Page images

Paragraph 3.-Second Groupe.-Indo-European or Iranian

[ocr errors]


A second groupe of nations, more widely spread and consisting of more numerous tribes than the preceding, has received the epithet of the Indo-European race.* Against the use of this name no objection exists, except that it is too long for very frequent repetition. I shall often substitute for it the term Iranian, taken from the country, which, as it is scarcely possible to doubt, was the original abode of the race.


I shall survey the history of particular nations belonging to this groupe, and shall endeavour to give an account of their relations to each other, when I proceed to describe the population of each country, which derived from this source its principal stock of inhabitants. In this place I shall observe, that the Indo-European nations have been divided by the affinities of their languages into two principal classes, which might be termed the Indian and the Median, or the southern and northern stems. The former class have languages of which either the forms have been better preserved, or they were originally more elaborate and refined in grammatical structure than the idioms of the latter, owing, perhaps, to an earlier cultivation of poetry, and in part to an earlier acquaintance with the art of writing. Among the more obvious traits of distinction between them, and those which require, in order to be perceived, the least studied examination, is the peculiarity that, in the interchange of consonants, discoverable when the words of one idiom are compared with those of another, the Median, and all its branches, frequently substitute hard gutturals or aspirates for the soft and sibilant letters of the Indian. To the Median or northern branch belong more especially all the Persian and the Germanic languages; to the southern, the Sanskrit, and the classical languages of Greece and Italy. The other languages of Europe belonging

Schloezer, and some other German writers, term these nations the Japetic

to this great family, have much that is common with the Median or the Germanic branch, yet we cannot, without hesitation, set them down as strictly belonging to this division. Of the two great Celtic idioms, one, namely, the Erse or Gaelic, approaches in some particulars to the southern or classical department of this groupe of languages. The same remark may be applied to the Slavic idioms, and, perhaps, still more obviously to the Lettish and Lithuanian, which of all extant European dialects appear most nearly to resemble the Sanskrit. These observations are of manifest importance to ethnography; but we must not draw inferences from them without adverting to an observable fact, that each member of the Indo-European class of languages bears, individually, traits of particular affinity, or at least, of peculiar resemblance, to nearly every other member. Thus the Celtic and the Greek have some words in common, which are wanting to all the other languages; and a similar remark applies to the Latin and the Sanskrit. Such facts are difficult of explanation, but, perhaps, the greatest difficulty connected with the history of the Iranian languages, relates to the origin of the barbaric or foreign element which they severally contain, but which, in some instances, is in much greater proportion than it is in others.

Paragraph 4.-Of the Allophylian Races.

When we inquire more particularly into the history of the Indo-European races, many traits present themselves by which they are brought into contrast with all the nations who are aliens to their stock and lineage. For all these tribes of foreign blood we want a term which may serve to designate them collectively, and at the same time to distinguish them from nations of the Iranian family. Some late writers have termed all these tribes in the aggregate, Scythians, maintaining that they all belong, not less than the Iranian nations, to a particular race. As this opinion rests, as yet at least, on no sufficient evidence, I shall avoid using the term suggested by it, and for the present I shall distinguish the whole collective

body of nations who are distinct from the Indo-European family, by the term Allophylian races, which is of obvious meaning, and can admit of no mistake.

The Allophylian races are spread through all the remotest regions of the old continent, to the northward, eastward, and westward of the Iranian nations, whom they seem everywhere to have preceded, so that they appear, in comparison with the Indo-European colonies, in the light of aboriginal or native inhabitants, vanquished and often driven into remote and mountainous tracts, by more powerful invading tribes. The latter seem to have been everywhere superior to them in mental endowments. Some of the Indo-European nations, indeed, retained or acquired many characteristics of barbarism and ferocity, but with these they all joined undoubted marks of an early intellectual developement, particularly a higher culture of language, as an instrument of thought as well as of human intercourse. If we inquire as to the degree of social improvement which the Iranian nations had attained at the era of their dispersion from their primitive abode, or from the common centre of the whole stock, an investigation of their languages will be our principal guide; but in order that we might, in a satisfactory manner, avail ourselves of this resource, sufficient materials have not yet been collected and arranged. Some general remarks on the subject of this inquiry are all that I shall venture to offer, and these, indeed, I shall lay before my readers merely as conjectures and probable generalizations, rather than as inferences deduced from adequate research. If we compare the grammatical forms and vocabularies of the Sanskrit, Greek, Latin, Zend, German, Lithuanian, Slavic, and Celtic languages, we discover, besides analogies in the laws of construction or in the mechanism of speech, which is of all marks of affinity the most important, a palpable resemblance in many of those words which represent the ideas of a people in the most simple state of existence. Such are terms expressive of family relations, father, mother, brother, sister, daughter; names for the most striking objects of the material universe; terms distinguishing different parts of the body, as head, feet, eyes, ears; nouns of number up to five, ten, or

twenty; verbs descriptive of the most common sensations and bodily acts, such as eating, drinking, sleeping, seeing, hearing. As no nation was ever found destitute of similar expressions, or was likely to exchange its own supellex for corresponding words in foreign languages, the connexion between the IndoEuropean idioms must be regarded as truly primitive and original. It may be argued that the dialects which correspond in these parts of their vocabulary were originally one speech, the idiom of one people, and that the diversities which exist, belonging as they do to the less essential elements of language, are of later date, and had their origin at a time subsequent to the separation of the race into different tribes. We may carry somewhat further the assertion of affinity between, at least, some languages of the IndoEuropean family. Terms relating to pastoral habits and even to agriculture are common to most of these languages; this includes the names of domestic animals, especially such as constitute the herds and the companions of the pastoral class. But here the resemblance ends. It would appear that the common primitive ancestry of the Indo-European nations were unacquainted with the use of iron and other metals, since the terms by which these are denoted are different in different languages, and must have been acquired subsequently to the era of separation. Nothing, at least, can be more unlike than gold, Xpvoòc and aurum; than silver and argentum; than oionpos and ferrum.* Names given to the implements of warfare likewise differ in the several vocabularies of these languages, a fact which Niebuhr has observed with respect to the Greek and Latin, but which with perfect truth may be stated more generally, and shown to extend to many of the

* Some exceptions occur to this remark, and, perhaps, more instances of resemblance in the names of particular metals might be found on a careful investigation, since it is probable that one nation of the same race may often have made known the names as well as the uses of particular metals to others. Tin, in Greek KaσoíTepog, is in Sanskrit kastira; and Ritter has hence conjectured that tin was first brought to the Greeks from India. From this word may be derived the Arabic qasdér, now used for pewter, a mixed metal imitating tin. Our English word, tin, and the German, zinn, may be from the Phoenician tanak. Ayas in Sanskrit, brass, in Latin aes, affords another example of similar names given to the same metal in two of the principal Indo-European languages.

Iranian idioms. If from these considerations we might be allowed to estimate the extent of the vocabulary belonging to the original stock of the Indo-European nations previously to their separation into different tribes, we should suppose them to have been nearly on a level in most respects with the great nomadic races, who have in later ages of the world issued from the central regions of Asia, and have invaded the countries inhabited by civilized nations. Perhaps, in general, their state of manners may have resembled the description given by Tacitus of the Germans. It is plain that the use of letters was entirely unknown to them, at least, to those tribes of the race who passed into Europe, and that it was introduced among them in long after ages, by the Phoenicians, who claim this most important invention. But though rude in respect to many of the arts of life, the Indo-European nations appear to have brought with them a much higher degree of mental culture than the Allophylian races possessed, before the Iranian tribes were spread among them. Even the most simple of them had national poetry, and a culture of language and thought altogether surprising, when compared with their external manners and condition, as far as they can be known or properly estimated. They had bards, or scalds, vates, doidol, who, under a divine impulse were supposed to celebrate the history of ancient times, and connect them with revelations of the future, and with a refined and metaphysical system of dogmas, of which it is difficult to imagine the original source. Among these, in the west as well as in the east, the metempsychosis held a conspicuous place, implying faith in an after-life of rewards and punishments, and a moral government of the world. With this was connected, among most, if not all, the Iranian nations, the notion that the material universe had undergone, and was destined to undergo, a repetition of catastrophies by fire and water, and to be renewed in fresh beauty, when a golden age was to commence, destined in its turn to inevitable corruption and decay. The emanation of all beings from the soul of the universe, and their refusion into it, a doctrine which appears to have formed an essential part of this system wherever it was preserved in a tolerably entire state, borders closely on a species of Pan

« PreviousContinue »