222 UNIVERSAL HISTORY-THE ANCIENT WORLD.
deformity, neither huge teeth nor bodies beyond the usual measure." Whether of the flowers of the gardens, the fruits of the fields, or the cattle upon the hills, no other land was so beautiful and good as this second home of the primitive Aryans.
The second great mythical hero of the Medes was THRAETONA. He was the Bactrian Beowulf-the slayer of dragons and exterminator of monsters. By him was slain the great devil ZOHAK, a mighty dragon, having "three mouths, three tails, six eyes, and a thousand scaly rings," and who had his lair in the frozen peaks of the Elburz. A second myth gave anaccount of another dragon more ambitious and terrible than Zohak. The name of this second monster was CNAVIDHAKA. He boasted that he would convert the whole sky into a chariot, and that he would harness together Ahura-Mazdao and Ahriman and drive them as his horses through the heavens. Such a disgrace to the hierarchies, good and bad, was not to be tolerated or thought of. A third hero appeared on the scene, the inheritor of the renown of Yima, called KERESASHA. He slew the boastful dragon and gave peace to earth and sky.
These traditions of the, ancient Medes give a tolerably adequate notion of the current and sweep of their myth-making powers and creative imagination. It is especially interesting to note that their legends are of the same general character as those presented in the poems of the Greeks and Romans-that is, heroic. Carrying the analogy further, it is easily discoverable that the traditions of the Teutonic nations of Northern Europe belong to the same epic catalogue of stories with those of the Persian plain and Indus Valley. Keresaspa, Achilles, Eneas, Beowulf, Coeur de Lion-they are all one in nature-all men rising by heroic exploits to the rank and fame of demigods. And this is another proof and illustration of the common origin and race affinities of all the Aryan families and tribes.
Thus it may be seen that the religion of the Medes, beginning with a tolerably distinct expression of monotheism and with
peculiarly spiritual forms of worship, degen- erated to a certain extent into that dualistic folly which makes the world to be warred for by conflicting principles of good and evil. The latter system embraced hierarchies of angels, and finally personified the adverse forces of nature into demons of high and low estate.
It yet remains to mention a third form of religious faith adopted by the Iranic nations, and afterwards made famous in the literature of the West. This is the celebrated system of MAGISM. As the Medes in their epoch of power pressed their way to the west and north they came into contact with the Scythian tribes of Armenia and Kurdistan. In these mountainous regions was the seat of the Magian system. Here the fire-temples were built, of which not a few still stand as mute witnesses of one of the strangest aspects of the religious beliefs of mankind. The faith of the Magi can hardly be classified with any other ever accepted and taught by men. It made the elements of nature the direct objects of worship. It was not that some power presided over those elements that might be reverenced and adored, but the physical fact was itself the thing worshiped as divine. The elements of nature were four: fire, water, earth, and air. Of these the first was the most energetic and sublime. The consuming flame was the highest manifestation of the divine presence. Before this beautiful phenomenon in whose rapturous embrace the materials of the world melted into ashes, the awed worshiper stood in silent adoration. So the priest built an altar, and the sacred fire caught from heaven, was kindled and kept burning always. The priest was the HOLY MAGUS. No other might attend the altars or con- duct the mystic rites. Through him only might the common worshiper approach the divine presence and be reconciled by prayer and sacrifice. The sacred emblem, flaming on the altar, inspired the profoundest awe and reverence. No breath of any mortal might be blown upon it without pollution.
The burning of dead bodies was a horrid profanation. Of the sacrificial offerings only a fragment of fat was given to the flame.