HE epoch of the migration of the Aryans from their common home cannot be determined with any certainty, but possibly it may not have been earlier than 2000 B.C. The most ancient name by which they called themselves, or rather the most ancient name of this race with which we are acquainted, was the name Aryas, a name derived from the root ar, to plough, and which therefore implied originally an agricultural as distinguished from a rude and nomadic race, and thus naturally came to mean "noble." It is true that this name belonged distinctively to the two great eastern branches of this family, the Iranian and Indian; but as they lingered the longest in the region of the primitive home, they are most likely to have retained the original name; and not only are traces of the same root to be found abundantly in the other families of the race, but it is even believed that the beloved and familiar name of Erin is a far-off western echo of this primeval designation. As the name Indo-Germanic, which was originally proposed, is obviously too narrow and exclusive, and as Indo-European, which conveniently represents them by geographical area, is also too narrow for the universal and growing colonies which this race has founded even in the remotest islands of the Pacific, it is clear that Aryan remains at present the best name by which to call them. Their original home may be assigned by a multitude of concurrent probabilities. That it was somewhere in the vast plateau of Iran, in the immense quadrilateral which extends from the Indus to the Euphrates, and from the Oxus to the Persian Gulf, may be assumed as almost certain; and we may fairly conclude, by the aid of tradition and other circumstances, that it was immediately north of the great chain of the Hindoo-Koosh, west of the Bolor range, or the ancient Imaus, in the central region of Bactriana, a district so fair, and fertile, and flourishing, that it was called by Orientals " the mother of cities." This region was eminently suited to become the cradle of that princely race of shepherds from whose loins sprang the nations of Europe, and which, at a period long after China and Egypt had reached the apogee of their crude civilisation, was still creating in the bosom of its peaceful families the eternal words which, as the law of many a noble, chivalrous, and Christian country, were destined to become "honour," "virtue," and " duty".
In this region, amid scenery "grandiose yet severe "— where Nature yields her treasures, but does not lavish them, and is far more admirably adapted than the cruel North or the enervating tropics to develop and reward the persevering industry of man—lived a race, unguessed at by history, unknown even to tradition, but revealed by philology—a race beautiful in person, pure in morals, earnest in thought, simple in habits, which, in a peaceful life, and under a patriarchal government, wrought out, as a means of its own precocious development, a language admirable for the wealth, harmony, and perfection of its forms, full of poetic images and pregnant metaphors, and carrying in itself the germ of a magnificent expansion ; and, with this language to aid it, the same happy race learnt to acquire ideas which were destined to bear fruit a hundred-fold hereafter in the conquest, colonisation, free institutions, and unceasing Christian progress of the civilised world.
The causes which led to their emigration from their peaceful home — what made the great tide of Aryan emigration roll majestically in a western direction—the order in which they wandered forth to win new thoughts and conquer fresh countries — why it was that the Zincala, from the cordilleras of Guatemala to the plains of Poland, became for ever a homeless wanderer over the surface of the earth—what drove the Norwegian and the Icelander ever farther and farther towards the inclement and pine-clad North — why the Kelt first ensconced himself behind the storm-swept cliffs of Britain—what happy destiny guided one great family to the plains of Persia and Hindostan, and another to the shores of the blue Mediterranean and the poetic hills of Italy and Greece—we cannot tell. Whether it was the result of religious divisions, or physical convulsions, or civil feuds —whether it was due to the gradual dissolution or the sudden dismemberment of tribal relations—whether it was simply caused by the natural growth of population, or by the restless spirit of enterprise—whether the tribes passed away under different leaders in a succession of waves, each wave driving its predecessor farther towards the West and South—all this is buried in eternal oblivion ; but the main fact is certain, that " westward the course of empires took its way".
Looking both to geography and history, we may, without any extravagance, infer that the first to move westward were the Kelts, and the last the Slavonians, who, finding the rest of Europe already occupied, were forced to make their new home in its northern and eastern regions. At any rate, the parents of these nations, under whatever circumstances, did wander away from the regions in which they first appeared ; their communications with their old home became infrequent; new methods of life arose ; new national characteristics were developed; new dialects multiplied; they forgot their Asian origin and their mutual relationships, and soon learnt to regard themselves as autochthonous on the soil which they possessed. The old home was gradually abandoned, and the children went into far countries to take an independent part in the hastening denouement of the great drama of humanity, and to enrich by special characteristics the noble heritage of their common endowments.
The Aryan language certainly was the primitive language of a race of mankind whose different offshoots, at various periods of history down from its earliest dawn, established the Achaemenid dynasty, built Athens and Lacedaemon, founded Rome, worked the tin mines of Cornwall, and the silver mines of Spain, first made London a city of ships, occupied Paris while Paris was still but the mud city of the borderers, produced the Vedas and the Homeric poems, and the Shah-nameh, and the Eddas, and the Nibelungen-Lied,—invented the printing-press, discovered America, circumnavigated the globe, developed the principles of every science, and, in a word, founded that immense and marvellous system of modern civilisation which is the chief triumph of the intellect of man.