Imagini ale paginilor

The torch thus lighted now passed into the able hands of Champollion the Younger, who possessed assiduity, accuracy, method, in short everything but temper, for applying the newly-found key to the portals of Isis. Under this energetic explorator, the efforts of scholars in various parts of Europe, and the untiring enterprise of numerous intelligent travellers, the obscurity which involved the records on the monuments of Egypt has been penetrated, and though as yet but too slightly, still with results beyond the expectation of the most sanguine: nor must it be forgotten, that Mr. Salt was among the foremost in finding out that the elliptical ovals, now termed cartouches, contained proper names. * And it is also flattering to our national character to know, that, of the travellers alluded to, the majority are English ; and I certainly have some personal gratification in naming my excellent friends W. R. Hamilton, Colonel Leake, the Duke of Northumberland, Dr. Lee, Sir Gardner Wilkinson, and Mr. Bonomi. Our late Consul-General Mr. Salt, Signor


* As cartouches, and the manner of reading them, are new to the generality of readers, it may be well to give an illustration by which they may be comprehended; and the instance shall be modern. While these sheets are in the press, Dr. Lee has raised an edifice over the Hartwell Spring mentioned at page 41 ; a view of which will form the tail-piece to this chapter. It is erected in the Egyptian style, from a plan by Mr. Bonomi, with inscriptions after the sacred hieroglyphics of the Mizraimites by Mr. Birch, of the British Museum. In the line along the pediment, is the annexed cartouche, to be read as follows:

[merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

Belzoni, and—however strange the conjunction may appear—the Consul-General for France, Mons. Drovetti, have severally aided my inquiries in Egypt.

By the persevering application of the means above mentioned, the glories of the Pharaonic times, together with the material civilization of a people many ages before Moses was born, are partially revealed, and may yet be brought out into full light. Mankind now perceive with astonishment that the Greeks and Romans, the ancients of our schools, shone chiefly in borrowed colours; that the trinal unity and the immortality of the soul were taught in Egypt, long before they were even dreamt of elsewhere; that a high degree of refinement and luxury pervaded the valley of the Nile while Carthage, Athens, and Rome were still unthought of, and barbarism yet enveloped the western world; and that the Egyptians had cultivated geometry and astronomy, as well as practised manifold branches of philosophy, more than two thousand years before Socrates cross-questioned Theæatetus as to what Science consists of. Their unquestioned priority in inventing and diffusing the inestimable art of writing, also entitles them to our highest respect; moreover, we have decisive evidence of their degree of progress, perhaps above four thousand years ago, in the mechanical and manufacturing crafts, whether in constructing ever-durable monuments, or their proficiency in mining, smelting, pottery, glass-blowing, weaving, dyeing, and making tasteful articles of furniture.

The social system of the Egyptians was as much advanced as the reverence to laws considered immutable, and their patriarchal notions of freedom, permitted. The whole community was divided into castes, or rather classes, for the condition appears to have been unaccompanied by the strictness or austerity of Hindustan. The highest caste, although there was a sovereign of limited authority, consisted of the sacerdotal order; who, uniting the worship of the Deity and the cultivation of intelligence, held the chief offices of the state, besides being also the judges, physicians, and architects. To this theocratical class or government of priests succeeded the army, which, from an almost inconceivably distant period, had been regularly established and divided into regiments, each bearing its peculiar standard and emblem. The soldiers were armed either with the sword, battle-axe, spear, bow, club, or sling; and they marched to the music of timbrels, cymbals, drums, trumpets, and other instruments; but, though they paid scrupulous attention to their chariots and warhorses, there is no example of a mounted soldier, or cavalry of any description. After the troops came the husbandmen; and then followed the artificers and tradesmen of the towns. In each of these castes, the rights of the female sex were more honoured and observed than in the social system of any other eastern nation, the Israelites not excepted.

Under this primitive form of government, the whole population of Egypt was divided into three distinct classes—the priests, the military, and the populace ;—an arrangement whereby, it is not improbable, the two privileged classes were able to hold the third in subjection. Champollion, looking upon this as an unavoidable condition, and that opinions upon the subject may be as various as the countries where they are given, concludes,—“In fact, there is in a theocratic government the chance of religious despotism; in a monarchy, the chance of a military despotism; in an aristocracy, or oligarchy, the chance of a feudal despotism; in a republic, the chance of a democratic despotismeverywhere a chance of oppression. The relative good will be where these several chances are most limited."

But though no virtuous Egyptian seems to have been debarred from civil rights in this world, nor eternal happiness in the next, the social institution was certainly blotted with a degraded caste, which included herdsmen, poulterers, fishermen, weavers, and servants. Numbers of these, as well as the slaves, and the unfortunate captives who fell into their hands, were doomed by their sacerdotal task-masters to employ their lives in working the mines, and in building pyramids, temples, and other colossal structures. Moses—who was so intimately acquainted with that IIouse of Bondage-pathetically records what hard and rigorous overseers the Hebrews found the Mizraimites to be :—“And the Egyptians made the children of Israel to serve with rigour.

And they made their lives bitter with hard bondage, in mortar, and in brick, and in all manner of service in the field; all their service wherein they made them serve

was with rigour.” It is to be feared that, if the unhappy Fellahs of the present day, in that country, leave a memorial for posterity, it must be couched in the

same terms.

The religion of the “brain-sick” Egyptians has borne the finger of scorn for many ages; and their idols were denounced in IIoly Writ. Cicero also indignantly asks,—“Do not the Egyptians esteem their sacred bull, their Apis, as a Deity?” and then answers the question himself :—“Yes, by Hercules ! as certainly as you do our protectress Juno.” Juvenal, who said that they “worshipped everything but virtue,” bitterly opens his fifteenth satire, to Volusius Bithynicus, with a broadside upon the gross and debasing superstition into which they had fallen

“ Who knows not to what monstrous gods, my friend,

The mad inhabitants of Egypt bend ?-
The snake-devouring ibis these inshrine,
Those think the crocodile alone divine;
Others, where Thebes' vast ruins strew the ground,
And shatter'd Memnon yields a magic sound,
Set up a glitt'ring brute of uncouth shape,
And bow before the image of an ape!
Thousands regard the hound with holy fear,
Not one, Diana ; and 'tis dangerous here
To violate an onion, or to stain
The sanctity of leeks with tooth prophane.
O holy nations ! Sacro-sanct abodes !
Where every garden propagates its gods!”

And Lucan assures us that, on entering “a splendid temple, every part thereof glittering with gold and silver, you look about for a god, and you find a stork, an ape, or a cat." These sarcasms, however, which convey more humorous invective than argument, especially from professed polytheists, must be taken cum grano salis. . The debasement into which the Egyptians had fallen in Roman times, appears to have been of a sufficiently dark and fearful character; but we still require from those people themselves the means of knowing what is assignable to pure worship, what may be reckoned among mere symbolical rites and ceremonies, and what was intended only to fix ideas which otherwise might have proved transient. Strong glimpses of an earlier and holier faith may be traced; though they appear to have thought it insufficient to entertain mere mental notions of the being and attributes of the Living and True God, but endeavoured to materialize divine truths by visible mystic emblems. The stately monuments of Egypt, whether of the Pharaohs or the Ptolemies, conspicuously bear the winged globe-emblem of the Eternal—surrounded by two serpents, symbolical of the Logos, or wisdom. A more immediate evidence of the “triplasios ” doctrine of the Egyptians is in their worship of Osiris,

' the general father and active principle of all things; Isis, the universal mother; and Horus, their son, the manifestation of their combined energies. Their faith also in the immortality of the soul, and a final resurrection, though clouded with a variety of metempsychoses, is too obvious to admit of question. Herodotus mentions as a known fact, that they were the first who assumed these principles; and St. Augustine himself says, the Egyptians had a better idea of the resurrection of the body than any other people.

The images of the Egyptian deities were not supposed originally to represent real beings, but to indicate abstract virtues, senses, and dogmas,—mere emblematical expressions of the Monad, the one sole omnipotent Being. Such allegories would readily be liable to become themselves objects of ignorant adoration. The twisted lock of hair, and the ram's horn, are always typical of divine unction ;—the horn, indeed, was generally an emblem of power, as can be inferred from various passages in the Old Testament. Then came the compounded deities, which, as well as men with heads of animals, and animals with heads of men, were unnatural combinations; but all these monstrous images were intended to convey some metaphorical, symbolical, or mystical signification. The Great God was typified by Amun, or Ammon, a human body with a ram's head, holding in his left hand a sceptre, and in the right the sacred crux ansata, an emblem held by nearly all the Egyptian divinities : it is usually called Tau, from its resemblance to the Greek T, supposed to have been the symbol of vital energy and eternal life-yet designated by many

« ÎnapoiContinuă »