The history of Antiquity requires from time to time to be rewritten. Historical knowledge continually extends, in part from the advance of critical science, which teaches us little by little the true value of ancient authors, but also, and more especially, from the new discoveries which the enterprise of travellers and the patient toil of students are continually bringing to light, whereby the stock of our information as to the condition of the ancient world receives constant augmentation. The extremest scepticism cannot deny that recent researches in Mesopotamia and the adjacent countries have recovered a series of “monuments” belonging to very early times, capable of throwing considerable light on the Antiquities of the nations which produced them. The author of these volumes believes that, together with these remains, the languages of the ancient nations have been to a large extent recovered, and that a vast mass of written historical matter of a very high value is thereby added to the materials at the Historian’s disposal. This is, clearly, not the place where so difficult and complicated a subject can be properly argued. The author is himself content with the judgment of “experts,” and believes it would be as difficult to impose a fabricated language on Professor Lassen of Bonn and Professor Max Miller of Oxford, as to palm off a fictitious for a real animal form on Professor Owen of London. The best linguists in Europe have accepted the decipherment of the cuneiform inscriptions as a thing actually accomplished. Until some good linguist, having carefully examined into the matter, declares himself of contrary opinion, the author cannot think that any serious doubt rests on the subject.
[Some writers allow that the Persian cuneiform inscriptions have been successfully deciphered and interpreted, but appear to doubt the interpretation of the Assyrian records. (See Edinburgh Review for July, 1862, Art Ill., p. 108.) Are they aware that the Persian inscriptions are accompanied in almost every instance by an Assyrian transcript, and that Assyrian interpretation thus follows upon Persian, without involving any additional “guess-work”]
The present volumes aim at accomplishing for the Five Nations of which they treat what Movers and Kenrick have accomplished for Phoenicia, or (still more exactly) what Wilkinson has accomplished for Ancient Egypt. Assuming the interpretation of the historical inscriptions as, in general, sufficiently ascertained, and the various ancient remains as assigned on sufficient grounds to certain peoples and epochs, they seek to unite with our previous knowledge of the five nations, whether derived from Biblical or classical sources, the new information obtained from modern discovery. They address themselves in a great measure to the eye; and it is hoped that even those who doubt the