The Atlantic Monthly, Volume 01, No. 7, May, 1858 by Various


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Project Gutenberg's Atlantic Monthly, Vol. 1, No. 7, May, 1858, by Various

This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with
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Title: Atlantic Monthly, Vol. 1, No. 7, May, 1858

Author: Various

Release Date: May 18, 2004 [EBook #12374]
[Date last updated: May 28, 2005]

Language: English

Character set encoding: ISO-8859-1

*** START OF THIS PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK ATLANTIC MONTHLY ***




Produced by Joshua Hutchinson, Tonya Allen and PG Distributed
Proofreaders. Produced from page scans provided by Cornell University.






THE ATLANTIC MONTHLY.

A MAGAZINE OF LITERATURE, ART, AND POLITICS.

VOL. I.--MAY, 1858.--NO. VII.



AMERICAN ANTIQUITY.


The results of the past ten or fifteen years in historical investigation
are exceedingly mortifying to any one who has been proud to call himself
a student of History. We had thought, perhaps, that we knew something
of the origin of human events and the gradual development from the
past into the world of to-day. We had read Herodotus, and Gibbon,
and Gillies, and done manful duty with Rollin. There were certain
comfortable, definite facts in antiquity. Romulus and Remus were our
friends; the transmission of the alphabet by the Phoenicians was a
resting-spot; the destruction of Babylon and the date of the Flood were
fixed stations in the wilderness. In more modern periods, we had a
refuge in the date of the discovery of America; and if we were forced
back into the wilds and uncertainties of American History, Mr. Prescott
soon restored to us the buried empires, and led us easily back through a
few plain centuries.

Beyond these dates, indeed, there was a shadowy land, through whose
changing mists could be seen sometimes the grand outlines of abandoned
cities, or the faint forms of temples, or the graceful column or massive
tomb, which marked the distant path of the advancing race: but these
were scarcely more than visions for a moment, before darkness again
covered the view. Our mythology and philosophy of the past were almost
equally misty and vague. History was to us a succession of facts; empire
succeeding empire, and one form of civilization another, with scarcely
more connection than in the scenes of a theatre;--the great isolated
fact of all being the existence of the Jews. All cosmic myths and noble
conceptions of Deity and pure religious beliefs were only offshoots of
Hebrew tradition.

This, we are pained to say, is all changed now. Our beloved dates, our
easy explanation, and popular narrative are half dissolved under the
touch of modern investigation. Roman History abandons poor Romulus and
Remus; the Flood sinks into a local inundation, and is pushed back
nobody knows how many thousands of years; an Egyptian antiquity arises
of which Herodotus never knew; and Josephus is proved ignorant of his
own subject. Nothing is found separate from the current of the world's
history,--neither Hebrew law and religion, nor Phoenician commerce,
nor Hindoo mythology, nor Grecian art. On the shadowy Past, over the
deserted battle-fields, the burial-mounds, the mausolea, the temples,
the altars, and the habitations of perished nations, new rays of light
are cast. Peoples not heard of before, empires forgotten, conquests not
recorded, arts unknown in their place at this day, and civilizations of
which all has perished but the language, appear again. The world wakes
to find itself much older than it thought. History is hardly the same
study that it once was. Even more than the investigations of hieroglyphs
and bass-reliefs and sculptures, during the past few years, have the
researches in one especial direction changed the face of the ancient
world.

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