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he professed to govern. Thus if a priest of Ammon was chosen ruler, they called it being governed by Ammon; if a priest of Osiris was elected, they called it the government of Osiris. From the reign of Osiris to their king Amasis, they reckoned fifteen thousand years; and Amasis reigned five hundred and sixty-nine years before Christ. Herodotus says: “On this subject, the Egyptians have no doubts; for they profess to have always computed the years, and to have kept written accounts of them with the minutest accuracy.” It was customary for every high priest of Ammon during his life-time to deposit in the great temple at Thebes a statue of himself. They pointed out to Herodotus three hundred and forty one of these colossal wooden images, assuring him that no one of them was the statue of a god, but all were mortal men, and priests, in a direct line of succession from father to son; all of them after the reign of the gods. Allowing three generations of men to be equal to one hundred years, he computed that this succession required an interval of eleven thousand three hundred and forty years.
We are in the habit of calling the Greeks the ancients, but they considered themselves a nation of yesterday compared with the Egyptians. Plato visited Egypt about three hundred years later than Solon, the lawgiver of Athens; and he informs us that when Solon inquired of the priests concerning ancient affairs, he perceived that, compared with them, neither he nor any other of the Greeks had any knowledge of very remote antiquity. When he began to discourse concerning what seemed to him the most ancient events, such as the Deluge of Deucalion, one of the oldest of the priests exclaimed: “Solon, Solon, you Greeks are always children. All your souls are juvenile; neither containing any ancient opinion derived from remote tradition, nor any discipline hoary from its existence in remote periods of time. You mention one deluge only, whereas many have happened.”
These statements of Egyptian priests are rejected as fabulous; but the great antiquity of their country is proved beyond dispute by sculptures and hieroglyphic writing, cut into the solid rock of ancient temples, tombs, and palaces. The dry climate and sandy soil were favourable to their preservation. There was no frost to heave them, no rainy season to corrode the durable material. For centuries after this wonderful people had passed away, their gigantic memorials stood in the solitude of waste places, seldom seen by the eye of man. The marvellous accounts of travellers at last attracted general attention toward them, and within the last half century, France and England have devoted much money and learning to the careful investigation of these stupendous monuments. The task was attended with difficulties apparently insurmountable; for the secret of hieroglyphic writing had been lost for ages, and no man could reveal it. But when the French army were digging the foundations of a fort, at Rosetta, in Egypt, they found a large block of stone containing an inscription in three different characters; one in Greek, one in the common Egyptian writing, and one in the sacred characters used only by the priests. Underneath them all, it was recorded that the same inscription had been ordered to be engraved in three forms. The Greek language was familiar to scholars, and a clue to the other unknown characters was thus obtained. But the stone was much mutilated, and though several names remained in the Greek portion, unfortunately only that of Ptolemy remained in hieroglyphics. The base of an obelisk, with an inscription in Greek and in hieroglyphics, was afterward discovered at Philce. The Dames of Ptolemy and Cleopatra in hieroglyphics were well preserved, and the letters common to both were written in the same manner; they were therefore concluded to be signs of sound, which we call letters. This feeble ray of light was applied by learned men of different nations, with inconceivable perseverance and ingenuity. One after another added something to the stock of knowl. edge, until at last an available system was formed. The Coptic language is a relic of the old vernacular tongue of Egypt, and various writings were preserved in it. M. Champollion, an acute Frenchman, had studied it almost from boyhood, and was thus enabled to bring another ray of light to the investigation of hieroglyphics. He discovered that the alphabet consisted of images of external objects, and represented the first letter of that object's name in the common Egyptian language; as if in English we should make a dog for D, a cat for C, and a serpent for S. Many and great difficulties remained. One of the most troublesome was the custom of omitting vowels in hieroglyphics, and writing only the consonants. Without attempting to give a detailed account of the numerous obstacles, it is sufficient to say that by great learning, labour, and patience, several inscriptions on the ancient monuments have been satisfactorily deciphered.
On a stone tablet discovered at Karnak are engraved the names of a successive series of sixty-one kings. We suppose that Moses lived about three thousand four hundred and forty-nine years ago; and the latest of these kings was prior to the date we assign to Moses.
Several ancient authors agree in testifying that Menei, commonly called Menes, was the first king; and their statement has been confirmed by engravings on monuments, and writings on papyrus. Menei is an abbreviation of Amun-ei, signifying "he who walks with Amun;" by which his cotemporaries understood “he who walks with God." According to Manetho's list of kings, he reigned seven thousand seven hundred and sixteen years ago. The statements of that old historian concerning many of the later kings, though long doubted, have of late years been remarkably corroborated by the monuments; but his testimony with regard to Menes is rejected. Josephus says this ancient king lived more than one thousand three hundred years before Solomon, who was born one thousand thirty-three years before Christ. Some modern scholars carry the date of Menes as far back as two thousand eight hundred and ninety years before our era; others bring it as near to it as two thousand two hundred years. The learned on this subject suppose two thousand seven han. dred and fifty years before Christ to be a near approximation to the truth.
The Italian Marquis Spineto, who carefully investigated this subject, says: “The first period of Egyptian history begins with the establishment of their government, and comprehends the time from Misraim to Menes, during which all religious and political authority was in the hands of the priesthood, who laid the first foundation of the future power of Egypt, founding and embellishing the great city of Thebes, building magnificent temples, and instituting the Mysteries of Isis.”
The ancient religion of Egypt, like that of Hindostan, was founded on astronomy, and eminently metaphysical in its character. In common with other oriental nations, they supposed the origin of the world was from a dark chaos. Soul existed from eternity, and by its action upon Matter, chaos was brought into form, and out of darkness beamed forth light. The fiery particles ascended and formed the firmament of luminaries; the heavier portions descended, and formed earth and sea, whence animals and plants proceeded. From the Eternal Soul were evolved successive emanations of Spiritual Intelligences, more or less elevated in character and office, according to their nearness or remoteness from the Central Source.
The Source of Being was never represented by any painting or sculpture. Those who understood the religion of Egypt, considered the deities mere emblematical representations of his various attributes. The first emanation from him was Amun, whom Greeks called Jupiter Ammon. He was supposed to dwell in a radiant upper sphere, far above the subordinate deities. He is described as “The Male Origin of all things ;” “The Spirit of the Supreme, moving on the face of the waters;" “The Spirit who animates and perpetuates the world, by mixing himself with all its parts;" "He who brings to light hidden things;" "Lord of the Three Regions ;” “The King of Gods." His image was always painted dark blue, and represented with a Ram's head and horns; probably with
some reference to the constellation, which bears that name; therefore a ram's head became a sacred amulet, worn by the devout as a protection against evil. As Creative Wisdom, he was named Amun-Cneph. As the Intellectual, or Spiritual Sun, he was called Amun-Ra. His worship was universal, but he was peculiarly the presiding deity of Thebes, which was founded by a colony from Meroë.
Tradition declared that the Ethiopians were his first worshippers; and it is supposed that Homer's legend concerning Jupiter's visit to "the blameless men," had reference to an annual procession of the priests of Jupiter Ammon at Thebes, up the Nile to some place consecrated by the worship their ancestors had offered. The image of the god was probably carried on a great car, according to Hindoo custom.
Phtha, belonging to the higher class of gods, was called the son of Amun Cneph, and said to have proceeded from an egg formed by him. To Phtha was attributed the invention of science, by which the laws of nature were arranged. He was considered the founder of the dynasties of Egypt: therefore kings often took the title “Beloved of Phtha." In the royal city of Memphis, which was consecrated to him, he had a magnificent temple, splendidly adorned, where the grand ceremony of the inauguration of Egyptian kings was performed with great pomp.
Of all Egyptian deities, Osiris is the name most familiar to modern ears. He was formerly supposed to be a mere representation of the visible sun; but increasing knowledge on the subject proves that he embodied a more comprehensive idea. It has been already shown how the Hindoo mind deified the active and passive powers of generation. The same tendency was manifested in Egypt. Osiris did not represent this power in any one department of nature. He appears to have been, like Siva in his genial capacity, The Fructifying Power of the Universe. The emblems of the sun were sacred to him, and astronomical ceremonies of worship typified him as the sun, to whose rays the earth owes her fruitfulness. His worship