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"Tall Tales"

analyzed by Henry Thomas Buckle


From Buckle's History of Civilization ~ vol. i, chap. ii - `Influence of Physical Laws'

Tall Tales about:-

"Of all the various ways in which the imagination has distorted truth, there is none that has worked so much harm as an exaggerated respect for past ages.

A belief in the longevity of the human race, at an early period of the world, was the natural product of those feelings which ascribed to the ancients an universal superiority over the moderns; and this we see exemplified in some of the Christian, and in many of the Hebrew writings.

But the statements in these works are tame and insignificant when compared with what is preserved in the literature of India."

"Thus, among an immense number of similar facts, we find it recorded that in ancient times the duration of life of common men was 80,000 years* -

[* - "The limit of life was 80,000 years" from "Asiatic Researches" vol. xvi p.456 Calcutta 1828]

- and that holy men lived to be upwards of 100,000 years."

"Of one king, whose name was Yudhishthir, it is casually mentioned that he reigned 27,000 years; while another, called Alarka, reigned 66,000 years.

They were cut off in their prime, since there are several of the early poets living to be about half-a-million.*

[* - And sometimes more.  In the Essay on Indian Chronology in Works of Sir W. Jones vol. i page 325, we hear of `a conversation between Valmic and Vyasa', ... two bards whose ages were separated by a period of 864,000 years.  This passage is also in `Asiatic Researches' vol. ii, p. 399]

But the most remarkable case is that of a very shining character in Indian history, who united in his single person the functions of a king and a saint.  This eminent man lived in a pure and virtuous age, and his days were, indeed, long in the land; since, when he was made king, he was two million years old: he then reigned 6,300,000 years; having done which, he resigned his empire, and lingered on for 100,000 years* more."

[* - `dying on summit of a mountain named Ashtapada' from `Asiatic Researches' vol. ix, p.305.]

[[ "Speculationen über Zahlen sind dem Inder so geläufig, das selbst die Sprache einen Ausdruck hat für an eine Unität mit 63 Nullen, nämlich Asanke, eben weil die Berechnung der Weltperioden diese enorme Grössen nothwendig machte, denn jene einfachen 12,000 Jahre schienen einem Volke, welches so gerne die höchstmögliche Potenz auf seine Gottheit übertragen mögte viel zu geringe zu seyn" - `Bohlen, das alte Indien` vol. ii p. 298. ]]

The Institutes of Menu

"According to the best authorities these Institutes were revealed to man about two thousand million years before the present era*"

[* - `Elphinstone's History of India' p.136 - "a period exceeding 4,320,000 multiplied by six times seventy-one."]

Commentaries on the `Institutes' - from

The Adam Clarke Commentary, Section 2 - The Institutes of Menu
"It is a system of despotism and priestcraft"

Following The Equator" by Mark Twain (go Edit / Find for "Menu")  Page 46 THE INSTITUTES OF MENU - "Neither in them, nor, it is affirmed, in the whole Indian literature, is there a single passage indicating a love of liberty"

From Buckle's History of Civilization ~
vol. i, chap. vi - `Origin of Historical Literature'

I need only observe that in this way the Christian priests have obscured the annals of every European people they converted, and have destroyed or corrupted the traditions of the Gauls, of the Welsh, of the Irish, of the Anglo-Saxons, of the Sclavonic nations, of the Finns, and even of the Icelanders.

... the literature of Europe, shortly before the final dissolution of the Roman Empire, fell entirely into the hands of the clergy ... for several centuries it was extremely rare to meet with a layman who could read or write ...

Literature, being thus monopolized by a single class, assumed the peculiarities natural to its new masters.  And, as the clergy, taken as a body, have always looked on it as their business to enforce belief rather than encourage inquiry, it is no wonder if they displayed in their writings the spirit incidental to the habits of their profession.

Indeed the aptitude for falsehood became so great there was nothing men were unwilling to believe ...

During many centuries, it was believed by every people that they were directly descended from ancestors who had been present at the siege of Troy.  That was a proposition which no one thought of doubting.  The only question was, as to the details of so illustrious a lineage.

On this, however, there was a certain unanimity of opinion; since, not to mention inferior countries, it was admitted that the French were descended from Francus, whom everybody knew to be the son of Hector; and it was known that the Britons came from Brutus, whose father was no other than Æneas himself.

Touching the origin of particular places, the great historians of the Middle Ages are equally communicative.  In the accounts they give of them, as well as in the lives they write of eminent men, the history usually begins at a very remote period; and the events relating to their subjects are often traced back, in an unbroken series, from the moment when Noah left the ark, or even when Adam passed the gates of Paradise.  On other occasions, the antiquity they assign is somewhat less; but the range of their information is always extraordinary.

They say that the capital of France is called after Paris, the son of Priam, because he fled there when Troy was overthrown.  They also mention that Tours owes its name to being the burial-place of Turonus, one of the Trojans; while the city of Troyes was actually built by the Trojans, as its etymology clearly proves.

It was well ascertained that Nuremberg was called after the Emperor Nero; and Jerusalem after King Jebus, a man of vast celebrity in the Middle Ages, but whose existence later historians have not been able to verify.  The river Humber received its name because, in ancient times, a king of the Huns had been drowned in it.

The Gauls derived their origins, according to some, from Galathia, a female descendant of Japhet; according to others, from Gomer, the son of Japhet.

Prussia was called after Prussus, a brother of Augustus.  This was remarkably modern; but Silesia had its name from the prophet Elisha - from whom, indeed, the Silesians descended; while as to the city of Zurich, its exact date was a matter of dispute, but it was unquestionably built in the time of Abraham.

It was likewise from Abraham and Sarah that the gypsies immediately sprung.  The blood of the Saracens was less pure, since they were only descended from Sarah - in what way it is not mentioned; but she probably had them by another marriage, or, may be, as the fruit of an Egyptian intrigue.

At all events, the Scotch certainly came from Egypt; for they were originally the issue of Scota, who was a daughter of Pharaoh, and who bequeethed to them her name.

On sundry similar matters, the Middle Ages possessed information equally valuable.

It was well known that the city of Naples was founded on eggs; and it was also known that the order of St. Michael was instituted in person by the archangel, who was himself the first knight, and to whome, in fact, chivalry owes its origin.

In regard to the Tartars, that people of course, proceeded from Tartarus; which some theologians said was an inferior kind of hell, but others declared to be hell itself.  However this might be, the fact of their birth-place being from below was indisputable, and was proved by many circumstances which showed the fatal and mysterious influences they were able to exercise.

For the Turks were identical with the Tartars; and it was notorious, that since the Cross had fallen into Turkish hands, all Christian children had ten teeth less than formerly; a universal calamity which there seemed no means of repairing.

Other points relating to the history of past events were cleared up with equal facility.

In Europe, during many centuries, the only animal food in general was pork; beef, veal and mutton being comparitively unknown.

It was, therefore, with no small astonishment that the crusaders, on returning from the East, told their countrymen that they had been among a people who, like the Jews, thought pork unclean, and refused to eat it.

But the feelings of lively wonder which this intelligence excited, were destroyed as soon as the cause of this fact was explained.  The subject was taken up by Mathew Paris, the most eminent historian during the thirteenth century, and one of the most eminent during the Middle Ages.

This celebrated writer informs us that the Mohammedans refuse to eat pork on account of a singular circumstance which happened to their prophet.

[ `Perceptions' won't print the `account' of Mathew Paris - even as an example of priestly lies - but it is in `Matthæi Paris Historia Major' p. 362.]

According to Mathew of Westminster the incident was even more bloody - see `Matthæi Westmonast. Flores Historiarium' part i. p. 215.]

This striking fact explains one great peculiarity of the Mohammedans; and another fact, equally striking, explains how it was their sect came into existence.

[ `Perceptions' won't print this `account' of Guy Patin - but see `Lettres de Gui Patin' vol.iii p. 127. ]

In regard to the early history of Christianity, the great writers of the Middle Ages were particularly inquisitive; and they preserved the memory of events, of which otherwise we should have been entirely ignorant.

After Froissart, the most celebrated historian of the fourteenth century; was certainly Mathew of Westminster, with whose name, at least, most readers are familiar.  This eminent man directed his attention, among other matters, to the history of Judas, in order to discover the circumstances under which the character of that arch-apostate was formed.

His researches seem to have been very extensive; but their principal results were, that Judas, when an infant, was deserted by his parents, and exposed on an island called Scarioth, from whence he received the name of Judas Iscariot.  To this the historian adds, that after Judas grew up, he, among other enormities, slew his own father, and then married his own mother.

The same writer, in another part of his history, mentions a fact interesting to those who study the antiquities of the Holy See.

Some questions had been raised as to the propriety of kissing the pope's toe, and even theologians had their doubts touching on so singular a ceremony.  But this difficulty also was set at rest by Mathew of Westminster, who explains the true origin of the custom.

He says, that formerly it was usual to kiss the hand of his holiness; but that towards the end of the eighth century, a certain lewd woman, in making an offering to the pope, not only kissed his hand, but also pressed it.

The pope - his name was Leo - seeing the danger, cut off his hand, and thus escaped the contamination to which he had been exposed.

Since that time, the precaution has been taken of kissing the pope's toe instead of his hand; and lest any one should doubt the accuracy of this account, the historian assures us that the hand, which had been cut off five or six hundred years before, still existed in Rome, and was indeed a standing miracle, since it was preserved in the Lateran in its original state, free from corruption ...

[Said to have taken place in the year 798, see `Matthæi Westmonast. Flores Historiarium' part i, p. 293 ]

It would be easy to fill volumes with similar notions, all of which were devoutly believed in those ages of darkness, or as they have been well called, Ages of Faith.

Those, indeed, were golden days for the ecclesiastical profession, since the credulity of men had reached a height which seemed to ensure to the clergy a long and universal domination.

From History of Civilization vol. i, chap. vi - `Origin of Historical Literature'

Also see site refs for `Dark Ages' and `Priestly Power'.

Buckle's conclusions on how and why geography, climate & weather affected belief systems are given at Chap II - `Influence exercised by Physical laws' - pp. 69 - 70

"Looking in this way at the human mind as affected by the Aspects of Nature, it is surely a remarkable fact, that all the great early civilizations were situated within and immediately adjoining the tropics, where those aspects are most sublime, most terrible, and where Nature is, in every respect, most dangerous to Man.

This holds good not only of the fixed and permanent phenomena, such as mountains and other great natural barriers, but also of occasional phenomena, such as earthquakes, tempests, hurricanes, pestilences; all of which are in those regions, very frequent, and very disastrous.

These constant and serious dangers produce effects analogous to those caused by the sublimity of Nature, in so far, that in both cases there is a tendency to increase the activity of the imagination. ...

Further illustration of this may be found even in Europe, where such phenomena are, comparitively speeaking, extremely rare.

Earthquakes and volcanic eruptions are more frequent and more destructive in Italy, and in the Spanish and Portuguese peninsula, than in any other of the great countries; and it is precisely there that superstition is most rife, and the superstitious classes most powerful.

Those were the countries where the clergy first established their authority, where the worst corruptions of Christianity took place, and where superstition has, for the longest period, retained the firmest hold."

Intro to work of Henry Thomas Buckle

Quick Bio for Henry Thomas Buckle

Buckle - on America

Buckle - on Crime

Buckle's Discourse on Metaphysics

Buckle on `fake History'

SciTech Daily Review

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