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Egyptian Museum in Cairo. The latter work inculcates the highest standard of practical morality, and contains a lofty idea of the duty of the Egyptian to his god and his neighbour; many of the counsels embody shrewd common sense and experience, and are similar to portions of the Book of Proverbs and the Book of Ecclesiasticus. The language in which the maxims are written is sometimes very difficult, for many of them are in the form of short, pithy proverbs.
A work of a somewhat similar character is the very interesting set of "Instructions" given by a high official to his son Pepi, which we know from the Second Sallier Papyrus and the Seventh Anastasi Papyrus in the British Museum (Nos. 10,182, 10,222). The writer entreats his son to adopt the profession of letters, which he points out leads to rich emoluments, ease, comfort, and dignity, and he begs him to "love letters as thy mother.” He then compares the toil and unpleasantness of the life of the blacksmith, carpenter, stone-cutter, barber, waterman, fisherman, farm-labourer, gardener, fish-seiler, sandal-maker, laundryman, etc., and urges him to devote himself to his books. This work is commonly known as the Hymn in Praise of Learning ; it was very popular in schools under the XIXth and following dynasties, and portions of it, written on slices of limestone, were set as "copies" for school-boys.
The Egyptians greatly loved works of Fiction and Travel, and the copies of such which have come down to us show that they were full of marvellous incidents, and that they greatly resembled some of the sections of the “Arabian Nights" of a later period. The Tale of the Two Brothers, in the British Museum (No. 10,183), is one of the best examples of Egyptian Fiction. In the first part of the story we have a faithful description of the life of the peasant farmer in Egypt. Ånpu, the elder brother, lives with his wife on a small farm, and Batau, his younger brother, acts as his companion, steward, and servant. The wife of Anpu conceived great affection for Batau. One day, when he returned to the farm on an errand, she told him of her love; Batau rejected her overtures, left the house, and went about his ordinary work in the fields. When Anpu returned to his house in the evening, he found the rooms in darkness, and, going inside, he discovered his wife lying sick upon the floor and in a state which suggested she had been ill-treated and beaten. In answer to his questions she told him that Batau had attacked her and beaten her, and that she was sure when he next came back to the farm he would kill her; she did not tell him that she had made herself sick by eating rancid
grease, and Ånpu did not suspect her untruth. Ånpu then took a large grass-cutting knife and went out to kill his brother when he arrived. As Batau came to the byre to lead his cattle into their stalls, the oxen told him that his brother was waiting behind the door to kill him ; looking under the door he saw Anpu's feet, and then, setting his load on the ground, he fled from the barn as fast as he could, pursued by his brother. Whilst they were running, the Sun-god Shu looked on, and, seeing that Anpu was gaining on Batau, caused a river full of crocodiles to spring up between them, so that Ånpu was on one bank and Batau was on the other. When Batau had explained the truth of the matter to Ånpu, he departed to the Valley of the Acacia, and the elder brother went home, murdered his wife, and threw her body to the dogs.
The second part of the story is not so easy to follow. Batau went to the Acacia Valley, and placed his heart on the top of the Power of a tree, and passed some years in hunting the wild animals of the desert. Whilst there the gods made for him a wife, who was, however, subsequently carried off to be the queen of Egypt. By her orders the tree on which was the heart of Batau was cut down, and the heart fell to the ground, where, after some time, it was found by Anpu, who went in search of it. Batau having recovered his life, took the form of a bull, and, after a series of marvellous transformations, became the father of a king of Egypt. The papyrus containing this story was written by the scribe Anna, and it was one of the rolls in the library of Seti II Menephthah.
The Story of the Doomed Prince is another good example of Egyptian Fiction, though the unique copy in the British Museum (Harris, No. 500) is incomplete at the end. In the story of the Possessed Princess of Bekhten we have a short but interesting account of the driving out of a violent devil from the body of one of the sisters-in-law of the king of Egypt, by means of a statue of the god Khensu. The stele containing the text is in Paris. Travel is well represented by the Adventures of Sa-Nehat (papyrus at Berlin); the Story of a Shipwrecked Sailor, who was cast up on an enchanted island, and conversed with a serpent of fabulous length (papyrus at St. Petersburg); the Journey of Unu-Amen, who went to Bêrût to buy cedar wood for the Boat of Amen-Rā at Thebes, but was robbed on his way there, and shipwrecked on his way back, being cast up on the Island of Cyprus (papyrus at St. Petersburg); and the Travels of an Egyptian, in a
papyrus in the British Museum (No. 10,247). In the last work we have an account of the journey of an official who travelled in Syria and Palestine, and of the misfortunes which overtook him. He was robbed, his servants ran away, the pole of his chariot was smashed, and he suffered from heat by day, cold by night, and want of food and drink. For stealing fruit from a garden near the road he was haled before the local magistrate and fined heavily.
Stories of Magicians were as popular as books of travel, and of these may be mentioned the group contained in the Westcar Papyrus in Berlin. In one of them we are told of a famous magician who made a figure of a crocodile in wax which, when thrown into the river, became a huge, living crocodile, and devoured the man who had done the magician an injury. In another the magician cut off a goose's head, and placed it in one part of the room, and the body of the bird in another; he then recited certain words of power, and the head and body approached each other little by little, and at length the head sprang up on the neck, and the goose cackled. In another story we are told how one of the maidens who was rowing the royal barge on a lake dropped one of her ornaments into the water.
A magician having been brought, stood up and recited words of power, whereupon the half of the lake on which was the boat transferred itself above the other half, and remained there whilst the maiden stepped out of the boat and picked up her ornament which was seen lying on a shard. This done, the magician repeated words of power, and the water, which had been standing up like a wall, Aowed back into its place.
Under the head of Science must be included the inscriptions which deal with Astronomy, and contain lists of the Planets, the thirty-six Dekans, the Signs of the Zodiac (see the coffin of Heru-netch-tef-f, First Egyptian Room, No.6678), etc.; Calendars (Papyrus No. 10,474); Geometry illustrated by the famous Rhind Papyrus in the British Museum (No. 10,057); Geography and Cartography, illustrated by the papyrus at Cairo in which the religious divisions of the Fayyûm are described, and by the famous map of the district of the gold mines preserved in the Museum of Turin ; Chronology, as represented by the Turin Papyrus, which, when complete, contained the names of about 300 kings of Egypt, and the lengths of their reigns in years and months, or days. In connection with this branch may be mentioned the King List of Thunurei, found at Sakkârah, and the King Lists of Seti I and Rameses JI found at Abydos (Tablets of Abydos,
I and 2); the remains of the List made for Rameses II are preserved in the British Museum (Southern Egyptian Gallery, Bay 6, No. 592).
A number of valuable books dealing with Medicine have come down to us, and of these one of the most interesting is the papyrus in the British Museum, No. 10,059. It contains copies of a number of prescriptions which date from the reign of Khufu, the builder of the Great Pyramid, about B.C. 3730 and several of the time of Amen-hetep III (B.C. 1450). The largest work on medicine is contained in the Ebers Papyrus at Leipzig, and there are medical papyri in the Museums of Paris, Leyden, Berlin, and California (Hearst Medical Papyrus).
In all these we find that magic was considered to be as efficacious as drugs; many of the prescriptions are to all intents and purposes magical formulas, and several suggest charlatanism. Oil, honey, and tinctures or decoctions of simple herbs were largely used, and the long list of names of plants, ierbs, seeds, etc., in the Ebers Papyrus proves that, though the Egyptians had little idea of scientific Botany, they had a very wide knowledge of the properties of plants, etc. Anatomy was studied in a practical manner, especially for the purposes of embalming and bone setting, but as no treatises on the subject have come down to us, it is impossible to say whether the Egyptians deserved the great reputations which they enjoyed as physicians. It is tolerably certain that they made no experiments in dissection, for the body was sacred to Osiris, and might not be dismembered, at all events in the later times. The commonest diseases among the Egyptians seem to have been ophthalmia, fever, maladies of the stomach, ulcers, “Nile boils," epilepsy and anæmia.
Biographical inscriptions form a very important section of the Literature, and they throw much light, not only on the social condition of the people, but also on the history of the country. Thus, the inscription of the official Ptah-shepses, who was born under the IVth dynasty, besides enumerating the various high offices which he held, proves that he lived through the reigns of eight or nine kings, and thus fixes the order of the succession of several of them (see Egyptian Vestibule, No. 32). The official Antef lived under three kings, whose names he gives, and thus fixes the order of their succession (Bay 4, No. 99). (Plate XXII.) The stele 1 of Ert.-Antef-Țātāu says that the deceased was “Governor of the South” in the reign of Usertsen I, and thus we know that an Egyptian viceroy governed the Sûdân as early as B.C. 2433 (Bay 4, No. 196). The stele of Sa-Menthu describes how he went to the Sûdân to bring back gold for the king of Egypt, and tells us that he made men, women, and children to work in digging out the quartz, and in crushing the ore and washing the gold from it (Bay 6, No. 145). From the biographies of the great Egyptian officials much of the history of Egypt can be pieced together.
The Egyptians did not write history in the modern sense of the word. Some of the kings, e.g., Thothmes III, inscribed annals on the walls of their temples, and many others set up inscriptions to commemorate great events. Thus Usertsen III set up at Semnah in the sixteenth year of his reign a stele to mark the frontier of Egypt on the south, and to proclaim his conquest of the Northern Sûdân. Amen-hetep III, B.C. 1450, set up a stele at Semnah to record his conquest of the country of Abhat, and the slaughter of a number of Blacks (Bay 6, No. 411). Rameses II caused copies of his account of his fight against the Kheta, or Hittites, to be cut on stelae, and set up in various places throughout the kingdom, e.g., at Amârah and Abû-Simbel. Some of the Nubian kings also
| The word stele, from the Greek orhan, means literally an upright stone, or pillar, or column, which was set up over a grave, like our tombstone, or in a public place as a memorial of some public event.