Page images
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

of the brilliant little metropolis the peoples of the upper river appeared to be a hazy folk ; and the farther south their land the more mysterious were their surroundings and the ghostlier their ways. The negroes who came to the market no doubt told stories then, as they did in later times, of the great stature and the marvellous longevity of those distant races; and though but a couple of hundred miles of winding river separated the Egyptian frontier from that of the land of Aam, that distance sufficed to twist the thoughts of the market-gossiper from the mortal to the immortal.”

As Egyptians became better educated and less superstitious, which was about 2500 B.C., Herkhuf, the lord of Elephantine, made four expeditions to the south, by a road behind the hills along the west bank of the river. Mr. Weigall recently discovered the paved causeway along which Herkhuf's army marched forty-four centuries ago. On his fourth expedition Herkhuf managed to obtain one of the dwarfs or pigmies who inhabited a region of the land of ghosts. He at once informed the boy-king, Pepi II., and in reply he received what Mr. Weigall thinks may be the oldest example of a letter in the world. He gives a translation of it.

“I have noted,” writes the King, “the matter of your letter which you have sent to me, in order that I might know that you have returned in safety from Aam, with the army which was with you. ... You say in your letter that you have brought a dancing pigmy of the god from the Land of the Ghosts, like the pigmy which the Treasurer Baurded brought from the Land of Pount in the time of Asesa. You say to my majesty, 'Never before has one like him been brought by any one who has visited Aam!.. Come northward, therefore to the court immediately, and bring this pigmy with you, which you must bring living, prosperous, and healthy from the Land of the Ghosts, to dance for the King, and to rejoice and gladden the heart of the King. When he goes down with you into the vessel, appoint trustworthy people to be beside him at either side of the vessel : take care that he does not fall into the water. When he sleeps at night appoint trustworthy people who

[ocr errors]

shall sleep beside him in his cabin; and make an inspection ten times each night. My majesty desires to see this pigmy more than the gifts of Sinai and of Pount. If you arrive at court, the pigmy being with you, alive, prosperous, and healthy, my majesty will do for you a greater thing than that which was done for the Treasurer Baurded in the time of Asesa, according to the heart's desire of my majesty to see this pigmy. Orders have been sent to the chief of the New Towns to arrange that food shall be taken from every store-city, and every temple [on the road) without stinting.''

Mr. Weigall pictures the excited boy awaiting the arrival of this wonder from the south, and the long caravan winding its way over the western hills from Aam to Elephantine, where Herkhuf and his prize would take ship to Memphis.

Under the nineteenth dynasty, says Mr. Weigall, “ Elephantine had become a city of considerable wealth and importance. Splendid temples rose amidst the houses and the trees, and fortified walls around the south end of the island frowned down upon the swift river.

the swift river. Priests, soldiers, and nobles walked the streets amongst the throng of the townspeople, or sailed to and fro over the broken waters. At the foot of the western hills, the bay from which the Nubian highway ran must have often been the scene of the busy loading and unloading of pack-donkeys; and at this time there may have been a masonry landing-stage at the river's edge to terminate worthily the paved causeway."

He writes very picturesquely about another prince of Elephantine, Sabna, whose father had been murdered by the savage negroes to the south, and who went with a few soldiers and a hundred baggage-donkeys bearing presents of honey, oil, ointment, and fine linen, by which he purchased safety and the body of his father, which he brought back and buried in one of the most remarkable of the Grenfell tombs on the western bank. He himself was interred in the next tomb: both tombs have many pictures. The tomb of Herkhuf is here also. It is from the inscriptions on these

tombs that we know about these two heroes of Elephantine, who lived more than four thousand years ago.

I cannot speak too highly of Mr. Weigall's book, recently published by Blackwood. The passages I have quoted are in the nature of a catalogue, and give no conception of his delightful style, in which he excels all writers upon Ancient Egypt, who have serious scientific knowledge of the subject like himself-he being Chief Inspector of Monuments in Upper Egypt.

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

CHAPTER XXXVI

Philæ the Melted Pearl

THE

HE first time I saw Philæ I was young to Egypt. 1

had landed that very month, and hastened up the Great River, while the lakes of the inundation were still out. I did not tread the halls of Isis then, for I was on my way to Khartum, and the Prince Abbas was due to start directly that the train came in to Shellal, called after the Cataract.

But we watched the other people, who had come on the Rameses the Great with us from Cairo, making the magic journey. To eyes fresh from England it seemed magic: for all these good British citizens, helplessly following a dragoman, stepped on board two galleys, strictly of the Ancient Roman fashion pictured on coins, with yards longer than their masts, banked oars, and high latticed poops painted in the most brilliant colours. The voyagers sat on the poop; the Nubian oarsmen sang African chanteys for bakshish, which reminded me of a story that an African explorer told me about his early lecturing experiences. The lectures, which were about Africa, were not going well, and he had engaged the hall for a week. He was telling a friend, who was calling on him, of the financial loss which he expected. While they were talking they were interrupted by awful yells from the basement. "What is that?" asked the friend. “That's Kalulu'; he always makes that noise when he is cleaning my boots." "Well, if I were you," said the friend, “ I should divide the lecture in half, and let Kalulu do his turn for ten minutes in the middle." The explorer took his advice. But when Kalulu had finished the audience | I am not sure if I have remembered the name rightly.

yelled for more, and nothing would induce them to listen to another word from the lecturer. It was Kalulu they wanted. I forget what happened on the next night.

We watched those Roman galleys regretfully, as those stalwart arms made them fly to Philæ, the Island of Time, the Island of the End, the Island of Ceasing-after Abydos, the most sacred of the burial places of Osiris. Osiris has fourteen burial places.

The first time I went to Genoa I visited the house of Columbus ; the second time I went to Genoa I visited it, but it was not the same house. I remonstrated with my guide. He said the Municipality had changed it. I stared at him blankly, while he explained that as the first house had become a house of ill-fame, the Municipality had given its patronage to a rival claimant of the honour and, he added,

very famous people are generally born in several places." But Osiris was the only person I ever heard of who was buried in more than two places, though St. Peter was buried in two, and St. John the Baptist has two skulls now in Rome. Besides, Osiris was a god, and ought not to have been killed at all. It was at Philæ, according to local tradition, that his limbs were reunited, and he was reunited to Isis.

Even now Philæ, when it only consists of certain temple buildings and rows of palm-trees wading in the inundation, is a most gracious spectacle. There are people who think that the Temple of Isis, and the long colonnades of Nectanebus (the last of the native kings of Egypt), and the unfinished porch which is called Pharaoh's Bed, are more beautiful in their watery isolation than they ever were before. But I cannot think that they are so beautiful now as they were when they were piled high on a rocky shore, and embosomed in groves and thickets unrivalled in Egypt for their luxury of green. There was always water in the foreground.

Dynasties and faiths died hard above the cataracts. While Nectanebus reigned here, Egypt proper had been conquered by the Persians; and the worship of Isis and Osiris went on in the halls of Philæ till the Emperor Justinian, five hundred and fifty years after Christ, sent officers to root it out. If it

« PreviousContinue »