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temples was a Sacred Ship, enclosed in a shrine, and screened by a veil. When the oracle was to be consulted, a procession of priests carried about this Ship, in its portable sanctuary, placed on poles, which they rested on their shoulders. From certain movements of the ship, during their religious ceremonies, omens were gathered, according to which the High Priest delivered the oracle.
The government of Meroë was in the hands of a caste of priests, who, guided by the oracle, selected one of their own order for king. When this choice was announced to the people, they fell down and adored him, as the representative of their god Ammon, who had appointed him to rule over them. He was obliged to live and govern according to laws prescribed by the priests. When the oracle indicated that a change of rulers was necessary, the High Priest sent a messenger that the god commanded him to die, and that mortals must not seek to evade divine decrees.
Whence did this powerful priesthood come? Many learned men maintain that they came from that part of Ethiopia said to be on the banks of the Indus; that is, from Indus-stan, which we call Hindostan. The points of resemblance between the opinions and customs of India and Egypt are too numerous and too obvious to be overlooked by any one who even glances at the subject. Some scholars, with less probability on their side, maintain that Egypt is the oldest, and that Hindostan was settled by colonies from thence. One thing is certain and undisputed, namely, that a very ancient and very intimate relation existed between the two countries. Meroë, by its location, was the centre of a great caravan trade known to have been carried on in very early ages, between India and Egypt and Arabia. It has been already stated that the Pouranas of Hindostan contain records of two remarkable emigrations from that country to Egypt, at a very remote period. The first were the “Yadavas, or sacred race," who fled from the oppressions of Cansa, the same tyrant who caused so many children to be slaughtered when he was seeking the life of Crishna. The date they assign to this event agrees very well with the date which tradition ascribes to the first settlement at Meroë; and the Yadavas are conspicuous in the history of Crishna. The other emigration recorded in the Pouranas is that of powerful tribes, called Pali, or Shepherds, who governed from Indus to Ganges, and enlarged their empire by conquests in Misrastahn [their word for the Land of Egypt), where one of their princes became so wealthy that "he raised three mountains, one of gold, one of silver, and one of gems." This is supposed by some to describe the three great Pyramids, at Memphis, one of which was originally overlaid with white marble, another with yellow marble, and the third with spotted marble, of fine grain, susceptible of exquisite polish. Many scholars consider the Pali identical with the powerful tribes of Asiatic Ethiopians, described by Herodotus, and supposed to dwell on the banks of the Indus. Others conjecture they were Assyrians, or Phænicians. Manetho, who was High Priest at Heliopolis in Egypt, about three hundred and four years before the Christian era, wrote a history of Egypt from the earliest times, in the Greek language. He professed to have taken it from inscriptions engraved by Thoth, or Hermes, on stone pillars, in the sacred characters. These he declares were afterward written in books, and laid up in the inmost recesses of the temples, to which he, of course, had access. A few fragments of Manetho's History have been handed down to us. In these it is stated that Egypt was overrun" by a race of Shepherds from the East," in the reign of their king Timæus; which some computations place four thousand two hundred and sixty years ago, and others much earlier. He informs us that some said these invaders were Arabians.
Among the proofs of a very intimate connection, in some way, between India and Egypt, the following may be mentioned. In both countries there was a powerful hereditary priesthood, who had exclusive possession of the Sacred Books, and of all the learning extant in their time; consequently, they were the only judges, physicians, and astronomers. In both countries, the religion of the priests was carefully kept secret from the people; and the consequence was that the most grotesque and monstrous forms appeared on the surface of society, while high spiritual allegories and profound metaphysical inquiries were concealed behind the veil. Both countries were originally governed by priests, and afterward kings were chosen from the warrior caste, but were regulated and controlled by the priests. In both countries society was divided into castes, of which the sacerdotal was the highest. In both, the priests married, but there was no female priesthood. Both had a language for sacred purposes, which was different from the vernacular tongue. Both believed that bathing in holy rivers, or being drowned in them, would confer peculiar sanctity. Both believed there was an immense reservoir of waters above the firmament, whence those rivers flowed. Both believed in a fifth element above our atmosphere, called ether, which the gods breathed, as mortals breathe air. In both places, priests taught to the higher castes that all souls emanated from One Universal Soul, in successive gradations. Both taught that there were ascending spheres of existence above this earth. Both taught the transmigration of human souls into animals. The same animals were considered sacred in both places. There was similarity in their religious festivals and processions, especially in the custom of carrying their sacred images from one temple to another, in great four-wheeled
The architecture of ancient Egypt bore a striking resemblance to that of India. Both suggested the idea of grottoes or caverns, and were characterized by the same style of ornaments. The pyramid was a form prescribed for sacred buildings in both countries, therefore a truncated pyramid generally formed the main entrance to the temples. There was always a sanctuary into which none but the priests entered, and the outer courts were for the people. Both decorated their temples with flags on festival occasions. Both made similar offerings to the gods. The trial of departed souls by the Judge of the Dead is sculptured on Hindoo and Egyptian walls, and they are so similar that one might be mistaken for the other. Their astronomical systems were alike. They represented the signs of the zodiac by the same emblems, consecrated a day to each of the seven planets successively, and made the same calculations concerning alternate destructions and reproduetions of this world. It is said by the learned, that the Egyptian language bears very few and slight analogies to the Sanscrit; and no traces of the hieroglyphic writing have yet been discovered in India. But Bruce, the traveller, says that the language spoken at Masuah, not far from Meroë, is substantially Sanscrit. Many places mentioned by Mungo Park, in his Second Journey to Africa, have Sanscrit names, which are actually current in India at the present day. The Nile was formerly designated by a Sanscrit word, signifying dark blue; and the same name was anciently given to the river Indus. Alexander the Great thought he had discovered the source of the Nile in India. He was probably misled by the coincidence of names, and the crocodiles and lotus-blossoms, which abounded in both rivers. Blumenbach, the celebrated naturalist, bad in his possession the skull of an Egyptian mummy, and of a Hindoo; and he said they bore a more striking resemblance to each other than any other two skulls in his collection. Paintings on the walls convey the same idea of similarity in their persons. In both places, the higher castes are represented with a lighter and brighter colour than the lower, who are more darkened by exposure to sun and wind. Denon says the pictures of couches, chairs, and other articles in ancient Egyptian tombs, obviously indicate that they were made of a species of wood brought from India.
If the Egyptians still existed as a nation, and had preserved their old customs and Sacred Books, as the Hindoos have done, it would doubtless be easy to find many more resemblances. But Egypt has passed away from the face of the earth, and only by persevering industry has learning been able to trace a few of her footsteps. What we know of her history and opinions is mainly derived from the testimony of wise and illustrious men, who were drawn thither by her renown for knowledge in arts, sciences, and religious mysteries. Abraham is supposed to have lived nearly four thousand years ago. That Egypt was already famous in his time is testified by Josephus, historian of the Jews, who informs us that Abraham went down thither, to become an auditor of the priests, and compare their religious ideas with his own.
Herodotus, the oldest Greek historian, visited Egypt about four hundred and forty-eight years before Christ, to collect materials from the priests, who were celebrated for having carefully preserved the records of past ages. His history has come down safely to the present time.
In less than a hundred years after, Plato, the most celebrated of the Greek philosophers, was drawn to Egypt by the renown of priestly schools at Heliopolis, and resided there several years. Many of his writings are preserved, and they contain frequent allusions to the Egyptians.
Strabo, author of a Greek geographical work, describing the manners and customs of different nations, went to Egypt about fifty years after the Christian era. Heliopolis, eclipsed by the new city of Alexandria, was then going to decay, and the priests were no longer among the most learned of their age; but they talked of departed glory, and pointed out to him their once famous schools, and the house where Plato had resided. This book is also extant.
The ancient Egyptian priests claimed immense antiquity for their country. They told Herodotus that Egypt was originally governed by gods; of whom there first reigned a series of eight, then a series of twelve, then a series of twelve more; that these rulers had uniformly one Superior among them; and the last of them were Osiris and his son Horus. By this government of gods it is naturally supposed they meant successive orders of priests, each with a Sovereign Pontiff, bearing the name of the deity to whose service he was devoted, and by whose oracular directions