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Ancient Fragments

Isaac Preston Cory


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This book contains the fragments of writings and literature from the Ancient Near East. Chapters include: The Theology Of The Phœnicians: From Sanchoniatho; Fragments Of Chaldæan History; Berossus: From Alexander Polyhistor; Berossus: From Apollodorus; Berossus: From Abydenus; Berossus: From Josephus, etc; Megasthenes: From Abydenus; Supplemental Fragments And Extracts; The Chaldæan Oracles Of Zoroaster; Hermetic Fragments; Orphic Fragments; Pythagorean Fragments; and, The Theogonies.

This book has 105 pages in the PDF version, and was originally published in 1832.

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Excerpt from 'Ancient Fragments'

IN presenting this collection of ANCIENT FRAGMENTS to the world, some explanation of what is comprehended under that title may not be deemed unnecessary. We are accustomed to regard the Hebrew scriptures, and the Greek and Latin writings, as the only certain records of antiquity: yet there have been other languages, in which have been written the annals and the historyies of other nations. Where then are those of Assyria and Babylon, of Persia and Egypt and Phœnicia, of Tyre and Carthage? Of the literature of all these mighty empires, where are even the remains? It will, no doubt, tend to excite some reflections of a melancholy cast, to look on this small volume as an answer. That all such remains are contained in it, I should be unwilling to assert: yet, with some diligence and research, I have not been able to increase its size with other fragments, which I could consider sufficiently authenticated.

It was my wish to have included in this collection all the fragments of the earlier Gentile world, which have reached us through the medium of the Greek language. Of the early historians of Greece the names only of some have come down to us; whilst of others, such as Eupolemus and Histiæus, several very interesting fragments have escaped the general wreck. In the classic ages of their literature, the acquaintance of the Greek historians with antiquity was generally confined and obscure: nor was it till the publication of the Septuagint, that they turned their attention to their own antiquities, and to those of the surrounding nations: and for this reason we meet with more certain notices of ancient history in the later, than in the earlier times of Greece. To have drawn a line then; to have inserted the earlier writers in exclusion of the later, would have been to have omitted the more valuable. To have reprinted the fragments of many authors, such as Nicolaus Damascenus, a writer of Damascus, of the Augustan age, would have introduced, with some matter worthy of attention, much of little interest. To have selected from them all, the passages relating to ancient times and foreign states, would have been a task as useless as laborious, and would have swelled the collection to a series of volumes. I have therefore, for the most part, excluded the native Greek historians—and every writer of the Augustan age and downwards—I have also omitted all fragments which bear about them the stamp of forgery, or are the productions of Hellenistic Jews, or of authors who have had access to the sacred Scriptures, and following the words, throw no additional light upon the subjects; under one or other of which divisions may be classed the Antediluvian books of Enoch, the fragments of Artapanus, the Sibylline Oracles, the Correspondence of Solomon and Hiram king of Tyre, the tragedy of Ezekiel in which Moses figures as the hero, with several compositions of a similar description.

The contents, then, of this volume, are Fragments which have been translated from foreign languages into Greek; or have been quoted or transcribed by Greeks from foreign authors; or have been written in the Greek language by foreigners who have had access to the archives of their own countries. Yet to render the collection more useful, and as it were a manual to the Chronologist and Mythological Antiquarian, I have added by way of Supplement such fragments and extracts as appear to have descended from more ancient sources, though they are now to be found only in the works of Greek or Latin writers. Some of these are merely illustrations of the fragments, or contain detached chronological notices, or such other curious information as may well be deemed worthy of a place. Thus I have endeavoured to comprise, in the volume, all the genuine relics of antiquity which precede the era of Grecian history; and which lie so scattered among the folios, chiefly of the Fathers and the Philosophers of the lower empire, as to be inaccessible to the Antiquarian, unless in the neighbourhood of some large public library.

Miscellaneous as such a collection might be at first supposed, it will be found to resolve itself into two subjects; the early History, and the ancient Theological Systems of the world. In the following pages I have endeavoured to present a sketch of both; not with a view of entering into the details, but rather as a method of connecting the fragments with one another, to facilitate an examination of their contents, by directing the attention successively to those great landmarks which stand prominently forth amidst what might otherwise be deemed a wild, pathless and interminable; and to enable the reader, by following the same order of perusal, to elicit something like a regular continued narrative. In the Scriptures we have a brief but authenticated account of the earliest ages: but among the heathen writers, with the exception of some few very valuable historical fragments, we have little more than a collection of allegories and legendary tales. Upon examination, however, most of these legends, notwithstanding their obscurity, will be found to contain references to those grand primeval events whose memory was retained among every people upon earth: and for the commemoration of which were ordained so many of the ceremonies and mysteries of the ancients.

From such traditions, handed down for ages before they were committed to writing, we might expect but little aid. lndeed in all the researches of the antiquarian, conjecture must very generally supply the place of science. Yet, by pursuing a proper method of investigation, we may approximate to truth, and frequently illustrate circumstances obscurely hinted at in Scripture, and even occasionally fill up the gaps of history, by supplying events which have been omitted by the sacred writers as unconnected with the immediate objects under their consideration.

Persons, Events, and Dates in History, and Systems in Theology, are the objects to be examined and ascertained. And where the subject under investigation can be so divided, that the truth must lie among some few plausible hypothesis, which can be a priori, and at once laid down: by collecting an the evidence that can be had, and examining separately, and excluding soccessively each of these hypothesis which shall be found inconsistent with that evidence, we may conduct the circle of conjecture, in some cases, till but one hypothesis is left; which one must be the truth, and is thus negatively rendered matter of demonstration. In other cases want of evidence may leave room for several different opinions, none of which can really be refuted, though one may often be more plausible than another.

Mr. Faber, in his admirable work on the Pagan Idolatry; has collected and separately examined all the different systems of the Heathen Mythology; and has shown, 'that there is such a singular, minute, and regular accordance among them, not only in what is obvious and natural, but also in what is arbitrary and circumstantial, both in fanciful speculations and in artificial observances,' as to render untenable every other hypothesis than this—'that they must all have originated from some common source.'

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