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Greece Under The Romans
by [?]

GREECE UNDER THE ROMANS.[Footnote: By George Finlae]


What is called Philosophical History we believe to be yet in its infancy. It is the profound remark of Mr. Finlay–profound as we ourselves understand it, i. e., in relation to this philosophical treatment, ‘That history will ever remain inexhaustible.’ How inexhaustible? Are the facts of history inexhaustible? In regard to the ancient division of history with which he is there dealing, this would be in no sense true; and in any case it would be a lifeless truth. So entirely have the mere facts of Pagan history been disinterred, ransacked, sifted, that except by means of some chance medal that may be unearthed in the illiterate East (as of late towards Bokhara), or by means of some mysterious inscription, such as those which still mock the learned traveller in Persia, northwards near Hamadan (Ecbatana), and southwards at Persepolis, or those which distract him amongst the shadowy ruins of Yucatan (Uxmal, suppose, and Palenque),–once for all, barring these pure godsends, it is hardly ‘in the dice’ that any downright novelty of fact should remain in reversion for this nineteenth century. The merest possibility exists, that in Armenia, or in a Graeco-Russian monastery on Mount Athos, or in Pompeii, etc., some authors hitherto Î�Î�Î�χÎ�Î�τÎ�Î� may yet be concealed; and by a channel in that degree improbable, it is possible that certain new facts of history may still reach us. But else, and failing these cryptical or subterraneous currents of communication, for us the record is closed. History in that sense has come to an end, and sealed up as by the angel in the Apocalypse. What then? The facts so understood are but the dry bones of the mighty past. And the question arises here also, not less than in that sublimest of prophetic visions, ‘Can these dry bones live?’. Not only can they live, but by an infinite variety of life. The same historic facts, viewed in different lights, or brought into connection with other facts, according to endless diversities of permutation and combination, furnish grounds for such eternal successions of new speculations as make the facts themselves virtually new. The same Hebrew words are read by different sets of vowel points, and the same hieroglyphics are deciphered by keys everlastingly varied.

To us we repeat that oftentimes it seems as though the science of history were yet scarcely founded. There will be such a science, if at present there is not; and in one feature of its capacities it will resemble chemistry. What is so familiar to the perceptions of man as the common chemical agents of water, air, and the soil on which we tread? Yet each one of these elements is a mystery to this day; handled, used, tried, searched experimentally, in ten thousand ways–it is still unknown; fathomed by recent science down to a certain depth, it is still probably by its destiny unfathomable. Even to the end of days, it is pretty certain that the minutest particle of earth–that a dew-drop scarcely distinguishable as a separate object–that the slenderest filament of a plant will include within itself secrets inaccessible to man. And yet, compared with the mystery of man himself, these physical worlds of mystery are but as a radix of infinity. Chemistry is in this view mysterious and spinosistically sublime–that it is the science of the latent in all things, of all things as lurking in all. Within the lifeless flint, within the silent pyrites, slumbers an agony of potential combustion. Iron is imprisoned in blood. With cold water (as every child is now-a-days aware) you may lash a fluid into angry ebullitions of heat; with hot water, as with the rod of Amram’s son, you may freeze a fluid down to the temperature of the Sarsar wind, provided only that you regulate the pressure of the air. The sultry and dissolving fluid shall bake into a solid, the petrific fluid shall melt into a liquid. Heat shall freeze, frost shall thaw; and wherefore? Simply because old things are brought together in new modes of combination. And in endless instances beside we see the same Panlike latency of forms and powers, which gives to the external world a capacity of self-transformation, and of polymorphosis absolutely inexhaustible.