History of the Conflict
Between
Religion and Science




 

Chapter I.

The Origin of Science.

Religious condition of the Greeks in the fourth century before Christ. -- Their invasion of the Persian Empire brings them in contact with new aspects of Nature, and familiarizes them with new religious systems. -- The military, engineering, and scientific activity, stimulated by the Macedonian campaigns, leads to the establishment in Alexandria of an institute, the Museum, for the cultivation of knowledge by experiment, observation, and mathematical discussion. -- It is the origin of Science.

No spectacle can be presented to the thoughtful mind more solemn, more mournful, than that of the dying of an ancient religion, which in its day has given consolation to many generations of men.
 

Four centuries before the birth of Christ, Greece was fast outgrowing her ancient faith. Her philosophers, in their studies of the world, had been profoundly impressed with the contrast between the majesty of the operations of Nature and the worthlessness of the divinities of Olympus. Her historians, considering the orderly course of political affairs, the manifest uniformity in the acts of men, and that there was no event occurring before their eyes for which they could not find an obvious cause in some preceding event, began to suspect that the miracles and celestial interventions, with which the old annals were filled, were only fictions. They demanded, when the age of the supernatural had ceased, why oracles had become mute, and why there were now no more prodigies in the world.

Traditions, descending from immemorial antiquity, and formerly accepted by pious men as unquestionable truths, had filled the islands of the Mediterranean and the conterminous countries with supernatural wonders -- enchantresses, sorcerers, giants, ogres, harpies, gorgons, centaurs, cyclops. The azure vault was the floor of heaven; there Zeus, surrounded by the gods with their wives and mistresses, held his court, engaged in pursuits like those of men, and not refraining from acts of human passion and crime.

A sea-coast broken by numerous indentations, an archipelago with some of the most lovely islands in the world, inspired the Greeks with a taste for maritime life, for geographical discovery, and colonization. Their ships wandered all over the Black and Mediterranean Seas. The time-honored wonders that had been glorified in the "Odyssey," and sacred in public faith, were found to have no existence. As a better knowledge of Nature was obtained, the sky was shown to be an illusion; it was discovered that there is no Olympus, nothing above but space and stars. With the vanishing of their habitation, the gods disappeared, both those of the Ionian type of Homer and those of the Doric of Hesiod.
 

Greek Mythology.

But this did not take place without resistance. At first, the public, and particularly its religious portion, denounced the rising doubts as atheism. They despoiled some of the offenders of their goods, exiled others; some they put to death. They asserted that what had been believed by pious men in the old times, and had stood the test of ages, must necessarily be true. Then, as the opposing evidence became irresistible, they were content to admit that these marvels were allegories under which the wisdom of the ancients had concealed many sacred and mysterious things. They tried to reconcile, what now in their misgivings they feared might be myths, with their advancing intellectual state. But their efforts were in vain, for there are predestined phases through which on such an occasion public opinion must pass. What it has received with veneration it begins to doubt, then it offers new interpretations, then subsides into dissent, and ends with a rejection of the whole as a mere fable. 

In their secession the philosophers and historians were followed by the poets. Euripides incurred the odium of heresy. Æschylus narrowly escaped being stoned to death for blasphemy. But the frantic efforts of those who are interested in supporting delusions must always end in defeat. The demoralization resistlessly extended through every branch of literature, until at length it reached the common people.
 

Effects of Discovery and Criticism.

Greek philosophical criticism had lent its aid to Greek philosophical discovery in this destruction of the national faith. It sustained by many arguments the wide-spreading unbelief. It compared the doctrines of the different schools with each other, and showed from their contradictions that man has no criterion of truth; that, since his ideas of what is good and what is evil differ according to the country in which he lives, they can have no foundation in Nature, but must be altogether the result of education; that right and wrong are nothing more than fictions created by society for its own purposes. In Athens, some of the more advanced classes had reached such a pass that they not only denied the unseen, the supernatural, they even affirmed that the world is only a day-dream, a phantasm, and that nothing at all exists. 

The topographical configuration of Greece gave an impress to her political condition. It divided her people into distinct communities having conflicting interests, and made them incapable of centralization. Incessant domestic wars between the rival states checked her advancement. She was poor, her leading men had become corrupt. They were ever ready to barter patriotic considerations for foreign gold, to sell themselves for Persian bribes. Possessing a perception of the beautiful as manifested in sculpture and architecture to a degree never attained elsewhere either before or since, Greece had lost a practical appreciation of the Good and the True. 

While European Greece, full of ideas of liberty and independence, rejected the sovereignty of Persia, Asiatic Greece acknowledged it without reluctance. At that time the Persian Empire in territorial extent was equal to half of modern Europe. It touched the waters of the Mediterranean, the Ægean, the Black, the Caspian, the Indian, the Persian, the Red Seas. Through its territories there flowed six of the grandest rivers in the world -- the Euphrates, the Tigris, the Indus, the Jaxartes, the Oxus, the Nile, each more than a thousand miles in length. Its surface reached from thirteen hundred feet below the sea-level to twenty thousand feet above. It yielded, therefore, every agricultural product. Its mineral wealth was boundless. It inherited the prestige of the Median, the Babylonian, the Assyrian, the Chaldean Empires, whose annals reached back through more than twenty centuries. 

Persia had always looked upon European Greece as politically insignificant, for it had scarcely half the territorial extent of one of her satrapies. Her expeditions for compelling its obedience had, however, taught her the military qualities of its people. In her forces were incorporated Greek mercenaries, esteemed the very best of her troops. She did not hesitate sometimes to give the command of her armies to Greek generals, of her fleets to Greek captains. In the political convulsions through which she had passed, Greek soldiers had often been used by her contending chiefs. These military operations were attended by a momentous result. They revealed, to the quick eye of these warlike mercenaries, the political weakness of the empire and the possibility of reaching its centre. After the death of Cyrus on the battle-field of Cunaxa, it was demonstrated, by the immortal retreat of the ten thousand under Xenophon, that a Greek army could force its way to and from the heart of Persia. 

That reverence for the military abilities of Asiatic generals, so profoundly impressed on the Greeks by such engineering exploits as the bridging of the Hellespont, and the cutting of the isthmus at Mount Athos by Xerxes, had been obliterated at Salamis, Platea, Mycale. To plunder rich Persian provinces had become an irresistible temptation. Such was the expedition of Agesilaus, the Spartan king, whose brilliant successes were, however, checked by the Persian government resorting to its time-proved policy of bribing the neighbors of Sparta to attack her. "I have been conquered by thirty thousand Persian archers," bitterly exclaimed Agesilaus, as he re-embarked, alluding to the Persian coin, the Daric, which was stamped with the image of an archer.
 
 
 

The Persian Empire.

At length Philip, the King of Macedon, projected a renewal of these attempts, under a far more formidable organization, and with a grander object. He managed to have himself appointed captain-general of all Greece, not for the purpose of a mere foray into the Asiatic satrapies, but for the overthrow of the Persian dynasty in the very centre of its power. Assassinated while his preparations were incomplete, he was succeeded by his son Alexander, then a youth. A general assembly of Greeks at Corinth had unanimously elected him in his father's stead. There were some disturbances in Illyria; Alexander had to march his army as far north as the Danube to quell them. During his absence the Thebans with some others conspired against him. On his return he took Thebes by assault. He massacred six thousand of its inhabitants, sold thirty thousand for slaves, and utterly demolished the city. The military wisdom of this severity was apparent in his Asiatic campaign. He was not troubled by any revolt in his rear.

In the spring B. C. 334 Alexander crossed the Hellespont into Asia. His army consisted of thirty-four thousand foot and four thousand horse. He had with him only seventy talents in money. He marched directly on the Persian army, which, vastly exceeding him in strength, was holding the line of the Granicus. He forced the passage of the river, routed the enemy, and the possession of all Asia Minor, with its treasures, was the fruit of the victory. The remainder of that year he spent in the military organization of the conquered provinces. Meantime Darius, the Persian king, had advanced an army of six hundred thousand men to prevent the passage of the Macedonians into Syria. In a battle that ensued among the mountain-defiles at Issus, the Persians were again overthrown. So great was the slaughter that Alexander, and Ptolemy, one of his generals, crossed over a ravine choked with dead bodies. It was estimated that the Persian loss was not less than ninety thousand foot and ten thousand horse. The royal pavilion fell into the conqueror's hands, and with it the wife and several of the children of Darius. Syria was thus added to the Greek conquests. In Damascus were found many of the concubines of Darius and his chief officers, together with a vast treasure.
  

The Macedonian Campaign.

Before venturing into the plains of Mesopotamia for the final struggle, Alexander, to secure his rear and preserve his communications with the sea, marched southward down the Mediterranean coast, reducing the cities in his way. In his speech before the council of war after Issus, he told his generals that they must not pursue Darius with Tyre unsubdued, and Persia in possession of Egypt and Cyprus, for, if Persia should regain her seaports, she would transfer the war into Greece, and that it was absolutely necessary for him to be sovereign at sea. With Cyprus and Egypt in his possession he felt no solicitude about Greece. The siege of Tyre cost him more than half a year. In revenge for this delay, he crucified, it is said, two thousand of his prisoners. Jerusalem voluntarily surrendered, and therefore was treated leniently: but the passage of the Macedonian army into Egypt being obstructed at Gaza, the Persian governor of which, Betis, made a most obstinate defense, that place, after a siege of two months, was carried by assault, ten thousand of its men were massacred, and the rest, with their wives and children, sold into slavery. Betis himself was dragged alive round the city at the chariot-wheels of the conqueror. There was now no further obstacle. The Egyptians, who detested the Persian rule, received their invader with open arms. He organized the country in his own interest, intrusting all its military commands to Macedonian officers, and leaving the civil government in the hands of native Egyptians.
 

Conquest of Egypt.

While preparations for the final campaign were being made, he undertook a journey to the temple of Jupiter Ammon, which was situated in an oasis of the Libyan Desert, at a distance of two hundred miles. The oracle declared him to be a son of that god who, under the form of a serpent, had beguiled Olympias, his mother. Immaculate conceptions and celestial descents were so currently received in those days, that whoever had greatly distinguished himself in the affairs of men was thought to be of supernatural lineage. Even in Rome, centuries later, no one could with safety have denied that the city owed its founder, Romulus, to an accidental meeting of the god Mars with the virgin Rhea Sylvia, as she went with her pitcher for water to the spring. The Egyptian disciples of Plato would have looked with anger on those who rejected the legend that Perictione, the mother of that great philosopher, a pure virgin, had suffered an immaculate conception through the influences of Apollo, and that the god had declared to Ariston, to whom she was betrothed, the parentage of the child. When Alexander issued his letters, orders, and decrees, styling himself "King Alexander, the son of Jupiter Ammon," they came to the inhabitants of Egypt and Syria with an authority that now can hardly be realized. The free-thinking Greeks, however, put on such a supernatural pedigree its proper value. Olympias, who, of course, better than all others knew the facts of the case, used jestingly to say, that "she wished Alexander would cease from incessantly embroiling her with Jupiter's wife." Arrian, the historian of the Macedonian expedition, observes, "I cannot condemn him for endeavoring to draw his subjects into the belief of his divine origin, nor can I be induced to think it any great crime, for it is very reasonable to imagine that he intended no more by it than merely to procure the greater authority among his soldiers." 

All things being thus secured in his rear, Alexander, having returned into Syria, directed the march of his army, now consisting of fifty thousand veterans, eastward. After crossing the Euphrates, he kept close to the Masian hills, to avoid the intense heat of the more southerly Mesopotamian plains; more abundant forage could also thus be procured for the cavalry. On the left bank of the Tigris, near Arbela, he encountered the great army of eleven hundred thousand men brought up by Darius from Babylon. The death of the Persian monarch, which soon followed the defeat he suffered, left the Macedonian general master of all the countries from the Danube to the Indus. Eventually he extended his conquest to the Ganges. The treasures he seized are almost beyond belief. At Susa alone he found -- so Arrian says -- fifty thousand talents in money.
 

Greek Conquest of Persia.

The modern military student cannot look upon these wonderful campaigns without admiration. The passage of the Hellespont; the forcing of the Granicus; the winter spent in a political organization of conquered Asia Minor; the march of the right wing and centre of the army along the Syrian Mediterranean coast; the engineering difficulties overcome at the siege of Tyre; the storming of Gaza; the isolation of Persia from Greece; the absolute exclusion of her navy from the Mediterranean; the check on all her attempts at intriguing with or bribing Athenians or Spartans, heretofore so often resorted to with success; the submission of Egypt; another winter spent in the political organization of that venerable country; the convergence of the whole army from the Black and Red Seas toward the nitre-covered plains of Mesopotamia in the ensuing spring; the passage of the Euphrates fringed with its weeping-willows at the broken bridge of Thapsacus; the crossing of the Tigris; the nocturnal reconnaissance before the great and memorable battle of Arbela; the oblique movement on the field; the piercing of the enemy's centre -- a manœuvre destined to be repeated many centuries subsequently at Austerlitz; the energetic pursuit of the Persian monarch; these are exploits not surpassed by any soldier of later times.
 

Events of the Campaigns.

A prodigious stimulus was thus given to Greek intellectual activity. There were men who had marched with the Macedonian army from the Danube to the Nile, from the Nile to the Ganges. They had felt the hyperborean blasts of the countries beyond the Black Sea, the simooms and sand-tempests of the Egyptian deserts. They had seen the Pyramids which had already stood for twenty centuries, the hieroglyph-covered obelisks of Luxor, avenues of silent and mysterious sphinxes, colossi of monarchs who reigned in the morning of the world. In the halls of Esar-haddon they had stood before the thrones of grim old Assyrian kings, guarded by winged bulls. In Babylon there still remained its walls, once more than sixty miles in compass, and, after the ravages of three centuries and three conquerors, still more than eighty feet in height; there were still the ruins of the temple of cloud encompassed Bel, on its top was planted the observatory wherein the weird Chaldean astronomers had held nocturnal communion with the stars; still there were vestiges of the two palaces with their hanging gardens in which were great trees growing in mid-air, and the wreck of the hydraulic machinery that had supplied them with water from the river. Into the artificial lake with its vast apparatus of aqueducts and sluices the melted snows of the Armenian mountains found their way, and were confined in their course through the city by the embankments of the Euphrates. Most wonderful of all, perhaps, was the tunnel under the river-bed. 

If Chaldea, Assyria, Babylon, presented stupendous and venerable antiquities reaching far back into the night of time, Persia was not without her wonders of a later date. The pillared halls of Persepolis were filled with miracles of art -- carvings, sculptures, enamels, alabaster libraries, obelisks, sphinxes, colossal bulls. Ecbatana, the cool summer retreat of the Persian kings, was defended by seven encircling walls of hewn and polished blocks, the interior ones in succession of increasing height, and of different colors, in astrological accordance with the seven planets. The palace was roofed with silver tiles, its beams were plated with gold. At midnight, in its halls the sunlight was rivaled by many a row of naphtha cressets. A paradise -- that luxury of the monarchs of the East -- was planted in the midst of the city. The Persian Empire, from the Hellespont to the Indus, was truly the garden of the world.

I have devoted a few pages to the story of these marvelous campaigns, for the military talent they fostered led to the establishment of the mathematical and practical schools of Alexandria, the true origin of science. We trace back all our exact knowledge to the Macedonian campaigns. Humboldt has well observed, that an introduction to new and grand objects of Nature enlarges the human mind. The soldiers of Alexander and the hosts of his camp-followers encountered at every march unexpected and picturesque scenery. Of all men, the Greeks were the most observant, the most readily and profoundly impressed. Here there were interminable sandy plains, there mountains whose peaks were lost above the clouds. In the deserts were mirages, on the hill-sides shadows of fleeting clouds sweeping over the forests. They were in a land of amber-colored date-palms and cypresses, of tamarisks, green myrtles, and oleanders. At Arbela they had fought against Indian elephants; in the thickets of the Caspian they had roused from his lair the lurking royal tiger. They had seen animals which, compared with those of Europe, were not only strange, but colossal -- the rhinoceros, the hippopotamus, the camel, the crocodiles of the Nile and the Ganges. They had encountered men of many complexions and many costumes: the swarthy Syrian, the olive-colored Persian, the black African. Even of Alexander himself it is related that on his death-bed he caused his admiral, Nearchus, to sit by his side, and found consolation in listening to the adventures of that sailor -- the story of his voyage from the Indus up the Persian Gulf. The conqueror had seen with astonishment the ebbing and flowing of the tides. He had built ships for the exploration of the Caspian, supposing that it and the Black Sea might be gulfs of a great ocean, such as Nearchus had discovered the Persian and Red Seas to be. He had formed a resolution that his fleet should attempt the circumnavigation of Africa, and come into the Mediterranean through the Pillars of Hercules -- a feat which, it was affirmed, had once been accomplished by the Pharaohs.
 

Effects on the Greek Army.

Not only her greatest soldiers, but also her greatest philosophers, found in the conquered empire much that might excite the admiration of Greece. Callisthenes obtained in Babylon a series of Chaldean astronomical observations ranging back through 1,903 years; these he sent to Aristotle. Perhaps, since they were on burnt bricks, duplicates of them may be recovered by modern research in the clay libraries of the Assyrian kings. Ptolemy, the Egyptian astronomer, possessed a Babylonian record of eclipses, going back 747 years before our era. Long-continued and close observations were necessary, before some of these astronomical results that have reached our times could have been ascertained. Thus the Babylonians had fixed the length of a tropical year within twenty-five seconds of the truth; their estimate of the sidereal year was barely two minutes in excess. They had detected the precession of the equinoxes. They knew the causes of eclipses, and, by the aid of their cycle called Saros, could predict them. Their estimate of the value of that cycle, which is more than 6,585 days, was within nineteen and a half minutes of the truth.

Such facts furnish incontrovertible proof of the patience and skill with which astronomy had been cultivated in Mesopotamia, and that, with very inadequate instrumental means, it had reached no inconsiderable perfection. These old observers had made a catalogue of the stars, had divided the zodiac into twelve signs; they had parted the day into twelve hours, the night into twelve. They had, as Aristotle says, for a long time devoted themselves to observations of star-occultations by the moon. They had correct views of the structure of the solar system, and knew the order of the emplacement of the planets. They constructed sundials, clepsydras, astrolabes, gnomons. 

Not without interest do we still look on specimens of their method of printing. Upon a revolving roller they engraved, in cuneiform letters, their records, and, running this over plastic clay formed into blocks, produced ineffaceable proofs. From their tile-libraries we are still to reap a literary and historical harvest. They were not without some knowledge of optics. The convex lens found at Nimroud shows that they were not unacquainted with magnifying instruments. In arithmetic they had detected the value of position in the digits, though they missed the grand Indian invention of the cipher. 

What a spectacle for the conquering Greeks, who, up to this time, had neither experimented nor observed! They had contented themselves with mere meditation and useless speculation. 
  

Intellectual Condition of Persia.

But Greek intellectual development, due thus in part to a more extended view of Nature, was powerfully aided by the knowledge then acquired of the religion of the conquered country. The idolatry of Greece had always been a horror to Persia, who, in her invasions, had never failed to destroy the temples and insult the fanes of the bestial gods. The impunity with which these sacrileges had been perpetrated had made a profound impression, and did no little to undermine Hellenic faith. But now the worshiper of the vile Olympian divinities, whose obscene lives must have been shocking to every pious man, was brought in contact with a grand, a solemn, a consistent religious system, having its foundation on a philosophical basis. Persia, as is the case with all empires of long duration, had passed through many changes of religion. She had followed the Monotheism of Zoroaster; had then accepted Dualism, and exchanged that for Magianism. At the time of the Macedonian expedition, she recognized one universal Intelligence, the Creator, Preserver, and Governor of all things, the most holy essence of truth, the giver of all good. He was not to be represented by any image, or any graven form. And, since, in every thing here below, we see the resultant of two opposing forces, under him were two coequal and coeternal principles, represented by the imagery of Light and Darkness. These principles are in never-ending conflict. The world is their battle-ground, man is their prize. 

In the old legends of Dualism, the Evil Spirit was said to have sent a serpent to ruin the paradise which the Good Spirit had made. These legends became known to the Jews during their Babylonian captivity. 

The existence of a principle of evil is the necessary incident of the existence of a principle of good, as a shadow is the necessary incident of the presence of light. In this manner could be explained the occurrence of evil in a world, the maker and ruler of which is supremely good. Each of the personified principles of light and darkness, Ormuzd and Ahriman, had his subordinate angels, his counselors, his armies. It is the duty of a good man to cultivate truth, purity, and industry. He may look forward, when this life is over, to a life in another world, and trust to a resurrection of the body, the immortality of the soul, and a conscious future existence.
  

Its Religious Condition.

In the later years of the empire, the principles of Magianism had gradually prevailed more and more over those of Zoroaster. Magianism was essentially a worship of the elements. Of these, fire was considered as the most worthy representative of the Supreme Being. On altars erected, not in temples, but under the blue canopy of the sky, perpetual fires were kept burning, and the rising sun was regarded as the noblest object of human adoration. In the society of Asia, nothing is visible but the monarch; in the expanse of heaven, all objects vanish in presence of the sun.

Prematurely cut off in the midst of many great projects, Alexander died at Babylon before he had completed his thirty-third year (B. C. 323). There was a suspicion that he had been poisoned. His temper had become so unbridled, his passion so ferocious, that his generals and even his intimate friends lived in continual dread. Clitus, one of the latter, he in a moment of fury had stabbed to the heart. Callisthenes, the intermedium between himself and Aristotle, he had caused to be hanged, or, as was positively asserted by some who knew the facts, had had him put upon the rack and then crucified. It may have been in self-defense that the conspirators resolved on his assassination. But surely it was a calumny to associate the name of Aristotle with this transaction. He would have rather borne the worst that Alexander could inflict, than have joined in the perpetration of so great a crime. 
  

Death of Alexander.

A scene of confusion and bloodshed lasting many years ensued, nor did it cease even after the Macedonian generals had divided the empire. Among its vicissitudes one incident mainly claims our attention. Ptolemy, who was a son of King Philip by Arsinoe, a beautiful concubine, and who in his boyhood had been driven into exile with Alexander, when they incurred their father's displeasure, who had been Alexander's comrade in many of his battles and all his campaigns, became governor and eventually king of Egypt. 

At the siege of Rhodes, Ptolemy had been of such signal service to its citizens that in gratitude they paid divine honors to him, and saluted him with the title of Soter (the Savior). By that designation -- Ptolemy Soter -- he is distinguished from succeeding kings of the Macedonian dynasty in Egypt. 

He established his seat of government not in any of the old capitals of the country, but in Alexandria. At the time of the expedition to the temple of Jupiter Ammon, the Macedonian conqueror had caused the foundations of that city to be laid, foreseeing that it might be made the commercial entrepot between Asia and Europe. It is to be particularly remarked that not only did Alexander himself deport many Jews from Palestine to people the city, and not only did Ptolemy Soter bring one hundred thousand more after his siege of Jerusalem, but Philadelphus, his successor, redeemed from slavery one hundred and ninety-eight thousand of that people, paying their Egyptian owners a just money equivalent for each. To all these Jews the same privileges were accorded as to the Macedonians. In consequence of this considerate treatment, vast numbers of their compatriots and many Syrians voluntarily came into Egypt. To them the designation of Hellenistical Jews was given. In like manner, tempted by the benign government of Soter, multitudes of Greeks sought refuge in the country, and the invasions of Perdiccas and Antigonus showed that Greek soldiers would desert from other Macedonian generals to join his armies. 
  

Foundation of Alexandria.

The population of Alexandria was therefore of three distinct nationalities: 1. Native Egyptians 2. Greeks; 3. Jews -- a fact that has left an impress on the religious faith of modern Europe. 

Greek architects and Greek engineers had made Alexandria the most beautiful city of the ancient world. They had filled it with magnificent palaces, temples, theatres. In its centre, at the intersection of its two grand avenues, which crossed each other at right angles, and in the midst of gardens, fountains, obelisks, stood the mausoleum, in which, embalmed after the manner of the Egyptians, rested the body of Alexander. In a funereal journey of two years it had been brought with great pomp from Babylon. At first the coffin was of pure gold, but this having led to a violation of the tomb, it was replaced by one of alabaster. But not these, not even the great light-house, Pharos, built of blocks of white marble and so high that the fire continually burning on its top could be seen many miles off at sea -- the Pharos counted as one of the seven wonders of the world -- it is not these magnificent achievements of architecture that arrest our attention; the true, the most glorious monument of the Macedonian kings of Egypt is the Museum. Its influences will last when even the Pyramids have passed away. 

The Alexandrian Museum was commenced by Ptolemy Soter, and was completed by his son Ptolemy Philadelphus. It was situated in the Bruchion, the aristocratic quarter of the city, adjoining the king's palace. Built of marble, it was surrounded with a piazza, in which the residents might walk and converse together. Its sculptured apartments contained the Philadelphian library, and were crowded with the choicest statues and pictures. This library eventually comprised four hundred thousand volumes. In the course of time, probably on account of inadequate accommodation for so many books, an additional library was established in the adjacent quarter Rhacotis, and placed in the Serapion or temple of Serapis. The number of volumes in this library, which was called the Daughter of that in the Museum, was eventually three hundred thousand. There were, therefore, seven hundred thousand volumes in these royal collections. 

Alexandria was not merely the capital of Egypt, it was the intellectual metropolis of the world. Here it was truly said the Genius of the East met the Genius of the West, and this Paris of antiquity became a focus of fashionable dissipation and universal skepticism. In the allurements of its bewitching society even the Jews forgot their patriotism. They abandoned the language of their forefathers, and adopted Greek. 
  

The Alexandrian Museum.

In the establishment of the Museum, Ptolemy Soter and his son Philadelphus had three objects in view: 1. The perpetuation of such knowledge as was then in the world; 2. Its increase; 3. Its diffusion. 

1. For the perpetuation of knowledge. Orders were given to the chief librarian to buy at the king's expense whatever books he could. A body of transcribers was maintained in the Museum, whose duty it was to make correct copies of such works as their owners were not disposed to sell. Any books brought by foreigners into Egypt were taken at once to the Museum, and, when correct copies had been made, the transcript was given to the owner, and the original placed in the library. Often a very large pecuniary indemnity was paid. Thus it is said of Ptolemy Euergetes that, having obtained from Athens the works of Euripides, Sophocles, and Æschylus, he sent to their owners transcripts, together with about fifteen thousand dollars, as an indemnity. On his return from the Syrian expedition he carried back in triumph all the Egyptian monuments from Ecbatana and Susa, which Cambyses and other invaders had removed from Egypt. These he replaced in their original seats, or added as adornments to his museums. When works were translated as well as transcribed, sums which we should consider as almost incredible were paid, as was the case with the Septuagint translation of the Bible, ordered by Ptolemy Philadelphus. 

2. For the increase of knowledge. One of the chief objects of the Museum was that of serving as the home of a body of men who devoted themselves to study, and were lodged and maintained at the king's expense. Occasionally he himself sat at their table. Anecdotes connected with those festive occasions have descended to our times. In the original organization of the Museum the residents were divided into four faculties -- literature; mathematics, astronomy, medicine. Minor branches were appropriately classified under one of these general heads; thus natural history was considered to be a branch of medicine. An officer of very great distinction presided over the establishment, and had general charge of its interests. Demetrius Phalareus, perhaps the most learned man of his age, who had been governor of Athens for many years, was the first so appointed. Under him was the librarian, an office sometimes held by men whose names have descended to our times, as Eratosthenes, and Apollonius Rhodius. 

In connection with the Museum were a botanical and a zoological garden. These gardens, as their names import, were for the purpose of facilitating the study of plants and animals. There was also an astronomical observatory containing armillary spheres, globes, solstitial and equatorial armils, astrolabes, parallactic rules, and other apparatus then in use, the graduation on the divided instruments being into degrees and sixths. On the floor of this observatory a meridian line was drawn. The want of correct means of measuring time and temperature was severely felt; the clepsydra of Ctesibius answered very imperfectly for the former, the hydrometer floating in a cup of water for the latter; it measured variations of temperature by variations of density. Philadelphus, who toward the close of his life was haunted with an intolerable dread of death, devoted much of his time to the discovery of an elixir. For such pursuits the Museum was provided with a chemical laboratory. In spite of the prejudices of the age, and especially in spite of Egyptian prejudices, there was in connection with the medical department an anatomical room for the dissection, not only of the dead, but actually of the living, who for crimes had been condemned.

3. For the diffusion of knowledge. In the Museum was given, by lectures, conversation, or other appropriate methods, instruction in all the various departments of human knowledge. There flocked to this great intellectual centre, students from all countries. It is said that at one time not fewer than fourteen thousand were in attendance. Subsequently even the Christian church received from it some of the most eminent of its Fathers, as Clemens Alexandrinus, Origen, Athanasius. 

The library in the Museum was burnt during the siege of Alexandria by Julius Cæsar. To make amends for this great loss, that collected by Eumenes, King of Pergamus, was presented by Mark Antony to Queen Cleopatra. Originally it was founded as a rival to that of the Ptolemies. It was added to the collection in the Serapion.
 
 
  

Organization of the Museum.

It remains now to describe briefly the philosophical basis of the Museum, and some of its contributions to the stock of human knowledge.

In memory of the illustrious founder of this most noble institution -- an institution which antiquity delighted to call "The divine school of Alexandria" -- we must mention in the first rank his "History of the Campaigns of Alexander." Great as a soldier and as a sovereign, Ptolemy Soter added to his glory by being an author. Time, which has not been able to destroy the memory of our obligations to him, has dealt unjustly by his work. It is not now extant. 

As might be expected from the friendship that existed between Alexander, Ptolemy, and Aristotle, the Aristotelian philosophy was the intellectual corner-stone on which the Museum rested. King Philip had committed the education of Alexander to Aristotle, and during the Persian campaigns the conqueror contributed materially, not only in money, but otherwise, toward the "Natural History" then in preparation. 

The essential principle of the Aristotelian philosophy was, to rise from the study of particulars to a knowledge of general principles or universals, advancing to them by induction. The induction is the more certain as the facts on which it is based are more numerous; its correctness is established if it should enable us to predict other facts until then unknown. This system implies endless toil in the collection of facts, both by experiment and observation; it implies also a close meditation on them. It is, therefore, essentially a method of labor and of reason, not a method of imagination. The failures that Aristotle himself so often exhibits are no proof of its unreliability, but rather of its trustworthiness. They are failures arising from want of a sufficiency of facts.

Some of the general results at which Aristotle arrived are very grand. Thus, he concluded that every thing is ready to burst into life, and that the various organic forms presented to us by Nature are those which existing conditions permit. Should the conditions change, the forms will also change. Hence there is an unbroken chain from the simple element through plants and animals up to man, the different groups merging by insensible shades into each other. 

The inductive philosophy thus established by Aristotle is a method of great power. To it all the modern advances in science are due. In its most improved form it rises by inductions from phenomena to their causes, and then, imitating the method of the Academy, it descends by deductions from those causes to the detail of phenomena. 

While thus the Scientific School of Alexandria was founded on the maxims of one great Athenian philosopher, the Ethical School was founded on the maxims of another, for Zeno, though a Cypriote or Phœnician, had for many years been established at Athens. His disciples took the name of Stoics. His doctrines long survived him, and, in times when there was no other consolation for man, offered a support in the hour of trial, and an unwavering guide in the vicissitudes of life, not only to illustrious Greeks, but also to many of the great philosophers, statesmen, generals, and emperors of Rome. 
  

Ethical School of the Museum.

The aim of Zeno was, to furnish a guide for the daily practice of life, to make men virtuous. He insisted that education is the true foundation of virtue, for, if we know what is good, we shall incline to do it. We must trust to sense, to furnish the data of knowledge, and reason will suitably combine them. In this the affinity of Zeno to Aristotle is plainly seen. Every appetite, lust, desire, springs from imperfect knowledge. Our nature is imposed upon us by Fate, but we must learn to control our passions, and live free, intelligent, virtuous, in all things in accordance with reason. Our existence should be intellectual, we should survey with equanimity all pleasures and all pains. We should never forget that we are freemen, not the slaves of society. "I possess," said the Stoic, "a treasure which not all the world can rob me of -- no one can deprive me of death." We should remember that Nature in her operations aims at the universal, and never spares individuals, but uses them as means for the accomplishment of her ends. It is, therefore, for us to submit to Destiny, cultivating, as the things necessary to virtue, knowledge, temperance, fortitude, justice. We must remember that every thing around us is in mutation; decay follows reproduction, and reproduction decay, and that it is useless to repine at death in a world where every thing is dying. As a cataract shows from year to year an invariable shape, though the water composing it is perpetually changing, so the aspect of Nature is nothing more than a flow of matter presenting an impermanent form. The universe, considered as a whole, is unchangeable. Nothing is eternal but space, atoms, force. The forms of Nature that we see are essentially transitory, they must all pass away.
 
 

The Principles of Stoicism.

We must bear in mind that the majority of men are imperfectly educated, and hence we must not needlessly offend the religious ideas of our age. It is enough for us ourselves to know that, though there is a Supreme Power, there is no Supreme Being. There is an invisible principle, but not a personal God, to whom it would be not so much blasphemy as absurdity to impute the form, the sentiments, the passions of man. All revelation is, necessarily, a mere fiction. That which men call chance is only the effect of an unknown cause. Even of chances there is a law. There is no such thing as Providence, for Nature proceeds under irresistible laws, and in this respect the universe is only a vast automatic engine. The vital force which pervades the world is what the illiterate call God. The modifications through which all things are running take place in an irresistible way, and hence it may be said that the progress of the world is, under Destiny, like a seed, it can evolve only in a predetermined mode. 

The soul of man is a spark of the vital flame, the general vital principle. Like heat, it passes from one to another, and is finally reabsorbed or reunited in the universal principle from which it came. Hence we must not expect annihilation, but reunion; and, as the tired man looks forward to the insensibility of sleep, so the philosopher, weary of the world, should look forward to the tranquillity of extinction. Of these things, however, we should think doubtingly, since the mind can produce no certain knowledge from its internal resources alone. It is unphilosophical to inquire into first causes; we must deal only with phenomena. Above all, we must never forget that man cannot ascertain absolute truth, and that the final result of human inquiry into the matter is, that we are incapable of perfect knowledge; that, even if the truth be in our possession, we cannot be sure of it.

What, then, remains for us? Is it not this -- the acquisition of knowledge, the cultivation of virtue and of friendship, the observance of faith and truth, an unrepining submission to whatever befalls us, a life led in accordance with reason?
  

Stoicism in the Museum.

But, though the Alexandrian Museum was especially intended for the cultivation of the Aristotelian philosophy, it must not be supposed that other systems were excluded. Platonism was not only carried to its full development, but in the end it supplanted Peripateticism, and through the New Academy left a permanent impress on Christianity. The philosophical method of Plato was the inverse of that of Aristotle. Its starting-point was universals, the very existence of which was a matter of faith, and from these it descended to particulars, or details. Aristotle, on the contrary, rose from particulars to universals, advancing to them by inductions. 

Plato, therefore, trusted to the imagination, Aristotle to reason. The former descended from the decomposition of a primitive idea into particulars, the latter united particulars into a general conception. Hence the method of Plato was capable of quickly producing what seemed to be splendid, though in reality unsubstantial results; that of Aristotle was more tardy in its operation, but much more solid. It implied endless labor in the collection of facts, a tedious resort to experiment and observation, the application of demonstration. The philosophy of Plato is a gorgeous castle in the air; that of Aristotle a solid structure, laboriously, and with many failures, founded on the solid rock. 

An appeal to the imagination is much more alluring than the employment of reason. In the intellectual decline of Alexandria, indolent methods were preferred to laborious observation and severe mental exercise. The schools of Neo-Platonism were crowded with speculative mystics, such as Ammonius Saccas and Plotinus. These took the place of the severe geometers of the old Museum.
  

Platonism in the Museum.

The Alexandrian school offers the first example of that system which, in the hands of modern physicists, has led to such wonderful results. It rejected imagination, and made its theories the expression of facts obtained by experiment and observation, aided by mathematical discussion. It enforced the principle that the true method of studying Nature is by experimental interrogation. The researches of Archimedes in specific gravity, and the works of Ptolemy on optics, resemble our present investigations in experimental philosophy, and stand in striking contrast with the speculative vagaries of the older writers. Laplace says that the only observation which the history of astronomy offers us, made by the Greeks before the school of Alexandria, is that of the summer solstice of the year B. C. 432, by Meton and Euctemon. We have, for the first time, in that school, a combined system of observations made with instruments for the measurement of angles, and calculated by trigonometrical methods. Astronomy then took a form which subsequent ages could only perfect.

It does not accord with the compass or the intention of this work to give a detailed account of the contributions of the Alexandrian Museum to the stock of human knowledge. It is sufficient that the reader should obtain a general impression of their character. For particulars, I may refer him to the sixth chapter of my "History of the Intellectual Development of Europe." 
  

Physical Science in the Museum.

It has just been remarked that the Stoical philosophy doubted whether the mind can ascertain absolute truth. While Zeno was indulging in such doubts, Euclid was preparing his great work, destined to challenge contradiction from the whole human race. After more than twenty-two centuries it still survives, a model of accuracy, perspicuity, and a standard of exact demonstration. This great geometer not only wrote on other mathematical topics, such as Conic Sections and Porisms, but there are imputed to him treatises on Harmonics and Optics, the latter subject being discussed on the hypothesis of rays issuing from the eye to the object. 

With the Alexandrian mathematicians and physicists must be classed Archimedes, though he eventually resided in Sicily. Among his mathematical works were two books on the Sphere and Cylinder, in which he gave the demonstration that the solid content of a sphere is two-thirds that of its circumscribing cylinder. So highly did he esteem this, that he directed the diagram to be engraved on his tombstone. He also treated of the quadrature of the circle and of the parabola; he wrote on Conoids and Spheroids, and on the spiral that bears his name, the genesis of which was suggested to him by his friend Conon the Alexandrian. As a mathematician, Europe produced no equal to him for nearly two thousand years. In physical science he laid the foundation of hydrostatics; invented a method for the determination of specific gravities; discussed the equilibrium of floating bodies; discovered the true theory of the lever, and invented a screw, which still bears his name, for raising the water of the Nile. To him also are to be attributed the endless screw, and a peculiar form of burning-mirror, by which, at the siege of Syracuse, it is said that he set the Roman fleet on fire.
  

Euclid -- Archimedes.

Eratosthenes, who at one time had charge of the library, was the author of many important works. Among them may be mentioned his determination of the interval between the tropics, and an attempt to ascertain the size of the earth. He considered the articulation and expansion of continents, the position of mountain-chains, the action of clouds, the geological submersion of lands, the elevation of ancient sea-beds, the opening of the Dardanelles and the straits of Gibraltar, and the relations of the Euxine Sea. He composed a complete system of the earth, in three books -- physical, mathematical, historical -- accompanied by a map of all the parts then known. It is only of late years that the fragments remaining of his "Chronicles of the Theban Kings" have been justly appreciated. For many centuries they were thrown into discredit by the authority of our existing absurd theological chronology. 

It is unnecessary to adduce the arguments relied upon by the Alexandrians to prove the globular form of the earth. They had correct ideas respecting the doctrine of the sphere, its poles, axis, equator, arctic and antarctic circles, equinoctial points, solstices, the distribution of climates, etc. I cannot do more than merely allude to the treatises on Conic Sections and on Maxima and Minima by Apollonius, who is said to have been the first to introduce the words ellipse and hyperbola. In like manner I must pass the astronomical observations of Alistyllus and Timocharis. It was to those of the latter on Spica Virginis that Hipparchus was indebted for his great discovery of the precession of the eqninoxes. Hipparchus also determined the first inequality of the moon, the equation of the centre. He adopted the theory of epicycles and eccentrics, a geometrical conception for the purpose of resolving the apparent motions of the heavenly bodies on the principle of circular movement. He also undertook to make a catalogue of the stars by the method of alineations -- that is, by indicating those that are in the same apparent straight line. The number of stars so catalogued was 1,080. If he thus attempted to depict the aspect of the sky, he endeavored to do the same for the surface of the earth, by marking the position of towns and other places by lines of latitude and longitude. He was the first to construct tables of the sun and moon. 
  

Eratosthenes -- Apollonius -- Hipparchus.

In the midst of such a brilliant constellation of geometers, astronomers, physicists, conspicuously shines forth Ptolemy, the author of the great work, "Syntaxis," "a Treatise on the Mathematical Construction of the Heavens." It maintained its ground for nearly fifteen hundred years, and indeed was only displaced by the immortal "Principia" of Newton. It commences with the doctrine that the earth is globular and fixed in space, it describes the construction of a table of chords, and instruments for observing the solstices, it deduces the obliquity of the ecliptic, it finds terrestrial latitudes by the gnomon, describes climates, shows how ordinary may be converted into sidereal time, gives reasons for preferring the tropical to the sidereal year, furnishes the solar theory on the principle of the sun's orbit being a simple eccentric, explains the equation of time, advances to the discussion of the motions of the moon, treats of the first inequality, of her eclipses, and the motion of her nodes. It then gives Ptolemy's own great discovery -- that which has made his name immortal -- the discovery of the moon's evection or second inequality, reducing it to the epicyclic theory. It attempts the determination of the distances of the sun and moon from the earth -- with, however, only partial success. It considers the precession of the equinoxes, the discovery of Hipparchus, the full period of which is twenty-five thousand years. It gives a catalogue of 1,022 stars, treats of the nature of the milky-way, and discusses in the most masterly manner the motions of the planets. This point constitutes another of Ptolemy's claims to scientific fame. His determination of the planetary orbits was accomplished by comparing his own observations with those of former astronomers, among them the observations of Timocharis on the planet Venus.
 

The Syntaxis of Ptolemy.

In the Museum of Alexandria, Ctesibius invented the fire-engine. His pupil, Hero, improved it by giving it two cylinders. There, too, the first steam-engine worked. This also was the invention of Hero, and was a reaction engine, on the principle of the eolipile. The silence of the halls of Serapis was broken by the water-clocks of Ctesibius and Apollonius, which drop by drop measured time. When the Roman calendar had fallen into such confusion that it had become absolutely necessary to rectify it, Julius Cæsar brought Sosigenes the astronomer from Alexandria. By his advice the lunar year was abolished, the civil year regulated entirely by the sun, and the Julian calendar introduced.
 


The Macedonian rulers of Egypt have been blamed for the manner in which they dealt with the religious sentiment of their time. They prostituted it to the purpose of state-craft, finding in it a means of governing their lower classes. To the intelligent they gave philosophy.
 

Invention of the Steam-Engine.

But doubtless they defended this policy by the experience gathered in those great campaigns which had made the Greeks the foremost nation of the world. They had seen the mythological conceptions of their ancestral country dwindle into fables; the wonders with which the old poets adorned the Mediterranean had been discovered to be baseless illusions. From Olympus its divinities had disappeared; indeed, Olympus itself had proved to be a phantom of the imagination. Hades had lost its terrors; no place could be found for it. From the woods and grottoes and rivers of Asia Minor the local gods and goddesses had departed; even their devotees began to doubt whether they had ever been there. If still the Syrian damsels lamented, in their amorous ditties, the fate of Adonis, it was only as a recollection, not as a reality. Again and again had Persia changed her national faith. For the revelation of Zoroaster she had substituted Dualism; then under new political influences she had adopted Magianism. She had worshiped fire, and kept her altars burning on mountain-tops. She had adored the sun. When Alexander came, she was fast falling into pantheism.

On a country to which in its political extremity the indigenous gods have been found unable to give any protection, a change of faith is impending. The venerable divinities of Egypt, to whose glory obelisks had been raised and temples dedicated, had again and again submitted to the sword of a foreign conqueror. In the land of the Pyramids, the Colossi, the Sphinx, the images of the gods had ceased to represent living realities. They had ceased to be objects of faith. Others of more recent birth were needful, and Serapis confronted Osiris. In the shops and streets of Alexandria there were thousands of Jews who had forgotten the God that had made his habitation behind the veil of the temple.

Tradition, revelation, time, all had lost their influence. The traditions of European mythology, the revelations of Asia, the time-consecrated dogmas of Egypt, all had passed or were fast passing away. And the Ptolemies recognized how ephemeral are forms of faith.

But the Ptolemies also recognized that there is something more durable than forms of faith, which, like the organic forms of geological ages, once gone, are clean gone forever, and have no restoration, no return. They recognized that within this world of transient delusions and unrealities there is a world of eternal truth.

That world is not to be discovered through the vain traditions that have brought down to us the opinions of men who lived in the morning of civilization, nor in the dreams of mystics who thought that they were inspired. It is to be discovered by the investigations of geometry, and by the practical interrogation of Nature. These confer on humanity solid, and innumerable, and inestimable blessings.
 

Policy of the Ptolemies.

The day will never come when any one of the propositions of Euclid will be denied; no one henceforth will call in question the globular shape of the earth, as recognized by Eratosthenes; the world will not permit the great physical inventions and discoveries made in Alexandria and Syracuse to be forgotten. The names of Hipparchus, of Apollonius, of Ptolemy, of Archimedes, will be mentioned with reverence by men of every religious profession, as long as there are men to speak.
 

The Museum of Alexandria was thus the birthplace of modern science. It is true that, long before its establishment, astronomical observations had been made in China and Mesopotamia; the mathematics also had been cultivated with a certain degree of success in India. But in none of these countries had investigation assumed a connected and consistent form; in none was physical experimentation resorted to. The characteristic feature of Alexandrian, as of modern science, is, that it did not restrict itself to observation, but relied on a practical interrogation of Nature.
 

The Museum and Modern Science.