Page images

years, and that he died in possession of his throne. But upon the whole we find but few sculptures on the walls, and yet fewer statues made during the Persian wars with Egypt. While Phidias was at work in Athens upon the frieze of the Parthenon, and Scopas was chiselling his group of Niobe's family, the Egyptian artists made no statues which were afterwards thought worth preserving.

(23) Egypt had latterly been closed against all Greek travellers. The states of Greece during these years were engaged in a constant struggle against the Persians; sometimes defending their own country from invasion, as in the ever famous battles of Marathon, Thermopylæ, and Salamis; and at other times sending their fleets to help the neighbouring states of Cyprus and the coast of Asia Minor to throw off the Persian yoke. At such a time no Greek could venture into Egypt. He would have been seized by the Persian governor as a spy, or as an agent employed to raise the province in rebellion. But during the few years that Egypt was independent under Inarus and Amyrtæus, when the Athenian mercenaries were helping them against the power of Artaxerxes, many philosophers and men of learning took advantage of the opportunity to satisfy a curiosity that had been raised by the accounts of Thales, Solon, Cleobulus, and Hecatæus, who had visited the country before the Persian conquest. Among the first travellers after this interval of sixty-three years was Hellanicus, who wrote an account of his travels, which was to be seen in the libraries of Alexandria six hundred years afterwards, though since lost. Anaxagoras, the tutor of Pericles and of Euripides, came to Egypt about the same time. By his wisdom and eloquence he had governed Athens for several years; but he afterwards withdrew from politics, and gave himself up to science. He wrote on Physics and on the cause of the Nile's overflow. But the writings of these scientific travellers have long been lost and forgotten; while those of Herodotus, who followed them, who wrote on manners and customs, on laws and religion, and studied human nature, are still read with the freshest feelings of curiosity.

(24) Herodotus came by sea, and most likely landed at Naucratis, the port to which the Greek merchant vessels

Aulus Gellius, lib. xv. 23.


lib xi. 6.



lib. i. 38;

[ocr errors]

Herodotus, lib. ii. 5.

28, 130.

all sailed; and he visited with care the chief cities in Lower Egypt, and then made a more hasty tour through the Thebaid. He was at Sais at the Feast of lib. ii. 62, Lanterns, when all the houses were lighted up, inside and out, in honour of the gods; and there he gained much information from the learned scribe who had the care of the treasures in the temple of Neith. In one of the rooms of the royal palace stood a wooden statue of a cow in a kneeling posture, with a round plate of gold between its horns, its head and neck thickly overlaid with gold, and a purple mantle over its back. Before this cow aromatics were burnt every day, and a lamp stood burning every night in honour of the goddess; and once a year it was brought out of its chamber into public, to join in the lamentations for the death of Osiris. He was in the Delta during the inundaLib. ii. 92, tion of the Nile, which is at its greatest height in 98. September; and he describes in the style of a painter the appearance of the country when under water, when the vessels sailed over the fields from city to city, and passed by the pyramids in the voyage from Naucratis to Memphis. He was at Busiris during the great feast Lib. il. 40, of Isis, and saw the votaries scourge themselves by thousands in token of what Osiris suffered and of their own sinfulness, while the sacred ox that had been sacrificed was roasting for their feast. This may have been about midsummer, at the end of the natural year, but if it took place in the last week of the civil year it was then in the beginning of December. At Bubastis he examined the great temple of the goddess Pasht, standing in a grove in the middle of the town as at the bottom of a basin, surrounded by the mounds which had been raised higher and higher each century against the inundation of the Nile, and on which the houses were mostly built. There he witnessed one of the great religious gatherings of the Delta. Men and women in numbers came there in barges from the neighbouring cities to be present at the sacrifice. During the voyage they sang and clapped their hands, some adding to the noise by the clatter of rattles, others by musical instruments; and as often as they passed a town on the river's banks they bawled out and taunted the people that came forth to look at them


Lib. ii. 138.

Lib. ii. 60.

Herodotus walked over the interesting field of battle near

Pelusium, where Psammenitus was conquered by Herodotus, Cambyses, and the Persian power established; and lib. iii. 12. then over that not less interesting field near Papremis, where it was overthrown on the defeat of Achæmenes by Inarus. At Papremis he also witnessed the sham fight Lib. ii. 63. › which once a year took place between two parties

of the priests at the door of the temple. At sunset one party, armed with wooden clubs, stood around the temple to guard the doorway; while a second party, also armed with clubs, were employed in drawing along a four-wheeled carriage, on which was placed the shrine and the image of the god within it. The one party claimed admission for the god, and the other refused it, whereupon a fierce battle ensued; blows were given in earnest, heads were broken, and blood flowed, and sometimes lives were lost in zeal for this religious duty. At Heliopolis, the chief seat of Egyptian learning, Lib. il. 3. he made many inquiries respecting religion, and gained from the priests many particulars relating to the gods, which were not taught publicly to the world.

(25) It was at Sais and Memphis that Herodotus made his longest stay, and where he gained most of his information relating to Lower Egypt. It was founded on what he saw and on what he was told by the priests, and not, as it would seem, on writings. The priests did not quote to him any historic books. But at Sais he found many who were familiar with the Greek language; and his account of the kings of Sais seems thoroughly trustworthy. As far as his history is about Upper Egypt it seems very little to be relied upon, as we learn by comparing it with the more exact list of kings in Manetho and with the certain information on the monuments; and in particular he gives many of the great actions of Rameses and Shishank to a king of the name of Sesostris, whom we in vain search for in history. With the priests of Lower Egypt the chief hero was their own Shishank, who overthrew the family of Rameses, and made the unwilling Thebans carve his praise on the temple of Amun-Ra. And by putting together his actions and those of some others, and then spelling his name badly, Herodotus has created for us the great Sesostris.

(26) Memphis was then at its greatest size; it had been

rising on the fall of Thebes, and with its citadel and suburbs had a circuit of one hundred and fifty stadia, or Diod. Sic. lib. i. 50. sixteen miles. The chief building, after the citadel Herodotus, of the White Wall, was the great temple of the

lib. ii. 121. pigmy god Pthah (see Fig. 194), ornamented with stately porticoes and colossal statues of the gods and kings added by the piety and magnificence of successive sovereigns. On the south side of this temple was the Phenician

Lib. ii. 112. quarter of the town, called the Camp of the Tyrians. Here stood the temple of a god whom the Greeks named Proteus, and also the temple of the foreign Venus, another Phenician deity. This latter we recognise in the goddess Kiun, the only unclothed goddess known upon the monuments. She stands upon the back of a lion, and presents flowers to Khem, the author of life, and snakes to Ranpo, the author of death, who like herself is a foreigner among the gods of Egypt (see Fig. 195). They are both mentioned in the book of the prophet Amos, one in the Amos v. 26. Hebrew and the other in the Greek. Kiun was

Fig. 194.

Acts vii. 43. perhaps made the wife of the pigmy Pthah. A Herodotus, third Phenician temple was that of the pigmy gods, lib. iii. 37. the Cabeiri, into which none but the priests ever Lib. ii. 153. entered. These gods we recognise on the mummy cases as the torturers of the wicked after death. Their name, Kab-iri, means the punishment-makers; and for that purpose they carry swords, snakes, and lizards, while beside them is the lake of fire into which their victims were to be plunged.

Fig. 196.

They were the children of the pigmy Pthah (see Fig. 196). From their name and character the Hebrews borrowed those of the cherubs, who sat before the garden of Eden with a flaming sword turning in every direction, to guard the way to the tree of life against the

Genesis, iii. 24.

approach of the sinner. From their name also the Greeks borrowed that of Cerberus, the doorkeeper of hell. On the same side of the temple of Pthah was the hall, or rather stable used for the bull Apis, whenever Egypt was fortunate enough

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

Fig. 195.

to possess an animal with the right spots. It was a small building, surrounded by a colonnade in which Herodotus, colossal statues eighteen feet high filled the place lib. ii. 176. of columns. The newest temple was that of Isis, in Dionysio which had been built in the reign of Amasis. On Alexandr. the hill of Sinopium, to the west of the city, stood a temple

« PreviousContinue »