Page images
PDF
EPUB

"drink wine, to love women, to make a happy day, and to “ seek thy heart's desire by day and by night. And set no “care whatsoever in thy heart : are the years which (we pass] "upon the earth so many [that we need do this]?”

The morality of the Egyptians was of a high character, and certainly higher than that of Oriental nations in general. Many of the Precepts of Ptah-hetep, Kaqemna, and Khensuhetep bear comparison with the moral maxims of the Books of Proverbs and Ecclesiasticus. The view of the Egyptian as to his duty towards his neighbour is well summed up by Pepi-Nekht, an old feudal lord of Elephantine, who flourished under the VIth dynasty, and said : “I am one who “spoke good and repeated what was liked. Never did I say

[graphic]

The lion and the unicorn playing a game of draughts.

[From a papyrus in the British Museum, No. 10,016.]

"an evil word of any kind to a chief against anyone, for I “wished it to be well with me before the great god. I gave “ bread to the hungry man, and clothes to the naked man. I "never gave judgment in a case between two brothers “whereby a son was cleprived of his father's goods. I was “ loved by my father, favoured by my mother, and beloved by “ my brothers and sisters." Love of parents and home was a strong trait in the character of the Egyptian ; and it was one cause of his hatred of military service and of any occupation which would take him away from his town or village. He prayed, too, that in the Other World he might have his parents, wife, children, and relatives, with him on his farm in

the fields of Peace, and that when his spirit was on the way thither, the spirits of his kinsfolk would come to meet him, armed with their staves and weapons, so that they might protect him from the attack of hostile spirits. Like all African people he loved music, singing, and dancing, and was attracted by ceremonials, processions, and display of every kind; the satirical papyri (see the illustrations on pages 27-30), and even the wall-paintings in the tombs, show that he possessed a keen sense of humour. The peasant was then, as now, a laborious toiler, and as he was literally the slave of Pharaoh for thousands of years, the ideas of freedom and national independence, as we understand them, were wholly unknown to him.

All classes were intensely superstitious, and they believed firmly in the existence of spirits, good and bad, witches, and fiends and devils, which they tried to cajole, or wheedle, or placate with gifts, or to vanquish by means of spells, magical names, words of power, amulets of all kinds, etc. The magician was the real priest, to the lower classes at least, as he is to this day in Central Africa, for by the use of magical figures he assured his clients that he could procure for them the death, or sickness, of an enemy, riches, the love of women, dreams wherein the future would be revealed to them, and above all, the assistance of the gods. We find

The spearing of Āpep. that about B.C. 312 a service was regularly performed in the temple of Amen-Rā at Thebes to make the sun rise. In the course of it a figure of the monster Apep, who was supposed to be lying in wait to swallow the Sun-god, was made of wax, then wrapped in new papyrus on which the “accursed name” of the fiend was written in green ink, and solemnly burned in a fire fed by a special kind of herb, whilst the priest spurned it with his left foot and poured out curses on each of the thirty “accursed names” of the evil one. As the wax melted and was consumed, together with the papyrus and the green ink with which his name was written, so the body of Apep was believed to be consumed in the flames of the rising sun in the eastern sky.

From the evidence given at Thebes about B.C. 1200 against certain officials who were implicated in a case of conspiracy against Rameses III, it appeared that a certain man had stolen a book of magic from the temple library. From this he obtained instructions how to make the wax figures which caused the sickness, quakings of the limbs, and death of those in whose forms they were made. An example of the wax figures which were used in the Ptolemaic period is exhibited in Table-case C in the Third Egyptian Room, No. 198. The core is made of inscribed papyrus, and in front, in the centre, is a piece of hair, presumably that of the person on whom the magician who made the figure sought to exert his influence. Every act of daily life had some magical or religious observance associated with it, and every day, either in whole or in part, was declared to be lucky or unlucky, in accordance with a series of events which were represented by the Calendar of lucky and unlucky days.

Superstition played as prominent a part in medicine as in religion. The practice of dismembering the dead in primitive times must have taught the Egyptians some practical anatomy, and the operations connected with mummification in the later period must have added largely to their knowledge of the arrangement of the principal internal organs of the body. The Egyptians were well acquainted with the importance of the heart in the human economy, and they appear to have had some knowledge of the functions of the arteries. A considerable number of medical prescriptions have come down to us, e.g., those which are inscribed on a papyrus in the British Museum (No. 10,059) and are said to be as old as the time of Khusu (Cheops), a king of the IVth dynasty, and those of the Ebers Papyrus, of the XVIIIth dynasty ; from these it is easy to see that they closely resemble in many particulars the prescriptions given in English medical books printed two or three hundred years ago. Powders and decoctions made from plants and seeds were largely used, and the piths of certain trees, dates, sycamore-figs, and other fruits, salt, magnesia, oil, honey, sweet beer, formed the principal ingredients of many prescriptions. With these were often mixed substances of an unpleasant nature, e.g., bone dust, rancid fat, the droppings of animals, etc. In order that certain drugs might have the desired effect it was necessary for the physician to recite a magical formula four times (Ebers Papyrus CVIII). Other medicines again owed their efficacy to the belief that they had been actually taken by one or other of the gods whilst

they reigned upon earth, and the authorship of certain prescriptions was ascribed to Rā. Thus according to the · Ebers Papyrus (XLVI) Rā suffered from attacks of boils of a most malignant kind, and he made up a salve, containing sixteen ingredients, which gave him instant relief, and which was therefore certain to cure ordinary mortals. The following is a characteristic example of a prescription which, as is evident, contains a number of substances which are well known to be good for inflamed eyes, and also some others the special value of which is not clear :

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

The Egyptian physician was called upon not only to heal his patients, but to beautify them, and we find prescriptions for removing scurf from the skin, for changing ihe colour of the skin, for making the skin smooth, and the following for removing wrinkles from the face :

[merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small]
« PreviousContinue »