THE INDO-EUROPEAN PERSIANS CONQUER THE SEMITIC AND THE EGYPTIAN WORLD
THE world of Egypt and Babylon and Assyria and Phoenicia had existed almost thirty centuries and the venerable races of the Fertile Valley were getting old and tired. Their doom was sealed when a new and more energetic race appeared upon the horizon. We call this race the Indo-European race, because it conquered not only Europe but also made itself the ruling class in the country which is now known as British India.
These Indo-Europeans were white men like the Semites but they spoke a different language which is regarded as the common ancestor of all European tongues with the exception of Hungarian and Finnish and the Basque dialects of Northern Spain.
When we first hear of them, they had been living along the shores of the Caspian Sea for many centuries. But one day they had packed their tents and they had wandered forth in search of a new home. Some of them had moved into the mountains of Central Asia and for many centuries they had lived among the peaks which surround the plateau of Iran and that is why we call them Aryans. Others had followed the setting sun and they had taken possession of the plains of Europe as I shall tell you when I give you the story of Greece and Rome.
For the moment we must follow the Aryans. Under the leadership of Zarathustra (or Zoroaster) who was their great teacher many of them had left their mountain homes to follow the swiftly flowing Indus river on its way to the sea.
Others had preferred to stay among the hills of western Asia and there they had founded the half-independent communities of the Medes and the Persians, two peoples whose names we have copied from the old Greek history-books. In the seventh century before the birth of Christ, the Medes had established a kingdom of their own called Media, but this perished when Cyrus, the chief of a clan known as the Anshan, made himself king of all the Persian tribes and started upon a career of conquest which soon made him and his children the undisputed masters of the whole of western Asia and of Egypt.
Indeed, with such energy did these Indo-European Persians push their triumphant campaigns in the west that they soon found themselves in serious difficulties with certain other Indo- European tribes which centuries before had moved into Europe and had taken possession of the Greek peninsula and the islands of the AEgean Sea.
These difficulties led to the three famous wars between Greece and Persia during which King Darius and King Xerxes of Persia invaded the northern part of the peninsula. They ravaged the lands of the Greeks and tried very hard to get a foothold upon the European continent.
But in this they did not succeed. The navy of Athens proved unconquerable. By cutting off the lines of supplies of the Persian armies, the Greek sailors invariably forced the Asiatic rulers to return to their base.
It was the first encounter between Asia, the ancient teacher, and Europe, the young and eager pupil. A great many of the other chapters of this book will tell you how the struggle between east and west has continued until this very day.