Our Oriental Heritage: The Story of Our Civilization, by Will Durant

1. “The unearthing of this forgotten culture is one of the romances of archeology. To those whom, with a poor sense of the amplitude of time, we call ‘the ancients’ that is, to the Romans, the Greeks and the Jews Sumeria was unknown. Herodotus apparently never heard of it; if he did, he ignored it, as something more ancient to him than he to us. Bcrosus, a Babylonian historian writing about 250 B.C., knew of Sumeria only through the veil of a legend. He described a race of monsters, led by one Oannes, coming out of the Persian Gulf, and introducing the arts of agriculture, metal-working, and writing; ‘all the things that make for the amelioration of life,’ he declares, ‘were bequeathed to men by Oannes, and since that time no further inventions have been made’.”

2. “Not till two thousand years after Bcrosus was Sumeria rediscovered.”

3. “Schweinfurth has called attention to the interesting fact that though the
cultivation of barley, millet and wheat, and the domestication of cattle, goats and sheep, appear in both Egypt and Mesopotamia as far back as our records go, these cereals and animals arc found in their wild and natural state not in Egypt but in western Asiaespecially in Yemen or ancient Arabia.
He concludes that civilization i.e., in this context, the cultivation of cereals and the use of domesticated animals appeared in unrecorded antiquity in Arabia, and spread thence in a “triangular culture” to Mesopotamia (Sumeria, Babylonia, Assyria) and Egypt.”

4. “The kohl that women use today for painting the eyebrows and the face is a lineal descendant of the oil used by the Egyptians; it has come down to us through the Arabs, whose word for it, al-kohl, has given us our word alcohol. Perfumes of all sorts were used on the body and the clothes, and homes were made fragrant with incense and myrrh.”

5. “The fount and breeding-place of the Semites was Arabia.”

6. “It was probably in Arabia that Solomon mined the gold and precious stones of “Ophir”; 85 probably from Arabia that the Queen of “Sheba” came to seek his friendship, and perhaps his aid.”

7. “But how shall an Occidental mind ever understand the Orient? Eight years of study and travel have only made this, too, more evident that not even a lifetime of devoted scholarship would suffice to initiate a Western student into the subtle character and secret lore of the East. Every chapter, every paragraph in this book will offend or amuse some patriotic or esoteric soul: the orthodox Jew will need all his ancient patience to forgive the pages on Yahveh; the metaphysical Hindu will mourn this superficial scratching of Indian philosophy; and the Chinese or Japanese sage will smile indulgently at these brief and inadequate selections from the wealth of Far Eastern literature and thought. Some of the errors in the chapter on Judea have been corrected by Professor Harry Wolf son of Harvard”


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