Here an opulent City once flourished; this was the seat of a powerful Empire. I will dwell in solitude amidst the ruins of cities: I will enquire of the monuments of antiquity, what was the wisdom of former ages: I will ask the ashes of legislators, what causes have erected and overthrown empires; what are the principles of national prosperity and misfortune: what the maxims upon which the peace of society and the happiness of man ought to be founded? The plan of this publication was formed nearly ten years ago; and allusions to it may be seen in the Preface to Travels in Syria and Egypt, as well as at the end of that work, published in The performance was in some forwardness when the events of in France interrupted it. Persuaded that a development of the theory of political truth could not sufficiently acquit a citizen of his debt to society, the author wished to add practice; and that particularly at a time when a single arm was of consequence in the defence of the general cause.
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Start your review of The Ruins of Empires. Travelling in a vast area Ottoman Empire and Egypt and Syria in the year and visiting the ruins of the ancient city of Palmyra, Volney, unknowingly, summons the Ghost of the ruins with his many questions and melancholic state: -what about those times of abundance and life?
The answers obtained from this "supernatural voice" agitate the heart of Volney, the Count. A Christian would think of being condemned to eternal damnations if eating meat on Friday, instead of milk and butter. Oh sublime and truly celestial doctrines! The Chinese people are the proof that in ancient times, until the invention of the alphabetic writing, the human spirit had difficulties developing itself, just like before the Arabic numbers, for the purpose of counting.
View all 31 comments. I've read the book some years ago. An amazing reflection on ancient civilizations in the area of today Middle East. Travelling in a vast area Ottoman Empire and Egypt and Syria in the year and visiting the ruins of the ancient city of Palmyra, Volney, unknowingly, summons the Ghost of the ruins with his many questions and melancholic state:what about those times of abundance and life?
Chapter XIII goes this way: will the human species ever improve? May 26, DoctorJ added it. This is another look at history that was written by a Frenchman who was a contemporary of Thomas Jefferson. Instead of looking to Greece and Rome as the cradle of civilization, he considers Egypt to be more ancient, thus confronting the prejudice against African races of his era.
We can still learn from this book as he was trying to distinguish the characteristics of civilization that make it last for millennia. View all 5 comments. Thomas Jefferson liked the book so much he translated it into English.
This important facet of Jefferson's life and beliefs was discovered by a French researcher, Gilbert Chinard. Chinard published his findings in the Johns Hopkins Press in in a book called "Volney et l'Amerique.
The Jefferson-Barlow translation went through many reprints throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. It was read by famous Americans such as George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Walt Whitman, Ernest Hemingway and untold numbers of people favoring the abolition and women's rights movements. In sum, the political Left dislikes Volney because Ruins of Empires--which places enlightened self-interest at the center of society--refutes their patron saint Jean-Jacques Rousseau.
The political Right dislikes Volney because in the last four chapters of the Ruins he investigates the origin of world religions and proposes a solution to the world's enduring religious conflicts.
This solution--establishing a code of morality based on the physical laws of nature and not upon some invisible being up in the sky--is still considered heresy. My feeling is, if extremists on both the Left and Right don't like it, then there must be something of value in this book that neither side wants you to know.
Jefferson certainly saw that value--and he liked it so much he translated it into English. He saw Volney's Ruins as a book of general principles that the people needed to read to understand the history of the human race, hence to better understand their responsibilities under this new form of government called democracy. Beyond this, the book's central premise--mentioned at the top--is still alive and relevant today.
It explains the past two hundred plus years of human history since the book was published: the rise of the United States, the collapse of the Soviet Union, the victory of capitalism over communism and the recent emergence of the Arab Spring. From Volney through Jefferson to Lincoln--that's quite a pedigree. It's too bad the educators of this world, on both sides of the Atlantic, have wasted so much time spreading the gospel of Rousseau and Marx, rather than Volney's Ruins of Empires.
But maybe, just maybe, that fault is about to be corrected Be sure to read, too, Volney's Law of Nature, which is included at the back of most volumes.
It's here that Volney best lays-out his code of morality based on the physical laws of nature. View 1 comment. This is a copy of the original edition published in August The very first French constitution went into effect one month later.
Since Volney sat on the committee that wrote the first French constitution, he was writing the final drafts of both documents at the same time. This means with one hand Volney was writing theory "Les Ruines" and with the other he was co-writing reality the constitution.
View all 4 comments. Oct 15, Eugenio Negro rated it it was amazing. I could write a book as long about how awesome this book is. Only pissed that no one shoved it in my paws at 15 instead of finding it by chance up in King Library at A book that I sincerely wish all residents of purportedly democratic western societies were MADE to read, as young as intellectually possible.
It gives me the same thrill now that Morning of the Magicians gave me at 20 and Cosmic Trigger at the thrill of having found a voice that both has the scholarship and in Volney's ca I could write a book as long about how awesome this book is. It gives me the same thrill now that Morning of the Magicians gave me at 20 and Cosmic Trigger at the thrill of having found a voice that both has the scholarship and in Volney's case the damned language chops, having learned Arabic as his contemporaries firmly refused to and the ETHICS to pull off that kind of work of history, intending for the audience to better itself in reading.
I'm happy that I otherwise learned so much of the stuff he found in the s by myself, and that made the book a fun treasure hunt, but if only I'd known sooner.
May we all be as sharp as Volney in everything we consider. Oct 16, Shane Orr rated it it was amazing. Very interesting book. Written in the late s in French, it was felt to be so important that Thomas Jefferson anonymously translated the first 20 chapters.
Topics include the Laws of Nature and how we should live our lives accordingly, the foundations of religion, enlightened society, etc. Lots of philosophy and ancient history. It took a bit to get into the s language, but well worth the read. Someone recommended this to me and I can't remember who.
Thank you. Mar 28, Jade rated it liked it. Read this for my english course It was kinda boring but got immensely interesting after section C. Not enough information to determine if this edition is a reprint of the translation by Thomas Jefferson and Joel Barlow. Who ever has a copy send me a note and we can make a determination real fast Note too this is probably the single worst book cover for Volney's Ruins I have ever seen. Who ever chose it obviously has no idea about the book's true content and meaning Not enough information to determine if this is the translation by Thomas Jefferson and Joel Barlow.
If you have a copy, send me a note and we can make that determination real quick If you have this edition, send me a note and we can make that determination real fast The Not enough information to determine if this edition is a reprint of the translation by Thomas Jefferson and Joel Barlow.
If you have a copy send me a note and we can make that determination real quick Not enough information to determine if this is a reprint of the translation by Thomas Jefferson and Joel Barlow.
I will cherish in remembrance the love of man, I will employ myself on the means of effecting good for him, and build my own happiness on the promotion of his. Having recently purchased a set of stereotyped plates of Volney's Ruins, with a view of reprinting the same, I found, on examination, that they were considerably worn by the many editions that had been printed from them and that they greatly needed both repairs and corrections. A careful estimate showed that the amount necessary for this purpose would go far towards reproducing this standard work in modern type and in an improved form. After due reflection this course was at length decided upon, and all the more readily, as by discarding the old plates and resetting the entire work, the publisher was enabled to greatly enhance its value, by inserting the translator's preface as it appeared in the original edition, and also to restore many notes and other valuable material which had been carelessly omitted in the American reprint. An example of an important omission of this kind may be found on the fifteenth, sixteenth, and seventeenth pages of this volume, which may be appropriately referred to, in this connection.
Constantin François de Chassebœuf, comte de Volney
He was at first surnamed Boisgirais after his father's estate, but afterwards assumed the name of Volney which he had created as a contraction of Voltaire and Ferney. He was born at Craon , Anjou today in Mayenne of a noble family. He embarked on a journey to the East in late and reached Ottoman Egypt, where he spent nearly seven months. Volney tried to put his politico-economic theories into practice in Corsica , where in he bought an estate and made an attempt to cultivate colonial produce. Volney was a deist. In he undertook a journey to the United States, where he was accused by John Adams ' administration of being a French spy sent to prepare for the reoccupation of Louisiana by France and then to the West Indies. Consequently, he returned to France.
The Ruins of Empires
The Ruins: or a Survey of the Revolutions of Empires