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(3.) Others have supposed that the Ophir of Solomon was in the Persian Gulf; and that the commerce extended down the Red Sea, and around Arabia to the Gulf. Calmet adopted the singular theory that Ophir was in Armenia, and that the fleet of Solomon proceeded up the Persian Gulf, and thence up the Euphrates or the Tigris as far as those rivers were navigable, in order to receive the productions of Armenia. In this opinion, he is probably destined to stand alone. Nor has the opinion that the Ophir of the Scriptures was within the Persian Gulf much to recommend it. The articles enumerated are not those which would naturally be found in the islands of that Gulf, or on the adjacent shore. The gems and spices, the precious stones and aromatics of the Indies would be the productions which would naturally find their way to the countries bordering on the Persian Gulf.
(4.) India has been commonly regarded as the country where Ophir was to be found. To this opinion the large majority of authorities refer the Hebrew-Phenician voyage. But it is almost needless to say, that there has been an almost infinite number of opinions as to the part of India where Ophir was to be found; and that scarcely two persons have fixed on the same place. But the objections to India as the country of Ophir are, in my view, insuperable. The material one is, the difficulty of the navigation. Those who have read Dr. Vincent's account of the voyage of Nearchus from the river Indus to the Persian Gulf, will be satisfied that it is highly improbable that a voyage to India was undertaken and accomplished more than six hundred years
before that time. Arrian denies that any voyage had ever occurred from the Red Sea to the Persian Gulf by sailing around Arabia ; Eratosthenes (apud Strabo lib. xvi. xvii.) also denies that any vessel proceeding from the straits of the Red Sea (Babelmandel) had ever gone more than about six hundred miles. Strabo says that before his time scarcely twenty ships had ever dared to adventure beyond the straits into the open ocean. See Huet in Ugolin, tom. vii. p. 302.
(5.) The editor of the Pictorial Bible (on 2 Chron. 20) supposes, that no particular country is intended by the Ophir of the Scriptures; but that the term is used, like the word Thule in the classics, to denote some indefinite, distant region, or a certain region of the world—like the East or West Indies. In confirmation of this opinion, Tychsen, after Heeren, observes that the word Ophir signifies in Arabia, “ the rich countries.”—To
me, however, it seems most probable that the country designated was on the eastern coast of Africa ; and to this the opinions of most writers now converge.
3. The articles of commerce which Solomon conveyed to his dominions by his fleet were the following. (1.) Gold. How it was procured or paid for, or what constituted the articles of export for which Solomon received this in return, is nowhere intimated. (2.) Silver—an article which he made exceedingly abundant in Jerusalem. (3.) Ivory-also, as we have seen in speaking of the commerce of Tyre, an important article. (4.)
, . What species of those animals was imported cannot be determined. The word gip is applied to any species of the simia or monkey race. Why they were imported, is not known. As they were objects of curiosity, then as now, it is possible that it was a mere matter of speculation. As Solomon gave much of his time to Natural History (1 Kings 4: 33), it may have been with some reference to that study. (5.) Peacocks, bapin. It has been doubted whether peacocks are intended or parrots ;* and it is not very material. Both are produced in Africa and in India ; and both would have answered the purpose contemplated by Solomon. If the object was gain, they would be valuable objects of merchandise, as curiosities in the land of Palestine. If the object was the study of natural history, the fact is more interesting. Other kings and princes, we may suppose, would collect foreign quadrupeds and birds as objects of curiosity or wonder—to beautify a park or decorate a garden. But as we know that Solomon was devoted to study, it is not unreasonable to suppose that, while his main object was gain, he might have instructed his navigators to bring home, whatever they might meet with that was unusual or rare, which would serve to enlarge the empire of science. If so, the fact shows that amidst all that was splendid and luxurious in that reign, the useful was not forgotten, and that while Solomon sought to increase the works of art, he, at the same time, sought to extend the bounds of knowledge, and to diffuse an acquaintance with the works of God.
This commerce was, however, of short duration. The civil wars which succeeded the death of Solomon turned the attention of the nation away from such pursuits; and no effort appears
* See Huet as quoted above. Comp. also Bochart, Hieroz. T. II. p. 135, seq.
6 SECOND SERIES, VOL. V. NO. I.
to have been made to recover the advantages of foreign traffic until the time of Jehoshaphat-more than seventy years later. This prince formed a commercial treaty with Ahaziah, king of Israel, for the purpose of renewing the trade to Tarshish ; but the fleet which they constructed at the port of Ezion-geber was destroyed in a storm; and the attempt was never renewed. 2 Chron. 20: 36, 37.
It is proper, in describing the commerce of Western Asia, to notice another celebrated city that was founded to secure it; 1 allude to Alexandria, in Egypt. Alexander, in his pursuit of Darius, was led to the northeastern part of Persia, and he terminated his career on the Hydaspes, a branch of the Indus. Here his conquests ended; and here he wept that no other world was to be subdued. He had carried his arms over the regions that had once constituted the most powerful monarchies of the earth; and had vanquished the very kingdoms which had once poured their legions on the plains of Leuctra and Marathon. But the mind of that great man was too restless to remain satisfied with his past achievements. To consolidate this vast region into one government, required not less energy than to conquer it; and without delay the work was undertaken. The commerce of the East was an object that attracted his attention, and laid the foundation for a new plan. The passage, from the place where he then was to the ocean, had never been made but once-by Darius; and Alexander fitted out a fleet under Nearchus, to attempt the dangerous way. Alexander, with his army, moved along the shore, while Nearchus and the fleet performed the voyage. It was demonstrated that the commerce of the East, instead of being borne over land, could be conveyed on the ocean; and the plan was formed to convey it around Arabia, up the Red Sea, and thence to Europe. The site of Alexandria was selected to aid in this purpose. The plan of a magnificent city was formed ; and it shows the forecast which planned it, that, while Tyre declined, and Babylon sunk to ruin, Alexandria, for 1800 years, continued to command the commerce of India.*
This commerce, too, gave importance to Venice, Genoa, and the states and cities of Italy. Venice rose from the waves be
* See Arrian, Exped. Alex. and Dr. Vincent on the Commerce of the Ancients, for a full account of the voyage of Nearchus.
cause of her convenient position between Alexandria and Europe. She maintained her pre-eminence until the direction of that commerce was changed, in the revolutions which followed the discoveries of Vasco de Gama.
This detail, perhaps dry and uninteresting, has conducted us to an important general conclusion. The great prize which was so eagerly sought by ancient enterprise, was the commerce of India, that vast indefinite region, so little known to the ancients, stretching on without known limits, from the river Indus, comprising modern Hindoostan and China,--the land of spices, and pearls, and diamonds, and gold, and silks,—the source of all that was deemed desirable to contribute to the luxury of the West. To obtain this, caravans crossed and re-crossed pathless deserts ; voyages of discovery were undertaken at imminent hazard; cities rose up amidst pathless sands and barren rocks, to afford a resting-place to the weary and heavy-laden traveller; and to secure this, too, in subsequent times, Columbus embarked on the bosom of the mighty deep, and prostrated himself on the earth with gratitude and praise, when he supposed that, by a new course, he had reached that land of splendor and of wealth.
We are now to contemplate Western Asia as presenting a different aspect; and to consider the changes which have occurred there, and the causes of those changes. We have seen splendid cities, whose size and wealth, as reported by ancient historians, almost exceed belief, and whose ruins now amaze the traveller, rise and flourish there as the fruit of a busy commerce; and it is natural to ask, why they have ceased to exist, and why, if they were destroyed by the calamities of war, they have not risen again from their ruins. To the commerce of the ancients they were, what London, and Havre, and Liverpool, and New-York, and Philadelphia, and Pittsburgh, and Cincinnati, and New-Orleans are to the moderns. Some of them equalled the greatest of these modern cities, in size and wealth-perhaps surpassed them in splendor, and stood as confident of permanency. There was as little prospect of their decay and ruin as there is now of the marts of commerce in Europe and America. In the height of their glory, however, when the caravan was moving towards them with the wealth of the East; when they resounded with the din of business and the cheerfulness of song; when splendid palaces were building, as the fruits of that commerce; when they were encom
passing themselves with high and massive walls, and towers, and gates; and when the fleets, bearing the wealth of distant nations, were crowding around their wharves, one thing was as remarkable as it was ominous. A succession of men, clad in a humble garb, dwelling in the little territory of Judea-a country never distinguished for commerce, and cut off by its constitution from forming extended foreign relations,-a class of men without literature, or profound knowledge of international laws, were addressing these cities in language fearfully foreboding. To Tyre—that splendid commercial emporium—these foreigners said, speaking in the name of the God of cities and of nations : “ I will make thee like the top of a rock. Thou shalt be a place to spread nets upon.” “They shall lay thy stones, and thy timber, and thy dust, in the midst of the water. I will also scrape her dust from her. I will make thee a terror; and thou shalt be no more. Thou shalt be sought for, yet thou shalt never be found again.” Ezek. 26:4, 12, 14, 15, 21. To Babylon they said: "Babylon, the glory of kingdoms, the beauty of the Chaldee's excellency, shall be as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah. It shall never be inhabited, neither shall it be dwelt in from generation to generation; neither shall the Arabian pitch tent there; neither shall the shepherds make their fold there. But wild beasts of the desert shall lie there; and their houses shall be full of doleful creatures; and owls shall dwell there, and satyrs shall dance there." Isa. 13:20, 21. Of Mount Seir, or Petra, they said: “I will stretch out my hand against thee, and I will make thee most desolate.” Ezek. 35:1–4. “ The pride of thine heart hath deceived thee, thou that dwellest in the clefts of the rock, whose habitation is high.” Obad. 3:8, 17, 18. eration to generation shall it lie waste, none shall pass through it for ever and ever. And thorns shall come up in her palaces, nettles and brambles in the fortresses thereof, and it shall be a habitation of dragons, and a court for owls.” Ezek. 35: 3. Obad. 3. Isaiah 34: 10, 13. When these, and a multitude of similar predictions were uttered, there was the same human prospect of their fulfilment that there would be now, if uttered of London or Liverpool, of Havre or Paris, of Philadelphia or New-York—AND NO MORE.
I need scarcely say that great changes have occurred in that whole land. To the traveller, it is now a sad and lonely part of the world. The sceptre of empire has passed away. Des,
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