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328 UNIVERSAL HISTORY.--THE ANCIENT WORLD.

virtue of the Persians was-as it is of any people who possess it-their love of truth. This

trait in the national character was so noted as to become proverbial in both Asia and

Europe. The praises of the Greek historians-themselves the literary exemplars of a people

who too frequently in their conduct hovered along the bogs of falsehood, not to say the

abysses of perfidy-are not stinted with respect to the sterling character of Persian

truthfulness. Herodotus declares that the three principal precepts of Persian education

were, "to ride, to draw the bow, and to speak the truth." The last injunction was

incorporated in the national religion. Ahura-Mazdao was known and worshiped as "the Father

of Truth." In the best parts of the Zendavesta the practice of truth is inculcated as the

basis of all conduct acceptable to the immortal gods.

This element of character was all the more conspicuous in the Persian race when contrasted

with the lying and treacherous habits which were shamelessly illustrated in the career of

most of the oriental nations. It was only in the later times of the Empire, when the

effects of luxury had told disastrously on the moral character of the race, that the

Persians imbibed the habit of intrigue and treachery, and eyen then, perhaps, only as

employing the same weapons used by their enemies. In the early times a rigid adherence to

truth was practiced in the affairs of life, from the dealings of peasants and masons to

the treaties of the king. Even a promise obtained on false information or under false

pledges was faithfully observed.

It is said that the Persian love of truth was so marked as to lead the people to the

avoidance of debt. It was conceived that the debtor was frequently placed in such

relations of dependence as to encourage in him the practice of equivocation and falsehood.

Therefore it was better to avoid the obligation. Therefore, in the market-place, it was

better to use few words and plain. Therefore it was better, in all manner of

communication, to be straightforward in speech, so that human conduct might be easily and

sincerely

fathomed to its bottom motives and impulses. It may be safely averred that in respect of

this high species of morality the earlier Persians gave a fairer example than any other

people of the ancient world.

Combined with these high traits of character were others of a different sort. Like most

strong faces, the people of Persia were given to self-indulgence. Great strength and great

hunger are concomitants in human character. If the possessor have not learned the lesson

of restraint, strength will display itself in violence, and hunger in excessive

gratification. The hunter and the soldier are not likely to be reserved in the banqueting

hall. The Persian, moreover, bore his nature on the surface. What he was he was. He spoke

out and acted. If he was angered he raged. If he was pleased he laughed. Instead of that

exterior calmness so noticeable in the demeanor of the Babylozuans, the inner feelings and

passions of the Persian flashed out in word and gesture) and his purposes were known to

all observers.

Another element in the national character was its servility as it respected the king and

the court. This amounted to a kind of abasement in the presence of power quite

inconsistent with the otherwise, erect attitude of the people. The paradox thus presented

of a union in the same race of qualities so opposite as dignified self-assertion and

crouching servility can only be explained in the light of the age and the then political

condition of the world. At a time when the state was a necessity and the king was the

state; in an epoch when those political institutions by which in modern times the will of

the people finds so easy an utterance had no existence and could have none, the conditions

of despotism, with its correlative, a servile spirit, were natural and perhaps inevitable.

Every age is to be judged by its own criteria, and not in accordance with principles whose

reign has not yet been ushered in. The government of Persia was absolute, and the governed

patiently bowed to the political necessities of the age. The citizen became the sycophant.

The king acted without limitation. Whom he would he