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THE DIVINE DYNASTIES: RÂ, SHÛ, OSIEIS, SÎT, HOEUS—THOT, AND THE INVENTION OF SCIENCES AND WRITING—MENES, AND THE THREE FIRST HUMAN DYNASTIES.
The Egyptians claim to Be the most ancient of peoples: traditions concerning the creation of man and of animals—The Heliopolitan Enneads the framework of the divine dynasties—Râ, the first King of Egypt, and his fabulous history: he allows himself to be duped and robbed by Isis, destroys rebellious men, and ascends into heaven.
The legend of Shu and Sibil—The reign of Osiris Onnophris and of Isis: they civilize Egypt and the world—Osiris, slain by Sit, is entombed by Isis and avenged by Horus—The wars of Typhon and of Horus: peace, and the division of Egypt between the two gods.
The Osirian embalmment; the kingdom of Osiris opened to the followers of Horus—The Book of the Dead—The journeying of the soul in search of the fields of Ialû—The judgment of the soul, the negative confession—The privileges and duties of Osirian souls—Confusion between Osirian and Solar ideas as to the state of the dead: the dead in the hark of the Sun—The going forth by day—The campaigns of Harmakhis against Sit.
Thot, the inventor: he reveals all sciences to men—Astronomy, stellar tables; the year, its subdivisions, its defects, influence of the heavenly bodies and the days upon human destiny—Magic arts; incantations, amulets—-Medicine: the vitalizing spirits, diagnosis, treatment—Writing: ideographic, syllabic, alphabetic.
The history of Egypt as handed down by tradition: Manetho, the royal lists, main divisions of Egyptian history—The beginnings of its early history vague and uncertain: Menés, and the legend of Memphis—The first three human dynasties, the two Thimie and the Memphite—Character and, origin of the legends concerning them—The famine stela—The earliest monuments: the step pyramid of Saqgdrah.
The divine dynasties: Râ, Shû, Osiris, Sît, Horus—Thot, and the invention of sciences and writing—Menés, and the three first human dynasties.
The building up and diffusion of the doctrine of the Ennead, like the formation of the land of Egypt, demanded centuries of sustained effort, centuries of which the inhabitants themselves knew neither the number nor the authentic history. When questioned as to the remote past of their race, they proclaimed themselves the most ancient of mankind, in comparison with whom all other races were but a mob of young children; and they looked upon nations which denied their pretensions with such indulgence and pity as we feel for those who doubt a well-known truth. Their forefathers had appeared upon the banks of the Nile even before the creator had completed his work, so eager were the gods to behold their birth. No Egyptian disputed the reality of this right of the firstborn, which ennobled the whole race; but if they were asked the name of their divine father, then the harmony was broken, and each advanced the claims of a different personage.[*] Phtah had modelled man with his own hands;[**] Khnûmû had formed him on a potter's table.[***]
* We know the words which Plato puts into the mouth of an Egyptian priest: "O Solon, Solon, you Greeks are always children, and there is no old man who is a Greek! You are all young in mind; there is no opinion or tradition of knowledge among you which is white with age." Other nations disputed their priority—the Phrygians, the Medes, or rather the tribe of the Magi among the Medes, the Ethiopians, the Scythians. A cycle of legends had gathered about this subject, giving an account of the experiments instituted, by Psamtik, or other sovereigns, to find out which were right, Egyptians or foreigners. ** At Philæ and at Denderah, Phtah is represented as piling upon his potter's table the plastic clay from which he is about to make a human body, and which is somewhat wrongly called the egg of the world. It is really the lump of earth from which man came forth at his creation. *** At Philas, Khnûmû calls himself "the potter who fashions men, the modeller of the gods." He there moulds the members of Osiris, the husband of the local Isis, as at Erment he forms the body of Harsamtaûi, or rather that of Ptolemy Cæsarion, the son of Julius Cæsar and the celebrated Cleopatra, identified with Harsamtaûi.
Râ at his first rising, seeing the earth desert and bare, had flooded it with his rays as with a flood of tears; all living things, vegetable and animal, and man himself, had sprung pell-mell from his eyes, and were scattered abroad with the light over the surface of the world.[*] Sometimes the facts were presented under a less poetic aspect. The mud of the Nile, heated to excess by the burning sun, fermented and brought forth the various races of men and animals by spontaneous generation, having moulded itself into a thousand living forms. Then its procreative power became weakened to the verge of exhaustion. Yet on the banks of the river, in the height of summer, smaller animals might still be found whose condition showed what had once taken place in the case of the larger kinds. Some appeared as already fully formed, and struggling to free themselves from the oppressive mud; others, as yet imperfect, feebly stirred their heads and fore feet, while their hind quarters were completing their articulation and taking shape within the matrix of earth.[**]
* With reference to the substances which proceeded from the eye of Râ, see the remarks of Birch, Sur un papyrus magique du Musée Britannique. By his tears (romîtû) Horus, or his eye as identified with the sun, had given birth to all men, Egyptians (romîtû, rotû), Libyans, and Asiatics, excepting only the negroes. The latter were born from another part of his body by the same means as those employed by Atûmû in the creation of Shû and Tafnûît. ** The same story is told, but with reference to rats only, by Pliny, by Diodorus, by Ælianus, by Macrobius, and by other Greek or Latin writers. Even in later times, and in Europe, this pretended phenomenon met with a certain degree of belief, as may be seen from the curious work of Marcus Fredericus Wendelinus, Archipalatinus, Admiranda Nili, Franco-furti, mdcxxiii., cap. xxi. pp. 157-183. In Egypt all the fellahîn believe in the spontaneous generation of rats as in an article of their creed. They have spoken to me of it at Thebes, at Denderah, and on the plain of Abydos; and Major Brown has lately noted the same thing in the Fayûm. The variant which he heard from the lips of the notables is curious, for it professes to explain why the rats who infest the fields in countless bands during the dry season, suddenly disappear at the return of the inundation; born of the mud and putrid water of the preceding year, to mud they return, and as it were dissolve at the touch of the new waters.
It was not Râ alone whose tears were endowed with vitalizing power. All divinities whether beneficent or malevolent, Sit as well as Osiris or Isis, could give life by weeping; and the work of their eyes, when once it had fallen upon earth, flourished and multiplied as vigorously as that which came from the eyes of Râ.
1 Drawn by Boudier, from a photograph by Gayet. The scene is taken from bas-reliefs in the temple of Luxor, where the god Khnûmû is seen completing his modelling of the future King Amenôthes III. and his double, represented as two children wearing the side-lock and large necklace. The first holds his finger to his lips, while the arms of the second swing at his sides.
The individual character of the creator was not without bearing upon the nature of his creatures; good was the necessary outcome of the good gods, evil of the evil ones; and herein lay the explanation of the mingling of things excellent and things execrable, which is found everywhere throughout the world. Voluntarily or involuntarily, Sit and his partisans were the cause and origin of all that is harmful. Daily their eyes shed upon the world those juices by which plants are made poisonous, as well as malign influences, crime, and madness. Their saliva, the foam which fell from their mouths during their attacks of rage, their sweat, their blood itself, were all no less to be feared. When any drop of it touched the earth, straightway it germinated, and produced something strange and baleful—a serpent, a scorpion, a plant of deadly nightshade or of henbane. But, on the other hand, the sun was all goodness, and persons or things which it cast forth into life infallibly partook of its benignity. Wine that maketh man glad, the bee who works for him in the flowers secreting wax and honey, the meat and herbs which are his food, the stuffs that clothe him, all useful things which he makes for himself, not only emanated from the Solar Eye of Horus, but were indeed nothing more than the Eye of Horus under different aspects, and in his name they were presented in sacrifice. The devout generally were of opinion that the first Egyptians, the sons and flock of Râ, came into the world happy and perfect;[*] by degrees their descendants had fallen from that native felicity into their present state.
* In the tomb of Seti I, the words flock of the Sun, flock of Râ, are those by which the god Horus refers to men. Certain expressions used by Egyptian writers are in themselves sufficient to show that the first generations of men were supposed to have lived in a state of happiness and perfection. To the Egyptians the times of Râ, the times of the god—that is to say, the centuries immediately following on the creation—-were the ideal age, and no good thing had appeared upon earth since then.
Some, on the contrary, affirmed that their ancestors were born as so many brutes, unprovided with the most essential arts of gentle life. They knew nothing of articulate speech, and expressed themselves by cries only, like other animals, until the day when Thot taught them both speech and writing.
These tales sufficed for popular edification; they provided but meagre fare for the intelligence of the learned. The latter did not confine their ambition to the possession of a few incomplete and contradictory details concerning the beginnings of humanity. They wished to know the history of its consecutive development from the very first; what manner of life had been led by their fathers; what chiefs they had obeyed and the names or adventures of those chiefs; why part of the nations had left the blessed banks of the Nile and gone to settle in foreign lands; by what stages and in what length of time those who had not emigrated rose out of native barbarism into that degree of culture to which the most ancient monuments bore testimony. No efforts of imagination were needful for the satisfaction of their curiosity: the old substratum of indigenous traditions was rich enough, did they but take the trouble to work it out systematically, and to eliminate its most incongruous elements. The priests of Heliopolis took this work in hand, as they had already taken in hand the same task with regard to the myths referring to the creation; and the Enneads provided them with a ready-made framework. They changed the gods of the Ennead into so many kings, determined with minute accuracy the lengths of their reigns, and compiled their biographies from popular tales. The duality of the feudal god supplied an admirable expedient for connecting the history of the world with that of chaos. Tûmû was identified with Nû, and relegated to the primordial Ocean: Râ was retained, and proclaimed the first king of the world. He had not established his rule without difficulty. The "Children of Defeat," beings hostile to order and light, engaged him in fierce battles; nor did he succeed in organizing his kingdom until he had conquered them in nocturnal combat at Hermopolis, and even at Heliopolis itself.[*]
* The Children of Defeat, in Egyptian Mosû batashû, or Mosû batashît, are often confounded with the followers of Sit, the enemies of Osiris. From the first they were distinct, and represented beings and forces hostile to the sun, with the dragon Apôpi at their head. Their defeat at Hermopolis corresponded to the moment when Shu, raising the sky above the sacred mound in that city, substituted order and light for chaos and darkness. This defeat is mentioned in chap xvii. of the Book of the Dead (Naville's edition, vol. i. pl. xxiii. 1. 3, et seq.), in which connexion E. de Rougé first explained its meaning. In the same chapter of the Book of the Dead (Naville's edition, vol. i. pis. xxiv., xxv., 11. 54-58), reference is also made to the battle by night, in Heliopolis, at the close of which Râ appeared in the form of a cat or lion, and beheaded the great serpent.
Pierced with wounds, Apôpi the serpent sank into the depths of Ocean at the very moment when the new year began. The secondary members of the Great Ennead, together with the Sun, formed the first dynasty, which began with the dawn of the first day, and ended at the coming of Horus, the son of Isis. The local schools of theology welcomed this method of writing history as readily as they had welcomed the principle of the Ennead itself. Some of them retained the Heliopolitan demiurge, and hastened to associate him with their own; others completely eliminated him in favour of the feudal divinity,—Amon at Thebes, Thot at Hermopolis, Phtah at Memphis,—keeping the rest of the dynasty absolutely unchanged.[*] The gods in no way compromised their prestige by becoming incarnate and descending to earth. Since they were men of finer nature, and their qualities, including that of miracle-working, were human qualities raised to the highest pitch of intensity, it was not considered derogatory to them personally to have watched over the infancy and childhood of primeval man. The raillery in which the Egyptians occasionally indulged with regard to them, the good-humoured and even ridiculous rôles ascribed to them in certain legends, do not prove that they were despised, or that zeal for them had cooled. The greater the respect of believers for the objects of their worship, the more easily do they tolerate the taking of such liberties, and the condescension of the members of the Ennead, far from lowering them in the eyes of generations who came too late to live with them upon familiar terms, only enhanced the love and reverence in which they were held. Nothing shows this better than the history of Râ. His world was ours in the rough; for since Shu was yet nonexistent, and Nuit still reposed in the arms of Sibû, earth and sky were but one.[**]
* Thot is the chief of the Hermopolitan Ennead, and the titles ascribed to him by inscriptions maintaining his supremacy show that he also was considered to have been the first king. One of the Ptolemies said of himself that he came "as the Majesty of Thot, because he was the equal of Atûmû, hence the equal of Khopri, hence the equal of Râ." Atûmû-Khopri-Râ being the first earthly king, it follows that the Majesty of Thot, with whom Ptolemy identifies himself, comparing himself to the three forms of the God Râ, is also the first earthly king. ** This conception of the primitive Egyptian world is clearly implied in the very terms employed by the author of The Destruction of Men. Nuit does not rise to form the sky until such time as Râ thinks of bringing his reign to an end; that is to say, after Egypt had already been in existence for many centuries. In chap. xvii. of the Book of the Dead (Naville's edition, vol. i. pl. xxiii. 11. 3-5) it is stated that the reign of Râ began in the times when the upliftings had not yet taken place; that is to say, before Shu had separated Nûît from Sibû, and forcibly uplifted her above the body of her husband.
Nevertheless in this first attempt at a world there was vegetable, animal, and human life. Egypt was there, all complete, with her two chains of mountains, her Nile, her cities, the people of her nomes, and the nomes themselves. Then the soil was more generous; the harvests, without the labourer's toil, were higher and more abundant;[*] and when the Egyptians of Pharaonic times wished to mark their admiration of any person or thing, they said that the like had never been known since the time of Râ.
* This is an ideal in accordance with the picture drawn of the fields of Ialû in chap. ex. of the Book of the Dead (Naville's edition, vol. i. pis. cxxi.~ cxxiii.). As with the Paradise of most races, so the place of the Osirian dead still possessed privileges which the earth had enjoyed during the first years succeeding the creation; that is to say, under the direct rule of Râ.
It is an illusion common to all peoples; as their insatiable thirst for happiness is never assuaged by the present, they fall back upon the remotest past in search of an age when that supreme felicity which is only known to them as an ideal was actually enjoyed by their ancestors. Râ dwelt in Heliopolis, and the most ancient portion of the temple of the city, that known as the "Mansion of the Prince"—Haït Sarû,—passed for having been his palace. His court was mainly composed of gods and goddesses, and they as well as he were visible to men. It contained also men who filled minor offices about his person, prepared his food, received the offerings of his subjects, attended to his linen and household affairs. It was said that the oîrû maû—the high priest of Râ, the hankistît—his high priestess, and generally speaking all the servants of the temple of Heliopolis, were either directly descended from members of this first household establishment of the god, or had succeeded to their offices in unbroken succession.
1 Drawn by Faucher-Gudin, from one of the scenes represented upon the architraves of the pronaos at Edfû (Rosellini, Monumenti del Culto, pl. xxxviii. No. 1).
In the morning he went forth with his divine train, and, amid the acclamations of the crowd, entered the bark in which he made his accustomed circuit of the world, returning to his home at the end of twelve hours after the accomplishment of his journey. He visited each province in turn, and in each he tarried for an hour, to settle all disputed matters, as the final judge of appeal. He gave audience to both small and great, he decided their quarrels and adjudged their lawsuits, he granted investiture of fiefs from the royal domains to those who had deserved them, and allotted or confirmed to every family the income needful for their maintenance. He pitied the sufferings of his people, and did his utmost to alleviate them; he taught to all comers potent formulas against reptiles and beasts of prey, charms to cast out evil spirits, and the best recipes for preventing illness. His incessant bounties left him at length with only one of his talismans: the name given to him by his father and mother at his birth, which they had revealed to him alone, and which he kept concealed within his bosom lest some sorcerer should get possession of it to use for the furtherance of his evil spells.
But old age came on, and infirmities followed; the body of Râ grew bent, "his mouth trembled, his slaver trickled down to earth and his saliva dropped upon the ground." Isis, who had hitherto been a mere woman-servant in the household of the Pharaoh, conceived the project of stealing his secret from him, "that she might possess the world and make herself a goddess by the name of the august god." Force would have been unavailing; all enfeebled as he was by reason of his years, none was strong enough to contend successfully against him. But Isis "was a woman more knowing in her malice than millions of men, clever among millions of the gods, equal to millions of spirits, to whom as unto Râ nothing was unknown either in heaven or upon earth." She contrived a most ingenious stratagem. When man or god was struck down by illness, the only chance of curing him lay in knowing his real name, and thereby adjuring the evil being that tormented him. Isis determined to cast a terrible malady upon Râ, concealing its cause from him; then to offer her services as his nurse, and by means of his sufferings to extract from him the mysterious word indispensable to the success of the exorcism. She gathered up mud impregnated with the divine saliva, and moulded of it a sacred serpent which she hid in the dust of the road. Suddenly bitten as he was setting out upon his daily round, the god cried out aloud, "his voice ascended into heaven and his Nine called: 'What is it? what is it?' and his gods: 'What is the matter? what is the matter?' but he could make them no answer so much did his lips tremble, his limbs shake, and the venom take hold upon his flesh as the Nile seizeth upon the land which it invadeth." Presently he came to himself, and succeeded in describing his sensations. "Something painful hath stung me; my heart perceiveth it, yet my two eyes see it not; my hand hath not wrought it, nothing that I have made knoweth it what it is, yet have I never tasted suffering like unto it, and there is no pain that may overpass it.... Fire it is not, water it is not, yet is my heart in flames, my flesh trembleth, all my members are full of shiverings born of breaths of magic. Behold! let there be brought unto me children of the gods of beneficent words, who know the power of their mouths, and whose science reacheth unto heaven." They came, these children of the gods, all with their books of magic. There came Isis with her sorcery, her mouth full of life-giving breaths, her recipe for the destruction of pain, her words which pour life into breathless throats, and she said: "What is it? what is it, O father of the gods? May it not be that a serpent hath wrought this suffering in thee; that one of thy children hath lifted up his head against thee? Surely he shall be overthrown by beneficent incantations, and I will make him to retreat at the sight of thy rays." On learning the cause of his torment, the Sun-god is terrified, and begins to lament anew: "I, then, as I went along the ways, travelling through my double land of Egypt and over my mountains, that I might look upon that which I have made, I was bitten by a serpent that I saw not. Fire it is not, water it is not, yet am I colder than water, I burn more than fire, all my members stream with sweat, I tremble, mine eye is not steady, no longer can I discern the sky, drops roll from my face as in the season of summer." Isis proposes her remedy, and cautiously asks him his ineffable name. But he divines her trick, and tries to evade it by an enumeration of his titles. He takes the universe to witness that he is called "Khopri in the morning, Râ at noon, Tûmû in the evening." The poison did not recede, but steadily advanced, and the great god was not eased. Then Isis said to Râ: "Thy name was not spoken in that which thou hast said. Tell it to me and the poison will depart; for he liveth upon whom a charm is pronounced in his own name." The poison glowed like fire, it was strong as the burning of flame, and the Majesty of Râ said, "I grant thee leave that thou shouldest search within me, O mother Isis! and that my name pass from my bosom into thy bosom." In truth, the all-powerful name was hidden within the body of the god, and could only be extracted thence by means of a surgical operation similar to that practised upon a corpse which is about to be mummified. Isis undertook it, carried it through successfully, drove out the poison, and made herself a goddess by virtue of the name. The cunning of a mere woman had deprived Râ of his last talisman.
In course of time men perceived his decrepitude. They took counsel against him: "Lo! his Majesty waxeth old, his bones are of silver, his flesh is of gold, his hair of lapis-lazuli." As soon as his Majesty perceived that which they were saying to each other, his Majesty said to those who were of his train, "Call together for me my Divine Eye, Shû, Tafnûît, Sibû, and Nûît, the father and the mother gods who were with me when I was in the Nû, with the god Nû. Let each bring his cycle along with him; then, when thou shalt have brought them in secret, thou shalt take them to the great mansion that they may lend me their counsel and their consent, coming hither from the Nû into this place where I have manifested myself." So the family council comes together: the ancestors of Râ, and his posterity still awaiting amid the primordial waters the time of their manifestation—his children Shû and Tafnûît, his grandchildren Sibû and Nûît. They place themselves, according to etiquette, on either side his throne, prostrate, with their foreheads to the ground, and thus their conference begins: "O Nû, thou the eldest of the gods, from whom I took my being, and ye the ancestor-gods, behold! men who are the emanation of mine eye have taken counsel together against me! Tell me what ye would do, for I have bidden you here before I slay them, that I may hear what ye would say thereto." Nû, as the eldest, has the right to speak first, and demands that the guilty shall be brought to judgment and formally condemned. "My son Râ, god greater than the god who made him, older than the gods who created him, sit thou upon thy throne, and great shall be the terror when thine eye shall rest upon those who plot together against thee!" But Râ not unreasonably fears that when men see the solemn pomp of royal justice, they may suspect the fate that awaits them, and "flee into the desert, their hearts terrified at that which I have to say to them." The desert was even then hostile to the tutelary gods of Egypt, and offered an almost inviolable asylum to their enemies. The conclave admits that the apprehensions of Râ are well founded, and pronounces in favour of summary execution; the Divine Eye is to be the executioner. "Let it go forth that it may smite those who have devised evil against thee, for there is no Eye more to be feared than thine when it attacketh in the form of Hâthor." So the Eye takes the form of Hâthor, suddenly falls upon men, and slays them right and left with great strokes of the knife. After some hours, Râ, who would chasten but not destroy his children, commands her to cease from her carnage; but the goddess has tasted blood, and refuses to obey him. "By thy life," she replies, "when I slaughter men then is my heart right joyful!"
1 Drawn by Faucher-Gudin from a bronze statuette of the Saïte period in the Gizeh Museum (Mariette, Album photographique du Musée de Boulaq, pl. 6).
That is why she was afterwards called Sokhît the slayer, and represented under the form of a fierce lioness. Nightfall stayed her course in the neighbourhood of Heracleopolis; all the way from Heliopolis she had trampled through blood. As soon as she had fallen asleep, Râ hastily took effectual measures to prevent her from beginning her work again on the morrow. "He said: 'Call on my behalf messengers agile and swift, who go like the wind.' When these messengers were straightway brought to him, the Majesty of the god said: 'Let them run to Elephantine and bring me mandragora in plenty.'"[**]
** The mandragora of Elephantine was used in the manufacture of an intoxicating and narcotic drink employed either in medicine or in magic. In a special article, Brugsch has collected particulars preserved by the texts as to the uses of this plant. It was not as yet credited with the human form and the peculiar kind of life ascribed to it by western sorcerers.
When they had brought him the mandragora, the Majesty of this great god summoned the miller which is in Heliopolis that he might bray it; and the women-servants having crushed grain for the beer, the mandragora, and also human blood, were mingled with the liquor, and thereof was made in all seven thousand jars of beer. Râ himself examined this delectable drink, and finding it to possess the wished-for properties: "'It is well,' said he; 'therewith shall I save men from the goddess;' then, addressing those of his train: 'Take these jars in your arms, and carry them to the place where she has slaughtered men.' Râ, the king, caused dawn to break at midnight, so that this philtre might be poured down upon the earth; and the fields were flooded with it to the depth of four palms, according as it pleased the souls of his Majesty." In the morning the goddess came, "that she might return to her carnage, but she found that all was flooded, and her countenance softened; when she had drunken, it was her heart that softened; she went away drunk, without further thought of men." There was some fear lest her fury might return when the fumes of drunkenness were past, and to obviate this danger Râ instituted a rite, partly with the object of instructing future generations as to the chastisement which he had inflicted upon the impious, partly to console Sokhît for her discomfiture. He decreed that "on New Year's Day there should be brewed for her as many jars of philtre as there were priestesses of the sun. That was the origin of all those jars of philtre, in number equal to that of the priestesses, which, at the feast of Hâthor, all men make from that day forth."
Peace was re-established, but could it last long? Would not men, as soon as they had recovered from their terror, betake themselves again to plotting against the god? Besides, Râ now felt nothing but disgust for our race. The ingratitude of his children had wounded him deeply; he foresaw ever-renewed rebellions as his feebleness became more marked, and he shrank from having to order new massacres in which mankind would perish altogether. "By my life," says he to the gods who accompanied him, "my heart is too weary for me to remain with mankind, and slay them until they are no more: annihilation is not of the gifts that I love to make." And the gods exclaim in surprise: "Breathe not a word of thy weariness at a time when thou dost triumph at thy pleasure." But Râ does not yield to their representations; he will leave a kingdom wherein they murmur against him, and turning towards Nû he says: "My limbs are decrepit for the first time; I will not go to any place where I can be reached." It was no easy matter to find him an inaccessible retreat owing to the imperfect state in which the universe had been left by the first effort of the demiurge. Nû saw no other way out of the difficulty than that of setting to work to complete the creation. Ancient tradition had imagined the separation of earth and sky as an act of violence exercised by Shu upon Sibû and Nûît. History presented facts after a less brutal fashion, and Shû became a virtuous son who devoted his time and strength to upholding Nûît, that he might thereby do his father a service. Nûît, for her part, showed herself to be a devoted daughter whom there was no need to treat roughly in order to teach her her duty; of herself she consented to leave her husband, and place her beloved ancestor beyond reach. "The Majesty of Nû said: 'Son Shu, do as thy father Râ shall say; and thou, daughter Nûît, place him upon thy back and hold him suspended above the earth!' Nûît said: 'And how then, my father Nû?' Thus spake Nûît, and she did that which Nû commanded her; she changed herself into a cow, and placed the Majesty of Râ upon her back. When those men who had not been slain came to give thanks to Râ, behold! they found him no longer in his palace; but a cow stood there, and they perceived him upon the back of the cow." They found him so resolved to depart that they did not try to turn him from his purpose, but only desired to give him such a proof of their repentance as should assure them of the complete pardon of their crime. "They said unto him: 'Wait until the morning, O Râ! our lord, and we will strike down thine enemies who have taken counsel against thee.' So his Majesty returned to his mansion, descended from the cow, went in along with them, and earth was plunged into darkness. But when there was light upon earth the next morning, the men went forth with their bows and their arrows, and began to shoot at the enemy. Whereupon the Majesty of this god said unto them: 'Your sins are remitted unto you, for sacrifice precludes the execution of the guilty.' And this was the origin upon earth of sacrifices in which blood was shed."
Thus it was that when on the point of separating for ever, the god and men came to an understanding as to the terms of their future relationship. Men offered to the god the life of those who had offended him. Human sacrifice was in their eyes the obligatory sacrifice, the only one which could completely atone for the wrongs committed against the godhead; man alone was worthy to wash away with his blood the sins of men.[*] For this one time the god accepted the expiation just as it was offered to him; then the repugnance which he felt to killing his children overcame him, he substituted beast for man, and decided that oxen, gazelles, birds, should henceforth furnish the material for sacrifice.[**]
* This legend, which seeks to explain the discontinuance of human sacrifices among the Egyptians, affords direct proof of their existence in primitive times. This is confirmed by many facts. We shall see that ûashbîti laid in graves were in place of the male or female slaves who were originally slaughtered at the tombs of the rich and noble that they might go to serve their masters in the next world. Even in Thebes, under the XIXth dynasty, certain rock-cut tombs contain scenes which might lead us to believe that occasionally at least human victims were sent to doubles of distinction. During this same period, moreover, the most distinguished hostile chiefs taken in war were still put to death before the gods. In several towns, as at Eilithyia and at Heliopolis, or before certain gods, such as Osiris or Kronos-Sibû, human sacrifice lasted until near Roman times. But generally speaking it was very rare. Almost everywhere cakes of a particular shape, and called [Greek word], or else animals, had been substituted for man. ** It was asserted that the partisans of Apôpi and of Sît, who were the enemies of Râ, Osiris, and the other gods, had taken refuge in the bodies of certain animals. Hence, it was really human or divine victims which were offered when beasts were slaughtered in sacrifice before the altars.
This point settled, he again mounted the cow, who rose, supported on her four legs as on so many pillars; and her belly, stretched out above the earth like a ceiling, formed the sky. He busied himself with organizing the new world which he found on her back; he peopled it with many beings, chose two districts in which to establish his abode, the Field of Reeds—Sokhît Ialû—and the Field of Rest—Sokhît Hotpît—and suspended the stars which were to give light by night. All this is related with many plays upon words, intended, according to Oriental custom, as explanations of the names which the legend assigned to the different regions of heaven. At sight of a plain whose situation pleased him, he cried: "The Field rests in the distance!"—and that was the origin of the Field of Rest. He added: "There will I gather plants!"—and from this the Field of Reeds took its name. While he gave himself up to this philological pastime, Nûît, suddenly transported to unaccustomed heights, grew frightened, and cried for help: "For pity's sake give me supports to sustain me!" This was the origin of the support-gods. They came and stationed themselves by each of her four legs, steadying these with their hands, and keeping constant watch over them. As this was not enough to reassure the good beast, "Râ said, 'My son Shû, place thyself beneath my daughter Nûît, and keep watch on both sides over the supports, who live in the twilight; hold thou her up above thy head, and be her guardian!'" Shû obeyed; Nûît composed herself, and the world, now furnished with the sky which it had hitherto lacked, assumed its present symmetrical form.
Shû and Sibû succeeded Râ, but did not acquire so lasting a popularity as their great ancestor. Nevertheless they had their annals, fragments of which have come down to us. Their power also extended over the whole universe: "The Majesty of Shû was the excellent king of the sky, of the earth, of Hades, of the water, of the winds, of the inundation, of the two chains of mountains, of the sea, governing with a true voice according to the precepts of his father Râ-Harmakhis."
1 Drawn by Faucher-Gudin.
Only "the children of the serpent Apôpi, the impious ones who haunt the solitary places and the deserts," disavowed his authority. Like the Bedawîn of later times, they suddenly streamed in by the isthmus routes, went up into Egypt under cover of night, slew and pillaged, and then hastily returned to their fastnesses with the booty which they had carried off. From sea to sea Ka had fortified the eastern frontier against them. He had surrounded the principal cities with walls, embellished them with temples, and placed within them those mysterious talismans more powerful for defence than a garrison of men. Thus Aît-nobsû, near the mouth of the Wady-Tûmilât, possessed one of the rods of the Sun-god, also the living uraeus of his crown whose breath consumes all that it touches, and, finally, a lock of his hair, which, being cast into the waters of a lake, was changed into a hawk-headed crocodile to tear the invader in pieces.[*]
* Egyptians of all periods never shrank from such marvels. One of the tales of the Theban empire tells us of a piece of wax which, on being thrown into the water, changed into a living crocodile capable of devouring a man. The talismans which protected Egypt against invasion are mentioned by the Pseudo-Callisthenes, who attributes their invention to Nectanebo. Arab historians often refer to them.
The employment of these talismans was dangerous to those unaccustomed to use them, even to the gods themselves. Scarcely was Sibû enthroned as the successor of Shu, who, tired of reigning, had reascended into heaven in a nine days' tempest, before he began his inspection of the eastern marches, and caused the box in which was kept the uræus of Râ to be opened. "As soon as the living viper had breathed its breath against the Majesty of Sibû there was a great disaster—great indeed, for those who were in the train of the god perished, and his Majesty himself was burned in that day. When his Majesty had fled to the north of Aît-nobsû, pursued by the fire of this magic urasus, behold! when he came to the fields of henna, the pain of his burn was not yet assuaged, and the gods who were behind him said unto him: 'O Sire! let them take the lock of Râ which is there, when thy Majesty shall go to see it and its mystery, and his Majesty shall be healed as soon as it shall be placed upon thee.' So the Majesty of Sibû caused the magic lock to be brought to Piarît,—the lock for which was made that great reliquary of hard stone which is hidden in the secret place of Piarît, in the district of the divine lock of the Lord Râ,—and behold! this fire departed from the members of the Majesty of Sibû. And many years afterwards, when this lock, which had thus belonged to Sibû, was brought back to Piarît in Aît-nobsû, and cast into the great lake of Piarît whose name is Aît-tostesû, the dwelling of waves, that it might be purified, behold! this lock became a crocodile: it flew to the water and became Sobkû, the divine crocodile of Aît-nobsû." In this way the gods of the solar dynasty from generation to generation multiplied talismans and enriched the sanctuaries of Egypt with relics.
1 Drawn by Faucher-Gudin, from a sketch by Griffith. The three talismans here represented are two crowns, each in a naos, and the burning fiery uræus.
Were there ever duller legends and a more senile phantasy! They did not spring spontaneously from the lips of the people, but were composed at leisure by priests desirous of enhancing the antiquity of their cult, and augmenting the veneration of its adherents in order to increase its importance. Each city wished it to be understood that its feudal sanctuary was founded upon the very day of creation, that its privileges had been extended or confirmed during the course of the first divine dynasty, and that these pretensions were supported by the presence of objects in its treasury which had belonged to the oldest of the king-gods. Such was the origin of tales in which the personage of the beneficent Pharaoh is often depicted in ridiculous fashion. Did we possess all the sacred archives, we should frequently find them quoting as authentic history more than one document as artificial as the chronicle of Aît-nobsû. When we come to the later members of the Ennead, there is a change in the character and in the form of these tales. Doubtless Osiris and Sît did not escape unscathed out of the hands of the theologians; but even if sacerdotal interference spoiled the legend concerning them, it did not altogether disfigure it. Here and there in it is still noticeable a sincerity of feeling and liveliness of imagination such as are never found in those of Shû and of Sibû. This arises from the fact that the functions of these gods left them strangers, or all but strangers, to the current affairs of the world. Shû was the stay, Sibû the material foundation of the world; and so long as the one bore the weight of the firmament without bending, and the other continued to suffer the tread of human generations upon his back, the devout took no more thought of them than they themselves took thought of the devout. The life of Osiris, on the other hand, was intimately mingled with that of the Egyptians, and his most trivial actions immediately reacted upon their fortunes. They followed the movements of his waters; they noted the turning-points in his struggles against drought; they registered his yearly decline, yearly compensated by his aggressive returns and his intermittent victories over Typhon; his proceedings and his character were the subject of their minute study. If his waters almost invariably rose upon the appointed day and extended over the black earth of the valley, this was no mechanical function of a being to whom the consequences of his conduct are indifferent; he acted upon reflection, and in full consciousness of the service that he rendered. He knew that by spreading the inundation he prevented the triumph of the desert; he was life, he was goodness—Onnofriû—and Isis, as the partner of his labours, became like him the type of perfect goodness. But while Osiris developed for the better, Sit was transformed for the worse, and increased in wickedness as his brother gained in purity and moral elevation. In proportion as the person of Sît grew more defined, and stood out more clearly, the evil within him contrasted more markedly with the innate goodness of Osiris, and what had been at first an instinctive struggle between two beings somewhat vaguely defined—the desert and the Nile, water and drought—was changed into conscious and deadly enmity. No longer the conflict of two elements, it was war between two gods; one labouring to produce abundance, while the other strove to do away with it; one being all goodness and life, while the other was evil and death incarnate.
A very ancient legend narrates that the birth of Osiris and his brothers took place during the five additional days at the end of the year; a subsequent legend explained how Nûît and Sibû had contracted marriage against the express wish of Râ, and without his knowledge. When he became aware of it he fell into a violent rage, and cast a spell over the goddess to prevent her giving birth to her children in any month of any year whatever. But Thot took pity upon her, and playing at draughts with the moon won from it in several games one seventy-second part of its fires, out of which he made five whole days; and as these were not included in the ordinary calendar, Nûît could then bring forth her five children, one after another: Osiris, Haroêris, Sit, Isis, and Nephthys. Osiris was beautiful of face, but with a dull and black complexion; his height exceeded five and a half yards.[*]
* As a matter of fact, Osiris is often represented with black or green hands and face, as is customary for gods of the dead; it was probably this peculiarity which suggested the popular idea of his black complexion. A magic papyrus of Ramesside times fixes the stature of the god at seven cubits, and a phrase in a Ptolemaic inscription places it at eight cubits, six palms, three fingers.
He was born at Thebes, in the first of the additional days, and straightway a mysterious voice announced that the lord of all—nibû-r-zarû—had appeared. The good news was hailed with shouts of joy, followed by tears and lamentations when it became known with what evils he was menaced.[*] The echo reached Râ in his far-off dwelling, and his heart rejoiced, notwithstanding the curse which he had laid upon Nûît. He commanded the presence of his great-grandchild in Xoïs, and unhesitatingly acknowledged him as the heir to his throne. Osiris had married his sister Isis, even, so it was said, while both of them were still within their mother's womb;[**] and when he became king he made her queen regent and the partner of all his undertakings.
* One variant of the legend told that a certain Pamylis of Thebes having gone to draw water had heard a voice proceeding from the temple of Zeus, which ordered him to proclaim aloud to the world the birth of the great king, the beneficent Osiris. He had received the child from the hands of Kronos, brought it up to youth, and to him the Egyptians had consecrated the feast of Pamylies, which resembled the Phallophoros festival of the Greeks. ** De Iside et Osiride, Leemans' edition, § 12, pp. 20, 21. Haroêris, the Apollo of the Greeks, was supposed to be the issue of a marriage consummated before the birth of his parents while they were still within the womb of their mother Rhea-Nûît. This was a way of connecting the personage of Haroêris with the Osirian myths by confounding him with the homonymous Harsiêsis, the son of Isis, who became the son of Osiris through his mother's marriage with that god.
The Egyptians were as yet but half civilized; they were cannibals, and though occasionally they lived upon the fruits of the earth, they did not know how to cultivate them. Osiris taught them the art of making agricultural implements—the plough and the hoe,—field labour, the rotation of crops, the harvesting of wheat and barley,[*] and vine culture.
* Diodoeus even ascribes to him the discovery of barley and of wheat; this is consequent upon the identification of Isis with Demeter by the Greeks. According to the historian, Leo of Pella, the goddess twined herself a crown of ripe ears and placed it upon her head one day when she was sacrificing to her parents.
Isis weaned them from cannibalism, healed their diseases by means of medicine or of magic, united women to men in legitimate marriage, and showed them how to grind grain between two flat stones and to prepare bread for the household. She invented the loom with the help of her sister Nephthys, and was the first to weave and bleach linen. There was no worship of the gods before Osiris established it, appointed the offerings, regulated the order of ceremonies, and composed the texts and melodies of the liturgies. He built cities, among them Thebes itself, according to some; though others declared that he was born there. As he had been the model of a just and pacific king, so did he desire to be that of a victorious conqueror of nations; and, placing the regency in the hands of Isis, he went forth to war against Asia, accompanied by Thot the ibis and the jackal Anubis. He made little or no use of force and arms, but he attacked men by gentleness and persuasion, softened them with songs in which voices were accompanied by instruments, and taught them also the arts which he had made known to the Egyptians. No country escaped his beneficent action, and he did not return to the banks of the Nile until he had traversed and civilized the world from one horizon to the other.
Sît-Typhon was red-haired and white-skinned, of violent, gloomy, and jealous temper.[*] Secretly he aspired to the crown, and nothing but the vigilance of Isis had kept him from rebellion during the absence of his brother. The rejoicings which celebrated the king's return to Memphis provided Sit with his opportunity for seizing the throne.
* The colour of his hair was compared with that of a red- haired ass, and on that account the ass was sacred to him. As to his violent and jealous disposition, see the opinion of Diodorus Siculus, book i. 21, and the picture drawn by Synesius in his pamphlet Ægyptius. It was told how he tore his mother's bowels at birth, and made his own way into the world through her side.
2 Drawing by Boudier of the gold group in the Louvre Museum. The drawing is made from a photograph which belonged to M. de Witte, before the monument was acquired by E. de Rougé in 1871. The little square pillar of lapis-lazuli, upon which Osiris squats, is wrongly set up, and the names and titles of King Osorkon, the dedicator of the triad, are placed upside down.
He invited Osiris to a banquet along with seventy-two officers whose support he had ensured, made a wooden chest of cunning workmanship and ordered that it should be brought in to him, in the midst of the feast. As all admired its beauty, he sportively promised to present it to any one among the guests whom it should exactly fit. All of them tried it, one after another, and all unsuccessfully; but when Osiris lay down within it, immediately the conspirators shut to the lid, nailed it firmly down, soldered it together with melted lead, and then threw it into the Tanitic branch of the Nile, which carried it to the sea. The news of the crime spread terror on all sides. The gods friendly to Osiris feared the fate of their master, and hid themselves within the bodies of animals to escape the malignity of the new king. Isis cut off her hair, rent her garments, and set out in search of the chest. She found it aground near the mouth of the river[*] under the shadow of a gigantic acacia, deposited it in a secluded place where no one ever came, and then took refuge in Bûto, her own domain and her native city, whose marshes protected her from the designs of Typhon even as in historic times they protected more than one Pharaoh from the attacks of his enemies. There she gave birth to the young Horus, nursed and reared him in secret among the reeds, far from the machinations of the wicked one.[**]
* At this point the legend of the Saïte and Greek period interpolates a whole chapter, telling how the chest was carried out to sea and cast upon the Phoenician coast near to Byblos. The acacia, a kind of heather or broom in this case, grew up enclosing the chest within its trunk. This addition to the primitive legend must date from the XVIIIth to the XXth dynasties, when Egypt had extensive relations with the peoples of Asia. No trace of it whatever has hitherto been found upon Egyptian monuments strictly so called; not even on the latest. ** The opening illustration of this chapter (p. 221) is taken from a monument at Phihe, and depicts Isis among the reeds. The representation of the goddess as squatting upon a mat probably gave rise to the legend of the floating isle of Khemmis, which HECATÆUS of Miletus had seen upon the lake of Bûto, but whose existence was denied by Herodotus notwithstanding the testimony of Hecatæus.
But it happened that Sît, when hunting by moonlight, caught sight of the chest, opened it, and recognizing the corpse, cut it up into fourteen pieces, which he scattered abroad at random. Once more Isis set forth on her woeful pilgrimage. She recovered all the parts of the body excepting one only, which the oxyrhynchus had greedily devoured;[*] and with the help of her sister Nephthys, her son Horus, Anubis, and Thot, she joined together and embalmed them, and made of this collection of his remains an imperishable mummy, capable of sustaining for ever the soul of a god. On his coming of age, Horus called together all that were left of the loyal Egyptians and formed them into an army.[**]
* This part of the legend was so thoroughly well known, that by the time of the XIXth dynasty it suggested incidents in popular literature. When Bitiû, the hero of The Tale of the Two Brothers, mutilated himself to avoid the suspicion of adultery, he cast his bleeding member into the water, and the Oxyrhynchus devoured it. ** Towards the Grecian period there was here interpolated an account of how Osiris had returned from the world of the dead to arm his son and train him to fight. According to this tale he had asked Horus which of all animals seemed to him most useful in time of war, and Horus chose the horse rather than the lion, because the lion avails for the weak or cowardly in need of help, whereas the horse is used for the pursuit and destruction of the enemy. Judging from this reply that Horus was ready to dare all, Osiris allowed him to enter upon the war. The mention of the horse affords sufficient proof that this episode is of comparatively late origin (cf. p. 41 for the date at which the horse was acclimatized in Egypt).
His "Followers"—Shosûû Horû—defeated the "Accomplices of Sît"—Samiu Sît—who were now driven in their turn to transform themselves into gazelles, crocodiles and serpents,—animals which were henceforth regarded as unclean and Typhonian. For three days the two chiefs had fought together under the forms of men and of hippopotami, when Isis, apprehensive as to the issue of the duel, determined to bring it to an end. "Lo! she caused chains to descend upon them, and made them to drop upon Horus. Thereupon Horus prayed aloud, saying: 'I am thy son Horus!' Then Isis spake unto the fetters, saying; 'Break, and unloose yourselves from my son Horus!' She made other fetters to descend, and let them fall upon her brother Sit. Forthwith he lifted up his voice and cried out in pain, and she spake unto the fetters and said unto them: 'Break!' Yea, when Sît prayed unto her many times, saying: 'Wilt thou not have pity upon the brother of thy son's mother?' then her heart was filled with compassion, and she cried to the fetters: 'Break, for he is my eldest brother!' and the fetters unloosed themselves from him, and the two foes again stood face to face like two men who will not come to terms." Horus, furious at seeing his mother deprive him of his prey, turned upon her like a panther of the South. She fled before him on that day when battle was waged with Sît the Violent, and he cut off her head. But Thot transformed her by his enchantments and made a cow's head for her, thereby identifying her with her companion, Hâthor.
1 Drawn by Faucher-Gudin, from a bronze statuette of Saïte period in the Gîzeh Museum (Mariette, Album photographique du musée de Boulaq, pl. 5, No. 167).
The war went on, with all its fluctuating fortunes, till the gods at length decided to summon both rivals before their tribunal. According to a very ancient tradition, the combatants chose the ruler of a neighbouring city, Thot, lord of Hermopolis Parva, as the arbitrator of their quarrel. Sît was the first to plead, and he maintained that Horus was not the son of Osiris, but a bastard, whom Isis haô conceived after the death of her husband. Horua triumphantly vindicated the legitimacy of his birth; and Thot condemned Sît to restore, according to some, the whole of the inheritance which he had wrongly retained,—according to others, part of it only. The gods ratified the sentence, and awarded to the arbitrator the title of Ûapirahûhûi: he who judges between two parties. A legend of more recent origin, and circulated after the worship of Osiris had spread over all Egypt, affirmed that the case had remained within the jurisdiction of Sibû, who was father to the one, and grandfather to the other party. Sibû, however, had pronounced the same judgment as Thot, and divided the kingdom into halves—poshûi; Sît retained the valley from the neighbourhood of Memphis to the first cataract, while Horus entered into possession of the Delta. Egypt henceforth consisted of two distinct kingdoms, of which one, that of the North, recognized Horus, the son of Isis, as its patron deity; and the other, that of the South, placed itself under the protection of Sît Nûbîti, the god of Ombos.[*]
* Another form of the legend gives the 27th Athyr as the date of the judgment, assigning Egypt to Horus, and to Sît Nubia, or Doshirît, the red land. It must have arisen towards the age of the XVIIIth dynasty, at a time when their piety no longer allowed the devout to admit that the murderer of Osiris could be the legitimate patron of half the country. So the half belonging to Sît was then placed either in Nubia or in the western desert, which had, indeed, been reckoned as his domain from earliest times.
The moiety of Horus, added to that of Sît, formed the kingdom which Sibû had inherited; but his children failed to keep it together, though it was afterwards reunited under Pharaohs of human race.
The three gods who preceded Osiris upon the throne had ceased to reign, but not to live. Râ had taken refuge in heaven, disgusted with his own creatures; Shû had disappeared in the midst of a tempest; and Sibû had quietly retired within his palace when the time of his sojourning upon earth had been fulfilled. Not that there was no death, for death, too, together with all other things and beings, had come into existence in the beginning, but while cruelly persecuting both man and beast, had for a while respected the gods. Osiris was the first among them to be struck down, and hence to require funeral rites. He also was the first for whom family piety sought to provide a happy life beyond the tomb. Though he was king of the living and the dead at Mendes by virtue of the rights of all the feudal gods in their own principalities, his sovereignty after death exempted him no more than the meanest of his subjects from that painful torpor into which all mortals fell on breathing their last. But popular imagination could not resign itself to his remaining in that miserable state for ever. What would it have profited him to have Isis the great Sorceress for his wife, the wise Horus for his son, two master-magicians—Thot the Ibis and the jackal Anubis—for his servants, if their skill had not availed to ensure him a less gloomy and less lamentable after-life than that of men. Anubis had long before invented the art of mummifying, and his mysterious science had secured the everlasting existence of the flesh; but at what a price!
1 Drawn by Faucher-Gudin, from Rosellint, Monumenti Civili, pl. cxxxiv. 2. While Anubis is stretching out his hands to lay out the mummy on its couch, the soul is hovering above its breast, and holding to its nostrils the sceptre, and the wind-filled sail which is the emblem of breath and of the new life.
For the breathing, warm, fresh-coloured body, spontaneous in movement and function, was substituted an immobile, cold and blackish mass, a sufficient basis for the mechanical continuity of the double, but which that double could neither raise nor guide; whose weight paralysed and whose inertness condemned it to vegetate in darkness, without pleasure and almost without consciousness of existence. Thot, Isis, and Horus applied themselves in the case of Osiris to ameliorating the discomfort and constraint entailed by the more primitive embalmment.
1 Drawn by Faucher-Gudin, from a painting in the tomb of a king in the Theban necropolis.
They did not dispense with the manipulations instituted by Anubis, but endued them with new power by means of magic. They inscribed the principal bandages with protective figures and formulas; they decorated the body with various amulets of specific efficacy for its different parts; they drew numerous scenes of earthly existence and of the life beyond the tomb upon the boards of the coffin and upon the walls of the sepulchral chamber. When the body had been made imperishable, they sought to restore one by one all the faculties of which their previous operations had deprived it. The mummy was set up at the entrance to the vault; the statue representing the living person was placed beside it, and semblance was made of opening the mouth, eyes, and ears, of loosing the arms and legs, of restoring breath to the throat and movement to the heart. The incantations by which these acts were severally accompanied were so powerful that the god spoke and ate, lived and heard, and could use his limbs as freely as though he had never been steeped in the bath of the embalmer. He might have returned to his place among men, and various legends prove that he did occasionally appear to his faithful adherents. But, as his ancestors before him, he preferred to leave their towns and withdraw into his own domain. The cemeteries of the inhabitants of Busiris and of Mendes were called Sokhît Ialû, the Meadow of Reeds, and Sokhît Hotpû, the Meadow of Best. They were secluded amid the marshes, in small archipelagoes of sandy islets where the dead bodies, piled together, rested in safety from the inundations. This was the first kingdom of the dead Osiris, but it was soon placed elsewhere, as the nature of the surrounding districts and the geography of the adjacent countries became better known; at first perhaps on the Phoenician shore beyond the sea, and then in the sky, in the Milky Way, between the North and the East, but nearer to the North than to the East. This kingdom was not gloomy and mournful like that of the other dead gods, Sokaris or Khontamentît, but was lighted by sun and moon; the heat of the day was tempered by the steady breath of the north wind, and its crops grew and throve abundantly.
1 Drawn by Faucher-Gudin, from a photograph by Daniel Héron, taken in 1881 in the temple of Seti I. at Abydos.
Thick walls served as fortifications against the attacks of Sit and evil genii; a palace like that of the Pharaohs stood in the midst of delightful gardens; and there, among his own people, Osiris led a tranquil existence, enjoying in succession all the pleasures of earthly life without any of its pains.
The goodness which had gained him the title of Onnophris while he sojourned here below, inspired him with the desire and suggested the means of opening the gates of his paradise to the souls of his former subjects. Souls did not enter into it unexamined, nor without trial. Each of them had first to prove that during its earthly life it had belonged to a friend, or, as the Egyptian texts have it, to a vassal of Osiris—amakhû khir Osiri—one of those who had served Horus in his exile and had rallied to his banner from the very beginning of the Typhonian wars.
2 Drawn by Faucher-Gudin, from Naville Bas Ægyptische Todtenbuch, vol. i. pl. cxxviii. Ai.
These were those followers of Horus—Shosûû Horû—so often referred to in the literature of historic times.[*]
* Cf, p. 252. The Followers of Horns, i.e. those who had followed Horus during the Typhonian wars, are mentioned in a Turin fragment of the Canon of the Kings, in which the author summarizes the chronology of the divine period. Like the reign of Râ, the time in which the followers of Horus were supposed to have lived was for the Egyptians of classic times the ultimate point beyond which history did not reach.
Horus, their master, having loaded them with favours during life, decided to extend to them after death the same privileges which he had conferred upon his father. He convoked around the corpse the gods who had worked with him at the embalmment of Osiris: Anubis and Thot, Isis and Nephthys, and his four children—Hâpi, Qabhsonûf, Amsît, and Tiûmaûtf—to whom he had entrusted the charge of the heart and viscera. They all performed their functions exactly as before, repeated the same ceremonies, and recited the same formulas at the same stages of the operations, and so effectively that the dead man became a real Osiris under their hands, having a true voice, and henceforth combining the name of the god with his own.
1 Drawn by Faucher-Gudin, from Guieysse-Lefébure, Le Papyrus de Soutimès, pl. viii. The outlines of the original have unfortunately been restored and enfeebled by the copyist.
He had been Sakhomka or Menkaûrî; he became the Osiris Sakhomka, or the Osiris Menkaûrî, true of voice. Horus and his companions then celebrated the rites consecrated to the "Opening of the Mouth and the Eyes:" animated the statue of the deceased, and placed the mummy in the tomb, where Anubis received it in his arms. Recalled to life and movement, the double reassumed, one by one, all the functions of being, came and went and took part in the ceremonies of the worship which was rendered to him in his tomb. There he might be seen accepting the homage of his kindred, and clasping to his breast his soul under the form of a great human-headed bird with features the counterpart of his own. After being equipped with the formulas and amulets wherewith his prototype, Osiris, had been furnished, he set forth to seek the "Field of Reeds." The way was long and arduous, strewn with perils to which he must have succumbed at the very first stages had he not been carefully warned beforehand and armed against them.
1 Drawn by Faucher-Gudin, from a facsimile by Dévèria (E. de Rougé, Études sur le Rituel Funéraire, pl. iv. No. 4). Ignorant souls fished for by the cynocephali are here represented as fish; but the soul of Nofirûbnû, instructed in the protective formulas, preserves its human form.
A papyrus placed with the mummy in its coffin contained the needful topo-graphical directions and passwords, in order that he might neither stray nor perish by the way. The wiser Egyptians copied out the principal chapters for themselves, or learned them by heart while yet in life, in order to be prepared for the life beyond. Those who had not taken this precaution studied after death the copy with which they were provided; and since few Egyptians could read, a priest, or relative of the deceased, preferably his son, recited the prayers in the mummy's ear, that he might learn them before he was carried away to the cemetery. If the double obeyed the prescriptions of the "Book of the Dead" to the letter, he reached his goal without fail.[*] On leaving the tomb he turned his back on the valley, and staff in hand climbed the hills which bounded it on the west, plunging boldly into the desert, where some bird, or even a kindly insect such as a praying mantis, a grasshopper, or a butterfly, served as his guide. Soon he came to one of those sycamores which grow in the sand far away from the Nile, and are regarded as magic trees by the fellahîn. Out of the foliage a goddess—Nûît, ïïâthor, or Nît—half emerged, and offered him a dish of fruit, loaves of bread, and a jar of water.
* Manuscripts of this work represent about nine-tenths of the papyri hitherto discovered. They are not all equally full; complete copies are still relatively scarce, and most of those found with mummies contain nothing but extracts of varying length. The book itself was studied by Champollion, who called it the Funerary Ritual; Lepsius afterwards gave it the less definite name of Book of the Dead, which seems likely to prevail. It has been chiefly known from the hieroglyphic copy at Turin, which Lepsius traced and had lithographed in 1841, under the title of Das Todtenbuch der Ægypter. In 1865, E. du Rougé began to publish a hieratic copy in the Louvre, but since 1886 there has been a critical edition of manuscripts of the Theban period most carefully collated by E. Naville, Das Mgyptische Todtenbuch der XVIII bis XX Dynastie, Berlin, 1886, 2 vols, of plates in folio, and 1 vol. of Introduction in 4to. On this edition see Maspero, Études de Mythologie et d'Archéologie Égyptiennes, vol. i. pp. 325-387.
By accepting these gifts he became the guest of the goddess, and could never more retrace his steps[*] without special permission. Beyond the sycamore were lands of terror, infested by serpents and ferocious beasts, furrowed by torrents of boiling water, intersected by ponds and marshes where gigantic monkeys cast their nets.
* Maspero, Études de Mythologie et d'Archéologie Égyptiennes, vol. ii. pp. 224-227. It was not in Egypt alone that the fact of accepting food offered by a god of the dead constituted a recognition of suzerainty, and prevented the human soul from returning to the world of the living. Traces of this belief are found everywhere, in modern as in ancient times, and E. B. Tylob, has collected numerous examples of the same in Primitive Culture, 2nd edit., vol. ii. pp. 47, 51, 52.
2 Drawn by Faucher-Gudin, from a coloured plate in Rosellini, Monumenti civili.,pl. cxxxiv. 3.
Ignorant souls, or those ill prepared for the struggle, had no easy work before them when they imprudently entered upon it. Those who were not overcome by hunger and thirst at the outset were bitten by a urasus, or horned viper, hidden with evil intent below the sand, and perished in convulsions from the poison; or crocodiles seized as many of them as they could lay hold of at the fords of rivers; or cynocephali netted and devoured them indiscriminately along with the fish into which the partisans of Typhon were transformed. They came safe and sound out of one peril only to fall into another, and infallibly succumbed before they were half through their journey. But, on the other hand, the double who was equipped and instructed, and armed with the true voice, confronted each foe with the phylactery and the incantation by which his enemy was held in check. As soon as he caught sight of one of them he recited the appropriate chapter from his book, he loudly proclaimed himself Râ, Tûmû, Horus, or Khopri—that god whose name and attributes were best fitted to repel the immediate danger—and flames withdrew at his voice, monsters fled or sank paralysed, the most cruel of genii drew in their claws and lowered their arms before him. He compelled crocodiles to turn away their heads; he transfixed serpents with his lance; he supplied himself at pleasure with all the provisions that he needed, and gradually ascended the mountains which surround the world, sometimes alone, and fighting his way step by step, sometimes escorted by beneficent divinities. Halfway up the slope was the good cow Hâfchor, the lady of the West, in meadows of tall plants where every evening she received the sun at his setting. If the dead man knew how to ask it according to the prescribed rite, she would take him upon her shoulders[*] and carry him across the accursed countries at full speed.
* Coffins of the XXth and XXIst dynasties, with a yellow ground, often display this scene. Generally the scene is found beneath the feet of the dead, at the lower end of the cartonage, and the cow is represented as carrying off at a gallop the mummy who is lying on her back.
2 Drawn by Faucher-Gudin, from a sketch by Naville (Das Ægyptische Todtenbuch, vol. i. pl. iii. P b). The commonest enemies of the dead were various kinds of serpents.
Having reached the North, he paused at the edge of an immense lake, the lake of Kha, and saw in the far distance the outline of the Islands of the Blest. One tradition, so old as to have been almost forgotten in Rames-side times, told how Thot the ibis there awaited him, and bore him away on his wings;[***] another, no less ancient but of more lasting popularity, declared that a ferry-boat plied regularly between the solid earth and the shores of paradise.
*** It is often mentioned in the Pyramid texts, and inspired one of the most obscure chapters among them (Teti, 11. 185-200; cf. Recueil de Travaux, vol. v. pp. 22, 23). It seems that the ibis had to fight with Sit for right of passage.
The god who directed it questioned the dead, and the bark itself proceeded to examine them before they were admitted on board; for it was a magic bark. "Tell me my name," cried the mast; and the travellers replied: "He who guides the great goddess on her way is thy name." "Tell me my name," repeated the braces. "The Spine of the Jackal Ûapûaîtû is thy name." "Tell me my name," proceeded the mast-head.
1 Drawn by Faucher-Gudin, from a coloured facsimile published by Leemans, Monuments Égyptiens du Musée d' Antiquités des Pays-Bas à Leyden, part iii. pl. xii.
"The Neck of Amsît is thy name." "Tell me my name," asked the sail. "Nûît is thy name." Each part of the hull and of the rigging spoke in turn and questioned the applicant regarding its name, this being generally a mystic phrase by which it was identified either with some divinity as a whole, or else with some part of his body.
When the double had established his right of passage by the correctness of his answers, the bark consented to receive him and to carry him to the further shore. There he was met by the gods and goddesses of the court of Osiris: by Anubis, by Hathor the lady of the cemetery, by Nît, by the two Màîts who preside over justice and truth, and by the four children of Horus stiff-sheathed in their mummy wrappings. They formed as it were a guard of honour to introduce him and his winged guide into an immense hall, the ceiling of which rested on light graceful columns of painted wood.
1 Drawn by Faucher-Gudin, from pl. cxxxvi. Ag of Naville's Das Thebanische Todtenbuch.
At the further end of the hall Osiris was seated in mysterious twilight within a shrine through whose open doors he might be seen wearing a red necklace over his close-fitting case of white bandaging, his green face surmounted by the tall white diadem flanked by two plumes, his slender hands grasping flail and crook, the emblems of his power.
Behind him stood Isis and Nephthys watching over him with uplifted hands, bare bosoms, and bodies straitly cased in linen. Forty-two jurors who had died and been restored to life like their lord, and who had been chosen, one from each of those cities of Egypt which recognized his authority, squatted right and left, and motionless, clothed in the wrappings of the dead, silently waited until they were addressed. The soul first advanced to the foot of the throne, carrying on its outstretched hands the image of its heart or of its eyes, agents and accomplices of its sins and virtues. It humbly "smelt the earth," then arose, and with uplifted hands recited its profession of faith. "Hail unto you, ye lords of Truth! hail to thee, great god, lord of Truth and Justice! I have come before thee, my master; I have been brought to see thy beauties. For I know thee, I know thy name, I know the names of thy forty-two gods who are with thee in the Hall of the Two Truths, living on the remains of sinners, gorging themselves with their blood, in that day when account is rendered before Onnophris, the true of voice. Thy name which is thine is 'the god whose two twins are the ladies of the two Truths;' and I, I know you, ye lords of the two Truths, I bring unto you Truth, I have destroyed sins for you. I have not committed iniquity against men! I have not oppressed the poor! I have not made defalcations in the necropolis! I have not laid labour upon any free man beyond that which he wrought for himself! I have not transgressed, I have not been weak, I have not defaulted, I have not committed that which is an abomination to the gods. I have not caused the slave to be ill-treated of his master! I have not starved any man, I have not made any to weep, I have not assassinated any man, I have not caused any man to be treacherously assassinated, and I have not committed treason against any! I have not in aught diminished the supplies of temples! I have not spoiled the shrewbread of the gods! I have not taken away the loaves and the wrappings of the dead! I have done no carnal act within the sacred enclosure of the temple! I have not blasphemed! I have in nought curtailed the sacred revenues! I have not pulled down the scale of the balance! I have not falsified the beam of the balance! I have not taken away the milk from the mouths of sucklings! I have not lassoed cattle on their pastures! I have not taken with nets the birds of the gods! I have not fished in their ponds! I have not turned back the water in its season! I have not cut off a water-channel in its course! I have not put out the fire in its time! I have not defrauded the Nine Gods of the choice part of victims! I have not ejected the oxen of the gods! I have not turned back the god at his coming forth! I am pure! I am pure! I am pure! I am pure! Pure as this Great Bonû of Heracleopolis is pure!... There is no crime against me in this land of the Double Truth! Since I know the names of the gods who are with thee in the Hall of the Double Truth, save thou me from them!"
He then turned towards the jury and pleaded his cause before them. They had been severally appointed for the cognizance of particular sins, and the dead man took each of them by name to witness that he was innocent of the sin which that one recorded. His plea ended, he returned to the supreme judge, and repeated, under what is sometimes a highly mystic form, the ideas which he had already advanced in the first part of his address. "Hail unto you, ye gods who are in the Great Hall of the Double Truth, who have no falsehood in your bosoms, but who live on Truth in Aûnû, and feed your hearts upon it before the Lord God who dwelleth in his solar disc! Deliver me from the Typhon who feedeth on entrails, O chiefs! in this hour of supreme judgment;—grant that the deceased may come unto you, he who hath not sinned, who hath neither lied, nor done evil, nor committed any crime, who hath not borne false witness, who hath done nought against himself, but who liveth on truth, who feedeth on truth. He hath spread joy on all sides; men speak of that which he hath done, and the gods rejoice in it. He hath reconciled the god to him by his love; he hath given bread to the hungry, water to the thirsty, clothing to the naked; he hath given a boat to the shipwrecked; he hath offered sacrifices to the gods, sepulchral meals unto the manes. Deliver him from himself, speak not against him before the Lord of the Dead, for his mouth is pure, and his two hands are pure!" In the middle of the Hall, however, his acts were being weighed by the assessors. Like all objects belonging to the gods, the balance is magic, and the genius which animates it sometimes shows its fine and delicate little human head on the top of the upright stand which forms its body. Everything about the balance recalls its superhuman origin: a cynocephalus, emblematic of Thot, sits perched on the upright and watches the beam; the cords which suspend the scales are made of alternate cruces ansato and tats. Truth squats upon one of the scales; Thot, ibis-headed, places the heart on the other, and always merciful, bears upon the side of Truth that judgment may be favourably inclined. He affirms that the heart is light of offence, inscribes the result of the proceeding upon a wooden tablet, and pronounces the verdict aloud. "Thus saith Thot, lord of divine discourse, scribe of the Great Ennead, to his father Osiris, lord of eternity, 'Behold the deceased in this Hall of the Double Truth, his heart hath been weighed in the balance in the presence of the great genii, the lords of Hades, and been found true. No trace of earthly impurity hath been found in his heart. Now that he leaveth the tribunal true of voice, his heart is restored to him, as well as his eyes and the material cover of his heart, to be put back in their places each in its own time, his soul in heaven, his heart in the other world, as is the custom of the "Followers of Horus." Henceforth let his body lie in the hands of Anubis, who presideth over the tombs; let him receive offerings at the cemetery in the presence of Onno-phris; let him be as one of those favourites who follow thee; let his soul abide where it will in the necropolis of his city, he whose voice is true before the Great Ennead.'" In this "Negative Confession," which the worshippers of Osiris taught to their dead, all is not equally admirable. The material interests of the temple were too prominent, and the crime of killing a sacred goose or stealing a loaf from the bread offerings was considered as abominable as calumny or murder. But although it contains traces of priestly cupidity, yet how many of its precepts are untarnished in their purity by any selfish ulterior motive! In it is all our morality in germ, and with refinements of delicacy often lacking among peoples of later and more advanced civilizations. The god does not confine his favour to the prosperous and the powerful of this world; he bestows it also upon the poor. His will is that they be fed and clothed, and exempted from tasks beyond their strength; that they be not oppressed, and that unnecessary tears be spared them. If this does not amount to the love of our neighbour as our religions preach it, at least it represents the careful solicitude due from a good lord to his vassals. His pity extends to slaves; not only does he command that no one should ill-treat them himself, but he forbids that their masters should be led to ill-treat them. This profession of faith, one of the noblest bequeathed us by the old world, is of very ancient origin. It may be read in scattered fragments upon the monuments of the first dynasties, and the way in which its ideas are treated by the compilers of these inscriptions proves that it was not then regarded as new, but as a text so old and so well known that its formulas were current in all mouths, and had their prescribed places in epitaphs.[*] Was it composed in Mendes, the god's own home, or in Heliopolis, when the theologians of that city appropriated the god of Mendes and incorporated him in their Ennead? In conception it certainly belongs to the Osirian priesthood, but it can only have been diffused over the whole of Egypt after the general adoption of the Heliopolitan Ennead throughout the cities.
As soon as he was judged, the dead man entered into the possession of his rights as a pure soul. On high he received from the Universal Lord all that kings and princes here below bestowed upon their followers—rations of food,[**] and a house, gardens, and fields to be held subject to the usual conditions of tenure in Egypt, i.e. taxation, military service, and the corvée.
* For instance, one of the formulas found in Memphite tombs states that the deceased had been the friend of his father, the beloved of his mother, sweet to those who lived with him, gracious to his brethren, loved of his servants, and that he had never sought wrongful quarrel with any man; briefly, that he spoke and did that which is right here below. ** The formula of the pyramid times is: "Thy thousand of oxen, thy thousand of geese, of roast and boiled joints from the larder of the gods, of bread, and plenty of the good things presented in the hall of Osiris."
If the island was attacked by the partisans of Sit, the Osirian doubles hastened in a body to repulse them, and fought bravely in its defence. Of the revenues sent to him by his kindred on certain days and by means of sacrifices, each gave tithes to the heavenly storehouses. Yet this was but the least part of the burdens laid upon him by the laws of the country, which did not suffer him to become enervated by idleness, but obliged him to labour as in the days when he still dwelt in Egypt.
1 Drawn by Faucher-Gudin, from a vignette in the funerary papyrus of Nebhopît in Turin.
He looked after the maintenance of canals and dykes, he tilled the ground, he sowed, he reaped, he garnered the grain for his lord and for himself. Yet to those upon whom they were incumbent, these posthumous obligations, the sequel and continuation of feudal service, at length seemed too heavy, and theologians exercised their ingenuity to find means of lightening the burden. They authorized the manes to look to their servants for the discharge of all manual labour which they ought to have performed themselves. Barely did a dead man, no matter how poor, arrive unaccompanied at the eternal cities; he brought with him a following proportionate to his rank and fortune upon earth.
1 Drawn by Faucher-Gudin from a painted limestone statuette from the tomb of Sonnozmû at Thebes, dating from the end of the XXth dynasty.
At first they were real doubles, those of slaves or vassals killed at the tomb, and who had departed along with the double of the master to serve him beyond the grave as they had served him here. A number of statues and images, magically endued with activity and intelligence, was afterwards substituted for this retinue of victims. Originally of so large a size that only the rich or noble could afford them, they were reduced little by little to the height of a few inches. Some were carved out of alabaster, granite, diorite, fine limestone, or moulded out of fine clay and delicately modelled; others had scarcely any human resemblance. They were endowed with life by means of a formula recited over them at the time of their manufacture, and afterwards traced upon their legs. All were possessed of the same faculties. When the god who called the Osirians to the corvée pronounced the name of the dead man to whom the figures belonged, they arose and answered for him; hence their designation of "Respondents "—Ûashbîti. Equipped for agricultural labour, each grasping a hoe and carrying a seed-bag on his shoulder, they set out to work in their appointed places, contributing the required number of days of forced labour.
1 Drawn by Faucher-Gudin, from a vignette in No, 4 Papyrus, Dublin (Naville, Das Mgyptische Todtenbuch, vol. i. pl. xxvii. Da). The name of draughts is not altogether accurate; a description of the game may be found in Falkner, Games Ancient and Oriental and how to play them, pp. 9-101.
Up to a certain point they thus compensated for those inequalities of condition which death itself did not efface among the vassals of Osiris; for the figures were sold so cheaply that even the poorest could always afford some for themselves, or bestow a few upon their relations; and in the Islands of the Blest, fellah, artisan, and slave were indebted to the Uashbîti for release from their old routine of labour and unending toil. While the little peasants of stone or glazed ware dutifully toiled and tilled and sowed, their masters were enjoying all the delights of the Egyptian paradise in perfect idleness. They sat at ease by the water-side, inhaling the fresh north breeze, under the shadow of trees which were always green. They fished with lines among the lotus-plants; they embarked in their boats, and were towed along by their servants, or they would sometimes deign to paddle themselves slowly about the canals.
1 Drawn by Faucher-Gudin, from the Papyrus of Nebhopît, in Turin. This drawing is from part of the same scene as the illustration on p. 275.
They went fowling among the reed-beds, or retired within their painted pavilions to read tales, to play at draughts, to return to their wives who were for ever young and beautiful.[**]
** Gymnastic exercises, hunting, fishing, sailing, are all pictured in Theban tombs. The game of draughts is mentioned in the title of chap. xvii. of the Book of the Dead (Naville's edition, vol. i. pl. xxiii. 1. 2), and the women's pavilion is represented in the tomb of Rakhmiri That the dead were supposed to read tales is proved from the fact that broken ostraca bearing long fragments of literary works are found in tombs; they were broken to kill them and to send on their doubles to the dead man in the next world.
It was but an ameliorated earthly life, divested of all suffering under the rule and by the favour of the true-voiced Onnophris. The feudal gods promptly adopted this new mode of life.
1 Drawn by Faucher-Gudin, from a photograph by Éinil Brugsch-Bey. The original was found in the course of M. de Morgan's excavations at Mêîr, and is now at Gîzeh. The dead man is sitting in the cabin, wrapped in his cloak. As far as I know, this is the only boat which has preserved its original rigging. It dates from the XIth or XIIth dynasty.
Each of their dead bodies, mummified, and afterwards reanimated in accordance with the Osirian myth, became an Osiris as did that of any ordinary person. Some carried the assimilation so far as to absorb the god of Mendes, or to be absorbed in him. At Memphis Phtah-Sokaris became Phtah-Sokar-Osiris, and at Thinis Khontamentîfc became Osiris Khontamentît. The sun-god lent himself to this process with comparative ease because his life is more like a man's life, and hence also more like that of Osiris, which is the counterpart of a man's life.
1 Drawn by Faucher-Gudin, from a vignette in the Papyrus of Nebqadn, in Paris.
Born in the morning, he ages as the day declines, and gently passes away at evening. From the time of his entering the sky to that of his leaving it, he reigns above as he reigned here below in the beginning; but when he has left the sky and sinks into Hades, he becomes as one of the dead, and is, as they are, subjected to Osirian embalmment. The same dangers that menace their human souls threaten his soul also; and when he has vanquished them, not in his own strength, but by the power of amulets and magical formulas, he enters into the fields of lalû, and ought to dwell there for ever under the rule of Onuophris. He did nothing of the kind, however, for daily the sun was to be seen reappearing in the east twelve hours after it had sunk into the darkness of the west. Was it a new orb each time, or did the same sun shine every day? In either case the result was precisely the same; the god came forth from death and re-entered into life. Having identified the course of the sun-god with that of man, and Râ with Osiris for a first day and a first night, it was hard not to push the matter further, and identify them for all succeeding days and nights, affirming that man and Osiris might, if they so wished, be born again in the morning, as Râ was, and together with him. If the Egyptians had found the prospect of quitting the darkness of the tomb for the bright meadows of Ialû a sensible alleviation of their lot, with what joy must they have been filled by the conception which allowed them to substitute the whole realm of the sun for a little archipelago in an out-of-the-way corner of the universe. Their first consideration was to obtain entrance into the divine bark, and this was the object of all the various practices and prayers, whose text, together with that which already contained the Osirian formulas, ensured the unfailing protection of Râ to their possessor. The soul desirous of making use of them went straight from his tomb to the very spot where the god left earth to descend into Hades. This was somewhere in the immediate neighbourhood of Abydos, and was reached through a narrow gorge or "cleft" in the Libyan range, whose "mouth" opened in front of the temple of Osiris Khontamentît, a little to the north-west of the city. The soul was supposed to be carried thither by a small flotilla of boats, manned by figures representing friends or priests, and laden with food, furniture, and statues. This flotilla was placed within the vault on the day of the funeral, and was set in motion by means of incantations recited over it during one of the first nights of the year, at the annual feast of the dead. The bird or insect which had previously served as guide to the soul upon its journey now took the helm to show the fleet the right way, and under this command the boats left Abydos and mysteriously passed through the "cleft" into that western sea which is inaccessible to the living, there to await the daily coming of the dying sun-god.
1 Drawn by Faucher-Gudin, from a very small photograph published in the Catalogue of the Minutoli Sale.
As soon as his bark appeared at the last bend of the celestial Nile, the cynocephali, who guarded the entrance into night, began to dance and gesticulate upon the banks as they intoned their accustomed hymn. The gods of Abydos mingled their shouts of joy with the chant of the sacred baboons, the bark lingered for a moment upon the frontiers of day, and initiated souls seized the occasion to secure their recognition and their reception on board of it.[*] Once admitted, they took their share in the management of the boat, and in the battles with hostile deities; but they were not all endowed with the courage or equipment needful to withstand the perils and terrors of the voyage. Many stopped short by the way in one of the regions which it traversed, either in the realm of Khontamentît, or in that of Sokaris, or in those islands where the good Osiris welcomed them as though they had duly arrived in the ferry-boat, or upon the wing of Thot. There they dwelt in colonies under the suzerainty of local gods, rich, and in need of nothing, but condemned to live in darkness, excepting for the one brief hour in which the solar bark passed through their midst, irradiating them with beams of light.[**]
* This description of the embarkation and voyage of the soul is composed from indications given in one of the vignettes of chap. xvi. of the Book of the Dead (Naville's edition, vol. i. pl. xxii.), combined with the text of a formula which became common from the times of the XIth and XIIth dynasties (Maspero, Études de Mythologie et l'Archéologie Égyptiennes, vol. i. pp. 14-18, and Études Égyptiennes, vol. i. pp. 122, 123).
** Maspero, Études de Mythologie et d'Archéologie Égyptiennes, vol. ii. pp. 44, 45.
The few persevered, feeling that they had courage to accompany the sun throughout, and these were indemnified for their sufferings by the most brilliant fate ever dreamed of by Egyptian souls., Born anew with the sun-god and appearing with him at the gates of the east, they were assimilated to him, and shared his privilege of growing old and dying, only to be ceaselessly rejuvenated and to live again with ever-renewed splendour. They disembarked where they pleased, and returned at will into the world. If now and then they felt a wish to revisit all that was left of their earthly bodies, the human-headed sparrow-hawk descended the shaft in full flight, alighted upon the funeral couch, and, with hands softly laid upon the spot where the heart had been wont to beat, gazed upwards at the impassive mask of the mummy.
1 Drawn by Faucher-Gudin, from Dévèria.
This was but for a moment, since nothing compelled these perfect souls to be imprisoned within the tomb like the doubles of earlier times, because they feared the light. They "went forth by day," and dwelt in those places where they had lived; they walked in their gardens by their ponds of running water; they perched like so many birds on the branches of the trees which they had planted, or enjoyed the fresh air under the shade of their sycamores; they ate and drank at pleasure; they travelled by hill and dale; they embarked in the boat of Râ, and disembarked without weariness, and without distaste for the same perpetual round.
This conception, which was developed somewhat late, brought the Egyptians back to the point from which they had started when first they began to speculate on the life to come.
1 Drawn by Faucher-Gudin, from a photograph by Emil Brugsch- Bey, reproducing the miniature sarcophagus of the scribe Râ (Maspero, Guide du Visiteur, pp. 130, 131, No. 1621).
The soul, after having left the place of its incarnation to which in the beginning it clung, after having ascended into heaven and there sought congenial asylum in vain, forsook all havens which it had found above, and unhesitatingly fell back upon earth, there to lead a peaceful, free, and happy life in the full light of day, and with the whole valley of Egypt for a paradise.
The connection, always increasingly intimate between Osiris and Râ, gradually brought about a blending of the previously separate myths and beliefs concerning each. The friends and enemies of the one became the friends and enemies of the other, and from a mixture of the original conceptions of the two deities, arose new personalities, in which contradictory elements were blent together, often without true fusion. The celestial Horuses one by one were identified with Horus, son of Isis, and their attributes were given to him, as his in the same way became theirs. Apopi and the monsters—the hippopotamus, the crocodile, the wild boar—who lay in wait for Râ as he sailed the heavenly ocean, became one with Sît and his accomplices. Sit still possessed his half of Egypt, and his primitive brotherly relation to the celestial Horus remained unbroken, either 'on account of their sharing one temple, as at Nûbît, or because they were worshipped as one in two neighbouring nomes, as, for example, at Oxyrrhynchos and at Heracleopolis Magna. The repulsion with which the slayer of Osiris was regarded did not everywhere dissociate these two cults: certain small districts persisted in this double worship down to the latest times of paganism. It was, after all, a mark of fidelity to the oldest traditions of the race, but the bulk of the Egyptians, who had forgotten these, invented reasons taken from the history of the divine dynasties to explain the fact. The judgment of Thot or of Sibû had not put an end to the machinations of Sît: as soon as Horus had left the earth, Sît resumed them, and pursued them, with varying fortune, under the divine kings of the second Ennead. Now, in the year 363 of Harmakhis, the Typhonians reopened the campaign. Beaten at first near Edfû, they retreated precipitately northwards, stopping to give battle wherever their partisans predominated,—at Zatmîfc in the Theban nome,[*] at Khaîtnûtrît to the north-east of Denderah, and at Hibonû in the principality of the Gazelle.
* Zatmît appears to have been situate at some distance from Bayadîyéh, on the spot where the map published by the Egyptian Commission marks the ruins of a modern village. There was a necropolis of considerable extent there, which furnishes the Luxor dealers with antiquities, many of which belong to the first Theban empire.
2 Copied by Faucher-Gudin from the survey-drawings of the tomb of Anni by Boussac, member of the Mission française in Egypt (1891). The inscription over the arbour gives the list of the various trees in the garden of Anni during his lifetime.
Several bloody combats, which took place between Oxyrrhynchos and Heracleopolis Magna, were the means of driving them finally out of the Nile Valley; they rallied for the last time in the eastern provinces of the Delta, were beaten at Zalû, and giving up all hope of success on land, they embarked at the head of the Gulf of Suez, in order to return to the Nubian Desert, their habitual refuge in times of distress. The sea was the special element of Typhon, and upon it they believed themselves secure. Horus, however, followed them, overtook them near Shas-hirît, routed them, and on his return to Edfu, celebrated his victory by a solemn festival. By degrees, as he made himself master of those localities which owed allegiance to Sit, he took energetic measures to establish in them the authority of Osiris and of the solar cycle. In all of them he built, side by side with the sanctuary of the Typhonian divinities, a temple to himself, in which he was enthroned under the particular form he was obliged to assume in order to vanquish his enemies. Metamorphosed into a hawk at the battle of Hibonû, we next see him springing on to the back of Sit under the guise of a hippopotamus; in his shrine at Hibonû he is represented as a hawk perching on the back of a gazelle, emblem of the nome where the struggle took place. Near to Zalû he became incarnate as a human-headed lion, crowned with the triple diadem, and having feet armed with claws which cut like a knife; it was under the form, too, of a lion that he was worshipped in the temple at Zalû. The correlation of Sit and the celestial Horus was not, therefore, for these Egyptians of more recent times a primitive religious fact; it was the consequence, and so to speak the sanction, of the old hostility between the two gods.
Horus had treated his enemy in the same fashion that a victorious Pharaoh treated the barbarians conquered by his arms: he had constructed a fortress to keep his foe in check, and his priests formed a sort of garrison as a precaution against the revolt of the rival priesthood and the followers of the rival deity. In this manner the battles of the gods were changed into human struggles, in which, more than once, Egypt was deluged with blood. The hatred of the followers of Osiris to those of Typhon was perpetuated with such implacability, that the nomes which had persisted in adhering to the worship of Sit, became odious to the rest of the population: the image of their master on the monuments was mutilated, their names were effaced from the geographical lists, they were assailed with insulting epithets, and to pursue and slay their sacred animals was reckoned a pious act. Thus originated those skirmishes which developed into actual civil wars, and were continued down to Roman times. The adherents of Typhon only became more confirmed in their veneration for the accursed god; Christianity alone overcame their obstinate fidelity to him.[*]
* This incident in the wars of Horus and Sit is drawn by Faucher-Gudin from a bas-relief of the temple of Edfû. On the right, Har-Hûdîti, standing up in the solar bark, pierces with his lance the head of a crocodile, a partisan of Sît, lying in the water below; Harmâkhis, standing behind him, is present at the execution. Facing this divine pair, is the young Horus, who kills a man, another partisan of Sît, while Isis and Har-Hûdîti hold his chains; behind Horus, Isis and Thot are leading four other captives bound and ready to be sacrificed before Harmâkhis.
The history of the world for Egypt was therefore only the history of the struggle between the adherents of Osiris and the followers of Sît; an interminable warfare in which sometimes one and sometimes the other of the rival parties obtained a passing advantage, without ever gaining a decisive victory till the end of time. The divine kings of the second and third Ennead devoted most of the years of their earthly reign to this end; they were portrayed under the form of the great warrior Pharaohs, who, from the eighteenth to the twelfth century before our era, extended their rule from the plains of the Euphrates to the marshes of Ethiopia. A few peaceful sovereigns are met with here and there in this line of conquerors—a few sages or legislators, of whom the most famous was styled Thot, the doubly great, ruler of Hermopolis and of the Hermopolitan Ennead. A legend of recent origin made him the prime minister of Horus, son of Isis; a still more ancient tradition would identify him with the second king of the second dynasty, the immediate successor of the divine Horuses, and attributes to him a reign of 3226 years. He brought to the throne that inventive spirit and that creative power which had characterized him from the time when he was only a feudal deity. Astronomy, divination, magic, medicine, writing, drawing—in fine, all the arts and sciences emanated from him as from their first source. He had taught mankind the methodical observation of the heavens and of the changes that took place in them, the slow revolutions of the sun, the rapid phases of the moon, the intersecting movements of the five planets, and the shapes and limits of the constellations which each night were lit up in the sky. Most of the latter either remained, or appeared to remain immovable, and seemed never to pass out of the regions accessible to the human eye. Those which were situate on the extreme margin of the firmament accomplished movements there analogous to those of the planets.
1 Drawn by Faucher-Gudin, from a copy by Lepsius, Denkm., iii. 227, 3.
Every year at fixed times they were seen to sink one after another below the horizon, to disappear, and rising again after an eclipse of greater or less duration, to regain insensibly their original positions. The constellations were reckoned to be thirty-six in number, the thirty-six decani to whom were attributed mysterious powers, and of whom Sothis was queen—Sothis transformed into the star of Isis, when Orion (Sâhû), became the star of Osiris. The nights are so clear and the atmosphere so transparent in Egypt, that the eye can readily penetrate the depths of space, and distinctly see points of light which would be invisible in our foggy climate. The Egyptians did not therefore need special instruments to ascertain the existence of a considerable number of stars which we could not see without the help of our telescopes; they could perceive with the naked eye stars of the fifth magnitude, and note them upon their catalogues.[*] It entailed, it is true, a long training and uninterrupted practice to bring their sight up to its maximum keenness; but from very early times it was a function of the priestly colleges to found and maintain schools of astronomy. The first observatories established on the banks of the Nile seem to have belonged to the temples of the sun; the high priests of Râ—who, to judge from their title, were alone worthy to behold the sun face to face—were actively employed from the earliest times in studying the configuration and preparing maps of the heavens. The priests of other gods were quick to follow their example: at the opening of the historic period, there was not a single temple, from one end of the valley to the other, that did not possess its official astronomers, or, as they were called, "watchers of the night."[**]
* Biot, however, states that stars of the third and fourth magnitude "are the smallest which can be seen with the naked eye." I believe I am right in affirming that several of the fellahîn and Bedawîn attached to the "service des Antiquités" can see stars which are usually classed with those of the fifth magnitude. ** Urshu: this word is also used for the soldiers on watch during the day upon the walls of a fortress. Birch believed he had discovered in the British Museum a catalogue of observations made at Thebes by several astronomers upon a constellation which answered to the Hyades or the Pleiades; it was merely a question in this text of the quantity of water supplied regularly to the astronomers of a Theban temple for their domestic purposes.
In the evening they went up on to the high terraces above the shrine, or on to the narrow platforms which terminated the pylons, and fixing their eyes continuously on the celestial vault above them, followed the movements of the constellations and carefully noted down the slightest phenomena which they observed. A portion of the chart of the heavens, as known to Theban Egypt between the eighteenth and twelfth centuries before our era, has survived to the present time; parts of it were carved by the decorators on the ceilings of temples, and especially on royal tombs. The deceased Pharaohs were identified with Osiris in a more intimate fashion than their subjects. They represented the god even in the most trivial details; on earth—where, after having played the part of the beneficent Onnophris of primitive ages, they underwent the most complete and elaborate embalming, like Osiris of the lower world; in Hades—where they embarked side by side with the Sun-Osiris to cross the night and to be born again at daybreak; in heaven—where they shone with Orion-Sâhu under the guardianship of Sothis, and, year by year, led the procession of the stars. The maps of the firmament recalled to them, or if necessary taught them, this part of their duties: they there saw the planets and the decani sail past in their boats, and the constellations follow one another in continuous succession. The lists annexed to the charts indicated the positions occupied each month by the principal heavenly bodies—their risings, their culminations, and their settings. Unfortunately, the workmen employed to execute these pictures either did not understand much about the subject in hand, or did not trouble themselves to copy the originals exactly: they omitted many passages, transposed others, and made endless mistakes, which made it impossible for us to transfer accurately to a modern map the information possessed by the ancients.
In directing their eyes to the celestial sphere, Thot had at the same time revealed to men the art of measuring time, and the knowledge of the future. As he was the moon-god par excellence, he watched with jealous care over the divine eye which had been entrusted to him by Horus, and the thirty days during which he was engaged in conducting it through all the phases of its nocturnal life, were reckoned as a month. Twelve of these months formed the year, a year of three hundred and sixty days, during which the earth witnessed the gradual beginning and ending of the circle of the seasons. The Nile rose, spread over the fields, sank again into its channel; to the vicissitudes of the inundation succeeded the work of cultivation; the harvest followed the seedtime: these formed three distinct divisions of the year, each of nearly equal duration. Thot made of them the three seasons,—that of the waters, Shaît; that of vegetation, Pirûît; that of the harvest, Shômû—each comprising four months, numbered one to four; the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th months of Shaît; the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th months of Pirûît; the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th months of Shômû. The twelve months completed, a new year began, whose birth was heralded by the rising of Sothis in the early days of August. The first month of the Egyptian year thus coincided with the eighth of ours. Thot became its patron, and gave it his name, relegating each of the others to a special protecting divinity; in this manner the third month of Shaît fell to Hathor, and was called after her; the fourth of Pirûît belonged to Ranûît or Ramûît, the lady of harvests, and derived from her its appellation of Pharmûti. Official documents always designated the months by the ordinal number attached to them in each season, but the people gave them by preference the names of their tutelary deities, and these names, transcribed into Greek, and then into Arabic, are still used by the Christian inhabitants of Egypt, side by side with the Mussulman appellations. One patron for each month was, however, not deemed sufficient: each month was subdivided into three decades, over which presided as many decani, and the days themselves were assigned to genii appointed to protect them. A number of festivals were set apart at irregular intervals during the course of the year: festivals for the new year, festivals for the beginning of the seasons, months and decades, festivals for the dead, for the supreme gods, and for local divinities. Every act of civil life was so closely allied to the religious life, that it could not be performed without a sacrifice or a festival. A festival celebrated the cutting of the dykes, another the opening of the canals, a third the reaping of the first sheaf, or the carrying of the grain; a crop gathered or stored without a festival to implore the blessing of the gods, would have been an act of sacrilege and fraught with disaster. The first year of three hundred and sixty days, regulated by the revolutions of the moon, did not long meet the needs of the Egyptian people; it did not correspond with the length of the solar year, for it fell short of it by five and a quarter days, and this deficit, accumulating from twelvemonth to twelvemonth, caused such a serious difference between the calendar reckoning and the natural seasons, that it soon had to be corrected. They intercalated, therefore, after the twelfth month of each year and before the first day of the ensuing year, five epagomenal days, which they termed the "five days over and above the year."[*]
* There appears to be a tendency among Egyptologists now to doubt the existence, under the Ancient Empire, of the five epagomenal days, and as a fact they are nowhere to be found expressly mentioned; but we know that the five gods of the Osirian cycle were born during the epagomenal day (cf. p. 247 of this History), and the allusions to the Osirian legend which are met with in the Pyramid texts, prove that the days were added long before the time when those inscriptions were cut. As the wording of the texts often comes down from prehistoric times, it is most likely that the invention of the epagomenal days is anterior to the first Thinite and Memphite dynasties.
The legend of Osiris relates that Thot created them in order to permit Nûît to give birth to all her children. These days constituted, at the end of the "great year," a "little month," which considerably lessened the difference between the solar and lunar computation, but did not entirely do away with it, and the six hours and a few minutes of which the Egyptians had not taken count gradually became the source of fresh perplexities. They at length amounted to a whole day, which needed to be added every four years to the regular three hundred and sixty days, a fact which was unfortunately overlooked. The difficulty, at first only slight, which this caused in public life, increased with time, and ended by disturbing the harmony between the order of the calendar and that of natural phenomena: at the end of a hundred and twenty years, the legal year had gained a whole month on the actual year, and the 1st of Thot anticipated the heliacal rising of Sothis by thirty days, instead of coinciding with it as it ought. The astronomers of the Græco-Roman period, after a retrospective examination of all the past history of their country, discovered a very ingenious theory for obviating this unfortunate discrepancy. If the omission of six hours annually entailed the loss of one day every four years, the time would come, after three hundred and sixty-five times four years, when the deficit would amount to an entire year, and when, in consequence, fourteen hundred and sixty whole years would exactly equal fourteen hundred and sixty-one incomplete years. The agreement of the two years, which had been disturbed by the force of circumstances, was re-established of itself after rather more than fourteen and a half centuries: the opening of the civil year became identical with the beginning of the astronomical year, and this again coincided with the heliacal rising of Sirius, and therefore with the official date of the inundation. To the Egyptians of Pharaonic times, this simple and eminently practical method was unknown: by means of it hundreds of generations, who suffered endless troubles from the recurring difference between an uncertain and a fixed year, might have consoled themselves with the satisfaction of knowing that a day would come when one of their descendants would, for once in his life, see both years coincide with mathematical accuracy, and the seasons appear at their normal times. The Egyptian year might be compared to a watch which loses a definite number of minutes daily. The owner does not take the trouble to calculate a cycle in which the total of minutes lost will bring the watch round to the correct time: he bears with the irregularity as long as his affairs do not suffer by it; but when it causes him inconvenience, he alters the hands to the right hour, and repeats this operation each time he finds it necessary, without being guided by a fixed rule. In like manner the Egyptian year fell into hopeless confusion with regard to the seasons, the discrepancy continually increasing, until the difference became so great, that the king or the priests had to adjust the two by a process similar to that employed in the case of the watch.
The days, moreover, had each their special virtues, which it was necessary for man to know if he wished to profit by the advantages, or to escape the perils which they possessed for him. There was not one among them that did not recall some incident of the divine wars, and had not witnessed a battle between the partisans of Sit and those of Osiris or Râ; the victories or the disasters which they had chronicled had as it were stamped them with good or bad luck, and for that reason they remained for ever auspicious or the reverse. It was on the 17th of Athyr that Typhon had enticed his brother to come to him, and had murdered him in the middle of a banquet. Every year, on this day, the tragedy that had taken place in the earthly abode of the god seemed to be repeated afresh in the heights of heaven. Just as at the moment of the death of Osiris, the powers of good were at their weakest, and the sovereignty of evil everywhere prevailed, so the whole of Nature, abandoned to the powers of darkness, became inimical to man. Whatever he undertook on that day issued in failure. If he went out to walk by the river-side, a crocodile would attack him, as the crocodile sent by Sît had attacked Osiris. If he set out on a journey, it was a last farewell which he bade to his family and friends: death would meet him by the way. To escape this fatality, he must shut himself up at home, and wait in inaction until the hours of danger had passed and the sun of the ensuing day had put the evil one to flight.[*]
* On the 20th of Thot no work was to be done, no oxen killed, no stranger received. On the 22nd no fish might be eaten, no oil lamp was to be lighted. On the 23rd "put no incense on the fire, nor kill big cattle, nor goats, nor ducks; eat of no goose, nor of that which has lived." On the 26th "do absolutely nothing on this day," and the same advice is found on the 7th of Paophi, on the 18th, on the 26th, on the 27th, and more than thirty times in the remainder of the Sallier Calendar. On the 30th of Mechir it is forbidden to speak aloud to any one.
It was to his interest to know these adverse influences; and who would have known them all, had not Thot pointed them out and marked them in his calendars? One of these, long fragments of which have come down to us, indicated briefly the character of each day, the gods who presided over it, the perils which accompanied their patronage, or the good fortune which might be expected of them. The details of it are not always intelligible to us, as we are still ignorant of many of the episodes in the life of Osiris. The Egyptians were acquainted with the matter from childhood, and were guided with sufficient exactitude by these indications. The hours of the night were all inauspicious; those of the day were divided into three "seasons" of four hours each, of which some were lucky, while others were invariably of ill omen. "The 4th of Tybi: good, good, good. Whatsoever thou seest on this day will be fortunate. Whosoever is born on this day, will die more advanced in years than any of his family; he will attain to a greater age than his father. The 5th of Tybi: inimical, inimical, inimical. This is the day on which the goddess Sokhîfc, mistress of the double white Palace, burnt the chiefs when they raised an insurrection, came forth, and manifested themselves. Offerings of bread to Shû, Phtah, Thot: burn incense to Râ, and to the gods who are his followers, to Phtah, Thot, Hû-Sû, on this day. Whatsoever thou seest on this day will be fortunate. The 6th of Tybi: good, good, good. Whatsoever thou seest on this day will be fortunate. The 7th of Tybi: inimical, inimical, inimical. Do not join thyself to a woman in the presence of the Eye of Horus. Beware of letting the fire go out which is in thy house. The 8th of Tybi: good, good, good. Whatsoever thou seest with thine eye this day, the Ennead of the gods will grant to thee: the sick will recover. The 9th of Tybi: good, good, good. The gods cry out for joy at noon this day. Bring offerings of festal cakes and of fresh bread, which rejoice the heart of the gods and of the manes. The 10th of Tybi: inimical, inimical, mimical. Do not set fire to weeds on this day: it is the day on which the god Sap-hôû set fire to the land of Btito. The 11th of Tybi: inimical, inimical, inimical. Do not draw nigh to any flame on this day, for Râ entered the flames to strike all his enemies, and whosoever draws nigh to them on this day, it shall not be well with him during his whole life. The 12th of Tybi: inimical, inimical, inimical. See that thou beholdest not a rat on this day, nor approachest any rat within thy house: it is the day wherein Sokhît gave forth the decrees." In these cases a little watchfulness or exercise of memory sufficed to put a man on his guard against evil omens; but in many circumstances all the vigilance in the world would not protect him, and the fatality of the day would overtake him, without his being able to do ought to avert it. No man can at will place the day of his birth at a favourable time; he must accept it as it occurs, and yet it exercises a decisive influence on the manner of his death. According as he enters the world on the 4th, 5th, or 6th of Paophi, he either dies of marsh fever, of love, or of drunkenness. The child of the 23rd perishes by the jaws of a crocodile: that of the 27th is bitten and dies by a serpent. On the other hand, the fortunate man whose birthday falls on the 9th or the 29th lives to an extreme old age, and passes away peacefully, respected by all.
1 Drawn by Faucher-Gudin, from the tracing by Golbnischeff, Die Metternich-Stele, pi, iii. 14.
Thot, having pointed out the evil to men, gave to them at the same time the remedy. The magical arts of which he was the repository, made him virtual master of the other gods. He knew their mystic names, their secret weaknesses, the kind of peril they most feared, the ceremonies which subdued them to his will, the prayers which they could not refuse to grant under pain of misfortune or death. His wisdom, transmitted to his worshippers, assured to them the same authority which he exercised upon those in heaven, on earth, or in the nether world. The magicians instructed in his school had, like the god, control of the words and sounds which, emitted at the favourable moment with the "correct voice," would evoke the most formidable deities from beyond the confines of the universe: they could bind and loose at will Osiris, Sit, Anubis, even Thot himself; they could send them forth, and recall them, or constrain them to work and fight for them. The extent of their power exposed the magicians to terrible temptations; they were often led to use it to the detriment of others, to satisfy their spite, or to gratify their grosser appetites. Many, moreover, made a gain of their knowledge, putting it at the service of the ignorant who would pay for it. When they were asked to plague or get rid of an enemy, they had a hundred different ways of suddenly surrounding him without his suspecting it: they tormented him with deceptive or terrifying dreams; they harassed him with apparitions and mysterious voices; they gave him as a prey to sicknesses, to wandering spectres, who entered into him and slowly consumed him. They constrained, even at a distance, the wills of men; they caused women to be the victims of infatuations, to forsake those they had loved, and to love those they had previously detested. In order to compose an irresistible charm, they merely required a little blood from a person, a few nail-parings, some hair, or a scrap of linen which he had worn, and which, from contact with his skin, had become impregnated with his personality. Portions of these were incorporated with the wax of a doll which they modelled, and clothed to resemble their victim; thenceforward all the inflictions to which the image was subjected were experienced by the original; he was consumed with fever when his effigy was exposed to the fire, he was wounded when the figure was pierced by a knife. The Pharaohs themselves had no immunity from these spells.[*]
* Spells were employed against Ramses III., and the evidence in the criminal charge brought against the magicians explicitly mentions the wax figures and the philters used on this occasion.
These machinations were wont to be met by others of the same kind, and magic, if invoked at the right moment, was often able to annul the ills which magic had begun. It was not indeed all-powerful against fate: the man born on the 27th of Paophi would die of a snake-bite, whatever charm he might use to protect himself. But if the day of his death were foreordained, at all events the year in which it would occur was uncertain, and it was easy for the magician to arrange that it should not take place prematurely. A formula recited opportunely, a sentence of prayer traced on a papyrus, a little statuette worn about the person, the smallest amulet blessed and consecrated, put to flight the serpents who were the instruments of fate. Those curious stelae on which we see Horus half naked, standing on two crocodiles and brandishing in his fists creatures which had reputed powers of fascination, were so many protecting talismans; set up at the entrance to a room or a house, they kept off the animals represented and brought the evil fate to nought.
1 Drawn by Faucher-Gudin, from an Alexandrian stele in the Gîzeh Museum. The reason for the appearance of so many different animals in this stele and in others of the same nature, has been given by Maspero, Études de Mythologie et d'Archéologie Égyptiennes, vol. ii. pp. 417- 419; they were all supposed to possess the evil eye and to be able to fascinate their victim before striking him.
Sooner or later destiny would doubtless prevail, and the moment would come when the fated serpent, eluding all precautions, would succeed in carrying out the sentence of death. At all events the man would have lived, perhaps to the verge of old age, perhaps to the years of a hundred and ten, to which the wisest of the Egyptians hoped to attain, and which period no man born of mortal mother might exceed. If the arts of magic could thus suspend the law of destiny, how much more efficacious were they when combating the influences of secondary deities, the evil eye, and the spells of man? Thot, who was the patron of sortilege, presided also over exorcisms, and the criminal acts which some committed in his name could have reparation made for them by others in his name. To malicious genii, genii still stronger were opposed; to harmful amulets, those which were protective; to destructive measures, vitalizing remedies; and this was not even the most troublesome part of the magicians' task. Nobody, in fact, among those delivered by their intervention escaped unhurt from the trials to which, he had been subjected. The possessing spirits when they quitted their victim generally left behind them traces of their occupation, in the brain, heart, lungs, intestines—in fact, in the whole body. The illnesses to which the human race is prone, were not indeed all brought about by enchanters relentlessly persecuting their enemies, but they were all attributed to the presence of an invisible being, whether spectre or demon, who by some supernatural means had been made to enter the patient, or who, unbidden, had by malice or necessity taken up his abode within him. It was needful, after expelling the intruder, to re-establish the health of the sufferer by means of fresh remedies. The study of simples and other materiæ medicæ would furnish these; Thot had revealed himself to man as the first magician, he became in like manner for them the first physician and the first surgeon.
Egypt is naturally a very salubrious country, and the Egyptians boasted that they were "the healthiest of all mortals;" but they did not neglect any precautions to maintain their health. "Every month, for three successive days, they purged the system by means of emetics or clysters. The study of medicine with them was divided between specialists; each physician attending to one kind of illness only. Every place possessed several doctors; some for diseases of the eyes, others for the head, or the teeth, or the stomach, or for internal diseases." But the subdivision was not carried to the extent that Herodotus would make us believe. It was the custom to make a distinction only between the physician trained in the priestly schools, and further instructed by daily practice and the study of books,—the bone-setter attached to the worship of Sokhit who treated fractures by the intercession of the goddess,—and the exorcist who professed to cure by the sole virtue of amulets and magic phrases. The professional doctor treated all kinds of maladies, but, as with us, there were specialists for certain affections, who were consulted in preference to general practitioners. If the number of these specialists was so considerable as to attract the attention of strangers, it was because the climatic character of the country necessitated it. Where ophthalmia and affections of the intestines raged violently, we necessarily find many oculists[*] as well as doctors for internal maladies. The best instructed, however, knew but little of anatomy. As with the Christian physicians of the Middle Ages, religious scruples prevented the Egyptians from cutting open or dissecting, in the cause of pure science, the dead body which was identified with that of Osiris. The processes of embalming, which would have instructed them in anatomy, were not intrusted to doctors; the horror was so great with which any one was regarded who mutilated the human form, that the "paraschite," on whom devolved the duty of making the necessary incisions in the dead, became the object of universal execration: as soon as he had finished his task, the assistants assaulted him, throwing stones at him with such violence that he had to take to his heels to escape with his life.[**]
* Affections of the eyes occupy one-fourth of the Ebers Papyrus. ** Diodorus Siculus, i. 91.
The knowledge of what went on within the body was therefore but vague. Life seemed to be a little air, a breath which was conveyed by the veins from member to member. "The head contains twenty-two vessels, which draw the spirits into it and send them thence to all parts of the body. There are two vessels for the breasts, which communicate heat to the lower parts. There are two vessels for the thighs, two for the neck, two for the arms, two for the back of the head, two for the forehead, two for the eyes, two for the eyelids, two for the right ear by which enter the breaths of life, and two for the left ear which in like manner admit the breaths of death."
1 Drawn by Faucher-Gudin, from a sketch by Naville, in the Ægyptische Todtenbuch, vol. i. pl. lxix. The deceased carries in this hand a sail inflated by the wind, symbolizing the air, and holds it to his nostrils that he may inhale the breaths which will fill anew his arteries, and bring life to his limbs.
The "breaths" entering by the right ear, are "the good airs, the delicious airs of the north;" the sea-breeze which tempers the burning of summer and renews the strength of man, continually weakened by the heat and threatened with exhaustion. These vital spirits, entering the veins and arteries by the ear or nose, mingled with the blood, which carried them to all parts of the body; they sustained the animal, and were, so to speak, the cause of its movement. The heart, the perpetual mover—hâîti—collected them and redistributed them throughout the body: it was regarded as "the beginning of all the members," and whatever part of the living body the physician touched, "whether the head, the nape of the neck, the hands, the breast, the arms, the legs, his hand lit upon the heart," and he felt it beating under his fingers. Under the influence of the good breaths, the vessels were inflated and worked regularly; under that of the evil, they became inflamed, were obstructed, were hardened, or gave way, and the physician had to remove the obstruction, allay the inflammation, and re-establish their vigour and elasticity. At the moment of death, the vital spirits "withdrew with the soul; the blood," deprived of air, "became coagulated, the veins and arteries emptied themselves, and the creature perished" for want of breaths.
The majority of the diseases from which the ancient Egyptians suffered, are those which still attack their successors; ophthalmia, affections of the stomach, abdomen, and bladder, intestinal worms, varicose veins, ulcers in the leg, the Nile pimple, and finally the "divine mortal malady," the divinus morbus of the Latins, epilepsy. Anaemia, from which at least one-fourth of the present population suffers, was not less prevalent than at present, if we may judge from the number of remedies which were used against hematuria, the principal cause of it. The fertility of the women entailed a number of infirmities or local affections which the doctors attempted to relieve, not always with success.[*]
* With regard to the diseases of women, cf. Ebers Papyrus, pis. xciii., xcviii., etc. Several of the recipes are devoted to the solution of a problem which appears to have greatly exercised the mind of the ancients, viz. the determination of the sex of a child before its birth.
The science of those days treated externals only, and occupied itself merely with symptoms easily determined by sight or touch; it never suspected that troubles which showed themselves in two widely remote parts of the body might only be different effects of the same illness, and they classed as distinct maladies those indications which we now know to be the symptoms of one disease. They were able, however, to determine fairly well the specific characteristics of ordinary affections, and sometimes described them in a precise and graphic fashion. "The abdomen is heavy, the pit of the stomach painful, the heart burns and palpitates violently. The clothing oppresses the sick man and he can barely support it. Nocturnal thirsts. His heart is sick, as that of a man who has eaten of the sycamore gum. The flesh loses its sensitiveness as that of a man seized with illness. If he seek to satisfy a want of nature he finds no relief. Say to this, 'There is an accumulation of humours in the abdomen, which makes the heart sick. I will act.'" This is the beginning of gastric fever so common in Egypt, and a modern physician could not better diagnose such a case; the phraseology would be less flowery, but the analysis of the symptoms would not differ from that given us by the ancient practitioner. The medicaments recommended comprise nearly everything which can in some way or other be swallowed, whether in solid, mucilaginous, or liquid form. Vegetable remedies are reckoned by the score, from the most modest herb to the largest tree, such as the sycamore, palm, acacia, and cedar, of which the sawdust and shavings were supposed to possess both antiseptic and emollient properties. Among the mineral substances are to be noted sea-salt, alum, nitre, sulphate of copper, and a score of different kinds of stones—among the latter the "memphite stone" was distinguished for its virtues; if applied to parts of the body which were lacerated or unhealthy, it acted as an anaesthetic and facilitated the success of surgical operations. Flesh taken from the living subject, the heart, the liver, the gall, the blood—either dried or liquid—of animals, the hair and horn of stags, were all customarily used in many cases where the motive determining their preference above other materiæ medicæ is unknown to us. Many recipes puzzle us by their originality and by the barbaric character of the ingredients recommended: "the milk of a woman who has given birth to a boy," the dung of a lion, a tortoise's brains, an old book boiled in oil.[*]
* Ebers Papyrus, pl. lxxviii. 1. 22—lxxix. 1. 1: "To relieve a child who is constipated.—An old book. Boil it in oil, and apply half to the stomach, to provoke evacuation." It must not be forgotten that, the writings being on papyrus, the old book in question, once boiled, would have an effect analogous to that of our linseed-meal poultices. If the physician recommended taking an old one, it was for economical reasons merely; the Egyptians of the middle classes would always have in their possession a number of letters, copy-books, and other worthless waste papers, of which they would gladly rid themselves in such a profitable manner.
The medicaments compounded of these incongruous substances were often very complicated. It was thought that the healing power was increased by multiplying the curative elements; each ingredient acted upon a specific region of the body, and after absorption, separated itself from the rest to bring its influence to bear upon that region. The physician made use of all the means which we employ to-day to introduce remedies into the human system, whether pills or potions, poultices, or ointments, draughts or clysters. Not only did he give the prescriptions, but he made them up, thus combining the art of the physician with that of the dispenser. He prescribed the ingredients, pounded them either separately or together, he macerated them in the proper way, boiled them, reduced them by heating, and filtered them through linen. Fat served him as the ordinary vehicle for ointments, and pure water for potions; but he did not despise other liquids, such as wine, beer (fermented or un-fermented), vinegar, milk, olive oil, "ben" oil either crude or refined, even the urine of men and animals: the whole, sweetened with honey, was taken hot, night and morning. The use of more than one of these remedies became worldwide; the Greeks borrowed them from the Egyptians; we have piously accepted them from the Greeks; and our contemporaries still swallow with resignation many of the abominable mixtures invented on the banks of the Nile, long before the building of the Pyramids.
It was Thot who had taught men arithmetic; Thot had revealed to them the mysteries of geometry and mensuration; Thot had constructed instruments and promulgated the laws of music; Thot had instituted the art of drawing, and had codified its unchanging rules. He had been the inventor or patron of all that was useful or beautiful in the Nile valley, and the climax of his beneficence was reached by his invention of the principles of writing, without which humanity would have been liable to forget his teaching, and to lose the advantage of his discoveries. It has been sometimes questioned whether writing, instead of having been a benefit to the Egyptians, did not rather injure them. An old legend relates that when the god unfolded his discovery to King Thamos, whose minister he was, the monarch immediately raised an objection to it.
1 Bas-relief of the temple of Seti I. at Abydos, drawn by Boudier; from a photograph by Beato. The god is marking with his reed-pen upon the notches of a long frond of palm, the duration in millions of years of the reign of Pharaoh upon this earth, in accordance with the decree of the gods.
Children and young people, who had hitherto been forced to apply themselves diligently to learn and retain whatever was taught them, now that they possessed a means of storing up knowledge without trouble, would cease to apply themselves, and would neglect to exercise their memories. Whether Thamos was right or not, the criticism came too late: "the ingenious art of painting words and of speaking to the eyes" had once for all been acquired by the Egyptians, and through them by the greater part of mankind. It was a very complex system, in which were united most of the methods fitted for giving expression to thought, namely: those which were limited to the presentment of the idea, and those which were intended to suggest sounds.
At the outset the use was confined to signs intended to awaken the idea of the object in the mind of the reader by the more or less faithful picture of the object itself; for example, they depicted the sun by a centred disc, the moon by a crescent, a lion by a lion in the act of walking, a man by a small figure in a squatting attitude. As by this method it was possible to convey only a very restricted number of entirely materialistic concepts, it became necessary to have recourse to various artifices in order to make up for the shortcomings of the ideograms properly so-called. The part was put for the whole, the pupil in place of the whole eye, the head of the ox instead of the complete ox. The Egyptians substituted cause for effect and effect for cause, the instrument for the work accomplished, and the disc of the sun signified the day; a smoking brazier the fire: the brush, inkpot, and palette of the scribe denoted writing or written documents. They conceived the idea of employing some object which presented an actual or supposed resemblance to the notion to be conveyed; thus, the foreparts of a lion denoted priority, supremacy, command; the wasp symbolized royalty, and a tadpole stood for hundreds of thousands. They ventured finally to use conventionalisms, as for instance when they drew the axe for a god, or the ostrich-feather for justice; the sign in these cases had only a conventional connection with the concept assigned to it. At times two or three of these symbols were associated in order to express conjointly an idea which would have been inadequately rendered by one of them alone: a five-pointed star placed under an inverted crescent moon denoted a month, a calf running before the sign for water indicated thirst.
All these artifices combined furnished, however, but a very incomplete means of seizing and transmitting thought. When the writer had written out twenty or thirty of these signs and the ideas which they were supposed to embody, he had before him only the skeleton of a sentence, from which the flesh and sinews had disappeared; the tone and rhythm of the words were wanting, as were also the indications of gender, number, person, and inflection, which distinguish the different parts of speech and determine the varying relations between them. Besides this, in order to understand for himself and to guess the meaning of the author, the reader was obliged to translate the symbols which he deciphered, by means of words which represented in the spoken language the pronunciation of each symbol. Whenever he looked at them, they suggested to him both the idea and the word for the idea, and consequently a sound or group of sounds; when each of them had thus acquired three or four invariable associations of sound, he forgot their purely ideographic value and accustomed himself to consider them merely as notations of sound.
The first experiment in phonetics was a species of rebus, where each of the signs, divorced from its original sense, served to represent several words, similar in sound, but differing in meaning in the spoken language. The same group of articulations, Naûfir, Nofir, conveyed in Egyptian the concrete idea of a lute and the abstract idea of beauty; the sign expressed at once the lute and beauty.
The beetle was called Khopirru, and the verb "to be" was pronounced khopirû: the figure of the beetle & consequently signified both the insect and the verb, and by further combining with it other signs, the articulation of each corresponding syllable was given in detail. The sieve Miaû, the mat pu, pi, the mouth ra, rû, gave the formula khaû-pi-rû, which was equivalent to the sound of khopirû, the verb "to be:" grouped together, they denoted in writing the concept of "to be" by means of a triple rebus. In this system, each syllable of a word could be represented by one of several signs, all sounding alike. One-half of these "syllables" stood for open, the other half for closed syllables, and the use of the former soon brought about the formation of a true alphabet. The final vowel in them became detached, and left only the remaining consonant—for example, r in rû, h in ha, n in ni, b in bû—so that rû, ha, bû, eventually stood for r, h, n, and b only. This process in the course of time having been applied to a certain number of syllables, furnished a fairly large alphabet, in which several letters represented each of the twenty-two chief articulations, which the scribes considered sufficient for their purposes. The signs corresponding to one and the same letter were homophones or "equivalents in sound"—[ ] are homophones, just as [ ] and [ ], because each of them, in the group to which it belongs, may be indifferently used to translate to the eye the articulations m or n. One would have thought that when the Egyptians had arrived thus far, they would have been led, as a matter of course, to reject the various characters which they had used each in its turn, in order to retain an alphabet only.
But the true spirit of invention, of which they had given proof, abandoned them here as elsewhere: if the merit of a discovery was often their due, they were rarely able to bring their invention to perfection. They kept the ideographic and syllabic signs which they had used at the outset, and, with the residue of their successive notations, made for themselves a most complicated system, in which syllables and ideograms were mingled with letters properly so called. There is a little of everything in an Egyptian phrase, sometimes even in a word; as, for instance, in [ ] maszirû, the ear, or [ ] kherôû, the voice; there are the syllables [ ] kher, the ordinary letters [ ], which complete the phonetic pronunciation, and finally the ideograms, namely, [ ], which gives the picture of the ear by the side of the written word for it, and [ ] which proves that the letters represent a term designating an action of the mouth. This medley had its advantages; it enabled the Egyptians to make clear, by the picture of the object, the sense of words which letters alone might sometimes insufficiently explain. The system demanded a serious effort of memory and long years of study; indeed, many people never completely mastered it. The picturesque appearance of the sentences, in which we see representations of men, animals, furniture, weapons, and tools grouped together in successive little pictures, rendered hieroglyphic writing specially suitable for the decoration of the temples of the gods or the palaces of kings. Mingled with scenes of worship, sacrifice, battle, or private life, the inscriptions frame or separate groups of personages, and occupy the vacant spaces which the sculptor or painter was at a loss to fill; hieroglyphic writing is pre-eminently a monumental script. For the ordinary purposes of life it was traced in black or red ink on fragments of limestone or pottery, or on wooden tablets covered with stucco, and specially on the fibres of papyrus. The exigencies of haste and the unskilfulness of scribes soon changed both its appearance and its elements; the characters when contracted, superimposed and united to one another with connecting strokes, preserved only the most distant resemblance to the persons or things which they had originally represented. This cursive writing, which was somewhat incorrectly termed hieratic, was used only for public or private documents, for administrative correspondence, or for the propagation of literary, scientific, and religious works.
It was thus that tradition was pleased to ascribe to the gods, and among them to Thot—the doubly great—the invention of all the arts and sciences which gave to Egypt its glory and prosperity. It was clear, not only to the vulgar, but to the wisest of the nation, that, had their ancestors been left merely to their own resources, they would never have succeeded in raising themselves much above the level of the brutes. The idea that a discovery of importance to the country could have risen in a human brain, and, once made known, could have been spread and developed by the efforts of successive generations, appeared to them impossible to accept. They believed that every art, every trade, had remained unaltered from the outset, and if some novelty in its aspect tended to show them their error, they preferred to imagine a divine intervention, rather than be undeceived. The mystic writing, inserted as chapter sixty-four in the Book of the Dead, and which subsequently was supposed to be of decisive moment to the future life of man, was, as they knew, posterior in date to the other formulas of which this book was composed; they did not, however, regard it any the less as being of divine origin. It had been found one day, without any one knowing whence it came, traced in blue characters on a plaque of alabaster, at the foot of the statue of Thot, in the sanctuary of Hermopolis. A prince, Hardiduf, had discovered it in his travels, and regarding it as a miraculous object, had brought it to his sovereign. This king, according to some, was Hûsaphaîti of the first dynasty, but by others was believed to be the pious Mykerinos. In the same way, the book on medicine, dealing with the diseases of women, was held not to be the work of a practitioner; it had revealed itself to a priest watching at night before the Holy of Holies in the temple of Isis at Coptos. "Although the earth was plunged into darkness, the moon shone upon it and enveloped it with light. It was sent as a great wonder to the holiness of King Kheops, the just of speech." The gods had thus exercised a direct influence upon men until they became entirely civilized, and this work of culture was apportioned among the three divine dynasties according to the strength of each. The first, which comprised the most vigorous divinities, had accomplished the more difficult task of establishing the world on a solid basis; the second had carried on the education of the Egyptians; and the third had regulated, in all its minutiae, the religious constitution of the country. When there was nothing more demanding supernatural strength or intelligence to establish it, the gods returned to heaven, and were succeeded on the throne by mortal men. One tradition maintained dogmatically that the first human king whose memory it preserved, followed immediately after the last of the gods, who, in quitting the palace, had made over the crown to man as his heir, and that the change of nature had not entailed any interruption in the line of sovereigns. Another tradition would not allow that the contact between the human and divine series had been so close. Between the Ennead and Menés, it intercalated one or more lines of Theban or Thinite kings; but these were of so formless, shadowy, and undefined an aspect, that they were called Manes, and there was attributed to them at most only a passive existence, as of persons who had always been in the condition of the dead, and had never been subjected to the trouble of passing through life. Menés was the first in order of those who were actually living. From his time, the Egyptians claimed to possess an uninterrupted list of the Pharaohs who had ruled over the Nile valley. As far back as the XVIIIth dynasty this list was written upon papyrus, and furnished the number of years that each prince occupied the throne, or the length of his life.[*]
* The only one of these lists which we possess, the "Turin Royal Papyrus," was bought, nearly intact, at Thebes, by Drovetti, about 1818, but was accidentally injured by him in bringing home. The fragments of it were acquired, together with the rest of the collection, by the Piedmontese Government in 1820, and placed in the Turin Museum, where Champollion saw and drew attention to them in 1824. Seyffarth carefully collected and arranged them in the order in which they now are; subsequently Lepsius gave a facsimile of them in 1840, in his Auswahl der wichtigsten Urhunden, pls. i.-vi., but this did not include the verso; Champollion-Figeac edited in 1847, in the Revue Archéologique, 1st series, vol. vi., the tracings taken by the younger Champollion before Seyffarth's arrangement; lastly, Wilkinson published the whole in detail in 1851. Since then, the document has been the subject of continuous investigation: E. de Rougé has reconstructed, in an almost conclusive manner, the pages containing the first six dynasties, and Lauth, with less certainty, those which deal with the eight following dynasties.
Extracts from it were inscribed in the temples, or even in the tombs of private persons; and three of these abridged catalogues are still extant, two coming from the temples of Seti I. and Ramses II. at Abydos,[*] while the other was discovered in the tomb of a person of rank named Tunari, at Saqqâra.[**] They divided this interminable succession of often problematical personages into dynasties, following in this division, rules of which we are ignorant, and which varied in the course of ages. In the time of the Ramessides, names in the list which subsequently under the Lagides formed five groups were made to constitute one single dynasty.[***]
* The first table of Abydos, unfortunately incomplete, was discovered in the temple of Ramses II. by Banks, in 1818; the copy published by Caillaud and by Salt served as a foundation for Champollion's first investigations on the history of Egypt. The original, brought to France by Mimaut, was acquired by England, and is now in the British Museum. The second table, which is complete, all but a few signs, was brought to light by Mariette in 1864, in the excavations at Abydos, and was immediately noticed and published by Dùmichen. The text of it is to be found in Mariette, La Nouvelle Table d'Abydos (Revue Archéologique, 2nd series, vol. xiii.), and Abydos, vol. i. pl. 43. ** The table of Saqqâra, discovered in 1863, has been published by Mariette, La Table de Saqqâra (Revue Archéologique, 2nd series, vol. x. p. 169, et seq.), and reproduced in the Monuments Divers, pl. 58. *** The Royal Canon of Turin, which dates from the Ramesside period, gives, indeed, the names of these early kings without a break, until the list reaches Unas; at this point it sums up the number of Pharaohs and the aggregate years of their reigns, thus indicating the end of a dynasty. In the intervals between the dynasties rubrics are placed, pointing out the changes which took place in the order of direct succession. The division of the same group of sovereigns into five dynasties has been preserved to us by Manetho.
Manetho of Sebennytos, who wrote a history of Europe for the use of Alexandrine Greeks, had adopted, on some unknown authority, a division of thirty-one dynasties from Menés to the Macedonian Conquest, and his system has prevailed—not, indeed, on account of its excellence, but because it is the only complete one which has come down to us.[*] All the families inscribed in his lists ruled in succession.[**]
* The best restoration of the system of Manetho is that by Lepsius, Das Konigsbuch der Alten Ægypter, which should be completed and corrected from the memoirs of Lauth, Lieblein, Krall, and Unger. A common fault attaches to all these memoirs, so remarkable in many respects. They regard the work of Manetho, not as representing a more or less ingenious system applied to Egyptian history, but as furnishing an authentic scheme of this history, in which it is necessary to enclose all the royal names which the monuments have revealed, and are still daily revealing to us. ** E. de Rougé triumphantly demonstrated, in opposition to Bunsen, now nearly fifty years ago, that all Manetho's dynasties are successive, and the monuments discovered from year to year in Egypt have confirmed his demonstration in every detail.
The country was no doubt frequently broken up into a dozen or more independent states, each possessing its own kings during several generations; but the annalists had from the outset discarded these collateral lines, and recognized only one legitimate dynasty, of which the rest were but vassals. Their theory of legitimacy does not always agree with actual history, and the particular line of princes which they rejected as usurpers represented at times the only family possessing true rights to the crown.[*]
* It is enough to give two striking examples of this. The royal lists of the time of the Ramessides suppress, at the end of the XVIIIth dynasty, Amenôthes IV. and several of his successors, and give the following sequence—Amenôthes III., Harmhabît, Ramses I., without any apparent hiatus; Manetho, on the contrary, replaces the kings who were omitted, and keeps approximately to the real order between Horos (Amenôthes III.) and Armais (Harmhabît). Again, the official tradition of the XXth dynasty gives, between Ramses II. and Ramses III., the sequence—Mînephtah, Seti IL, Nakht-Seti; Manetho, on the other hand, gives Amenemes followed by Thûôris, who appear to correspond to the Amenmeses and Siphtah of contemporary monuments, but, after Mînephtah, he omits Seti II. and Nakhîtou-Seti, the father of Ramses III.
In Egypt, as elsewhere, the official chroniclers were often obliged to accommodate the past to the exigencies of the present, and to manipulate the annals to suit the reigning party; while obeying their orders the chroniclers deceived posterity, and it is only by a rare chance that we can succeed in detecting them in the act of falsification, and can re-establish the truth.
The system of Manetho, in the state in which it has been handed down to us by epitomizers, has rendered, and continues to render, service to science; if it is not the actual history of Egypt, it is a sufficiently faithful substitute to warrant our not neglecting it when we wish to understand and reconstruct the sequence of events. His dynasties furnish the necessary framework for most of the events and revolutions, of which the monuments have preserved us a record. At the outset, the centre to which the affairs of the country gravitated was in the extreme north of the valley. The principality which extended from the entrance of the Fayûm to the apex of the Delta, and subsequently the town of Memphis itself, imposed their sovereigns upon the remaining nomes, served as an emporium for commerce and national industries, and received homage and tribute from neighbouring peoples. About the time of the VIth dynasty this centre of gravity was displaced, and tended towards the interior; it was arrested for a short time at Heracleo-polis (IXth and Xth dynasties), and ended by fixing itself at Thebes (XIth dynasty). From henceforth Thebes became the capital, and furnished Egypt with her rulers. With the exception of the XIVth Xoïte dynasty, all the families occupying the throne from the XIth to the XXth dynasty were Theban. When the barbarian shepherds invaded Africa from Asia, the Thebaïd became the last refuge and bulwark of Egyptian nationality; its chiefs struggled for many centuries against the conquerors before they were able to deliver the rest of the valley. It was a Theban dynasty, the XVIIIth, which inaugurated the era of foreign conquest; but after the XIXth, a movement, the reverse of that which had taken place towards the end of the first period, brought back the centre of gravity, little by little, towards the north of the country. From the time of the XXIst dynasty, Thebes ceased to hold the position of capital: Tanis, Bubastis, Mendes, Sebennytos, and above all, Sais, disputed the supremacy with each other, and political life was concentrated in the maritime provinces. Those of the interior, ruined by Ethiopian and Assyrian invasions, lost their influence and gradually dwindled away. Thebes became impoverished and depopulated; it fell into ruins, and soon was nothing more than a resort for devotees or travellers. The history of Egypt is, therefore, divided into three periods, each corresponding to the suzerainty of a town or a principality:—
I.—Memphite Period, usually called the "Ancient Empire," from the Ist to the Xth dynasty: kings of Memphite origin ruled over the whole of Egypt during the greater part of this epoch.
II.—Theban Period, from the XIth to the XXth dynasty. It is divided into two parts by the invasion of the Shepherds (XVIth dynasty):
a. The first Theban Empire (Middle Empire), from the XIth to the XIVth dynasty.
b. The new Theban Empire, from the XVIIth to the XXth dynasty.
III.—Saïte Period, from the XXIst to the XXXth dynasty, divided into two unequal parts by the Persian Conquest:
a. The first Saïte period, from the XXIst to the XXVIth dynasty.
b. The second Saïte period, from the XXVIIIth to the XXXth dynasty.
The Memphites had created the monarchy. The Thebans extended the rule of Egypt far and wide, and made of her a conquering state: for nearly six centuries she ruled over the Upper Nile and over Western Asia. Under the Saïtes she retired gradually within her natural frontiers, and from having been aggressive became assailed, and suffered herself to be crushed in turn by all the nations she had once oppressed.[*]
* The division into Ancient, Middle, and New Empire, proposed by Lepsius, has the disadvantage of not taking into account the influence which the removal of the seat of the dynasties exercised on the history of the country. The arrangement which I have here adopted was first put forward in the Revue critique, 1873, vol. i. pp. 82, 83.
The monuments have as yet yielded no account of the events which tended to unite the country under the rule of one man; we can only surmise that the feudal principalities had gradually been drawn together into two groups, each of which formed a separate kingdom. Heliopolis became the chief focus in the north, from which civilization radiated over the rich plains and the marshes of the Delta. Its colleges of priests had collected, condensed, and arranged the principal myths of the local religions; the Ennead to which it gave conception would never have obtained the popularity which we must acknowledge it had, if its princes had not exercised, for at least some period, an actual suzerainty over the neighbouring plains. It was around Heliopolis that the kingdom of Lower Egypt was organized; everything there bore traces of Heliopolitan theories—the protocol of the kings, their supposed descent from Râ, and the enthusiastic worship which they offered to the sun. The Delta, owing to its compact and restricted area, was aptly suited for government from one centre; the Nile valley proper, narrow, tortuous, and stretching like a thin strip on either bank of the river, did not lend itself to so complete a unity. It, too, represented a single kingdom, having the reed and the lotus for its emblems; but its component parts were more loosely united, its religion was less systematized, and it lacked a well-placed city to serve as a political and sacerdotal centre. Hermopolis contained schools of theologians who certainly played an important part in the development of myths and dogmas; but the influence of its rulers was never widely felt. In the south, Siût disputed their supremacy, and Heracleopolis stopped their road to the north. These three cities thwarted and neutralized one another, and not one of them ever succeeded in obtaining a lasting authority over Upper Egypt. Each of the two kingdoms had its own natural advantages and its system of government, which gave to it a particular character, and stamped it, as it were, with a distinct personality down to its latest days. The kingdom of Upper Egypt was more powerful, richer, better populated, and was governed apparently by more active and enterprising rulers. It is to one of the latter, Mini or Menés of Thinis, that tradition ascribes the honour of having fused the two Egypts into a single empire, and of having inaugurated the reign of the human dynasties. Thinis figured in the historic period as one of the least of Egyptian cities. It barely maintained an existence on the left bank of the Nile, if not on the exact spot now occupied by Girgeh, at least only a short distance from it.[*]
* The site of Thinis is not yet satisfactorily identified. It is neither at Kom-es-Sultân, as Mariette thought, nor, according to the hypothesis of A. Schmidt, at El-Kherbeh. Brugsch has proposed to fix the site at the village of Tineh, near Berdis, and is followed in this by Dumichen. The present tendency is to identify it either with Girgeh itself, or with one of the small neighbouring towns—for example, Birbeh—where there are some ancient ruins; this was also the opinion of Champollion and of Nester L'hôte. I may mention that, in a frequently quoted passage of Hellanicos, Zoèga corrects the reading [Greek phrase], which would once more give us the name of Thinis: the mention of this town as being "situated on the river," would be a fresh reason for its identification with Girgeh.
The principality of the Osirian Reliquary, of which it was the metropolis, occupied the valley from one mountain range to the other, and gradually extended across the desert as far as the Great Theban Oasis. Its inhabitants worshipped a sky-god, Anhûri, or rather two twin gods, Anhûri-Shû, who were speedily amalgamated with the solar deities and became a warlike personification of Râ. Anhûri-Shû, like all the other solar manifestations, came to be associated with a goddess having the form or head of a lioness—a Sokhît, who took for the occasion the epithet of Mîhît, the northern one. Some of the dead from this city are buried on the other side of the Nile, near the modern village of Mesheikh, at the foot of the Arabian chain, whose steep cliffs here approach somewhat near the river: the principal necropolis was at some distance to the east, near the sacred town of Abydos. It would appear that, at the outset, Abydos was the capital of the country, for the entire nome bore the same name as the city, and had adopted for its symbol the representation of the reliquary in which the god reposed. In very early times Abydos fell into decay, and resigned its political rank to Thinis, but its religious importance remained unimpaired. The city occupied a long and narrow strip of land between the canal and the first slopes of the Libyan mountains. A brick fortress defended it from the incursions of the Bedouin, and beside it the temple of the god of the dead reared its naked walls. Here, Anhûri, having passed from life to death, was worshipped under the name of Khontamentît, the chief of that western region whither souls repair on quitting this earth. It is impossible to say by what blending of doctrines or by what political combinations this Sun of the Night came to be identified with Osiris of Mendes, since the fusion dates back to a very remote antiquity; it had become an established fact long before the most ancient sacred books were compiled. Osiris Khontamentît grew rapidly in popular favour, and his temple attracted annually an increasing number of pilgrims. The Great Oasis had been considered at first as a sort of mysterious paradise, whither the dead went in search of peace and happiness. It was called Uîfc, the Sepulchre; this name clung to it after it had become an actual Egyptian province, and the remembrance of its ancient purpose survived in the minds of the people, so that the "cleft," or gorge in the mountain through which the doubles journeyed towards it, never ceased to be regarded as one of the gates of the other world. At the time of the New Year festivals, spirits flocked thither from all parts of the valley; they there awaited the coming of the dying sun, in order to embark with him and enter safely the dominions of Khontamentît. Abydos, even before the historic period, was the only town, and its god the only god, whose worship, practised by all Egyptians, inspired them all with an equal devotion. The excavations of the last few years have brought to light some, at all events, of the oldest Pharaohs known to the Egyptian annalists, namely, those whom they placed in their first human dynasties; and the locality where the monuments of these princes were discovered, shows us that these writers were correct in representing Thinis as playing an important part in the history of the early ages of their country. If the tomb of Menés—that sovereign whom we are inclined to look upon as the first king of the official lists—lies near the village of Nagadeh, not far from Thebes,[*] those of his immediate successors are close to Thinis, in the cemeteries of Abydos.[**] They stand at the very foot of the Libyan hills, near the entrance to the ravine—the "Cleft"—through which the mysterious oasis was reached, and thither the souls flocked in order that they might enter by a safe way the land beyond the grave.[***]
* The objects found during these excavations are now in the Gîzeh Museum. ** The credit of having discovered this important necropolis, and of having brought to light the earliest known monuments of the first dynasties, is entirely due to Amélineau. He carried on important work there during four years, from 1895 to 1899: unfortunately its success was impaired by the theories which he elaborated with regard to the new monuments, and by the delay in publishing an account of the objects which remained in his possession. *** For the "Cleft," cf. supra, pp. 281, 282, 334.
The mass of pottery, whole and broken, which has accumulated on this site from the offerings of centuries has obtained for it among the Fellahin the name of Omm-el-G-aâb—"the mother of pots." The tombs there lie in serried ranks. They present for the most part a rough model of the pyramids of the Memphite period—rectangular structures of bricks without mortar rising slightly above the level of the plain. The funeral chamber occupies the centre of each, and is partly hollowed out of the soil, like a shallow well, the sides being bricked. It had a flat timber roof, covered by a layer of about three feet of sand; the floor also was of wood, and in several cases the remains of the beams of both ceiling and pavement have been brought to light. The body of the royal inmate was laid in the middle of the chamber, surrounded by its funeral furniture and by a part of the offerings. The remainder was placed in the little rooms which opened out of the principal vault, sometimes on the same level, sometimes on one higher than itself; after their contents had been laid within them, the entrance to these rooms was generally walled up. Human bodies have been found inside them, probably those of slaves killed at the funeral that they might wait upon the dead in his life beyond the grave.[*] The objects placed in these chambers were mostly offerings, but besides these were coarse stelae bearing the name of a person, and dictated to "the double of his luminary."[**] Some of them mention a dwarf[***] or a favourite dog of the sovereign, who accompanied his master into the tomb. Tablets of ivory or bone skilfully incised furnish us with scenes representing some of the ceremonies of the deification of the king in his lifetime and the sacrifices offered at the time of his burial;[****] in rarer instances they record his exploits.
* El. Petrie, The Royal Tombs of the First Dynasty, part i. p. 14. ** The "luminous double" or the "double of his luminary" is doubtless that luminous spectre which haunted the tombs and even the houses of the living during the night, and which I have mentioned, supra, p. 160. *** Petrie found the skeletons of two dwarfs, probably the very two to whom the two stelae (Nos. 36, 37) in the tomb of Semempses were raised. Was one of these dwarfs one of the Danga of Puanît who were sought after by the Pharaohs of the Memphite dynasties? **** This was the ceremony called by the Egyptians "The Festival of the Foundation "—habu sadu.
The offerings themselves were such as we meet with in burials of a subsequent age—bread, cakes, meat, and poultry of various sorts—indeed, everything we find mentioned in the lists inscribed in the tombs of the later dynasties, particularly the jars of wine and liquors, on the clay bungs of which are still legible the impression of the signet bearing the name of the sovereign for whose use they were sealed. Besides stuffs and mats, the furniture comprised chairs, beds, stools, an enormous number of vases, some in coarse pottery for common use, others in choice stone such as diorite, granite, or rock crystal very finely worked, on the fragments of all of which may be read cut in outline the names and preamble of the Pharaoh to whom the object belonged. The ceremonial of the funerary offering and its significance was already fully developed at this early period; this can be gathered by the very nature of the objects buried with the deceased, by their number, quantity, and by the manner in which they were arranged. Like their successors in the Egypt of later times, these ancient kings expected to continue their material existence within the tomb, and they took precautions that life there should be as comfortable as circumstances should permit. Access to the tomb was sometimes gained by a sloping passage or staircase; this made it possible to see if everything within was in a satisfactory condition. After the dead had been enclosed in his chamber, and five or six feet of sand had been spread over the beams which formed its roof, the position of the tomb was shown merely by a scarcely perceptible rise in the soil of the necropolis, and its site would soon have been forgotten, if its easternmost limits had not been marked by two large stelae on which were carefully engraved one of the appellations of the king—that of his double, or his Horus name.[*]
* For the Horus name of the Pharaohs, see vol. ïi., pp. 23- 25.
It was on this spot, upon an altar placed between the two stelæ, that the commemorative ceremonies were celebrated, and the provisions renewed on certain days fixed by the religious law. Groups of private tombs were scattered around,—the resting-places of the chief officers of the sovereign, the departed Pharaoh being thus surrounded in death by the same courtiers as those who had attended him during his earthly existence.
The princes, whose names and titles have been revealed to us by the inscriptions on these tombs, have not by any means been all classified as yet, the prevailing custom at that period having been to designate them by their Horus names, but rarely by their proper names, which latter is the only one which figures in the official lists which we possess of the Egyptian kings. A few texts, more explicit than the rest, enable us to identify three of them with the Usaphais, the Miebis, and the Semempses of Manetho—the fifth, sixth, and seventh kings of the Ist dynasty.[*] The fact that they are buried in the necropolis of Abydos apparently justifies the opinion of the Egyptian chroniclers that they were natives of Thinis. Is the Menés who usually figures at their head[**] also a Thinite prince?
* The credit is due to Sethe of having attributed their ordinary names to several of the kings of the Ist dynasty with Horus names only which were found by Amélineau, and these identifications have been accepted by all Egyptologists. Pétrie discovered quite recently on some fragments of vases the Horus names of these same princes, together with their ordinary names. The Usaphais, the Miebis, and the Semempses of Manetho are now satisfactorily identified with three of the Pharaohs discovered by Amélineau and by Pétrie. ** In the time of Seti I. and Ramses II. he heads the list of the Table of Abydos. Under Ramses II. his statue was carried in procession, preceding all the other royal statues. Finally, the "Royal Papyrus" of Turin, written in the time of Ramses I., begins the entire series of the human Pharaohs with his name.
Several scholars believe that his ordinary name, Mini, is to be read on an ivory tablet engraved for a sovereign whose Horus name—Ahauîti, the warlike—is known to us from several documents, and whose tomb also has been discovered, but at Nagadeh. It is a great rectangular structure of bricks 165 feet long and 84 broad, the external walls of which were originally ornamented by deep polygonal grooves, resembling those which score the façade of Chaldæan buildings, but the Nagadeh tomjb has a second brick wall which fills up all the hollows left in the first one, and thus hides the primitive decoration of the monument. The building contains twenty-one chambers, five of which in the centre apparently constituted the dwelling of the deceased, while the others, grouped around these, serve as storehouses from whence he could draw his provisions at will. Did the king buried within indeed bear the name of Menés,[*] and if such was the case, how are we to reconcile the tradition of his Thinite origin with the existence of his far-off tomb in the neighbourhood of Thebes?
* The sign Manu, which appears on the ivory tablet found in this tomb, has been interpreted as a king's name, and consequently inferred to be Menés. This reading has been disputed on various sides, and the point remains, therefore, a contested one until further discovery.
Objects bearing his Horus name have been found at Omm-el-Gaâb, and it is evident that he belonged to the same age as the sovereigns interred in this necropolis. If, indeed, Menés was really his personal name, there is no reason against his being the Menés of tradition, he whom the Pharaohs of the glorious Theban dynasties regarded as the earliest of their purely human ancestors. Whether he was really the first king who reigned over the whole of Egypt, or whether he had been preceded by other sovereigns whose monuments we may find in some site still unexplored, is a matter for conjecture. That princes had exercised authority in various parts of the country is still uncertain, but that the Egyptian historians did not know them, seems to prove that they had left no written records of their names. At any rate, a Menés lived who reigned at the outset of history, and doubtless before long the Nile valley, when more carefully explored, will yield us monuments recording his actions and determining his date. The civilization of the Egypt of his time was ruder than that with which we have hitherto been familiar on its soil, but even at that early period it was almost as complete. It had its industries and its arts, of which the cemeteries furnish us daily with the most varied examples: weaving, modelling in clay, wood-carving, the incising of ivory, gold, and the hardest stone were all carried on; the ground was cultivated with hoe and plough; tombs were built showing us the model of what the houses and palaces must have been; the country had its army, its administrators, its priests, its nobles, its writing, and its system of epigraphy differs so little from that to which we are accustomed in later ages, that we can decipher it with no great difficulty. Frankly speaking, all that we know at present of the first of the Pharaohs beyond the mere fact of his existence is practically nil, and the stories related of him by the writers of classical times are mere legends arranged to suit the fancy of the compiler. "This Menés, according to the priests, surrounded Memphis with dykes. For the river formerly followed the sandhills for some distance on the Libyan side. Menés, having dammed up the reach about a hundred stadia to the south of Memphis, caused the old bed to dry up, and conveyed the river through an artificial channel dug midway between the two mountain ranges. Then Menés, the first who was king, having enclosed a firm space of ground with dykes, there founded that town which is still called Memphis; he then made a lake round it, to the north and west, fed by the river, the city being bounded on the east by the Nile."[*]
* The dyke supposed to have been made by Menés is evidently that of Qosheîsh, which now protects the province of Gîzeh, and regulates the inundation in its neighbourhood.
The history of Memphis, such as it can be gathered from the monuments, differs considerably from the tradition current in Egypt at the time of Herodotus. It appears, indeed, that at the outset, the site on which it subsequently arose was occupied by a small fortress, Anbû-hazû—the white wall—which was dependent on Heliopolis, and in which Phtah possessed a sanctuary. After the "white wall" was separated from the Heliopolitan principality to form a nome by itself, it assumed a certain importance, and furnished, so it was said, the dynasties which succeeded the Thinite. Its prosperity dates only, however, from the time when the sovereigns of the Vth and VIth dynasties fixed on it for their residence; one of them, Papi L, there founded for himself and for his "double" after him, a new town, which he called Minnofîrû, from his tomb. Minnofîrû, which is the correct pronunciation and the origin of Memphis, probably signified "the good refuge," the haven of the good, the burying-place where the blessed dead came to rest beside Osiris. The people soon forgot the true interpretation, or probably it did not fall in with their taste for romantic tales. They were rather disposed, as a rule, to discover in the beginnings of history individuals from whom the countries or cities with which they were familiar took their names: if no tradition supplied them with this, they did not experience any scruple in inventing one. The Egyptians of the time of the Ptolemies, who were guided in their philological speculations by the pronunciation in vogue around them, attributed the patronship of their city to a Princess Memphis, a daughter of its founder, the fabulous Uchoreus; those of preceding ages before the name had become altered, thought to find in Minnofîrû a "Mini Nofir," or "Menés the Good," the reputed founder of the capital of the Delta. Menés the Good, divested of his epithet, is none other than Menés, the first king, and he owes this episode in his life to a popular attempt at etymology. The legend which identifies the establishment of the kingdom with the construction of the city, must have originated at the time when Memphis was still the residence of the kings and the seat of government, at latest about the end of the Memphite period. It must have been an old tradition in the time of the Theban dynasties, since they admitted unhesitatingly the authenticity of the statements which ascribed to the northern city so marked a superiority over their own country.
1 Drawn by Faucher-Gudin after Prisse d'Avenues. The gold medallions engraved with the name of Menés are ancient, and perhaps go back to the XXth dynasty; the setting is entirely modern, with the exception of the three oblong pendants of cornelian.
When once this half-mythical Menés was firmly established in his position, there was little difficulty in inventing a story which would portray him as an ideal sovereign. He was represented as architect, warrior, and statesman; he had begun the temple of Phtah, written laws and regulated the worship of the gods, particularly that of Hâpis, and he had conducted expeditions against the Libyans. When he lost his only son in the flower of his age, the people improvised a hymn of mourning to console him—the "Maneros"—both the words and the tune of which were handed down from generation to generation. He did not, moreover, disdain the luxuries of the table, for he invented the art of serving a dinner, and the mode of eating it in a reclining posture. One day, while hunting, his dogs, excited by something or other, fell upon him to devour him. He escaped with difficulty, and, pursued by them, fled to the shore of Lake Moeris, and was there brought to bay; he was on the point of succumbing to them, when a crocodile took him on his back and carried him across to the other side.[*] In gratitude he built a new town, which he called Crocodilopolis, and assigned to it for its god the crocodile which had saved him; he then erected close to it the famous labyrinth and a pyramid for his tomb. Other traditions show him in a less favourable light. They accuse him of having, by horrible crimes, excited against him the anger of the gods, and allege that after a reign of sixty to sixty-two years, he was killed by a hippopotamus which came forth from the Nile.[**]
* This is an episode from the legend of Osiris: at Phihe, in the little building of the Antonines, may be seen a representation of a crocodile crossing the Nile, carrying on his back the mummy of the god. The same episode is also found in the tale of Onus el Ujûd and of Uard f'il-Ikmâm, where the crocodile leads the hero to his beautiful prisoner in the Island of Philæ. Ebers, Ægypte, French trans., vol. ii. pp. 415, 416, has shown how this episode in the Arab story must have been inspired by the bas-relief at Philæ and by the scene which it portrays: the temple is still called "Kasr," and the island "Geziret Onus el-Ujûd." ** In popular romances, this was the usual end of criminals of every kind; we shall see that another king, Akhthoes the founder of the IXth dynasty, after committing horrible misdeeds, was killed, in the same way as Menés, by a hippopotamus.
They also related that the Saïte Tafnakhti, returning from an expedition against the Arabs, during which he had been obliged to renounce the pomp and luxuries of royal life, had solemnly cursed him, and had caused his imprecations to be inscribed upon a stele set up in the temple of Amon at Thebes. Nevertheless, in the memory that Egypt preserved of its first Pharaoh, the good outweighed the evil. He was worshipped in Memphis side by side with Phtah and Ramses II.; his name figured at the head of the royal lists, and his cult continued till the time of the Ptolemies.
His immediate successors had an actual existence, and their tombs are there in proof of it. We know where Usaphais, Miebis, and Semempses[*] were laid to rest, besides more than a dozen other princes whose real names and whose position in the official lists are still uncertain. The order of their succession was often a matter of doubt to the Egyptians themselves, but perhaps the discoveries of the next few years will enable us to clear up and settle definitely matters which were shrouded in mystery in the time of the Theban Pharaohs. As a fact, the forms of such of their names as have been handed down to us by later tradition, are curt and rugged, indicative of an early state of society, and harmonizing with the more primitive civilization to which they belong: Ati the Wrestler, Teti the Runner, Qenqoni the Crusher, are suitable rulers for a people, the first duty of whose chief was to lead his followers into battle, and to strike harder than any other man in the thickest of the fight.[**]
* Flinders Pétrie, The 'Royal Tombs of the First Dynasty, vol. i. p. 56. ** The Egyptians were accustomed to explain the meaning of the names of their kings to strangers, and the Canon of Eratosthenes has preserved several of their derivations, of which a certain number, as, for instance, that of Menés from aùovioç, the "lasting," are tolerably correct. M. Krall is, to my knowledge, the only Egyptologist who has attempted to glean from the meaning of these names indications of the methods by which the national historians of Egypt endeavoured to make up the lists of the earliest dynasties.
Some of the monuments they have left us, seem to show that their reigns were as much devoted to war as those of the later Pharaohs. The king whose Horus name was Nârumîr, is seen on a contemporary object which has come down to us, standing before a heap of beheaded foes; the bodies are all stretched out on the ground, each with his head placed neatly between his legs: the king had overcome, apparently in some important engagement, several thousands of his enemies, and was inspecting the execution of their leaders. That the foes with whom these early kings contended were in most cases Egyptian princes of the nomes, is proved by the list of city names which are inscribed on the fragments of another document of the same nature, and we gather from them that Dobu (Edfu), Hasutonu (Cynopolis), Habonu (Hipponon), Hakau (Memphis) and others were successively taken and dismantled.[*]
* Palette resembling the preceding one, and with it deposited in the Gîzeh Museum; reproduced by Steindokff, and by J. de Morgan. The names of the towns were enclosed within the embattled line which was used later on to designate foreign countries. The animals which surmount them represent the gods of Egypt, the king's protectors; and the king himself, identified with these gods, is making a breach in the wall with a pick-axe. The names of the towns have not been satisfactorily identified: Hat-kau, for instance, may not be Memphis, but it appears that there is no doubt with regard to Habonu. Cf. Sayce, The Beginnings of the Egyptian Monarchy in the Proceedings of the Biblical Archæological Society, 1898, vol. xx. pp, 99-101.
On this fragment King Den is represented standing over a prostrate chief of the Bedouin, striking him with his mace. Sondi, who is classed in the IInd dynasty, received a continuous worship towards the end of the IIIrd dynasty. But did all those whose names preceded or followed his on the lists, really exist as he did? and if they existed, to what extent do the order and the relation assigned to them agree with the actual truth? The different lists do not contain the same names in the same positions; certain Pharaohs are added or suppressed without appreciable reason. Where Manetho inscribes Kenkenes and Ouenephes, the tables of the time of Seti I. gave us Ati and Ata; Manetho reckons nine kings to the IInd dynasty, while they register only five.[*]
* The impossibility of reconciling the names of the Greek with those of the Pharaonic lists has been admitted by most of the savants who have discussed the matter, viz. Mariette, E. de Rouge, Lieblein, Wiedemann; most of them explain the differences by the supposition that, in many cases, one of the lists gives the cartouche name, and the other the cartouche prenomen of the same king.
The monuments, indeed, show us that Egypt in the past obeyed princes whom her annalists were unable to classify: for instance, they associate with Sondi a Pirsenû, who is not mentioned in the annals. We must, therefore, take the record of all this opening period of history for what it is—namely, a system invented at a much later date, by means of various artifices and combinations—to be partially accepted in default of a better, but without according to it that excessive confidence which it has hitherto received. The two Thinite dynasties, in direct descent from the first human king Menés, furnish, like this hero himself, only a tissue of romantic tales and miraculous legends in the place of history. A double-headed stork, which had appeared in the first year of Teti, son of Menés, had foreshadowed to Egypt a long prosperity, but a famine under Ouenephes, and a terrible plague under Semempses, had depopulated the country: the laws had been relaxed, great crimes had been committed, and revolts had broken out. During the reign of Boêthos, a gulf had opened near Bubastis, and swallowed up many people, then the Nile had flowed with honey for fifteen days in the time of Nephercheres, and Sesochris was supposed to have been a giant in stature. A few details about royal edifices were mixed up with these prodigies. Teti had laid the foundation of the great palace of Memphis, Ouenephes had built the pyramids of Ko-komè near Saqqara. Several of the ancient Pharaohs had published books on theology, or had written treatises on anatomy and medicine; several had made laws which lasted down to the beginning of the Christian era. One of them was called Kakôû, the male of males, or the bull of bulls. They explained his name by the statement that he had concerned himself about the sacred animals; he had proclaimed as gods, Hâpis of Memphis, Mnevis of Heliopolis, and the goat of Mendes. After him, Binôthris had conferred the right of succession upon all the women of the blood-royal. The accession of the IIIrd dynasty, a Memphite one according to Manetho, did not at first change the miraculous character of this history. The Libyans had revolted against Necherophes, and the two armies were encamped before each other, when one night the disk of the moon became immeasurably enlarged, to the great alarm of the rebels, who recognized in this phenomenon a sign of the anger of heaven, and yielded without fighting. Tosorthros, the successor of Necherophes, brought the hieroglyphs and the art of stone-cutting to perfection. He composed, as Teti did, books of medicine, a fact which caused him to be identified with the healing god Imhotpu. The priests related these things seriously, and the Greek writers took them down from their lips with the respect which they offered to everything emanating from the wise men of Egypt.
What they related of the human kings was not more detailed, as we see, than their accounts of the gods. Whether the legends dealt with deities or kings, all that we know took its origin, not in popular imagination, but in sacerdotal dogma: they were invented long after the times they dealt with, in the recesses of the temples, with an intention and a method of which we are enabled to detect flagrant instances on the monuments. Towards the middle of the third century before our era, the Greek troops stationed on the southern frontier, in the forts at the first cataract, developed a particular veneration for Isis of Philæ. Their devotion spread to the superior officers who came to inspect them, then to the whole population of the Thebàid, and finally reached the court of the Macedonian kings. The latter, carried away by force of example, gave every encouragement to a movement which attracted worshippers to a common sanctuary, and united in one cult the two races over which they ruled. They pulled down the meagre building of the Sa'ite period which had hitherto sufficed for the worship of Isis, constructed at great cost the temple which still remains almost intact, and assigned to it considerable possessions in Nubia, which, in addition to gifts from private individuals, made the goddess the richest landowner in Southern Egypt. Khnûmû and his two wives, Anûkit and Satît, who, before Isis, had been the undisputed suzerains of the cataract, perceived with jealousy their neighbour's prosperity: the civil wars and invasions of the centuries immediately preceding had ruined their temples, and their poverty contrasted painfully with the riches of the new-comer.
1 Drawn by Faucher-Gudin, from one of the bas-reliefs of the temple of Khnûmû, at Elephantine. This bas-relief is now destroyed.
The priests resolved to lay this sad state of affairs before King Ptolemy, to represent to him the services which they had rendered and still continued to render to Egypt, and above all to remind him of the generosity of the ancient Pharaohs, whose example, owing to the poverty of the times, the recent Pharaohs had been unable to follow.
Doubtless authentic documents were wanting in their archives to support their pretensions: they therefore inscribed upon a rock, in the island of Sehel, a long inscription which they attributed to Zosiri of the IIIrd dynasty. This sovereign had left behind him a vague reputation for greatness. As early as the XIIth dynasty Usirtasen III. had claimed him as "his father"—his ancestor—and had erected a statue to him; the priests knew that, by invoking him, they had a chance of obtaining a hearing. The inscription which they fabricated, set forth that in the eighteenth year of Zosiri's reign he had sent to Madîr, lord of Elephantine, a message couched in these terms: "I am overcome with sorrow for the throne, and for those who reside in the palace, and my heart is afflicted and suffers greatly because the Nile has not risen in my time, for the space of eight years. Corn is scarce, there is a lack of herbage, and nothing is left to eat: when any one calls upon his neighbours for help, they take pains not to go. The child weeps, the young man is uneasy, the hearts of the old men are in despair, their limbs are bent."
Ptolemies admit the claims which the local priests attempted to deduce from this romantic tale? and did the god regain possession of the domains and dues which they declared had been his right? The stele shows us with what ease the scribes could forge official documents, when the exigencies of they crouch on the earth, they fold their hands; the courtiers have no further resources; the shops formerly furnished with rich wares are now filled only with air, all that was in them has disappeared.
"My spirit also, mindful of the beginning of things, seeks to call upon the Saviour who was here where I am, during the centuries of the gods, upon Thot-Ibis, that great wise one, upon Imhotpû, son of Phtah of Memphis. Where is the place in which the Nile is born? Who is the god or goddess concealed there? What is his likeness?"
1 Drawn by Boudier, from a photograph by Dévèria (1864); in the foreground, the tomb of Ti.
The lord of Elephantine brought his reply in person. He described to the king, who was evidently ignorant of it, the situation of the island and the rocks of the cataract, the phenomena of the inundation, the gods who presided over it, and who alone could relieve Egypt from her disastrous plight. Zosiri repaired to the temple of the principality and offered the prescribed sacrifices; the god arose, opened his eyes, panted and cried aloud, "I am Khnûmû who created thee!" and promised him a speedy return of a high Nile and the cessation of the famine. Pharaoh was touched by the benevolence which his divine father had shown him; he forthwith made a decree by which he ceded to the temple all his rights of suzerainty over the neighbouring nomes within a radius of twenty miles. Henceforward the entire population, tillers and vinedressers, fishermen and hunters, had to yield the tithe of their incomes to the priests; the quarries could not be worked without the consent of Khnûmû, and the payment of a suitable indemnity into his coffers, and finally, all metals and precious woods shipped thence for Egypt had to submit to a toll on behalf of the temple. Did the daily life forced the necessity upon them; it teaches us at the same time how that fabulous chronicle was elaborated, whose remains have been preserved for us by classical writers. Every prodigy, every fact related by Manetho, was taken from some document analogous to the supposed inscription of Zosiri.[*]
* The legend of the yawning gulf at Bubastis must be connected with the gifts supposed to have been offered by King Boêthos to the temple of that town, to repair the losses sustained by the goddess on that occasion; the legend of the pestilence and famine is traceable to some relief given by a local god, and for which Semempses and Ùenephes might have shown their gratitude in the same way as Zosiri. The tradition of the successive restorations of Denderah accounts for the constructions attributed to Teti I. and to Tosorthros; finally, the prête tided discoveries of sacred books, dealt with elsewhere, show how Manetho was enabled to attribute to his Pharaohs the authorship of works on medicine or theology.
The real history of the early centuries, therefore, eludes our researches, and no contemporary record traces for us those vicissitudes which Egypt passed through before being consolidated into a single kingdom, under the rule of one man. Many names, apparently of powerful and illustrious princes, had survived in the memory of the people; these were collected, classified, and grouped in a regular manner into dynasties, but the people were ignorant of any exact facts connected with the names, and the historians, on their own account, were reduced to collect apocryphal traditions for their sacred archives. The monuments of these remote ages, however, cannot have entirely disappeared: they exist in places where we have not as yet thought of applying the pick, and chance excavations will some day most certainly bring them to light. The few which we do possess barely go back beyond the IIIrd dynasty: namely, the hypogeum of Shiri, priest of Sondi and Pirsenû; possibly the tomb of Khûîthotpû at Saqqâra; the Great Sphinx of Gîzeh; a short inscription on the rocks of the Wady Maghâra, which represents Zosiri (the same king of whom the priests of Khnûmû in the Greek period made a precedent) working the turquoise or copper mines of Sinai; and finally the Step-Pyramid where this same Pharaoh rests.[*]
* The stele of Sehêl has enabled us to verify the fact that the preamble [a string of titles] to the inscription of the king, buried in the Step-Pyramid, is identical with that of King Zosiri: it was, therefore, Zosiri who constructed, or arranged for the construction of this monument as his tomb. The Step-Pyramid of Saqqâra was opened in 1819, at the expense of the Prussian General Minutoli, who was the first to give a brief description of the interior, illustrated by plans and drawings.
It forms a rectangular mass, incorrectly orientated, with a variation from the true north of 4° 35', 393 ft. 8 in. long from east to west, and 352 ft. deep, with a height of 159 ft. 9 in. It is composed of six cubes, with sloping sides, each being about 13 ft. less in width than the one below it; that nearest to the ground measures 37 ft. 8 in. in height, and the uppermost one 29 ft. 9 in. It was entirely constructed of limestone from the neighbouring mountains. The blocks are small, and badly cut, the stone courses being concave to offer a better resistance to downward thrust and to shocks of earthquake. When breaches in the masonry are examined, it can be seen that the external surface of the steps has, as it were, a double stone facing, each facing being carefully dressed. The body of the pyramid is solid, the chambers being cut in the rock beneath. These chambers have been often enlarged, restored, and reworked in the course of centuries, and the passages which connect them form a perfect labyrinth into which it is dangerous to venture without a guide. The columned porch, the galleries and halls, all lead to a sort of enormous shaft, at the bottom of which the architect had contrived a hiding-place, destined, no doubt, to contain the more precious objects of the funerary furniture. Until the beginning of this century, the vault had preserved its original lining of glazed pottery. Three quarters of the wall surface were covered with green tiles, oblong and slightly convex on the outer side, but flat on the inner: a square projection pierced with a hole, served to fix them at the back in a horizontal line by means of flexible wooden rods.
1 Drawn by Faucher-Gudin, from the coloured sketch by Sogato. M. Stern attributes the decoration of glazed pottery to the XXVI '' dynasty, which opinion is shared by Borchardt. The yellow and green glazed tiles hearing the cartouche of Papi I., show that the Egyptians of the Memphite dynasties used glazed facings at that early date; we may, therefore, believe, if the tiles of the vault of Zosiri are really of the Saïte period, that they replaced a decoration of the same kind, which belonged to the time of its construction, and of which some fragments still exist among the tiles of more recent date.
The three bands which frame one of the doors are inscribed with the titles of the Pharaoh: the hieroglyphs are raised in either blue, red, green, or yellow, on a fawn-coloured ground. Other kings had built temples, palaces, and towns,—as, for instance, King Khâsakhimu, of whose constructions some traces exist at Hieracônpolis, opposite to El-Kab, or King Khâsakhmui, who preceded by a few years the Pharaohs of the IVth dynasty—but the monuments which they raised to be witnesses of their power or piety to future generations, have, in the course of ages, disappeared under the tramplings and before the triumphal blasts of many invading hosts: the pyramid alone has survived, and the most ancient of the historic monuments of Egypt is a tomb.
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