeb, § VI : The Moslem Conquest; this has become misquoted in paraphrased form as : "The Islamic conquest of India is probably the bloodiest story in history. It is a discouraging tale, for its evident moral is that civilization is a precious good, whose delicate complex of order and freedom, culture and peace, can at any moment be overthrown by barbarians invading from without or multiplying within.
  • It is in the nature of governments to degenerate; for power, as Shelley said, poisons every hand that touches it. The excesses of the Delhi Sultans lost them the support not only of the Hindu population, but of their Moslem followers. When fresh invasions came from the north these Sultans were defeated with the same ease with which they themselves had won India.
    • Ch. XVI : From Alexander to Aurangzeb, § VII : Akbar the Great
  • While Catholics were murdering Protestants in France, and Protestants, under Elizabeth, were murdering Catholics in England, and the Inquisition was killing and robbing Jews in Spain, and Bruno was being burned at the stake in Italy, Akbar invited the representatives of all the religions in his empire to a conference, pledged them to peace, issued edicts of toleration for every cult and creed, and, as evidence of his own neutrality, married wives from the Brahman, Buddhist, and Mohammedan faiths.
    His greatest pleasure, after the fires of youth had cooled, was in the free discussion of religious beliefs. … The King took no stock in revelations, and would accept nothing that could not justify itself with science and philosophy. It was not unusual for him to gather friends and prelates of various sects together, and discuss religion with them from Thursday evening to Friday noon. When the Moslem mullahs and the Christian priests quarreled he reproved them both, saying that God should be worshiped through the intellect, and not by a blind adherence to supposed revelations. "Each person," he said, in the spirit — and perhaps through the influence — of the Upanishads and Kabir, "according to his condition gives the Supreme Being a name; but in reality to name the Unknowable is vain."
    • Ch. XVI : From Alexander to Aurangzeb, § VII : Akbar the Great
XVII : The Life of the People edit
  • The people enjoyed a considerable measure of liberty under the native dynasties, partly through the autonomous communities in the villages and the trade guilds in the towns, and partly through the limitations that the Brahman aristocracy placed upon the authority of the king. ... The Mohammedan rulers paid less attention than their Hindu predecessors to these ideals and checks; they were a conquering minority, and rested their rule frankly on the superiority of their guns. “The army,” says a Moslem historian, with charming clarity, “is the source and means of government.” Akbar was an exception, for he relied chiefly upon the good will of a people prospering under his mild and benevolent despotism. Perhaps in the circumstances his was the best government possible. Its vital defect, as we have seen, lay in its dependence upon the character of the king; the supreme centralized authority that proved beneficent under Akbar proved ruinous under Aurangzeb. Having been raised up by violence, the Afghan and Mogul rulers were always subject to recall by assassination; and wars of succession were almost as expensive—though not as disturbing to economic life—as a modern election.
  • Even their enemies admit their courtesy, and a generous Britisher sums up his long experience by ascribing to the higher classes in Calcutta “polished manners, clearness and comprehensiveness of understanding, liberality of feeling, and independence of principle, that would have stamped them gentlemen in any country in the world.”
  • Cleanliness was literally next to godliness in India; hygiene was not, as Anatole France thought it, la seule morale, but it was made an essential part of piety. Manu laid down, many centuries ago, an exacting code of physical refinement. “Early in the morning,” one instruction reads, “let him” (the Brahman) “bathe, decorate his body, clean his teeth, apply collyrium to his eyes, and worship the gods.” The native schools made good manners and personal cleanliness the first courses in the curriculum. Every day the caste Hindu would bathe his body, and wash the simple robe he was to wear; it seemed to him abominable to use the same garment, unwashed, for more than a day. “The Hindus,” said Sir William Huber, “stand out as examples of bodily cleanliness among Asiatic races, and, we may add, among the races of the world. The ablutions of the Hindu have passed into a proverb.”
  • The Brahman usually washed his hands, feet and teeth before and after each meal; he ate with his fingers from food on a leaf, and thought it unclean to use twice a plate, a knife or a fork; and when finished he rinsed his mouth seven times. The toothbrush was always new—a twig freshly plucked from a tree; to the Hindu it seemed disreputable to brush the teeth with the hair of an animal, or to use the same brush twice: so many are the ways in which men may scorn one another.
  • The women wore a flowing robe—colorful silk sari, or homespun khaddar—which passed over both shoulders, clasped the waist tightly, and then fell to the feet; often a few inches of bronze flesh were left bare below the breast. Hair was oiled to guard it against the desiccating sun; men divided theirs in the center and drew it together into a tuft behind the left ear; women coiled a part of theirs upon their heads, but let the rest hang free, often decorating it with flowers, or covering it with a scarf. The men were handsome, the young women were beautiful and all presented a magnificent carriage; an ordinary Hindu in a loin cloth often had more dignity than a European diplomat completely equipped. Pierre Loti thought it “incontestable that the beauty of the Aryan race reaches its highest development of perfection and refinement among the upper class” in India. Both sexes were adept in cosmetics, and the women felt naked without jewelry. A ring in the left nostril denoted marriage. On the forehead, in most cases, was a painted symbol of religious faith.
  • This system had grown more rigid and complex since the Vedic period; not only because it is in the nature of institutions to become stiff with age, but because the instability of the political order, and the overrunning of India by alien peoples and creeds, had intensified caste as a barrier to the mixture of Moslem and Hindu blood. ...It (the caste system) offered an escape from the plutocracy or the military dictatorship which are apparently the only alternatives to aristocracy; it gave to a country shorn of political stability by a hundred invasions and revolutions a social, moral and cultural order and continuity rivaled only by the Chinese. Amid a hundred anarchic changes in the state, the Brahmans maintained, through the system of caste, a stable society, and preserved, augmented and transmitted civilization. The nation bore with them patiently, even proudly, because every one knew that in the end they were the one indispensable government of India.
  • Nevertheless, despite all this equipment, woman fared poorly in India. Her high status in Vedic days was lost under priestly influence and Mohammedan example. The Code of Manu set the tone against her in phrases reminiscent of an early stage in Christian theology... Doubtless the influx of Islamic ideas had something to do with the decline in the status of woman in India after Vedic days. The custom of purdah (curtain)—the seclusion of married women—came into India with the Persians and the Mohammedans, and has therefore been stronger in the north than in the south. Partly to protect their wives from the Moslems, Hindu husbands developed a system of purdah so rigid that a respectable woman could show herself only to her husband and her sons, and could move in public only under a heavy veil; even the doctor who treated her and took her pulse had to do so through a curtain.
  • It will seem incredible to the provincial mind that the same people that tolerated such institutions as child marriage, temple prostitution and suttee was also pre-eminent in gentleness, decency and courtesy. Aside from a few devadasis, prostitutes were rare in India, and sexual propriety was exceptionally high. “It must be admitted,” says the unsympathetic Dubois, “that the laws of etiquette and social politeness are much more clearly laid down, and much better observed by all classes of Hindus, even by the lowest, than they are by people of corresponding social position in Europe.” ... A Hindu woman might go anywhere in public without fear of molestation or insult; indeed the risk, as the Oriental saw the matter, was all on the other side. Manu warns men: “Woman is by nature ever inclined to tempt man; hence a man should not sit in a secluded place even with his nearest female relative”; and he must never look higher than the ankles of a passing girl.
  • The Hindus chose child marriage as the lesser evil, and tried to mitigate its dangers by establishing, between the marriage and its consummation, a period in which the bride should remain with her parents until the coming of puberty. The institution was old, and therefore holy; it had been rooted in the desire to prevent intercaste marriage through casual sexual attraction; it was later encouraged by the fact that the conquering and otherwise ruthless Moslems were restrained by their religion from carrying away married women as slaves; and finally it took rigid form in the parental resolve to protect the girl from the erotic sensibilities of the male.
XVIII : The Paradise of the Gods edit
  • As in Mediterranean Christianity, these saints became so popular that they almost crowded out the head of the pantheon in worship and art. The veneration of relics, the use of holy water, candles, incense, the rosary, clerical vestments, a liturgical dead language, monks and nuns, monastic tonsure and celibacy, confession, fast days, the canonization of saints, purgatory and masses for the dead flourished in Buddhism as in medieval Christianity, and seem to have appeared in Buddhism first.II Mahayana became to Hinayana or primitive Buddhism what Catholicism was to Stoicism and primitive Christianity. Buddha, like Luther, had made the mistake of supposing that the drama of religious ritual could be replaced with sermons and morality; and the victory of a Buddhism rich in myths, miracles, ceremonies and intermediating saints corresponds to the ancient and current triumph of a colorful and dramatic Catholicism over the austere simplicity of early Christianity and modern Protestantism.
  • That same popular preference for polytheism, miracles and myths which destroyed Buddha’s Buddhism finally destroyed, in India, the Buddhism of the Greater Vehicle itself. For—to speak with the hindsight wisdom of the historian—if Buddhism was to take over so much of Hinduism, so many of its legends, its rites and its gods, soon very little would remain to distinguish the two religions; and the one with the deeper roots, the more popular appeal, and the richer economic resources and political support would gradually absorb the other....
    The final blow came from without, and was in a sense invited by Buddhism itself. The prestige of the Sangha, or Buddhist Order, had, after Ashoka, drawn the best blood of Magadha into a celibate and pacific clergy; even in Buddha’s time some patriots had complained that “the monk Gautama causes fathers to beget no sons, and families to become extinct.” The growth of Buddhism and monasticism in the first year of our era sapped the manhood of India, and conspired with political division to leave India open to easy conquest. When the Arabs came, pledged to spread a simple and stoic monotheism, they looked with scorn upon the lazy, venal, miracle-mongering Buddhist monks; they smashed the monasteries, killed thousands of monks, and made monasticism unpopular with the cautious. The survivors were re-absorbed into the Hinduism that had begotten them; the ancient orthodoxy received the penitent heresy, and “Brahmanism killed Buddhism by a fraternal embrace.” Brahmanism had always been tolerant; in all the history of the rise and fall of Buddhism and a hundred other sects we find much disputation, but no instance of persecution. On the contrary Brahmanism eased the return of the prodigal by proclaiming Buddha a god (as an avatar of Vishnu), ending animal sacrifice, and accepting into orthodox practice the Buddhist doctrine of the sanctity of all animal life. Quietly and peacefully, after half a thousand years of gradual decay, Buddhism disappeared from India.
  • Meanwhile it was winning nearly all the remainder of the Asiatic world. Its ideas, its literature and its art spread to Ceylon and the Malay Peninsula in the south, to Tibet and Turkestan in the north, to Burma, Siam, Cambodia, China, Korea and Japan in the east; in this way all of these regions except the Far East received as much civilization as they could digest, precisely as western Europe and Russia received civilization from Roman and Byzantine monks in the Middle Ages. The cultural zenith of most of these nations came from the stimulus of Buddhism.
  • In Cambodia, or Indo-China, Buddhism conspired with Hinduism to provide the religious framework for one of the richest ages in the history of Oriental art.
  • Buddhism, like Christianity, won its greatest triumphs outside the land of its birth; and it won them without shedding a drop of blood.
  • The Buddhism of Burma is probably the purest now extant, and its monks often approach the ideal of Buddha; under their ministrations the 13,000,000 inhabitants of Burma have reached a standard of living considerably higher than that of India.
  • In the seventh century of our era the enlightened warrior, Srong-tsan Gampo, established an able government in Tibet, annexed Nepal, built Lhasa as his capital, and made it rich as a halfway house in Chinese-Indian trade. Having invited Buddhist monks to come from India and spread Buddhism and education among his people, he retired from rule for four years in order to learn how to read and write, and inaugurated the Golden Age of Tibet. Thousands of monasteries were built in the mountains and on the great plateau; and a voluminous Tibetan canon of Buddhist books was published, in three hundred and thirty-three volumes, which preserved for modern scholarship many works whose Hindu originals have long been lost. Here, eremitically sealed from the rest of the world, Buddhism developed into a maze of superstitions, monasticism and ecclesiasticism rivaled only by early medieval Europe; and the Dalai Lama (or “All-Embracing Priest”), hidden away in the great Potala monastery that overlooks the city of Lhasa, is still believed by the good people of Tibet to be the living incarnation of the Bodhisattwa Avalokiteshvafa.
  • The worship of Shiva is one of the oldest, most profound and most terrible elements in Hinduism. Sir John Marshall reports “unmistakable evidence” of the cult of Shiva at Mohenjo-daro, partly in the form of a three-headed Shiva, partly in the form of little stone columns which he presumes to be as phallic as their modern counterparts. “Shivaism,” he concludes, “is therefore the most ancient living faith in the world.”... Never has another people dared to face the impermanence of forms, and the impartiality of nature, so frankly, or to recognize so clearly that evil balances good, that destruction goes step by step with creation, and that all birth is a capital crime, punishable with death.
  • This is the Law of Karma—the Law of the Deed—the law of causality in the spiritual world; and it is the highest and most terrible law of all... Good Hindus do not kill insects if they can possibly avoid it; “even those whose aspirations to virtue are modest treat animals as humble brethren rather than as lower creatures over whom they have dominion by divine command.”
  • When heresies or strange gods became dangerously popular they tolerated them, and then absorbed them into the capacious caverns of Hindu belief; one god more or less could not make much difference in India. Hence there has been comparatively little sectarian animosity within the Hindu community, though much between Hindus and Moslems; and no blood has been shed for religion in India except by its invaders. Intolerance came with Islam and Christianity; the Moslems proposed to buy Paradise with the blood of “infidels,” and the Portuguese, when they captured Goa, introduced the Inquisition into India.
  • “The Buddhists,” says Fergusson, “kept five centuries in advance of the Roman Church in the invention and use of all the ceremonies and forms common to both religions.” Edmunds has shown in detail the astonishing parallelism between the Buddhist and the Christian gospels. However, our knowledge of the beginnings of these customs and beliefs is too vague to warrant positive conclusions as to priority.
XIX  : The Life of the Mind edit
  • INDIA’S work in science is both very old and very young: young as an independent and secular pursuit, old as a subsidiary interest of her priests.
  • The greatest of Hindu astronomers and mathematicians, Aryabhata, discussed in verse such poetic subjects as quadratic equations, sines, and the value of π; he explained eclipses, solstices and equinoxes, announced the sphericity of the earth and its diurnal revolution on its axis, and wrote, in daring anticipation of Renaissance science: “The sphere of the stars is stationary, and the earth, by its revolution, produces the daily rising and setting of planets and stars.” His most famous successor, Brahmagupta, systematized the astronomic knowledge of India, but obstructed its development by rejecting Aryabhata’s theory of the revolution of the earth. These men and their followers adapted to Hindu usage the Babylonian division of the skies into zodiacal constellations; they made a calendar of twelve months, each of thirty days, each of thirty hours, inserting an intercalary month every five years; they calculated with remarkable accuracy the diameter of the moon, the eclipses of the moon and the sun, the position of the poles, and the position and motion of the major stars. They expounded the theory, though not the law, of gravity when they wrote in the Siddhantas: “The earth, owing to its force of gravity, draws all things to itself.”
  • To make these complex calculations the Hindus developed a system of mathematics superior, in everything except geometry, to that of the Greeks. Among the most vital parts of our Oriental heritage are the “Arabic” numerals and the decimal system, both of which came to us, through the Arabs, from India. The miscalled “Arabic” numerals are found on the Rock Edicts of Ashoka (256 B.C.), a thousand years before their occurrence in Arabic literature.
  • The decimal system was known to Aryabhata and Brahmagupta long before its appearance in the writings of the Arabs and the Syrians; it was adopted by China from Buddhist missionaries; and Muhammad Ibn Musa al-Khwarazmi, the greatest mathematician of his age (d. ca. 850 A.D.), seems to have introduced it into Baghdad. The oldest known use of the zero in Asia or EuropeI is in an Arabic document dated 873 A.D., three years sooner than its first known appearance in India; but by general consent the Arabs borrowed this too from India, and the most modest and most valuable of all numerals is one of the subtle gifts of India to mankind.
  • Algebra was developed in apparent independence by both the Hindus and the Greeks; but our adoption of its Arabic name (al-jabr, adjustment) indicates that it came to western Europe from the Arabs—i.e., from India—rather than from Greece. The great Hindu leaders in this field, as in astronomy, were Aryabhata, Brahmagupta and Bhaskara. The last (b. 1114 A.D.), appears to have invented the radical sign, and many algebraic symbols. These men created the conception of a negative quantity, without which algebra would have been impossible; they formulated rules for finding permutations and combinations; they found the square root of 2, and solved, in the eighth century A.D., indeterminate equations of the second degree that were unknown to Europe until the days of Euler a thousand years later.14 They expressed their science in poetic form, and gave to mathematical problems a grace characteristic of India’s Golden Age.
  • The priority of India is clearer in philosophy than in medicine, though here too origins are veiled, and every conclusion is an hypothesis. Some Upanishads are older than any extant form of Greek philosophy, and Pythagoras, Parmenides and Plato seem to have been influenced by Indian metaphysics; but the speculations of Thales, Anaximander, Anaximenes, Heraclitus, Anaxagoras and Empedocles not only antedate the secular philosophy of the Hindus, but bear a sceptical and physical stamp suggesting any other origin than India. Victor Cousin believed that “we are constrained to see in this cradle of the human race the native land of the highest philosophy.” It is more probable that no one of the civilizations known to us was the originator of any of the elements of civilization.
  • But nowhere else has the lust for philosophy been so strong as in India. It is, with the Hindus, not an ornament or a recreation, but a major interest and practice of life itself; and sages receive in India the honor bestowed in the West upon men of wealth or action. What other nation has ever thought of celebrating festivals with gladiatorial debates between the leaders of rival philosophical schools?
  • In a Rajput painting of the eighteenth century we see a typical Indian “School of Philosophy”—the teacher sits on a mat under a tree, and his pupils squat on the grass before him. Such scenes were to be witnessed everywhere, for teachers of philosophy were as numerous in India as merchants in Babylonia. No other country has ever had so many schools of thought. In one of Buddha’s dialogues we learn that there were sixty-two distinct theories of the soul among the philosophers of his time. “This philosophical nation par excellence” says Count Keyserling, “has more Sanskrit words for philosophical and religious thought than are found in Greek, Latin and German combined.”
  • In effect, therefore, the philosophers of India enjoyed far more liberty than their Scholastic analogues in Europe, though less, perhaps, than the thinkers of Christendom under the enlightened Popes of the Renaissance.
  • In his short life of thirty-two years Shankara achieved that union of sage and saint, of wisdom and kindliness, which characterizes the loftiest type of man produced in India... There is much metaphysical wind in these discourses, and arid deserts of textual exposition; but they may be forgiven in a man who at the age of thirty could be at once the Aquinas and the Kant of India... Shankara establishes the source of his philosophy at a remote and subtle point never quite clearly visioned again until, a thousand years later, Immanuel Kant wrote his Critique of Pure Reason.
  • The first algebraist known to us, the Greek Diophantus (360 A.D.), antedates Aryabhata by a century; but Cajori believes that he took his lead from India.
  • The Mohammedan invasions put an end to the great age of Hindu philosophy. The assaults of the Moslems, and later of the Christians, upon the native faith drove it, for self-defense, into a timid unity that made treason of all debate, and stifled creative heresy in a stagnant uniformity of thought. By the twelfth century the system of the Vedanta, which in Shankara had tried to be a religion for philosophers, was reinterpreted by such saints as Ramanuja (ca. 1050) into an orthodox worship of Vishnu, Rama and Krishna. Forbidden to think new thoughts, philosophy became not only scholastic but barren; it accepted its dogmas from the priesthood, and proved them laboriously by distinctions without difference, and logic without reason.
XX  : The Literature of India edit
  • At a very early date India began to trace the roots, history, relations and combinations of words. By the fourth century B.C. she had created for herself the science of grammar, and produced probably the greatest of all known grammarians, Panini. The studies of Panini, Patanjali (ca. 150 A.D.) and Bhartrihari (ca. 650) laid the foundations of philology; and that fascinating science of verbal genetics owed almost its life in modern times to the rediscovery of Sanskrit.
  • Every Hindu village had its schoolmaster, supported out of the public funds; in Bengal alone, before the coming of the British, there were some eighty thousand native schools—one to every four hundred population. The percentage of literacy under Ashoka was apparently higher than in India today.
  • From his Guru the student might pass, about the age of sixteen, to one of the great universities that were the glory of ancient and medieval India: Benares, Taxila, Vidarbha, Ajanta, Ujjain, or Nalanda. Benares was the stronghold of orthodox Brahman learning in Buddha’s days as in ours; Taxila, at the time of Alexander’s invasion, was known to all Asia as the leading seat of Hindu scholarship, renowned above all for its medical school; Ujjain was held in high repute for astronomy, Ajanta for the teaching of art. The façade of one of the ruined buildings at Ajanta suggests the magnificence of these old universities. Nalanda, most famous of Buddhist institutions for higher learning, had been founded shortly after the Master’s death, and the state had assigned for its support the revenues of a hundred villages. It had ten thousand students, one hundred lecture-rooms, great libraries, and six immense blocks of dormitories four stories high; its observatories, said Yuan Chwang, “were lost in the vapors of the morning, and the upper rooms towered above the clouds.” The old Chinese pilgrim loved the learned monks and shady groves of Nalanda so well that he stayed there for five years. “Of those from abroad who wished to enter the schools of discussion” at Nalanda, he tells us, “the majority, beaten by the difficulties of the problem, withdrew; and those who were deeply versed in old and modern learning were admitted, only two or three out of ten succeeding.”
  • The Mohammedans destroyed nearly all the monasteries, Buddhist or Brahman, in northern India. Nalanda was burned to the ground in 1197, and all its monks were slaughtered; we can never estimate the abundant life of ancient India from what these fanatics spared.
XXI  : Indian Art edit
  • BEFORE Indian art, as before every phase of Indian civilization, we stand in humble wonder at its age and its continuity.
  • From that time to this, through the vicissitudes of five thousand years, India has been creating its peculiar type of beauty in a hundred arts. The record is broken and incomplete, not because India ever rested, but because war and the idol-smashing ecstasies of Moslems destroyed uncounted masterpieces of building and statuary, and poverty neglected the preservation of others. We shall find it difficult to enjoy this art at first sight; its music will seem weird, its painting obscure, its architecture confused, its sculpture grotesque. We shall have to remind ourselves at every step that our tastes are the fallible product of our local and limited traditions and environments; and that we do ourselves and foreign nations injustice when we judge them, or their arts, by standards and purposes natural to our life and alien to their own.
  • In India the artist had not yet been separated from the artisan, making art artificial and work a drudgery; as in our Middle Ages, so, in the India that died at Plassey, every mature workman was a craftsman, giving form and personality to the product of his skill and taste. Even today, when factories replace handicrafts, and craftsmen degenerate into “hands,” the stalls and shops of every Hindu town show squatting artisans beating metal, moulding jewelry, drawing designs, weaving delicate shawls and embroideries, or carving ivory and wood. Probably no other nation known to us has ever had so exuberant a variety of arts.
  • Textiles were woven with an artistry never since excelled; from the days of Cæsar to our own the fabrics of India have been prized by all the world, Sometimes, by the subtlest and most painstaking of precalculated measurements, every thread of warp and woof was dyed before being placed upon the loom; the design appeared as the weaving progressed, and was identical on either side. From homespun khaddar to complex brocades flaming with gold, from picturesque pyjamas to the invisibly-seamed shawls of Kashmir, every garment woven in India has a beauty that comes only of a very ancient, and now almost instinctive, art.
  • For listening to music, in India, is itself an art, and requires long training of ear and soul.
  • It is clear, from the drawings, in red pigment, of animals and a rhinoceros hunt in the prehistoric caves of Singanpur and Mirzapur, that Indian painting has had a history of many thousands of years. Palettes with ground colors ready for use abound among the remains of neolithic India. Great gaps occur in the history of the art, because most of the early work was ruined by the climate, and much of the remainder was destroyed by Moslem “idol-breakers” from Mahmud to Aurangzeb. The Vinaya Pitaka (ca. 300 B.C.) refers to King Pasenada’s palace as containing picture galleries, and Fa-Hien and Yuan Chwang describe many buildings as famous for the excellence of their murals; but no trace of these structures remains. One of the oldest frescoes in Tibet shows an artist painting a portrait of Buddha; the later artist took it for granted that painting was an established art in Buddha’s days.
  • When their temples were closed or destroyed by Huns and Moslems the Hindus turned their pictorial skill to lesser forms.
  • With the conversion of Ashoka to Buddhism, Indian architecture began to throw off this alien influence, and to take its inspiration and it symbols from the new religion. The transition is evident in the great capital which is all that now remains of another Ashokan pillar, at Sarnath;68 here, in a composition of astonishing perfection, ranked by Sir John Marshall as equal to “anything of its kind in the ancient world,” we have four powerful lions, standing back to back on guard, and thoroughly Persian in form and countenance; but beneath them is a frieze of well-carved figures including so Indian a favorite as the elephant, and so Indian a symbol as the Buddhist Wheel of the Law; and under the frieze is a great stone lotus, formerly mistaken for a Persian bell-capital, but now accepted as the most ancient, universal and characteristic of all the symbols in Indian art. Represented upright, with the petals turned down and the pistil or seed-vessel showing, it stood for the womb of the world; or, as one of the fairest of nature’s manifestations, it served as the throne of a god. The lotus or water-lily symbol migrated with Buddhism, and permeated the art of China and Japan. A like form, used as a design for windows and doors, became the “horseshoe arch” of Ashokan vaults and domes, originally derived from the “covered wagon” curvature of Bengali thatched roofs supported by rods of bent bamboo.
  • We shall never be able to do justice to Indian art, for ignorance and fanaticism have destroyed its greatest achievements, and have half ruined the rest. At Elephanta the Portuguese certified their piety by smashing statuary and bas-reliefs in unrestrained barbarity; and almost everywhere in the north the Moslems brought to the ground those triumphs of Indian architecture, of the fifth and sixth centuries, which tradition ranks as far superior to the later works that arouse our wonder and admiration today. The Moslems decapitated statues, and tore them limb from limb; they appropriated for their mosques, and in great measure imitated, the graceful pillars of the Jain temples. Time and fanaticism joined in the destruction, for the orthodox Hindus abandoned and neglected temples that had been profaned by the touch of alien hands. We may guess at the lost grandeur of north Indian architecture by the powerful edifices that still survive in the south, where Moslem rule entered only in minor degree, and after some habituation to India had softened Mohammedan hatred of Hindu ways.
  • Meanwhile Indian art had accompanied Indian religion across straits and frontiers into Ceylon, Java, Cambodia, Siam, Burma, Tibet, Khotan, Turkestan, Mongolia, China, Korea and Japan; “in Asia all roads lead from India.”
  • Singhalese art began with dagobas—domed relic shrines like the stupas of the Buddhist north; it passed to great temples like that whose ruins mark the ancient capital, Anuradhapura; it produced some of the finest of the Buddha statues,108 and a great variety of objets d’art; and it came to an end, for the time being, when the last great king of Ceylon, Kirti Shri Raja Singha, built the “Temple of the Tooth” at Kandy. The loss of independence has brought decadence to the upper classes, and the patronage and taste that provide a necessary stimulus and restraint for the artist have disappeared from Ceylon.
  • The final triumph of Indian architecture came under the Moguls. The followers of Mohammed had proved themselves master builders wherever they had carried their arms—at Granada, at Cairo, at Jerusalem, at Baghdad; it was to be expected that this vigorous stock, after establishing itself securely in India, would raise upon the conquered soil mosques as resplendent as Omar’s at Jerusalem, as massive as Hassan’s at Cairo, and as delicate as the Alhambra. It is true that the “Afghan” dynasty used Hindu artisans, copied Hindu themes, and even appropriated the pillars of Hindu temples, for their architectural purposes, and that many mosques were merely Hindu temples rebuilt for Moslem prayer;119 but this natural imitation passed quickly into a style so typically Moorish that one is surprised to find the Taj Mahal in India rather than in Persia, North Africa or Spain.
  • The beautiful Kutb-Minar exemplifies the transition. It was part of a mosque begun at Old Delhi by Kutbu-d Din Aibak; it commemorated the victories of that bloody Sultan over the Hindus, and twenty-seven Hindu temples were dismembered to provide material for the mosque and the tower. After withstanding the elements for seven centuries the great minaret—250 feet high, built of fine red sandstone, perfectly proportioned, and crowned on its topmost stages with white marble—is still one of the masterpieces of Indian technology and art. In general the Sultans of Delhi were too busy with killing to have much time for architecture, and such buildings as they have left us are mostly the tombs that they raised during their own lifetime as reminders that even they would die. The best example of these is the mausoleum of Sher Shah at Sasseram, in Bihar; gigantic, solid, masculine, it was the last stage of the more virile Moorish manner before it softened into the architectural jewelry of the Mogul kings.
  • Aurangzeb was a misfortune for Mogul and Indian art. Dedicated fanatically to an exclusive religion, he saw in art nothing but idolatry and vanity. Already Shah Jehan had prohibited the erection of Hindu temples;127 Aurangzeb not only continued the ban, but gave so economical a support to Moslem building that it, too, languished under his reign. Indian art followed him to the grave.
XXII  : A Christian Epilogue edit
  • IN many ways that civilization was already dead when Clive and Hastings discovered the riches of India. The long and disruptive reign of Aurangzeb, and the chaos and internal wars that followed it, left India ripe for reconquest; and the only question open to “manifest destiny” was as to which of the modernized powers of Europe should become its instrument. The French tried, and failed; they lost India, as well as Canada, at Rossbach and Waterloo. The English tried, and succeeded.
  • By 1857 the crimes of the Company had so impoverished northeastern India that the natives broke out in desperate revolt. The British Government stepped in, suppressed the “mutiny,” took over the captured territories as a colony of the Crown, paid the Company handsomely, and added the purchase price to the public debt of India. It was plain, blunt conquest, not to be judged, perhaps, by Commandments recited west of Suez, but to be understood in terms of Darwin and Nietzsche: a people that has lost the ability to govern itself, or to develop its natural resources, inevitably falls a prey to nations suffering from strength and greed.
  • The price of these benefactions was a financial despotism by which a race of transient rulers drained India’s wealth year by year as they returned to the reinvigorating north; an economic despotism that ruined India’s industries, and threw her millions of artisans back upon an inadequate soil; and a political despotism that, coming so soon after the narrow tyranny of Aurangzeb, broke for a century the spirit of the Indian people.
  • One cannot conclude the history of India as one can conclude the history of Egypt, or Babylonia, or Assyria; for that history is still being made, that civilization is still creating. Culturally India has been reinvigorated by mental contact with the West, and her literature today is as fertile and noble as any. Spiritually she is still struggling with superstition and excess theological baggage, but there is no telling how quickly the acids of modern science will dissolve these supernumerary gods. Politically the last one hundred years have brought to India such unity as she has seldom had before: partly the unity of one alien government, partly the unity of one alien speech, but above all the unity of one welding aspiration to liberty. Economically India is passing, for better and for worse, out of medievalism into modern industry; her wealth and her trade will grow, and before the end of the century she will doubtless be among the powers of the earth.
  • We cannot claim for this civilization such direct gifts to our own as we have traced to Egypt and the Near East; for these last were the immediate ancestors of our own culture, while the history of India, China and Japan flowed in another stream, and is only now beginning to touch and influence the current of Occidental life. It is true that even across the Himalayan barrier India has sent to us such questionable gifts as grammar and logic, philosophy and fables, hypnotism and chess, and above all, our numerals and our decimal system. But these are not the essence of her spirit; they are trifles compared to what we may learn from her in the future. As invention, industry and trade bind the continents together, or as they fling us into conflict with Asia, we shall study its civilizations more closely, and shall absorb, even in enmity, some of its ways and thoughts. Perhaps, in return for conquest, arrogance and spoliation, India will teach us the tolerance and gentleness of the mature mind, the quiet content of the unacquisitive soul, the calm of the understanding spirit and a unifying, pacifying love for all living things.
The Far East edit
  • As India is par excellence the land of metaphysics and religion, China is by like preeminence the home of humanistic, or non-theological, philosophy.
    • 5. The Pre-Confucian Philosophers
  • The greatest painter of the T’ang epoch, and, by common consent, of all the Far East, rose above distinctions of school, and belonged rather to the Buddhist tradition of Chinese art. Wu Tao-tze deserved his name—Wu, Master of the Tao or Way, for all those impressions and formless thoughts which Lao-tze and Chuang-tze had found too subtle for words seemed to flow naturally into line and color under his brush.
  • He excelled in every subject: men, gods, devils, Buddhas, birds, beasts, buildings, landscapes—all seemed to come naturally to his exuberant art. He painted with equal skill on silk, paper, and freshly-plastered walls; he made three hundred frescoes for Buddhist edifices, and one of these, containing more than a thousand figures, became as famous in China as “The Last Judgment” or “The Last Supper” in Europe. Ninety-three of his paintings were in the Imperial Gallery in the twelfth century, four hundred years after his death; but none remains anywhere today. His Buddhas, we are told, “fathomed the mysteries of life and death”; his picture of purgatory frightened some of the butchers and fishmongers of China into abandoning their scandalously un-Buddhistic trades; his representation of Ming Huang’s dream convinced the Emperor that Wu had had an identical vision.
  • So great was his reputation that when he was finishing some Buddhist figures at the Hsing-shan Temple, “the whole of Chang-an” came to see him add the finishing touches. Surrounded by this assemblage, says a Chinese historian of the ninth century, “he executed the haloes with so violent a rush and swirl that it seemed as though a whirlwind possessed his hand, and all who saw it cried that some god was helping him”: the lazy will always attribute genius to some “inspiration” that comes for mere waiting. When Wu had lived long enough, says a pretty tale, he painted a vast landscape, stepped into the mouth of a cave pictured in it, and was never seen again. Never had art known such mastery and delicacy of line.
  • Sculpture was not one of the major arts, not even a fine art, to the Chinese. By an act of rare modesty the Far East refused to class the human body under the rubric of beauty; its sculptors played a little with drapery, and used the figures of men—seldom of women—to study or represent certain types of consciousness; but they did not glorify the body. For the most part they confined their portraits of humanity to Buddhist saints and Taoist sages, ignoring the-athletes and courtesans who gave such inspiration to the artists of Greece. In the sculpture of China animals were preferred even to philosophers and saints.
  • Meanwhile another influence was entering China, in the form of Buddhist theology and art. It made a home for itself first in Turkestan, and built there a civilization from which Stein and Pelliot have unearthed many tons of ruined statuary; some of it seems equal to Hindu Buddhist art at its best. The Chinese took over those Buddhist forms without much alteration, and produced Buddhas as fair as any in Gandhara or India.
  • One of the best of the Chinese Buddhist shrines is the Temple of the Sleeping Buddha, near the Summer Palace outside Peking; Fergusson called it “the finest architectural achievement in China.”
  • As Christianity transformed Mediterranean culture and art in the third and fourth centuries after Christ, so Buddhism, in the same centuries, effected a theological and esthetic revolution in the life of China. While Confucianism retained its political power, Buddhism, mingling with Taoism, became the dominating force in art, and brought to the Chinese a stimulating contact with Hindu motives, symbols, methods and forms. The greatest genius of the Chinese Buddhist school of painting was Ku K’ai-chih, a man of such unique and positive personality that a web of anecdote or legend has meshed him in.
  • He insisted on being a philosopher, too; under his portrait of the emperor he wrote: “In Nature there is nothing high which is not soon brought low. . . . When the sun has reached its noon, it begins to sink; when the moon is full it begins to wane. To rise to glory is as hard as to build a mountain out of grains of dust; to fall into calamity is as easy as the rebound of a tense spring.” His contemporaries ranked him as the outstanding man of his time in three lines: in painting, in wit, and in foolishness.
  • The Commercial Revolution of Columbus’ time cleared the routes and prepared the way for the Industrial Revolution. Discoverers refound old lands, opened up new ports, and brought to the ancient cultures the novel products and ideas of the West. Early in the sixteenth century the adventurous Portuguese, having established themselves in India, captured Malacca, sailed around the Malay Peninsula, and arrived with their picturesque ships and terrible guns at Canton (1517). “Truculent and lawless, regarding all Eastern peoples as legitimate prey, they were little if any better than . . . pirates”; and the natives treated them as such. Their representatives were imprisoned, their demands for free trade were refused, and their settlements were periodically cleansed with massacres by the frightened and infuriated Chinese.
  • There were contradictions in this philosophy, but these did not disturb its leading opponent, the gentle and peculiar Wang Yang-ming. For Wang was a saint as well as a philosopher; the meditative spirit and habits of Mahayana Buddhism had sunk deeply into his soul. It seemed to him that the great error in Chu Hsi was not one of morals, but one of method; the investigation of things, he felt, should begin not with the examination of the external universe, but, as the Hindus had said, with the far profounder and more revealing world of the inner self.
  • When, after the fall of the Han, China found itself torn with political chaos, and life seemed lost in a welter of insecurity and war, the harassed nation turned to Buddhism as the Roman world was at the same time turning to Christianity. Taoism opened its arms to take in the new faith, and in time became inextricably mingled with it in the Chinese soul. Emperors persecuted Buddhism, philosophers complained of its superstitions, statesmen were concerned over the fact that some of the best blood of China was being sterilized in monasteries; but in the end the government found again that religion is stronger than the state; the emperors made treaties of peace with the new gods; the Buddhist priests were allowed to collect alms and raise temples, and the bureaucracy of officials and scholars was perforce content to keep Confucianism as its own aristocratic creed. The new religion took possession of many old shrines, placed its monks and fanes along with those of the Taoists on the holy mountain Tai-shan, aroused the people to many pious pilgrimages, contributed powerfully to painting, sculpture, architecture, literature, and the development of printing, and brought a civilizing measure of gentleness into the Chinese soul. Then, it, too, like Taoism, fell into decay; its clergy became corrupt, its doctrine was permeated more and more by sinister deities and popular superstitions, and its political power, never strong, was practically destroyed by the renaissance of Confucianism under Chu Hsi. Today its temples are neglected, its resources are exhausted, and its only devotees are its impoverished priests.
    Nevertheless it has sunk into the national soul, and is still part of the complex but informal religion of the simpler Chinese. For religions in China are not mutually exclusive as in Europe and America, nor have they ever precipitated the country into religious wars. Normally they tolerate one another not only in the state but in the same breast; and the average Chinese is at once an animist, a Taoist, a Buddhist and a Confucianist. He is a modest philosopher, and knows that nothing is certain; perhaps, after all, the theologian may be right, and there may be a paradise; the best policy would be to humor all these creeds, and pay many diverse priests to say prayers over one’s grave. While fortune smiles, however, the Chinese citizen does not pay much attention to the gods; he honors his ancestors, but lets the Taoist and the Buddhist temples get along with the attentions of the clergy and a few women.
  • Obscurity of thought and insincere inaccuracy of speech seemed to him national calamities. If a prince who was not in actual fact and power a prince should cease to be called a prince, if a father who was not a fatherly father should cease to be called a father, if an unfilial son should cease to be called a son—then men might be stirred to reform abuses too often covered up with words. Hence when Tsze-loo told Confucius, “The prince of Wei has been waiting for you, in order with you to administer the government; what will you consider the first thing to be done?” he answered, to the astonishment of prince and pupil, “What is necessary is to rectify names.”
Japan edit
  • When, in 586 A.D., the Emperor Yomei died, the succession was contested in arms by two rival families, both of them politically devoted to the new creed. Prince Shotoku Taishi, who had been born, we are told, with a holy relic clasped in his infant hand, led the Buddhist faction to victory, established the Empress Suiko on the throne, and for twenty-nine years (592-621) ruled the Sacred Islands as Prince Imperial and Regent. He lavished funds upon Buddhist temples, encouraged and supported the Buddhist clergy, promulgated the Buddhist ethic in national decrees, and became in general the Ashoka of Japanese Buddhism. He patronized the arts and sciences, imported artists and artisans from Korea and China, wrote history, painted pictures, and supervised the building of the Horiuji Temple, the oldest extant masterpiece in the art history of Japan.
    Despite the work of this versatile civilizer, and all the virtues inculcated or preached by Buddhism, another violent crisis came to Japan within a generation after Shotoku’s death.
    • (CHAPTER XXVIII The Makers of Japan)
  • For the Japanese could choose among many varieties of Buddhism: he might seek self-realization and bliss through the quiet practices of Zen (“meditation”); he might follow the fiery Nichiren into the Lotus Sect, and find salvation through learning the “Lotus Law”; he might join the Spirit Sect, and fast and pray until Buddha appeared to him in the flesh; he might be comforted by the Sect of the Pure Land, and be saved by faith alone; or he might find his way in patient pilgrimage to the monastery of Koyasan, and attain paradise by being buried in ground made holy by the bones of Kobo Daishi, the great scholar, saint and artist who, in the ninth century, had founded Shingon, the Sect of the True Word.
  • All in all, Japanese Buddhism was one of the pleasantest of man’s myths. It conquered Japan peacefully, and complaisantly found room, within its theology and its pantheon, for the doctrines and deities of Shinto: Buddha was amalgamated with Amaterasu, and a modest place was set apart, in Buddhist temples, for a Shinto shrine. The Buddhist priests of the earlier centuries were men of devotion, learning and kindliness, who profoundly influenced and advanced Japanese letters and arts; some of them were great painters or sculptors, and some were scholars whose painstaking translation of Buddhist and Chinese literature proved a fertile stimulus to the cultural development of Japan.
  • Nakaye was a man of saintly sincerity, but his philosophy pleased neither the people nor the government. The Shogunate trembled at the notion that every man might judge for himself what was right and what was wrong.
  • Our knowledge of Japanese literature is consequently fragmentary and deceptive, and our judgments of it can be of little worth. The Jesuits, harassed with these linguistic barriers, reported that the language of the islands had been invented by the Devil to prevent the preaching of the Gospel to the Japanese.
  • In the year 594 the Empress Suiko, being convinced of the truth or utility of Buddhism, ordered the building of Buddhist temples throughout her realm. Prince Shotoku, who was entrusted with carrying out this edict, brought in from Korea priests, architects, wood-carvers, bronze founders, clay modelers, masons, gilders, tile-makers, weavers, and other skilled artisans. This vast cultural importation was almost the beginning of art in Japan, for Shinto had frowned upon ornate edifices and had countenanced no figures to misrepresent the gods. From that moment Buddhist shrines and statuary filled the land. The temples were essentially like those of China, but more richly ornamented and more delicately carved. Here, too, majestic torii, or gateways, marked the ascent or approach to the sacred retreat; bright colors adorned the wooden walls, great beams held up a tiled roof gleaming under the sun, and minor structures—a drum-tower, e.g., or a pagoda—mediated between the central sanctuary and the surrounding trees. The greatest achievements of the foreign artists was the group of temples at Horiuji, raised under the guidance of Prince Shotoku near Nara about the year 616. It stands to the credit of the most living of building materials that one of these wooden edifices has survived unnumbered earthquakes and outlasted a hundred thousand temples of stone; and it stands to the glory of the builders that nothing erected in later Japan has surpassed the simple majesty of this oldest shrine. Perhaps as beautiful, and only slightly younger, are the temples of Nara itself, above all the perfectly proportioned Golden Hall of the Todaiji Temple there; Nara, says Ralph Adams Cram, contains “the most precious architecture in all Asia.”
  • Hideyoshi too tried to rival Kublai Khan, and built at Momoyama a “Palace of Pleasure” which his whim tore down again a few years after its completion; we may judge its magnificence from the “day long portal” removed from it to adorn the temple of Nishi-Hongwan; all day long, said its admirers, one might gaze at that carved portal without exhausting its excellence. Kano Yeitoku played Ictinus and Pheidias to Hideyoshi, but adorned his buildings with Venetian splendor rather than with Attic restraint; never had Japan, or Asia, seen such abounding decoration before.
  • Buddhism stimulated art in Japan, as it had done in China; the Zen practice of meditation lent itself to brooding creativeness in color and form almost as readily as in philosophy and poetry; and visions of Amida Buddha became as frequent in Japanese art as Annunciations and Crucifixions on the walls and canvases of the Renaissance. The priest Yeishin Sozu (d. 1017) was the Fra Angelico and El Greco of this age, whose risings and descendings of Amida made him the greatest religious painter in the history of Japan.
  • And though Japanese painting lacks the strength and depth of Chinese, and Japanese prints are mere poster art at their worst, and at their best the transient redemption of hurried trivialities with a national perfection of grace and line, nevertheless it was Japanese rather than Chinese painting, and Japanese prints rather than Japanese water-colors, that revolutionized pictorial art in the nineteenth century, and gave the stimulus to a hundred experiments in fresh creative forms. These prints, sweeping into Europe in the wake of reopened trade after 1860, profoundly affected Monet, Manet, Degas and Whistler; they put an end to the “brown sauce” that had been served with almost every European painting from Leonardo to Millet; they filled the canvases of Europe with sunshine, and encouraged the painter to be a poet rather than a photographer. “The story of the beautiful,” said Whistler, with the swagger that made all but his contemporaries love him, “is already complete—hewn in the marbles of the Parthenon, and broidered, with the birds, upon the fan of Hokusai—at the foot of Fuji-yama.”
  • We hope that this is not quite true; but it was unconsciously true for the old Japan. She died four years after Hokusai. In the comfort and peace of her isolation she had forgotten that a nation must keep abreast of the world if it does not wish to be enslaved. While Japan carved her inro and flourished her fans, Europe was establishing a science that was almost entirely unknown to the East; and that science, built up year by year in laboratories apparently far removed from the stream of the world’s affairs, at last gave Europe the mechanized industries that enabled her to make the goods of life more cheaply—however less beautifully—than Asia’s skilful artisans could turn them out by hand. Sooner or later those cheaper goods would win the markets of Asia, ruining the economic and changing the political life of countries pleasantly becalmed in the handicraft stage. Worse than that, science made explosives, battleships and guns that could kill a little more completely than the sword of the most heroic Samurai; of what use was the bravery of a knight against the dastardly anonymity of a shell?
  • Printing, like writing, came from China as part of Buddhist lore; the oldest extant examples of printing in the world are some Buddhist charms block-printed at the command of the Empress Shotoku in the year 770 A.D.
  • Like most statesmen he thought of religion chiefly as an organ of social discipline, and regretted that the variety of human beliefs canceled half this good by the disorder of hostile creeds. To his completely political mind the traditional faith of the Japanese people—a careless mixture of Shintoism and Buddhism—was an invaluable bond cementing the race into spiritual unity, moral order and patriotic devotion; and though at first he approached Christianity with the lenient eye and broad intelligence of Akbar, and refrained from enforcing against it the angry edicts of Hideyoshi, he was disturbed by its intolerance, its bitter denunciation of the native faith as idolatry, and the discord which its passionate dogmatism aroused not only between the converts and the nation, but among the neophytes themselves. Finally his resentment was stirred by the discovery that missionaries sometimes allowed themselves to be used as vanguards for conquerors, and were, here and there, conspiring against the Japanese state. In 1614 he forbade the practice or preaching of the Christian religion in Japan, and ordered all converts either to depart from the country or to renounce their new beliefs. Many priests evaded the decree, and some of them were arrested. None was executed during the lifetime of Iyeyasu; but after his death the fury of the bureaucrats was turned against the Christians, and a violent and brutal persecution ensued which practically stamped Christianity out of Japan. In 1638 the remaining Christians gathered to the number of 37,000 on the peninsula of Shimabara, fortified it, and made a last stand for the freedom of worship. Iyemitsu, grandson of Iyeyasu, sent a large armed force to subdue them. When, after a three months’ siege, their stronghold was taken, all but one hundred and five of the survivors were massacred in the streets.
  • Christianity had come to Japan in 1549 in the person of one of the first and noblest of Jesuits, St. Francis Xavier. The little community which he established grew so rapidly that within a generation after his coming there were seventy Jesuits and 150,000 converts in the empire. They were so numerous in Nagasaki that they made that trading port a Christian city, and persuaded its local ruler, Omura, to use direct action in spreading the new faith. “Within Nagasaki territory,” says Lafcadio Hearn, “Buddhism was totally suppressed—its priests being persecuted and driven away.” Alarmed at this spiritual invasion, and suspecting it of political designs, Hideyoshi sent a messenger to the Vice-Provincial of the Jesuits in Japan, armed with five peremptory questions

II - Life of Greece (1939) edit

Full text online at the Internet Archive
There is nothing in Greek civilization that does not illuminate our own
  • All the problems that disturb us today—the cutting down of forests and the erosion of the soil; the emancipation of woman and the limitation of the family; the conservatism of the established, and the experimentalism of the unplaced, in morals, music, and government; the corruptions of politics and the perversions of conduct; the conflict of religion and science, and the weakening of the supernatural supports of morality; the war of the classes, the nations, and the continents; the revolutions of the poor against the economically powerful rich, and of the rich against the politically powerful poor; the struggle between democracy and dictatorship, between individualism and communism, between the East and the West—all these agitated, as if for our instruction, the brilliant and turbulent life of ancient Hellas. There is nothing in Greek civilization that does not illuminate our own.
    • Preface, P.18
  • We do not know which of the many roads to decay Crete chose; perhaps she took them all. Her once famous forests of cypress and cedar vanished; today two thirds of the island are a stony waste, incapable of holding the winter rains. Perhaps there too, as in most declining cultures, population control went too far, and reproduction was left to the failures. Perhaps, as wealth and luxury increased, the pursuit of physical pleasure sapped the vitality of the race, and weakened its will to live or to defend itself; a nation is born stoic and dies epicurean
    • Ch. I Crete, Section IV The Fall of Cnossus, P.51
  • The Argives ascribed the foundation of their city to Pelasgic Argus, the hero with a hundred eyes; and its first flourishing to an Egyptian, Danaus, who came at the head of a band of “Danaae” and taught the natives to irrigate their fields with wells. Such eponyms are not to be scorned; the Greeks preferred to end with myth that infinite regress which we must end with mystery.
    • Ch. IV Sparta, Section II Argos, P. 116
  • Apparently the legislators felt that to alter certain customs, or to establish new ones, the safest procedure would be to present their proposals as commands of the god; it was not the first time that a state had laid its foundations in the sky.
    • Ch. IV Sparta, Section III Laconia, 4. The Lacedaemonian Constitution P. 123
  • When an advanced thinker asked Lycurgus to establish a democracy Lycurgus replied, “Begin, my friend, by setting it up in your own family.”
    • Ch. IV Sparta, Section III Laconia, 4. The Lacedaemonian Constitution P. 125
  • If such arrangements [by the parents to try to find a mate for their children] left some adults still unmarried, several men might be pushed into a dark room with an equal number of girls, and be left to pick their life mates in the darkness; the Spartans thought that such choosing would not be blinder than love.
    • Ch. IV Sparta, Section III Laconia, 5. The Spartan Code P. 129
  • The Spartans themselves were forbidden to go abroad without permission of the government, and to dull their curiosity they were trained to a haughty exclusiveness that would not dream that other nations could teach them anything. The system had to be ungracious in order to protect itself; a breath from that excluded world of freedom, luxury, letters, and arts might topple over this strange and artificial society, in which two thirds of the people were serfs, and all the masters were slaves.
    • Ch. IV Sparta, Sec III Laconia, 5. The Spartan Code P. 131
  • A luxury-loving Sybarite remarked of the Spartans that “it was no commendable thing in them to be so ready to die in the wars, since by that they were freed from much hard labor and miserable living.” Health was one of the cardinal virtues in Sparta, and sickness was a crime; Plato’s heart must have been gladdened to find a land so free from medicine and democracy.
    • Ch. IV Sparta, Sec III Laconia, 6. An Estimate of Sparta, P. 132
  • Self-control, moderation, equanimity in fortune and adversity— qualities that the Athenians wrote about but seldom showed—were taken for granted in every Spartan citizen.
    • Ch. IV Sparta, Sec III Laconia, 6. An Estimate of Sparta, P. 132
  • Like Plato and Plutarch, Xenophon was never tired of praising Spartan ways. Here it was, of course, that Plato found the outlines of his Utopia, a little blurred by a strange indifference to Ideas. Weary and fearful of the vulgarity and chaos of democracy, many Greek thinkers took refuge in an idolatry of Spartan order and law. They could afford to praise Sparta, since they did not have to live in it. They did not feel at close range the selfishness, coldness, and cruelty of the Spartan character; they could not see from the select gentlemen whom they met, or the heroes whom they commemorated from afar, that the Spartan code produced good soldiers and nothing more; that it made vigor of body a graceless brutality because it killed nearly all capacity for the things of the mind.
    • Ch. IV Sparta, Sec III Laconia, 6. An Estimate of Sparta, P. 132-133
  • Greek travelers marveled at a life so simple and unadorned, a franchise so jealously confined, a conservatism so tenacious of every custom and superstition, a courage and discipline so exalted and limited, so noble in character, so base in purpose, and so barren in result; while, hardly a day’s ride away, the Athenians were building, out of a thousand injustices and errors, a civilization broad in scope and yet intense in action, open to every new idea and eager for intercourse with the world, tolerant, varied, complex, luxurious, innovating, skeptical, imaginative, poetical, turbulent, free. It was a contrast that would color and almost delineate Greek history.
    • Ch. IV Sparta, Sec III Laconia, 6. An Estimate of Sparta, P. 133
Today, among the scanty ruins of that ancient capital, hardly a torso or a fallen pillar survives to declare that here there once lived Greeks.
  • In the end Sparta’s narrowness of spirit betrayed even her strength of soul. She descended to the sanctioning of any means to gain a Spartan aim; at last she stooped so far to conquer as to sell to Persia the liberties that Athens had won for Greece at Marathon. Militarism absorbed her, and made her, once so honored, the hated terror of her neighbors. When she fell, all the nations marveled, but none mourned. Today, among the scanty ruins of that ancient capital, hardly a torso or a fallen pillar survives to declare that here there once lived Greeks.
    • Ch. IV Sparta, Sec III Laconia, 6. An Estimate of Sparta, P. 133
  • Perhaps time and chance were ungrateful to the city [Corinth], and her annals fell to be written by men of other loyalties. The past would be startled if it could see itself in the pages of historians.
    • Ch. IV Sparta, Sec V Corinth, P.138
  • Theognis lived through these revolutions, and described them in bitter poems that might be the voice of our class war today... He warns that the injustices of the aristocracy may provoke a revolution: (Ch. IV Sparta, Sec VI Megara, P.138-140)
 Our state is pregnant, shortly to produce / A rude avenger of prolonged abuse. 
 The commons hitherto seem sober-minded / But their superiors are corrupt and blinded. 
 The rule of noble spirits, brave and high / Never endangered peace and harmony. 
 The supercilious, arrogant pretense / Of feeble minds, weakness and insolence; 
 Justice and truth and law wrested aside / By crafty shifts of avarice and pride; 
 These are our ruin, Cyrnus!—never dream /(Tranquil and undisturbed as it may seem) 
 Of future peace or safety to the state /  Bloodshed and strife will follow soon or late.
  • In the end we find him [Theognis] back in Megara, old and broken, and promising, for safety’s sake, never again to write of politics. He consoles himself with wine and a loyal wife, and does his best to learn at last the lesson that everything natural is forgivable. (Ch. IV Sparta, Sec VI Megara, P.141)
 Learn, Cyrnus, learn to bear an easy mind; 
 Accommodate your humor to mankind 
 And human nature; take it as you find. 
 A mixture of ingredients good and bad— 
 Such are we all, the best that can be had.
 The best are found defective, and the rest, 
 For common use, are equal to the best. 
 Suppose it had been otherwise decreed, 
 How could the business of the world proceed?
  • Today such patients [pilgrims looking for healing] go to Tenos in the Cyclades, where the priests of the Greek Church heal them as those of Asclepius healed their forerunners two thousand five hundred years ago. And the gloomy peak where once the people of Epidaurus sacrificed to Zeus and Hera is now the sacred mount of St. Elias. The gods are mortal, but piety is everlasting.
    • Ch. IV Sparta, Sec VI Aegina and Epidaurus, P.143
  • Homer was a poet, and knew that one touch of beauty redeems a multitude of sins; Hesiod [the poor poet] was a peasant who grudged the cost of a wife, and grumbled at the impudence of women who dared to sit at the same table with their husbands. Hesiod, with rough candor, shows us the ugly basement of early Greek society—the hard poverty of serfs and small farmers upon whose toil rested all the splendor and war sport of the aristocracy and the kings. Homer sang of heroes and princes for lords and ladies; Hesiod knew no princes, but sang his lays of common men, and pitched his tune accordingly. In his verses we hear the rumblings of those peasant revolts that would produce in Attica the reforms of Solon and the dictatorship of Peisistratus.
    • Ch. V Athens, Sec I Hesiod's Boeotia, P. 151
  • In this region [on the Boeotian Coast] once lived an insignificant tribe, the Graii, who joined the Euboeans in sending a colony to Cumae, near Naples; from them the Romans gave to all the Hellenes whom they encountered the name Graici, Greeks; and from that circumstance all the world came to know Hellas by a term which its own inhabitants never applied to themselves.
    • Ch. V Athens, Sec III The Lesser States, P. 156
  • By this piecemeal revolution the royal office was shorn of all its powers, and its holder was confined to the functions of a priest. The word king remained in the Athenian constitution to the end of its ancient history, but the reality was never restored. Institutions may with impunity be altered or destroyed from above if their names are left unchanged.
    • Ch. V Athens, Sec IV Attica, 2. Athens Under the Oligarchs, P. 159
  • Meanwhile, in the towns, the middle classes, unhindered by law, were reducing the free laborers to destitution, and gradually replacing them with slaves. Muscle became so cheap that no one who could afford to buy it deigned any longer to work with his hands; manual labor became a sign of bondage, an occupation unworthy of freemen. The landowners, jealous of the growing wealth of the merchant class, sold abroad the corn [grain] that their tenants needed for food, and at last, under the law of debt, sold the Athenians themselves.
    • Ch. V Athens, Sec IV Attica, 2. Athens Under the Oligarchs, P. 160-161
  • As the seventh century [BC] drew to a close, the bitterness of the helpless poor against the legally entrenched rich had brought Athens to the edge of revolution. Equality is unnatural; and where ability and subtlety are free, inequality must grow until it destroys itself in the indiscriminate poverty of social war; liberty and equality are not associates but enemies. The concentration of wealth begins by being inevitable, and ends by being fatal.
    • Ch. V Athens, Sec IV Attica, 2. Athens Under the Oligarchs, P. 161
Solon Writing Laws for Athens
  • He [Solon] made it a crime to speak evil of the dead, or to speak evil of the living in temples, courts, or public offices, or at the games; but even he could not tie the busy tongue of Athens, in which, as with us, gossip and slander seemed essential to democracy.
    • Ch. V Athens, Sec IV Attica, 3. The Solonian Revolution, P. 166
  • He [Solon] laid it down that those who remained neutral in seditions should lose their citizenship, for he felt that the indifference of the public is the ruin of the state.
    • Ch. V Athens, Sec IV Attica, 3. The Solonian Revolution, P. 166
  • Unlike Lycurgus, Minos, Hammurabi, and Numa, he [Solon] made no claim that a god had given him these laws; this circumstance, too, revealed the temper of the age, the city, and the man. Invited to make himself a permanent dictator he refused, saying that dictatorship was “a very fair spot, but there was no way down from it.”
    • Ch. V Athens, Sec IV Attica, 3. The Solonian Revolution, P. 167
  • Radicals criticized him [Solon] for failing to establish equality of possessions and power; conservatives denounced him for admitting the commons to the franchise and the courts; even his friend Anacharsis, the whimsical Scythian sage, laughed at the new constitution, saying that now the wise would plead and the fools would decide. Besides, added Anacharsis, no lasting justice can be established for men, since the strong or clever will twist to their advantage any laws that are made; the law is a spider’s web that catches the little flies and lets the big bugs escape. Solon accepted all this criticism genially, acknowledging the imperfections of his code; asked had he given the Athenians the best laws, he answered, “No, but the best that they could receive”—the best that the conflicting groups and interests of Athens could at that time be persuaded conjointly to accept. He followed the mean and preserved the state; he was a good pupil of Aristotle before the Stagirite was born. Tradition attributed to him the motto that was inscribed upon the temple of Apollo at Delphi—meden agon, nothing in excess; and all Greeks agreed in placing him among the Seven Wise Men.
    • Ch. V Athens, Sec IV Attica, 3. The Solonian Revolution, P. 167
  • Peisistratus collected four hundred men instead of fifty [that was voted as his bodyguard by the assembly], seized the Acropolis, and declared a dictatorship. Solon, having published to the Athenians his opinion that “each man of you, individually, walketh with the tread of a fox, but collectively ye are geese,” placed his arms and shield outside his door as a symbol of resigning his interest in politics, and devoted his last days to poetry.
    • Ch. V Athens, Sec IV Attica, 3. The Dictatorship of Peisistratus, P. 170
Return of Peisistratus to Athens
  • The character of Peisistratus was a rare union of culture and intellect, administrative vigor and personal charm. He could fight ruthlessly, and readily forgive; he could move in the foremost currents of the thought of his time, and govern without the intellectual’s vacillation of purpose and timidity of execution.
    • Ch. V Athens, Sec IV Attica, 3. The Dictatorship of Peisistratus, P. 170
  • Probably Athens had needed, after Solon, just such a man as Peisistratus: one with sufficient iron in his blood to beat the disorder of Athenian life into a strong and steady form, and to establish by initial compulsion those habits of order and law which are to a society what the bony structure is to an animal—its shape and strength, though not its creative life. When, after a generation, the dictatorship was removed, these habits of order and the framework of Solon’s constitution remained as a heritage for democracy. Peisistratus, perhaps not knowing it, had come not to destroy the law but to fulfill it.
    • Ch. V Athens, Sec IV Attica, 3. The Dictatorship of Peisistratus, P. 171
  • The “tyranny” of Peisistratus was part of a general movement in the commercially active cities of sixth-century Greece, to replace the feudal rule of a landowning aristocracy with the political dominance of the middle class in temporary alliance with the poor. Such dictatorships were brought on by the pathological concentration of wealth, and the inability of the wealthy to agree on a compromise. Forced to choose, the poor, like the rich, love money more than political liberty; and the only political freedom capable of enduring is one that is so pruned as to keep the rich from denuding the poor by ability or subtlety and the poor from robbing the rich by violence or votes. Hence the road to power in Greek commercial cities was simple: to attack the aristocracy, defend the poor, and come to an understanding with the middle classes.
    • Ch. V Athens, Sec IV Attica, 3. The Dictatorship of Peisistratus, P. 171
  • Forced to depend upon popularity instead of hereditary power, the dictatorships for the most part kept out of war, supported religion, maintained order, promoted morality, favored the higher status of women, encouraged the arts, and lavished revenues upon the beautification of their cities. And they did all these things, in many cases, while preserving the forms and procedures of popular government, so that even under despotism the people learned the ways of liberty. When the dictatorship had served to destroy the aristocracy the people destroyed the dictatorship; and only a few changes were needed to make the democracy of freemen a reality as well as a form.
    • Ch. V Athens, Sec IV Attica, 3. The Dictatorship of Peisistratus, P. 173
  • Though the people lent no visible support to this revolt [led by a handful of people for a personal cause], Hippias [Dictator at the time and Peisistratus's son] was frightened by it into replacing his hitherto mild rule with a regime of suppression, espionage, and terror. The Athenians, strengthened by a generation of prosperity, could afford now to demand the luxury of liberty; gradually, as the dictatorship grew harsher, the cry for freedom grew louder; and Harmodius and Aristogeiton, who had conspired for love and passion rather than for democracy, were transformed by popular imagination into the martyrs of liberty.
    • Ch. V Athens, Sec IV Attica, 5. The Establishment of Democracy, P. 175
  • Good sites [for immigration and colonization around the Mediterranean] were nearly always occupied, and had to be conquered by stratagem or force; the Greeks, in such matters, recognized no morals loftier than our own. In some cases the conquerors reduced the prior inhabitants to slavery, with all the irony of pilgrims seeking freedom; more often they made friends of the natives by bringing them Greek gifts, charming them with a superior culture, courting their women, and adopting their gods; the colonial Greeks did not bother about purity of race, and could always find in their teeming pantheon some deity sufficiently like the local divinity to facilitate a religious entente.
    • Ch. VI The Great Migration, Sec I Causes and Ways, P.181
  • Through these busy centers of vitality and intelligence the Greeks spread into all of southern Europe the seeds of that subtle and precarious luxury called civilization, without which life would have no beauty, and history no meaning.
    • Ch. VI The Great Migration, Sec I Causes and Ways, P.181
  • He [Simonides of Ceos] was a personality as well as a poet, and the Greeks denounced and loved him for his vices and eccentricities. He had a passion for money, and his muse was dumb in the absence of gold. He was the first to write poetry for pay, on the ground that poets had as much right to eat as anyone else... We are surprised to find, in the extant fragments of a poet so widely acclaimed and so liberally rewarded, that indispersible gloom which broods over so much of Greek literature after Homer—in whose days men were too active to be pessimists, and too violent to be bored... No hope of Blessed Isles comforts Simonides, and the divinities of Olympus, like those of Christianity in some modern verse, have become instruments of poetry rather than consolations of the soul. (Ch. VI The Great Migration, Sec II The Ionian Cyclades, P.182-183)
 Few and evil are the days of our life; but everlasting will be our sleep beneath the earth... 
 Small is the strength of man, and invincible are his errors; 
 grief treads upon the heels of grief through his short life;   
 and death, whom no man escapes, hangs over him at last;  
 to this come good and bad alike... Nothing human is everlasting. 
 Well said the bard of Chios that the life of man is even as that of a green leaf; 
 yet few who hear this bear it in mind, for hope is strong in the breast of the young. 
 When youth is in flower, and the heart of man is light, 
 he nurses idle thought, hoping he will never grow old or die; 
 nor does he think of sickness in good health. 
 Fools are they who dream thus, nor know how short are the days of our youth and our life.
  • Miletus, southernmost of the Ionian Twelve [Cities], was in the sixth century [BC] the richest city of the Greek world... Milesian merchants, overflowing with profits, lent money to enterprises far and wide, and to the municipality itself. They were the Medici of the Ionian Renaissance. It was in this stimulating environment that Greece first developed two of its most characteristic gifts to the world — science and philosophy. The crossroads of trade are the meeting place of ideas, the attrition ground of rival customs and beliefs; diversities beget conflict, comparison, thought; superstitions cancel one another, and reason begins. Here in Miletus, as later in Athens, were men from a hundred scattered states; mentally active through competitive commerce, and freed from the bondage of tradition by long absences from their native altars and homes. Milesians themselves traveled to distant cities, and had their eyes opened by the civilizations of Lydia, Babylonia, Phoenicia, and Egypt... Meanwhile wealth had created leisure; an aristocracy of culture was growing up in which freedom of thought was tolerated because only a small minority could read. No powerful priesthood, no ancient and inspired text limited men’s thinking
    • Ch. VI The Great Migration, Sec IV The Ionian Dodecapolis, 1. Miletus and the Birth of Greek Philosophy P.187-188
  • Nevertheless the new plant [Philosophy], mutation though it was, had its roots and ancestry. The hoary wisdom of Egyptian priests and Persian Magi, perhaps even of Hindu seers, the sacerdotal science of the Chaldeans, the poetically personified cosmogony of Hesiod, were mingled with the natural realism of Phoenician and Greek merchants to produce Ionian philosophy. Greek religion itself had paved the way by talking of Moira, or Fate, as ruler of both gods and men: here was that idea of law, as superior to incalculable personal decree, which would mark the essential difference between science and mythology, as well as between despotism and democracy. Man became free when he recognized that he was subject to law. That the Greeks, so far as our knowledge goes, were the first to achieve this recognition and this freedom in both philosophy and government is the secret of their accomplishment, and of their importance in history.
    • Ch. VI The Great Migration, Sec IV The Ionian Dodecapolis, 1. Miletus and the Birth of Greek Philosophy P.188-189
  • [The great Ionian sage] Thales was born about 640, probably at Miletus, reputedly of Phoenician parentage, and derived much of his education from Egypt and the Near East; here, as if personified, we see the transit of culture from East to West... To him tradition unanimously ascribed the introduction of mathematical and astronomical science into Greece... As some Greek myths made Oceanus the father of all creation, so Thales made water the first principle of all things, their original form and their final destiny... The significance of his thought lay not in reducing all things to water, but in reducing all things to one; here was the first monism in recorded history. Aristotle describes Thales’ view as materialistic; but Thales adds that every particle of the world is alive, that matter and life are inseparable and one, that there is an immortal “soul” in plants and metals as well as in animals and men; the vital power changes form, but never dies."
    • Ch. VI The Great Migration, Sec IV The Ionian Dodecapolis, 1. Miletus and the Birth of Greek Philosophy P.189-190
  • In his old age he [Thales] received by common consent the title of sophos, or sage; and when Greece came to name its Seven Wise Men it placed Thales first. Being asked what was very difficult, he answered, in a famous apophthegm, “To know thyself.” Asked what was very easy, he answered, “To give advice.” To the question, what is God? he replied, “That which has neither beginning nor end.” Asked how men might live most virtuously and justly, he answered, “If we never do ourselves what we blame in others.”
    • Ch. VI The Great Migration, Sec IV The Ionian Dodecapolis, 1. Miletus and the Birth of Greek Philosophy P.190
  • This heyday of Miletus produced not only the earliest philosophy, but the earliest prose, and the first historiography, in Greece. Poetry seems natural to a nation’s adolescence, when imagination is greater than knowledge, and a strong faith gives personality to the forces of nature in field, wood, sea, and sky; it is hard for poetry to avoid animism, or for animism to avoid poetry. Prose is the voice of knowledge freeing itself from imagination and faith; it is the language of secular, mundane, “prosaic” affairs; it is the emblem of a nation’s maturity, and the epitaph of its youth.
    • Ch. VI The Great Migration, Sec IV The Ionian Dodecapolis, 1. Miletus and the Birth of Greek Philosophy P.192
  • The poverty of Greek prose before Herodotus is bound up with the conquest and impoverishment of Miletus in the very generation in which prose literature began. Internal decay followed the custom of history in smoothing the path of the conqueror. The growth of wealth and luxury made epicureanism fashionable, while stoicism and patriotism seemed antiquated and absurd; it became a byword among the Greeks that “once upon a time the Milesians were brave.” Competition for the goods of the earth became keener as the old faith lost its power to mitigate class strife by giving scruples to the strong and consolations to the weak.
    • Ch. VI The Great Migration, Sec IV The Ionian Dodecapolis, 1. Miletus and the Birth of Greek Philosophy P.193
  • When, about 560 [BC], Croesus began to subject to Lydian rule the Greek coast of Asia from Cnidus to the Hellespont, Miletus saved its independence by refusing to help her sister states. But in 546 Cyrus conquered Lydia, and without much difficulty absorbed the faction-torn cities of Ionia into the Persian Empire. The great age of Miletus was over. Science and philosophy, in the history of states, reach their height after decadence has set in; wisdom is a harbinger of death.
    • Ch. VI The Great Migration, Sec IV The Ionian Dodecapolis, 1. Miletus and the Birth of Greek Philosophy P.194
  • Greece respected wisdom as India respected holiness, as Renaissance Italy respected artistic genius, as young America naturally respects economic enterprise. The heroes of Greece were not saints, or artists, or millionaires, but sages; and her most honored sages were not theorists but men who had made their wisdom function actively in the world... People liked to quote, for example, the remarks of [the sage] Bias — that the most unfortunate of men is he who has not learned how to bear misfortune; that men ought to order their lives as if they were fated to live both a long and a short time; and that “wisdom should be cherished as a means of traveling from youth to old age, for it is more lasting than any other possession.”
    • Ch. VI The Great Migration, Sec IV The Ionian Dodecapolis, 2. Polycrates of Samos P.195
  • A more famous poet lived a century later in the near-by town of Teos. Anacreon wandered much, but in Teos he was born (563) and died (478). Many a court sought him, for among his contemporaries only Simonides rivalled him in fame... His subjects were wine, women, and boys; his manner was one of polished banter in tripping iambics. No topic seemed impure in his impeccable diction, or gross in his delicate verse... His Eros was ambidextrous, and reached impartially for either sex; but in his later years he gallantly gave the preference to women.
    • Ch. VI The Great Migration, Sec V The Ionian Dodecapolis, 4. Anacron of Teos P.202
  • His [Pythagoras of Crotona's] influence was lasting; even today he is a potent name. His society survived for three centuries in scattered groups throughout Greece, producing scientists like Philolaus of Thebes and statesmen like Archytas, dictator of Taras and friend of Plato. Wordsworth, in his most famous ode, was an unconscious Pythagorean. Plato himself was enthralled by the vague figure of Pythagoras. At every turn he takes from him—in his scorn of democracy, his yearning for a communistic aristocracy of philosopherrulers, his conception of virtue as harmony, his theories of the nature and destiny of the soul, his love of geometry, and his addiction to the mysticism of number. All in all, Pythagoras was the founder, so far as we know them, of both science and philosophy in Europe—an achievement sufficient for any man.
    • Ch. VII The Greeks in the West, Sec II Pythagoras of Crotona, P.222-223
  • Liberated by local independence, the religious imagination of Greece produced a luxuriant mythology and a populous pantheon. Every object or force of earth or sky, every blessing and every terror, every quality, even the vices—of mankind was personified as a deity, usually in human form; no other religion has ever been so anthropomorphic as the Greek... The old question—is religion created by priests?—is here settled; it is incredible that any conspiracy of primitive theologians should have begotten such a plethora of gods. It must have been a boon to have so many deities, so many fascinating legends, sacred shrines, and solemn or joyous festivals. Polytheism is as natural as polygamy, and survives as long, suiting well all the contradictory currents of the world. Even today, in Mediterranean Christianity, it is not God who is worshiped, so much as the saints; it is polytheism that sheds over the simple life the inspiring poetry of consolatory myth, and gives to the humble soul the aid and comfort that it would not venture to expect from a Supreme Being unapproachably awful and remote.
    • Ch. VIII The Gods of Greece, Sec I Sources of Polytheism, P.235
  • Despite the achievements of philosophy and the attempts of a few to preach a monotheistic creed, the people continued to the end of Hellenic civilization to create myths, and even gods. Men like Heracleitus might allegorize the myths, or like Plato adapt them, or like Xenophanes denounce them; but when Pausanias toured Greece five centuries after Plato he found still alive among the people the legends that had warmed the heart of the Homeric age. The mythopoetic, theopoetic process is natural, and goes on today as always; there is a birth rate as well as a death rate of the gods; deity is like energy, and its quantity remains, through all vicissitudes of form, approximately unchanged from generation to generation.
    • Ch. VIII The Gods of Greece, Sec I Sources of Polytheism, P.236
Statue of Diana (Artemis) at Versailles
  • Happy, too, was his [Appolo's] sister Artemis (Diana), maiden goddess of the chase, so absorbed in the ways of animals and the pleasures of the woods that she had no time for the love of men.... At Ephesus she kept her Asiatic character as a goddess of motherhood and fertility. In this way the ideas of virgin and mother became confused in her worship; and the Christian Church found it wise, in the fifth century of our era, to attach the remnants of this cult to Mary, and to transform the mid-August harvest festival of Artemis into the feast of the Assumption. In such ways the old is preserved in the new, and everything changes except the essence. History, like life, must be continuous or die; character and institutions may be altered, but slowly; a serious interruption of their development throws them into national amnesia and insanity.
    • Ch. VIII The Gods of Greece, Sec II An Inventory of the Gods, 2. The Olympians P.243
  • Behind and below the geniuses whom we shall celebrate were masses of people poor and simple, to whom religion was a mesh of fears rather than a ladder of hope. It was not merely that the average Greek accepted miracle stories—of Theseus rising from the dead to fight at Marathon, or of Dionysus changing water into wine: such stories appear among every people, and are part of the forgivable poetry with which imagination brightens the common life. One could even pass over the anxiety of Athens to secure the bones of Theseus, and of Sparta to bring back from Tegea the bones of Orestes; the miraculous power officially attributed to these relics may well have been part of the technique of rule.
    • Ch. VIII The Gods of Greece, Sec V Superstitions P.257
  • The simpler Greeks believed, or taught their children to believe, in a great variety of bogies. Whole cities were disturbed, at short intervals, by “portents” or strange occurrences, like deformed births of animals or men. The belief in unlucky days was so widespread that on such days no marriage might take place, no assembly might be held, no courts might meet, no enterprise might begin. A sneeze, a stumble, might be reason for abandoning a trip or an undertaking; a minor eclipse could stop or turn back armies, and bring great wars to a disastrous end... Plato did not consider his Laws complete without an enactment against those who injure or slay by magic arts. Witches are not medieval inventions; note Euripides’ Medea, and Theocritus’ Simaetha. Superstition is one of the most stable of social phenomena; it remains almost unchanged through centuries and civilizations, not only in its bases but even in its formulas.
    • Ch. VIII The Gods of Greece, Sec V Superstitions P.258-259
  • Religion and patriotism were bound together in a thousand impressive rites; the god or goddess most revered in public ceremony represented the apotheosis of the city... In all these ways Greek religion was used as a defense by the community and the race against the natural egoism of the individual man. Art, literature, and philosophy first strengthened this influence, and then weakened it. Pindar, Aeschylus, and Sophocles poured their own ethical fervor or insight into the Olympian creed, and Pheidias ennobled the gods with beauty and majesty; Pythagoras and Plato associated philosophy with religion, and supported the doctrine of immortality as a stimulus to morals. But Protagoras doubted, Socrates ignored, Democritus denied, Euripides ridiculed the gods; and in the end Greek philosophy, hardly willing it, destroyed the religion that had molded the moral life of Greece.
    • Ch. VIII The Gods of Greece, Sec VI Oracles P.264
  • All in all, the sixth century [BC] failed to rise, in any Greek art except architecture, to the boldness of conception or the perfection of form attained in the same age by Greek philosophy and poetry. Perhaps artistic patronage was slow to develop in an aristocracy still rural and poor, or in a business class too young to have graduated from wealth to taste.
    • Ch. XI The Common Culture of Early Greece, Sec V Arts, P.289
  • As children approach the “age of reason”—seven or eight—they take up the game of dice by throwing square knucklebones (astragali), the highest throw, six, being counted the best. The games of the young are as old as the sins of their fathers.
    • Ch. XIII The Morals and Manners of the Greeks, Sec I Childhood , P.367
  • Every lady of class has an armory of mirrors, pins, hairpins, safety pins, tweezers, combs, scent bottles, and pots for rouge and creams... disagreeable applications are kept on the face for hours in the patient lust to seem, if one cannot be, beautiful... Against this seductive armament men protest to as much effect as in other ages. A character in Athenian comedy reproves a lady in cosmetic detail: “If you go out in summer, two streaks of black run from your eyes; perspiration makes a red furrow from your cheeks to your neck; and when your hair touches your face it is blanched by the white lead.” Women remain the same, because men do.
    • Ch. XIII The Morals and Manners of the Greeks, Sec III Externals, P.372
  • Both sexes announce or disguise their incomes with jewelry. Men wear at least one ring; Aristotle wears several. The walking sticks of the men may have knobs of silver or gold. Women wear bracelets, necklaces, diadems, earrings, brooches and chains, jeweled clasps and buckles, and sometimes jeweled bands about the ankles or the upper arms. Here, as in most mercantile cultures, luxury runs into excess among those to whom wealth is a novelty. Sparta regulates the headdress of its ladies, and Athens forbids women to take more than three dresses on a journey. Women smile at these restrictions, and, without lawyers, get around them; they know that to most men and to some women dress makes the woman; and their behavior in this matter reveals a wisdom gathered through a thousand centuries.
    • Ch. XIII The Morals and Manners of the Greeks, Sec III Externals, P.373
  • The Athenians of the fifth century [BC] are not exemplars of morality; the progress of the intellect has loosened many of them from their ethical traditions, and has turned them into almost unmoral individuals. They have a high reputation for legal justice, but they are seldom altruistic to any but their children; conscience rarely troubles them, and they never dream of loving their neighbors as themselves. Manners vary from class to class; in the dialogues of Plato life is graced with a charming courtesy, but in the comedies of Aristophanes there are no manners at all, and in public oratory personal abuse is relied upon as the very soul of eloquence; in such matters the Greeks have much to learn from the time-polished “barbarians” of Egypt or Persia or Babylon.
    • Ch. XIII The Morals and Manners of the Greeks, Sec IV Morals, P.374
  • Salutation is cordial but simple; there is no bowing, for that seems to the proud citizens a vestige of monarchy; handshaking is reserved for oaths or solemn farewells; usually the greeting is merely Chaire—“Rejoice”—followed, as elsewhere, by some brilliant remark about the weather.
    • Ch. XIII The Morals and Manners of the Greeks, Sec IV Morals, P.374
  • Hospitality has lessened since Homeric days, for travel is a little more secure than then, and inns provide food and shelter for transients; even so it remains an outstanding virtue of the Athenians. Strangers are welcomed though without introduction; if they come with letters from a common friend, they receive bed and board, and sometimes parting gifts. An invited guest is always privileged to bring an uninvited guest with him. This freedom of entry gives rise in time to a class of parasites—parasitoi—a word originally applied to the clergy who ate the “corn left over” from the temple supplies.
    • Ch. XIII The Morals and Manners of the Greeks, Sec IV Morals, P.374
  • The Greek might admit that honesty is the best policy, but he tries everything else first... Everyone complains that the Athenian retailers adulterate their goods, give short weight and short change despite the government inspectors, shift the fulcrum of their scales towards the measuring weights, and lie at every opportunity; the sausages, for example, are accused of being dogs... The politicians are not much better; there is hardly a man in Athenian public life that is not charged with crookedness; an honest man like Aristides is considered exciting news, almost a monstrosity.... Thucydides reports that men are more anxious to be called clever than honest, and suspect honesty of simplicity
    • Ch. XIII The Morals and Manners of the Greeks, Sec IV Morals, P.375
  • The Athenian envoys at Sparta in 432 [BC] defend their empire in plain terms: “It has always been the law that the weaker should be subject to the stronger... no one has ever allowed the cry for justice to hinder his ambition when he had a chance of gaining anything by might” though this passage, and the supposed speech of the Athenian leaders at Melos, may be exercises of Thucydides’ philosophical imagination, inflamed by the cynical discourses of certain Sophists; it would be as fair to judge the Greeks from the unconventional ethics of Gorgias, Callicles, Thrasymachus, and Thucydides as it would be to describe the modern European by the brilliant bizarreries of Machiavelli, La Rochefoucauld, Nietzsche, and Stirner—not saying how fair that would be.... Perhaps, however, the Greeks differ from ourselves not in conduct but in candor; our greater delicacy makes it offensive to us to preach what we practice.
    • Ch. XIII The Morals and Manners of the Greeks, Sec IV Morals, P.375-376
  • Custom and religion among the Greeks exercise a very modest restraint upon the victor in war. It is a regular matter, even in civil wars, to sack the conquered city, to finish off the wounded, to slaughter or enslave all unransomed prisoners and all captured noncombatants, to burn down the houses, the fruit trees, and the crops, to exterminate the live stock, and to destroy the seed for future sowings... War of some kind—of city against city or of class against class—is a normal condition in Hellas. In this way the Greece that defeated the King of Kings turns upon itself, Greek meets Greek in a thousand battles, and in the course of a century after Marathon the most brilliant civilization in history consumes itself in a prolonged national suicide.
    • Ch. XIII The Morals and Manners of the Greeks, Sec IV Morals, P.376
Greek Theater
  • If we are still attracted to these reckless disputants it is because they cover the nakedness of their sins with an exhilarating vigor of enterprise and intellect. The nearness of the sea, the opportunities of trade, the freedom of economic and political life form the Athenian to an unprecedented excitability and resilience of temper and thought, a very fever of mind and sense. What a change from the Orient to Europe, from the drowsy southern regions to these intermediate states where winter is cold enough to invigorate without dulling, and summer warm enough to liberate without enfeebling body and soul! Here is faith in life and man, a zest of living never rivaled again until the Renaissance.
    • CH. XIII The Morals and Manners of the Greeks, Sec V Character, P.376
  • A nation’s ideals are usually a disguise, and are not to be taken as history. Courage and temperance—andreia, or manliness, and the meden agan, or “nothing in excess” of the Delphic inscription—are the rival mottoes of the Greek; he realizes the one frequently enough, but the other only in his peasants, philosophers, and saints. The average Athenian is a sensualist, but with a good conscience; he sees no sin in the pleasures of sense, and finds in them the readiest answer to the pessimism that darkens his meditative intervals. He loves wine, and is not ashamed to get drunk now and then; he loves women, in an almost innocently physical way, easily forgives himself for promiscuity, and does not look upon a lapse from virtue as an irremediable disaster. Nevertheless he dilutes two parts of wine with three of water, and considers repeated drunkenness an offense against good taste. Though he seldom practices moderation he sincerely worships it, and formulates more clearly than any other people in history the ideal of self-mastery.
    • CH. XIII The Morals and Manners of the Greeks, Sec V Character, P.377
  • The Athenians are too brilliant to be good, and scorn stupidity more than they abominate vice. They are not all sages, and we must not picture their woman as all lovely Nausicaas or stately Helens, or their men as combining the courage of Ajax with Nestor’s wisdom; history has remembered the geniuses of Greece and has ignored her fools (except Nicias); even our age may seem great when most of us are forgotten, and only our mountain peaks have escaped the obscurity of time. Discounting the pathos of distance, the average Athenian remains as subtle as an Oriental, as enamored of novelty as an American; endlessly curious and perpetually mobile; always preaching a Parmenidean calm and always tossed upon a Heracleitean sea.
    • CH. XIII The Morals and Manners of the Greeks, Sec V Character, P.377
  • The secret of the exuberance of Greek life and thought lies in this, that to the Greek, man is the measure of all things. The educated Athenian is in love with reason, and seldom doubts its ability to chart the universe. The desire to know and understand is his noblest passion, and as immoderate as the rest. Later he will discover the limits of reason and human effort, and by a natural reaction will fall into a pessimism strangely discordant with the characteristic buoyancy of his spirit. Even in the century of his exuberance the thought of his profoundest men—who are not his philosophers but his dramatists—will be clouded over with the elusive brevity of delight and the patient pertinacity of death.
    • CH. XIII The Morals and Manners of the Greeks, Sec V Character, P.378
  • In truth the Greek does not think of character in our terms. He aspires neither to the conscience of the good bourgeois, nor to the sense of honor of the aristocrat. To the Greek the best life is the fullest one, rich in health, strength, beauty, passion, means, adventure, and thought. Virtue is arete, manly—literally and originally, martial—excellence (Ares, Mars); precisely what the Romans called vir-tus, man-liness. The Athenian ideal man is the kalokagathos, who combines beauty and justice in a gracious art of living that frankly values ability, fame, wealth, and friends as well as virtue and humanity; as with Goethe, self-development is everything. Along with this conception goes a degree of vanity whose candor is hardly to our taste:
    • CH. XIII The Morals and Manners of the Greeks, Sec V Character, P.379
  • If we wish to understand the Greeks as against the Romans we must think of the French vs. the English; if we wish to feel the Spartan spirit as opposed to the Athenian we must think of the Germans vs. the French.
    • CH. XIII The Morals and Manners of the Greeks, Sec V Character, P.379
  • Now and then they tolerate religious intolerance, not as a check upon thought but as a weapon in partisan politics, and as a bound to moral experimentation; otherwise they insist upon a degree of liberty that seems fantastically chaotic to their Oriental visitors. But because they are free, because, ultimately, every office is open to every citizen, and each is ruled and ruler in turn, they give half their lives to their state. Home is where they sleep; they live in the market place, in the Assembly, in the Council, in the courts, in the great festivals, athletic contests, and dramatic spectacles that glorify their city and its gods. They recognize the right of the state to conscript their persons and their wealth for its needs. They forgive its exactions because it gives more opportunity for human development than man has ever known before; they fight for it fiercely because it is the mother and guardian of their liberties.
    • CH. XIII The Morals and Manners of the Greeks, Sec V Character, P.380
  • The physical basis of love is accepted frankly by both sexes; the love philters that anxious ladies brew for negligent men have no merely Platonic aim. Premarital chastity is required of respectable women, but among unmarried men after the ephebic period there are few moral restraints upon desire.The great festivals, though religious in origin, are used as safety valves for the natural promiscuity of humanity; sexual license on such occasions is condoned in the belief that monogamy may be more easily achieved during the balance of the year.
    • CH. XIII The Morals and Manners of the Greeks, Sec VI Premarital Relations, P.380
  • Stranger than this strange entente between prostitution and philosophy is the placid acceptance of sexual inversion. The chief rivals of the hetairai [courtesans] are the boys of Athens; and the courtesans, scandalized to the very depths of their pockets, never tire of denouncing the immorality of homosexual love. Merchants import handsome lads to be sold to the highest bidder, who will use them first as concubines and later as slaves; and only a negligible minority of males think it amiss that the effeminate young aristocrats of the city should arouse and assuage the ardor of aging men. In this matter of genders Sparta is as careless as Athens;
    • CH. XIII The Morals and Manners of the Greeks, Sec VII Greek Friendship, P.383
  • How shall we explain the popularity of this perversion in Greece? Aristotle attributes it to fear of overpopulation, and this may account for part of the phenomenon; but there is obviously a connection between the prevalence of both homosexuality and prostitution in Athens, and the seclusion of women. After the age of six the boys of Periclean Athens are taken from the gynaeceum in which respectable women spend their lives, and are brought up chiefly in companionship with other boys, or men; little opportunity is given them, in their formative and almost neutral period, to know the attractiveness of the tender sex... In married life the men seldom find mental companionship at home; the rarity of education among women creates a gulf between the sexes, and men seek elsewhere the charms that they have not permitted their wives to acquire. To the Athenian citizen his home is not a castle but a dormitory; from morning to evening, in a great number of cases, he lives in the city, and rarely has social contacts with respectable women other than his wife and daughters. Greek society is unisexual, and misses the disturbance, grace, and stimulation that the spirit and charm of women will give to Renaissance Italy and Enlightenment France.
    • CH. XIII The Morals and Manners of the Greeks, Sec VII Greek Friendship, P.384
  • Romantic love appears among the Greeks, but seldom as the cause of marriage. We find little of it in Homer... As refinement grows, and superimposes poetry upon heat, the tender sentiment becomes more frequent; and the increasing delay that civilization places between desire and fulfillment gives imagination leisure to embellish the object of hope. Aeschylus is still Homeric in his treatment of sex; but in Sophocles we hear of “Love” who “rules at will the gods,” and in Euripides many a passage proclaims Eros’ power... Such affairs in classic Greece lead rather to premarital relations than to matrimony. The Greeks consider romantic love to be a form of “possession” or madness, and would smile at anyone who should propose it as a fit guide in the choice of a marriage mate.
    • CH. XIII The Morals and Manners of the Greeks, Sec VIII Love and Marriage, P.385
  • Besides his wife a man may take a concubine. “We have courtesans for the sake of pleasure,” says Demosthenes, “concubines for the daily health of our bodies, and wives to bear us lawful offspring and be the faithful guardians of our homes” here in one startling sentence is the Greek view of woman in the classic age.Draco’s laws permit concubinage; and after the Sicilian expedition of 415, when the roll of citizens has been depleted by war and many girls cannot find husbands, the law explicitly allows double marriages; Socrates and Euripides are among those who assume this patriotic obligation. The wife usually accepts concubinage with Oriental patience, knowing that the “second wife,” when her charms wear off, will become in effect a household slave, and that only the offspring of the first wife are accounted legitimate.
    • CH. XIII The Morals and Manners of the Greeks, Sec VIII Love and Marriage, P.386
  • As surprising as anything else in this civilization is the fact that it is brilliant without the aid or stimulus of women. With their help the Heroic Age achieved splendor, the age of the dictators a lyric radiance; then, almost overnight, married women vanish from the history of the Greeks, as if to confute the supposed correlation between the level of civilization and the status of woman. In Herodotus woman is everywhere; in Thucydides she is nowhere to be seen.
    • CH. XIII The Morals and Manners of the Greeks, Sec IX Woman, P.387
  • Old age is feared and mourned beyond wont by the life-loving Greeks. Even here, however, it has its consolations; for as the used-up body is returned like worn currency to the mint, it has the solace of seeing, before it is consumed, the fresh new life through which it cheats mortality. It is true that Greek history reveals cases of selfish carelessness or coarse insolence towards the old. Athenian society, commercial, individualistic, and innovating, tends to be unkind to old age; respect for years goes with a religious and conservative society like Sparta’s, while democracy, loosening all bonds with freedom, puts the accent on youth, and favors the new against the old.
    • CH. XIII The Morals and Manners of the Greeks, Sec XI Old Age, P.393
  • After death the soul, separated from the body, dwells as an insubstantial shade in Hades. In Homer only spirits guilty of exceptional or sacrilegious offense suffer punishment there; all the rest, saints and sinners alike, share an equal fate of endless prowling about dark Pluto’s realm. In the course of Greek history a belief arises, among the poorer classes, in Hades as a place of expiation for sins; Aeschylus pictures Zeus as judging the dead there and punishing the guilty, though no word is said about rewarding the good. Only rarely do we find mention of the Blessed Isles, or the Elysian Fields, as heavens of eternal happiness for a few heroic souls. The thought of the gloomy fate awaiting nearly all the dead darkens Greek literature, and makes Greek life less bright and cheerful than is fitting under such a sun.
    • CH. XIII The Morals and Manners of the Greeks, Sec XI Old Age, P.395
  • It is a reproof to those who think of Greece as synonymous with Athens, that none of the great Hellenic thinkers before Socrates belonged to that city, and only Plato after him. The fate of Anaxagoras and Socrates indicates that religious conservatism was stronger in Athens than in the colonies, where geographical separation had broken some of the bonds of tradition. Perhaps Athens would have remained obscurantist and intolerant to the point of stupidity had it not been for the growth of a cosmopolitan trading class, and the coming of the Sophists to Athens.
    • CH. XVI The Conflict of Philosophy and Religion, Sec IV The Sophist, P.448
  • The debates in the Assembly, the trials before the heliaea, and the rising need for the ability to think with the appearance of logic and to speak with clarity and persuasion, conspired with the wealth and curiosity of an imperial society to create a demand for something unknown in Athens before Pericles—formal higher education in letters, oratory, science, philosophy, and statesmanship. The demand was met at first not by the organization of universities but by wandering scholars who engaged lecture halls, gave there their courses of instruction, and then passed on to other cities to repeat them. Some of these men, like Protagoras, called themselves sophistai—i.e., teachers of wisdom. The word was accepted as equivalent to our “university professor,” and bore no derogatory connotation until the conflict between religion and philosophy led to conservative attacks upon the Sophists, and the commercialism of certain of them provoked Plato to darken their name with the imputations of venal sophistry that now cling to it... It is true that the more famous Sophists, like most skilled practitioners in any field, charged all that their patrons could be persuaded to pay; this is the final law of prices everywhere.
    • CH. XVI The Conflict of Philosophy and Religion, Sec IV The Sophist, P.449
  • Water is the usual drink, but everyone has wine, for no civilization has found life tolerable without narcotics or stimulants.
    • Ch. XII : Work and Wealth in Athens, p. 270
  • A freeman, says the Greek, must be free from economic tasks; he must get slaves or others to attend to his material concerns, even, if he can, to take care of his property and his fortune; only by such liberation can he find time for government, war, literature, and philosophy. Without a leisure class there can be, in the Greek view, no standards of taste, no encouragement of the arts, no civilization. No man who is in a hurry is quite civilized.
    • Ch. XII : Work and Wealth in Athens, p. 277

III - Caesar and Christ (1944) edit

Caesar and Christ had met in the arena, and Christ had won.
  • What astonishes us is that such a government [The Roman Republic] could last so long (508 to 49 B.C.) and achieve so much. Perhaps it endured because of its muddling adaptability to change, and the proud patriotism formed in the home, the school, the temple, the army, the Assembly, and the Senate. Devotion to the state marked the zenith of the Republic, as unparalleled political corruption marked its fall. Rome remained great as long as she had enemies who forced her to unity, vision, and heroism. When she had overcome them all she flourished for a moment and then began to die.
    • Chapter 2, Part 2
  • In summary, the typical educated Roman of this age was orderly, conservative, loyal, sober, reverent, tenacious, severe, practical. He enjoyed discipline, and would have no nonsense about liberty. He obeyed as a training for command. He took it for granted that the government had a right to inquire into his morals as well as his income, and to value him purely according to his services to the state. He distrusted individuality and genius. He had none of the charm, vivacity, and unstable fluency of the Attic Greek. He admired character and will as the Greek admired freedom and intellect; and organization was his forte. He lacked imagination, even to make a mythology of his own. He could with some effort love beauty, but he could seldom create it. He had no use for pure science, and was suspicious of philosophy as a devilish dissolvent of ancient beliefs and ways. He could not, for the life of him, understand Plato, or Archimedes, or Christ. He could only rule the world.
    • Chapter 4, Part 4
  • The issuance of this guaranteed currency promoted the profession and operations of finance. The older Romans used temples as their banks, as we use banks as our temples; and the state continued to the end to use its strongly built shrines as repositories for public funds, perhaps on the theory that religious scruples would help discourage robbery.
    • Chapter 4, Part 6
  • Sumptuary laws were passed by the Senate limiting expenditure on banquets and clothing, but as the senators ignored these regulations, no one bothered to observe them. “The citizens,” Cato mourned, “no longer listen to good advice, for the belly has no ears.” The individual became rebelliously conscious of himself as against the state, the son as against the father, the woman as against the man.
    • Chapter 5, Part 2
  • Already by 160 [BC] Cato and Polybius had noted a decline of population and the inability of the state to raise such armies as had risen to meet Hannibal. The new generation, having inherited world mastery, had no time or inclination to defend it; that readiness for war which had characterized the Roman landowner disappeared now that ownership was being concentrated in a few families and a proletariat without stake in the country filled the slums of Rome. Men became brave by proxy; they crowded the amphitheater to see bloody games, and hired gladiators to fight before them at their banquets.
    • Chapter 5, Part 2
  • In the widening middle classes commercialism ruled unhindered. Their wealth was based no longer on realty but on mercantile investment or management. The old morality and a few Catos could not keep this new regime of mobile capital from setting the tone of Roman life. Everyone longed for money, everyone judged or was judged in terms of money... That aristocracy which (if we may believe the historians—and we must not) had once esteemed honor above life adopted the new morality and shared in the new wealth; it thought no longer of the nation, but of class and individual privileges and perquisites; it accepted presents and liberal bribes for bestowing its favor upon men or states, and found ready reasons for war with countries that had more wealth than power.
    • Chapter 5, Part 2
  • The principle of democracy is freedom, the principle of war is discipline; each requires the absence of the other. War demands superior intelligence and courage, quick decisions, united action, immediate obedience; the frequency of war doomed democracy.
    • Chapter 5, Part 2
  • From the moral standpoint, which is always a window dressing in international politics, the destruction of Carthage and Corinth in 146 [BC] must rank among the most brutal conquests in history; from the standpoint of empire—of security and wealth—it laid simultaneously the two cornerstones of Rome’s commercial and naval supremacy. From that moment the political history of the Mediterranean flowed through Rome.
    • Chapter 5, Part 7
  • Above all, the political corruption that he [Cato] had fought in his youth grew wider and deeper as the stakes of office rose with the Empire’s spread; every new conquest made Rome richer, more rotten, more merciless. She had won every war but the class war; and the destruction of Carthage removed the last check to civil division and strife. Now through a hundred bitter years of revolution Rome would pay the penalty of gaining the world.
    • Chapter 5, Part 7
  • If we sum up Greek thought in the first two centuries of our era, we find it, despite Lucian, overwhelmingly religious. Men had once lost faith in faith and taken to logic; now they were losing faith in logic and were flocking back to faith. Greek philosophy had completed the circuit from primitive theology through the skepticism of the early Sophists, the atheism of Democritus, the reconciliatory blandishments of Plato, the naturalism of Aristotle, and the pantheism of the Stoa back to a philosophy of mysticism, submission, and piety.
    • Chapter 13, Part 4
  • His [Herod's] character was typical of an age that had produced so many men of intellect without morals, ability without scruple, and courage without honor. He was in his lesser way the Augustus of Judea: like Augustus he overlaid the chaos of freedom with dictatorial order, beautified his capital with Greek architecture and sculpture, enlarged his realm, made it prosper, achieved more by subtlety than by arms, married widely, was broken by the treachery of his offspring, and knew every good fortune but happiness.
    • Chapter 25, Part 3
  • [On Paul the Apostle] As in so many men, his faults and virtues were near allied and mutually indispensable. He was impetuous and courageous, dogmatic and decisive, domineering and energetic, fanatical and creative, proud before man and humble before God, violently wrathful and capable of the tenderest love. He advised his followers to “bless them that persecute you,” but he could hope that his enemies—“the party of circumcision”—“would get themselves emasculated.” He knew his failings, struggled against them, and begged his converts to “put up with a little folly from me.” The postscript to his first epistle to the Corinthians sums him up: “This farewell I, Paul, add in my own hand. A curse upon anyone who has no love for the Lord! Lord, come quickly! The blessing of the Lord Jesus be with you! My love be with you all.” He was what he had to be to do what he did.
    • Chapter 27, Part 2
  • Historically the belief in heaven and the belief in utopia are like compensatory buckets in a well: when one goes down the other comes up. When the classic religions decayed, communistic agitation rose in Athens (430 B.C.), and revolution began in Rome (133 B.C.); when these movements failed, resurrection faiths succeeded, culminating in Christianity; when, in our eighteenth century, Christian belief weakened, communism reappeared. In this perspective the future of religion is secure.
    • Chapter 28, Part 5 (Footnote 2)
  • There is no greater drama in human record than the sight of a few Christians, scorned or oppressed by a succession of emperors, bearing all trials with a fierce tenacity, multiplying quietly, building order while their enemies generated chaos, fighting the sword with the word, brutality with hope, and at last defeating the strongest state that history has known. Caesar and Christ had met in the arena, and Christ had won.
    • Chapter 30, part 1, p. 652
  • A great civilization is not conquered from without until it has destroyed itself within.
    • Epilogue: "Why Rome Fell", p. 665

IV - The Age of Faith (1950) edit

  • Constantius renewed with Persia that ancient war between East and West which had never really ceased since Marathon, and allowed his brothers to eliminate one another in fraternal strife. Left sole Emperor (353), he returned to Constantinople, and governed the reunified realm with dour integrity and devoted incompetence, too suspicious to be happy, too cruel to be loved, too vain to be great. (p. 29)
  • In November 324 Constantine the Great led his aides, engineers, and priests from the harbor of Byzantium across the surrounding hills to trace the boundaries of his contemplated capital. Some marveled that he took in so much, but “I shall advance,” he said, “till He, the invisible God who marches before me, thinks proper to stop.” He left no deed undone, no word unsaid, that could give to his plan, as to his state, a deep support in the religious sentiments of the people and in the loyalty of the Christian Church... The New Rome was dedicated as capital of the Eastern Empire on May 11, 330—a day that was thereafter annually celebrated with imposing ceremony. Paganism was officially ended; the Middle Ages of triumphant faith were, so to speak, officially begun. The East had won its spiritual battle against the physically victorious West, and would rule the Western soul for a thousand years. (P. 30)
  • "Historically, the conquest destroyed the outward form of what had already inwardly decayed; it cleared away with regrettable brutality and thoroughness a system of life which, with all its gifts of order, culture, and law, had worn itself into senile debility, and had lost the powers of regeneration and growth." (p. 43)
  • A religion is, among other things, a mode of moral government. The historian does not ask if a theology is true—through what omniscience might he judge? Rather he inquires what social and psychological factors combined to produce the religion; how well it accomplished the purpose of turning beasts into men, savages into citizens, and empty hearts into hopeful courage and minds at peace; how much freedom it still left to the mental development of mankind; and what was its influence in history. (p. 251)
  • Judaism, Christianity, and Islam assumed that the first necessity for a healthy society is belief in the moral government of the universe—belief that even in the heyday of evil some beneficent intelligence, however unintelligibly, guides the cosmic drama to a just and noble end. (p. 251)
  • "Moslems seem to have been better gentlemen than their Christian peers; they kept their word more frequently, showed more mercy to the defeated, and were seldom guilty of the brutality as marked the Christian capture of Jerusalem in 1099." (p. 341)
  • The word qur’ân means a reading or discourse, and is applied by Moslems to the whole, or to any section, of their sacred scriptures. Like the Jewish-Christian Bible, the Koran is an accumulation, and orthodoxy claims it to be in every syllable inspired by God. Unlike the Bible, it is proximately the work of one man, and is therefore without question the most influential book ever produced by a single hand. At various times in the last twenty-three years of his life Mohammed dictated some fragment of this revelation; each was written upon parchment, leather, palm-leaves, or bones, was read to an assembly, and was deposited in various receptacles with preceding revelations, with no special care to keep them in logical or chronological order. (P. 249)
  • The nature of the book doomed it to repetition and disorder. Each passage taken separately fulfills an intelligible purpose—states a doctrine, dictates a prayer, announces a law, denounces an enemy, directs a procedure, tells a story, calls to arms, proclaims a victory, formulates a treaty, appeals for funds, regulates ritual, morals, industry, trade, or finance. But we are not sure that Mohammed wanted all these fragments gathered into one book. Many of them were arguments to the man or the moment; they can hardly be understood without the commentary of history and tradition; and none but the Faithful need expect to enjoy them all. (p. 250)
  • The 114 chapters (“suras”) are arranged not in the order of their composition, which is unknown, but in the order of their decreasing length. Since the earlier revelations were generally shorter than the later ones, the Koran is history in reverse. The Medina suras, prosaic and practical, appear first; the Mecca suras, poetic and spiritual, appear last. The Koran puts its worst foot forward, and should be begun at the end. (p. 250)
  • Day by day the religion that some philosophers supposed to be the product of priests is formed and re-formed by the needs, sentiment, and imagination of the people; and the monotheism of the prophets becomes the polytheism of the populace. (p. 359)
  • The Shahnama is one of the major works of the world’s literature, if only in size. There is something noble in the picture of a poet putting aside trivial subjects and easy tasks, and giving thirty-five years of his life to telling his country’s story in 120,000 lines—far exceeding the length of the Iliad and the Odyssey combined. Here was an old man mad about Persia, enamored of every detail in its records, whether legend or fact; his epic is half finished before it reaches history. (p. 369)
The Shahnama
  • [On Firdausi's Shahnama]It is a vivid narrative, moving rapidly from episode to episode, and finding unity only from the unseen presence of the beloved fatherland in every line. We—who have less leisure than men had before so many labor-saving devices were invented—cannot spare the time to read all these couplets and bury all these kings; but which of us has read every line of the Iliad, or the Aeneid, or The Divine Comedy, or Paradise Lost? Only men of epic stomach can digest these epic tales. After 200 pages we tire of Rustam’s victories over demons, dragons, magicians, Turks. But we are not Persians; we have not heard the sonorous roll of the original verse; we cannot be moved as Persians are, who in a single province have named 300 villages after Rustam. (P.370)
  • Even the mystics sang of love, but we have their solemn assurance that the passion they portrayed was but a symbol for the love of God. (p. 441)
  • As men are members of one another, and generations are moments in a family line, so civilizations are units in a larger whole whose name is history; they are stages in the life of man. Civilization is polygenetic—it is the co-operative product of many peoples, ranks, and faiths; and no one who studies its history can be a bigot of race or creed. Therefore the scholar, though he belongs to his country through affectionate kinship, feels himself also a citizen of that Country of the Mind which knows no hatreds and no frontiers; he hardly deserves his name if he carries into his study political prejudices, or racial discriminations, or religious animosities; and he accords his grateful homage to any people that has borne the torch and enriched his heritage. (P. 466)
  • The general reader will marvel at the length of this survey of Islamic civilization, and the scholar will mourn its inadequate brevity. Only at the peaks of history has a society produced, in an equal period, so many illustrious men—in government, education, literature, philology, geography, history, mathematics, astronomy, chemistry, philosophy, and medicine—as Islam in the four centuries between Harun al-Rashid and Averroës. (p. 465-466)
The Talmud
  • The Talmud is not a work of art. The task of reducing the thought of a thousand years into a coherent system proved too much even for a hundred patient rabbis. Several tractates are obviously in the wrong seder or order; several chapters are in the wrong tractate; subjects are taken up, dropped, and lawlessly resumed. It is not the product of deliberation, it is the deliberation itself; all views are recorded, and contradictions are often left unresolved; it is as if we had crossed fifteen centuries to eavesdrop on the most intimate discussions of the schools, and heard Akiba and Meir and Jehuda Hanasi and Rab in the heat of their debates. (p. 490)
  • News, like men, traveled slowly; intelligence of Barbarossa’s death in Cilicia took four months to reach Germany. Medieval man could eat his breakfast without being disturbed by the industriously collected calamities of the world; or those that came to his ken were fortunately too old for remedy. (P. 823)

V. The Renaissance (1953) edit

  • But it took more than a revival of antiquity to make the Renaissance. And first of all it took money—smelly bourgeois money: ... of careful calculations, investments and loans, of interest and dividends accumulated until surplus could be spared from the pleasures of the flesh, from the purchase of senates, signories, and mistresses, to pay a Michelangelo or a Titian to transmute wealth into beauty, and perfume a fortune with the breath of art. Money is the root of all civilization. (p. 67-68)
  • Like most of us he [Petrarch] enjoyed and condoned before he tired and condemned (p. 25)
  • He [Petrarch] remained vain to the end, merely pluming himself on his achievements instead of his appearance; but this is a fault that only the greatest saints can shun. His letters, so fascinating and brilliant, would have been more so without their sham modesty and honest pride. Like all of us he relished applause; he longed for fame, for literary “immortality”; so early, in this presage of the Renaissance, he struck one of its most sustained notes, the thirst for glory. He was a little jealous of his rivals, and descended to answer their slurs. He fretted some (though he denied it) at Dante’s popularity; he shuddered at Dante’s ferocity as Erasmus would at Luther’s crudity; but he suspected that there was something in the dour Florentine too deep to be fathomed by a facile pen. Himself now half French in spirit, he was too urbane to curse half the world; he lacked the passion that exalted and exhausted Italy. Equipped with several ecclesiastical benefices, he was affluent enough to despise wealth, and timid enough to like the literary life. (p.31)
  • To be a great writer he [Petrarch] had to be sensitive to beauty in form and sound, in nature and woman and man; that is, he had to suffer more than most of us from the noises and deformities of the world. He loved music, and played the lute well. He admired fine painting, and numbered Simone Martini among his friends. Women must have attracted him, for at times he spoke of them with almost anchoritic fear. After forty, he assures us, he never touched a woman carnally. “Great must be the powers of both body and mind,” he wrote, “that may suffice both to literary activity and to a wife." (p.32)
  • Amid this chaos and penury [w/ the Papacy moved to Avignon under French control) the mutilated remains of a proud antiquity nourished the visions of scholars and the dreams of patriots. Some day, the Romans believed, Rome would again be the spiritual and political capital of the world, and the barbarians beyond the Alps would send imperial tribute as well as Peter’s pence. (p. 31)
  • It is difficult to love medieval Florence, she was so hard and bitter in industry and politics; but it is easy to admire her, for she devoted her wealth to the creation of beauty. There, in the very youth of Petrarch, the Renaissance was in full swing. It developed in a stimulating atmosphere of business competition, family feuds, and private violence unparalleled in the rest of Italy. (p. 43)
  • Perhaps there would have been no Renaissance if Petrarch had had his way [for Italian unification]. The fragmentation of Italy favored the Renaissance. Large states promote order and power rather than liberty or art. The commercial rivalry of the Italian cities inaugurated and completed the work of the Crusades in developing the economy and wealth of Italy. The variety of political centers multiplied interurban strife, but these modest conflicts never totaled the death and destruction caused in France by the Hundred Years’ War. Local independence weakened the capacity of Italy to defend herself against foreign invasion, but it generated a noble rivalry of the cities and princes in cultural patronage, in the zeal to excel in architecture, sculpture, painting, education, scholarship, poetry. Renaissance Italy, like Goethe’s Germany, had many Parises.(pp. 69-70)

VI - The Reformation (1957) edit

I feel for all faiths the warm sympathy of one who has come to learn that even the trust in reason is a precarious faith, and that we are all fragments of darkness groping for the sun.
  • I have tried to be impartial, though I know that a man's past always colors his views, and that nothing else is so irritating as impartiality. (Preface)
  • II feel for all faiths the warm sympathy of one who has come to learn that even the trust in reason is a precarious faith, and that we are all fragments of darkness groping for the sun. I know no more about the ultimates than the simplest urchin in the streets. (Preface)
  • Religion is the last subject that the intellect begins to understand. In our youth we may have resented, with proud superiority, its cherished incredibilities; in our less confident years we marvel at its prosperous survival in a secular and scientific age, its patient resurrections after whatever deadly blows by Epicurus, or Lucretius, or Lucian, or Machiavelli, or Hume, or Voltaire. (p. 24)
  • Our knowledge is a receding mirage in an expanding desert of ignorance. Now life is rarely agnostic; it assumes either a natural or a supernatural source for any unexplained phenomenon, and acts on the one assumption or the other; only a small minority of minds can persistently suspend judgment in the face of contradictory evidence. The great majority of mankind feel compelled to ascribe mysterious entities or events to supernatural beings raised above “natural law.” Religion has been the worship of supernatural beings–their propitiation, solicitation, or adoration. Most men are harassed and buffeted by life, and crave supernatural assistance when natural forces fail them; they gratefully accept faiths that give dignity and hope to their existence, and order and meaning to the world; they could hardly condone so patiently the careless brutalities of nature, the bloodshed and chicaneries of history, or their own tribulations and bereavements, if they could not trust that these are parts of an inscrutable but divine design. A cosmos without known cause or fate is an intellectual prison; we long to believe that the great drama has a just author and a noble end. (p. 25)
  • Science gives man ever greater powers but ever less significance; it improves his tools and neglects his purposes; it is silent on ultimate origins, values, and aims; it gives life and history no meaning or worth that is not canceled by death or omnivorous time. So men prefer the assurance of dogma to the diffidence of reason; weary of perplexed thought and uncertain judgment, they welcome the guidance of an authoritative church, the catharsis of the confessional, the stability of a long-established creed. (p. 25)
  • If religion had not existed, the great legislators—Hammurabi, Moses, Lycurgus, Numa Pompilius—would have invented it. They did not have to, for it arises spontaneously and repeatedly from the needs and hopes of men. (p. 26)
  • Throughout the fourteenth century the Church suffered political humiliation and moral decay. She had begun with the profound sincerity and devotion of Peter and Paul; she had grown into a majestic system of familial, scholastic, social, international discipline, order, and morality; she was now degenerating into a vested interest absorbed in self-perpetuation and finance. Philip IV [of France] secured the election of a Frenchman to the papacy, and persuaded him to move the Holy See to Avignon on the Rhone. For sixty-eight years the popes were so clearly the pawns and prisoners of France that other nations gave them a rapidly diminishing reverence and revenue. (p. 28)
  • Religion normally thrives in an agricultural regime, science in an industrial economy. Every harvest is a miracle of the earth and a whim of the sky; the humble peasant, subject to weather and consumed with toil, sees supernatural forces everywhere, prays for a propitious heaven, and accepts a feudal-religious system... The city worker, the merchant, the manufacturer, the financier, live in a mathematical world of calculated quantities and processes, of material causes and regular effects; the machine and the counting table dispose them to see, over widening areas, the reign of “natural law.” (p. 38)
  • Probably the business class was the least pious; as wealth mounts, religion declines... The failure of the Crusades had left a slowly fading wonder why the God of Christendom had permitted the victory of Islam, and the capture of Constantinople by the Turks refreshed these doubts... The recovery and publication of classical texts nourished skepticism by revealing a world of learning and art that had flourished long before the birth of that Christian Church which, at the Fifth Council of the Lateran (1512–17), had denied the possibility of salvation outside her fold... The discovery of America, and the widening exploration of the East, revealed a hundred nations that with apparent impunity ignored or rejected Christ, and had faiths of their own as positive, and as morally efficacious, as Christianity. Travelers returning from “heathen” lands brought some rubbing of strange creeds and rituals with them; these alien cults touched elbows with Christian worship and belief, and rival dogmas suffered attrition in the market place and the port. (P.40)
  • Chaucer’s Troilus is the first great narrative poem in English... All long poems, however beautiful, become dull; passion is of poetry’s essence, and a passion that runs to 8,386 lines becomes prose almost as rapidly as desire consummated. Never were so many lines required to bring a lady to bed, and seldom has love hesitated, meditated, procrastinated, and capitulated with such magnificent and irrelevant rhetoric, and melodious conceits, and facile felicity of rhyme. (p. 81)
  • Chaucer knew the faults, sins, crimes, follies, and vanities of mankind, but he loved life despite them, and could put up with anybody who did not sell buncombe too dearly. He seldom denounces; he merely describes. He satirizes the women of the lower middle classes in the Wife of Bath, but he relishes her biological exuberance. He is ungallantly severe on women; his mordant quips and slurs reveal the wounded husband revenging with his pen the nightly defeats of his tongue. Yet he speaks tenderly of love, reckons no other boon so rich, and fills a gallery with portraits of good women... For the most part his humor is healthy—the hearty, lusty, full-bodied humor of well-fed Englishmen before the Puritan desiccation, marvelously mixed with the sly subtlety of modern British wit.(p. 88)
  • He [Hieronymus Bosch] is a man of the world who has survived his satirical rage, and can look upon life with the humor of one who will soon be out of the mess. He could not have painted these ghoulish fancies so skillfully if they had still possessed him. He stood above them, not so much amused as angry that humanity had ever harbored them. (P. 195)
  • Order is the mother of civilization and liberty; chaos is the midwife of dictatorship; therefore history may now and then say a good word for kings. Their medieval function was to free the individual in rising measure from local domination, and to centralize in one authority the power to legislate, judge, punish, mint, and make war. The feudal baron mourned the loss of local autonomy, but the simple citizen thought it good that there should be, in his country, one master, one coinage, one law. Men rarely hoped, in those half-illiterate days, that even kings might disappear, and leave no master but the laws and blunders that men had freely made. (P. 200)
  • The supreme figure in the Scandinavian dynasties of this age was Waldemar's daughter Margaret... Her prudence, tact, and courage astonished her contemporaries, who were accustomed to male incompetence or violence; and the feudal lords of Denmark and Norway, after dominating many kings, proudly supported this wise and beneficent queen. When Olaf came of age (1385) her diplomacy won for him the succession to the Swedish throne. Two years later he died, and her patient, far-seeing plans for the unification of Scandinavia seemed frustrated by his death. But the royal council of Denmark, seeing no male heir available who could match “Margrete” in ability to maintain order and peace, overrode Scandinavian laws against a woman ruler, and elected her Regent of the Realm (1387). Proceeding to Oslo, she was chosen Regent of Norway for life (1388), and a year later the Swedish nobles, having deposed an unsatisfactory king, made her their queen... No other European ruler of the age had so extensive a realm, or so successful a reign. (p. 201)
  • From barbarism to civilization requires a century; from civilization to barbarism needs but a day (p. 256)
  • Both the Inquisition and the witch-burning were expressions of an age afflicted with homicidal certainty in theology, as the patriotic massacres of our era may be due in part to homicidal certainty in ethnic or political theory. We must try to understand such movements in terms of their time, but they seem to us now the most unforgivable of historic crimes. A supreme and unchallengeable faith is a deadly enemy to the human mind. (p. 288)
  • To all Christian governments Christianity was not a rule of means but a means of rule; Christ was for the people, Machiavelli was preferred by the kings. The state in some measure had civilized man, but who would civilize the state? (p. 303)
  • Only by observing with what devout enthusiasm some of our contemporaries adopt economic heresies can we understand the fervor with which pious rebellious minorities followed, even to the stake, one or another turn of the religious revolution in the sixteenth century. (p. 508)
  • The “communism” that was now set up [by Anabaptists in Munster] was a war economy, as perhaps all strict communism must be; for men are by nature unequal, and can be induced to share their goods and fortunes only by a vital and common danger; internal liberty varies with external security, and communism breaks under the tensions of peace. (p. 513)
  • [On Luther] And yet his faults were his success. He was a man of war because the situation seemed to demand war, because the problems he attacked had for centuries resisted all the methods of peace. His whole life was a battle—against the sense of guilt, against the Devil, the Pope, the Emperor, Zwingli, even against the friends who would have compromised his revolt into a gentlemanly protest politely heard and carefully forgotten. What could a milder man have done against such handicaps and powers? No man of philosophic breadth, no scientific mind restricting belief to the evidence, no genial nature making generous allowances for the enemy, would have flung down so world-shaking a challenge, or would have marched so resolutely, as if in blinders, to his goal. If his predestinarian theology was as repugnant to reason and human kindness as any myth or miracle in the medieval faith, it was by this passionate irrationality that it moved the hearts of men, It is hope and terror that make men pray, not the evidence of things seen. It remains that with the blows of his rude fist he smashed the cake of custom, the shell of authority, that had blocked the movement of the European mind. If we judge greatness by influence—which is the least subjective test that we can use—we may rank Luther with Copernicus, Voltaire, and Darwin as the most powerful personalities in the modern world. More has been written about him than about any other modern man except Shakespeare and Napoleon. (p. 577)
  • [On England's Henry VIII] Born to royalty, he was surrounded from birth with obeisance and flattery; only a few men dared withstand him, and they were buried without their heads... This was the external source of Henry’s retrogression in character—that the absence of resistance to his will, after the death of More, made him as flabby in moral sense as in physique... sexual looseness was not his worst failing. He was greedy for money as well as for power, and seldom allowed considerations of humanity to halt his appropriations. His ungrateful readiness to kill women whom he had loved, or men who, like More and Cromwell, had served him loyally for many years, is despicable; yet in result he was not one tenth as murderous as the well-meaning Charles IX sanctioning the Massacre of St. Bartholomew, or Charles V condoning the sack of Rome, or German princes fighting through thirty years for their right to determine the religious beliefs of their subjects. (p. 727-728)
  • [Henry VIII, Continued] The inner source of his deterioration was the repeated frustration of his will in love and parentage. Long disappointed in his hope for a was a king possessing all England but denied the domestic joys of the simplest husband in his realm. Suffering intermittent agony from an ulcer in his leg, buffeted with revolts and crises throughout his reign, forced at almost every moment to arm against invasion, betrayal, and assassination—how could such a man develop normally, or avoid degeneration into suspicion, craft, and cruelty? And how shall we, who fret at the pinpricks of private tribulation, understand a man who bore in his mind and person the storm and stress of the English Reformation, weaned his people by perilous steps from a deeply rooted loyalty, and yet must have felt in his divided soul an erosive wonder—had he freed a nation or shattered Christendom? Danger, as well as power, was the medium in which he lived. He could never tell how far his enemies would go, or when they would succeed.(p. 727-728)
  • History is in some aspects an alternation of contrasting themes: the moods and forms of one age are repudiated by the next, which tires of tradition and lusts for novelty; classicism begets romanticism, which begets realism, which begets impressionism; a period of war calls for a decade of peace, and peace prolonged invites aggressive war. (P. 856)
  • Nomad tribes sooner or later conquer settled communities because nomads are compelled by the conditions of their life to maintain the martial qualities of courage, endurance, and solidarity. Nomads may destroy a civilization, but they never make one; they are absorbed, in blood and culture, by the conquered, and the nomad Arabs are no exception. (p. 871)
  • Every empire passes through successive phases. (1) A victorious nomad tribe settles down to enjoy its conquest of a terrain or state. “The least civilized peoples make the most extensive conquests.” (2) As social relations become more complex, a more concentrated authority is required for the maintenance of order; the tribal chieftain becomes king. (3) In this settled order wealth grows, cities multiply, education and literature develop, the arts find patrons, science and philosophy lift their heads. Advanced urbanization and comfortable wealth mark the beginning of decay. (4) The enriched society comes to prefer pleasure, luxury, and ease to enterprise, risk, or war; religion loses its hold on human imagination or belief; morals deteriorate, pederasty grows; the martial virtues and pursuits decline; mercenaries are hired to defend the society; these lack the ardor of patriotism or religious faith; the poorly defended wealth invites attack by the hungry, seething millions beyond the frontiers. (5) External attack, or internal intrigue, or both together, overthrow the state. Such was the cycle of Rome, of the Almoravids and Almohads in Spain, of Islam in Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Persia; and "it is always so" [According to the great Muslim historian, Ibn Khaldun] (P. 872)
  • Art is order, yet everything was in chaos—not religion only, but morals, social order, art itself. Gothic was fighting its losing battle with classic forms, and the artist, uprooted from his own past, had to experiment with tentatives that could not give him the grandeur of a stability mortised in confident time. In the universal turbulence faith too was hesitant, and ceased to give clear imperatives to art; religious images were attacked and shattered; sacred themes that had inspired the creator and the beholder of beauty were losing their power to stir either genius or admiration or piety. And in science the greatest revolution of all was deposing the earth from its theological throne, and losing in the endless void the little globe whose divine visitation had formed the medieval mind and generated medieval art. When would stability come again? (p. 1061)

VII. The Age of Reason Begins (1961) edit

  • "Witches were burned, and Jesuits were taken down from the scaffold to be cut to pieces alive. The milk of human kindness flowed sluggishly in the days of Good Queen Bess." (p. 54)
  • But even perfection palls when it is long continued. Change is necessary to life, sensation, and thought; an exciting novelty may seem by its very novelty to be beautiful, until the forgotten old returns on the wheel of time and is embraced as young and new. So the Renaissance drove Gothic out of Italy as barbarous, until artists and patrons, irked by pretty proportions and cramping symmetry, and laughing like cathedral gargoyles at classic columns, architraves, and pediments, brought the Gothic spirit back in the exuberant irregularities and elaborations of baroque. (p. 340)
  • History smiles at all attempts to force its flow into theoretical patterns or logical grooves; it plays havoc with our generalizations, breaks all our rules. History is baroque. (p. 342)
  • [On Phillip II of Spain] Here is one of the strangest, strongest figures in history, fanatical and conscientious, hotly hated outside Spain, passionately loved within it, a challenge to any student struggling for objectivity. His ancestry was his fate: his father was Charles V, who left him a kingdom and an obligation to bigotry; his paternal grandmother was Juana la Loca, the insane daughter of Ferdinand the Catholic; mysticism and madness were in his blood, dogma and absolutism were in his heritage. (p 356-357).
  • The [Royal Palace] symbolized Philip’s power, the [Simple] room expressed his character. He tried hard to be a saint, but could not forget that he was a king.
  • He [Philip II] had done the best he could with an intelligence too cramped by education, too narrow for his empire, too inflexible for his diverse responsibilities. We cannot know that his faith was false; we only feel that it was bigoted and cruel, like almost all the faiths of the age, and that it darkened his mind and his people while it consoled their poverty and supported his pride. But he was not the ogre that the fervent pens of his foes have pictured. He was as just and generous, within his lights, as any ruler of his century except Henry IV. He was decent in his married life, loving and loved in his family, patient under provocation, brave in adversity, conscientious in toil. He paid to the full for his rich and damning heritage. (P.366)
  • The Duke [of Lerma, Philip III's minister] was a man of some benevolence, for he promoted nearly all his relatives to lucrative offices. He did not neglect himself; in his twenty years as chief minister he grossed so fat a fortune that popular resentment estimated it at the impossible sum of 44,000,000 ducats. (P.367)
  • [On the Spanish and French war of supremacy] We must not follow all the moves of that sanguinary chess; they add nothing to our knowledge or estimation of mankind. It was a contest of strength, not of principles, each side shelving religion for military victory: [Catholic] Richelieu financing Protestant armies in Germany against Catholic Austria, [Catholic] Olivares sending 300,000 ducats yearly to the Duke of Rohan to prolong the Huguenot revolt in France. In the end Spain was crushed; her power on the seas was ended by the Dutch in the battle of the Downs (1639), and her power on land was ended by the French at Roussillon (1642) and Rocroi (1643).(P.370)
  • As long as he fears or remembers insecurity, man is a competitive animal. Groups, classes, nations, and races similarly insecure compete as covetously as their constituent individuals, and more violently, as knowing less law and having less protection; Nature calls all living things to the fray. In the broil of Europe between the Reformation (1517) and the Peace of Westphalia (1648), this collective competition used religion as a cloak and a weapon for economic or political ends. When, after a century of struggle, the combatants laid down their arms, Christianity barely survived among the ruins. (P.424)
  • To minds frozen in the perspective of today, the royal absolutism desired by Richelieu seems but a reactionary despotism; in the view of history, and of the great majority of Frenchmen in the seventeenth century, it was a liberating progress from feudal tyranny to unified rule. France was not ripe for democracy; most of its population were ill-fed, ill-clothed, illiterate, darkened with superstitions and murderous with certainties. (p. 485)
Champaigne Portrait of Richelieu
  • What was he [Richelieu] like, this Cardinal who was hardly a Christian, this great man who felt that he could not afford to be good? Philippe de Champaigne sent him down the ages in one of the most famous paintings in the Louvre: the tall figure saved from absurdity by raiment, given authority by red robe and hat, posing as if in some forensic plea, proclaiming his nobility in his clear-cut features and delicate hands, challenging his enemies with his sharp eyes, but pale with exhausting years and saddened with the consciousness of inexorable time. Here is the worldliness of power crossed with the asceticism of dedication. He had to be strong to keep his faults from defeating his purposes... He was (like most of us) vain of his appearance, avid of titles, resentful of criticism, eager for popularity. Jealous of Corneille, he wished to be known also as a dramatist and a poet; actually he wrote excellent prose, as his memoirs show. As readily as Wolsey he reconciled the following of Christ with a cautious attention to Mammon.(pp. 491-492)
  • What appears as his unfeeling cruelty was to him a necessity of rule: he took it for granted that men—certainly states—could not be managed by kindness; they had to be intimidated by severity. He loved France, but Frenchmen left him cold. He agreed with Cosimo de’ Medici that a state cannot be governed with paternosters, and with Machiavelli that the ethics of Christ cannot be safely followed in ruling or preserving a nation. “A Christian,” he wrote, “cannot too soon forgive an injury, but a ruler cannot too soon punish it when it is a crime against the state…. Without this virtue [of severity]—which becomes mercy insofar as the punishment of one culprit prevents a thousand from forgetting it—states cannot survive.” It was Richelieu who gave currency to the phrase raison d’état: i.e., the ethical code must give way to reasons of state.(p. 492)
  • What he [Richelieu] had above all was will. Few lives in all history have been so unified in their aim, so undeviating in its pursuit; the laws of motion could not be more constant. We must admire his devotion to his tasks, his wearing himself out in them through years of labor and nights without sleep. He dedicated those labors to those who could sleep without fear under cover of his sleepless care. We must concede him a surpassing courage, which faced powerful nobles and scheming women, stood them off, killed them off, dauntlessly, amid repeated plots against his life. He risked his head time and again on the issue of his policies.(p. 493)
  • We cannot judge him [Richelieu] fairly unless we see him wholly, including features that will take form as we proceed. He was a pioneer of religious toleration. He was a man of wide and sensitive culture: a connoisseur of music, a discerning collector of art, a lover of drama and poetry, a helpful friend of men of letters, the founder of the French Academy. But history properly remembers him above all as the man who freed France from that Spanish dominance which had resulted from the Religious Wars and which, in the League, had made France a pensioner, almost a dependency, of Spain. He achieved what Francis I and Henry IV had longed and failed to do: he broke the cordon strangulaire with which Hapsburg powers had encircled France. (P. 494)
  • There is something paralyzing in universal skepticism; it preserves us from theological homicide, but it takes the wind out of our sails and drains us of fortitude. We are more deeply moved by Pascal’s desperate attempt to save his faith from Montaigne than by Montaigne’s willingness to have no faith at all. (p. 522)
  • [Continuing On Montaigne] We cannot put our hearts into such criticism; it interrupts only passingly our joy in the gaya ciencia, the laughing learning, the allegro pensieroso, of this unsilenceable gossiper. Where again shall we find so animated a synthesis of wisdom and humor? There is a subtle similarity between these two qualities, since both may come from seeing things in perspective; in Montaigne they make one man. (p. 523)
  • His [Montaigne's] loquacity is redeemed by quaintness and clarity; there are no shopworn phrases here, no pompous absurdity. We are so weary of language used to conceal thought or its absence that we can overlook the egoism in these self-revelations. We are surprised to see how well this amiable causeur knows our hearts; we are relieved to find our faults shared by so wise a man, and by him so readily absolved. It is comforting to see that he too hesitates and does not know; we are delighted to be told that our ignorance, if realized, becomes philosophy. And what a relief it is, after St. Bartholomew, to come upon a man who is not sure enough to kill! (p. 523)
  • Despite his onslaught upon reason, we perceive that Montaigne begins in France, as Bacon in England, the Age of Reason. Montaigne, the critic of reason, was nothing if not reason itself. With all his curtsies to the Church, this irrationalist was a rationalist. He consented to conform only after he had sown the seeds of reason in the mind of France. And if, like Bacon, he tried to do this without disturbing the consolatory faith of the poor, we must not hold his caution or tenderness against him. He was not made for burning. He knew that he too might be wrong; he was the apostle of moderation as well as of reason; and he was too much of a gentleman to set his neighbor’s house on fire before he had any other shelter to give him. He was profounder than Voltaire because he sympathized with that which he destroyed. (p. 523)
Rubens Self-portrait
  • The greatest of his [Rubens] portraits is that which he painted of himself in 1624 for the future Charles I: immense gold-tasseled hat, revealing only the great forehead of the bald head; penetrating eyes in quizzical glance; the long sharp nose that seems to go with genius; the bristling mustache and fine red beard; this is a man well aware that he is at the top of his craft. Yet something of the physical vitality, sensuous enjoyment, and calm content that had shone in the picture of himself with Isabella Brant has gone with the years. Only failure wears out a man faster than success. (P.593)
Rubens and his first wife Isabella Brant
  • It was an astonishing career. He [Rubens] was not the uomo universale of the Renaissance ideal; yet he realized his ambition to play a role in the state as well as the studio. He was not a universal artist, like Leonardo and Michelangelo; he left no sculpture, designed no building except his home. But in painting he reached high excellence in every field. Religious pictures, pagan revels, gods and goddesses, nudity and raiment, kings and queens, children and old men, landscapes and battle scenes all poured from his brush as from a kaleidoscopic cornucopia of color and form. Rubens ended the subjection of Flemish to Italian painting, not by rebellion, but by absorption and union. (P.595)
  • He [Rubens] was not as deep as Rembrandt, but wider; he shied away from the dark depths that Rembrandt revealed; he preferred the sun, the open air, the dance of light, the color and zest of life; he repaid his own good fortune by smiling upon the world. His art is the voice of health, as ours today sometimes suggests sickness in the individual or national soul. When our own vitality lags, let us open our Rubens book anywhere and be refreshed. (P.596)
  • He had a reputation for silence, but to say nothing, especially when speaking, is half the art of diplomacy. (p. 630)
  • Belief is a protective garment; its complete divestiture leaves an intellectual nudity that longs to be clothed and warmed. (P. 634)
  • In Persia even the alphabet is art. (P.664)
  • Such was Persia, such was Islam, in this last flowering of their power and art—a civilization profoundly unlike ours of the West, and at times contemptuously hostile, denouncing us as polytheists and materialists, laughing at our matriarchal monogamy, and sometimes coming in avalanches to batter down our gates; we could not be expected to understand it, or admire its art, when the great debate was between Moslem and Christian, not yet between Darwin and Christ. The competition of the cultures is not over, but for the most part it has ceased to shed blood, and they are now free to mingle in the osmosis of mutual influence. The East takes on our industries and armaments and becomes Western, the West wearies of wealth and war and seeks inner peace. Perhaps we shall help the East to mitigate poverty and superstition, and the East will help us to humility in philosophy and refinement in art. East is West and West is East, and soon the twain will meet. (p. 673)
  • Religions are born and may die, but superstition is immortal. Only the fortunate can take life without mythology. Most of us suffer in body and soul, and Nature’s subtlest anodyne is a dose of the supernatural. Even Kepler and Newton mingled their science with mythology: Kepler believed in witchcraft, and Newton wrote less on science than on the Apocalypse. (P. 717)
  • Bodin, like Hobbes, was a frightened man trying to reason his way to stability amid the flux of revolution and war. His greatest book was infected by his time; it was a philosophy for a disordered world longing for order and peace. It cannot compare with the urbane wisdom of the Essais of the less harassed Montaigne in those same years. And yet no one since Aristotle—except possibly Ibn Khaldun—had spread political philosophy over so wide a field, or defended his prejudices with so much learning and force. Not till Hobbes’s Leviathan (1651) shall we find so resolute an effort to discover a logic in the ways of states. (p. 787)

VIII. The Age of Louis XIV (1963) edit

  • Like the others, he came from the middle class; the aristocracy is too interested in the art of life to spare time for the life of art.
    • P. 144
  • The historian, like the journalist, tends to lose the normal background of an age in the dramatic foreground of his picture, for he knows that his readers will wish to personify processes and events. Behind the rulers, ministers, courtiers, mistresses and warriors of France were men and women competing for bread and mates, scolding and loving their children, sinning and confessing, playing and quarrelling, going wearily to work, stealthily to brothels, humbly to prayer.
    • Ch II, Section I
  • Many of these legal or social taboos [of Puritan Republican England] proved too severe for human nature. We are told that a large proportion of the population under Cromwell became hypocrites, sinning as usual, pursuing money, women and power, but always with a long face, a nasal twang, and religious phrases dripping from the tongue.
    • Ch VII, Section V
  • "My Dear Witsen, you know the Jews, and you know their character and habits; you also know the Russians. I know both; and believe me, the time has not yet come to unite the two nationalities. Tell the Jews that I am obliged to them for their proposal, and that I realize how advantageous their services would be to me, but I should have pity on them were they to live in the midst of Russians" [Peter the Great in his response to a petition in 1698 for jews to be allowed formal entry to Russia]
    • Ch XVI, Section IV
  • If there were no ignorance, there would be no history.
    • Ch XVI, Section IV

IX. The Age of Voltaire (1965) edit

  • Women, when on display, dressed as in our wondering youth, when the female structure was a breathless mystery costly to behold. (p. 75)
  • Convinced that money was the philosopher's stone, he [Voltaire] put his sharp wits to the problems and tricks of finance. He cultivated bankers and was well rewarded for helping the brothers Paris to secure contracts to supply provisions and munitions to the army, our hero was a war profiteer ... In 1722 his father died, and after some resolute litigation Voltaire inherited an annuity of 4,250 francs. In thet same year he received from the Regent a pension of 2,000 livres. He was now a rich man; soon he would be a millionnaire. We must not think of him as a revolutionist, except in religion. (Ch I, Sec IX)
  • Philippe d'Orleans does not impress us as a bad man, despite the gamut of his sins. He had the vices of the flesh rather than of the soul: he was a spendthrift, a drunkard and a lecher, but he was not selfish, cruel or mean. He won a kingdom by a gamble, and gave it away with light heart and open hand. His wealth provided him with every opportunity, his power offered him no discipline. It is a pitiful sight - a man brilliant in mind, liberal in views, struggling to repair the damage done to France by the bigotry of the Great King [Louis XIV], letting noble purposes drown in meaningless intoxication, and losing love in a maelstrom of debauchery. (Ch I, Sec VIII)
  • Morally, the regency was the most shameful period in the history of France. Religion, beneficent in the villages, disgraced itself at the top by anointing men like Dubois and Tencin with high honors, so losing the respect of the emancipated intellect. The French mind enjoyed comparative freedom, but used it not to spread a humane and tolerant intelligence so much as to loose human instincts from the social control necessary to civilization; skepticism forgot Epicurus, and became epicurean. (Ch I, Sec VIII)
  • Defoe, traversing England in 1722, drew a patriotic picture of "the most flourishing and opulent country in the world," of green fields and overflowing crops, of pastures rambled by Golden Fleece, of lush grass turning into plum kine, of peasants roistering in rural sports, squires organizing peasants, nobles organizing squires, lordly manors giving laws and discipline to villages, and now and then, refuge to poets and philosophers. Word peddlers tend to idealize the countryside, if they are exempt from its harassments, boredom, insects, and toil. (Ch II, Sec I)
  • As factories and capitalism spread, the relation of the worker to his work was transformed. He no longer owned the tools of his trade, nor did he fix the hours and conditions of his toil. He had only a minor share in determining the rate of his earnings or the quality of his product. His shop was no longer the vestibule of his home; his industry was no longer a part of his family life. His work was no longer the proud fashioning of an article through all its stages; it became, by the division of labor that would so impress Adam Smith, the impersonal and tedious repetition of some part of a process whose finished product no longer expressed his artistry; he ceased to be an artisan, and became a “hand.” His wages were set by the hunger of men competing for jobs against women and children. (Ch II, Sec IV)
  • The Earl of Chesterfield, who loved the town [Bath], would doubtless have applied to its elite the description that he gave of all courts, as places where “you must expect to meet with connections without friendship, enmities without hatred, honor without virtue, appearances saved and realities sacrificed; good manners with bad morals; and all vice and virtues so disguised that whoever has only reasoned upon both would know neither when he first met them at court.” (Ch II, Sec VI)
  • [On Walpole, the British Prime Minister] He had almost no morals. He lived for years in open adultery, showing little respect for the suave decorum of aristocratic vice. He jested with Queen Caroline on her husband’s mistresses; after her death he advised her daughters to summon these maids of honor to distract the mind of the grieving King. He laughed at religion. When Caroline was dying he sent for the Archbishop of Canterbury. “Let this farce be played,” he proposed; “the Archbishop will do it very well. You may bid him be as short as you wish. He will do the Queen no hurt, any more than any good, and it will satisfy all the wise and good fools, who will call us atheists if we don’t pretend to be as great fools as they are.” He took no stock in noble motives or professions of unselfishness. Like Marlborough, he used public office to amass private wealth.(Ch III, Sec III)
  • After repeating his skeptical analysis of reason, Hume offered, as Section X of the first Enquiry, that essay “Of Miracles” which the publisher had refused to print in the Treatise. He began with his usual self-assurance: “I flatter myself that I have discovered an argument … which, if just, will, with the wise and learned, be an everlasting check to all kinds of superstitious delusion, and consequently will be useful as long as the world endures.” And then he let loose his most famous paragraphs:
    • "No testimony is sufficient to establish a miracle, unless the testimony be of such a kind that its falsehood would be more miraculous than the fact which it endeavors to establish... It forms a strong presumption against all supernatural and miraculous relations, that they are observed chiefly to abound among ignorant and barbarous nations.… It is strange … that such prodigious events never happen in our days. But it is nothing strange … that men should lie in all ages." (Ch IV, Sec V)
  • Hume went on to allege other obstacles to Christian belief: the calm neutrality of nature as between man and his rivals on the earth; the prolific variety of evils in life and history; the apparent responsibility of God for Adam’s sin, and for all sins, in a world where by Christian hypothesis nothing can happen without God’s consent. To avoid the charge of atheism, Hume put into the mouth of “a friend who loves skeptical paradoxes,” and whose principles “I can by no means approve,” a defense of Epicurus’ fancy that the gods exist, but pay no attention to mankind. The friend wonders why there cannot be an agreement between religion and philosophy not to molest each other, as he supposes there was in Hellenistic civilization:
    • "After the first alarm was over, which arose from the new paradoxes and principles of the philosophers, these teachers seem ever after, during the ages of antiquity, to have lived in great harmony with the established superstition, and to have made a fair partition of mankind between them: the former claiming all the learned and wise, the latter possessing all the vulgar and illiterate." What a way to offer a truce! (Ch IV, Sec V)
  • Many peasant fathers kept their children from school, partly through need of them on the farm, partly because they feared that education would be a troublesome superfluity in those destined to till the land. Education could not guarantee a rise in status, for class barriers were almost insurmountable in the first half of the [18th] century. (Ch VIII, Sec I)
  • Secondary education for boys [in France] was almost wholly in the hands of Jesuits, though the Oratorians and the Benedictines shared in the work. Skeptics like Voltaire and Helvétius were among the many distinguished graduates... The curriculum in the Jesuit schools had hardly changed in two centuries. Though it continued to emphasize religion and the formation of character, the material was largely classical. The authors of ancient Rome were studied in the original, and for five or six years the young scholars lived in intimacy with pagan thought; no wonder their Christian faith suffered some questioning. (Ch VIII, Sec I)
  • Social morality reflected the nature of man—selfish and generous, brutal and kind, mingling etiquette and carnage on the battlefield. In the lower and upper classes men and women gambled irresponsibly, sometimes losing the fortunes of their families; and cheating was frequent. In France, as in England, the government profited from this gambling propensity by establishing a national lottery. The most immoral feature of French life was the heartless extravagance of the court aristocracy living on revenues from peasant poverty. (Ch VIII, Sec II)
  • Prostitution was popular among the poor and the rich... A contemporary scribe reckoned the prostitutes in Paris at forty thousand; another estimate said sixty thousand. Public opinion, except in the middle classes, was lenient to such women; it knew that many nobles, clerics, and other pillars of society helped to create the demand that generated this supply; and it had the decency to condemn the poor vendor less than the affluent purchaser. (Ch VIII, Sec II)
  • Love marriages, without parental consent, were increasing in number and in literature, and they were recognized as legal if sworn to before a notary. But in the great majority of cases, even in the peasantry, marriages were still arranged by the parents as a union of properties and families rather than as a union of persons. The family, not the individual, was the unit of society; hence the continuity of the family and its property was held more important than the passing pleasures or tender sentiments of precipitate youth. Moreover, said a peasant to his daughter, “chance is less blind than love.” (Ch VIII, Sec II)
  • The Système de la nature [of d'Holbach] is the most thorough and forthright exposition of materialism and atheism in all the history of philosophy. The endless hesitations, contradictions, and subtleties of Voltaire, the vague enthusiasms and ambivalent lucubrations of Diderot, the confusing repudiations of Rousseau by Jean Jacques, are here replaced by a careful consistency of ideas, and a forceful expression in a style sometimes heavy, occasionally flowery, often eloquent, always direct and clear. Yet, realizing that seven hundred such pages would be too much for the general digestion, and anxious to reach a wider audience, d’Holbach expounded his views again, in a simpler forum, in Le Bon Sens, ou idées opposées aux idées surnaturelles (1772). Seldom has a writer been so assiduous in spreading such unpopular convictions. (Ch XXI, Sec III)
  • [Quoting Frederick the Great of Prussia in his letter to Voltaire] The average man does not deserve to be enlightened.… If the philosophers were to form a government, the people, after 150 years, would forge some new superstition, and would either pray to little idols, or to the graves in which the great men were buried, or invoke the sun, or commit some similar nonsense. Superstition is a weakness of the human mind, which is inseparably tied up with it; it has always existed, and always will. (Ch XXII, Sec V)

X. Rousseau and Revolution (1967) edit

  • "He concluded that history is an excellent teacher with few pupils." (p. 529)

XI - The Age of Napoleon (1975) edit

Co-written with Ariel Durant
  • Power dements even more than it corrupts, lowering the guard of foresight and raising the haste of action.
    • Ch. IV : The Convention: September 21, 1792 - October 26, 1795, Part V : The Reign of Terror: September 17, 1793 - July 28, 1794, § 4 : The Revolution Eats Its Children

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