PERIOD

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PERIOD (from the Greek nepioSog, a circuit) ; a division of time, or of events occurring in it. The astronomer calls the time of a revolution of a heavenly body, or the time occupied in its return to the same point of its orbit, its period. (See Planets, and Kepler.)In chronology, period denotes a division of time, during which certain phenomena complete their courses, which are repeated in never ending succession. Chronology depends entirely upon astronomy; and before the latter had made known the true motions of the heavenly bodies, the former remained in a confused state. The principal periods of the Greeks wereMeton's lunar period of 19 years, or 6940 days, according to which the Greeks computed their astronomical calendar from 432 B. C.; the period of Calippus (330 B. C), or that of Alexander, which comprised 4 times 19, or 76 years minus 1 day; and the still more accurate period of Hipparchus, of 304 years, which made the tropical solar year only 6 minutes and 16 seconds too long. The Roman indiction (q. v.) was a period of 15 years, the origin of which is not very clear. The Jujian period, invented by Scaliger, consisting of 7980 Julian years, was intended to reduce to the same result the different computations of the year of the birth of Christ from the creation. It is the product of the numbers 28, 19 and 15; or the solar, lunar and indiction cycle. (See Cycle.) After 28 times 19, or 532 years, the new and full moons return in the same order, upon the same day of the week and month, in the Julian calendar, and the three chronological cycles (the solar cycle of 28 years, the lunar cycle of 19 years, and the indiction cycle of 15 years) recommence at the same time. This period is also called the great Paschal cycle, and the Victorian or Dionysian period. The year of the birth of Christ, in the Julian period, is 4714. It is now little used, as we reckon by years before and after Christ.In history, a period is a certain division of time, determined by events, giving to it the character of a whole. A judicious division of history into periods is very necessary for a clear view of the whole, and, in fact, is the necessary result of an intelligent method of studying history. The ancients wrote general history ethnographically (q. v.), and chronologically, or in the way of annals. Bossuet, in his Discours sur VHistoire universelle, and Offerhaus, in his Compendium Historic universalis, divided history by centuries, and by subdivisions of the latter; but modem historians have preferred to divide universal history by periods. Voltaire, in his Essai sur VHistoire gine'ralc, Millot, Condillac, Gatterer, Sehl6-zer, and,in general, all the principal modern historians, have followed this plan. The progress of civilization and of civil liberty is more important than the order of dynasties, or the fluctuations of power; and the periods of history ought to be founded upon the various stages or manifestationsof these. A judicious division into periods can be effected only by a clear and philosophical view of history. Philosophical views are the great object of the study ; but incautious philosophizing often leads the reader to deductions drawn from his own imagination rather than from a rigid scrutiny of facts. The division of history into periods, founded on general views, requires, therefore, great care. The philosophicohistorical school of Germany, at the head of which, at present, we may put professor Hegel, has fallen into glaring errors in this respect. This same censure, however, by no means belongs to all the philosophical historians of that country, but should be confined to the school which is particularly termed philosophical. The division into periods must vary, both according to the chief aim of the historian and according to the amount of historical knowledge existing in his time. Thus a historian who proposes to write a histoiy of religions, or who thinks that religious revolutions have always been the most important, and are the best standards by which to measure the other changes in human society, will establish his division into periods accordingly. Another will take, as his basis, the political changes of nations. The riiost perfect division would be that which should adopt, as the basis of each period, that feature which was the most strongly characteristic of it, which is not always easy, as one principle often continues strongly operative, while another has risen to an important influence, threatening to supersede it. In such a division of universal history, civilization, religion, government, learning, important inven tions, &c, would all become, in turn, the bases of the various periods. (See Epochs, and History.)A period, or sentence, in writing, is a series of logically connected passages; a passage developed in properly connected parts. Aristotle's definition, which makes it a discourse having its beginning and end in itself, is indistinct. Every passage would then be a period; and, on the other hand, a whole speech, a whole work, would be a period. Periods should not be too long, but it is impossible to fix the limits distinctly. Cicero's rule, that a period ought not to be longer than four hexameters, is as insufficient as the other, thaj; it should be sufficiently short to be spoken at one breath, without exhaustion of the lungs. If it is properly constructed, the voice finds restingplaces enough; and, if its parts are logically connected, itis not difficult to follow their connexion, and to form a distinct conception of the whole. In some languages, the rules for the construction of periods are stricter than in others: some allow great liberty. To the former belongs the English language ; to the latter, the Greek, Latin and German. The genius of the German language, in particular, allows of very long and involved periods, in which perspicuity frequently suffers seriously; and it often happens that the whole meaning of a long sentence in that language depends upon the last word, so that we are kept in suspense as to the ideas conveyed, until the decisive ;yord appears. The following rules should be observed in the construction of a period: 1. The chief idea must be made prominent, whilst the secondary ideas are presented with a force proportioned to their importance; 2. there should be a certain proportion between the length of the different members ; 3. the subordinate parts should each serve for the more distinct explanation of the preceding, and should not be too much accumulated ; 4. the ideas to be conveyed should be presented in a certain gradation, from the less distinct to the more distinct, from the weaker to the stronger, the less important to the more important, except the contrary effect is expressly intended. Important as the logical and grammatical arrangement of a period is, the musical and rythmical is by no means, to be neglected. Much depends here upon tact, but study can much improve this. There is a harmony in language which, if it cannot convince, yet can strongly affect, can carry the reader along, or impress a sentiment indelibly. Yet undue refinement, an overlabored choice of phrase, is to be studiously avoided. The rhythm of a period (the numerus) corresponds to the metre in poetry, and is important for all languages, particularly for those which, like the Greek or German, have a real prosody. Only a few general rules can be given for rhythm: the ear of the writer or speaker must be his principal guide. The beginning of a period should be fitted to gain the attention of the hearer. Hence it is well to choose such words as fill the ear; e. g. in languages which have a prosody, the first p&on ( ^w^), the ionicus a majore(v^ ^), the third epitrites (w ), and some others. The conclusion ought to satisfy the ear by its firm and full sound. The following feet are therefore desirable: the fourth pceon (v^ww ), the amphibrachys (\^ v>), the antibacchius {v*\, the dadylus iambus ( www ), the ditrochceus ( w w), which it is best to have in one word, and the dadylus trochcBus ( ww o w), which, however, on account of its hexametrical form, is to be used with great caution. The period should have a proper proportion of pauses, so as to be equally removed from total irregularity, and from a constantlyreturning symmetry which approaches to metrical rhythm. The construction of sentences attained a perfection with the Greeks, which has not been reached by any other nation, for twro reasons,their deep and universal feeling of the beautiful, and the richness of their charming idiom in participles and wellsounding terminations. The Romans imitated the Greeks, but the example of Cicero is not to be closely followed, as he amplifies his phrases too much.In physiology, periods designate the various stages in the developement and decay of the animal organization, which are distinguished by a marked character; as the period of childhood, of puberty, &c. Periods also denote, in medicine, those repetitions of phenomena which we observe in certain diseases, e. g. in intermittent fevers, the increase of the disorder in the evening, &c. Periodical diseases are such as, at certain times, make regular attacks, or are attended with regular aggravations. This property is very common, and there is hardly a disease in which it has not been observed in the case of some individual. On the contrary, there is no disease which always pursues its course periodically.