In arithmetic they could count up to millions. When the Nile overflowed their lands, they knew how, by means of geometry, to find again the boundaries of their fields. In trades and handicrafts they were skillful. Thus they could weave and cut jewels and make glass cleverly and beautifully.
But above all they excelled as builders. They built temples adorned with gigantic columns; they carved those huge and curious stone images called sphinxes which have the bodies of lions and the heads of women; they set up tall, pointed monuments called obclisks, covered with writing which tells us the deeds of kings and heroes. But most interesting of all are, of course, their mighty pyramids, built of gigantic blocks of stone, which were constructed as tombs for their kings. (3733 B.C.) How remarkable that they could raise these huge masses and set them in place with such marvelous exactness, all without the use of modern machinery! It must have taken the labor of thousands of men for many weary years.
The world owes a great deal to the Egyptians, for the beginnings of much which we know go back to them.
8. Asia, Too, Has Early Civilized Peoples. To the east of Egypt in southwestern Asia lies another fertile land, watered by two great rivers called the Tigris and the Euphrates. We now know that civilized people lived here almost as early as in Egypt itself.
In this country the modern traveler sees no such wonderful ruins as along the Nile, but in some places huge, unsightly mounds have been discovered which were evidently the work of men. Into many of these, patient explorers have dug, and rich has been their reward. These mounds are the remains of ancient cities, and the explorer's spade has shown to us how their palaces and their walls and their streets were once built. By the Euphrates stood Babylon, with its towering walls and its terraced gardens, once the noblest city of all the world. To the north, on the Tigris, was Nineveh, whose fierce kings held sway over many nations. Other mounds in this region besides these tell us, too, of glories now dead for thousands of years.
Like the Egyptians, the Babylonians also were great builders. But as there was little stone in their land they had to make their great structures of sun-dried brick. This soft material, as centuries passed, crumbled away into the vast mounds which so well concealed their secrets.
Bricks were not merely the building material of the Babylonians; they also served them for books. Upon the clay, when it was still soft, these ancient men made, with
9. How the Hebrews and Phoenicians Helped Civilization. Lying between Egypt and Babylonia, near the eastern end of the Mediterranean, lies Palestine, where three thousand years ago lived one of the most remarkable nations the world has ever seen. The ancient Hebrews were not as numerous or strong in war as some of their neighbors, though they, too, had powerful kings like the brave David and the wise Solomon. They did not equal the Egyptians in learning. But, first of all peoples in the world, the Hebrews worshiped the one God, maker of heaven and earth, and urged men to obey His commandments.
Though their capital, Jerusalem, was later seized by their enemies and they themselves scattered to the ends of the earth, the Jews still clung to the "one true God." In religion they have been the schoolmasters of all European peoples.
Near the Hebrews, in a narrow little land on the edge of the Mediterranean Sea itself, lived their kinsmen, the Phoenicians. They were the great traders of the ancient world, and Phoenician ships with their strong oars and white sails made voyages which then seemed long and dangerous. They dared sail even to Spain, and finally made their way to the distant British Isles.
Through trading with them the peoples who lived along the Mediterranean gained some ideas which the Phoenicians themselves had gathered from the people of Egypt or Babylon.
Most valuable of all was a knowledge of the letters of the alphabet, for the Phoemcians knew how to write by marks which stood for sounds. This is called phonetic, or sound, writing. It was simpler and better than the picture writing of the Egyptians or the wedge-shaped writing of the Babylonians. Though these, too, were partly phonetic, they were clumsy, and difficult to learn.
The Leading Facts. 1. The earliest men who lived in Europe were rough savages. 2. These people gradually improved their condition and made many simple but useful inventions. 3. The first really civilized people were the Egyptians. 4. We are now able to rcad their writings and know many facts of their history. 5. The Egyptians had much useful knowledge and excelled in building huge temples, sphinxes, and pyramids. 6. In the valley of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers in Asia civilized people also lived at a very early time. 7. They built temples and cities of brick which have crumbled into great mounds. 8. The Hebrews were the first people to worship one God. p. Their kinsmen, the Phoenicians, were great traders, and taught the people of Europe the alphabet.
Study Questions. 1. Why does no one know how long men have lived in Europe? 2. How can we tell something of the way early men in Europe lived? 3. What were some of the useful inventions and discoveries made by these people 4. What things helped the people of Egypt to become civilized? 5. What discovery helped scholars to read the Egyptian writing? 6. What are "mummies," an did the Egyptians pay so much attention to preserving them? 7. Make a list of useful things which the Egyptians knew. How do we get our knowledge about the ancient people of the valley of the Tigris and Euphrates? p. Why did they use brick for building instead of stone? 10. Why does the world care about the ancient Hebrews? 11. Why did the voyages of the Phoenicians seem long and dangerous? 12. Why is "sound writing" better than "picture writing"?
Suggested Readings. McIntyre, The Cave Boy of the Stone Age; Holbrook, Cave, Mound, and Lake Dwellers, and Other Primitive Peoples; Arnold, Stories of Ancient Peoples; Ragozin, A History of the World: Vol. I, Earliest Peoples; Retold from "St. Nicholas": Stories of the Ancient World, 3-52, 69-77, 92-124.