« PreviousContinue »
had one temple in common. These temples of Naucratis were, that of Jupiter, built by the Æginete, that of Juno by the Samians, that of Apollo by the Milesians, and the large temple called the Hellenium, which last was built at the joint expense of the Ionians of Chios, Teos, Phocæa, and Clazomenæ, of the Dorians of Rhodes, Cnidus, Halicarnassus, and Phaselis, and of the Eolians of Mytelene. Thus Naucratis, in the appearance of its buildings, was a Greek city; and from the large temples on the islands of Ægina and Samos we may judge of the form of the smaller temples of Naucratis, which were copied from them. Amasis also joined the Greek colonists in making gifts to their temples at home; and when the temple of Delphi was destroyed by fire, and the several Greek cities sent their presents towards the cost of rebuilding it, one of the largest presents was from the king of Egypt. To the Herodotus, temple of Minerva at Cyrene he sent á golden lib. ii. 182. statue of the goddess; to the temple of Minerva at
Lindus in Rhodes he sent two marble statues; while to the temple of Juno at Samos he sent two statues of himself, carved in wood. These kings of Sais acted as if they were as much Greek as Egyptian; and their liberality to the Greek temples is the more remarkable, because the Egyptians, unlike the Greeks, never admitted into their mythology the gods of their neighbours. The Greeks, on the Herodotus, other hand, were cager to copy the rites of the lib. ii. 61. Egyptian religion; and after the sacrifice to Isis at Busiris, when thousands of votaries every year scourged themselves in token of the sufferings of Osiris, the Carian mercenaries were foremost in self-torture. They gashed their faces with their swords, and surpassed the Egyptians in fearlessness when using their weapons against themselves, as much as when using them against the enemy.
(26) Under the favour now shown by the kings of Sais to the Greeks, Thales, the first who had the title of Laertius, Wise Man, travelled in Egypt in about the fiftieth lib. i. Olympiad, perhaps in the last reign. He seems to have been chiefly in search of scientific knowledge, and did not forget to inquire into the cause of the Nile's overflow. He measured the height of the great pyramid by the length of its shadow. He is said to have been the first Greek that
lib. i. 30.
foretold an eclipse; and to have learned from the Egyptians the valuable mathematical truth that the angle in a semicircle is always a right angle; and he sacrificed an ox to the gods in gratitude for this increase of knowledge. But he has left no written works behind him. Soon afterwards, Solon, the Athenian lawgiver, came to Vit. Solon. Naucratis as a merchant, bringing the olive oil of Herodotus, Athens to exchange for the corn and other native products of Egypt and the more costly articles from India; and, while thus carrying on the trade of an oil-merchant, he studied the manners and customs of the country. The first duty and pleasure in life is to be useful, and the second is to improve ourselves and qualify ourselves for further usefulness. Solon had been in the highest degree useful to his countrymen in reforming their laws, and he was now in search of knowledge to qualify himself for further usefulness. From the Egyptians he copied the law that every man should be called upon by the magistrate to give an account of how he earned his livelihood. After selling his cargo, or leaving it at Naucratis to be sold by an agent, he visited Sais, the capital, where his character secured for him an honourable reception, and where he conversed with the priests of the temple of Neith, and inquired into their accounts of the history of their nation and of the world. They called the Greeks mere children of yesterday, and professed to have a knowledge of the events of the last nine thousand years. They gave him a marvellous account of the island of Atlantis, a country abounding in wealth of every kind, situated beyond the pillars of Hercules, but in the neighbourhood of Egypt, meaning perhaps part of Abyssinia. This account they must have gained from the circumnavigators in the reign of Necho. Solon returned to Athens with his mind enriched with knowledge; but had the pain of finding that his countrymen had already lost their zeal for the laws that he had left them.
Plato, in Critiâ.
(27) Solon was followed by his friend Cleobulus, a native of the island of Rhodes, who came to Egypt to study philosophy; and soon afterwards by Hecatæus of Miletus in Ionia, who went as high as Thebes, and wrote a valuable history of his travels. The Theban
priests showed Hecatæus the large wooden mummy-cases of their predecessors, standing upright round the walls lib. ii. 143. of the temple, to the number of three hundred and forty-five; and when the Greek traveller boasted that he was the sixteenth in descent from Jupiter, they told him that those three hundred and forty-five priests had ruled Thebes in succession from father to son, each a mortal the son of a mortal, and that it was that number of generations since the gods Osiris and Horus had reigned in Egypt. Nations, like families, have usually been fond of claiming a long line of ancestors, but none have ever had a better right to that boast than the Egyptians. The Theban priest was speaking to Hecatæus in about the fortieth reign of this history, while his Greek visitor only pretended to be the sixteenth in descent from the gods. The Theban could then name with certainty more sovereigns of his country in the order of succession than we can kings of England. He was as far removed from the obscurity of antiquity as we English are in the nineteenth century. It is true that he boasted that the oldest of his mummies was ten times older than it was likely to have been; but, if he had confined himself to what we think the truth, his boast would still have been very remarkable, and he could probably have pointed to records standing around him which had existed some centuries before the time that the Hebrew historians give to Abraham.
(28) While Solon and Hecateus were studying the Egyptian customs, Pythagoras, of Samos, if we De Isid. x. may trust to the slightest and most uncertain of Jamblicus, traditions, was equally busy inquiring into the Vit. Pythag. mystical philosophy of the Egyptians and Phenicians of the Delta, studying under Enuphis of Heliopolis that learning which was the growth of the valley of the Nile, and that which had been brought from Babylon. But, well acquainted as we are with the sect of the Pythagoreans and their opinions ten centuries later, the life of their founder is wrapt in fable. He is said to have lived twenty years in Egypt, and on the conquest of the country by the Persians to have been taken prisoner and carried off to Babylon. The next Greek traveller was the philosopher Xenophanes, the Ionian, so famous for his just notions of the nature of God, as being one eternal infinite spirit. Here
he made inquiries of the priests as to their religious opinions; and at the annual ceremony of the lament for the death of Osiris he was naturally puzzled with their Plutarchi grief for the sufferings of one whom they called a god. He did not understand how Osiris could have two natures, one human and one divine; and he wittily argued with them, that if they thought him a man they should not worship him, and if they thought him a god they need not talk of his sufferings. These inquiring Greeks came to Egypt to a people overflowing with wealth while at home. they were only beginning to taste of luxuries, to a people who had been civilized at a time when Greece had been in barbarism, to a people who had taught them the first elements of much of their knowledge. The Greeks indeed had latterly made great progress in the arts and in civilization of all kinds; and they had moreover learned that they had the power of making further progress; while the Egyptians had not got that power, and were losing their rank in each succeeding century. But a forward movement in civilization is only to be insured by looking back to the steps that the world has already made; the knowledge of what has been done teaches us what may be done; and nowhere could the history of the past be studied so usefully as in Egypt (vide p. 427).
(29) The island of Cyprus, though latterly sometimes in obedience to Egypt, and sometimes to Nineveh, had always been governed by its own kings; but lib. ii. 182. Amasis made it subject to the Egyptian crown alike in name and in reality. It was peopled by a very mixed race. Greek and Phoenician traders had settled in some ports, Egyptians and native Cypriotes held other towns; and an Assyrian inscription tells us that that fifth race of people once held their island in subjection. Equally varied in style are the works of art throughout its cities. Their own Cyprian inscriptions have not yet been decyphered; the language and the letters are alike unknown. The Phoenician inscriptions are better understood. Of these the characters are borrowed from the hieroglyphics and enchorial writing of Egypt, and some of them are at the same time those from which the Greek letters were formed. Hence, while the Greeks may be right when they tell us that they owed their alphabet to the Phoenicians, they are
certainly wrong when they tell us that the Phenicians were the inventors of letters. The Phenician letters, like those of all the other neighbouring nations, may be shown to be of Egyptian origin. The close intercourse of the Egyptians with the Phenicians of Cyprus, and the yet closer with the Phenicians of Pelusium, will explain how the knowledge passed from one nation to the other.
(30) The first wife of Amasis was Hanes-vaphra (see Fig. 164), if we may venture to spell her Inscript. name from the hieroglyphical inscriptions. pl. 116, 24. She was the daughter of Psammetichus II., and sister of the last king, and her royal birth must have added to the strength of her husband's throne; she was probably the mother of his son Psammenitus, who succeeded him. When she died, though her Fig. 164. husband was reigning in Lower Egypt, she was buried in the valley of queens' tombs on the west side of Thebes. We know her only in her beautiful Theban sarcophagus now in the British Museum, where she is named, in the usual style of Eastern compliment, the morning star, the evening star, the new moon, with other equally poetic names. Her sculptured figure, which lies upon the lid, has the crown of Amun-Ra, the sceptres of Osiris, and bears the name of the goddess Athor. The queen is thus made a threefold Plutarch. deity in her own person. Amasis had hitherto Virtut. been supporting with his troops the party in Cyrene Mul. which was in rebellion against the family of Battus; and on the defeat of the rebels he threatened to send an army against the young Battus, who then gained the throne. Battus sent to Egypt his mother and grandmother as ambassadors to plead his cause; and they were successful in appeasing the king's anger, and in uniting the two states by a friendly treaty. On the death of Hanes-vaphra, Herodotus, Amasis married a Greek lady, Ladica, the daughter lib. ii. 181. of one of the chief men of Cyrene. The state and dignity of the Egyptian queen were maintained, not by a sum of money, but according to the Eastern custom lib. i. 52. of setting apart the revenues of certain provinces Herodotus, for her several wants. Thus the large income lib. ii. 98. from the royal fishery at the flood-gates to the Lake of Moris was allotted for the expense of her perfumes and