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Pharaohs will not yield. Physiology supplies no clue. The mummy cases, the paintings and sculptures, depict a race short, slight, with low foreheads, high cheek bones, long eyes, hair now crisp now curled, and a complexion which the conventionality of the painter's art makes to differ in men and women, but which probably was brown with a tinge of red, dark compared with that of the Syrian, black compared with that of the Greek. Thick lips are frequently seen, but they are supposed to indicate intermarriage with Ethiopians. From the negro the Egyptians were far removed, nor can-they be connected with any other known race. If we turn to language, a surer guide perhaps than physiology, we are again completely baffled. The Coptic has been identified through many etymologies with the old Egyptian ; and of the Coptic, though it became a dead language in the 12th century, much literature remains. It is an uncultivated and formal tongue, with monosyllabic roots and rude inflections, totally different from the neighboring languages of Syria and Arabia, totally opposite to the copious and polished Sanscrit. The last fact at once severs Egypt from India, and destroys every presumption of affinity that may arise from the presence in both countries of caste, of animal worship, and of a religion derivable from primitive adoration of the powers of nature. The hypothesis of an Ethiopian origin sprang from the notion, natural but untrue, that population would follow the course of the descending river. And no tradition among the Egyptians themselves told of a parent stock or of another land. Respecting the mighty works of Egypt little mystery
remains. The great pyramids had been rifled by the Caliphs, if not by earlier hands, and no inscriptions have been found. But no doubt exists that they were the sepulchres of the Kings of Memphis. The Queens and the “princes of Noph” reposed in smaller pyramids beside the Kings. These mountains of wasted masonry belong to the earliest ages of the Pharaonic monarchy, before the time of the Sesostrian conquests, and therefore they bespeak the toil and suffering, not of captives, but of native slaves. Before them couches the Sphinx, hewn from the rock, to spare, as a Greek inscription says, each spot of cultivable land. His riddle—for it is a male—is read. He represents, perhaps portrays, the reigning king, and the thick lips may indicate Ethiopian blood. The lion's body represents the monarch's might—the human head his wisdom. The rock from which the figure is cut broke the view of the pyramids, and to convert it into the Sphynx was a stroke of Egyptian genius. Pyramids were, in the Pharaonic times, peculiar to Memphis. The countless tombs of Thebes are excavated in the rocky face of the Libyan hills. Those of the Theban Pharaohs stand apart, and we approach through a narrow gorge called the “Gate of Kings.” The paintings, sculptures, and inscriptions on these tombs, literally the eternal houses of the dead, are the Pompeii of the Egyptian antiquary. At Thebes are the magnificent and temple-like palaces of the greatest of the Pharaohs, the halls of their assemblies and their counsels, the records of their wars and conquests. At Thebes, too, is the Memnon, a mutilated statue of Amnoph, which never was vocal except by trick or in imagination, and the Obelisks, whose form is sufficiently
explained, without obscenity or mystery, by the fancy for monolithic monuments and the possession of large blocks of granite. The remains of the Labyrinth do not enable us to pronounce whether its 27 halls were a burial-place for kings or crocodiles, or a place of assembly for the provinces of Egypt. Very various and very extravagant notions have been formed of the population of ancient Egypt. That it was dense may well be inferred from the length of time through which it multiplied in a limited space, and from that evident parsimony of land which drove tombs and monuments to the rocks, and cities to the edge of the desert. Calculations based on the number of cities and on the number of men of military age, have plausibly placed the sum at about 5,000,000. . Agriculture was the chief business of the Egyptians, and the chief business of agriculture consisted in distributing and detaining, by canals and dams, the precious waters of the Nile. The sheep and cattle were numerous. A grandee of Eilytheia possessed 122 cows and oxen, 300 rams, 1,200 goats, 1,500 swine. Lower Egypt contained the great pasture lands, and was the abode of the herdsmen—a lawless race, and, therefore, an abomination to their more civilized countrymen. The ass was the beast of burden. The horse was bred for the war-chariot—that great attribute of ancient power. The breed was small but fine, and peculiar to the country. They were kept in stables along the Nile, and hence they do not appear in the landscapes. Horticulture was extensively and elaborately practised, both for use and pleasure; and the Pharaohs, like Solomon, “made them gardens and orchards, planted trees in
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them of all kinds of fruit, and made them pools of water to water therewith the wood that bringeth forth trees.” - - When forced to serve on shipboard by the enterprise of their own monarchs or by their Persian conquérors, the Egyptians appear not to have made bad sailors. They fought well at Salamis. But their natural tendency was to shun the sea, which they regarded as the element of the Destroyer Typhon. Their navigation was on the Nile, which formed the highway of their commerce, the path of their processions and their pilgrimages, and their passage to the tomb. The river being thus the universal road, and being moreover without bridges, must have swarmed with boats of all descriptions—the heavy bari of the merchant, the light papyrus or earthenware skiff of the common people, and the sumptuous barge of Royalty, whose golden pavilion, masts, and rudder, fringed and embroidered sails, and sculptured prow, remind us of the galley of Cleopatra. The caravans of surrounding nations visited Egypt with their precious and fragrant merchandise to exchange for her corn and manufactures. But the Egyptian trader appears seldom to have visited other countries either by land or sea. The army was a warrior caste. Its might consisted in its chariots. No mounted cavalry appear in any of the monuments. With this exception they had every kind of force, and every weapon known to ancient warfare. They used the long bow and drew the arrow, like the English archers, to the ear. Their armour was imperfect, and more often of quilting than of mail. They had regular divisions, with standards, and regular camps. Their sieges were unscientific, and their means of assault, scaling ladders, sapping hatchets and long pikes brought up to the walls under a sort of shed. Of their battles no definite notion can be formed. All is lost in the King, whose gigantic figure, drawn by gigantic horses, crushes, massacres, or grasps by the hair scores of his pigmy enemies, whose hands after the victory are laid in heaps before him, counted by attendant scribes. Thus it is that Rameses the Great and the other Pharaohs are seen warring against the Assyrian, and Chaldean against the Jew, the Edomite, the Ethiopian, and the “nine bows” of Libya, and assailing the “fenced cities” of strange races that have long passed away.
In the lower parts of civilization and mechanical arts, the Egyptians had attained high perfection. Their machinery and tools appear to have been defective, but the defect was supplied by skill of hand, traditional and acquired, as it is among the Chinese. They were cunning workmen in metals, in jewellery, in engravings, in enamel, in glass, in porcelain, and in pottery. Their fine linen and embroidery were famous. For their chariots Solomon gave 600 shekels of silver; and they fashioned into a hundred articles of luxury the ivory of Africa, the mahogany of India, and the cedar of Lebanon. As no specimens remain of their domestic architecture, it is supposed rather than ascertained that their houses were of a simple story with a terraced roof. The rooms of great men were, at least, richly and elegantly painted, and furnished with tables, chairs, and couches, which have supplied models for the upholstery of modern times.