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PROFESSOR G. MASPERO.
How does it happen that among the literary travellers each year who frequent the Valley of the Nile, no one until to-day has taken enough interest in the Queens of Egypt to undertake the writing of their history? The subject, however, ought to have been attractive, as well for its novelty as for its abundance of material. The Egyptian woman enjoyed far greater personal independence than was usually accorded to the women of the East. She had a large share not only in the government of the family, but also in religious ceremonies, and even in the affairs of the exterior world. The records of the monuments show her to have been as actively concerned in the affairs of her day, war alone excepted, as her father, her husband or her son. indeed, enjoyed less freedom than did their female subjects, the dignity of their state preventing them from mingling easily in general life; yet freedom, though less claimed, was still theirs by right, and could be indulged in according to the individuality of character or through the trend of circumstances. Owing to her relationship to Mr. Theodore Davis, Miss Buttles has been enabled to trace at her leisure the footsteps of Egyptian Queens in the land in which they lived their lives and which preserves for us their bodies.
She has entered many
of their Royal tombs, and whether measuring the last earthly couch of Hâtshopsîtû, or handling the jewels and funeral furniture of Thịy, she felt drawn into something like personal relations with her subject. Other queens seen by her through the glass cases of our Museum, and then but dimly recognised, unveiled their faces to her as she sought in books and amidst the dust of ruins for the story of their lives, while she endeavoured to replace them in their old environment and to connect their withered profiles with the slim silhouettes instinct with youth and grace, which they have left upon the walls of ancient Theban temples.
Her task has not been light. Many of the documents relating to the queens are not yet published, and others are preserved in works which are well-nigh inaccessible to one who is not a professional Egyptologist. Therefore, she has needed much patient perseverance in collecting her material, much discriminating prudence in the use of what she found. Our science advances only at the cost of errors which follow and destroy one another for a long time before vanishing at last before the exact truth. Sometimes a queen whom we ranked at first in a later dynasty, is now considered a member of an earlier ; a queen we deemed the mother of some Sovereign, is now known to have been that Sovereign's wife. For over half a century Hâtshopsitû has wrongly borne the name of Hatasu, a name still used by those who prefer its sound. For the construction of such a history, a mere series of extracts from the works of well-known authorities would not suffice. It was necessary to follow the variations and development of their ideas until their latest expression could be gained; these results then had to be submitted to the criticism of other authorities who had touched on the same points, while reference was made wherever possible to the original evidence. This is what Miss Buttles has done to the best of her ability ; errors are consequently rare in her book, errors resulting from
resulting from superficial study or neglect of modern evidence. When she is mistaken, she can generally quote the precedent of some savant who was her authority, and whose error has not yet been corrected.
It is, then, an authentic series of the Queens of Egypt which she has established, although it cannot yet be affirmed that the series is complete. Many a wearer of the uraeus and double diadem is missing from the ranks, perhaps will never answer to the roll-call. If the Heracleopolitan and Xoïtan Pharaohs still evade research, small must be our chances of discovering the wives who shared their thrones. Nine out of ten of those spared by oblivion are little more than names, although some seem to stand out more vividly among the shadows; yet they remain but phantoms, while only a phase or two of their past lives is offered to our view. Mutemuau reveals herself for the first time on the night of her supernatural marriage, and remains visible till the birth of her son Amenôthes III.; her maternal task accomplished, she fades again into the darkness and never reappears. Ahhotpu I., daughter, wife, ancestress of kings, owes the greater part of her present fame to the jewels placed upon her mummy by relatives desirous that she should be as richly adorned in the next world as in this. A stela of Abydos transports us to the palace of Nofritari and records for us in detail a conversation with her husband Ahmosis, yet when associated with the cult received by hers on Amenothes in the necropolis of Thebes, the queen is almost effaced in the goddess. An to make mention of Hâtshopsîtû herself, of whom we possess the most detailed accounts, we are given minute particulars as to her birth and education, her coronation and her buildings, her expedition to the Ladders of Incense; yet how little do we know of her marriage, or of her relations with her nephew Thoutmosis III.?
Miss Buttles has given us a faithful register of all that we have been permitted to learn upon her subject-names, titles, here and there an isolated episode, occasionally an extended biographical account. The gaps result from the lack of documentary evidence on the persons studied ; no
could do more or better with such fragmentary material.
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