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were equally unacquainted with vice. They did not make any division of their lands amongst themselves, says Justin: it would have been in vain for them to have done it ; since they did not apply themselves to cultivate them. Horace, in one of his odes, of which I shall insert a part by and by, tells us, that some of them did cultivate a certain portion of land allotted to them for one year only, at the expiration of which they were relieved by others, who succeeded them on the same conditions. They had no houses, nor settled habitation; but wandered continually with their cattle and their flocks from country to country. Their wives and children they carried along with them in wagons, covered with the skins of beasts, which were all the houses they had to dwell in. Justice* was observed and maintained amongst them through the natural temper and disposition of the people, and not by any compulsion of laws, with which they were wholly unacquainted. No crime was more severely punished among them than theft; and that with good
For their herds and flocks, in which all their riches consisted, being never shut up, how could they possibly subsist, if theft had not been most rigorously punished? They coveted neither silver nor gold, like the rest of mankind; and made milk and honey their principal diet. They were strangers to the use of linen or woollen manufactures; and to defend themselves froni the violent and continual cold of their climate, they made use of nothing but the skins of beasts.
I said before, that these manners of the Scythians might appear to some people very wild and savage. And indeed, what can be said for a nation that has lands, and yet does not cultivate them ; that has herds of cattle, of which they content themselves with eating the milk, and neglect the flesh? The wool of their sheep might supply them with warm and comfortable clothes, and yet they use no other raiment than the skins of animals. But, that which is the greatest demonstration of their ignorance and savageness, according to the general opinion of mankind, is their utter neglect of gold and silver, which have always been had in such great request in all civilized nations.
But, oh! how happy was this ignorance; how vastly preferable this savage state to our pretended politeness! This contempt of all the conveniences of life, says Justin,t was attended with such an honesty and uprightness of manners, as hindered them from ever coveting their neighbours' goods. For the desire of riches can only take place, where riches can be made use of. And would to God, says the same author, we could see the same moderation prevail among the rest of mankind and the like indifference to the goods of other people! The world would not then have seen wars perpe. tually succeeding one another in all ages, and in all countries : nor would the number of those that are cut off by the sword, exceed that of those who fall by the irreversible decree and law of nature.
* Justitia gentis ingeniis culta non legibus. † Hæc continentia illis morum quoque justitiam indidit, nihil alienum concupiscentibus. Quippe ibidem divitiarum cupido est, ubi et usus. Atque utinam reliquis mortalibus similis moderatio et abstinentia alieni foret! profectò non tantum belloruin per omnia secula terris omnibus continuaretur; neque plus hominum ferrum et arma, quàm naturalis fatorum con Jitin raperet.
Justin finishes his character of the Scythians with a very judicious reflection. It is a surprising thing, says he,* that a happy natural disposition, without the assistance of education, should have inspired the Scythians with such a wisdom and moderation, as the Grecians could not attain to, neither by the institutions of their legislators, nor the rules and precepts of all their philosophers; and that the manners of a barbarous nation should be preferable to those of a people so much improved and refined by the polite arts and sciences. So much more happy effects were produced by the ignorance of vice in the one, than by the knowledge of virtue in the other!
The Scythian fatherst thought, with good reason, that they left their children a valuable inheritance, when they left them in peace and union with one another. One of their kings, whose name was Scylurus, finding himself draw near his end, sent for all his children, and giving to each of them one after another a bundle of arrows tied fast together, desired them to break them. Each used his endeavours, but was not able to do it. Then untying the bundle, and giving them the arrows one by one, they were very easily broken.Let this image, says the father, be a lesson to you of the mighty advantage that results from union and concord. In order to strengthen and enlarge these domestic advantages,the Scythians used to admit their friends into the same terms of union with them as their relations. Friendship was considered by them as a sacred and inviolable alliance, which differed but little from that which nature has put between brethren, and which they could not infringe without being guilty of a heinous crime.
Ancient authors seemed to have vied with each other who should most extol the innocence of manners, that reigned among the Scythians, by magnificent encomiums. That of Horace I shall transcribe at large. That poet does not confine it entirely to the Scythians, but joins the Getæ with them, who were their near neighbours. It is in that beautiful ode, where he inveighs against the luxury and irregularities of the age in which he lived. After having told us, that peace and tranquillity of mind is not to be procured
either by immense riches, or sumptuous buildings, he adds, A hundred times happier are the Scythians,g who roam about in their
* Prorsus ut admirabile videatur, hoc illis naturam dare, quod Græci longå sapientium doctrinâ præceptisque philosophorum consequi nequeunt, cultosque mores incultæ barba · riæ collatione superari. Tantò plus in illis proficit vitiorum ignoratio, quàm in his cogritio virtutis ! † Plut. de garrul. p. 511.
Lucian. in Tex. p. 51.
Vivúnt, et rigidi Getxe;
Fruges et Cerereni ferunt!
itinerant houses, their wagons ; and happier even are the frozen Getoe. With them the earth, without being divided by land-marks, produceth her fruits, which are gathered in common. There each man's tillage is but of one year's continuance; and when that term of his labour is expired, he is relieved by a successor, who takes his place, and manures the ground on the same conditions. There the innocent step-mothers form no cruel designs against the lives of their husbands' children by a former wife. The wives do not pretend to domineer over their husbands on account of their fortunes, nor are to be corrupted by the insinuating language of spruce adulterers. The great est portion of the maiden, is her father's and mother's virtue, her inviolable attachment to her husband, and her perfect disregard of all other men. They dare not be unfaithful, because they are convinced that infidelity is a crime, and its reward is death.
When we consider the manners and character of the Scythians without prejudice, can we possibly forbear to look upon them with esteem and admiration? Does not their manner of living, as to the exterior part of it at least, bear a great resemblance to that of the patriarchs, who had no fixed habitation ; who did not till the ground; who had no other occupation than that of feeding their Hocks and herds; and who dwelt in tents? Can we believe this people were much to be pitied, for not understanding, or rather for despising, the use of gold and silver? Is it not to be wished that those metals had for ever lain buried in the bowels of the earth,* and that they had never been dug from thence to become the causes and instruments of almost every crime? What advantage could gold or silver be of to the Scythians, who valued nothing but what the necessities of men actually require, and who took care to set narrow bounds to those necessities ? It is no wonder, that living as they did, without houses, they should make no account of those arts that were so highly valued in other places, as architecture, sculpture, and painting; or that they should despise fine clothes and costly furniture, since they found the skins of beasts sufficient to defend them against the inclemency of the seasons. After all, can we truly say, that these pretended advantages contribute to the real happiness of life? Were those nations that had them in the greatest
Nec cultura placet langior annud,
Nec dotata regit virum
Dos est magna parentium
Hor. lib. iii. Od. 14.
Omnę sacrum rapiente dextrâ
Illic matre carentibus
Certo foedere castitas:
Hor. lib. ii. Od. 3
plenty, more healthful or robust than the Scythians? Did they live to a greater age than they? Or did they spend their lives in greater freedom and tranquillity, or a greater exemption from cares and troubles? Let us acknowledge, to the shame of ancient philosophy, that the Scythians, who did not particularly apply themselves to the study of wisdom, carried it however to a greater beight in their practice, than either the Egyptians, Grecians, or any other civilized nation. They did not give the name of goods or riches to any thing, but what, humanly speaking, truly deserved that title; as health, strength, courage, the love of labour and liberty, innocence of life, sincerity, an abhorrence of all fraud and dissimulation, and, in a word, all such qualities as render a man more virtuous and more valuable. If to these happy dispositions, we could add the knowledge and love of the true God and of our Redeemer, without which the most exalted virtues are of no value, they would have been a perfect people.
When we compare the manners of the Scythians with those of the present age, we are tempted to believe, that the pencils which drew so beautiful a picture, were not free from partiality and flattery; and that both Justin and Horace have decked them with virtues that did not belong to them. But all antiquity agrees in giving the same testimony of them; and Homer in particular, whose opinion ought to be of great weight, calls them the most just and upright of men.
But at length (who could believe it?) luxury, which might be thought to thrive only in an agreeable and delightful soil, penetrated, into this rough and uncultivated region; and breaking down the fences, which the constant practice of several ages, founded in the nature of the climate and the genius of the people, had set against it, did at last effectually corrupt the manners of the Scythians, and bring them, in that respect, upon a level with the other nations, where it had long been predominant. It is Strabo* that acquaints us with this particular, which is very worthy of our notice: he lived in the time of Augustus and Tiberius. After having greatly commended the simplicity, frugality, and innocence, of the ancient Scythians, and their extreme aversion to all deceit and dissimulation, he owns, that their intercourse in later times with other nations, had extirpated those virtues, and planted the contrary vices in their stead. One would think, says he, that the natural effect of such an intercourse with civilized and polite nations, would only have been that of rendering them more humanized and courteous,
by softening that air of savageness and ferocity, which they had before: but, instead of that, it introduced a total ruin of their ancient manners and transformed them into quite different creatures. It is undoubt. edly with reference to this change that Athenæus says,t the Scythians abandoned themselves to voluptuousness and luxury, at the
* Lib. vii. p. 301.
| Lib. xij. p 524.
same time that they suffered self-interest and avarice to prevail amongst them.
Strabo, in making the remark I have been mentioning, does not leny, but that it was to the Romans and Grecians this fatal change of manners was owing. Our example, says he, has perverted almost all the nations of the world: by carrying the refinements of luxury and pleasure amongst them, we have taught them insincerity and fraud, and a thousand kinds of shameful and infamous arts to get money. It is a miserable talent, and a very unhappy distinction for a nation, through its ingenuity in inventing modes, and refining upon every thing that tends to nourish and promote luxury, to become the corruptor of all its neighbours, and the author, as it were, of their vices and debauchery.
It was against these Scythians, but at a time when they were yet uncorrupted, and in their utmost vigour, that Darius turned his arms. This expedition I am now going to relate.
Darius's expedition against the Scythians. I have already observed,* that the pretence used by Darius, for undertaking this war against the Scythians, was the irruption formerly made by that people into Asia; but in reality he had no other end than to satisfy his own ambition, and to extend his conquests.
His brother Artabanes, for whom he had a great regard, and who, on his side, had no less zeal for the true interests of the king his bruther, thought it his duty on this occasion to speak his sentiments with all the freedom that an affair of such importance required. Great prince, says he to him,t they who form any great enterprise, ought carefully to consider, whether it will be beneficial or prejudicial to the state ; whether the execution of it will be easy or difficult ; uhether it be likely to augment or diminish their glory; and lastly, whether the thing designed be consistent with, or contrary to, the rules of justice. For mij own part, I cannot perceive, sir, even though you were sure of success, what advantage you can propose to yourself in undertaking a war against the Scythians. Consider the vast distance between them and you ; and the prodigious space of land and seu that separates them from your dominions ; besides, they are a people that dwell in wild and uncultivated deserts; that have neither towns nor houses ; that have no fixed settlement, or place of habitation; and that are destitute of all manner of riches. What have your troops to gain from such an expedition ? or, to speak more properly, what have they not rather to lose?
Accustomed as the Scythians are to remove from country to country,
* Herod. 1. iv. c. 83–96.
† Omnes qui magnarum rerum consilia suscipiunt, æstimare debent, an, quod inchoatur, reipublicæ utilo, ipsis gloriosum aut promptum effectu, aut certè non arduum sit. Tacit Hist. I. ii. c. 76