spiracy, I ascended the throne, and men pronounced me fortunate. Up to that time I had been every Egyptian's friend, and now I was the enemy of the best men in the nation.

“The priests swore allegiance to me, and accepted me as a member of their caste, but only in the hope of guiding me at their will. My former superiors in command either envied me, or wished to remain on the same terms of intercourse as formerly. One day, therefore, when the officers of the host were at one of my banquets, and attempting, as usual, to maintain their old convivial footing, I showed them the golden basin in which their feet had been washed before sitting down to meat; five days later, as they were again drinking at one of my revels, I caused a golden image of the great god Ra to be placed upon the richly ornamented banqueting-table. On perceiving it, they fell down to worship. As they rose from their knees, I took the sceptre, and holding it up on high with much solemnity, exclaimed : 'In five days an artificer has transformed the despised vessel into which ye spat and in which men washed your feet, into this divine image. Such a vessel was I, but the Deity which can fashion better and more quickly than a goldsmith has made me your king. Bow down, then, before me, and worship. He who henceforth refuses to obey, or who is unmindful of the reverence due to the king, is guilty of death!'

“ They fell down before me, every one, and I saved my authority, but lost my friends. As I now stood in need of some other prop, I fixed on the Hellenes, knowing that in all military qualifications one Greek is worth more than five Egyptians, and that with this assistance I should be able to carry out those measures which I thought beneficial. I kept the Greek mercenaries always round me, I learnt their language, and it was they who brought me the noblest human being I ever met, Pythagoras. I endeavored to introduce Greek art and manners among ourselves, seeing what folly lay in a selfwilled assurance to that which has been handed down to us, when it is itself bad and unworthy, while the good seed lay on our Egyptian soil, only waiting to be sown. I portioned out the whole land to suit my purposes, ap. pointed the best police in the world, and accomplished much; but my highest aim-namely, to infuse into this country at once so gay and so gloomy, the spirit and intellect of the Greeks, their sense of beauty in form, their love of life and joy in it- this all was shivered on the same rock which threatens me with overthrow and ruin whenever I attempt to accomplish anything new. The priests are my opponents, my masters, they hang like a dead weight upon me. Clinging with superstitious awe to all that is old and traditionary, abominating everything foreign, and regarding every stranger as the natural enemy of their authority and their teaching, they can lead the most devout and religious of all nations with a power that has scarcely any limits. For this I am forced to sacrifice all my plans; for this I see my life passing away in bondage to their severe ordinances, this will rob my death-bed of peace, and I cannot be secure that this host of proud mediators between god and man will allow me to rest even in my grave.

Those very boys of whom thou speakest are the greatest torment of my life. They perform for me the service of slaves, and obey my slightest nod.. Each of these youths is my keeper, my spy. They watch my smallest actions and report them at once to the priests. . But every position has its duties, and as the king of a people who venerate tradition as the highest divinity, I must submit, at least in the main, to the ceremonies handed down through thousands of years. Were I to burst these fetters, I know positively that at my death my body would remain unburied; for I know that the priests sit in judgment on every corpse, and deprive the condemned of rest, even in the grave. -An Egyptian Princess.


By the walls of Thebes—the old city of a hundred gates--the Nile spreads to a broad river ; the heights, which follow the stream on both sides here take a more decided outline ; solitary, almost cone-shaped peaks stand out sharply from the level background of the many-colored limestone hills, on which no palm-tree flourishes and in which no humble desert plant can strike root. Rocky crevasses and gorges cut more or less deeply into the mountain range, and up to its ridge extends the desert, destructive of all life, with sand and stones, with rocky cliffs and reef-like desert hills. Behind the eastern range the desert spreads to the Red Sea ; behind the western it stretches without limit into infinity. In the belief of the Egyptians beyond it lay the region of the dead. Between these two ranges of hills, which serve as walls or ramparts to keep back the desert-sand, flows the fresh and bounteous Nile, bestowing blessing and abundance ; at once the father and the cradle of millions of beings. On each shore spreads the wide plain of black and fruitful soil, and in the depths many-shaped creatures, in coats of mail or scales, swarm and find subsistence.

The lotos floats on the mirror of the waters, and among the papyrus reeds by the shore water-fowl innumerable build their nests. Between the river and the mountain-range lie fields, which after the seed-time are of a shining blue-green, and toward the time of harvest glow like gold. Near the brooks and water-wheels here and there stands a shady sycamore; and date-palms, carefully tended, group themselves in groves. The fruitful palm, watered and manured every year by the inundation, lies at the foot of the sandy desert-hills behind it, and stands out like a garden flower-bed from the gravel-path.

In the fourteenth century before Christ-for to so remote a date we must direct the thoughts of the reader -impassable limits had been set by the hand of man, in many places in Thebes, to the inroads of the water; high dykes of stone and embankments protected the streets and squares, the temples and the palaces from the overflow. Canals that could be tightly closed up led from the dykes to the land within, and smaller branchcuttings to the gardens of Thebes. On the right-the eastern-bank of the Nile rose the buildings of the farfamed residence of the Pharaohs. Close by the river stood the immense and gaudy temples of the city of Amon ; behind these and a short distance from the Eastern hills indeed at their very foot and partly even on

Life was gay

the soil of the desert—were the palaces of the king and nobles, and the shady streets in which the high, narrow houses of the citizens stood in close rows. and busy in the streets of the capital of the Pharaohs.

The western shore of the Nile showed a quite different scene. Here, too, there was no lack of stately buildings or thronging men ; but while on the farther side of the river there was a compact mass of houses, and the citizens went cheerfully and openly about their day's work, on this side there were solitary splendid structures, round which little houses and huts seemed to cling as children cling to the protection of a mother. And these buildings lay in detached groups.

Any one climbing the hill and looking down would form the notion that there lay below him a number of neighboring villages, each with its lordly manor-house. Looking from the plain up to the precipice of the western hills, hundreds of closed portals could be seen, some solitary, others closely ranged in rows; a great number of them toward the foot of the slope, yet more halfway up, and a few at a considerable height.

And even more dissimilar were the slow-moving, solemn groups in the roadways on the side, and the cheerful, confused throng yonder. There, on the eastern shore, all were in eager pursuit of labor or recreation, stirred by pleasure or by grief, active in deed and speech; here, in the west, little was spoken, a spell seemed to check the footstep of the wanderer, a pale hand to sadden the bright glance of every eye, and to banish the smile from every lip. And yet many a gayly-dressed bark stopped at the shore, there was no lack of minstrel bands; grand processions passed on to the western heights ; but the Nile boats bore the dead, the songs sung here were songs of lamentation, and the procession consisted of mourners following the sarcophagus. We are standing on the soil of the City of the Dead of Thebes.

Nevertheless, even here nothing is wanting for return and revival, for to the Egyptian his dead died not. He closed his eyes, he bore him to the Necropolis, to the house of the embalmer, or Kolchytes, and then to the grave; but he knew that the souls of the departed lived on ; that the justified, absorbed into Osiris, floated over the heavens in the vessel of the Sun ; that they appeared on earth in the form they chose to take upon them, and that they might exert influence on the current lives of the survivors. So he took care to give a worthy interment to his dead, above all to have the body embalmed so as to endure long ; and had fixed times to bring fresh offerings for the dead of flesh and fowl, with drink-offerings and sweet-smelling essences, and vegetables and flowers.

Neither at the obsequies nor at the offerings might the ministers of the gods be absent, and the silent City of the Dead was regarded as a favored sanctuary in which to establish schools and dwellings for the learned. So it came to pass that in the temples and on the site of the Necropolis, large communities of priests dwelt together, and close to the extensive embalming houses lived numerous Kolchytes, who handed down the secrets of their art from father to son. Besides these there were other manufactories and shops. In the former, sarcophagi of stone and wood, linen bands for enveloping mummies, and amulets for decorating them, were made ; in the latter, merchants kept spices and essences, flowers, fruits, vegetables, and pastry for sale. Calves, gazelles, goats, geese and other fowl, were fed on enclosed meadow-plats, and the mourners betook themselves thither to select what they needed from among the beasts pronounced by the priests to be clean for sacrifice, and to have them sealed with the secret seal. Many bought only part of a victim at the shambles the poor could not even do this. They bought only colored cakes in the shape of beasts, which symbolically took the place of the calves and geese which their means were unable to procure. In the handsomest shops sat servants of the priests, who received forms written on rolls of papyrus which were filled up in the writing room of the temple with those sacred verses which the departed spirit must know and repeat to ward off the evil genius of the deep, to open the gate of the under-world, and to be held righteous before Osiris and the forty-two assessors of the subterranean court of justice. What took place within the temples was concealed from view, for each was surrounded by a high enclosing wall with lofty,

« ForrigeFortsett »