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ny noble monuments remaining; whilst, on the contrary, we have not any one piece of their composition in the other science, by which we can form a certain judgment of it, and determine whether the music of the ancients was as perfect
It is generally allowed, that the ancients were acquainted with the triple symphony, that is, the harmony of voices, that of instruments, and that of voices and instruments in concert.
It is also agreed, that they excelled in what relates to the rhythmus. What is meant by rhythmus, is the assemblage or union of various times in music, which are joined together with a certain order, and in certain proportions. To understand this definition, it is to be observed, that the music we are here speaking of, was always set and sung to the words of certain verses, in which the syllables were distinguished into long and short; that the short syllable was pronounced as quick again as the long; that therefore the former was reckoned to make up but one time, whilst the latter made up two; and consequently the sound which answered to this, was to continue twice as long as the sound which answered to the other; or, which is the same thing, it was to consist of two times, or measures, whilst the other comprehended but one; that the verses which were sung, consisted of a certain number of feet formed by the different combination of these long and short syllables; and that the rhythmus of the song regularly followed the march of these feet. As these feet, of what nature or extent soever, were always divided into equal or unequal parts, of which the former was called agos, elevation or raising; and the latter is, depression or falling: so the rhythmus of the song, which answered to every one of those feet, was divided into two parts equally or unequally by what we now call a beat, and a rest or intermission. The scrupulous regard the ancients had to the quantity of their syllables in their vocal music, made their rhythmus much more perfect and regular than ours: for our poetry is not formed upon the measure of long and short syllables; but nevertheless a skilful musician amongst us, may, in some sort, express, by the length of the sounds, the quantity of every syllable. This account of the rhythmus of the ancients I have copied from one of the dissertations of Monsieur Burette; which I have done for the benefit of young students, to whom this little explanation may be of great use for the understanding of several passages in ancient authors. I now return to my subject.
The principal point in dispute among the learned, concerning the music of the ancients, is, to know whether they understood music in several parts, that is, a composition
consisting of several parts, and in which all those different parts form each by itself a complete piece, and at the same time have an harmonious connexion, as it is in our counterpoint or concert, whether simple or compounded.
If the reader be curious to know more concerning this matter, and whatever else relates to the music of the ancients, I refer him to the learned dissertations of the above-mentioned M. Burette, inserted in the 3d, 4th, and 5th volumes of the Memoires of the Royal Academy des Belles Lettres ; which show the profound erudition and exquisite taste of that writer.
We likewise discover in those early times the origin of physic, the beginnings of which, as of all other arts and sciences, were very rude and imperfect. «Herodotus, and, after him, Strabo, observe, that it was a general custom among the Babylonians to expose their sick persons to the view of passengers, in order to learn of them, whether they had been afflicted with the like distemper, and by what remedies they had been cured. From hence several people have pretended that physic is nothing else but a conjectural and experimental science, entirely resulting from observations made upon the nature of different diseases, and upon such things as are conducive or prejudicial to health. It must be confessed, that experience will go a great way; but that alone is not sufficient. The famous Hippocrates made great use of it in his practice; but he did not entirely rely upon it. The custom in those days was for all persons that had been sick, and were cured, to put up a picture in the temple of Esculapius, wherein they gave an account of the remedies that had restored them to their health. That celebrated physician caused all these inscriptions and memorials to be copied out, which were of great advantage to him.
Physic was, even in the time of the Trojan war, in great use and estéem. Esculapius, who flourished at that time, is reckoned the inventor of that art, and had even then brought it to a great perfection by his profound knowledge in botany, by his great skill in medicinal preparations and chirurgical operations: for in those days these several branches were not separated from one another, but were all included together under the denomination of physic.
a The two sons of Esculapius, Podalirius and Machaon, who commanded a certain number of troops at the siege of Troy, were both excellent physicians, and brave officers; and rendered as much service to the Grecian army by their Strab. 1. xvi p. 746. Strab. 1. viii p. 374.
a Her. l. i. c 197
d Hom. Iliad. 1. x. ver. 821-847
skill in their physical, as they did by their courage and conduct in their military capacity. Nor did Achilles himself, nor even Alexander the great in after-times, think the knowledge of this science improper for a general, or beneath his dignity. On the contrary, he learnt it himself of Chiron, the centaur, and afterwards instructed his governor and friend Patroclus in it, who did not disdain to exercise the art, in healing the wound of Eurypilus. This wound he healed by the application of a certain root, which immediately assuaged the pain, and stopped the bleeding. Botany, or that part of physic which treats of herbs and plants, was very much known, and almost the only branch of the science used in those early times. Virgil, speaking of a celebrated physician, who was instructed in his art by Apollo himself, seems to confine that profession to the knowledge of simples. Scire potestates herbarum usumque medendi maluit. It was nature herself that offered those innocent and salutary remedies, and seemed to invite mankind to make use of them. Their gardens, fields, and woods, supplied them gratuitously with an infinite plenty and variety. As yet no use was made of minerals, treacles, and other compositions, since discovered by closer and more inquisitive researches into nature.
e Pliny says, that physic, which had been brought by Esculapius into great reputation about the time of the Trojan war, was soon after neglected and lost, and lay in a manner buried in darkness till the time of the Peloponnesian war, when it was revived by Hippocrates, and restored to its ancient honour and credit. This may be true with respect to Greece; but in Persia we find it to have been always cultivated, and constantly held in great reputation. The great Cyrus, as is observed by Xenophon, never failed to take a certain number of excellent physicians along with him in the army, rewarding them very liberally, and treating them with particular regard: he further remarks, that in this Cyrus only followed a custom that had been anciently established among their generals; g and that the younger Cyrus acted in the same manner.
It must nevertheless be acknowledged, that it was Hippocrates who carried this science to its highest perfection : and though it be certain, that several improvements and new discoveries have been made since his time, yet is he still looked upon by the ablest physicians, as the first and chief master of that art, and as the person whose writings ought to be the chief study of those that would distinguish themselves in that profession.
a Plut. in Alex. p. 668.
d Plin. l. xxiv. c. 1.
b En. 1. xii. ver. 396.
Cyrop. l. i. p. 29, et 1. viii. p. 212,
c Plin. 1. xxvi. c. 1.
e Lib. xxix. c. 9
Men thus qualified, who, to the study of the most celebrated physicians, as well ancient as modern, as also to the knowledge they have acquired of the virtues of simples, the principles of natural philosophy, and the constitution and contexture of human bodies, have added a long practice and experience, together with their own serious reflections; such men as these, in a well-ordered state, deserve to be highly rewarded and distinguished, as the Holy Spirit itself signifies to us in the sacred writings: "a The skill of the physi"cian shall lift up his head; and in the sight of great men "he shall be in admiration ;" since all their labours, lucubrations, and watchings, are devoted to the people's health, which of all human blessings is the dearest and most valuable. And yet this blessing is what mankind are the least careful to preserve. They do not only destroy it by riot and excess, but through a blind credulity, they foolishly entrust it with persons of no credit or experience, who impose upon them by their impudence and presumption, or seduce them by their flattering assurances of infallible recovery.
SECT. IV. Astronomy.
As much as the Grecians desired to be esteemed the authors and inventors of all arts and sciences, they could never absolutely deny the Babylonians the honour of having laid the foundations of astronomy. The advantageous situation of Babylon, which was built upon a wide, extended flat country, where no mountains bounded the prospect; the constant clearness and serenity of the air in that country, so favourable to the free contemplation of the heavens; perhaps also the extraordinary height of the tower of Babel, which seemed to be intended for an observatory; all these circumstances were strong motives to engage this people to a more nice observation of the various motions of the heavenly bodies, and the regular course of the stars. The abbé Renaudot, in his dissertations upon the sphere, observes, that the plain, which in Scripture is called Shinar, and in which Babylon stood, is the same as is called by the Arabians Sinjar, where the caliph Almamon, the seventh of the Habbassides, in whose reign the sciences began to flourish among the Arabians, caused the astronomical observations to be made, which for several ages directed all the astrono
a Ecclus. xxxiii. 3.
Palam est, ut quisque inter istos loquendo polleat, imperatorem illico vitæ nostræ necisque fieri-Adeo blanda est sperandi pro se cuique dulcedo. Plin.
1. xxix. c. t.
e Principio Assyrii propter planitiem magnitudinem que regionum quas incolebant, cum cœlum ex omni parte patens et apertum intuerentur, trajectiones *sque stellarum observaverunt. Cic. lib. i. de Div. n. 2.
moirs of the Academy des Belles Lettres, vol. i. part ii. p. 2.
mers of Europe; and that the sultan Gelaleddin Melikschah, the third of the Seljukides, caused a course of the like observations to be made near 300 years afterwards in the same place: from whence it appears, that this place was always reckoned one of the properest in the world for astronomical observations.
The ancient Babylonians could not have carried theirs to any great perfection for want of the help of telescopes, which are of modern invention, and have greatly contributed of late years to render our astronomical inquiries more perfect and exact. Whatever they were, they have not come down to us. Epigenes, a grave and credible author, according to Pliny, speaks of observations made for the space of 720 years, and imprinted upon squares of brick, which if it be true, must reach back to a very early antiquity. Those of which Calisthenes, a philosopher in Alexander's train, makes mention, and of which he gave Aristotle an account, include 1903 years, and consequently must commence very near the deluge, and the time of Nimrod's building the city of Babylon.
We are certainly under great obligations, which we ought to acknowledge, to the labours and curious inquiries of those who have contributed to the discovery or improvement of so useful a science; a science, not only of great service to agriculture and navigation, by the knowledge it gives us of the regular course of the stars, and of the wonderful, constant, and uniform proportion of days, months, seasons, and years, but even to religion itself; with which, as Plato shows, the study of that science has a very close and necessary connexion; as it directly tends to inspire us with great reverence for the Deity, who with infinite wisdom presides over the government of the universe, and is present and attentive to all our actions. But at the same time we cannot sufficiently deplore the misfortune of those very philosophers, who, by their successful application and astronomical inquiries, came very near the Creator, and yet were so unhappy as not to find him, because they did not serve and adore him as they ought to do, nor govern their actions by the rules and directions of that divine model.
SECT. V.-Judicial Astrology.
As to the Babylonian and other eastern philosophers, the study of the heavenly bodies was so far from leading them, as it ought to have done, to the knowledge of him, who is both Porphyr apud Simplic. in l. ii. de cœlo.
a Plin hist. nat. l. vii. c. 56.
c In Epinom. p. 989-992.
d Magna industria, magna solertia: sed ibi Creatorem ferutati sunt positum non longe a se, et non invenerunt-quia quærere neglexerunt. August. de verb. Evang. Matth, Serm lxviii. c. 1.