The Unity of Civilization eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 343 pages of information about The Unity of Civilization.

[Footnote 11:  I owe valuable information about the Gipsies to my friend Dr. John Sampson, of the University of Liverpool; but he is in no way responsible for this interpretation of it.]

[Footnote 12:  Odyssey ix. 428 (Greek:  pelor, athemistia eidos).]

[Footnote 13:  Odyssey ix. 214-15: 

    (Greek:  andr’ epeleusesthai megalen epieimenon alken,
    agrion, oute dikas en eidota oute themistas.)]

[Footnote 14:  Horace, Epode xvi.  In his ’better land’—­

    Non huc Argoo contendit remige pinus,
      Neque impudica Colchis intulit pedem.... 
    Iuppiter illa piae secrevit litora genti,
      Ut inquinavit aere tempus aureum;

    AEre, dehinc ferro duravit saecula; quorum
      Piis secunda, vate me, datur fuga.]



It might appear the height of paradox to preface a discourse on the Ancient World by asserting the conviction that the only genuine and important history is contemporary history.  Yet reflection on this doctrine will show that it is not only consistent with a serious and steady interest in what is called Antiquity (and indeed in the past in general), but its only rational basis and justification.  Were the past really past it were dead—­dead and done with, and it were wisdom for us who are alive to let the dead bury their dead.  Much of what has been done and suffered under the sun is indeed gone beyond recall, and is well buried in forgetfulness.  In such forgetfulness lies the fact and evidence of progress.  ‘Vex not its ghost’; no necromancy will or should evoke the departed spirits or avail to make them utter significant speech to living men.  The chain of links which once bound stage to stage of human history is somewhere for ever broken; and as we retrace, in the memory of the race or in that of individual, the Ariadne-clue which we here call ‘the unity of History’ it vanishes somewhere beyond our vision into the dark backward and abysm of time.  True, of late Archaeology and Anthropology have cast their search-lights into the darkness, piercing a little deeper than of old into the mists that surround the origins of our civilization; but before that dimly illuminated region of pre-history there still lies, and will always lie, an impenetrable pall.  As again in thought we move forward down the stream of time, the light available to us for a while increases, increases till we reach the present where it threatens to blind us with its dazzling excess, and then suddenly fades and is quenched in the twilight and final darkness by which the future is hidden from us.  Of the whole stream of history our best or utmost intelligence illuminates but a short reach, and that imperfectly.

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The Unity of Civilization from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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