The general character of this remarkable people will best appear from the account, presently to be given, of their manners, their mode of life, their arts, their science, their religion, and their history. It is not convenient to forestall in this place the results of almost all our coming inquiries. Suffice it to observe that, though possessed of not many natural advantages, the Chaldaean people exhibited a fertility of invention, a genius, and an energy which place them high in the scale of nations, and more especially in the list of those descended from a Hamitic stock. For the last 3000 years the world has been mainly indebted for its advancement to the Semitic and Indo-European races; but it was otherwise in the first ages. Egypt and Babylon—Mizraim and Nimrod—both descendants of Ham—led the way, and acted as the pioneers of mankind in the various untrodden fields of art, literature, and science. Alphabetic writing, astronomy, history, chronology, architecture, plastic art, sculpture, navigation, agriculture, textile industry, seem, all of them, to have had their origin in one or other of these two countries. The beginnings may have been often humble enough. We may laugh at the rude picture-writing, the uncouth brick pyramid, the coarse fabric, the homely and ill-shapen instruments, as they present themselves to our notice in the remains of these ancient nations; but they are really worthier of our admiration than of our ridicule. The first inventors of any art are among the greatest benefactors of their race; and the bold step which they take from the unknown to the known, from blank ignorance to discovery, is equal to many steps of subsequent progress. “The commencement,” says Aristotle, “is more than half of the whole.” This is a sound judgment; and it will be well that we should bear it in mind during the review, on which we are about to enter, of the language, writing, useful and ornamental art, science, and literature of the Chaldaeans. “The child is father of the man,” both in the individual and the species; and the human race at the present day lies under infinite obligations to the genius and industry of early ages.
LANGUAGE AND WRITING.
It was noted in the preceding chapter that Chaldaea, in the earliest times to which we can go back, seems to have been inhabited by four principal tribes. The early kings are continually represented on the monuments as sovereigns over the Kiprat-arbat, or, Four Races. These “Four Races” are called sometimes the Arba Lisun, or “Four Tongues,” whence we may conclude that they were distinguished from one another, among other differences, by a variety in their forms of speech. The extent and nature of the variety could not, of course, be determined merely from this expression; but the opinion of those who have most closely studied the subject appears to be that the differences were great and marked-the languages in fact belonging to the four great varieties of human speech—Hamitic, Semitic, Arian, and Turanian.