BOOK II - The Library of History

Bibliotheca historica
The first five books
BOOK I
BOOK II
BOOK III
BOOK IV
BOOK V







Page 69

CHAP. III.

Of the Ancient Chaldeans, and their Philosophy. The Planets and their Course. The Empire of the Medes and their Kings. A Description of India: The ancient Manners and Customs of the People. Their Laws; Tribes. A Description of Scythia. Of the Amazons. Of the Hyperboreans.

HEre it will not be amiss to say something of the Chaldeans (as the Babylonians call them) and of their Antiquity, that nothing worth Remark may be omitted.

They being the most ancient Babylonians, hold the same station and dignity in the Common-wealth as the Egyptian Priests do in Egypt: For being deputed to Divine Offices, they spend all their Time in the study of Philosophy, and are especially famous for the Art of Astrology. They are mightily given to Divination, and foretel future Events, and imploy themselves either by Purifications, Sacrifices, or other Inchantments to avert Evils, or procure good Fortune and Success. They are skilful likewise in the Art of Divination, by the flying of Birds, and interpreting of Dreams and Prodigies: And are reputed as true Oracles (in declaring what will come to pass) by their exact and diligent viewing the Intrals of the Sacrifices. But they attain not to this Knowledge in the same manner as the Grecians do; for the Chaldeans learn it by Tradition from their Ancestors, the Son from the Father, who are all in the mean time free from all other publick Offices and Attendances; and because their Parents are their Tutors, they both learn every thing without Envy, and rely with more confidence upon the truth of what is taught them; and being train'd up in this Learning from their very Childhood, they become most famous Philosophers, (that Age being most capable of Learning, wherein they spend much of their time.) But the Grecians for the most part come raw to this study, unfitted and unprepar'd, and are long before they attain to the Knowledge of this Philosophy: And after they have spent some small time in this Study, they are many times call'd off and forc'd to leave it, in order to get a Livelihood and Subsistence. And although some few do industriously apply themselves to Philosophy, yet for the sake of Gain, these very Men are opinionative, and ever and anon starting new and high Points, and never fix in the steps of their Ancestors. But the Barbarians keeping constantly close to the same thing, attain to a perfect and distinct Knowledge in every particular.

But the Grecians cunningly catching at all Opportunities of Gain, make new Sects and Parties, and by their contrary Opinions wrangling and quarelling concerning the chiefest Points, lead their Scholars into a Maze; and being uncertain and doubtful what to pitch upon for certain truth, their Minds are fluctuating and in suspence all the days of their Lives, and unable to give a certain assent unto any thing. For if any Man will but examine the most eminent Sects of the Philosophers, he shall find them much differing among themselves, and even opposing one another in the most weighty parts of their Philosophy. But to return to the Chaldeans, they hold that the World is eternal, which had neither any certain Beginning, nor shall have any End; but all agree, that all things are order'd, and this beautiful Fabrick is supported by a Divine Providence, and that the Motions of the Heavens are not perform'd by chance and of their own accord, but by a certain and determinate Will and Appointment of the Gods.

Therefore from a long observation of the Stars, and an exact Knowledge of the motions and influences of every one of them, wherein they excel all others, they foretel many things that are to come to pass.

The say that the Five Stars which some call Planets, but they Interpreters, are most worthy of Consideration, both for their motions and their remarkable influences, especially that which the Grecians call Saturn. The brightest of them all, and which often portends many and great Events, they call Sol, the other Four they name Mars,Venus,Mercury and Jupiter, with our own Country Astrologers. They give the Name of Interpreters to these Stars, because these only



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