The spirit of laws by Charles de Secondat, Baron de Montesquieu


part of those celebrated beauties whose history Athenæus has presumed to



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part of those celebrated beauties whose history Athenæus has presumed to
commit to writing.

It seems that in Homer's time the opulence of Greece centred in Rhodes,


Corinth, and Orchomenus; "Jupiter," he says, "loved the Rhodians, and
made them a very wealthy nation."[30] On Corinth he bestows the epithet
of rich.[31] In like manner, when he speaks of cities that have plenty
of gold, he mentions Orchomenus, to which he joins Thebes in Egypt.
Rhodes and Corinth preserved their power; but Orchomenus lost hers. The
situation of Orchomenus in the neighbourhood of the Hellespont, the
Propontis, and the Euxine Sea makes us naturally imagine that she was
indebted for her opulence to a trade along that maritime coast, which
had given rise to the fable of the golden fleece; and, indeed, the name
of Minyeios has been given to Orchomenus as well as to the
Argonauts.[32] But these seas becoming afterwards more frequented, the
Greeks planted along the coasts a greater number of colonies, which
traded with the barbarous nations, and at the same time preserved an
intercourse with their mother country. In consequence of this,
Orchomenus began to decline, till at length it was lost in the crowd of
the other cities of Greece.

Before Homer's time the Greeks had scarcely any trade but among


themselves, and with a few barbarous nations; in proportion, however, as
they formed new colonies, they extended their dominion. Greece was a
large peninsula, the capes of which seemed to have kept off the seas,
while its gulfs opened on all sides to receive them. if we cast an eye
on Greece, we shall find, in a pretty compact country, a considerable
extent of sea-coast. Her innumerable colonies formed an immense circle
round her; and there she beheld, in some measure, the whole civilised
world. Did she penetrate into Sicily and Italy, she formed new nations.
Did she navigate towards the sea of Pontus, the coast of Asia Minor, or
that of Africa, she acted in the same manner. Her cities increased in
prosperity in proportion as they happened to have new people in their
neighbourhood. And what was extremely beautiful, she was surrounded on
every side with a prodigious number of islands, drawn, as it were, in a
line of circumvallation.

What a source of prosperity must Greece have found in those games with


which she entertained, in some measure, the whole globe; in those
temples, to which all the kings of the earth sent their offerings; in
those festivals, at which such a concourse of people used to assemble
from all parts; in those oracles, to which the attention of all mankind
was directed; and, in short, in that exquisite taste for the polite
arts, which she carried to such a height that to expect ever to surpass
her would be only betraying our ignorance!

8. Of Alexander: his Conquests. Four great events happened in the reign


of Alexander which entirely changed the face of commerce: the taking of
Tyre, the conquest of Egypt, that likewise of the Indies, and the
discovery of the sea which lies south of that country.

The empire of Persia extended to the Indus.[33] Darius, long before


Alexander, had sent some vessels, which sailed down this river, and
passed even into the Red Sea.[34] How then were the Greeks the first who
traded with the Indies by the south? Had not the Persians done this
before? Did they make no advantage of seas which were so near them, of
the very seas that washed their coasts? Alexander, it is true, conquered
the Indies; but was it necessary for him to conquer a country in order
to trade with it? This is what I shall now examine.

Ariana,[35] which extended from the Persian Gulf as far as the Indus,


and from the South Sea to the mountains of Paropamisus, depended indeed,
in some measure, on the empire of Persia; but in the southern part it
was barren, scorched, rude, and uncultivated. Tradition relates[36] that
the armies of Semiramis and Cyrus perished in these deserts; and
Alexander, who caused his fleet to follow him, could not avoid losing in
this place a great part of his army. The Persians left the whole coast
to the Ichthyophagi,[37] the Oritæ, and other barbarous nations.
Besides, the Persians were no great sailors,[38] and their very religion
debarred them from entertaining any such notion as that of a maritime
commerce. The voyage undertaken by Darius's direction upon the Indus and
the Indian Sea proceeded rather from the capriciousness of a prince
vainly ambitious of showing his power than from any settled regular
project. It was attended with no consequence either to the advantage of
commerce or of navigation. They emerged from their ignorance only to
plunge into it again.

Besides, it was a received opinion[39] before the expedition of


Alexander that the southern parts of India were uninhabitable.[40] This
proceeded from a tradition that Semiramis[41] had brought back thence
only twenty men, and Cyrus but seven.

Alexander entered by the north. His design was to march towards the


east; but having found a part of the south full of great nations,
cities, and rivers, he attempted to conquer it, and succeeded.

He then formed a design of uniting the Indies to the western nations by


a maritime commerce, as he had already united them by the colonies he
had established by land.

He ordered a fleet to be built on the Hydaspes, then fell down that


river, entered the Indus, and sailed even to its mouth. He left his army
and his fleet at Patala, went himself with a few vessels to view the
sea, and marked the places where he would have ports to be opened and
arsenals erected. Upon his return from Patala he separated the fleet,
and took the route by land, for the mutual support of fleet and army.
The fleet followed the coast from the Indus along the banks of the
country of the Oritæ, of the Ichthyophagi, of Carmania and Persia. He
caused wells to be dug, built cities, and would not suffer the
Ichthyophagi to live on fish,[42] being desirous of having the borders
of the sea inhabited by civilised nations. Nearchus and Onesecritus
wrote a journal of this voyage, which was performed in ten months. They
arrived at Susa, where they found Alexander, who gave an entertainment
to his whole army.

This prince had founded Alexandria, with a view of securing his conquest


of Egypt; this was a key to open it, in the very place where the kings
his predecessors had a key to shut it;[43] and he had not the least
thought of a commerce of which the discovery of the Indian Sea could
alone give him the idea.

It even seems that after his discovery he had no new design in regard to


Alexandria. He had, indeed, a general scheme of opening a trade between
the East Indies and the western parts of his empire; but as for the
project of conducting this commerce through Egypt, his knowledge was too
imperfect to be able to form any such design. It is true he had seen the
Indus, he had seen the Nile, but he knew nothing of the Arabian seas
between the two rivers. Scarcely had he returned from India when he
fitted out new fleets, and navigated on the Euleus,[44] the Tigris, the
Euphrates, and the ocean; he removed the cataracts, with which the
Persians had encumbered those rivers; and he discovered that the Persian
Gulf was a branch of the main sea. But as he went to view this sea[45]
in the same manner as he had done in respect to that of India; as he
caused a port to be opened for a thousand ships, and arsenals to be
erected at Babylon; as he sent five hundred talents into Phoenicia and
Syria, to draw mariners into this service whom he intended to distribute
in the colonies along the coast; in fine, as he caused immense works to
be erected on the Euphrates, and the other rivers of Assyria, there
could be no doubt but he designed to carry on the commerce of India by
the way of Babylon and the Persian Gulf.

There are some who pretend that Alexander wanted to subdue Arabia,[46]


and had formed a design to make it the seat of his empire: but how could
he have pitched upon a place with which he was entirely
unacquainted?[47] Besides, of all countries, this would have been the
most inconvenient to him; for it would have separated him from the rest
of his empire. The Caliphs, who made distant conquests, soon withdrew
from Arabia to reside elsewhere.

9. Of the Commerce of the Grecian Kings after the Death of Alexander. At


the time when Alexander made the conquest of Egypt, they had but a very
imperfect idea of the Red Sea, and none at all of the ocean, which,
joining this sea, on one side washes the coast of Africa, and on the
other that of Arabia; nay, they thought it impossible to sail round the
peninsula of Arabia. They who attempted it on each side had relinquished
their design. "How is it possible," said they,[48] "to navigate to the
southern coast of Arabia, when Cambyses' army, which traversed it on the
north side, almost entirely perished; and the forces which Ptolemy, the
son of Lagus, sent to the assistance of Seleucus Nicator at Babylon,
underwent incredible hardships, and, upon account of the heat, could
march only in the night?"

The Persians were entire strangers to navigation. When they had subdued


Egypt, they introduced the same spirit into that country as prevailed in
Persia: hence, so great was the supineness of the Persians in this
respect, that the Grecian kings found them quite strangers, not only to
the commerce of the Tyrians, Idumeans, and the Jews on the ocean, but
even to the navigation of the Red Sea. I am apt to think that the
destruction of the first Tyre by Nebuchadnezzar, together with the
subversion of several petty nations and towns bordering on the Red Sea,
had obliterated all their former knowledge of commerce.

Egypt, at the time of the Persian monarchy, did not front the Red Sea;


it contained only that long narrow neck of land which the Nile covers
with its inundations, and is enclosed on both sides by a chain of
mountains.[49] They were, therefore, under the necessity of making a
second discovery of the ocean and the Red Sea; and this discovery
engaged the curiosity of the Grecian monarchs.

They ascended the Nile, and hunted after elephants in the countries


situated between that river and the sea; by this progression they traced
the sea-coast; and as the discoveries were made by the Greeks, the names
are all Grecian, and the temples are con- secrated to Greek
divinities.[50]

The Greeks settled in Egypt were able to command a most extensive


commerce; they were masters of all the harbours on the Red Sea; Tyre,
the rival of every trading nation, was no more; they were not
constrained by the ancient superstitions[51] on the country; in short,
Egypt had become the centre of the world.

The kings of Syria left the commerce of the south to those of Egypt, and


attached themselves only to the northern trade, which was carried on by
means of the Oxus and the Caspian Sea. They then imagined that this sea
was part of the northern ocean; and Alexander,[52] some time before his
death, had fitted out a fleet[53] in order to discover whether it
communicated with the ocean by the Euxine Sea, or some other eastern sea
towards India. After him, Seleucus and Antiochus applied themselves to
make discoveries in it, with particular attention; and with this view
they scoured it with their fleets.[54] That part which Seleucus surveyed
was called the Seleucidian Sea; that which Antiochus discovered received
the name of the Sea of Antiochus. Attentive to the projects they might
have formed on that side, they neglected the seas on the south; whether
it was that the Ptolemies, by means of their fleets on the Red Sea, had
already become the masters of it, or that they discovered an invincible
aversion in the Persians against engaging in maritime affairs. The
southern coasts of Persia supplied them with no seamen; there had been
none in those parts, except towards the latter end of Alexander's reign.
But the Egyptian kings, being masters of the Isle of Cyprus, of
Phoenicia, and of a great number of towns on the coast of Asia Minor,
were possessed of all sorts of conveniences for undertaking maritime
expeditions. They had no occasion to force; they had only to follow the
genius and bent of their subjects.

I am surprised, I confess, at the obstinacy with which the ancients


believed that the Caspian Sea was a part of the ocean. The expeditions
of Alexander, of the kings of Syria, of the Parthians and the Romans,
could not make them change their sentiments; notwithstanding these
nations described the Caspian Sea with wonderful exactness: but men are
generally tenacious of their errors. When only the south of this sea was
known, it was at first taken for the ocean; in proportion as they
advanced along the banks of the northern coast, instead of imagining it
a great lake, they still believed it to be the ocean, that here made a
sort of bay: surveying the coast, their discoveries never went eastward
beyond the Jaxartes, nor westward farther than the extremity of Albania.
The sea towards the north was shallow, and of course very unfit for
navigation.[55] Hence it was that they always looked upon this as the
ocean.

The land army of Alexander had been in the east only as far as the


Hypanis, which is the last of those rivers that fall into the Indus:
thus the first trade which the Greeks carried on with the Indies was
confined to a very small part of the country. Seleucus Nicator
penetrated as far as the Ganges, and thereby discovered the sea into
which this river falls, that is to say, the Bay of Bengal.[56] The
moderns discover countries by voyages at sea; the ancients discovered
seas by conquests at land.

Strabo,[57] notwithstanding the testimony of Apollodorus, seems to doubt


whether the Grecian kings of Bactria proceeded farther than Seleucus and
Alexander.[58] Were it even true that they went no farther to the east
than Seleucus, yet they went farther towards the south; they discovered
Siger, and the ports on the coast of Malabar, which gave rise to the
navigation I am going to mention.[59]

Pliny informs us that the navigation of the Indies was successively


carried on in three different ways.[60] At first they sailed from the
Cape of Siagre to the island of Patalena, which is at the mouth of the
Indus. This we find was the course that Alexander's fleet steered to the
Indies. They took afterwards a shorter and more certain course, by
sailing from the same cape or promontory to Siger:[61] this can be no
other than the kingdom of Siger mentioned by Strabo,[62] and discovered
by the Grecian kings of Bactria. Pliny, by saying that this way was
shorter than the other, can mean only that the voyage was made in less
time: for, as Siger was discovered by the kings of Bactria, it must have
been farther than the Indus: by this passage they must therefore have
avoided the winding of certain coasts, and taken advantage of particular
winds. The merchants at last took a third way; they sailed to Canes, or
Ocelis, ports situated at the entrance of the Red Sea; whence by a west
wind they arrived at Muziris, the first staple town of the Indies, and
thence to the other ports. Here we see that instead of sailing to the
mouth of the Red Sea as far as Siagre, by coasting Arabia Felix to the
north-east, they steered directly from west to east, from one side to
the other, by means of the monsoons, whose regular course they
discovered by sailing in these latitudes. The ancients never lost sight
of the coasts, except when they took advantage of these and the
trade-winds, which were to them a kind of compass.[63]

Pliny[64] says that they set sail for the Indies in the middle of summer


and returned towards the end of December, or in the beginning of
January. This is entirely conformable to our naval journals. In that
Directory: mrhomepage.nsf


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