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The Hypothesis Concerning The Asiatic Origin Of The Aryans


Source: Teutonic Mythology

When the question of the original home of the Aryan language and race
was first presented, there were no conflicting opinions on the main
subject.[2] All who took any interest in the problem referred to Asia as
the cradle of the Aryans. Asia had always been regarded as the cradle of
the human race. In primeval time, the yellow Mongolian, the black
African, the American redskin, and the fair European had there tented
side by side. From some common centre in Asia they had spread over the
whole surface of the inhabited earth. Traditions found in the
literatures of various European peoples in regard to an immigration from
the East supported this view. The progenitors of the Romans were said to
have come from Troy. The fathers of the Teutons were reported to have
immigrated from Asia, led by Odin. There was also the original home of
the domestic animals and of the cultivated plants. And when the
startling discovery was made that the sacred books of the Iranians and
Hindoos were written in languages related to the culture languages of
Europe, when these linguistic monuments betrayed a wealth of inflections
in comparison with which those of the classical languages turned pale,
and when they seemed to have the stamp of an antiquity by the side of
which the European dialects seemed like children, then what could be
more natural than the following conclusion: The original form has been
preserved in the original home; the farther the streams of emigration
got away from this home, the more they lost on the way of their language
and of their inherited view of the world; that is, of their mythology,
which among the Hindoos seemed so original and simple as if it had been
watered by the dews of life's dawn.

[Footnote 2: Compare O. Schrader, Sprachvergleichung und Urgeschichte

To begin with, there was no doubt that the original tongue itself, the
mother of all the other Aryan languages, had already been found when
Zend or Sanscrit was discovered. Fr. v. Schlegel, in his work published
in 1808, on the Language and Wisdom of the Hindoos, regarded Sanscrit
as the mother of the Aryan family of languages, and India as the
original home of the Aryan family of peoples. Thence, it was claimed,
colonies were sent out in prehistoric ages to other parts of Asia and to
Europe; nay, even missionaries went forth to spread the language and
religion of the mother-country among other peoples. Schlegel's
compatriot Link looked upon Zend as the oldest language and mother of
Sanscrit, and the latter he regarded as the mother of the rest; and as
the Zend, in his opinion, was spoken in Media and surrounding countries,
it followed that the highlands of Media, Armenia, and Georgia were the
original home of the Aryans, a view which prevailed among the leading
scholars of the age, such as Anquetil-Duperron, Herder, and Heeren, and
found a place in the historical text-books used in the schools from 1820
to 1840.

Since Bopp published his epoch-making Comparative Grammar the illusion
that the Aryan mother-tongue had been discovered had, of course,
gradually to give place to the conviction that all the Aryan languages,
Zend and Sanscrit included, were relations of equal birth. This also
affected the theory that the Persians or Hindoos were the original
people, and that the cradle of our race was to be sought in their homes.

On the other hand, the Hindooic writings were found to contain evidence
that, during the centuries in which the most of the Rigveda songs were
produced, the Hindooic Aryans were possessors only of Kabulistan and
Pendschab, whence, either expelling or subjugating an older black
population, they had advanced toward the Ganges. Their social condition
was still semi-nomadic, at least in the sense that their chief property
consisted in herds, and the feuds between the clans had for their object
the plundering of such possessions from each other. Both these facts
indicated that these Aryans were immigrants to the Indian peninsula, but
not the aborigines, wherefore their original home must be sought
elsewhere. The strong resemblance found between Zend and Sanscrit, and
which makes these dialects a separate subdivision in the Aryan family of
languages, must now, since we have learned to regard them as
sister-tongues, be interpreted as a proof that the Zend people or
Iranians and the Sanscrit people or Hindoos were in ancient times one
people with a common country, and that this union must have continued to
exist long after the European Aryans were parted from them and had
migrated westwards. When, then, the question was asked where this
Indo-Iranian cradle was situated, the answer was thought to be found in
a chapter of Avesta, to which the German scholar Rhode had called
attention already in 1820. To him it seemed to refer to a migration from
a more northerly and colder country. The passage speaks of sixteen
countries created by the fountain of light and goodness, Ormuzd (Ahura
Mazda), and of sixteen plagues produced by the fountain of evil, Ahriman
(Angra Mainyu), to destroy the work of Ormuzd. The first country was a
paradise, but Ahriman ruined it with cold and frost, so that it had ten
months of winter and only two of summer. The second country, in the name
of which Sughda Sogdiana was recognised, was rendered uninhabitable by
Ahriman by a pest which destroyed the domestic animals. Ahriman made the
third (which by the way, was recognised as Merv) impossible as a
dwelling on account of never-ceasing wars and plunderings. In this
manner thirteen other countries with partly recognisable names are
enumerated as created by Ormuzd, and thirteen other plagues produced by
Ahriman. Rhode's view, that these sixteen regions were stations in the
migration of the Indo-Iranian people from their original country became
universally adopted, and it was thought that the track of the migration
could now be followed back through Persia, Baktria and Sogdiana, up to
the first region created by Ormuzd, which, accordingly, must have been
situated in the interior highlands of Asia, around the sources of the
Jaxartes and Oxus. The reason for the emigration hence was found in the
statement that, although Ormuzd had made this country an agreeable
abode, Ahriman had destroyed it with frost and snow. In other words,
this part of Asia was supposed to have had originally a warmer
temperature, which suddenly or gradually became lower, wherefore the
inhabitants found it necessary to seek new homes in the West and South.

The view that the sources of Oxus and Jaxartes are the original home of
the Aryans is even now the prevailing one, or at least the one most
widely accepted, and since the day of Rhode it has been supported and
developed by several distinguished scholars. Then Julius v. Klaproth
pointed out, already in 1830, that, among the many names of various
kinds of trees found in India, there is a single one which they have in
common with other Aryan peoples, and this is the name of the birch.
India has many kinds of trees that do not grow in Central Asia, but the
birch is found both at the sources of the Oxus and Jaxartes, and on the
southern spurs of the Himalaya mountains. If the Aryan Hindoos
immigrated from the highlands of Central Asia to the regions through
which the Indus and Ganges seek their way to the sea, then it is
natural, that when they found on their way new unknown kinds of trees,
then they gave to these new names, but when they discovered a tree with
which they had long been acquainted, then they would apply the old
familiar name to it. Mr. Lassen, the great scholar of Hindooic
antiquities, gave new reasons for the theory that the Aryan Hindoos were
immigrants, who through the western pass of Hindukush and through
Kabulistan came to Pendschab, and thence slowly occupied the Indian
peninsula. That their original home, as well as that of their Iranian
kinsmen, was that part of the highlands of Central Asia pointed out by
Rhode, he found corroborated by the circumstance, that there are to be
found there, even at the present time, remnants of a people, the
so-called Tadchiks, who speak Iranian dialects. According to Lassen,
these were to be regarded as direct descendants of the original Aryan
people, who remained in the original home, while other parts of the same
people migrated to Baktria or Persia and became Iranians, or migrated
down to Pendschab and became Hindoos, or migrated to Europe and became
Celts, Greco-Italians, Teutons, and Slavs. Jacob Grimm, whose name will
always be mentioned with honour as the great pathfinder in the field of
Teutonic antiquities, was of the same opinion; and that whole school of
scientists who were influenced by romanticism and by the philosophy of
Schelling made haste to add to the real support sought for the theory in
ethnological and philological facts, a support from the laws of natural
analogy and from poetry. A mountain range, so it was said, is the
natural divider of waters. From its fountains the streams flow in
different directions and irrigate the plains. In the same manner the
highlands of Central Asia were the divider of Aryan folk-streams, which
through Baktria sought their way to the plains of Persia, through the
mountain passes of Hindukush to India, through the lands north of the
Caspian Sea to the extensive plains of modern Russia, and so on to the
more inviting regions of Western Europe. The sun rises in the east, ex
oriente lux; the highly-gifted race, which was to found the European
nations, has, under the guidance of Providence, like the sun, wended its
way from east to west. In taking a grand view of the subject, a mystic
harmony was found to exist between the apparent course of the sun and
the real migrations of people. The minds of the people dwelling in
Central and Eastern Asia seemed to be imbued with a strange instinctive
yearning. The Aryan folk-streams, which in prehistoric times deluged
Europe, were in this respect the forerunners of the hordes of Huns which
poured in from Asia, and which in the fourth century gave the impetus to
the Teutonic migrations, and of the Mongolian hordes which in the
thirteenth century invaded our continent. The Europeans themselves are
led by this same instinct to follow the course of the sun: they flow in
great numbers to America, and these folk-billows break against each
other on the coasts of the Pacific Ocean. "At the breast of our Asiatic
mother," thus exclaimed, in harmony with the romantic school, a scholar
with no mean linguistic attainments--"at the breast of our Asiatic
mother, the Aryan people of Europe have rested; around her as their
mother they have played as children. There or nowhere is the playground;
there or nowhere is the gymnasium of the first physical and intellectual
efforts on the part of the Aryan race."

The theory that the cradle of the Aryan race stood in Central Asia near
the sources of the Indus and Jaxartes had hardly been contradicted in
1850, and seemed to be secured for the future by the great number of
distinguished and brilliant names which had given their adhesion to it.
The need was now felt of clearing up the order and details of these
emigrations. All the light to be thrown on this subject had to come from
philology and from the geography of plants and animals. The first author
who, in this manner and with the means indicated, attempted to furnish
proofs in detail that the ancient Aryan land was situated around the
Oxus river was Adolphe Pictet. There, he claimed, the Aryan language had
been formed out of older non-Aryan dialects. There the Aryan race, on
account of its spreading over Baktria and neighbouring regions, had
divided itself into branches of various dialects, which there, in a
limited territory, held the same geographical relations to each other
as they hold to each other at the present time in another and immensely
larger territory. In the East lived the nomadic branch which later
settled in India; in the East, too, but farther north, that branch
herded their flocks, which afterwards became the Iranian and took
possession of Persia. West of the ancestors of the Aryan Hindoos dwelt
the branch which later appears as the Greco-Italians and north of the
latter the common progenitors of Teutons and Slavs had their home. In
the extreme West dwelt the Celts, and they were also the earliest
emigrants to the West. Behind them marched the ancestors of the Teutons
and Slavs by a more northern route to Europe. The last in this
procession to Europe were the ancestors of the Greco-Italians, and for
this reason their languages have preserved more resemblance to those of
the Indo-Iranians who migrated into Southern Asia than those of the
other European Aryans. For this view Pictet gives a number of reasons.
According to him, the vocabulary common to more or less of the Aryan
branches preserves names of minerals, plants, and animals which are
found in those latitudes, and in those parts of Asia which he calls the
original Aryan country.

The German linguist Schleicher has to some extent discussed the same
problem as Pictet in a series of works published in the fifties and
sixties. The same has been done by the famous German-English scientist
Max Mueller. Schleicher's theory, briefly stated, is the following: The
Aryan race originated in Central Asia. There, in the most ancient Aryan
country, the original Aryan tongue was spoken for many generations. The
people multiplied and enlarged their territory, and in various parts of
the country they occupied, the language assumed various forms, so that
there were developed at least two different languages before the great
migrations began. As the chief cause of the emigrations, Schleicher
regards the fact that the primitive agriculture practised by the Aryans,
including the burning of the forests, impoverished the soil and had a
bad effect on the climate. The principles he laid down and tried to
vindicate were: (1) The farther East an Aryan people dwells, the more it
has preserved of the peculiarities of the original Aryan tongue. (2) The
farther West an Aryan-derived tongue and daughter people are found, the
earlier this language was separated from the mother-tongue, and the
earlier this people became separated from the original stock. Max Mueller
holds the common view in regard to the Asiatic origin of the Aryans. The
main difference between him and Schleicher is that Mueller assumes that
the Aryan tongue originally divided itself into an Asiatic and an
European branch. He accordingly believes that all the Aryan-European
tongues and all the Aryan-European peoples have developed from the same
European branch, while Schleicher assumes that in the beginning the
division produced a Teutonic and Letto-Slavic branch on the one hand,
and an Indo-Iranian, Greco-Italic, and Celtic on the other.

This view of the origin of the Aryans had scarcely met with any
opposition when we entered the second half of our century. We might add
that it had almost ceased to be questioned. The theory that the Aryans
were cradled in Asia seemed to be established as an historical fact,
supported by a mass of ethnographical, linguistic, and historical
arguments, and vindicated by a host of brilliant scientific names.

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