Изображения страниц

'I do not,' says Virgil in one of his Georgics, 'hope to include all things in my verses, not if I had a hundred tongues, a hundred mouths, and a voice of iron.' Nor does the present writer pretend to have done more than offer here a representative selection from the abundant store of interesting material that appertains to Hjaltland. As the topmost boughs of a tree yield the finest blooms and fruit, so will the tourist often have to go afar for the scenes and regions best worth seeking. Aud if these few pages shall have satisfied the reader that there is treasure-trove in remote Hjaltland well worth searching for, they will have served their purpose.



"THE Egypt which you so

HE Egypt which you so praised to me, my dearest Ser

vian!' wrote the Emperor Hadrian to his brother-inlaw, 'I have learned to be thoroughly false, fickle, and swayed by every breath of rumour. Those who worship Serapis are Christians; and those who call themselves bishops of Christ are vowed to Serapis. There is there no ruler of the Jewish synagogue, no Samaritan, no priest of the Christians, who is not an astrologer, a diviner, and a charlatan. The very patriarch, when he comes to Egypt, is compelled by some to adore Serapis; by others, Christ. .' The language of

the Imperial writer was perhaps a little exaggerated, for the Alexandrians about whom he was writing had done their best to provoke a ruler even of his statesmanlike temper. As he tells us in the same letter, he had during his stay in their city renewed their privileges, granted them new ones, and showered benefits upon them, to be repaid as soon as his back was turned by lampoons upon himself, his adopted son Verus, and his favourite Antinous. Yet the Alexandrians probably knew with whom they were dealing. Had they shown as much levity towards his predecessor, Nero, it might have proved so con

[blocks in formation]

genial to that vain and hysterical nature as to confirm him in his desire to transfer his household, with its cruelties and intrigues, to the mouth of the Nile. Had they chosen one of his halfbarbarian successors as the theme of their jests he might have massacred half the town, as the savage Caracalla afterwards did for much the same reason. But the dilettante Hadrian, though capable of awful severity when the interests of the State were in danger-as his extermination of the Jewish nation a few years later showed clearly enough-was, like our own Charles II., too cynical and perhaps too good-natured to take serious vengeance for merely verbal insults to himself. So, after declaring that the god which all the Alexandrians really worshipped was money, he concludes his letter by the wish that they may suffer no worse punishment than to be fed on their own chickens, whose incubation in a manure heap seems to have been very offensive to the Roman sense of delicacy.*

But who was this Serapis whom Hadrian found adored by Pagans and Christians alike? The answer to this question, though it takes us into some rather musty history, affords us a bird's eye view of the evolution of an ethical cult from the most primitive beginnings, which is, I believe, without parallel in the history of Religions.

To begin at the very beginning:-Some 6000 years before Christ the fertile plains between the Tigris and the Euphrates were inhabited by a people known to science as the Sumerians. They seem to have been of the Mongoloid stock, and to have resembled the modern Chinese, who are, according to writers of high authority,† to be counted among their direct heirs more closely than any other nation. Like the Chinese, they spoke an agglutinative language and shewed an amazing aptitude for the material side of civilisation; while even at the early

* The letter is given in the Saturninus of Fl. Vopiscus (Hist. Aug. Scriptor, VI., Lugd. Bat., 1671, II. pp. 718-780). Its authenticity has been successfully defended by Bishop Lightfoot. (See The Apostolic Fathers, Lond. 1869, I., p. 481).

+ See the review of recent works on Oriental Archaeology in the Scottish Review for October, 1894.


date of which we are speaking, their religion had developed from the rude Fetichism of all primitive peoples into a worship. of great Fetiches,' or personifications of natural phenomena, presided over by a Triad consisting of the gods of the sky, the earth, and the intermediate atmosphere. Their principal pursuit was agriculture, as was perhaps natural in a country where wheat grows wild, and from very early times they seem to have been pressed hard by the shepherd nomads of Semitic race, who poured in upon them from the neighbouring deserts. It is possible that a faint echo of this fact may be preserved in the Biblical legend of the strife between Cain, the tiller of the soil, and Abel, the keeper of sheep.†

The coming of the Semites into Mesopotamia naturally brought with it some modification of the national religion, but it is very unlikely that this involved any of the violence and bitterness with which the modern world is apt to receive any interference with its sharply-defined theologies. For, in Mesopotamia as elsewhere in the ancient world, religion was very much an affair of locality. As Apollo was worshipped at Delos, Athena at Athens, and Hera at Argos, so Anna the Skygod was best adored at Erech, En-lilla the Air-god at Nipur, and Ea the Earth-god at Eridu.‡ Hence, on the formation of a new town, it was only necessary to raise a temple to some personification not previously possessing one, for a new god to be added to the Mesopotamian pantheon, without interfering with the privileges or exciting the jealousy of its former occupants. To such an extent was this system carried that, some seven centuries before our era, it was possible for a king of the

* For a fuller account of the Sumerian pantheon, see the article mentioned in last note.

+ It was not until Semitic influence began to be felt that bloody sacrifices were offered to the gods of Mesopotamia. The earliest Sumerian inscriptions those of the kings of Lagash-provide for offerings only 'the fruit of the ground.'

All these places were situate in ancient Babylonia. Erech is the modern Warka; Nipur is still called Niffer; Eridu, once a seaport on the shores of the Persian Gulf, is now covered by the inland mounds of Abu Shahrein.

Mesopotamian country where the Semitic element was strongest to declare his belief in '65,000 great gods of heaven and earth,'*

It was no doubt in this way that a god originally came to be worshipped in the great city of Babylon, who was destined to figure more largely in the eyes of posterity than all the rest of the Mesopotamian divinities put together. This was the god Marduk or Merodach, the god of the Sun, who was worshipped there certainly as early as 4000 B.C. He was always known as the first-born of Ea, either because the Sun appears to primitive peoples to be born every day from the earth, or, as is more likely, because Babylon was itself peopled by a colony from Eridu, the seat of the earth-god's worship. It is possible, too, that the worship of Merodach may have first sprung up under Semitic influence, though this really rests upon no surer foundation than the marked fondness of the Semites for solar deities. But it was to his association with Ea that he owed his principal characteristic, which was his benevolence towards mankind. For Ea was the culture-god of the Sumerians, who had himself brought to them, according to their legends, the rudiments of all their arts and sciences. And when the airgod En-lilla tried to destroy mankind by a flood, Ea contrived to save a remnant, in exact correspondence with the story of Genesis, by shutting them up in an ark which floated over the waters. Yet in these good offices he was far excelled by his son Merodach, 'the creator and redeemer of mankind,'‡ between whom and his father he eventually became the mediator.§ The clay tablets, inscribed with the hymns used in his worship,

*So Assur-natsir-pal. Prof. Sayce (Hibbert Lectures for 1887, p. 216), thinks that there was 6 a little royal exaggeration' in the number. + A full translation of the legend is given in Sayce's Higher Criticism, Lond., 1894, Chap. III.

For the creation of mankind by Merodach see T. G. Pinches' New Version of the Creation-story, (Trans. Ninth Intern. Congress of Orientalists, Lond., 1893, II. pp. 191-192). He is called their redeemer in a text translated by Mr. Boscawen in the Babylonian and Oriental Record (1889, IV. 11.) It seems to refer to the (Biblical) Fall of Man.

§ See Hommel's Der babylonische Ursprung der ägyptischen Kultur, München, 1892, p. 21.

a good number of which are now in the British Museum, are full of praises of his forethought for man. When Tiamat, the monster of chaos, seeks to wreck the ordered world of the gods, it is Merodach who, in spite of the horns, claws, and tail with which like the mediæval devil she is armed, overthrows and destroys her.* When the plague is in Babylon, it is Merodach who mourns over his city, and finally gets the curse transferred to Erech! And when the demons of disease or death assault any of his people, it is Merodach who, on the performance of the proper ceremonies, obtains leave from his father to pronounce the Great Name, at the sound of which all demons fly away.† Hence he is spoken of in the cuneiform texts as The merciful one among the gods, the merciful lord who loves to raise the dead to life.' 'The establisher of the lowly and the supporter of the weak,'§ and by many other epithets of the same kind. Even his proper name is significant of the same qualities. It is in its extended form Asari-urudugga, 'The chief who does good to man,'|| or, to take the last two syllables, uru-dugga, The benefactor,' in later Sumerian Mirri-dugga, from whence the still more modern name of Merodach.

[ocr errors]

From Babylon to Egypt may seem a long step, but it is one that the worship of Merodach can now be proved to have taken. The long struggle between the Mesopotamian kingdoms and Egypt for the mastership of Western Asia must have begun before the dawn of history, and about the year 3800 B.C., we find Sargon of Accad, the hero king of Babylonia, forcing his way westward to the shores of the Mediterranean and planting his victorious standards in the island of Cyprus. So close a neighbourhood to Egypt implies some interchange of ideas, and we are therefore in some degree prepared for Professor Norman Lockyer's discovery of two years ago, that some of the Egyptian temples show considerable acquaintance on the part of their builders with the Mesopotamian calendar.

[blocks in formation]

+ The texts on this subject are well brought together by M. Laurent in

La Magie et la Divination chez les Chaldéo-Assyriens, Paris, 1895.

Sayce Hibbert Lectures, p. 99. § Ibid. p. 100.

|| Ibid. p. 106.

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »