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the woman of the middle and the lower classes submits to a yet severer fate. She it is who feeds and rears the silkworm, with an attention to details of which the female organization is so pre-eminently capable; she reels the produce, and works and weaves the silk. It is the woman, too, who cultivates the most tender tea-plants, and whose delicate fingers are alone fitted to roll the finer tea-leaf: having thus furnished her quota to the common means of national wealth, she also works that exquisite gold and silver filigree, and prepares those gorgeous ornaments, in which imperial vanity delights to adorn the ponderous and puerile divine-righted ruler of the celestial empire.
Descending yet lower in the social chain, the female peasant of China presents a still more extraordinary example of plodding industry. Exposed to the inclemency of the seasons, with the infant tied to her back, which she may have rescued from the wild beast, or from the devouring wave, she ploughs, sows, reaps, and performs the thousand offices of toil and drudgery attached to the cultivation of the soil, from which she derives so little benefit and enjoyment. Denied, too, all moral rights, she incurs, nevertheless, a fatal responsibility for her husband's delinquencies; and suffers death with him, as his dependent, for crimes in which she could have no moral participation. The natural death of her husband gives her over to the family, who, to recover the money expended in her purchase, may resell her to the highest bidder; while her own is very frequently the work of her own hand. Suicide, it is asserted, is of frequent occurrence among the Chinese females of the lowest classes; and well may they seek death, to whom, from the cradle to the tomb, life holds forth not one solitary good.
Other Eastern states, less policized, or less self-important, exhibit fearful examples of the dire results of polygamy, its outrage and degradation towards one half of the species, its brutalizing reaction on the other. Still, through ages of suffering and injustice, the numbing influence of custom, which for ever confounds establishment with fitness, did not so extinguish the sense of right in its victims, but that some vague traditionary dogma was required to justify the institutes perpetuated by the master against his servant.
If the Hindoo woman, all palpitating with life and feeling, was buried or burned alive at her husband's will, a page was quoted from the ancient story of the nation, denouncing some cunning combination among the women to escape from the dominion of the strongest, by the murder of their husbands, which necessitated the merging of the woman's existence in that of her lord. If the Chinese crushed the feet and paralysed the intellects of their women, the practice was traced back to some supposed time, when the females, left free to walk and to act, had conspired against the eternal government of the celestial empire, and sought to establish a female supremacy. Either as fact, or as a mythological fable, the notion of some attempt on the part of woman to escape from thraldom, through the exercise of her subtle and insinuating faculties, and to found a forbidden empire on a superiority of knowledge, seems to have prevailed throughout the East from the earliest times; amounting to an admission of the wrongs inflicted upon the sex, and to an acknowledgment in it of inherent faculties and powers, only to be counteracted by such coarse and brutal expedients as have been so generally applied to them.
That any such general combination of the females against the males did really occur, is more than problematical; but, setting aside that hypothesis, it is certain that the earliest portion of Oriental history, called the Heroic, has left behind it the memory of splendid and particular instances of woman's moral supremacy-instances in which woman has determined the destinies of empires, advanced the march of civilisation, and effected more than enough to awaken the jealousy and provoke the obloquy implied in that supposition.
In all that is known of Assyria, the most ancient empire of the earth,* every extant fragment, moral or material, bears evidence in favour of a sex to which that land of wonders owes the immortality of its grandeur. The name
* "Behold," (says the Prophet) "behold the Chaldeans, these people were not, till the Assyrians founded it, for them that dwelt in the wilderness: they set up the towns thereof, they built the palaces thereof." It was from Ur of the Chaldees, that Abraham, whose fathers dwelt on the other side of the Euphrates, and served other gods, was led into the land of Canaan.
of Semiramis has preserved (what Sardanapalus could not destroy, nor Cyrus bury under the ruins of Babylon) the memory of the greatest combination of wealth, power, art, and magnificence, which the world had till then witnessed, or has since conceived. For the greatest capitals of the most powerful and refined of modern states, supposed to have reached the acme of civilisation, have but one epithet to mark their supereminence; and Rome and London (in boast, or in reproach,) have each been called the Babylon of their own proudest times.
Babylon, with its hundred gates and towers, was founded by a woman of low origin and destitute youth, who attained to supreme power by her genius alone; and though all that has been ascribed to her may not be strictly true, though Diodorus Siculus in his enthusiasm may have exaggerated, and Ctesias* may have too vividly coloured his brilliant delineations of her greatness, yet that such a woman lived and reigned in Assyria, that she founded its capital and influenced her age by her works and her talents, that she built cities, raised aqueducts, constructed roads, commanded great armies in person, and, both as conqueror and legislator, was among the earliest agents of Asiatic civilisation, there remains no room for historic doubt.
Her passage over the Indus, her conquests on its shores, the brilliant triumph she obtained abroad, the astute wisdom with which she met conspiracy at home, and the bold confidence she expressed in the decisions of posterity, are stubborn facts. These obtained for her the sympathy of the greatest character and conqueror of a nearer antiquity; but Alexander, taking Semiramis for his model, vainly tried to restore her gorgeous city, on her own plans, and with her own views.
Posterity has nobly ratified the appeal of Semiramis to its verdict at the end of three thousand years her life and character have been taken as the inspiration of its genius, and the spell of its attraction. Semiramis, however, has paid the penalty of her sex's superiority, and
* Ctesias of Gnidos, historian and physician; of his writings nothing remains but some fragments of the History of the Assyrians and the Persians.
has been the mark of calumnious pedantry through succeeding ages.
Tirolli, in his " Antiquities,"* observes of her, "de hac bestia incredibilia narrantur et inenarrabilia:" but in recounting the proofs which the ancients have handed down of her greatness, he adds a trait of his own still more marvellous and incredible. "Filium Trebetum," he tells us, “regno expulit et fugavit ad fluenta Rheni usque, qui Treverim illuc condidit et de suo nomine dixit:" she banished her son Trebetus, and drove him to the banks of the Rhine, where he founded Treves, and called it after his own name!!!
But, while the genius and the grandeur of the immortal queen of Assyria is thus bound up with all that is known of the greatest and most ancient empire of the earth, there are fragments of the history of other Eastern nations, which, like the lingering fires of expiring volcanoes throw up, here and there, flashes to brighten the darkness of woman's destiny, and show her able and prompt to justify the original intention of nature in her favour. It is related in the brief story of the Cretans and of the Syrians, that their national genealogy was carried on from mother to daughter, the bearers and bestowers of the family cognomen, and the inheritors of its wealth.
Women, too, in ancient Crete, presided over the companies into which the population was divided. In the time of Xerxes (one of recent date as compared to the ages alluded to), the prejudice in favour of Cretan women was so great, that Artemisia (who could prove her Cretan descent from the mother's side) was accepted as a leader in the army of Xerxes, and a member of his council. Her sagacious advice to the headlong prince might have saved him at Salamis, had he adopted it; and it was in watching her efforts at the head of his fleet, that he exclaimed, "The men have this day behaved like women, and the women are behaving like men."+
* Tirolli Antiquitates, MS. in Eton College library, a finely illuminated work in Latin, with a German translation beneath, written about the time of the Emperor Charles V.: it contains a history of the World, from the time of Noah!!!
+ The fragment of a society, so constituted, still survives on the coast of Malabar, in the military tribes of Nairs, where the succession follows
When the existence of Troy itself remains a mystery and a doubt, the tale of Cassandra, her genius and her fate, cannot be cited as a direct proof of the position of the Asiatic women in that city. Still, as a mere poetical conception, embodying an ancient tradition, it may be adopted as implying a prevalent opinion of wisdom and forethought in the sex, to which it assigns the divine honours of prophecy; and as an impersonation of the female character, according to the notions imported into Greece by the Asiatic colonies, and recorded in the immortal poem of one of their earliest descendants.
The records of Persia establish the fact that polygamy reigned unrestrained from its earliest times, except in the royal harems, where the kings' wives were limited in their number, and enjoyed many of the high privileges which distinguish the Greek women of more modern ages. They were entrusted with high prerogatives, assigned provinces for the expenses of their dress and the maintenance of their households; they were solemnly crowned with the royal diadem, and draped with the purple robe, the insignia of royal power. They sat on the right hand of the king, in the presence of the representatives of prostrate nations; their sons alone could ascend the throne of their fathers; and at one epoch of their history they gave a royal rank to their sons, which the husbands of these powerful women had not assumed.
The immortal Mandane,* the mother of Cyrus, may thus be considered as the foundress of the Persian dynasty; and the Jewish Esther, raised to the throne of Darius, and permitted to exert a political influence, is evidence of the general condition of the royal wives of Persia, which must have afforded a precedent for that elevation. The
the female line. In the battle of Assaye, fought by the Duke of Wellington, in 1803, against the Mahrattas, a female, the Begum of Lumroom, fought with the enemy, at the head of her cavalry;—a strange anomaly, in that quarter of the globe, where the sex is most despised and trampled on.
*Herodotus asserts that the birthright and glory of Cyrus came from his mother, and that his father was a man of obscure birth. The Emperors of Persia, like those of modern Turkey, are prohibited by Mahometan dispensation from having legitimate wives. Political reasons and other causes are assigned to justify this great source of demoraliza tion. See Chardin, vol. iii, page 39.