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country call all ancient Roman intrenchments the camp
of Caesar.
In a word, the more I reflect on the subject, the
more I am persuaded that there was no more an ancient
history of Babylon or Ecbatana than of Egypt or the
Indies; and instead of explaining mythology
historically, as Evhemere or Bannier, it is my opinion
that a great portion of history should be considered as
It is only from the epoch commonly called that of
the second kingdom of Assyria, that the history of the
Assyrians and Chaldeans begins to be at all clear; at
the same time in which that of the Egyptians also
becomes intelligible; when the kings of Nineveh,
Babylon and Egypt, began to meet and fight on the
theatre of Syria and Palestine.
It appears, however, that the writers of these
countries, or those who had consulted its traditions,
Berosus, Hieronymus, and Nicholas de Damas, agree in
mentioning a deluge. Berosus even describes it with
circumstances so similar to that of Genesis, which it is
scarcely possible but that he must have derived his
information from the same sources, although he makes
its epoch many centuries earlier; that is, if we may
judge from the confused extracts which Josephus,
Eusebius and Syncellus, have preserved of his
writings. But we must remark, — and with this
observation we shall terminate our mention of the
Babylonians, — that these numerous ages, and this
long list of kings, placed between the deluge and
Semiramis, is a new thing, entirely originating from
Berosus, and of which Ctesias, and those who followed
him, had not the least idea, and which has not even
been adopted by any profane author after Berosus.



and Velleius considered Ninus as the first of the
conquerors; and those who, against all probability,
place him highest, only make him forty centuries
anterior to the present time. (1)
The Armenian writers of the middle age agree very
nearly with one of the texts of Genesis, when they date
the deluge as 4916 years anterior to their own time;
and it might be imagined, that having collected the old
traditions, and perhaps extracted the old chronicles of
their country, they form an additional authority in
favour of the newness of nations. But when we reflect,
that their historical literature is only dated from the
fifth century, and that they were acquainted with
Eusebius, we may understand that they accommodated
themselves to his chronology and that of the Bible.
Moses of Chorene expressly professes to have followed
the Greeks, and we may perceive that his ancient
history is formed on that of Ctesias. (2)
It is, however, certain, that the tradition of the
deluge existed in Armenia, even before the conversion
of the inhabitants to Christianity; and the city which,
according to Josephus, was called the Place of the
Descent, still exists, at the foot of mount Ararat, and
bears the name of Nachidchevan, which has the same
meaning. (3)
By Armenians, we mean, the Arabs, Persians, Turks,
Mongolians and Abyssians, of the present day. Their
ancient books, if they ever had any, exist no longer.
They have no other ancient history than that which
they have recently made, and

(1) Justin, lib. 1, c. 1; Vellejus Patercuhis, lib. 1, c. vii.
(2) See Moses Chorenensis. Hist. Armen. lib. 1, c. 1.
(3) See the Prefaoe of the two Whistons on Moses of
Chorene, p. 4.



which they modelled on the Bible. Thus what they say
of the deluge is borrowed from Genesis, and adds no
testimony to that book.
It is curious to learn the opinion of the ancient
Persians on this subject, before it was modified by
Christian and Mahometan creeds. We find it deposited
in their Boundehesh or Cosmogony, a work of the
prince of the Sassanides, but evidently extracted or
translated from more ancient works, and which
Anguetil du Perron found among the Parsees of India.
The whole duration of the world it states to be only
12,000 years, therefore it cannot yet be very old. The
appearance of the Cayoumortz (the bullman, the first
man) is preceded by the creation of a great water. (1)
For the rest, it would be useless to ask from the
Parsees a serious history, as from the other oriental
nations. The Magi have left no more than the Brahmins
or Chaldeans: I ask no other proof than the
uncertainties concerning the epoch of Zoroaster. It is
even pretended, that the little history that they might
have had which related to the Achemenides, the
successors of Cyrus to the time of Alexander, has been
expressly altered, and by the official command of one
of the kings, Sossanides. (2)
To discover the authentic dates of the commence
ment of empires, and traces of the universal deluge
(grand cataclisme) we must go beyond the vast deserts
of Tartary. Towards the east and north is an other
race, whose institutions and modes of life differ from
ours as much as their formation and

(1) Zendavesta d'Anquetil, v.2. p. 354.
(2) Mezoudi ap Sacy. Manuscripts of the king's library, vol.
viii. p. 161.



temperament. Their language is monosyllabic, — their
writing is arbitrary hierogiyphics, — they have only a
political morality, without religion, for the
superstitions of Fo were brought to them from the
Indians. Their yellow complexion, projecting
cheekabones, their narrow and oblique eyes, and scanty
beard, render them so different from us, that we are
tempted to believe that their ancestors and ours
escaped at the great catastrophe by different sides; but,
however that may be, they date their deluge from
nearly the same epoch as our own.
The most ancient book of the Chinese, is called the
Chou-King,(l) which is said to have been compiled by
Confucius, from the fragments of former works, about
2255 years ago. Two centuries later, they say, was the
persecution of letters, and the destruction of the books,
under the emperor Chi Hoangti, who wanted to destroy
the traces of the feudal government, established under
a dynasty previous to his own. Forty years afterwards,
under the dynasty which had overthrown that to which
Chi-Hoangti belonged, a part of the Chou-King was
restored from memory by an old sage, and another was
found in a tomb; but nearly half of it was utterly lost.
But this book, the most authentic of China, begins the
history of this country with Yao, an emperor so
named, who it represents to us as occupied in making
the waters pass away, which being raised as high as
heaven, were still laying the feet of the loftiest
mountains, covering the hills that were less elevated,
and rendered the

(1) See the preface of the edition of Chou-King, by M. de



plains impassible.(1) The date of Yao is, by some
fixed 4163 years before the present time; according to
others, at 3943 years. The variety of opinions on this
epoch extends even to 284 years.
Some pages farther on we find Yu, a minister and
engineer, re-establishing the course of the waters,
forming dykes, digging canals, and regulating the taxes
of every province in China, that is to say, in an empire
of six hundred leagues in every direction. The
impossibility of such operations, after such events,
shows that the whole is but a moral or political
More modern historians have added a series of
emperors before Yao, but with a great many fabulus
circumstances, without venturing to assign fixed dates
to them, varying incessantly one with the other, even
in number and names, and not being approved of by
many of their countrymen. Fouhi with his serpent's
body, his bull's head, and tortoise's teeth, and his
successors not less monstrous, are as absurd, and have
had no more reality than Enceladus and Briareus.
Is it possible that mere chance gave a result so
striking as to make the traditional origin of the
Assyrian, Indian, and Chinese monarchies agree in
being as remote as 4000 years back? Would the ideas
of nations, who have had so little communica tion with
each other, whose language, religion and laws, have
nothing in common, agree on this point, if they were
not founded on truth?
We will not ask for precise dates from the

(1) Chou-King. French translation, p. 9.
(2) It is the Yu-King, or chap. 1, of the 2nd part of the
Chou-King, pp. 43 — 60.



Americans, who had no real writing, and whose most
ancient traditions go no farther back than to some few
centuries before the arrival of the Spaniards; and yet
we still imagine that we can detect traces of the deluge
in their rough hieroglyphics. They have their Noah, or
their Deucalion, like the Indians, the Babylonians, and
the Greeks. (1)
The negroes, the most degraded of human beings
whose forms are the nearest to those of brutes, and
whose intellect has no where expanded so greatly as to
attain a regular government, nor to the least semblance
of connected information, have preserved no records,
no traditions. They cannot then afford us any
information concerning our inquiry, although all their
characters clearly show that they escaped from the
great catastrophe by some other point than the
Caucasian and Altaic races, from whom they were
probably separated long before this catastrophe
But, it is said, if the ancient races have not left us
any history, their long existence as nations is not the
less attested by the progress which they made in
astronomy; by observations which are easily dated, and
even by the monuments still existing and which
themselves bear their dates.
Thus the length of the year, such as the Egyptians
are supposed to have determined it, according to the
heliacal rising of Sirius, is correct for a period
comprised between the year 3000 and the year 1000
before Christ, a period to which the traditions of their
conquests, and the great prosperity of their empire also
have reference. This accuracy

(1) See the admirable and splendid work of M. de Humboldt
on the Mountains of Mexico.



proves to what an exact pitch they had carried their
observations, and makes it evident that they had
devoted themselves for a long time to such studies.
To appreciate this reasoning, it is necessary that we
enter into some explanation.
The solstice is that moment of the year, at which the
rising of the Nile begins, and which the Egyptians
must have observed with very great attention. Having,
in the beginning, formed a civil or sacred year, of
exactly three hundred and sixty-five days, from
imperfect observations, they would preserve it from
superstitious motives, even after they had discovered
that it did not coincide with the natural or tropical
year, and that the seasons did not revert on the same
days. (1) However, it was the tropical year, which it
most behoved them to mark, for directions in their
agricultural operations. They would then seek in the
heavens for some apparent sign of its return, and they
imagined that they had found it when the sun returned
to the same position, with relation to a certain
remarkable star. Thus they applied themselves, like
nearly all nations who begin a similar inquiry, to the
examination of the heliacal rising and setting of the
stars. We know that they particularly fixed on the
heliacal rising of Sirius; at first doubtless because of
the splendour of this star; and above all, because in
ancient times this rising of Sirius, nearly coinciding
with the solstice, announcing the inundation, was to
them a phenomenon of the most important nature.

(1) Geminus, a contemporary with Cicero, explains these
notions at length. See M. Halma's edition, at the end of
Ptolomæus, p. 43.



Hence it was, that Sirius, under the name of Sothis,
played a prominent part in all their mythology, and
their religious rites. Supposing then that the recurrence
of the heliacal rising of Sirius and the tropical year
were of the same duration, and believing that they had
at length discovered that this duration was three
hundred and sixty-five days and a quarter, they
imagined a period, after which the tropical year, the
ancient year, the year of three hundred and sixty-five
days only, would revert to the same day; a period
which, according to these incorrect data, was
necessarily 1461 sacred years, and 1460 of those
perfected years, to which they gave the name of the
years of Sirius.
They took as the point of departure of this period,
which they called the sothaic or great year, a civil
year; the first day of which was, or had been also that
of the soliacal rising of Sirius; and we learn from the
positive testimony of Censorinus, that one of these
great years terminated in the year 138 before
Christ.(1> Consequently it began 1322 years before
Christ, and that which preceded it, 2782 years
previously. In fact, from calculations of M. Ideler, we
learn that Sirius rose heliacally on the 20th July, in the
Julian year 139, a day which corresponds to the first of
Thot, or the first day of the sacred Egyptian year. (2)
But not only the sun's position, with relation to the
stars of the ecliptic or the sidereal year, is not the
same as the tropical year, because of the precision

(1) All this system is developed by Censorius, de Die
Natali, cap. xviii. and xxi.
(2) Ideler. Hist. Researches on the Astronomical
Observations of the Ancients. Halma's translation at the end of
his Canon of Ptolemæus, p. 32. et seq.



of the equinoxes. The heliacal year qf a star, or the
period of its heliacal rising, especially when it is
distant from the ecliptic, differs also from the sidereal
year, and differs variously, according to their latitudes
in the places of observation. Yet what is singular
enough, and what Bainbridge,(1) and father Petau,(2)
have remarked,(3) is, that it happens by a remarkable
concurrence in the positions, that in the latitude of
upper Egypt, at a certain epoch, and during a certain
number of centuries, the year of Sirius, was really
within very little of three hundred and sixty-five days
and a quarter; so that the heliacal of this star returned,
in fact, to the same day of the Julian year, on the 20th
of July, in 1322 years before, and 138 after Christ. (4)
From this positive coincidence, at a period so
remote, M Fourier, who has determined all these
coincidences by great labour and new calculations,
concludes, that since the length of the year of Sirius
was so perfectly known to the Egyptians, they must
have determined it by observations made during a long
series of years, and with much exactness; observations
as remote as 2500 years before

(1) Bainbridge, Canicul.
(2) Petan, Var. Diss. lib. v. c. vi. p. 108.
(3) See La Nauze, on the Egyptian year. Acad. de Bell. Lett.
v. xiv. p. 346, and the memoir of Fourier, in the great work on
Egypt, Mem. v. i. p. 803.
(4) Petau, loc. cit. M. Ideler affirms that this coincidence of
the heliacal rising of Sirius, took place also 2782 years before
Christ. (Rech. Hist. in the Ptolemæus of M. Halma, v. iv. p.
37.) But with respect to the Julian year, 1598 after Christ,
which is also the last of a great year, Father Petau and M.
Ideler differ. The latter places the heliacal rising of Sirius, on
the 22nd of July, the former on the 19th or 20th of August.



our era, and could not have been made either much
before or much after this interval of time. (1)
Certainly, this result would be very striking if the
length of the year of Sirius had been directly decided
by observations made on Sirius itself. But
experimental astronomers affirm, that it is impossible
that the heliacal rising of a star could serve as the
basis of these exact observations on such a subject,
particularly in a climate where the circumference of the
horizon is always so much loaded with vapours, that on
fine nights, stars of the second and third magnitude are
never seen within a few degrees of the edge of the
horizon, and that the sun itself at its rising and
setting, is entirely obscured.
(2) They maintain, that if
the length of the year had not been discovered by some
other means, they would have been mistaken in one or
two days. (3) They do not doubt then that this duration
of three hundred and sixty-five days and a quarter, is
that of the tropical year, inaccurately determined by
the observation of the shadow, or by that of the point
where the sun rose daily, and ignorantly identified
with the heliacal year of Sirius; so that it would be
mere chance which determined with so much accuracy
the duration of the latter for the epoch in question. (4)

(1) See the great work on Egypt. Antiq. Mem. v. i. p. 803;
the ingenious Memoir of M. Fourier, entitled, 'Recherches sur
les Sciences et le Gouvernement de l'Egypte.'
(2) These are the words of the late M. Nouet, astronomer to
the expedition to Egypt. See Volney's 'Recherches Nouvelles
sur l'Histoire Ancienne,' v. iii.
(3) Delambre Abrégé d'Astronomie, p. 217,and in his note
on the Paranatellons. Hist. de l'Astr. du Moyen Age, p. 52.
(4) Deambre's Report on M. de Paravey's Memoir
concerning the Sphere, in the 8th vol. of the New Annals of

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