Imágenes de página

the aftronomical obfervations of the Chaldeans, extending only to 2233 before Jefus Christ, cannot authorise a very high antiquity of the earth fince the deluge, and that those of the Chinese are too vague and uncertain to be admitted. It will appear, in spite of the efforts of Mr. Bailly, that the calculations of the Indians up to their pretended era of 3101 cannot be proved founded on real observations; but have on the contrary every appearance of being retrograde deductions upon paper, like others avowedly of the fame nature. Mr. Bailly will however have proved, that the Indians ftill existing as an unmixed nation, though generally fubjected to foreign domination, have preserved with more integrity the practical rules of aftronomy, which they as well as the other nations of the Eaft had received from their common ancestors. Their mathematical formulæ atteft ftill more irrefragably than the writings of hiftorians the very antient use of a year of 360 precise days; which is no longer ours, but to which all nations were at fome certain period obliged to add, in order to bring it to the actual revolution of the earth, five days, and afterwards feveral hours and minutes, according to the more or lefs exact precifion of their aftronomical observations. It appears that the Indians, like all other antient people, had the knowledge of an univerfal deluge, which began the prefent age, preceded by a more happy state of man, whose creation was pofterior to that of other beings of a superior order. All these ideas are not particular to them. Bolder than other people, they have attempted to fix. with precifion the era of this deluge, and of the commencement of N n


[ocr errors]

our present age; but it is far from fure that they have done it from real obfervations. It is much more probable, that, knowing the date of that event not to be very far diftant, they fought, purfuant to their ideas of the influence of the planets, to determine it to the precise moment when by their tables they had found that an extraordinary conjunction of the fun and moon and most of the principal planets should, according to the rules of aftronomy, have taken place. Their undertaking, by still more laborious calculations, to find out a ftill more extraordinary conjunction, in order to determine by it another celeftial and terreftrial era, at the immense distance of more than 20,000 years beyond it, adds a further probability to the fictitious fixation of the first. Mr. Bailly is too learned and fagacious to attempt with them to give sanction and credit to the neceffity of these celeftial conjunctions to produce a deluge on this earth (the fole point univerfally agreed on), or to effect any other events amongst mankind at that or any other period. Though it should be allowed that the real observations of the Indians approach very nearly the time of that great event, and we shall readily agree that fuch observations were made foon after it by the firft fathers of that and of every very other nation equally fprung from them, this fingular conjunction of the celestial bodies, very important according to them, will only be proper to make us fufpect that they had fixed its precife date rather upon this imaginary connection than upon real truth. We can only from thence conjecture, that this era, without being abfolutely exact, is not perhaps very far from the true period to which tradition

tradition had vaguely fixed that memorable event. As we have before observed, the date the Indians give it will not exceed by many centuries the one I have allowed it, the Samaritan chronology by still fewer, and does not even attain the antiquity bestowed on it by the Septuagint. It will certainly be very far from authorising that prodigious number of ages required by modern philofophers, and which we muft neceffarily admit, to give time for the supposed hot and happy climate of the poles to cool by degrees, and, as the experience of more than 2000 years evinces, very imperceptibly, to their present cold temperature. Mr. Bailly has, not only unwarranted by the Indians, but in direct contradiction to them, added 400 years to their era of the deluge, seemingly for no other purpose than to carry that event beyond any version of fcriptural chronology. From the few obfervations I have made, I think, Sir, that you will agree with me, that notwithstanding his labours it still remains at least doubtful whether any credit is to be given to the original Indian epoch of 3101 years before Christ, as founded on real obfervations. Their avowed retrograde calculations, to found on aftrological principles a prior certainly fictitious era, afford the ftrongest fufpicions that this laft has been ascertained in a similar manner; and the fingularity of the conjunctions of diverse planets equally incident to it gives additional force to this suspicion. The very remarkable circumstance in their proceffes of calculating firft for 360, and feparately for five more whole days, befides the additional calculations for hours and minutes in their year, certainly fhews that the aftronomical formulæ Nn 2 which

which they have inherited and blindly follow without understanding their principles, were originally framed either when 360 days was the true year, or before the additional number of days was found to be neceffary. So perfect however are these formulæ, that it is difficult to suppose that their original conftructors could err so very widely from the truth.





(a) Page 262.

CALISTHENES fent to Aristotle a series of astronomical observations made by the Chaldeans, comprehending a space of 1903 years. It is poffible that their numbers and antiquity may have been fomewhat exaggerated; but the Chaldeans were feated very near the first abodes of man, and on the very spot where all mankind had been collected before the difperfion. They were less than any other people expofed to lose the principles of that science, which the long lives of the antediluvians invited them to cultivate, and afforded the means of bringing to perfection by the experience of centuries. At their first establishment the three patriarchs born before the deluge were still living, and men yet extended their existence to more than 400 years. Their climate was propitious, and the tower of Babel, though unfinished, offered them the first convenient obfervatory. According to my ideas, the difperfion of mankind took place in the year 2297 before Chrift, and their earliest observations date in about 2233, or nearly about the time when Nimrod, expelling Affur, may be fuppofed to have taken poffeffion of that country. The Egyptians claimed the exclufive right to firft antiquity and to the invention of all sciences, and thence pretended that the Chaldeans had many ages after derived from them their knowledge in aftronomy. Thefe obfervations

« AnteriorContinuar »