The Golden Ages Of History by Joseph McCabe Free PDF book (1944)

The Golden Ages of History 
The Golden Ages Of History

Excerpt from the author's introduction

The catastrophe which oppresses the mind of the race in our time leads many of us once more to make ironic reflections upon the nature of progress. Is it, after all, an illusion? Nearly two hundred years ago the French philosophers, who did so much to emancipate man's courage as well as his intellect, discovered that there lies before the race an era of unlimited " perfectibility," as they called progress. For the first time in history, men learned that neither supernatural curse nor natural law restricted their power to improve themselves and their social forms; and the discovery a century later of the truth of evolution set a seal upon the new charter of our rights.


But the larger knowledge of history which we acquired in the course of the nineteenth century led many writers to oppose this view. The path of humanity is, they say, like that of a planet circling around a sun, giving us an eternal alternation of summers and winters, not a straight and ascending course through time. Progress is cyclic. The race passes from vitality to decay and then, slowly and laboriously, back to vitality. Every long-lived empire has had a succession of Golden Ages and Dark Ages; and time and again some portion of the human family the Assyrians, the Chaldeans, the Phoenicians, the Greeks, and the Romans have created a superb polity which in a few centuries crumbled into dust.

 we entered upon "the twentieth century with such promise of peace and such consciousness of power that we thrust aside this melancholy theory of progress and returned to the inspiring philosophy of Diderot and D'Alembert. There would be no more Dark Ages. Our trail had crossed the foothills, with their disheartening rise and fall, and before us were the shining peaks of some vaguely wonderful civilization. Now . . . Whatever may be the issue of the present conflict, we are skirting the edge of the pit. We sank swiftly from the highest and, apparently, the most secure height which the race had yet reached, and in less than a quarter of a century from the optimistic years, we found ourselves confronting the specter of a Dark Age with all its barbaric features made still more horrid by the very science which had lifted us so high.


Singularly, no historian has made a scientific study of the creative forces which raised nations to the peak of their civilization and the destructive forces which brought them down. Naturally, each expert historian speculates upon the vicissitudes of the particular nation of his choice. One inquires why the ancient civilization of Egypt passed, after three millennia of Golden Ages and Dark Ages, into chronic and pathetic sterility. Another makes the same inquiry in the case of China, India, or Persia, or tries to explain to us why Rome or Athens rose to such magnificence and fell to such depths. But no modern historian has attempted to assign the common factors or to ascertain if there were common factors, in the elevation and the downfall of all these higher forms of civilization.

Contents of the book:



I. EGYPT'S GOLDEN AGE 1

II. BABYLON UNDER THE CHALDEANS ... 17

in. THE EARLIEST GREEK CIVILIZATION ... 33

IV. THE GOLDEN AGE OF ATHENS .... 48

V. ALEXANDRIA UNDER THE PTOLEMIES . . 64

VI. INDIA IN THE DAYS OF ASOKA .... 79

VII. CHINA UNDER THE HAN DYNASTY ... 92

Vin. ROME IN THE DAYS OF HADRIAN . . . 104

IX. CHINA UNDER THE TANG EMPERORS . . .117

X. THE FLOWERING OF PERSIA .... 134

XI. ARAB SPAIN AT ITS PEAK . . . .151

XH. THE AGE OF LORENZO THE MAGNIFICENT . . 166

XIII. ELIZABETHAN ENGLAND 180

XIV. THE FRANCE OF LOUIS XIV .... 193

XV. THE AGE OF SCIENCE 208

XVI. THE MODERN ACHIEVEMENT .... 222

INDEX 237


Author: Joseph McCabe
 Publication Date: 1944

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