Page images


was the commencement of the period of Osiris, and his conquests in Ethiopia and Asia. At B. C. 19,337 was the commencement of the period of the “ Manouantaras ” in India, a “ date chronologically precise and approximatively verified by astronomy.” At B. C. 14,611 was the " era of Ma. Chronologically the number is 14,606; astronomical verifications, very precise, give 14,611." And here the author places the “ origin of the great cycles of fourteen hundred and seventy-five years, and of the vague year of three hundred and sixty-five days.” At B. C. 13,901 he places the “era of the Maha-Yuga, the origin of the period called Satya-Yuga, the Institutes of Manu, or legislator Vaivasvata, surnamed Satyavrata, the end of the Vedic epoch, the recension of the Vedas. ... . The exactness of this date is as rigorous as that of the Egyptian date.” Omitting the mention of some intermediate dates, at which important historical events are represented to have taken place, we come down to B. C. 9101, a date which is "rigorously verified,” at which “ Maya compiled the treatise of astronomy called the Suryâ Siddhantâ.” At B. C. 4286 is another “ date rigorously verified by astronomy," as that when the Egyptian calendar was reformed, &c., &c. These specifications are sufficient to place before the reader the character and pretensions of this remarkable work.

Now, the question arises, How does this author make out these high dates, some of which, he affirms, are verified approximatively, and others rigorously, by astronomy? I need only to indicate his processes in two or three instances. Take first the date B. C. 9101, which he

[blocks in formation]

says is “rigorously verified," when the astronomical treatise called the Suryâ Siddhantâ was compiled. Having translated that work from the Sanskrit, while in India, I am pretty well acquainted with it, and with the astronomical literature of the Hindus; and I may state that the treatise itself contains astronomical data which refer the compilation of the work, in its present form, to the latter part of the fifth or the first part of the sixth century after Christ, though it doubtless comprises astronomical knowledge which had existed among the Hindus for centuries before. These are the facts as recognized by all oriental scholars who have given attention to this subject.

Now, how does our author make out the date of B. C. 9101? In this wise: In the commencement of the treatise, it is said it was revealed by the Sun to the Asura Maya, at the close of the Krita or Satya-Yuga (or age) of the present Maha-Yuga, which consists of four million three hundred and twenty thousand solar years. But these are equal to twelve thousand divine years, or yearsof the gods — one year of the gods being equal to three hundred and sixty years of mortals, i. e., solar years. This is expressly stated in the work itself. Now, our author, setting aside or ignoring the express declarations of the treatise, and of other astronomical treatises, makes the Maha-Yuga to consist of twelve thousand sidereal years, instead of four million three hundred and twenty thousand ; and this would bring the end of the KritaYuga at B. C. 9101, when the Suryâ Siddhantâ was compiled. The declaration in the treatise itself makes the compilation, or rather revelation of it, to have been at about B. C. 2,163,101. Rodier thinks this a mistake, and, arbitrarily altering the date, makes it to be B. C. gton, which he says " is rigorously verified,” while the treatise itself furnishes unequivocal evidence that its compilation, in its present form, can be dated no earlier than the sixth century before Christ. Rodier might, with equal consistency, have made the epoch of the compilation of the Suryâ Siddhantâ to have been 2,163,101, instead of 9101, B. C.

Take another of his dates, “ rigorously verified,” that of B. C. 13,901, the epoch of the Institutions of Manu, end of the Vedic epoch, the date of the recensions of the Vedas, of the adoption of the Egyptian Zodiac, &c., &c. How does he make this out? Very easily, in this way: There is appended to the Vedas an astronomical part called the Iyotisha; in this the position of the solstitial colure is given for the time, which a simple calculation shows to have been B. C. 1181 (Rodier says 1500). The original Sanskrit text, in defining the position, mentions the summer solstice as being at the particular point at that time, or what is equivalent to it. Now, Rodier has the boldness, as he terms it, to suppose that it is not the summer solstice that is meant, but the winter; and this carries back the epoch of the observation a space of time equal to that in which the equinoxes would retrograde through one half the whole circle of the. ecliptic, i. e., about twelve thousand nine hundred and sixty years. * This, added to the Vedic date, as admitted by Sanskrit scholars generally, viz., 1181, makes out Rodier's epoch

. * Rodier, p. 470.

of B. C. 13,901. (He has mistaken 'some of his numbers.) He arbitrarily alters a fact — a fact which all oriental scholars recognize as such ; i. e., puts the winter solstice for the summer solstice, thus making a clear difference of more than twelve thousand nine hundred years, and then declares the result a “rigorous astronomical verification." Was ever audacity, in a professedly scientific writer, surpassed by this?

Take another of his dates, “the era of Ma," of which he says, 56 Very precise astronomical verifications give rigurously B. C. 14,611, the date of the origin of the great cycles of fourteen hundred and seventy-five years, and of the vague year of three hundred and sixty-five days, the invention of the zodiac, &c., the institution of the monarchical regime.”

Now, how does he make this out? Why, he takes the highest numbers he can find, that are used in giving the duration of the Egyptian empire from Menes to Alexander, and then extends them somewhat, so that he makes the era of Menes at least one hundred and fifty years earlier than any other writer, and a number of hundreds of years earlier than the numbers necessitate, even if we reckon the thirty dynasties consecutive, and about two thousand years earlier than Lepsius and Bunsen, and more than three thousand years earlier than Poole, and others; i. e., he places Menes, the first mortal king of Egypt, at B. C. 5853. He then, from this, mounts up into antiquity on the mythological numbers furnished by Manetho, as interpreted by Eusebius, and corrected by the Turin Papyrus, according to his fancy; i. e., previous to Menes, he makes the kingdom of the Nekuas — usually interpreted Manes, or spirits of dead men (he has another interpretation, which I do not comprehend)

- of five thousand six hundred and thirteen years, and then the period of Ma, purely mythological, of thirty-one hundred and forty years: this brings us to the epoch, the commencement of the period of Ma, B. C. 14,606.” This is historical, and the date is verified by astronomy!

His process is short and easy. He says Claudius Ptolemy, the great Grecian astronomer, employed, in his tables, a cycle of fourteen hundred and seventy-five years. Then, starting at the year A. D. 139, — the end of the Sothic period of fourteen hundred and sixty years, which terminated next after the Christian era, — he reckons back by periods of fourteen hundred and seventy-five years — ten such steps bringing him to B. C. 14,611 ; and as this date differs only five years from 14,606, to which he had arrived historically, the difference of five years, as he says, being easily accounted for by the loss of fractions of years in the reckoning of Manetho. And this he calls demonstrating the “precision” of the date B. C. 14,611 by astronomy.

In order to put this matter in its true light, it is scarcely necessary to remark, that there is hardly a datum involved which is reliable. Take the historical part. It is true that a Sothic period, according to Censorinus, terminated A. D. 139. But the Sothic cycle was a period of fourteen hundred and sixty *

* i. e., fourteen hundred and sixty solar years, and fourteen hundred and sixty-one Egyptian or vague years. .

« PreviousContinue »