The Story of Civilization

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The Story of Civilization, by husband and wife Will and Ariel Durant, is an 11-volume set of books covering Western history for the general reader.


I - Our Oriental Heritage (1935)[edit]

Our Oriental Heritage online at the Internet Archive
  • I wish to tell as much as I can, in as little space as I can, of the contributions that genius and labor have made to the cultural heritage of mankind – to chronicle and contemplate, in their causes, character and effects, the advances of invention, the varieties of economic organization, the experiments in government, the aspirations of religion, the mutations of morals and manners, the masterpieces of literature, the development of science, the wisdom of philosophy, and the achievements of art. I do not need to be told how absurd this enterprise is, nor how immodest is its very conception … Nevertheless I have dreamed that despite the many errors inevitable in this undertaking, it may be of some use to those upon whom the passion for philosophy has laid the compulsion to try to see things whole, to pursue perspective, unity and understanding through history in time, as well as to seek them through science in space. … Like philosophy, such a venture [as the creation of these 11 volumes] has no rational excuse, and is at best but a brave stupidity; but let us hope that, like philosophy, it will always lure some rash spirits into its fatal depths.
    • Preface
The Establishment of Civilization[edit]
  • Man is not willingly a political animal. The human male associates with his fellows less by desire than by habit, imitation, and the compulsion of circumstance; he does not love society so much as he fears solitude. He combines with other men because isolation endangers him, and because there are many things that can be done better together than alone; in his heart he is a solitary individual, pitted heroically against the world.
  • If the average man had had his way there would probably never have been any state. Even today he resents it, classes death with taxes, and yearns for that government which governs least. If he asks for many laws it is only because he is sure that his neighbor needs them; privately he is an unphilosophical anarchist, and thinks laws in his own case superfluous. In the simplest societies there is hardly any government. Primitive hunters tend to accept regulation only when they join the hunting pack and prepare for action. The Bushmen usually live in solitary families; the Pygmies of Africa and the simplest natives of Australia admit only temporarily of political organization, and then scatter away to their family groups; the Tasmanians had no chiefs, no laws, no regular government; the Veddahs of Ceylon formed small circles according to family relationship, but had no government; the Kubus of Sumatra "live without men in authority" every family governing itself; the Fuegians are seldom more than twelve together; the Tungus associate sparingly in groups of ten tents or so; the Australian "horde" is seldom larger than sixty souls. In such cases association and cooperation are for special purposes, like hunting; they do not rise to any permanent political order.
    • Ch. III : The Political Elements of Civilization, p. 21
The Near East[edit]
  • "For barbarism is always around civilization, amid it and beneath it, ready to engulf it by arms, or mass migration, or unchecked fertility. Barbarism is like the jungle; it never admits its defeat; it waits patiently for centuries to recover the territory it has lost." (page 265)
  • The civilization of Babylonia was not as fruitful for humanity as Egypt’s, not as varied and profound as India’s, not as subtle and mature as China’s. And yet it was from Babylonia that those fascinating legends came which, through the literary artistry of the Jews, became an inseparable portion of Europe’s religious lore; it was from Babylonia, rather than from Egypt, that the roving Greeks brought to their city-states and thence to Rome and ourselves, the foundations of mathematics, astronomy, medicine, grammar, lexicography, archeology, history, and philosophy. The Greek names for the metals and the constellations, for weights and measures, for musical instruments and many drugs, are translations, sometimes mere transliterations, of Babylonian names.
India and Her Neighbors[edit]
The Foundations of India
  • In the days when historians supposed that history had begun with Greece, Europe gladly believed that India had been a hotbed of barbarism until the “Aryan” cousins of the European peoples had migrated from the shores of the Caspian to bring the arts and sciences to a savage and benighted peninsula. Recent researches have marred this comforting picture—as future researches will change the perspective of these pages. In India, as elsewhere, the beginnings of civilization are buried in the earth, and not all the spades of archaeology will ever quite exhume them.
  • Nothing should more deeply shame the modern student than the recency and inadequacy of his acquaintance with India. Here is a vast peninsula of nearly two million square miles; two-thirds as large as the United States, and twenty times the size of its master, Great Britain; 320,000,000 souls, more than in all North and South America combined, or one-fifth of the population of the earth; an impressive continuity of development and civilization from Mohenjo-daro, 2900 B.C. or earlier, to Gandhi, Raman and Tagore; faiths compassing every stage from barbarous idolatry to the most subtle and spiritual pantheism; philosophers playing a thousand variations on one monistic theme from the Upanishads eight centuries before Christ to Shankara eight centuries after him; scientists developing astronomy three thousand years ago, and winning Nobel prizes in our own time; a democratic constitution of untraceable antiquity in the villages, and wise and beneficent rulers like Ashoka and Akbar in the capitals; minstrels singing great epics almost as old as Homer, and poets holding world audiences today; artists raising gigantic temples for Hindu gods from Tibet to Ceylon and from Cambodia to Java, or carving perfect palaces by the score for Mogul kings and queens — this is the India that patient scholarship is now opening up, like a new intellectual continent, to that Western mind which only yesterday thought civilization an exclusively European thing.
    • Ch. XIV : The Foundations of India § I : Scene of the Drama
From Alexander to Aurangzeb
  • The Mohammedan Conquest of India is probably the bloodiest story in history. It is a discouraging tale, for its evident moral is that civilization is a precarious thing, whose delicate complex of order and liberty, culture and peace may at any time be overthrown by barbarians invading from without or multiplying within.
    • Ch. XVI : From Alexander to Aurangzeb, § VI : The Moslem Conquest; this has become misquoted in paraphrased form as : "The Islamic conquest of India is probably the bloodiest story in history. It is a discouraging tale, for its evident moral is that civilization is a precious good, whose delicate complex of order and freedom, culture and peace, can at any moment be overthrown by barbarians invading from without or multiplying within.
  • It is in the nature of governments to degenerate; for power, as Shelley said, poisons every hand that touches it. The excesses of the Delhi Sultans lost them the support not only of the Hindu population, but of their Moslem followers. When fresh invasions came from the north these Sultans were defeated with the same ease with which they themselves had won India.
    • Ch. XVI : From Alexander to Aurangzeb, § VII : Akbar the Great
  • While Catholics were murdering Protestants in France, and Protestants, under Elizabeth, were murdering Catholics in England, and the Inquisition was killing and robbing Jews in Spain, and Bruno was being burned at the stake in Italy, Akbar invited the representatives of all the religions in his empire to a conference, pledged them to peace, issued edicts of toleration for every cult and creed, and, as evidence of his own neutrality, married wives from the Brahman, Buddhist, and Mohammedan faiths.
    His greatest pleasure, after the fires of youth had cooled, was in the free discussion of religious beliefs. … The King took no stock in revelations, and would accept nothing that could not justify itself with science and philosophy. It was not unusual for him to gather friends and prelates of various sects together, and discuss religion with them from Thursday evening to Friday noon. When the Moslem mullahs and the Christian priests quarreled he reproved them both, saying that God should be worshiped through the intellect, and not by a blind adherence to supposed revelations. "Each person," he said, in the spirit — and perhaps through the influence — of the Upanishads and Kabir, "according to his condition gives the Supreme Being a name; but in reality to name the Unknowable is vain."
    • Ch. XVI : From Alexander to Aurangzeb, § VII : Akbar the Great
The Life of the People
  • The people enjoyed a considerable measure of liberty under the native dynasties, partly through the autonomous communities in the villages and the trade guilds in the towns, and partly through the limitations that the Brahman aristocracy placed upon the authority of the king. ... The Mohammedan rulers paid less attention than their Hindu predecessors to these ideals and checks; they were a conquering minority, and rested their rule frankly on the superiority of their guns. “The army,” says a Moslem historian, with charming clarity, “is the source and means of government.” Akbar was an exception, for he relied chiefly upon the good will of a people prospering under his mild and benevolent despotism. Perhaps in the circumstances his was the best government possible. Its vital defect, as we have seen, lay in its dependence upon the character of the king; the supreme centralized authority that proved beneficent under Akbar proved ruinous under Aurangzeb. Having been raised up by violence, the Afghan and Mogul rulers were always subject to recall by assassination; and wars of succession were almost as expensive—though not as disturbing to economic life—as a modern election.
  • Even their enemies admit their courtesy, and a generous Britisher sums up his long experience by ascribing to the higher classes in Calcutta “polished manners, clearness and comprehensiveness of understanding, liberality of feeling, and independence of principle, that would have stamped them gentlemen in any country in the world.”
  • Cleanliness was literally next to godliness in India; hygiene was not, as Anatole France thought it, la seule morale, but it was made an essential part of piety. Manu laid down, many centuries ago, an exacting code of physical refinement. “Early in the morning,” one instruction reads, “let him” (the Brahman) “bathe, decorate his body, clean his teeth, apply collyrium to his eyes, and worship the gods.” The native schools made good manners and personal cleanliness the first courses in the curriculum. Every day the caste Hindu would bathe his body, and wash the simple robe he was to wear; it seemed to him abominable to use the same garment, unwashed, for more than a day. “The Hindus,” said Sir William Huber, “stand out as examples of bodily cleanliness among Asiatic races, and, we may add, among the races of the world. The ablutions of the Hindu have passed into a proverb.”
  • The Brahman usually washed his hands, feet and teeth before and after each meal; he ate with his fingers from food on a leaf, and thought it unclean to use twice a plate, a knife or a fork; and when finished he rinsed his mouth seven times. The toothbrush was always new—a twig freshly plucked from a tree; to the Hindu it seemed disreputable to brush the teeth with the hair of an animal, or to use the same brush twice: so many are the ways in which men may scorn one another.
The Far East[edit]
  • As India is par excellence the land of metaphysics and religion, China is by like preeminence the home of humanistic, or non-theological, philosophy.
    • 5. The Pre-Confucian Philosophers
  • The greatest painter of the T’ang epoch, and, by common consent, of all the Far East, rose above distinctions of school, and belonged rather to the Buddhist tradition of Chinese art. Wu Tao-tze deserved his name—Wu, Master of the Tao or Way, for all those impressions and formless thoughts which Lao-tze and Chuang-tze had found too subtle for words seemed to flow naturally into line and color under his brush.
  • He excelled in every subject: men, gods, devils, Buddhas, birds, beasts, buildings, landscapes—all seemed to come naturally to his exuberant art. He painted with equal skill on silk, paper, and freshly-plastered walls; he made three hundred frescoes for Buddhist edifices, and one of these, containing more than a thousand figures, became as famous in China as “The Last Judgment” or “The Last Supper” in Europe. Ninety-three of his paintings were in the Imperial Gallery in the twelfth century, four hundred years after his death; but none remains anywhere today. His Buddhas, we are told, “fathomed the mysteries of life and death”; his picture of purgatory frightened some of the butchers and fishmongers of China into abandoning their scandalously un-Buddhistic trades; his representation of Ming Huang’s dream convinced the Emperor that Wu had had an identical vision.
  • So great was his reputation that when he was finishing some Buddhist figures at the Hsing-shan Temple, “the whole of Chang-an” came to see him add the finishing touches. Surrounded by this assemblage, says a Chinese historian of the ninth century, “he executed the haloes with so violent a rush and swirl that it seemed as though a whirlwind possessed his hand, and all who saw it cried that some god was helping him”: the lazy will always attribute genius to some “inspiration” that comes for mere waiting. When Wu had lived long enough, says a pretty tale, he painted a vast landscape, stepped into the mouth of a cave pictured in it, and was never seen again. Never had art known such mastery and delicacy of line.
  • Sculpture was not one of the major arts, not even a fine art, to the Chinese. By an act of rare modesty the Far East refused to class the human body under the rubric of beauty; its sculptors played a little with drapery, and used the figures of men—seldom of women—to study or represent certain types of consciousness; but they did not glorify the body. For the most part they confined their portraits of humanity to Buddhist saints and Taoist sages, ignoring the-athletes and courtesans who gave such inspiration to the artists of Greece. In the sculpture of China animals were preferred even to philosophers and saints.
  • Meanwhile another influence was entering China, in the form of Buddhist theology and art. It made a home for itself first in Turkestan, and built there a civilization from which Stein and Pelliot have unearthed many tons of ruined statuary; some of it seems equal to Hindu Buddhist art at its best. The Chinese took over those Buddhist forms without much alteration, and produced Buddhas as fair as any in Gandhara or India.
  • One of the best of the Chinese Buddhist shrines is the Temple of the Sleeping Buddha, near the Summer Palace outside Peking; Fergusson called it “the finest architectural achievement in China.”
  • As Christianity transformed Mediterranean culture and art in the third and fourth centuries after Christ, so Buddhism, in the same centuries, effected a theological and esthetic revolution in the life of China. While Confucianism retained its political power, Buddhism, mingling with Taoism, became the dominating force in art, and brought to the Chinese a stimulating contact with Hindu motives, symbols, methods and forms. The greatest genius of the Chinese Buddhist school of painting was Ku K’ai-chih, a man of such unique and positive personality that a web of anecdote or legend has meshed him in.
  • He insisted on being a philosopher, too; under his portrait of the emperor he wrote: “In Nature there is nothing high which is not soon brought low. . . . When the sun has reached its noon, it begins to sink; when the moon is full it begins to wane. To rise to glory is as hard as to build a mountain out of grains of dust; to fall into calamity is as easy as the rebound of a tense spring.” His contemporaries ranked him as the outstanding man of his time in three lines: in painting, in wit, and in foolishness.
  • The Commercial Revolution of Columbus’ time cleared the routes and prepared the way for the Industrial Revolution. Discoverers refound old lands, opened up new ports, and brought to the ancient cultures the novel products and ideas of the West. Early in the sixteenth century the adventurous Portuguese, having established themselves in India, captured Malacca, sailed around the Malay Peninsula, and arrived with their picturesque ships and terrible guns at Canton (1517). “Truculent and lawless, regarding all Eastern peoples as legitimate prey, they were little if any better than . . . pirates”; and the natives treated them as such. Their representatives were imprisoned, their demands for free trade were refused, and their settlements were periodically cleansed with massacres by the frightened and infuriated Chinese.
  • There were contradictions in this philosophy, but these did not disturb its leading opponent, the gentle and peculiar Wang Yang-ming. For Wang was a saint as well as a philosopher; the meditative spirit and habits of Mahayana Buddhism had sunk deeply into his soul. It seemed to him that the great error in Chu Hsi was not one of morals, but one of method; the investigation of things, he felt, should begin not with the examination of the external universe, but, as the Hindus had said, with the far profounder and more revealing world of the inner self.
  • When, after the fall of the Han, China found itself torn with political chaos, and life seemed lost in a welter of insecurity and war, the harassed nation turned to Buddhism as the Roman world was at the same time turning to Christianity. Taoism opened its arms to take in the new faith, and in time became inextricably mingled with it in the Chinese soul. Emperors persecuted Buddhism, philosophers complained of its superstitions, statesmen were concerned over the fact that some of the best blood of China was being sterilized in monasteries; but in the end the government found again that religion is stronger than the state; the emperors made treaties of peace with the new gods; the Buddhist priests were allowed to collect alms and raise temples, and the bureaucracy of officials and scholars was perforce content to keep Confucianism as its own aristocratic creed. The new religion took possession of many old shrines, placed its monks and fanes along with those of the Taoists on the holy mountain Tai-shan, aroused the people to many pious pilgrimages, contributed powerfully to painting, sculpture, architecture, literature, and the development of printing, and brought a civilizing measure of gentleness into the Chinese soul. Then, it, too, like Taoism, fell into decay; its clergy became corrupt, its doctrine was permeated more and more by sinister deities and popular superstitions, and its political power, never strong, was practically destroyed by the renaissance of Confucianism under Chu Hsi. Today its temples are neglected, its resources are exhausted, and its only devotees are its impoverished priests.
    Nevertheless it has sunk into the national soul, and is still part of the complex but informal religion of the simpler Chinese. For religions in China are not mutually exclusive as in Europe and America, nor have they ever precipitated the country into religious wars. Normally they tolerate one another not only in the state but in the same breast; and the average Chinese is at once an animist, a Taoist, a Buddhist and a Confucianist. He is a modest philosopher, and knows that nothing is certain; perhaps, after all, the theologian may be right, and there may be a paradise; the best policy would be to humor all these creeds, and pay many diverse priests to say prayers over one’s grave. While fortune smiles, however, the Chinese citizen does not pay much attention to the gods; he honors his ancestors, but lets the Taoist and the Buddhist temples get along with the attentions of the clergy and a few women.
  • Obscurity of thought and insincere inaccuracy of speech seemed to him national calamities. If a prince who was not in actual fact and power a prince should cease to be called a prince, if a father who was not a fatherly father should cease to be called a father, if an unfilial son should cease to be called a son—then men might be stirred to reform abuses too often covered up with words. Hence when Tsze-loo told Confucius, “The prince of Wei has been waiting for you, in order with you to administer the government; what will you consider the first thing to be done?” he answered, to the astonishment of prince and pupil, “What is necessary is to rectify names.”
  • When, in 586 A.D., the Emperor Yomei died, the succession was contested in arms by two rival families, both of them politically devoted to the new creed. Prince Shotoku Taishi, who had been born, we are told, with a holy relic clasped in his infant hand, led the Buddhist faction to victory, established the Empress Suiko on the throne, and for twenty-nine years (592-621) ruled the Sacred Islands as Prince Imperial and Regent. He lavished funds upon Buddhist temples, encouraged and supported the Buddhist clergy, promulgated the Buddhist ethic in national decrees, and became in general the Ashoka of Japanese Buddhism. He patronized the arts and sciences, imported artists and artisans from Korea and China, wrote history, painted pictures, and supervised the building of the Horiuji Temple, the oldest extant masterpiece in the art history of Japan.
    Despite the work of this versatile civilizer, and all the virtues inculcated or preached by Buddhism, another violent crisis came to Japan within a generation after Shotoku’s death.
    • (CHAPTER XXVIII The Makers of Japan)
  • For the Japanese could choose among many varieties of Buddhism: he might seek self-realization and bliss through the quiet practices of Zen (“meditation”); he might follow the fiery Nichiren into the Lotus Sect, and find salvation through learning the “Lotus Law”; he might join the Spirit Sect, and fast and pray until Buddha appeared to him in the flesh; he might be comforted by the Sect of the Pure Land, and be saved by faith alone; or he might find his way in patient pilgrimage to the monastery of Koyasan, and attain paradise by being buried in ground made holy by the bones of Kobo Daishi, the great scholar, saint and artist who, in the ninth century, had founded Shingon, the Sect of the True Word.
  • All in all, Japanese Buddhism was one of the pleasantest of man’s myths. It conquered Japan peacefully, and complaisantly found room, within its theology and its pantheon, for the doctrines and deities of Shinto: Buddha was amalgamated with Amaterasu, and a modest place was set apart, in Buddhist temples, for a Shinto shrine. The Buddhist priests of the earlier centuries were men of devotion, learning and kindliness, who profoundly influenced and advanced Japanese letters and arts; some of them were great painters or sculptors, and some were scholars whose painstaking translation of Buddhist and Chinese literature proved a fertile stimulus to the cultural development of Japan.
  • Nakaye was a man of saintly sincerity, but his philosophy pleased neither the people nor the government. The Shogunate trembled at the notion that every man might judge for himself what was right and what was wrong.
  • Our knowledge of Japanese literature is consequently fragmentary and deceptive, and our judgments of it can be of little worth. The Jesuits, harassed with these linguistic barriers, reported that the language of the islands had been invented by the Devil to prevent the preaching of the Gospel to the Japanese.
  • In the year 594 the Empress Suiko, being convinced of the truth or utility of Buddhism, ordered the building of Buddhist temples throughout her realm. Prince Shotoku, who was entrusted with carrying out this edict, brought in from Korea priests, architects, wood-carvers, bronze founders, clay modelers, masons, gilders, tile-makers, weavers, and other skilled artisans. This vast cultural importation was almost the beginning of art in Japan, for Shinto had frowned upon ornate edifices and had countenanced no figures to misrepresent the gods. From that moment Buddhist shrines and statuary filled the land. The temples were essentially like those of China, but more richly ornamented and more delicately carved. Here, too, majestic torii, or gateways, marked the ascent or approach to the sacred retreat; bright colors adorned the wooden walls, great beams held up a tiled roof gleaming under the sun, and minor structures—a drum-tower, e.g., or a pagoda—mediated between the central sanctuary and the surrounding trees. The greatest achievements of the foreign artists was the group of temples at Horiuji, raised under the guidance of Prince Shotoku near Nara about the year 616. It stands to the credit of the most living of building materials that one of these wooden edifices has survived unnumbered earthquakes and outlasted a hundred thousand temples of stone; and it stands to the glory of the builders that nothing erected in later Japan has surpassed the simple majesty of this oldest shrine. Perhaps as beautiful, and only slightly younger, are the temples of Nara itself, above all the perfectly proportioned Golden Hall of the Todaiji Temple there; Nara, says Ralph Adams Cram, contains “the most precious architecture in all Asia.”
  • Hideyoshi too tried to rival Kublai Khan, and built at Momoyama a “Palace of Pleasure” which his whim tore down again a few years after its completion; we may judge its magnificence from the “day long portal” removed from it to adorn the temple of Nishi-Hongwan; all day long, said its admirers, one might gaze at that carved portal without exhausting its excellence. Kano Yeitoku played Ictinus and Pheidias to Hideyoshi, but adorned his buildings with Venetian splendor rather than with Attic restraint; never had Japan, or Asia, seen such abounding decoration before.
  • Buddhism stimulated art in Japan, as it had done in China; the Zen practice of meditation lent itself to brooding creativeness in color and form almost as readily as in philosophy and poetry; and visions of Amida Buddha became as frequent in Japanese art as Annunciations and Crucifixions on the walls and canvases of the Renaissance. The priest Yeishin Sozu (d. 1017) was the Fra Angelico and El Greco of this age, whose risings and descendings of Amida made him the greatest religious painter in the history of Japan.
  • And though Japanese painting lacks the strength and depth of Chinese, and Japanese prints are mere poster art at their worst, and at their best the transient redemption of hurried trivialities with a national perfection of grace and line, nevertheless it was Japanese rather than Chinese painting, and Japanese prints rather than Japanese water-colors, that revolutionized pictorial art in the nineteenth century, and gave the stimulus to a hundred experiments in fresh creative forms. These prints, sweeping into Europe in the wake of reopened trade after 1860, profoundly affected Monet, Manet, Degas and Whistler; they put an end to the “brown sauce” that had been served with almost every European painting from Leonardo to Millet; they filled the canvases of Europe with sunshine, and encouraged the painter to be a poet rather than a photographer. “The story of the beautiful,” said Whistler, with the swagger that made all but his contemporaries love him, “is already complete—hewn in the marbles of the Parthenon, and broidered, with the birds, upon the fan of Hokusai—at the foot of Fuji-yama.”
  • We hope that this is not quite true; but it was unconsciously true for the old Japan. She died four years after Hokusai. In the comfort and peace of her isolation she had forgotten that a nation must keep abreast of the world if it does not wish to be enslaved. While Japan carved her inro and flourished her fans, Europe was establishing a science that was almost entirely unknown to the East; and that science, built up year by year in laboratories apparently far removed from the stream of the world’s affairs, at last gave Europe the mechanized industries that enabled her to make the goods of life more cheaply—however less beautifully—than Asia’s skilful artisans could turn them out by hand. Sooner or later those cheaper goods would win the markets of Asia, ruining the economic and changing the political life of countries pleasantly becalmed in the handicraft stage. Worse than that, science made explosives, battleships and guns that could kill a little more completely than the sword of the most heroic Samurai; of what use was the bravery of a knight against the dastardly anonymity of a shell?
  • Printing, like writing, came from China as part of Buddhist lore; the oldest extant examples of printing in the world are some Buddhist charms block-printed at the command of the Empress Shotoku in the year 770 A.D.
  • Like most statesmen he thought of religion chiefly as an organ of social discipline, and regretted that the variety of human beliefs canceled half this good by the disorder of hostile creeds. To his completely political mind the traditional faith of the Japanese people—a careless mixture of Shintoism and Buddhism—was an invaluable bond cementing the race into spiritual unity, moral order and patriotic devotion; and though at first he approached Christianity with the lenient eye and broad intelligence of Akbar, and refrained from enforcing against it the angry edicts of Hideyoshi, he was disturbed by its intolerance, its bitter denunciation of the native faith as idolatry, and the discord which its passionate dogmatism aroused not only between the converts and the nation, but among the neophytes themselves. Finally his resentment was stirred by the discovery that missionaries sometimes allowed themselves to be used as vanguards for conquerors, and were, here and there, conspiring against the Japanese state. In 1614 he forbade the practice or preaching of the Christian religion in Japan, and ordered all converts either to depart from the country or to renounce their new beliefs. Many priests evaded the decree, and some of them were arrested. None was executed during the lifetime of Iyeyasu; but after his death the fury of the bureaucrats was turned against the Christians, and a violent and brutal persecution ensued which practically stamped Christianity out of Japan. In 1638 the remaining Christians gathered to the number of 37,000 on the peninsula of Shimabara, fortified it, and made a last stand for the freedom of worship. Iyemitsu, grandson of Iyeyasu, sent a large armed force to subdue them. When, after a three months’ siege, their stronghold was taken, all but one hundred and five of the survivors were massacred in the streets.
  • Christianity had come to Japan in 1549 in the person of one of the first and noblest of Jesuits, St. Francis Xavier. The little community which he established grew so rapidly that within a generation after his coming there were seventy Jesuits and 150,000 converts in the empire. They were so numerous in Nagasaki that they made that trading port a Christian city, and persuaded its local ruler, Omura, to use direct action in spreading the new faith. “Within Nagasaki territory,” says Lafcadio Hearn, “Buddhism was totally suppressed—its priests being persecuted and driven away.” Alarmed at this spiritual invasion, and suspecting it of political designs, Hideyoshi sent a messenger to the Vice-Provincial of the Jesuits in Japan, armed with five peremptory questions

II - Life of Greece (1939)[edit]

Full text online at the Internet Archive
  • Water is the usual drink, but everyone has wine, for no civilization has found life tolerable without narcotics or stimulants.
    • Ch. XII : Work and Wealth in Athens, p. 270
  • No man who is in a hurry is quite civilized.
    • Ch. XII : Work and Wealth in Athens, p. 277

III - Caesar and Christ (1944)[edit]

Caesar and Christ had met in the arena, and Christ had won.
  • There is no greater drama in human record than the sight of a few Christians, scorned or oppressed by a succession of emperors, bearing all trials with a fierce tenacity, multiplying quietly, building order while their enemies generated chaos, fighting the sword with the word, brutality with hope, and at last defeating the strongest state that history has known. Caesar and Christ had met in the arena, and Christ had won.
    • Chapter 30, part 1, p. 652
  • A great civilization is not conquered from without until it has destroyed itself within.
    • Epilogue: "Why Rome Fell", p. 665

IV - The Age of Faith (1950)[edit]

  • "Historically, the conquest destroyed the outward form of what had already inwardly decayed; it cleared away with regrettable brutality and thoroughness a system of life which, with all its gifts of order, culture, and law, had worn itself into senile debility, and had lost the powers of regeneration and growth." (p. 43)
  • "Moslems seem to have been better gentlemen than their Christian peers; they kept their word more frequently, showed more mercy to the defeated, and were seldom guilty of the brutality as marked the Christian capture of Jerusalem in 1099." (p. 341)

V. The Renaissance (1953)[edit]

  • "But it took more than a revival of antiquity to make the Renaissance. And first of all it took money—smelly bourgeois money: ... of careful calculations, investments and loans, of interest and dividends accumulated until surplus could be spared from the pleasures of the flesh, from the purchase of senates, signories, and mistresses, to pay a Michelangelo or a Titian to transmute wealth into beauty, and perfume a fortune with the breath of art. Money is the root of all civilization." (p. 67-68)

VI - The Reformation (1957)[edit]

I feel for all faiths the warm sympathy of one who has come to learn that even the trust in reason is a precarious faith, and that we are all fragments of darkness groping for the sun.
  • I have tried to be impartial, though I know that a man's past always colors his views, and that nothing else is so irritating as impartiality.
    • Preface
  • To all Christian governments Christianity was not a rule of means but a means of rule; Christ was for the people, Machiavelli was preferred by the kings. The state in some measure had civilized man, but who would civilize the state?
    • Chapter 6, p. 229
  • II feel for all faiths the warm sympathy of one who has come to learn that even the trust in reason is a precarious faith, and that we are all fragments of darkness groping for the sun. I know no more about the ultimates than the simplest urchin in the streets.
    • Preface

VII. The Age of Reason Begins (1961)[edit]

  • "Witches were burned, and Jesuits were taken down from the scaffold to be cut to pieces alive. The milk of human kindness flowed sluggishly in the days of Good Queen Bess." (p. 54)

VIII. The Age of Louis XIV (1963)[edit]

  • "Like the others, he came from the middle class; the aristocracy is too interested in the art of life to spare time for the life of art." (p. 144)

IX. The Age of Voltaire (1965)[edit]

  • "Women, when on display, dressed as in our wondering youth, when the female structure was a breathless mystery costly to behold." (p. 75)

X. Rousseau and Revolution (1967)[edit]

  • "He concluded that history is an excellent teacher with few pupils." (p. 529)

XI - The Age of Napoleon (1975)[edit]

Co-written with Ariel Durant
  • Power dements even more than it corrupts, lowering the guard of foresight and raising the haste of action.
    • Ch. IV : The Convention: September 21, 1792 - October 26, 1795, Part V : The Reign of Terror: September 17, 1793 - July 28, 1794, § 4 : The Revolution Eats Its Children

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