« VorigeDoorgaan »
determine, though we find numerous discrepancies between his narrative and the accounts handed down by Persian historians; and Cicero says it was written, "non ad historia fidem sed ad effigiem justi imperii.” However, since it is our aim to use it merely for the purpose of discovering the state of internal affairs in Persia, and not to follow step by step the education of Cyrus, we may consider it as possessed of sufficient historical value. We could wish for no better clue to the social status and the grade of civilization of a people than that afforded by the character of the education established among them. By applying this test to the Persians, we shall be easily able to discover in their system of education those elements of greatness which raised the Persian empire under Cyrus to the zenith of its glory. The training of all young men, who could afford to pay the stipulated sum, was entrusted to the state'; and from the moment the articles were signed by which they were guaranteed a state education they ceased to become members of their respective families, but at once were made children of the nation. We perceive in this disposition a strong resemblance to the law of Lycurgus regulating the education of youth. All the young men thus adopted by the state were assembled in the Agora or city forum. This agora was divided into four departments, one for the boys, one for the youth, one for the full-grown men, and one for those who were beyond the years of military service. Over each of the classes were appointed twelve presidents, each representing one of the twelve classes into which the Persian population had been distributed. The presidents appointed over the boys were chosen from among the elders; those over the youth, from among the full-grown men; and over the full-grown men and the elders, such of their own number as were considered best qualified to teach those under them to perform their appointed duties in the best possible manner. The boys attended the public schools, where they learned the principles of literature, history, and philosophy; they also attended the courts of justice, and by closely studying the decisions of the judges early learned the principles of justice. Their superiors taught them to shun vice, and especially ingratitude, as this crime was regarded among them with extreme abhorrence. The necessity of telling the truth under all circumstances, was also strongly impressed on them from a tender age, so that a Persian of that time who was not thoroughly degraded would blush to be called a ligr. They were taught
temperance in their diet, so that those who could afford to procure the richest delicacies felt a pride in sharing the coarse food of their humbler companions. When the boys reached their sixteenth year, they were admitted into the division of the young men, among whom the next ten years were spent. The
young men guarded the city by night, and kept themselves at the disposal of their superiors by day. They constantly exercised themselves in games and all athletic sports calculated to develop their physique and increase their powers of endurance.
For this purpose they went to the hunt scantily provided, depending rather on what the fortunes of the day would furnish them than on any regular supplies. In this way the Persians learned that endurance of cold, hunger, and thirst, that dogged resolution and invincible patience, which made them masters of Central Asia, and almost able to cope with the skill and bravery of the Greeks. The middle-aged men continued the pursuits of war, but during leisure time devoted themselves to the study of the institutions they might be soon called upon to direct. The principal virtue the Persians of those times valued was justice, and so strictly in accordance with the principles of equity were all the decisions rendered that there was no appeal among them. Every one was disposed to abide by the verdict of the courts, and judicial corruption was unknown The elders, or those beyond fifty, were exempt from military service, and devoted their lives to the interests of their country in whatever way their counsel and experience might aid her. “Such," writes Xenophon, “is the form of government among the Persians, and such the care bestowed upon it, by the observance of which they think that they become the best citizens." So much did this system gain favor among the Greeks that Aristotle recommends every city to have an Agora, or forum, free from buyers and sellers, and devoted to the education of citizens.
Though Xenophon has furnished detailed accounts of the system of education pursued among the Persians at the time of Cyrus, he has left but little information concerning the state of literature, philosophy, and science. Being a Greek, and accustomed to consider his countrymen the most warlike people in the world, it is but natural that he should speak slightingly of the Persians in that respect, though he considered them far superior to all the nations of the East. They were skilled in the use of the bow and javelin, and
rarely broke before an attack conducted in accordance with the system of tactics in vogue among themselves; but they had no power to adapt themselves to circumstances, and once their line of battle was broken they never could recover. For this reason they never gained a victory over the Greeks, who knew the unwieldiness of the Persians, and always threw them into confusion from the first onset. Notwithstanding
. the opinion of Sir William Jones in regard to the identity of Cai-Khosru with Cyrus the Great, yet we cannot but be struck with the wonderful discrepancies we discover between the recital of Greek and Persian historians, and the different attributes ascribed to both princes. The Persian poet, Firdusi, is more in accord with the Grecian writers than are any of the chronicles. We must, therefore, only acknowledge the obscurity of the subject, and wait for new light.
According to the Persian writers, the successor of CaiKhosru was Lohorasp, under whose reign many remarkable events occurred. It was he who first introduced the system of military discipline and public education, the credit of which is given by the Greek historians to Cyrus. He obliterated the distinctions of rank among the nobles, and manifested great simplicity in his life, and manners. He devoted himself with extraordinary zeal to military enterprises, and it was under his reign that the Persians, led by Raham, surnamed Bakhtalnassar, called by the Hebrews Nebuchadnessar, and by the Greeks Nabuchodonosor, sacked and utterly demolished the city of Jerusalem. We can more nearly approach to a correct date of the reign of this prince by the extended history the Jewish books give of the exploits of Bakhtalnassar, though no mention is made of the prince himself, who resided in the extreme east of his empire. Kischtasb, the son of Lohorasp, was the first Persian prince who fled for succor to the Greeks, by whom he was called.
The military genius of Cyrus had infused a martial ardor into the masses of the Persian people, had spread the fame and terror of the Persian name far and wide, and had extended the boundaries of the Persian empire to the East as far as the Erythræn sea, to the north as far as the Euxine, to the west as far as Cyprus and Egypt, and to the south as far as Ethiopia ; notwithstanding he fostered the arts and sciences, and carefully excluded all enervating influences from his country, no sooner did he die than all that was great and good perished with him. Love of truth was succeeded by shameless mendacity; integrity by corruption ;
temperance by the wildest excesses; all that was pure, frugal, and pleasing to the gods, by lust, prodigality, and impiety. Those who formerly were satisfied with one spare meal a day now spent the whole day in banqueting, delighting to eat and drink to excess. Formerly the middle-aged men and the youth went frequently to the chase for the purpose of exercising themselves and their horses. “But,” says Xenopbon, "since King Artaxerxes and his courtiers have yielded to the influence of wine, they have neither gone out so frequently themselves nor have sent out others to the chase ; and if some, from a fondness for exercise, have gone out hunting with their horsemen about them, the other Persians have manifestly envied them, and hated them for presuming to seem superior to themselves.”
Thus luxury and idleness brought not only internal ruin on the Persians, but their complete neglect of military affairs 1. left them at the mercy of those who saw fit to attack them. “It was customary in past times," writes Xenophon, " that those who possessed lands should furnish horsemen from them for the army, and that the soldiers in garrison, if it should be nccessary to take the field, should fight as paid troops in defence of their country ; but now the great men enroll porters, bakers, cooks, cup-bearers, bathers, men who set dishes on the table and remove them, men who assist people to bed and to get up, dressers who anoint people, paint their faces, and trick them out in other ways, and all such characters do they enroll in the cavalry to serve instead of themselves.” The scythe-bearing chariots, which had proved so formidable in the armies of Cyrus, were now a cause of frequent discomfiture, owing to mismanagement and the appointment of incompetent charioteers. We discover in the decline of the Persian empire, immediately after the time of Cyrus, another proof of the melancholy truth history has so often attested, that where the genius of a great prince expends itself in territorial conquest, where the patriotism and virtue of a people are founded on a passion for glory; ruin and desolation are in store for them. The fall of the Roman empire proves this so indubitably that a mere allusion to the fact is sufficient. Greece has proved it in her history of federated states, in her grasping ambition to extend her rule over barbarian nations. India has proved it in her early history, and to-day the Chinese empire is a living proof of the same truth. Though the untiring efforts and splendid talents of one man may for a time hold together the unstable and un
wieldy mass, it will be sure to bury less competent successors in the crash of its own ruin. Thus Persia, not content with home institutions unsurpassed among eastern nations, but expanding herself in every direction, sank beneath her own weight. Moreover, the constant intercourse of the Persians with the Greeks, by teaching the former their own inferiority, inflamed their envy, and then commenced a series of wars which extended over a period of several years, ended in the complete overthrow of the Persian arms and the subjugation of that country by Alexander the Great. The princes who succeeded Bahman, or Artaxerxes Longimanus, distinguished their reigns in no respect till we come to Darab, or Darius, the reputed father of Alexander,whose wars and achievements form the staple of all Grecian histories of that period.
From the dawn of Persian history, and long prior to the time of Zoroaster, the Magi had possessed this system, and we must, therefore, regard them as the creators of philosophy among the Persians. The great diversity of opinions concerning the state of the first appearance of magianism in Iran proves the very great antiquity of this system, and the analogy which all subsequent systems bear to it establishes it as the source of Persian philosophy. Indeed, the peculiar dogmas of the magi are so intermingled with the doctrines of the Zendavesta and the Sabian rites, like a river whose waters are stained with the flow of many tributaries, that we can, with difficulty distinguish the genuine faith from the various accessions which time has lent it. But the influence of the magi on the character and morals of the old Persians is undoubted, nor has the lapse of time utterly destroyed the vestiges of their power. They constituted a distinct class in the community, residing in villages apart from those of a different caste,* and were held in the highest esteem by their follow
They were philosophers, intimately acquainted with every system past and contemporary; they were politicians, and carefully superintended the management of public affairs; they eschewed violence as a means of converting men to their views, and won them over by the force of reason, they ruled by knowledge ; the wise they ruled by wisdom, the weaker ones by the terrible secrets of nature, which always impose the law upon ignorance; they adapted themselves to every variety of circumstances in which they could be placed ; and came nearest to the fulfilment of St. Paul's admonition to
* Vide Clement. Alexand. Stromat., 1. viii, p. 632.