« PreviousContinue »
Phenicians and their clients. Professor Ihering has made it
clear that the Phenicians were the inventors of the original passport, the tessera hospitalis, a token of mutual hospitality which was broken into two parts, each party retaining one half in order that if either of them or their descendants should meet, they might recognise one another, and remember their ancient family obligations 1. These tesserae were called in Greek σύμβολα, from συμβάλλειν, used in the sense of throwing the two broken pieces together to see whether they fit ?.
When the Greeks bad accepted from the Phenicians the principle of international law in its most primitive form, they would have found it difficult to invest it with
any binding sanction. Some families might bind themselves to protect the free trade of the world, but to others, to whole communities, particularly to the Vikings of old, the temptation to plunder the vessels and to kill the merchants must have been great. They therefore had recourse to religion, and placed the law of hospitality under the protection of their supreme deity, Zeus, making him the protector of the stranger, and soon also of their guest, and calling him Zeus Xenios, a name unknown among the other Aryan nations. All this must have taken place before the days of Homer, and it is all the more important as showing us at how early a period a custom, first established by Phenician merchants, was able to modify, or at all events to expand, the character of the principal deity of the Greeks, and give rise in time to the first recognition of the rights of man as such, placed under the protection of the highest god.
| Poenulus, 1047 seq., • Conferre tesseram si vis hospitalem, ecc'
2 This is Ihering's explanation, based on Plato, Symposion 191, and Schol, in Eurip. Medea, 613. Mommsen differs.
How customs should be studied. This is the spirit in which the study of customs and laws can be made subservient to the study of Natural Religion, showing how Natural Religion, indeed, may give rise to certain customs, but how, in the majority of cases, customs come first, simply as usages of proved utility, and are afterwards invested with a sacred character, simply and solely because they have been found useful for many generations. Human nature is so made, that what is old is regarded as venerable and, after a time, as sacred, so that even when it has to be changed or abolished, it is treated with reverent hands.
Nowhere can we study this growth of custom and its gradual assumption of a sacred character better than in India. In that country custom is everything, while the idea of law, in our sense of the word, hardly exists. To speak, for instance, of the Laws of Manu is a complete misnomer. Who was Manu, and what power had he to give or to enforce laws? The true meaning of the title of that book, Mânavadharm a-s âstra, is the teaching of what is considered right among the Mânavas,' these Mânavas not being meant originally for men in general, but for a Brahmanic family, known by the name of Mânava, and claiming Manu among their ancestors. It cannot be called a code of laws, in our sense of the word, because laws, in order to be laws, must have the sanction of some authority able to enforce them. But who is to enforce such laws as we find in Manu, or in the Samayâkârika-sútras, that a thief, for instance, shall go to the king with flying hair, carrying a club on his shoulder, and tell him his deed. And the king shall give him a blow with that club, and if the thief dies, his sin is expiated. Or the thief may throw himself into the fire, or he may kill himself by diminishing daily his portion of food?. Codes of law can only belong to a political community, such as Athens, or Sparta, or Rome, or the Roman Empire. We might have in India codes of law for the kingdoms of the Kurus and the Pândus, of Asoka or Kandragupta, but not for Mânavas, taken in the sense of mankind in general.
Fortunately we are now able to go behind these socalled Law-books of Manu, Yâgñavalkya, and others, which formerly were supposed to be of extraordinary antiquity, but which are now known to be mere metrical rifacimenti of older prose books, which we still possess under the name of Sutras 2.
There is nothing like these Sûtras in any other literature, so far as I know. They still belong to the Vedic age, though not to the Veda, properly so called 3, and are collections, not of laws, but of ancient customs. They are divided into three classes, (1) the Samayâkârika-sútras, (2) the Gribya-sûtras, (3) the Srauta-sûtras.
The first class contains a description of the Âkâras, i.e. the conduct, usages, and customs sanctioned by
1 Â pastamba-sútras, 7, 9, 25, 4, Bühler, Sacred Books of the East, vol. ii p. 82.
* See Professor Bühler's masterly treatment of this subject in the Preface to his translation of the Laws of Manu, Sacred Books of the East,
3 See Bühler, Sacred Books of the East, vol. ii. p. 120.
samaya, i. e. agreement. Most of these, which are also called Dharma-sútras, are embodied in the later metrical codes.
The second class describes the smaller domestic usages and ceremonies, to be observed at the various periods in a man's life, at his birth, initiation, marriage, daily sacrifices, and death. These two are mostly incorporated in the so-called Law-books.
The third class describes the great sacrifices, which are based on Sruti or revelation. The same sacrifices had been fully, but less systematically and clearly, described in the Brâhmanas. Though there is a natural element in these great sacrifices also, it is greatly overlaid by priestly inventions.
Thus while in other countries our excellent folklorists have to collect with great trouble what is left of usages, popular amusements, customs and superstitions, in India all this has been done for us, and has been done not once, but in a number of Brahmanic families. No doubt to a Hindu whatever is prescribed in these Sûtras is invested with a sacred character. What is not, in India? But that does not prevent us from recognising in most of the customs or âkâras in India simple usages, originating because they were natural, preserved because they proved useful, and at last supported by a divine authority, because both their naturalness and their usefulness had been forgotten.
What is a Sacred Book ?
LL Sacred Books came to us from the East: not
one of them has been conceived, composed, or written down in Europe.
It is sometimes difficult to say what is a Sacred Book, and what is not. When I undertook some years ago, with the help of the best Oriental scholars in Europe and India, to publish translations of all the Sacred Books of the East, it was by no means easy for us to determine what books should be included or excluded. It was suggested that those books only should be considered as sacred which professed to be revealed, or to be directly communicated by the Deity to the great teachers of mankind. But it was soon found that very few, if any, of the books themselves put forward that claim. Such a claim was generally advanced and formulated by a later generation, and chiefly by theologians, in support of that infallible authority which they wished to secure for the books on which their teaching was founded. But even that was by no means a general rule, and we should have had to exclude the Sacred Books of the Buddhists, of the followers of Confucius and Lao-zze, possibly even the Old Testament, as looked upon in early times by the Jews themselves, if we had kept to that defini