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Title: Ancient Egypt
Author: Rawlinson, George, 1812-1902
Language: English
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COPYRIGHT BY T. FISHER UNWIN, 1886 (For Great Britain)





General shape of Egypt, 1--Chief divisions: twofold division, 2;
threefold division, 3--The Egypt of the maps unreal, 4--Egypt, "the gift
of the river," in what sense, 5, 6--The Fayoum, 7--- Egyptian
speculations concerning the Nile, 7, 8--The Nile not beautiful, 8--Size
of Egypt, 9--Fertility, 10--Geographical situation, 11, 12--The Nile, as
a means of communication, 12, 13, Phenomena of the inundation, 13,
14--Climate of Egypt. 14--Geology, 15--Flora and Fauna, 16, 17--General
monotony, 19--Exceptions, 20-22.



Origin of the Egyptians, 23--Phenomena of their language and type,
24--Two marked varieties of physique. 25--Two types of character: the
melancholic, 25, 27: the gay, 27-29--Character of the Egyptian religion:
polytheism, 30, 31--Animal worship, 31-33--Worship of the monarch,
33--Osirid saga, 34, 35--Evil gods, 36--Local cults, 37--Esoteric
religion, 38; how reconciled with the popular belief, 39--Conviction of
a life after death, 40, 41--Moral code, 41-43--Actual state of morals,
43--Ranks of society, 44, 45.



Early Egyptian myths: the Seb and Thoth legends, 46, 47--The destruction
of mankind by Ra, 48--Traditions concerning M'na, or Menes, 48--Site of
Memphis, 49--Great Temple of Phthah at Memphis, 50, 51--Names of
Memphis, 51--Question of the existence of M'na, 52, 53--Supposed
successors of M'na, 54--First historical Egyptian, Sneferu, 55--The
Egypt of his time, 56--Hieroglyphics, 57--Tombs, 58--Incipient pyramids,
59, 60--Social condition of the people, 60--Manners, 61--Position of
women, 62-64.



Difficult to realize the conception of a great pyramid, 65--Egyptian
idea of one, 66--Number of pyramids in Egypt: the Principal Three,
67--Description of the "Third Pyramid," 67-71; of the "Second Pyramid,"
72; of the "First" or "Great Pyramid," 75-81--The traditional builders,
Khufu, Shafra, and Menkaura, 82; the pyramids their tombs, 82--Grandeur
of Khufu's conception, 83--Cruelty involved in it, 84, 85--The builders'
hopes not realized, 85, 86--Skill displayed in the construction,
86--Magnificence of the architectural effect, 89--Inferiority of the
"Third Pyramid," 90--Continuance of the pyramid period, 91-94.



Shift of the seat of power--site of Thebes, 95--Origin of the name of
Thebes, 96--Earliest known Theban king, Antef I., 97--His successors,
Mentu-hotep I. and "Antef the Great," 98--Other Antefs and Mentu-hoteps,
98, 99--Sankh-ka-ra and his fleet, 99, 100--Dynasty of Usurtasens and
Amenemhats: spirit of their civilization, 100, 101--Reign of Amenemhat
I., 102--His wars and hunting expeditions, 103, 104--Usurtasen I.: his
wars, 105--His sculptures and architectural works, 106--His obelisk,
107, 109--Reign of Amenemhat II.: tablet belonging to his time, 109,
110--Usurtasen II. and his conquests, 111, 112.



Dangers connected with the inundation of the Nile, twofold, 113--An
excessive inundation, 114; a defective one, 115--Sufferings from these
causes under Amenemhat III., 115, 116--Possible storage of water,
117--Amenemhat's reservoir, the "Lake Mœris," 118--Doubts as to its
dimensions, 119, 120--Amenemhat's "Labyrinth," 121--His pyramid, and
name of Ra-n-mat, 122, 123.



Wanderings of the Patriarch, 124--Necessity which drove him into Egypt,
125--Passage of the Desert, 126--A dread anxiety unfaithfully met,
127--Reception on the frontier, and removal of Sarah to the court,
128--Abraham's material well-being, 129--The Pharaoh restores Sarah,
130--Probable date of the visit, 130--Other immigrants, 131.



Exemption of Egypt hitherto from foreign attack, 132--Threatening
movements among the populations of Asia, 133--Manetho's tale of the
"Shepherd" invasion, 134--The probable reality, 135, 136--Upper Egypt
not overrun, 137--The first Hyksos king, Set, or Saites, 138--Duration
of the rule, doubtful, 139--Character of the rule improves with time,
140--Apepi's great works at Tanis, 144--Apepi and Ra-sekenen, 145--Apepi
and Joseph, 146.



Rapid deterioration of conquering races generally, 147, 148--Recovery of
the Egyptians from the ill effects of the invasion, 149--Second rise of
Thebes to greatness, 150--War of Apepi with Ra-sekenen III.,
151--Succession of Aahmes; war continues, 152--The Hyksos quit Egypt,
153--Aahmes perhaps assisted by the Ethiopians, 153-157.



Early wars of Thothmes in Ethiopia and Nubia, 158-160--His desire to
avenge the Hyksos invasion, 161--Condition of Western Asia at this
period, 162, 163--Geographical sketch of the countries to be attacked,
164, 165--Probable information of Thothmes on these matters, 167--His
great expedition into Syria and Mesopotamia, 167--His buildings,
168--His greatness insufficiently appreciated, 169.



High estimation of women in Egypt, 170--Early position of Hatasu as
joint ruler with Thothmes II., 173--Her buildings at this period,
173--Her assumption of male attire and titles, 174-177--Her nominal
regency for Thothmes III., and real sovereignty, 177, 178--Construction
and voyage of her fleet, 178, 183--Return of the expedition to Thebes,
184--Construction of a temple to commemorate it, 185--Joint reign of
Hatasu with Thothmes III.--Her obelisks, 186--Her name obliterated by
Thothmes, 187.



First expedition of Thothmes III. into Asia, 189-191--His second and
subsequent campaigns, 191, 192--Great expedition of his thirty-third
year, 192, 193--Adventure with an elephant, 194--Further expeditions:
amount of plunder and tribute, 195--Interest in natural history,
196--Employment of a navy, 197--Song of victory on the walls of the
Temple of Karnak, 198-199--Architectural works, 199-201--Their present
wide diffusion, 202--Thothmes compared with Alexander, 203--Description
of his person, 204--Position of the Israelites under Thothmes III.,
205--Short reign of Amenhotep II., 206.



The "Twin Colossi" of Thebes: their impressiveness, 208-211--The account
given of them by their sculptor, 212--The Eastern Colossus, why called
"The Vocal Memnon," 213, 214--Earliest testimony to its being "vocal,"
214--Rational account of the phenomenon, 215-217--Amenhotep's temple at
Luxor, 217, 218--His other buildings, 219--His wars and expeditions,
219, 220--His lion hunts; his physiognomy and character, 221, 222.



Obscure nature of the heresy of the Disk-worshippers, 223-225--Possible
connection of Disk-worship with the Israelites, 226--Hostility of the
Disk-worshippers to the old Egyptian religion, 227--The introduction of
the "heresy" traced to Queen Taia, 228--Great development of the
"heresy" under her son, Amenhotep IV., or Khuenaten, 229--Other changes
introduced by him, 230.



Advance of the Hittite power in Syria, 231--War of Saplal with Ramesses
I., 231--War of Seti I. with Maut-enar, 232--Great Syrian campaign of
Seti, followed by a treaty, 233, 235--Seti's other wars, 236--His great
wall, 237--Hittite war of Ramesses II., 238, 240--Poem of Pentaour,
241--Results of the battle of Kadesh, a new treaty and an
inter-marriage, 242, 243--Military decline of Egypt, 244--Egyptian art
reaches its highest point: Great Hall of Columns at Karnak, 245--Tomb of
Seti, 246, 247--Colossi of Ramesses II., 248--Ramesses II. the great
oppressor of the Israelites, 249--- Physiognomies of Seti I. and
Ramesses II, 250-252.



Good prospect of peace on Menephthah's accession, 253--General sketch of
his reign, 254--Invasion of the Maxyes, 255--Their Mediterranean allies,
256, 257--Repulse of the invasion, 258-261--Israelite troubles,
262-264--Loss of the Egyptian chariot force in the Red Sea,
265--Internal revolts and difficulties, 265--General review of the
civilization of the period, 266-268.



Temporary disintegration of Egypt, 269--Reign of Setnekht, 270--Reign of
Ramesses III., 271--General restlessness of the nations in his time
272,--Libyan invasion of Egypt, 273, 274--Great invasion of the Tekaru,
Tanauna, and others, 275, 276--First naval battle on record, 277,
278--Part taken by Ramesses in the fight, 278-281--Campaign of revenge,
282--Later years of Ramesses peaceful, 283--General decline of Egypt,
284--Insignificance of the later Ramessides, 284, 285--Deterioration in
art, literature, and morals, 285, 287.



Influence of the priests in Egypt, 288--Ordinary relations between them
and the kings, 289--High-priesthood of Ammon becomes hereditary; Herhor,
290--Reign of Pinetem I., 293--Reign of Men-khepr-ra, 294--Rise of the
kingdom of the Israelites, 295--Friendly relations established between
Pinetem II. and Solomon, 296--Effect on Hebrew art and architecture,



Shishak's family Semitic, but not Assyrian or Babylonian, 298--Connected
by marriage with the priest-kings, 299, 300--Reception of Jeroboam by
Shishak, 301--Shishak's expedition against Rehoboam, 302--Aid lent to
Jeroboam in his own kingdom, 303--Arab conquests, 304--Karnak
inscription, 305--Shishak's successors, 306--War of Zerah (Osorkon II.?)
with Asa, 307--Effect of Zerah's defeat, 309--Decline of the dynasty,
310--Disintegration of Egypt, 310, 311--Further deterioration in
literature and art, 311-313.



Vague use of the term Ethiopia, 314--Ethiopian kingdom of Napata,
315--Wealth of Napata, 316--Piankhi's rise to power, 317--His
protectorate of Egypt, 318--Revolt of Tafnekht and others,
318--Suppression of the revolt, 319-323--Death of Piankhi, and revolt of
Bek-en-ranf, 323--Power of Shabak established over Egypt, 324--General
character of the Ethiopian rule, 325--Advance of Assyria towards the
Egyptian border, 325--Collision between Sargon and Shabak, 326--Reign of
Shabatok--Sennacherib threatens Egypt, 327--Reign of Tehrak, 328-330.



Egypt attacked by Esarhaddon, 331, 332--Great battle near Memphis,
333--Memphis taken, and flight of Tehrak to Napata, 334--Egypt split up
into small states by Esarhaddon, 334, 335--Tehrak renews the struggle,
336--Tehrak driven out by Asshur-bani-pal, 337--His last effort,
337--Attempt made by Rut-Ammon fails, 338--Temporary success of
Mi-Ammon-nut, 339--Egypt becomes once more an Assyrian dependency,
340--Her wretched condition, 341.



Foreign help needed to save a sinking state, 342--Libyan origin of
Psamatik I., 344--His revolt connected with the decline of Assyria,
345--Assistance rendered him by Gyges, 345--His struggle with the petty
princes, 346--Reign of Psamatik: place assigned by him to the
mercenaries, 347--His measures for restoring Egypt to her former
prosperity, 348, 349--He encourages intercourse between Egypt and
Greece, 350-352--Egypt restored to life: character of the new life,
353--Later years of Psamatik: conquest of Ashdod, 354--Reign of Neco:
his two fleets, 355--His circumnavigation of Africa, 356--His conquest
of Syria, 357--Jeremiah on the battle of Carchemish, 358--Neco's dream
of empire terminates, 359.



The Saïtic revival in art and architecture,360--Some recovery of
military strength, 361--Expedition of Psamatik II. into Ethiopia,
362--Part taken by Apries in the war between Nebuchadnezzar and
Zedekiah, 363--His Phœnician conquests, 364--His expedition against
Cyrene, 364--Invasion of Egypt by Nebuchadnezzar, 365--Quiet reign of
Amasis, 366--The Saïtic revival not the recovery of true national life,



Patient acquiescence of Amasis in his position of tributary to Babylon,
368--Rise of the Persian power under Cyrus, and appeal made by Crœsus to
Amasis, League of Egypt, Lydia, and Babylon, 369, 370--Precipitancy of
Crœsus, 371--Fall of Babylon, 371--Later wars of Cyrus,
372--Preparations made against Egypt by Cambyses, 373, 374--Great battle
of Pelusium, 375--Psamatik III, besieged in Memphis, 376--Fall of
Memphis, and cruel treatment of the Egyptians by Cambyses, 377, 378--His
iconoclasm checked by some considerations of policy, 379--Conciliatory
measures of Darius Hystaspis, 379, 380.



First revolt, under Khabash, easily suppressed by Xerxes, 381,
382--Second revolt under Inarus and Amyrtæus, assisted by Athens, 382,
383--Suppressed by Megabyzus, 384--Herodotus in Egypt, 385--Third
revolt, under Nefaa-rut, attains a certain success; a native monarchy
re-established, 386.



Unquiet time under the earlier successors of Nefaa-rut,
387--Preparations of Nectanebo (Nekht Hor-heb) for the better protection
of Egypt against the Persians, 388--Invasion of Egypt by Pharnabazus and
Iphicrates, 389--Failure of the expedition, 390--A faint revival of art
and architecture, 391.



Reign of Te-her (Tacho), 393--Reign of Nectanebo II. (Nekht-nebf),
394--Revolt of Sidon, and great expedition of Ochus, 394, 395--Sidon
betrayed by Tennes and Memnon of Rhodes, 396--March upon Egypt:
disposition of the Persian forces, 397--Skirmish at Pelusium, and
retreat of Nekht-nebf to Memphis, 398, 399--Capture of Pelusium,
399--Surrender of Bubastis, 400--Nehkt-nebf flies to Ethiopia,
401--General reflections, 402.



PILLARED HALL OF SETI I                                 _Frontispiece_

DOM AND DATE PALM TREES                                               17

FIGURES OF TAOURT                                                     36

FIGURE OF BES                                                         37

TABLET OF SNEFERU AT WADY-MAGHARAH                                    55

PYRAMID OF MEYDOUM                                                    59

GREAT PYRAMID OF SACCARAH                                             61

SECTION OF THE SAME                                                   61

GROUP OF STATUARY--HUSBAND AND WIFE                                   63

SECTION OF THE THIRD PYRAMID                                          69

TOMB CHAMBER IN THE SAME                                              69

SARCOPHAGUS OF MYCERINUS                                              73

SECTION OF THE SECOND PYRAMID                                         73

SECTION OF THE GREAT PYRAMID                                          76


THE GREAT GALLERY IN THE SAME                                         79

VIEW OF THE FIRST AND SECOND PYRAMID                                  87

SPEARING THE CROCODILE                                               103


BUST OF A SHEPHERD KING                                              141

HEAD OF NEFERTARI-AAHMES                                             155

BUST OF THOTHMES I                                                   159

HEAD OF THOTHMES II                                                  171

HEAD OF QUEEN HATASU                                                 171

GROUND-PLAN OF TEMPLE AT MEDINET-ABOU                                175

EGYPTIAN SHIP IN THE TIME OF HATASU                                  183

HOUSE BUILT ON PILES IN THE LAND OF PUNT                             181

THE QUEEN OF PUNT AT THE COURT OF HATASU                             183


BUST OF THOTHMES III                                                 205

TWIN COLOSSI OF AMENHOTEP III. AT THEBES                             209

BUST OF AMENHOTEP III                                                221

KHUENATEN WORSHIPPING THE SOLAR DISK                                 225

HEAD OF AMENHOTEP IV. OR KHUENATEN                                   229

HEAD OF SETI I.                                                      250

BUST OF RAMESSES II.                                                 251

HEAD OF MENEPHTHAH                                                   255

SEA-FIGHT IN THE TIME OF RAMESSES III.                               279

CARICATURE OF THE TIME OF THE SAME                                   286

HEAD OF HER-HOR                                                      291


HEAD OF SHISHAK                                                      307


HEAD OF SHABAK                                                       325

SEAL OF SHABAK                                                       327

HEAD OF TIRHAKAH                                                     329

FIGURE OF ESAR-HADDON AT THE NAHR-EL-KELB                            335

HEAD OF PSAMATIK I                                                   344

BAS-RELIEFS OF THE TIME OF PSAMATIK                                  351

HEAD OF NECO                                                         355




In shape Egypt is like a lily with a crooked stem. A broad blossom
terminates it at its upper end; a button of a bud projects from the
stalk a little below the blossom, on the left-hand side. The broad
blossom is the Delta, extending from Aboosir to Tineh, a direct distance
of a hundred and eighty miles, which the projection of the coast--the
graceful swell of the petals--enlarges to two hundred and thirty. The
bud is the Fayoum, a natural depression in the hills that shut in the
Nile valley on the west, which has been rendered cultivable for many
thousands of years by the introduction into it of the Nile water,
through a canal known as the "Bahr Yousouf." The long stalk of the lily
is the Nile valley itself, which is a ravine scooped in the rocky soil
for seven hundred miles from the First Cataract to the apex of the
Delta, sometimes not more than a mile broad, never more than eight or
ten miles. No other country in the world is so strangely shaped, so
long compared to its width, so straggling, so hard to govern from a
single centre.

At the first glance, the country seems to divide itself into two
strongly contrasted regions; and this was the original impression which
it made upon its inhabitants. The natives from a very early time
designated their land as "the two lands," and represented it by a
hieroglyph in which the form used to express "land" was doubled. The
kings were called "chiefs of the Two Lands," and wore two crowns, as
being kings of two countries. The Hebrews caught up the idea, and though
they sometimes called Egypt "Mazor" in the singular number, preferred
commonly to designate it by the dual form "Mizraim," which means "the
two Mazors." These "two Mazors," "two Egypts," or "two lands," were, of
course, the blossom and the stalk, the broad tract upon the
Mediterranean known as "Lower Egypt," or "the Delta," and the long
narrow valley that lies, like a green snake, to the south, which bears
the name of "Upper Egypt," or "the Said." Nothing is more striking than
the contrast between these two regions. Entering Egypt from the
Mediterranean, or from Asia by the caravan route, the traveller sees
stretching before him an apparently boundless plain, wholly unbroken by
natural elevations, generally green with crops or with marshy plants,
and canopied by a cloudless sky, which rests everywhere on a distant
flat horizon. An absolute monotony surrounds him. No alternation of
plain and highland, meadow and forest, no slopes of hills, or hanging
woods, or dells, or gorges, or cascades, or rushing streams, or babbling
rills, meet his gaze on any side; look which way he will, all is
sameness, one vast smooth expanse of rich alluvial soil, varying only in
being cultivated or else allowed to lie waste. Turning his back with
something of weariness on the dull uniformity of this featureless plain,
the wayfarer proceeds southwards, and enters, at the distance of a
hundred miles from the coast, on an entirely new scene. Instead of an
illimitable prospect meeting him on every side, he finds himself in a
comparatively narrow vale, up and down which the eye still commands an
extensive view, but where the prospect on either side is blocked at the
distance of a few miles by rocky ranges of hills, white or yellow or
tawny, sometimes drawing so near as to threaten an obstruction of the
river course, sometimes receding so far as to leave some miles of
cultivable soil on either side of the stream. The rocky ranges, as he
approaches them, have a stern and forbidding aspect. They rise for the
most part, abruptly in bare grandeur; on their craggy sides grows
neither moss nor heather; no trees clothe their steep heights. They seem
intended, like the mountains that enclosed the abode of Rasselas, to
keep in the inhabitants of the vale within their narrow limits, and bar
them out from any commerce or acquaintance with the regions beyond.

Such is the twofold division of the country which impresses the observer
strongly at the first. On a longer sojourn and a more intimate
familiarity, the twofold division gives place to one which is threefold.
The lower differs from the upper valley, it is a sort of debatable
region, half plain, half vale; the cultivable surface spreads itself out
more widely, the enclosing hills recede into the distance; above all,
to the middle tract belongs the open space of the Fayoum nearly fifty
miles across in its greatest diameter, and containing an area of four
hundred square miles. Hence, with some of the occupants of Egypt a
triple division has been preferred to a twofold one, the Greeks
interposing the "Heptanomis" between the Thebais and the Delta, and the
Arabs the "Vostani" between the Said and the Bahari, or "country of the

It may be objected to this description, that the Egypt which it presents
to the reader is not the Egypt of the maps. Undoubtedly it is not. The
maps give the name of Egypt to a broad rectangular space which they mark
out in the north-eastern corner of Africa, bounded on two sides by the
Mediterranean and the Red Sea, and on the two others by two imaginary
lines which the map-makers kindly draw for us across the sands of the
desert. But "this Egypt," as has been well observed, "is a fiction of
the geographers, as untrue to fact as the island Atlantis of Greek
legend, or the Lyonnesse of mediæval romance, both sunk beneath the
ocean to explain their disappearance. The true Egypt of the old
monuments, of the Hebrews, of the Greeks and Romans, of the Arabs, and
of its own people in this day, is a mere fraction of this vast area of
the maps, nothing more than the valley and plain watered by the Nile,
for nearly seven hundred miles by the river's course from the
Mediterranean southwards."[1] The great wastes on either side of the
Nile valley are in no sense Egypt, neither the undulating sandy desert
to the west, nor the rocky and gravelly highland to the east, which
rises in terrace after terrace to a height, in some places, of six
thousand feet. Both are sparsely inhabited, and by tribes of a different
race from the Egyptian--tribes whose allegiance to the rulers of Egypt
is in the best times nominal, and who for the most part spurn the very
idea of submission to authority.

If, then, the true Egypt be the tract that we have described--the Nile
valley, with the Fayoum and the Delta--the lily stalk, the bud, and the
blossom--we can well understand how it came to be said of old, that
"Egypt was the gift of the river." Not that the lively Greek, who first
used the expression, divined exactly the scientific truth of the matter.
The fancy of Herodotus saw Africa, originally, _doubly_ severed from
Asia by two parallel _fjords_, one running inland northwards from the
Indian Ocean, as the Red Sea does to this day, and the other penetrating
inland southwards from the Mediterranean to an equal or greater
distance! The Nile, he said, pouring itself into this latter _fjord_,
had by degrees filled it up, and had then gone on and by further
deposits turned into land a large piece of the "sea of the Greeks," as
was evident from the projection of the shore of the Delta beyond the
general coast-line of Africa eastward and westward; and, he added, "I am
convinced, for my own part, that if the Nile should please to divert his
waters from their present bed into the Red Sea, he would fill it up and
turn it into dry land in the space of twenty thousand years, or maybe in
half that time--for he is a mighty river and a most energetic one."
Here, in this last expression, he is thoroughly right, though the method
of the Nile's energy has been other than he supposed. The Nile, working
from its immense reservoirs in the equatorial regions, has gradually
scooped itself out a deep bed in the sand and rock of the desert, which
must have originally extended across the whole of northern Africa from
the Atlantic to the Red Sea. Having scooped itself out this bed to a
depth, in places, of three hundred feet from the desert level, it has
then proceeded partially to fill it up with its own deposits. Occupying,
when it is at its height, the entire bed, and presenting at that time
the appearance of a vast lake, or succession of lakes, it deposes every
day a portion of sediment over the whole space which it covers: then,
contracting gradually, it leaves at the base of the hills, on both
sides, or at any rate on one, a strip of land fresh dressed with mud,
which gets wider daily as the waters still recede, until yards grow into
furlongs, and furlongs into miles, and at last the shrunk stream is
content with a narrow channel a few hundred yards in width, and leaves
the rest of its bed to the embraces of sun and air, and, if he so wills,
to the industry of man. The land thus left exposed is Egypt--Egypt is
the temporarily uncovered bed of the Nile, which it reclaims and
recovers during a portion of each year, when Egypt disappears from view,
save where human labour has by mounds and embankments formed artificial
islands that raise their heads above the waste of waters, for the most
part crowned with buildings.

There is one exception to this broad and sweeping statement. The Fayoum
is no part of the natural bed of the Nile, and has not been scooped out
by its energy. It is a natural depression in the western desert,
separated off from the Nile valley by a range of limestone hills from
two hundred to five hundred feet in height, and, apart from the activity
of man, would have been arid, treeless, and waterless. Still, it derives
from the Nile all its value, all its richness, all its fertility. Human
energy at some remote period introduced into the depressed tract through
an artificial channel from the Nile, cut in some places through the
rock, the life-giving fluid; and this fluid, bearing the precious Nile
sediment, has sufficed to spread fertility over the entire region, and
to make the desert blossom like a garden.

The Egyptians were not unaware of the source of their blessings. From a
remote date they speculated on their mysterious river. They deified it
under the name of Hapi, "the Hidden," they declared that "his abode was
not known;" that he was an inscrutable god, that none could tell his
origin: they acknowledged him as the giver of all good things, and
especially of the fruits of the earth. They said--

    "Hail to thee, O Nile!
    Thou showest thyself in this land,
    Coming in peace, giving life to Egypt;
    O Ammon, thou leadest night unto day,
    A leading that rejoices the heart!
    Overflowing the gardens created by Ra;
    Giving life to all animals;
    Watering the land without ceasing:
    The way of heaven descending:
    Lover of food, bestower of corn,
    Giving life to every home, O Phthah!...

    O inundation of Nile, offerings are made to thee;
    Oxen are slain to thee;
    Great festivals are kept for thee;
    Fowls are sacrificed to thee;
    Beasts of the field are caught for thee;
    Pure flames are offered to thee;
    Offerings are made to every god,
    As they are made unto Nile.
    Incense ascends unto heaven,
    Oxen, bulls, fowls are burnt!
    Nile makes for himself chasms in the Thebaid;
    Unknown is his name in heaven,
    He doth not manifest his forms!
    Vain are all representations!

    Mortals extol him, and the cycle of gods!
    Awe is felt by the terrible ones;
    His son is made Lord of all,
    To enlighten all Egypt.
    Shine forth, shine forth, O Nile! shine forth!
    Giving life to men by his omen:
    Giving life to his oxen by the pastures!
    Shine forth in glory, O Nile!"[2]

Though thus useful, beneficent, and indeed essential to the existence of
Egypt, the Nile can scarcely be said to add much to the variety of the
landscape or to the beauty of the scenery. It is something, no doubt, to
have the sight of water in a land where the sun beats down all day long
with unremitting force till the earth is like a furnace of iron beneath
a sky of molten brass. But the Nile is never clear. During the
inundation it is deeply stained with the red argillaceous soil brought
down from the Abyssinian highlands. At other seasons it is always more
or less tinged with the vegetable matter which it absorbs on its passage
from Lake Victoria to Khartoum; and this vegetable matter, combined
with Its depth and volume, gives it a dull deep hue, which prevents it
from having the attractiveness of purer and more translucent streams.
The Greek name, Neilos, and the Hebrew, Sichor, are thought to embody
this attribute of the mighty river, and to mean "dark blue" or
"blue-black," terms sufficiently expressive of the stream's ordinary
colour. Moreover, the Nile is too wide to be picturesque. It is seldom
less than a mile broad from the point where it enters Egypt, and running
generally between flat shores it scarcely reflects anything, unless it
be the grey-blue sky overhead, or the sails of a passing pleasure boat.

The size of Egypt, within the limits which have been here assigned to
it, is about eleven thousand four hundred square miles, or less than
that of any European State, except Belgium, Saxony, and Servia.
Magnitude is, however, but an insignificant element in the greatness of
States--witness Athens, Sparta, Rhodes, Genoa, Florence, Venice. Egypt
is the richest and most productive land in the whole world. In its most
flourishing age we are told that it contained twenty thousand cities. It
deserved to be called, more (probably) than even Belgium, "one great
town." But its area was undoubtedly small. Still, as little men have
often taken the highest rank among warriors, so little States have
filled a most important place in the world's history. Palestine was
about the size of Wales; the entire Peloponnese was no larger than New
Hampshire; Attica had nearly the same area as Cornwall. Thus the case of
Egypt does not stand by itself, but is merely one out of many exceptions
to what may perhaps be called the general rule.

If stinted for space, Egypt was happy in her soil and in her situation.
The rich alluvium, continually growing deeper and deeper, and
top-dressed each year by nature's bountiful hand, was of an
inexhaustible fertility, and bore readily year after year a threefold
harvest--first a grain crop, and then two crops of grasses or esculent
vegetables. The wheat sown returned a hundredfold to the husbandman, and
was gathered at harvest-time in prodigal abundance--"as the sand of the
sea, very much,"--till men "left numbering" (Gen. xli. 49). Flax and
doora were largely cultivated, and enormous quantities were produced of
the most nutritive vegetables, such as lentils, garlic, leeks, onions,
endive, radishes, melons, cucumbers, lettuces, and the like, which
formed a most important element in the food of the people. The vine was
also grown in many places, as along the flanks of the hills between
Thebes and Memphis, in the basin of the Fayoum, at Anthylla in the
Mareotis at Sebennytus (now Semnood), and at Plisthiné, on the shore of
the Mediterranean. The date-palm, springing naturally from the soil in
clumps, or groves, or planted in avenues, everywhere offered its golden
clusters to the wayfarer, dropping its fruit into his lap. Wheat,
however, was throughout antiquity the chief product of Egypt, which was
reckoned the granary of the world, the refuge and resource of all the
neighbouring nations in time of dearth, and on which in the later
republican, and in the imperial times, Rome almost wholly depended for
her sustenance.

If the soil was thus all that could be wished, still more advantageous
was the situation. Egypt was the only nation of the ancient world which
had ready access to two seas, the Northern Sea, or "Sea of the Greeks,"
and the Eastern Sea, or "Sea of the Arabians and the Indians." Phœnicia
might carry her traffic by the painful travel of caravans across fifteen
degrees of desert from her cities on the Levantine coast to the inner
recess of the Persian Gulf, and thus get a share in the trade of the
East at a vast expenditure of time and trouble. Assyria and Babylonia
might for a time, when at the height of their dominion, obtain a
temporary hold on lands which were not their own, and boast that they
stretched from the "sea of the rising" to "that of the setting
sun"--from the Persian Gulf to the Mediterranean; but Egypt, at all
times and under all circumstances, commands by her geographic position
an access both to the Mediterranean and to the Indian Ocean by way of
the Red Sea, whereof nothing can deprive her. Suez must always be hers,
for the Isthmus is her natural boundary, and her water-system has been
connected with the head of the Arabian Gulf for more than three thousand
years; and, in the absence of any strong State in Arabia or Abyssinia,
the entire western coast of the Red Sea falls naturally under her
influence with its important roadsteads and harbours. Thus Egypt had two
great outlets for her productions, and two great inlets by which she
received the productions of other countries. Her ships could issue from
the Nilotic ports and trade with Phœnicia, or Carthage, or Italy, or
Greece, exchanging her corn and wine and glass and furniture and works
in metallurgy for Etruscan vases, or Grecian statues, or purple Tynan
robes, or tin brought by Carthaginian merchantmen from the Scilly
islands and from Cornwall; or they could start from Heroopolis, or Myos
Hormus, or some port further to the southward, and pass by way of the
Red Sea to the spice-region of "Araby the Blest," or to the Abyssinian
timber-region, or to the shores of Zanzibar and Mozambique, or round
Arabia to Teredon on the Persian Gulf, or possibly to Ceylon or India.
The products of the distant east, even of "far Cathay," certainly flowed
into the land, for they have been dug out of the ancient tombs; but
whether they were obtained by direct or by indirect commerce must be
admitted to be doubtful.

The possession of the Nile was of extraordinary advantage to Egypt, not
merely as the source of fertility, but as a means of rapid
communication. One of the greatest impediments to progress and
civilization which Nature offers to man in regions which he has not yet
subdued to his will, is the difficulty of locomotion and of transport.
Mountains, forests, torrents, marshes, jungles, are the curses of "new
countries," forming, until they have been cut through, bridged over, or
tunnelled under, insurmountable barriers, hindering commerce and causing
hatreds through isolation. Egypt had from the first a broad road driven
through it from end to end--a road seven hundred miles long, and seldom
much less than a mile wide--which allowed of ready and rapid
communication between the remotest parts of the kingdom. Rivers, indeed,
are of no use as arteries of commerce or vehicles for locomotion until
men have invented ships or boats, or at least rafts, to descend and
ascend them; but the Egyptians were acquainted with the use of boats and
rafts from a very remote period, and took to the water like a brood of
ducks or a parcel of South Sea Islanders. Thirty-two centuries ago an
Egyptian king built a temple on the confines of the Mediterranean
entirely of stone which he floated down the Nile for six hundred and
fifty miles from the quarries of Assouan (Syêné); and the passage up the
river is for a considerable portion of the year as easy as the passage
down. Northerly winds--the famous "Etesian gales"--prevail in Egypt
during the whole of the summer and autumn, and by hoisting a sail it is
almost always possible to ascend the stream at a good pace. If the sail
be dropped, the current will at all times take a vessel down-stream; and
thus boats, and even vessels of a large size, pass up and down the
water-way with equal facility.

Egypt is at all seasons a strange country, but presents the most
astonishing appearance at the period of the inundation. At that time not
only is the lengthy valley from Assouan to Cairo laid under water, but
the Delta itself becomes one vast lake, interspersed with islands, which
stud its surface here and there at intervals, and which reminded
Herodotus of "the islands of the Ægean." The elevations, which are the
work of man, are crowned for the most part with the white walls of towns
and villages sparkling in the sunlight, and sometimes glassed in the
flood beneath them. The palms and sycamores stand up out of the expanse
of waters shortened by some five or six feet of their height.
Everywhere, when the inundation begins, the inhabitants are seen
hurrying their cattle to the shelter provided in the villages, and, if
the rise of the water is more rapid than usual, numbers rescue their
beasts with difficulty, causing them to wade or swim, or even saving
them by means of boats. An excessive inundation brings not only animal,
but human life into peril, endangering the villages themselves, which
may be submerged and swept away if the water rises above a certain
height. A deficient inundation, on the other hand, brings no immediate
danger, but by limiting production may create a dearth that causes
incalculable suffering.

Nature's operations are, however, so uniform that these calamities
rarely arise. Egypt rejoices, more than almost any other country, in an
equable climate, an equable temperature, and an equable productiveness.
The summers, no doubt, are hot, especially in the south, and an
occasional sirocco produces intense discomfort while it lasts. But the
cool Etesian wind, blowing from the north through nearly all the
summer-time, tempers the ardour of the sun's rays even in the hottest
season of the year; and during the remaining months, from October to
April, the climate is simply delightful. Egypt has been said to have but
two seasons, spring and summer. Spring reigns from October into
May--crops spring up, flowers bloom, soft zephyrs fan the cheek, when it
is mid-winter in Europe; by February the fruit-trees are in full
blossom; the crops begin to ripen in March, and are reaped by the end of
April; snow and frost are wholly unknown at any time; storm, fog, and
even rain are rare. A bright, lucid atmosphere rests upon the entire
scene. There is no moisture in the air, no cloud in the sky; no mist
veils the distance. One day follows another, each the counterpart of the
preceding; until at length spring retires to make room for summer, and a
fiercer light, a hotter sun, a longer day, show that the most enjoyable
part of the year is gone by.

The geology of Egypt is simple. The entire flat country is alluvial. The
hills on either side are, in the north, limestone, in the central region
sandstone, and in the south granite and syenite. The granitic formation
begins between the twenty-fourth and twenty-fifth parallels, but
occasional masses of primitive rock are intruded into the secondary
regions, and these extend northward as far as lat. 27°10'. Above the
rocks are, in many places, deposits of gravel and sand, the former hard,
the latter loose and shifting. A portion of the eastern desert is
metalliferous. Gold is found even at the present day in small
quantities, and seems anciently to have been more abundant. Copper,
iron, and lead have been also met with in modern times, and one iron
mine shows signs of having been anciently worked. Emeralds abound in the
region about Mount Zabara, and the eastern desert further yields
jaspers, carnelians, breccia verde, agates, chalcedonies, and

The flora of the country is not particularly interesting. Dom and date
palms are the principal trees, the latter having a single tapering stem,
the former dividing into branches. The sycamore (_Ficus sycamorus_) is
also tolerably common, as are several species of acacia. The acacia
seyal, which furnishes the gum arable of commerce, is "a gnarled and
thorny tree, somewhat like a solitary hawthorn in its habit and manner
of growth, but much larger." Its height, when full grown, is from
fifteen to twenty feet. The _persea_, a sacred plant among the ancient
Egyptians, is a bushy tree or shrub, which attains the height of
eighteen or twenty feet under favourable circumstances, and bears a
fruit resembling a date, with a subacid flavour. The bark is whitish,
the branches gracefully curved, the foliage of an ashy grey, more
especially on its under surface. Specially characteristic of Egypt,
though not altogether peculiar to it, were the papyrus and the
lotus--the _Cyperus papyrus_ and _Nymphæa lotus_ of botanists. The
papyrus was a tall smooth reed, with a large triangular stalk containing
a delicate pith, out of which the Egyptians manufactured their paper.
The fabric was excellent, as is shown by its continuance to the present
day, and by the fact that the Greeks and Romans, after long trial,
preferred it to parchment. The lotus was a large white water-lily of
exquisite beauty. Kings offered it to the gods; guests wore it at
banquets; architectural forms were modelled upon it; it was employed in
the ornamentation of thrones. Whether its root had the effect on men
ascribed to it by Homer may be doubted; but no one ever saw it without
recognizing it instantly as "a thing of beauty," and therefore as "a joy
for ever."

[Illustration: DOM AND DATE PALMS.]

Nor can Egypt have afforded in ancient times any very exciting amusement
to sportsmen. At the present day gazelles are chased with hawk and hound
during the dry season on the broad expanse of the Delta; but anciently
the thick population scared off the whole antelope tribe, which was
only to be found in the desert region beyond the limits of the alluvium.
Nor can Egypt, in the proper sense of the word, have ever been the home
of red-deer, roes, or fallow-deer, of lions, bears, hyænas, lynxes, or
rabbits. Animals of these classes may occasionally have appeared in the
alluvial plain, but they would only be rare visitants driven by hunger
from their true habitat in the Libyan or the Arabian uplands. The
crocodile, however, and the hippopotamus were actually hunted by the
ancient Egyptians; and they further indulged their love of sport in the
pursuits of fowling and fishing. All kinds of waterfowl are at all
seasons abundant in the Nile waters, and especially frequent the pools
left by the retiring river--pelicans, geese, ducks, ibises, cranes,
storks, herons, dotterels, kingfishers, and sea-swallows. Quails also
arrive in great numbers in the month of March, though there are no
pheasants, snipe, wood-cocks, nor partridges. Fish are very plentiful in
the Nile and the canals derived from it; but there are not many kinds
which afford much sport to the fisherman.

Altogether, Egypt is a land of tranquil monotony. The eye commonly
travels either over a waste of waters, or over a green plain unbroken by
elevations. The hills which inclose the Nile valley have level tops, and
sides that are bare of trees, or shrubs, or flowers, or even mosses. The
sky is generally cloudless. No fog or mist enwraps the distance in
mystery; no rainstorm sweeps across the scene; no rainbow spans the
empyrean; no shadows chase each other over the landscape. There is an
entire absence of picturesque scenery. A single broad river, unbroken
within the limits of Egypt even by a rapid, two flat strips of green
plain at its side, two low lines of straight-topped hills beyond them,
and a boundless open space where the river divides itself into half a
dozen sluggish branches before reaching the sea, constitute Egypt, which
is by nature a southern Holland---"weary, stale, flat and unprofitable."
The monotony is relieved, however, in two ways, and by two causes.
Nature herself does something to relieve it Twice a day, in the morning
and in the evening, the sky and the landscape are lit up by hues so
bright yet so delicate, that the homely features of the prospect are at
once transformed as by magic, and wear an aspect of exquisite beauty. At
dawn long streaks of rosy light stretch themselves across the eastern
sky, the haze above the western horizon blushes a deep red; a ruddy
light diffuses itself around, and makes walls and towers and minarets
and cupolas to glow like fire; the long shadows thrown by each tree and
building are purple or violet. A glamour is over the scene, which seems
transfigured by an enchanter's wand; but the enchanter is Nature, and
the wand she wields is composed of sun-rays. Again, at eve, nearly the
same effects are produced as in the morning, only with a heightened
effect; "the redness of flames" passes into "the redness of roses"--the
wavy cloud that fled in the morning comes into sight once more--comes
blushing, yet still comes on--comes burning with blushes, and clings to
the Sun-god's side.[3]

Night brings a fresh transfiguration. The olive after-glow gives place
to a deep blue-grey. The yellow moon rises into the vast expanse. A
softened light diffuses itself over earth and sky. The orb of night
walks in brightness through a firmament of sapphire; or, if the moon is
below the horizon, then the purple vault is lit up with many-coloured
stars. Silence profound reigns around. A phase of beauty wholly
different from that of the day-time smites the sense; and the monotony
of feature is forgiven to the changefulness of expression, and to the
experience of a new delight.

Man has also done his part to overcome the dulness and sameness that
brood over the "land of Mizraim." Where nature is most tame and
commonplace, man is tempted to his highest flights of audacity. As in
the level Babylonia he aspired to build a tower that should "reach to
heaven" (Gen. xi. 4), so in Egypt he strove to startle and surprise by
gigantic works, enormous undertakings, enterprises that might have
seemed wholly beyond his powers. And these have constituted in all ages,
except the very earliest, the great attractiveness of Egypt. Men are
drawn there, not by the mysteriousness of the Nile, or the mild beauties
of orchards and palm-groves, of well-cultivated fields and gardens--no,
nor by the loveliness of sunrises and sunsets, of moonlit skies and
stars shining with many hues, but by the huge masses of the pyramids, by
the colossal statues, the tall obelisks, the enormous temples, the
deeply-excavated tombs, the mosques, the castles, and the palaces. The
architecture of Egypt is its great glory. It began early, and it has
continued late. But for the great works, strewn thickly over the whole
valley of the Nile, the land of Egypt would have obtained but a small
share of the world's attention; and it is at least doubtful whether its
"story" would ever have been thought necessary to complete "the Story of
the Nations."


[1] R. Stuart Poole, "Cities of Egypt," p. 4.

[2] Translation by F.C. Cook.

[3] Adapted from Mr. Kinglake's "Eothen," p. 188.



Where the Egyptians came from, is a difficult question to answer.
Ancient speculators, when they could not derive a people definitely from
any other, took refuge in the statement, or the figment, that they were
the children of the soil which they had always occupied. Modern
theorists may say, if it please them, that they were evolved out of the
monkeys that had their primitive abode on that particular portion of the
earth's surface. Monkeys, however, are not found everywhere; and we have
no evidence that in Egypt they were ever indigenous, though, as pets,
they were very common, the Egyptians delighting in keeping them. Such
evidence as we have reveals to us the man as anterior to the monkey in
the land of Mizraim Thus we are thrown back on the original
question--Where did the man, or race of men, that is found in Egypt at
the dawn of history come from?

It is generally answered that they came from Asia; but this is not much
more than a conjecture. The physical type of the Egyptians is different
from that of any known Asiatic nation. The Egyptians had no traditions
that at all connected them with Asia. Their language, indeed, in
historic times was partially Semitic, and allied to the Hebrew, the
Phœnician, and the Aramaic; but the relationship was remote, and may be
partly accounted for by later intercourse, without involving original
derivation. The fundamental character of the Egyptian in respect of
physical type, language, and tone of thought, is Nigritic. The Egyptians
were not negroes, but they bore a resemblance to the negro which is
indisputable. Their type differs from the Caucasian in exactly those
respects which when exaggerated produce the negro. They were darker, had
thicker lips, lower foreheads, larger heads, more advancing jaws, a
flatter foot, and a more attenuated frame. It is quite conceivable that
the negro type was produced by a gradual degeneration from that which we
find in Egypt. It is even conceivable that the Egyptian type was
produced by gradual advance and amelioration from that of the negro.

Still, whencesoever derived, the Egyptian people, as it existed in the
flourishing times of Egyptian history, was beyond all question a mixed
race, showing diverse affinities. Whatever the people was originally, it
received into it from time to time various foreign elements, and those
in such quantities as seriously to affect its physique--Ethiopians from
the south, Libyans from the west, Semites from the north-east, where
Africa adjoined on Asia. There are two quite different types of Egyptian
form and feature, blending together in the mass of the nation, but
strongly developed, and (so to speak) accentuated in individuals. One is
that which we see in portraits of Rameses III, and in some of Rameses
II.--a moderately high forehead, a large, well-formed aquiline nose, a
well-shaped mouth with lips not over full, and a delicately rounded
chin. The other is comparatively coarse--forehead low, nose depressed
and short, lower part of the face prognathous and sensual-looking, chin
heavy, jaw large, lips thick and projecting. The two types of face are
not, however, accompanied by much difference of frame. The Egyptian is
always slight in figure, wanting in muscle, flat in foot, with limbs
that are too long, too thin, too lady-like. Something more of
muscularity appears, perhaps, in the earlier than in the later forms;
but this is perhaps attributable to a modification of the artistic

As Egypt presents us with two types of physique, so it brings before us
two strongly different types of character. On the one hand we see, alike
in the pictured scenes, in the native literary remains, and in the
accounts which foreigners have left us of the people, a grave and
dignified race, full of serious and sober thought, given to speculation
and reflection, occupied rather with the interests belonging to another
world than with those that attach to this present scene of existence,
and inclined to indulge in a gentle and dreamy melancholy. The first
thought of a king, when he began his reign, was to begin his tomb. The
desire of the grandee was similar. It is a trite tale how at feasts a
slave carried round to all the guests the representation of a mummied
corpse, and showed it to each in turn, with the solemn words--"Look at
this, and so eat and drink; for be sure that one day such as this thou
shalt be." The favourite song of the Egyptians, according to Herodotus,
was a dirge. The "Lay of Harper," which we subjoin, sounds a key-note
that was very familiar, at any rate, to large numbers among the

    The Great One[4] has gone to his rest,
      Ended his task and his race;
    Thus men are aye passing away,
      And youths are aye taking their place.
    As Ra rises up every morn,
      And Turn every evening doth set,
    So women conceive and bring forth,
      And men without ceasing beget.
    Each soul in its turn draweth breath--
    Each man born of woman sees Death.

    Take thy pleasure to-day,
      Father! Holy One! See,
    Spices and fragrant oils,
      Father, we bring to thee.
    On thy sister's bosom and arms
      Wreaths of lotus we place;
    On thy sister, dear to thy heart,
      Aye sitting before thy face.
    Sound the song; let music be played
    And let cares behind thee be laid.

    Take thy pleasure to-day;
      Mind thee of joy and delight!
    Soon life's pilgrimage ends,
      And we pass to Silence and Night.
    Patriarch perfect and pure,
      Nefer-hotep, blessed one! Thou
    Didst finish thy course upon earth,
      And art with the blessed ones now.
    Men pass to the Silent Shore,
    And their place doth know them no more.

    They are as they never had been,
      Since the sun went forth upon high;
    They sit on the banks of the stream
      That floweth in stillness by.
    Thy soul is among them; thou
      Dost drink of the sacred tide,
    Having the wish of thy heart--
      At peace ever since thou hast died.
    Give bread to the man who is poor,
    And thy name shall be blest evermore.

      *       *       *       *       *

    Take thy pleasure to-day,
      Nefer-hotep, blessed and pure.
    What availed thee thy other buildings?
      Of thy tomb alone thou art sure.
    On the earth thou hast nought beside,
      Nought of thee else is remaining;
    And when thou wentest below,
      Thy last sip of life thou wert draining.
    Even they who have millions to spend,
    Find that life comes at last to an end.

    Let all, then, think of the day
      Of departure without returning--
    'Twill then be well to have lived,
      All sin and injustice spurning.
    For he who has loved the right,
      In the hour that none can flee,
    Enters upon the delight
      Of a glad eternity.
    Give freely from out thy store,
    And thou shalt be blest evermore.

On the other hand, there is evidence of a lightsome, joyous, and even
frolic spirit as pervading numbers, especially among the lower classes
of the Egyptians. "Traverse Egypt," says a writer who knows more of the
ancient country than almost any other living person, "examine the scenes
sculptured or painted on the walls of the chapels attached to tombs,
consult the inscriptions graven on the rocks or traced with ink on the
papyrus rolls, and you will be compelled to modify your mistaken notion
of the Egyptians being a nation of philosophers. I defy you to find
anything more gay, more amusing, more freshly simple, than this
good-natured Egyptian people, which was fond of life and felt a profound
pleasure in its existence. Far from desiring death, they addressed
prayers to the gods to preserve them in life, and to give them a happy
old age--an old age that should reach, if possible, to the 'perfect term
of no years.' They gave themselves up to pleasures of every kind; they
sang, they drank, they danced, they delighted in making excursions into
the country, where hunting and fishing were occupations reserved
especially for the nobility. In conformity with this inclination towards
pleasure, sportive proposals, a pleasantry that was perhaps over-free,
witticisms, raillery, and a mocking spirit, were in vogue among the
people, and fun was allowed entrance even into the tombs. In the large
schools the masters had a difficulty in training the young and keeping
down their passion for amusements. When oral exhortation failed of
success, the cane was used pretty smartly in its place; for the wise men
of the land had a saying that 'a boy's ears grow on his back.'"[5]

Herodotus tells us how gaily the Egyptians kept their festivals,
thousands of the common people--men, women, and children
together--crowding into the boats, which at such times covered the Nile,
the men piping, and the women clapping their hands or striking their
castanets, as they passed from town to town along the banks of the
stream, stopping at the various landing-places, and challenging the
inhabitants to a contest of good-humoured Billingsgate. From the
monuments we see how the men sang at their labours--here as they trod
the wine-press or the dough-trough, there as they threshed out the corn
by driving the oxen through the golden heaps. In one case the words of a
harvest-song have come down to us:

    "Thresh for yourselves," they sang, "thresh for yourselves,
    O oxen, thresh for yourselves, for yourselves--
    Bushels for yourselves, bushels for your masters!"

Their light-hearted drollery sometimes found vent in caricature. The
grand sculptures wherewith a king strove to perpetuate the memory of his
warlike exploits were travestied by satirists, who reproduced the scenes
upon papyrus as combats between cats and rats. The amorous follies of
the monarch were held up to derision by sketches of a harem interior,
where the kingly wooer was represented by a lion, and his favourites of
the softer sex by gazelles. Even in serious scenes depicting the trial
of souls in the next world, the sense of humour breaks out, where the
bad man, transformed into a pig or a monkey, walks off with a comical
air of surprise and discomfiture.

It does not, however, help us much towards the true knowledge of a
people to scan their frames or study their facial angle, or even to
contemplate the outer aspect of their daily life. We want to know their
thoughts, their innermost feelings, their hopes, their fears--in a word,
their belief. Nothing tells the character of a people so much as their
religion; and we are only dealing superficially with the outward shows
of things until we get down to the root of their being, the conviction,
or convictions, held in the recesses of a people's heart. What, then,
was the Egyptian religion? What did they worship? What did they
reverence? What future did they look forward to?

Enter the huge courts of an Egyptian temple, or temple-palace, and you
will see portrayed upon its lofty walls row upon row of deities. Here
the king makes his offering to Ammon, Maut, Khons, Neith, Mentu, Shu,
Seb, Nut, Osiris, Set, Horus; there he pours a libation to Phthah,
Sekhet, Tum, Pasht, Anuka, Thoth, Anubis; elsewhere, it may be, he pays
his court to Sati, Khem, Isis, Nephthys, Athor, Harmachis, Nausaas, and
Nebhept. One monarch erects an altar to Satemi, Tum, Khepra, Shu,
Tefnut, Seb, Netpe, Osiris, Isis, Set, Nephthys, Horus, and Thoth,
mentioning on the same monument Phthah, Num, Sabak, Athor, Pasht, Mentu,
Neith, Anubis, Nishem, and Kartak. Another represents himself on a
similar object as offering adoration to Ammon, Khem, Phthah-Sokari, Seb,
Nut, Thoth, Khons, Osiris, Isis, Horus, Athor, Uat (Buto), Neith,
Sekhet, Anata, Nuneb, Nebhept, and Hapi. All these deities are
represented by distinct forms, and have distinct attributes. Nor do they
at all exhaust the Pantheon. One modern writer enumerates seventy-three
divinities, and gives their several names and forms. Another has a list
of sixty-three "_principal_ deities," and notes that there were "others
which personified the elements, or presided over the operations of
nature, the seasons, and events." The Egyptians themselves speak not
unfrequently of "the _thousand_ gods," sometimes further qualifying
them, as "the gods male, the gods female, those which belong to the land
of Egypt." Practically, there were before the eyes of worshippers some
scores, if not some hundreds, of deities, who invited their approach and
challenged their affections.

Nor was this the whole, or the worst. The Egyptian was taught to pay a
religious regard to animals. In one place goats, in another sheep, in a
third hippopotami, in a fourth crocodiles, in a fifth vultures, in a
sixth frogs, in a seventh shrew-mice, were sacred creatures, to be
treated with respect and honour, and under no circumstances to be slain,
under the penalty of death to the slayer. And besides this local
animal-cult, there was a cult which was general. Cows, cats, dogs,
ibises, hawks, and cynocephalous apes, were sacred throughout the whole
of Egypt, and woe to the man who injured them! A Roman who accidentally
caused the death of a cat was immediately "lynched" by the populace.
Inhabitants of neighbouring villages would attack each other with the
utmost fury if the native of one had killed or eaten an animal held
sacred in the other. In any house where a cat or a dog died, the inmates
were expected to mourn for them as for a relation. Both these and the
other sacred animals were carefully embalmed after death, and their
bodies were interred in sacred repositories.

The animal-worship reached its utmost pitch of grossness and absurdity
when certain individual brute beasts were declared to be incarnate
deities, and treated accordingly. At Memphis, the ordinary capital,
there was maintained, at any rate from the time of Aahmes I. (about B.C.
1650), a sacred bull, known as Hapi or Apis, which was believed to be an
actual incarnation of the god Phthah, and was an object of the highest
veneration. The Apis bull dwelt in a temple of his own near the city,
had his train of attendant priests, his harem of cows, his meals of the
choicest food, his grooms and currycombers who kept his coat clean and
beautiful, his chamberlains who made his bed, his cup-bearers who
brought him water, &c., and on fixed days was led in a festive
procession through the main streets of the town, so that the inhabitants
might see him, and come forth from their dwellings and make obeisance.
When he died he was carefully embalmed, and deposited, together with
magnificent jewels and statuettes and vases, in a polished granite
sarcophagus, cut out of a single block, and weighing between sixty and
seventy tons! The cost of an Apis funeral amounted sometimes, as we are
told, to as much as £20,000. To contain the sarcophagi, several long
galleries were cut in the solid rock near Memphis, from which arched
lateral chambers went off on either side, each constructed to hold one
sarcophagus. The number of Apis bulls buried in the galleries was found
to be sixty-four.

Nor was this the only incarnate god of which Egypt boasted. Another
bull, called Mnevis, was maintained in the great temple of the Sun at
Heliopolis, and, being regarded as an incarnation of Ra or Tum, was as
much reverenced by the Heliopolites as Apis by the Memphites, A third,
called Bacis or Pacis, was kept at Hermonthis, which was also an
incarnation of Ra. And a white cow at Momemphis was reckoned an
incarnation of Athor. Who can wonder that foreign nations ridiculed a
religion of this kind--one that "turned the glory" of the Eternal
Godhead "into the similitude of a calf that eateth hay"?

The Egyptians had also a further god incarnate, who was not shut up out
of sight like the Apis and Mnevis and Bacis bulls and the Athor cow, but
was continually before their eyes, the centre of the nation's life, the
prime object of attention. This was the monarch, who for the time being
occupied the throne. Each king of Egypt claimed not only to be "son of
the Sun," but to be an actual incarnation of the sun--"the living
Horus." And this claim was, from an early date, received and allowed.
"Thy Majesty," says a courtier under the twelfth dynasty, "is the good
God ... the great God, the equal of the Sun-God. ... I live from the
breath which thou givest" Brought into the king's presence, the courtier
"falls on his belly," amazed and confounded. "I was as one brought out
of the dark; my tongue was dumb; my lips failed me; my heart was no
longer in my body to know whether I was alive or dead;" and this,
although "the god" had "addressed him mildly." Another courtier
attributes his long life to the king's favour. Ambassadors, when
presented to the king, "raised their arms in adoration of the good god,"
and declared to him--"Thou art like the Sun in all that thou doest: thy
heart realizes all its wishes; shouldest thou wish to make it day during
the night, it is so forthwith.... If thou sayest to the water, 'Come
from the rock,' it will come in a torrent suddenly at the words of thy
mouth. The god Ra is like thee in his limbs, the god Khepra in creative
force. Truly thou art the living image of thy father, Tum.... All thy
words are accomplished daily." Some of the kings set up their statues in
the temples by the side of the greatest of the national deities, to be
the objects of a similar worship.

Amid this wealth of gods, earthly and heavenly, human, animal, and
divine, an Egyptian might well feel puzzled to make a choice. In his
hesitation he was apt to turn to that only portion of his religion which
had the attraction that myth possesses--- the introduction into a
supramundane and superhuman world of a quasi-human element. The chief
Egyptian myth was the Osirid saga, which ran somewhat as follows: "Once
upon a time the gods were tired of ruling in the upper sphere, and
resolved to take it in turns to reign over Egypt in the likeness of men.
So, after four of them had in succession been kings, each for a long
term of years, it happened that Osiris, the son of Seb and Nut, took the
throne, and became monarch of the two regions, the Upper and the Lower.
Osiris was of a good and bountiful nature, beneficent in will and words:
he set himself to civilize the Egyptians, taught them to till the fields
and cultivate the vine, gave them law and religion, and instructed them
in various useful arts. Unfortunately, he had a wicked brother, called
Set or Sutekh, who hated him for his goodness, and resolved to compass
his death. This he effected after a while, and, having placed the body
in a coffin, he threw it into the Nile, whence it floated down to the
sea. Isis, the sister and widow of Osiris, together with her sister
Nephthys, vainly sought for a long time her lord's remains, but at last
found them on the Syrian shore at Byblus, where they had been cast up by
the waves. She was conveying the corpse for embalmment and interment to
Memphis, when Set stole it from her, and cut it up into fourteen pieces,
which he concealed in various places. The unhappy queen set forth in a
light boat made of the papyrus plant, and searched Egypt from end to
end, until she had found all the fragments, and buried them with due
honours. She then called on her son, Horus, to avenge his father, and
Horus engaged him in a long war, wherein he was at last victorious and
took Set prisoner. Isis now relented, and released Set, who be it
remembered, was her brother; which so enraged Horus that he tore off her
crown, or (according to some) struck off her head, which injury Thoth
repaired by giving her a cow's head in place of her own. Horus then
renewed the war with his uncle, and finally slew him with a long spear,
which he drove into his head." The gods and goddesses of the Osirid
legend, Seb, Nut or Netpe, Osiris, Isis, Nephthys, Set, and Horus or
Harmachis, were those which most drew towards them the thoughts of the
Egyptians, the greater number being favourite objects of worship, while
Set was held in general detestation.

It was a peculiar feature of the Egyptian religion, that it contained
distinctively evil and malignant gods. Set was not, originally, such a
deity; but he became such in course of time, and was to the later
Egyptians the very principle of evil--Evil personified. Another evil
deity was Taour or Taourt, who is represented as a hippopotamus standing
on its hind-legs, with the skin and tail of a crocodile dependent down
its back, and a knife or a pair of shears in one hand. Bes seems also to
have been a divinity of the same class. He was represented as a hideous
dwarf, with large outstanding ears, bald, or with a plume of feathers on
his head, and with a lion-skin down his back, often carrying in his two
hands two knives. Even more terrible than Bes was Apep, the great
serpent, with its huge and many folds, who helped Set against Osiris,
and was the adversary and accuser of souls. Savak, a god with the head
of a crocodile, seems also to have belonged to the class of malignant
beings, though he was a favourite deity with some of the Ramesside
kings, and a special object of worship in the Fayoum.

[Illustrations: FIGURES OF TAOURT.]

The complex polytheism of the monuments and the literature was not,
however, the practical religion of many Egyptians. Local cults held
possession of most of the nomes, and the ordinary Egyptian, instead of
dissipating his religious affections by distributing them among the
thousand divinities of the Pantheon, concentrated them on those of his
nome. If he was a Memphite, he worshipped Phthah Sekhet, and Tum; if a
Theban, Ammon-Ra, Maut, Khons, and Neith; if a Heliopolite, Tum, Nebhebt
and Horus; if a Elephantinite, Kneph, Sati, Anuka, and Hak; and so on.
The Egyptian Pantheon was a gradual accretion, the result of
amalgamating the various local cults; but these continued predominant in
their several localities; and practically the only deities that obtained
anything like a general recognition were Osiris, Isis, Horus, and the
Nile-god, Hapi.

[Illustration: FIGURE OF BES.]

Besides the common popular religion, the belief of the masses, there was
another which prevailed among the priests and among the educated. The
primary doctrine of this esoteric religion was the real essential unity
of the Divine Nature. The sacred texts, known only to the priests and to
the initiated, taught that there was a single Being, "the sole producer
of all things both in heaven and earth, himself not produced of any,"
"the only true living God, self-originated," "who exists from the
beginning," "who has made all things, but has not himself been made."
This Being seems never to have been represented by any material, even
symbolical, form. It is thought that he had no name, or, if he had, that
it must have been unlawful to pronounce or write it. He was a pure
spirit, perfect in every respect--all-wise, almighty, supremely good. It
is of him that the Egyptian poets use such expressions as the following:
"He is not graven in marble; he is not beheld; his abode is not known;
no shrine is found with painted figures of him; there is no building
that can contain him;" and, again: "Unknown is his name in heaven; he
doth not manifest his forms; vain are all representations;" and yet
again: "His commencement is from the beginning; he is the God who has
existed from old time; there is no God without him; no mother bore him;
no father hath begotten him; he is a god-goddess, created from himself;
all gods came into existence when he began."

The other gods, the gods of the popular mythology were understood in
the esoteric religion to be either personified attributes of the Deity,
or parts of the nature which he had created, considered as informed and
inspired by him. Num or Kneph represented the creative mind, Phthah the
creative hand, or act of creating; Maut represented matter, Ra the sun,
Khons the moon, Seb the earth, Khem the generative power in nature, Nut
the upper hemisphere of the heavens, Athor the lower world or under
hemisphere; Thoth personified the Divine Wisdom, Ammon perhaps the
Divine mysteriousness or incomprehensibility, Osiris the Divine
Goodness. It is difficult in many cases to fix on the exact quality,
act, or part of nature intended; but the principle admits of no doubt.
No educated Egyptian conceived of the popular gods as really separate
and distinct beings. All knew that there was but One God, and understood
that, when worship was offered to Khem, or Kneph, or Maut, or Thoth, or
Ammon, the One God was worshipped under some one of his forms or in some
one of his aspects. He was every god, and thus all the gods' names were
interchangeable, and in one and the same hymn we may find a god, say
Ammon, addressed also as Ra and Khem and Turn and Horus and Khepra; or
Hapi, the Nile-god, invoked as Ammon and Phthah; or Osiris as Ra and
Thoth; or, in fact, any god invoked as almost any other. If there be a
limit, it is in respect of the evil deities, whose names are not given
to the good ones.

Common to all Egyptians seems to have been a belief, if not, strictly
speaking, in the immortality of the soul, yet, at any rate, in a life
after death, and a judgment of every man according to the deeds which
he had done in the body while upon earth. It was universally received,
that, immediately after death, the soul descended into the Lower World,
and was conducted to the "Hall of Truth," where it was judged in the
presence of Osiris and of the forty-two assessors, the "Lords of Truth"
and judges of the dead. Anubis, "the director of the weight," brought
forth a pair of scales, and, placing in one scale a figure or emblem of
Truth, set in the other a vase containing the good actions of the
deceased; Thoth standing by the while, with a tablet in his hand,
whereon to record the result. According to the side on which the balance
inclined, Osiris, the president, delivered sentence. If the good deeds
preponderated, the blessed soul was allowed to enter the "boat of the
Sun," and was led by good spirits to Aahlu (Elysium), to the "pools of
peace" and the dwelling-place of Osiris. If, on the contrary, the good
deeds were insufficient, if the ordeal was not passed, then the unhappy
soul was sentenced, according to its deserts, to begin a round of
transmigrations into the bodies of more or less unclean animals, the
number, nature, and duration of the transmigrations depending on the
degree of the deceased's demerits, and the consequent length and
severity of the punishment which he deserved or the purification which
he needed. Ultimately, if after many trials purity was not attained,
then the wicked and incurable soul underwent a final sentence at the
hands of Osiris, Judge of the Dead, and being condemned to annihilation,
was destroyed upon the steps of heaven by Shu, the Lord of Light. The
good soul, having first been completely cleansed of its impurities by
passing through the basin of purgatorial fire guarded by the four
ape-faced genii, was made the companion of Osiris for a period of three
thousand years; after which it returned from Amenti, re-entered its
former body, and lived once more a human life upon the earth. The
process was repeated till a mystic number of years had gone by, when,
finally, the blessed attained the crowning joy of union with God, being
absorbed into the Divine Essence, from which they had emanated, and thus
attaining the true end and full perfection of their being.

Such a belief as this, if earnest and thorough, should be productive of
a high standard of moral action; and undoubtedly the Egyptians had a
code of morality that will compare favourably with that of most ancient
nations. It has been said to have contained "three cardinal
requirements--love of God, love of virtue, and love of man." The hymns
sufficiently indicate the first; the second may be allowed, if by
"virtue" we understand justice and truth; the third is testified by the
constant claim of men, in their epitaphs, to have been benefactors of
their species. "I was not an idler," says one; "I was no listener to the
counsels of sloth; my name was not heard in the place of reproof ... all
men respected me; I gave water to the thirsty; I set the wanderer on his
path; I took away the oppressor, and put a stop to violence." "I myself
was just and true," writes another: "without malice, having put God in
my heart, and being quick to discern His will. I have done good upon
earth; I have harboured no prejudice; I have not been wicked; I have
not approved of any offence or iniquity; I have taken pleasure in
speaking the truth.... Pure is my soul; while living I bore no malice.
There are no errors attributable to me; no sins of mine are before the
judges.... The men of the future, while they live, will be charmed by my
remarkable merits." And another: "I have not oppressed any widow; no
prisoner languished in my days; no one died of hunger. When there were
years of famine, I had my fields ploughed. I gave food to the
inhabitants, so that there was no hungry person. I gave the widow an
equal portion with the married; I did not prefer the rich to the poor."

The moral standard thus set up, though satisfactory, so far as it went,
was in many respects deficient. It did not comprise humility; it
scarcely seems to have comprised purity. The religious sculptures of the
Egyptians were grossly indecent; their religious festivals were kept in
an indecent way; phallic orgies were a part of them, and phallic orgies
of a gross kind. The Egyptians tolerated incest, and could defend it by
the example of the gods. Osiris had married his sister; Khem was "the
Bull of his mother". The Egyptian novelettes are full of indecency and
immorality, and Egyptian travellers describe their amours very much in
the spirit of Ferdinand, Count Fathom; moreover, the complacency with
which each Egyptian declares himself on his tomb to have possessed every
virtue, and to have been free from all vices, is most remarkable. "I was
a good man before the king; I saved the population in the dire calamity
which befell all the land; I shielded the weak against the strong; I did
all good things when the time came to do them; I was pious towards my
father, and did the will of my mother; I was kind-hearted towards my
brethren ... I made a good sarcophagus for him who had no coffin. When
the dire calamity befell the land, I made the children to live, I
established the houses, I did for them all such good things as a father
does for his sons."

And, notwithstanding all this braggadocio, performance seems to have
lagged sadly behind profession. Kings boast of slaying their unresisting
prisoners with their own hand, and represent themselves in the act of
doing so. They come back from battle with the gory heads of their slain
enemies hanging from their chariots. Licentiousness prevailed in the
palace, and members of the royal harem intrigued with those who sought
the life of the king. A belief in magic was general, and men endeavoured
to destroy or injure those whom they hated by wasting their waxen
effigies at a slow fire to the accompaniment of incantations. Thieves
were numerous, and did not scruple even to violate the sanctity of the
tomb in order to obtain a satisfactory booty. A famous "thieves'
society," formed for the purpose of opening and plundering the royal
tombs, contained among its members persons of the sacerdotal order.

Social ranks in Egypt were divided somewhat sharply. There was a large
class of nobles, who were mostly great landed proprietors living on
their estates, and having under them a vast body of dependents,
servants, labourers, artizans &c. There was also a numerous official
class, partly employed at the court, partly holding government posts
throughout the country, which regarded itself as highly dignified, and
looked down _de haut en has_ on "the people." Commands in the army seem
to have been among the prizes which from time to time fell to the lot of
such persons. Further, there was a literary class, which was eminently
respectable, and which viewed with contempt those who were engaged in
trade or handicrafts.

Below these three classes, and removed from them by a long interval, was
the mass of the population--"the multitude" as the Egyptians called
them. These persons were engaged in manual labour of different kinds.
The greater number were employed on the farms of the nobles, in the
cultivation of the soil or in the rearing of cattle. A portion were
boatmen, fishermen, or fowlers. Others pursued the various known
handicrafts. They were weavers, workers in metal, stone-cutters, masons,
potters, carpenters, upholsterers, tailors, shoe-makers, glass-blowers,
boat-builders, wig-makers, and embalmers. There were also among them
painters and sculptors. But all these employments "stank" in the
nostrils of the upper classes, and were regarded as unworthy of any one
who wished to be thought respectable.

Still, the line of demarcation, decided as it was, might be crossed. It
is an entire mistake to suppose that caste existed in Egypt. Men
frequently bred up their sons to their own trade or profession, as they
do in all countries, but they were not obliged to do so--there was
absolutely no compulsion in the matter. The "public-schools" of Egypt
were open to all comers, and the son of the artizan sat on the same
bench with the son of the noble, enjoyed the same education, and had an
equal opportunity of distinguishing himself. If he showed sufficient
promise, he was recommended to adopt the literary life; and the literary
life was the sure passport to State employment. State employment once
entered upon, merit secured advancement; and thus there was, in fact, no
obstacle to prevent the son of a labouring man from rising to the very
highest positions in the administration of the empire. Successful
ministers were usually rewarded by large grants of land from the royal
domain; and it follows that a clever youth of the labouring class might
by good conduct and ability make his way even into the ranks of the
landed aristocracy.

On the other hand, practically, the condition of the labouring class
was, generally speaking, a hard and sad one. The kings were entitled to
employ as many of their subjects as they pleased in forced labours, and
monarchs often sacrificed to their inordinate vanity the lives and
happiness of thousands. Private employers of labour were frequently
cruel and exacting; their overseers used the stick, and it was not easy
for those who suffered to obtain any redress. Moreover, taxation was
heavy, and inability to satisfy the collector subjected the defaulter to
the bastinado. Those who have studied the antiquities of Egypt with most
care, tell us that there was not much to choose between the condition of
the ancient labourers and that of the unhappy _fellahin_[6] of the
present day.


[4] Nefer-hotep, a deceased king.

[5] Brugsch, "Histoire d'Egypte," p. 15.

[6] A fellah is a peasant, one of the labouring class, just above the



All nations, unless they be colonies, have a prehistoric time--a dark
period of mist and gloom, before the keen light of history dawns upon
them. This period is the favourite playground of the myth-spirits, where
they disport themselves freely, or lounge heavily and listlessly,
according to their different natures. The Egyptian spirits were of the
heavier and duller kind--not light and frolicsome, like the Greek and
the Indo-Iranian. It has been said that Egypt never produced more than
one myth, the Osirid legend; and this is so far true that in no other
case is the story told at any considerable length, or with any
considerable number of exciting incidents. There are, however, many
short legends in the Egyptian remains, which have more or less of
interest, and show that the people was not altogether devoid of
imagination, though their imagination was far from lively. Seb, for
instance, once upon a time, took the form of a goose, and laid the
mundane egg, and hatched it. Thoth once wrote a wonderful book, full of
wisdom and science, which told of everything concerning the fowls of the
air, and the fishes of the sea, and the four-footed beasts of the earth.
He who knew a single page of the book could charm the heaven, the
earth, the great abyss, the mountains, and the seas. Thoth took the work
and enclosed it in a box of gold, and the box of gold he placed within a
box of silver, and the silver box within a box of ivory and ebony, and
that again within a box of bronze; and the bronze box he enclosed within
a box of brass, and the brass box within a box of iron; and the box,
thus guarded, he threw into the Nile at Coptos. But a priest discovered
the whereabouts of the book, and sold the knowledge to a young noble for
a hundred pieces of silver, and the young noble with great trouble
fished the book up. But the possession of the book brought him not good
but evil. He lost his wife; he lost his child; he became entangled in a
disgraceful intrigue. He was glad to part with the book. But the next
possessor was not more fortunate; the book brought him no luck. The
quest after unlawful knowledge involved all who sought it in calamity.

Another myth had for its subject the proposed destruction of mankind by
Ra, the Sun-god. Ra had succeeded Phthah as king of Egypt, and had
reigned for a long term of years in peace, contented with his subjects
and they with him. But a time came when they grew headstrong and unruly;
they uttered words against Ra; they plotted evil things; they grievously
offended him. So Ra called the council of the gods together and asked
them to advise him what he should do. They said mankind must be
destroyed, and committed the task of destruction to Athor and Sekhet,
who proceeded to smite the men over the whole land. But now fear came
upon mankind; and the men of Elephantine made haste, and extracted the
juice from the best of their fruits, and mingled it with human blood,
and filled seven thousand jars, and brought them as an offering to the
offended god. Ra drank and was content, and ordered the liquor that
remained in the jars to be poured out; and, lo! it was an inundation
which covered the whole land of Egypt; and when Athor went forth the
next day to destroy, she saw no men in the fields, but only water, which
she drank, and it pleased her, and she went away satisfied.

It would require another Euhemerus to find any groundwork of history in
these narratives. We must turn away from the "shadow-land" which the
Egyptians called the time of the gods on earth, if we would find trace
of the real doings of men in the Nile valley, and put before our readers
actual human beings in the place of airy phantoms. The Egyptians
themselves taught that the first man of whom they had any record was a
king called M'na, a name which the Greeks represented by Mên or Menes.
M'na was born at Tena (This or Thinis) in Upper Egypt, where his
ancestors had borne sway before him. He was the first to master the
Lower country, and thus to unite under a single sceptre the "two
Egypts"--the long narrow Nile valley and the broad Delta plain. Having
placed on his head the double crown which thenceforth symbolized
dominion over both tracts, his first thought was that a new capital was
needed. Egypt could not, he felt, be ruled conveniently from the
latitude of Thebes, or from any site in the Upper country; it required a
capital which should abut on both regions, and so command both. Nature
pointed out one only fit locality, the junction of the plain with the
vale--"the balance of the two regions," as the Egyptians called it; the
place where the narrow "Upper Country" terminates, and Egypt opens out
into the wide smiling plain that thence spreads itself on every side to
the sea. Hence there would be easy access to both regions; both would
be, in a way, commanded; here, too, was a readily defensible position,
one assailable only in front. Experience has shown that the instinct of
the first founder was right, or that his political and strategic
foresight was extraordinary. Though circumstances, once and again,
transferred the seat of government to Thebes or Alexandria, yet such
removals were short-lived. The force of geographic fact was too strong
to be permanently overcome, and after a few centuries power gravitated
back to the centre pointed out by nature.

If we may believe the tradition, there was, when the idea of building
the new capital arose, a difficulty in obtaining a site in all respects
advantageous. The Nile, before debouching upon the plain, hugged for
many miles the base of the Libyan hills, and was thus on the wrong side
of the valley. It was wanted on the other side, in order to be a
water-bulwark against an Asiatic invader. The founder, therefore, before
building his city, undertook a gigantic work. He raised a great
embankment across the natural course of the river; and, forcing it from
its bed, made it enter a new channel and run midway down the valley, or,
if anything, rather towards its eastern side. He thus obtained the
bulwark against invasion that he required, and he had an ample site for
his capital between the new channel of the stream and the foot of the
western hills.

It is undoubtedly strange to hear of such a work being constructed at
the very dawn of history, by a population that was just becoming a
people. But in Egypt precocity is the rule--a Minerva starts full-grown
from the head of Jove. The pyramids themselves cannot be placed very
long after the supposed reign of Menes; and the engineering skill
implied in the pyramids is simply of a piece with that attributed to the
founder of Memphis.

In ancient times a city was nothing without a temple; and the capital
city of the most religious people in the world could not by any
possibility lack that centre of civic life which its chief temple always
was to every ancient town. Philosophy must settle the question how it
came to pass that religious ideas were in ancient times so universally
prevalent and so strongly pronounced. History is only bound to note the
fact. Coeval, then, with the foundation of the city of Menes was,
according to the tradition, the erection of a great temple to
Phthah--"the Revealer," the Divine artificer, by whom the world and man
were created, and the hidden thought of the remote Supreme Being was
made manifest to His creatures, Phthah's temple lay within the town, and
was originally a _naos_ or "cell," a single building probably not unlike
that between the Sphinx's paws at Ghizeh, situated within a _temenos_,
or "sacred enclosure," watered from the river, and no doubt planted with
trees. Like the medieval cathedrals, the building grew with the lapse
of centuries, great kings continually adding new structures to the main
edifice, and enriching it with statuary and painting. Herodotus saw it
in its full glory, and calls it "a vast edifice, very worthy of
commemoration." Abd-el-Latif saw it in its decline, and notes the beauty
of its remains: "the great monolithic shrine of breccia verde, nine
cubits high, eight long, and seven broad, the doors which swung on
hinges of stone, the well-carven statues, and the lions terrific in
their aspect."[7] At the present day scarcely a trace remains. One
broken colossus of the Great Ramesses, till very recently prostrate, and
a few nondescript fragments, alone continue on the spot, to attest to
moderns the position of that antique fane, which the Egyptians
themselves regarded as the oldest in their land.

The new city received from its founder the name of Men-nefer--"the Good
Abode." It was also known as Ei-Ptah--"the House of Phthah." From the
former name came the prevailing appellations--the "Memphis" of the
Greeks and Romans, the "Moph" of the Hebrews, the "Mimpi" of the
Assyrians, and the name still given to the ruins, "Tel-Monf." It was
indeed a "good abode"--watered by an unfailing stream, navigable from
the sea, which at once brought it supplies and afforded it a strong
protection, surrounded on three sides by the richest and most productive
alluvium, close to quarries of excellent stone, warm in winter, fanned
by the cool northern breezes in the summer-time, within easy reach of
the sea, yet not so near as to attract the cupidity of pirates. Few
capitals have been more favourably placed. It was inevitable that when
the old town went to ruins, a new one should spring up in its stead.
Memphis still exists, in a certain sense, in the glories of the modern
Cairo, which occupies an adjacent site, and is composed largely of the
same materials.

The Egyptians knew no more of their first king than that he turned the
course of the Nile, founded Memphis, built the nucleus of the great
temple of Phthah, and "was devoured by a hippopotamus." This last fact
is related with all due gravity by Manetho, notwithstanding that the
hippopotamus is a graminivorous animal, one that "eats grass like an ox"
(Job xi. 15). Probably the old Egyptian writer whom he followed meant
that M'na at last fell a victim to Taourt, the Goddess of Evil, to whom
the hippopotamus was sacred, and who was herself figured as a
hippopotamus erect. This would be merely equivalent to relating that he
succumbed to death. Manetho gave him a reign of sixty-two years.

The question is asked by the modern critics, who will take nothing on
trust, "Have we in Menes a real Egyptian, a being of flesh and blood,
one who truly lived, breathed, fought, built, ruled, and at last died?
Or are we still dealing with a phantom, as much as when we spoke of Seb,
and Thoth, and Osiris, and Set, and Horus?" The answer seems to be, that
we cannot tell. The Egyptians believed in Menes as a man; they placed
him at the head of their dynastic lists; but they had no contemporary
monument to show inscribed with his name. A name like that of Menes is
found at the beginning of things in so many nations, that on that
account alone the word would be suspicious; in Greece it is Minos, in
Phrygia Manis, in Lydia Manes, in India Menu, in Germany Mannus. And
again, the name of the founder is so like that of the city which he
founded, that another suspicion arises--Have we not here one of the many
instances of a personal name made out of a local one, as Nin or Ninus
from Nineveh (Ninua), Romulus from Roma, and the like? Probably we shall
do best to acquiesce in the judgment of Dr. Birch: "Menes must be placed
among those founders of monarchies whose personal existence a severe and
enlightened criticism doubts or denies."

The city was, however, a reality, the embankment was a reality, the
temple of Phthah was a reality, and the founding of a kingdom in Egypt,
which included both the Upper and the Lower country some considerable
time before the date of Abraham, was a reality, which the sternest
criticism need not--nay, cannot--doubt. All antiquity attests that the
valley of the Nile was one of the first seats of civilization. Abraham
found a settled government established there when he visited the
country, and a consecutive series of monuments carries the date of the
first civilization at least as far back as B.C. 2700--probably further.

If the great Menes, then, notwithstanding all that we are told of his
doings, be a mere shadowy personage, little more than _magni nominis
umbra_, what shall we say of his twenty or thirty successors of the
first, second, and third dynasties? What but that they are shadows of
shadows? The native monuments of the early Ramesside period (about B.C.
1400-1300) assign to this time some twenty-five names of kings; but they
do not agree in their order, nor do they altogether agree in the names.
The kings, if they were kings, have left no history--we can only by
conjecture attach to them any particular buildings, we can give no
account of their actions, we can assign no chronology to their reigns.
They are of no more importance in the "story of Egypt" than the Alban
kings in the "story of Rome." "Non ragionam di loro, ma guarda e passi."

The first living, breathing, acting, flesh-and-blood personage, whom
so-called histories of Egypt present to us, is a certain Sneferu, or
Seneferu, whom the Egyptians seem to have regarded as the first monarch
of their fourth dynasty. Sneferu--called by Manetho, we know not why,
Soris--has left us a representation of himself, and an inscription. On
the rocks of Wady Magharah, in the Sinaitic peninsula, may be seen to
this day an incised tablet representing the monarch in the act of
smiting an enemy, whom he holds by the hair of his head, with a mace.
The action is apparently emblematic, for at the side we see the words
_Ta satu_, "Smiter of the nations;" and it is a fair explanation of the
tablet, that its intention was to signify that the Pharaoh in question
had reduced to subjection the tribes which in his time inhabited the
Sinaitic regions. The motive of the attack was not mere lust of
conquest, but rather the desire of gain. The Wady Magharah contained
mines of copper and of turquoise, which the Egyptians desired to work;
and for this purpose it was necessary to hold the country by a set of
military posts, in order that the miners might pursue their labours
without molestation. Some ruins of the fortifications are still to be
seen; and the mines themselves, now exhausted, pierce the sides of the
rocks, and bear in many places traces of hieroglyphical inscriptions The
remains of temples show that the expatriated colonists were not left
without the consolations of religion, while a deep well indicates the
care that was taken to supply their temporal needs. Thousands of stone
arrow-heads give evidence of the presence of a strong garrison, and make
us acquainted with the weapon which they found most effectual against
their enemies.


Sneferu calls himself _Neter aa_, "the Great God," and _Neb mat_, "the
Lord of Justice." He is also "the Golden Horus," or "the Conqueror."
_Neb mat_ is not a usual title with Egyptian monarchs; and its
assumption by Sneferu would seem to mark, at any rate, his appreciation
of the excellence of justice, and his desire to have the reputation of a
just ruler. Later ages give him the title of "the beneficent king," so
that he would seem to have been a really unselfish and kindly sovereign.
His form, however, only just emerges from the mists of the period to be
again concealed from our view, and we vainly ask ourselves what exactly
were the benefits that he conferred on Egypt, so as to attain his high

Still, the monuments of his time are sufficient to tell us something of
the Egypt of his day, and of the amount and character of the
civilization so early attained by the Egyptian people. Besides his own
tablet in the Wady Magharah, there are in the neighbourhood of the
pyramids of Ghizeh a number of tombs which belong to the officials of
his court and the members of his family. These tombs contain both
sculptures and inscriptions, and throw considerable light on the
condition of the country.

In the first place, it is apparent that the style of writing has been
invented which is called hieroglyphical, and which has the appearance of
a picture writing, though it is almost as absolutely phonetic as any
other. Setting apart a certain small number of "determinatives," each
sign stands for a sound--the greater part for those elementary sounds
which we express by letters. An eagle is _a_, a leg and foot _b_, a
horned serpent _f_, a hand _t_, an owl _m_, a chicken _u_, and the like.
It is true that there are signs which express a compound sound, a whole
word, even a word of two syllables. A bowl or basin represents the sound
of _neb_, a hatchet that of _neter_, a guitar that of _nefer_, a
crescent that of _aah_, and so on. Secondly, it is clear that artistic
power is considerable. The animal forms used in the hieroglyphics--the
bee, the vulture, the uræus, the hawk, the chicken, the eagle--are well
drawn. In the human forms there is less merit, but still they are fairly
well proportioned and have spirit. No rudeness or want of finish
attaches either to the writing or to the drawing of Sneferu's time; the
artists do not attempt much, but what they attempt they accomplish.

Next, we may notice the character of the tombs. Already the tomb was
more important than the house; and while every habitation constructed
for the living men of the time has utterly perished, scores of the
dwellings assigned to the departed still exist, many in an excellent
condition. They are stone buildings resembling small houses, each with
its door of entrance, but with no windows, and forming internally a
small chamber generally decorated with sculptures. The walls slope at an
angle of seventy-five or eighty degrees externally, but in the interior
are perpendicular. The roof is composed of large flat stones. Strictly
speaking, the chambers are not actual tombs, but mortuary chapels. The
embalmed body of the deceased, encased in its wooden coffin (Gen. 1.
26), was not deposited in the chamber, but in an excavation under one of
the walls, which was carefully closed up after the coffin had been
placed inside it. The chamber was used by the relations for sacred
rites, sacrificial feasts, and the like, held in honour of the deceased,
especially on the anniversary of his death and entrance into Amenti. The
early Egyptians indulged, like the Chinese, in a worship of ancestors.
The members of a family met from time to time in the sepulchral chamber
of their father, or their grandfather, and went through various
ceremonies, sang hymns, poured libations, and made offerings, which were
regarded as pleasing to the departed, and which secured their protection
and help to such of their descendants as took part in the pious

Sometimes a tomb was more pretentious than those above described. There
is an edifice at Meydoum, improperly termed a pyramid, which is thought
to be older than Sneferu, and was probably erected by one of the
"shadowy kings" who preceded him on the throne. Situated on a natural
rocky knoll of some considerable height, it rises in three stages at an
angle of 74° 10' to an elevation of a hundred and twenty-five feet. It
is built of a compact limestone, which must have been brought from some
distance. The first stage has a height a little short of seventy feet;
the next exceeds thirty-two feet; the third is a little over twenty-two
feet. It is possible that originally there were more stages, and
probable that the present highest stage has in part crumbled away; so
that we may fairly reckon the original height to have been between a
hundred and forty and a hundred and fifty feet The monument is generally
regarded as a tomb, from its situation in the Memphian necropolis and
its remote resemblance to the pyramids; but as yet it has not been
penetrated, and consequently has not been proved to have been

[Illustration: PYRAMID OF MEYDOUM.]

A construction, which has even a greater appearance of antiquity than
the Meydoum tower, exists at Saccarah. Here the architect carried up a
monument to the height of two hundred feet, by constructing it in six or
seven sloping stages, having an angle of 73° 30'. The core of his
building was composed of rubble, but this was protected on every side by
a thick casing of limestone roughly hewn, and apparently quarried on the
spot. The sepulchral intention of the construction is unquestionable. It
covered a spacious chamber excavated in the rock, whereon the monument
was built, which, when first discovered, contained a sarcophagus and
was lined with slabs of granite. Carefully concealed passages connected
the chamber with the outer world, and allowed of its being entered by
those in possession of the "secrets of the prison-house." In this
structure we have, no doubt, the tomb of a king more ancient than
Sneferu--though for our own part we should hesitate to assign the
monument to one king rather than another.

If we pass from the architecture of the period to its social condition,
we remark that grades of society already existed, and were as pronounced
as in later times. The kings were already deities, and treated with
superstitious regard. The state-officials were a highly privileged
class, generally more or less connected with the royal family. The land
was partly owned by the king (Gen. xlvii. 6), who employed his own
labourers and herdsmen upon it; partly, mainly perhaps, it was in the
hands of great landed proprietors--nobles, who lived in country houses
upon their estates, maintaining large households, and giving employment
to scores of peasants, herdsmen, artizans, huntsmen, and fishermen. The
"lower orders" were of very little account. They were at the beck and
call of the landed aristocracy in the country districts, of the
state-officials in the towns. Above all, the monarch had the right of
impressing them into his service whenever he pleased, and employing them
in the "great works" by which he strove to perpetuate his name.

[Illustration: GREAT PYRAMID OF SACCARAH (_Present appearance_).]


There prevailed, however, a great simplicity of manners. The dress of
the upper classes was wonderfully plain and unpretending, presenting
little variety and scarcely any ornament. The grandee wore, indeed, an
elaborate wig, it being imperative on all men to shave the head for the
sake of cleanliness. But otherwise, his costume was of the simplest and
the scantiest. Ordinarily, when he was employed in the common duties of
life, a short tunic, probably of white linen, reaching from the waist
to a little above the knee, was his sole garment. His arms, chest, legs,
even his feet, were naked; for sandals, not to speak of stockings or
shoes, were unknown. The only decoration which he wore was a chain or
riband round the neck, to which was suspended an ornament like a
locket--probably an amulet. In his right hand he carried a long staff or
wand, either for the purpose of belabouring his inferiors, or else to
use it as a walking-stick. On special occasions he made, however, a more
elaborate toilet. Doffing his linen tunic, he clothed himself in a
single, somewhat scanty, robe, which reached from the neck to the
ankles; and having exchanged his chain and locket for a broad collar,
and adorned his wrists with bracelets, he was ready to pay visits or to
receive company. He had no carriage, so far as appears, not even a
palanquin; no horse to ride, nor even a mule or a donkey. The great men
of the East rode, in later times, on "white asses" (Judges v. 10); the
Egyptian of Sneferu's age had to trudge to court, or to make calls upon
his friends, by the sole aid of those means of locomotion which nature
had given him.

Women, who in most civilized countries claim to themselves far more
elaboration in dress and variety of ornament than men, were content, in
the Egypt of which we are here speaking, with a costume, and a personal
decoration, scarcely less simple than that of their husbands. The
Egyptian _materfamilias_ of the time wore her hair long, and gathered
into three masses, one behind the head, and the other two in front of
either shoulder. Like her spouse, she had but a single garment--a short
gown or petticoat reaching from just below the breasts to half way down
the calf of the leg, and supported by two broad straps passed over the
two shoulders. She exposed her arms and bosom to sight, and her feet
were bare, like her husband's. Her only ornaments were bracelets.


There was no seclusion of women at any time among the ancient Egyptians.
The figure of the wife on the early monuments constantly accompanies
that of her husband. She is his associate in all his occupations. Her
subordination is indicated by her representation being on an unduly
smaller scale, and by her ordinary position, which is behind the figure
of her "lord and master." In statuary, however, she appears seated with
him on the same seat or chair. There is no appearance of her having been
either a drudge or a plaything. She was regarded as man's true
"helpmate," shared his thoughts, ruled his family, and during their
early years had the charge of his children. Polygamy was unknown in
Egypt during the primitive period; even the kings had then but one wife.
Sneferu's wife was a certain Mertitefs, who bore him a son, Nefer-mat,
and after his death became the wife of his successor. Women were
entombed with as much care, and almost with as much pomp, as men. Their
right to ascend the throne is said to have been asserted by one of the
kings who preceded Sneferu; and from time to time women actually
exercised in Egypt the royal authority.


[7] R. Stuart Poole, "Cities of Egypt," pp. 24, 25.



It is difficult for a European, or an American, who has not visited
Egypt, to realize the conception of a Great Pyramid. The pyramidal form
has gone entirely out of use as an architectural type of monumental
perfection; nay, even as an architectural embellishment. It maintained
an honourable position in architecture from its first discovery to the
time of the Maccabee kings (1 Mac. xiii. 28); but, never having been
adopted by either the Greeks or the Romans, it passed into desuetude in
the Old World with the conquest of the East by the West. In the New
World it was found existent by the early discoverers, and then held a
high place in the regards of the native race which had reached the
furthest towards civilization; but Spanish bigotry looked with horror on
everything that stood connected with an idolatrous religion, and the
pyramids of Mexico were first wantonly injured, and then allowed to fall
into such a state of decay, that their original form is by some
questioned. A visit to the plains of Teotihuacan will not convey to the
mind which is a blank on the subject the true conception of a great
pyramid. It requires a pilgrimage to Ghizeh or Saccarah, or a lively
and _well-instructed_ imagination, to enable a man to call up before his
mind's eye the true form and appearance and impressiveness of such a

Lord Houghton endeavoured to give expression to the feelings of one who
sees for the first time these wondrous, these incomprehensible creations
in the following lines:

      After the fantasies of many a night,
        After the deep desires of many a day,
      Rejoicing as an ancient Eremite
        Upon the desert's edge at last I lay:
      Before me rose, in wonderful array,
        Those works where man has rivalled Nature most,
      Those Pyramids, that fear no more decay
        Than waves inflict upon the rockiest coast,
    Or winds on mountain-steeps, and like endurance boast.

      Fragments the deluge of old Time has left
        Behind in its subsidence--long long walls
      Of cities of their very names bereft,--
        Lone columns, remnants of majestic halls,
      Rich traceried chambers, where the night-dew falls,--
        All have I seen with feelings due, I trow,
      Yet not with such as these memorials
        Of the great unremembered, that can show
    The mass and shape they wore four thousand years ago.

The Egyptian idea of a pyramid was that of a structure on a square base,
with four inclining sides, each one of which should be an equilateral
triangle, all meeting in a point at the top. The structure might be
solid, and in that case might be either of hewn stone throughout, or
consist of a mass of rubble merely held together by an external casing
of stone; or it might contain chambers and passages, in which case the
employment of rubble was scarcely possible. It has been demonstrated by
actual excavation, that all the _great_ pyramids of Egypt were of the
latter character that they were built for the express purpose of
containing chambers and passages, and of preserving those chambers and
passages intact. They required, therefore, to be, and in most cases are,
of a good construction throughout.

There are from sixty to seventy pyramids in Egypt, chiefly in the
neighbourhood of Memphis. Some of them are nearly perfect, some more or
less in ruins, but most of them still preserving their ancient shape,
when seen from afar. Two of them greatly exceed all the others in their
dimensions, and are appropriately designated as "the Great Pyramid" and
"the Second Pyramid." A third in their immediate vicinity is of very
inferior size, and scarcely deserves the pre-eminence which has been
conceded to it by the designation of "the Third Pyramid."

Still, the three seem, all of them, to deserve description, and to
challenge a place in "the story of Egypt," which has never yet been told
without some account of the marvels of each of them. The smallest of the
three was a square of three hundred and fifty-four feet each way, and
had a height of two hundred and eighteen feet. It covered an area of two
acres, three roods, and twenty-one poles, or about that of an ordinary
London square. The cubic contents amounted to above nine million feet of
solid masonry, and are calculated to have weighed 702,460 tons. The
height was not very impressive. Two hundred and twenty feet is an
altitude attained by the towers of many churches, and the "Pyramid of
the Sun" at Teotihuacan did not fall much short of it; but the mass was
immense, the masonry was excellent, and the ingenuity shown in the
construction was great. Sunk in the rock from which the pyramid rose,
was a series of sepulchral chambers. One, the largest, almost directly
under the apex of the pyramid, was empty. In another, which had an
arched roof, constructed in the most careful and elaborate way, was
found the sarcophagus of the king, Men-kau-ra, to whom tradition
assigned the building, formed of a single mass of blue-black basalt,
exquisitely polished and beautifully carved, externally eight feet long,
three feet high, and three feet broad, internally six feet by two. In
the sarcophagus was the wooden coffin of the monarch, and on the lid of
the coffin was his name. The chambers were connected by two long
passages with the open air; and another passage had, apparently, been
used for the same purpose before the pyramid attained its ultimate size.
The tomb-chamber, though carved in the rock, had been paved and lined
with slabs of solid stone, which were fastened to the native rock by
iron cramps. The weight of the sarcophagus which it contained, now
unhappily lost, was three tons.



The "Second Pyramid," which stands to the north-east of the Third, at
the distance of about two hundred and seventy yards, was a square of
seven hundred and seven feet each way, and thus covered an area of
almost eleven acres and a half, or nearly double that of the greatest
building which Rome ever produced--the Coliseum. The sides rose at an
angle of 52° 10'; and the perpendicular height was four hundred and
fifty-four feet, or fifty feet more than that of the spire of
Salisbury Cathedral. The cubic contents are estimated at 71,670,000
feet; and their weight is calculated at 5,309,000 tons. Numbers of this
vast amount convey but little idea of the reality to an ordinary reader,
and require to be made intelligible by comparisons. Suppose, then, a
solidly built stone house, with walls a foot thick, twenty feet of
frontage, and thirty feet of depth from front to back; let the walls be
twenty-four feet high and have a foundation of six feet; throw in
party-walls to one-third the extent of the main walls--and the result
will be a building containing four thousand cubic feet of masonry. Let
there be a town of eighteen thousand such houses, suited to be the abode
of a hundred thousand inhabitants--then pull these houses to pieces, and
pile them up into a heap to a height exceeding that of the spire of the
Cathedral of Vienna, and you will have a rough representation of the
"Second Pyramid of Ghizeh." Or lay down the contents of the structure in
a line a foot in breadth and depth--the line would be above 13,500 miles
long, and would reach more than half-way round the earth at the equator.
Again, suppose that a single man can quarry a ton of stone in a week,
then it would have required above twenty thousand to be employed
constantly for five years in order to obtain the material for the
pyramid; and if the blocks were required to be large, the number
employed and the time occupied would have had to be greater.

The internal construction of the "Second Pyramid" is less elaborate than
that of the Third, but not very different. Two passages lead from the
outer air to a sepulchral chamber almost exactly under the apex of the
pyramid, and exactly at its base, one of them commencing about fifty
feet from the base midway in the north side, and the other commencing a
little outside the base, in the pavement at the foot of the pyramid. The
first passage was carried through the substance of the pyramid for a
distance of a hundred and ten feet at a descending angle of 25° 55',
after which it became horizontal, and was tunnelled through the native
rock on which the pyramid was built. The second passage was wholly in
the rock. It began with a descent at an angle of 21° 40', which
continued for a hundred feet; it was then horizontal for fifty feet;
after which it ascended gently for ninety-six feet, and joined the first
passage about midway between the sepulchral chamber and the outer air.
The sepulchral chamber was carved mainly out of the solid rock below the
pyramid, but was roofed in by some of the basement stones, which were
sloped at an angle. The chamber measured forty-six feet in length and
sixteen feet in breadth; its height in the centre was twenty-two feet.
It contained a plain granite sarcophagus, without inscription of any
kind, eight feet and a half in length, three feet and a half in breadth,
and in depth three feet. There was no coffin in the sarcophagus at the
time of its discovery, and no inscription on any part of the pyramid or
of its contents. The tradition, however, which ascribed it to the
immediate predecessor of Men-kau-ra, may be accepted as sufficient
evidence of its author.



Come we now to the "Great Pyramid," "which is still," says Lenormant,
"at least in respect of its mass, _the most prodigious of all human
constructions_," The "Great Pyramid," or "First Pyramid of Ghizeh," as
it is indifferently termed, is situated almost due north-east of the
"Second Pyramid," at the distance of about two hundred yards. The length
of each side at the base was originally seven hundred and sixty-four
feet, or fifty-seven feet more than that of the sides of the "Second
Pyramid." Its original perpendicular height was something over four
hundred and eighty feet, its cubic contents exceeded eighty-nine million
feet, and the weight of its mass 6,840,000 tons. In height it thus
exceeded Strasburg Cathedral by above six feet, St. Peter's at Rome by
above thirty feet, St. Stephen's at Vienna by fifty feet St. Paul's,
London, by a hundred and twenty feet, and the Capitol at Washington by
nearly two hundred feet. Its area was thirteen acres, one rood, and
twenty-two poles, or nearly two acres more than the area of the "Second
Pyramid." which was fourfold that of the "Third Pyramid," which, as we
have seen, was that of an ordinary London square. Its cubic contents
would build a city of twenty-two thousand such houses as were above
described, and laid in a line of cubic squares would reach a distance of
nearly seventeen thousand miles, or girdle two-thirds of the earth's
circumference at the equator. Herodotus says that its construction
required the continuous labour of a hundred thousand men for the space
of twenty years, and moderns do not regard the estimate as exaggerated.

The "Great Pyramid" presents, moreover, many other marvels besides its
size. First, there is the massiveness of the blocks of which it is
composed. The basement stones are in many cases thirty feet long by
five feet high, and four or five wide: they must contain from six
hundred to seven hundred and fifty cubic feet each, and weigh from
forty-six to fifty-seven tons. The granite blocks which roof over the
upper sepulchral chamber are nearly nineteen feet long, by two broad and
from three to four deep. The relieving stones above the same chamber,
and those of the entrance passage, are almost equally massive. Generally
the external blocks are of a size with which modern builders scarcely
ever venture to deal, though the massiveness diminishes as the pyramid
is ascended. The bulk of the interior is, however, of comparatively
small stones; but even these are carefully hewn and squared, so as to
fit together compactly.



Further, there are the passages, the long gallery, the ventilation
shafts, and the sepulchral chambers all of them remarkable, and some of
them simply astonishing. The "Great Pyramid" guards three chambers. One
lies deep in the rock, about a hundred and twenty feet beneath the
natural surface of the ground, and is placed almost directly below the
apex of the structure. It measures forty-six feet by twenty-seven, and
is eleven feet high. The access to it is by a long and narrow passage
which commences in the north side of the pyramid, about seventy feet
above the original base, and descends for forty yards through the
masonry, and then for seventy more in the same line through the solid
rock, when it changes its direction, becoming horizontal for nine yards,
and so entering the chamber itself. The two other chambers are reached
by an ascending passage, which branches off from the descending one at
the distance of about thirty yards from the entrance, and mounts up
through the heart of the pyramid for rather more than forty yards, when
it divides into two. A low horizontal gallery, a hundred and ten feet
long, leads to a chamber which has been called "the Queen's"--a room
about nineteen feet long by seventeen broad, roofed in with sloping
blocks, and having a height of twenty feet in the centre. Another longer
and much loftier gallery continues on for a hundred and fifty feet in
the line of the ascending passage, and is then connected by a short
horizontal passage with the upper-most or "King's Chamber." Here was
found a sarcophagus believed to be that of King Khufu, since the name of
Khufu was scrawled in more than one place on the chamber walls.


The construction of this chamber--the very kernel of the whole
building--is exceedingly remarkable. It is a room of thirty-four feet in
length, with a width of seventeen feet, and a height of nineteen,
composed wholly of granite blocks of great size, beautifully polished,
and fitted together with great care. The construction of the roof is
particularly admirable. First, the chamber is covered in with nine huge
blocks, each nearly nineteen feet long and four feet wide, which are
laid side by side upon the walls so as to form a complete ceiling. Then
above these blocks is a low chamber similarly covered in, and this is
repeated four times; after which there is a fifth opening,
triangular, and roofed in by a set of huge sloping blocks, which meet at
the apex and support each other. The object is to relieve the chamber
from any superincumbent weight, and prevent it from being crushed in by
the mass of material above it; and this object has been so completely
attained that still, at the expiration of above forty centuries, the
entire chamber, with its elaborate roof, remains intact, without crack
or settlement of any kind.

Further, from the great chamber are carried two ventilation-shafts, or
air-passages, northwards and southwards, which open on the outer surface
of the pyramid, and are respectively two hundred and thirty-three and
one hundred and ninety-four feet long. These passages are square, or
nearly so, and have a diameter varying between six and nine inches. They
give a continual supply of pure air to the chamber, and keep it dry at
all seasons.

The Great Gallery is also of curious construction. Extending for a
distance of one hundred and fifty feet, and rising at an angle of 26°
18', it has a width of five feet at the base and a height of above
thirty feet. The side walls are formed of seven layers of stone, each
projecting a few inches over that below it. The gallery thus gradually
contracts towards the top, which has a width of four feet only, and is
covered in with stones that reach across it, and rest on the walls at
either side. The exact object of so lofty a gallery has not been
ascertained; but it must have helped to keep the air of the interior
pure and sweet, by increasing the space through which it had to

The "Pyramid Builders," or kings who constructed the three monuments
that have now been described, were, according to a unanimous tradition,
three consecutive monarchs, whose native names are read as Khufu,
Shafra, and Menkaura. These kings belonged to Manetho's fourth dynasty;
and Khufu, the first of the three, seems to have been the immediate
successor of Sneferu. Theorists have delighted to indulge in
speculations as to the objects which the builders had in view when they
raised such magnificent constructions. One holds that the Great Pyramid,
at any rate, was built to embody cosmic discoveries, as the exact length
of the earth's diameter and circumference, the length of an arc of the
meridian, and the true unit of measure. Another believes the great work
of Khufu to have been an observatory, and the ventilating passages to
have been designed for "telescopes," through which observations were to
be made upon the sun and stars; but it has not yet been shown that there
is any valid foundation for these fancies, which have been spun with
much art out of the delicate fabric of their propounders' brains. The
one hard fact which rests upon abundant evidence is this--the pyramids
were built for tombs, to contain the mummies of deceased Egyptians. The
chambers in their interiors, at the time of their discovery, held within
them sarcophagi, and in one instance the sarcophagus had within it a
coffin. The coffin had an inscription upon it, which showed that it had
once contained the body of a king. If anything more is necessary, we may
add that every pyramid in Egypt--and there are, as he have said, more
than sixty of them--was built for the same purpose, and that they all
occupy sites in the great necropolis, or burial-ground opposite Memphis,
where the inhabitants are known to have laid their dead.

The marvel is, how Khufu came suddenly to have so magnificent a thought
as that of constructing an edifice double the height of any previously
existing, covering five times the area, and containing ten times the
mass. Architecture does not generally proceed by "leaps and bounds;" but
here was a case of a sudden extraordinary advance, such as we shall find
it difficult to parallel elsewhere. An attempt has been made to solve
the mystery by the supposition that all pyramids were gradual
accretions, and that their size marks simply the length of a king's
reign, each monarch making his sepulchral chamber, with a small pyramid
above it, in his first year, and as his reign went on, adding each year
an outer coating; so that the number of these coatings tells the length
of his reign, as the age of a tree is known from the number of its
annual rings. In this case there would have been nothing ideally great
in the conception of Khufu--he would simply have happened to erect the
biggest pyramid because he happened to have the longest reign; but,
except in the case of the "Third Pyramid," there is a unity of design in
the structures which implies that the architect had conceived the whole
structure in his mind from the first. The lengths of the several parts
are proportioned one to another. In the "Great Pyramid," the main
chamber would not have needed the five relieving chambers above it
unless it was known that it would have to be pressed down by a
superincumbent mass, such as actually lies upon it. Moreover, how is it
possible to conceive that in the later years of a decrepid monarch, the
whole of an enormous pyramid could be coated over with huge blocks--and
the blocks are largest at the external surface--the work requiring to be
pushed each year with more vigour, as becoming each year greater and
more difficult? Again, what shall we say of the external finish? Each
pyramid was finally smoothed down to a uniform sloping surface. This
alone must have been a work of years. Did a pyramid builder leave it to
his successor to finish his pyramid? It is at least doubtful whether any
pyramid at all would ever have been finished had he done so.

We must hold, therefore, that Khufu did suddenly conceive a design
without a parallel--did require his architect to construct him a tomb,
which should put to shame all previous monuments, and should with
difficulty be surpassed, or even equalled. He must have possessed much
elevation of thought, and an intense ambition, together with inordinate
selfishness, an overweening pride, and entire callousness to the
sufferings of others, before he could have approved the plan which his
master-builder set before him. That plan, including the employment of
huge blocks of stone, their conveyance to the top of a hill a hundred
feet high, and their emplacement, in some cases, at a further elevation
of above 450 feet, involved, under the circumstances of the time, such
an amount of human suffering, that no king who had any regard for the
happiness of his subjects could have consented to it. Khufu must have
forced his subjects to labour for a long term of years--twenty,
according to Herodotus--at a servile work which was wholly unproductive,
and was carried on amid their sighs and groans for no object but his own
glorification, and the supposed safe custody of his remains. Shafra must
have done nearly the same. Hence an evil repute attached to the pyramid
builders, whose names were handed down to posterity as those of
evil-minded and impious kings, who neglected the service of the gods to
gratify their own vanity, and, so long as they could exalt themselves,
did not care how much they oppressed their people. There was not even
the poor apology for their conduct that their oppression fell on slaves,
or foreigners, or prisoners of war. Egypt was not yet a conquering
power; prisoners of war were few, slaves not very common. The labourers
whom the pyramid builders employed were their own free subjects whom
they impressed into the heavy service.

It is by a just Nemesis that the kings have in a great measure failed to
secure the ends at which they aimed, and in hope of which they steeled
their hearts against their subjects' cries. They have indeed handed down
their names to a remote age: but it is as tyrants and oppressors. They
are world-famous, or rather world-infamous. But that preservation of
their corporeal frame which they especially sought, is exactly what they
have missed attaining.

    Let not a monument give you or me hopes,
    Since not a pinch of dust remains of Cheôps,

says the doggerel of the satiric Byron; and it is the absolute fact
that while thousands of mummies buried in common graves remain untouched
even to the present day, the very grandeur of the pyramid builders'
tombs attracted attention to them, caused the monuments to be opened,
the sarcophagi to be rifled, and the remains inclosed in them to be
dispersed to the four winds of heaven.

Still, whatever gloomy associations attach to the pyramids in respect of
the sufferings caused by their erection, as monuments they must always
challenge a certain amount of admiration. A great authority declares:
"No one can possibly examine the interior of the Great Pyramid without
being struck with astonishment at the wonderful mechanical skill
displayed in its construction. The immense blocks of granite brought
from Syene, a distance of five hundred miles, polished like glass, and
so fitted that the joints can scarcely be detected! Nothing can be more
wonderful than the extraordinary amount of knowledge displayed in the
construction of the discharging chambers over the roof of the principal
apartment, in the alignment of the sloping galleries, in the provision
of the ventilating shafts, and in all the wonderful contrivances of the
structure. All these, too, are carried out with such precision that,
notwithstanding the immense superincumbent weight, no settlement in any
part can be detected to an appreciable fraction of an inch. Nothing more
perfect mechanically has ever been erected since that time."[8]


The architectural effect of the two greatest of the pyramids is
certainly magnificent. They do not greatly impress the beholder at
first sight, for a pyramid, by the very law of its formation, never
looks as large as it is--it slopes away from the eye in every direction,
and eludes rather than courts observation. But as the spectator gazes,
as he prolongs his examination and inspection, the pyramids gain upon
him, their impressiveness increases. By the vastness of their mass, by
the impression of solidity and durability which they produce, partly
also, perhaps, by the symmetry and harmony of their lines and their
perfect simplicity and freedom from ornament, they convey to the
beholder a sense of grandeur and majesty, they produce within him a
feeling of astonishment and awe, such as is scarcely caused by any other
of the erections of man. In all ages travellers have felt and expressed
the warmest admiration for them. They impressed Herodotus as no works
that he had seen elsewhere, except, perhaps, the Babylonian. They
astonished Germanicus, familiar as he was with the great constructions
of Rome. They furnished Napoleon with the telling phrase, "Soldiers,
forty centuries look down upon you from the top of the pyramids." Greece
and Rome reckoned them among the Seven Wonders of the world. Moderns
have doubted whether they could really be the work of human hands. If
they possess only one of the elements of architectural excellence, they
possess that element to so great an extent that in respect of it they
are unsurpassed, and probably unsurpassable.

These remarks apply especially to the first and second pyramids. The
"Third" is not a work of any very extraordinary grandeur. The bulk is
not greater than that of the chief pyramid of Saccarah, which has never
attracted much attention; and the height did not greatly exceed that of
the chief Mexican temple-mound. Moreover, the stones of which the
pyramid was composed are not excessively massive. The monument aimed at
being beautiful rather than grand. It was coated for half its height
with blocks of pink granite from Syene, bevelled at the edges, which
remain still in place on two sides of the structure. The entrance to it,
on the north side, was conspicuous, and seems to have had a metal
ornamentation let into the stone. The sepulchral chamber was beautifully
lined and roofed, and the sarcophagus was exquisitively carved.
Menkaura, the constructor, was not regarded as a tyrant, or an
oppressor, but as a mild and religious monarch, whom the gods ill-used
by giving him too short a reign. His religious temper is indicated by
the inscription on the coffin which contained his remains: "O Osiris,"
it reads, "King of Upper and Lower Egypt, Menkaura, living eternally,
engendered by the Heaven, born of Nut, substance of Seb, thy mother Nut
stretches herself over thee in her name of the abyss of heaven. She
renders thee divine by destroying all thy enemies, O King Menkaura,
living eternally."

The fashion of burying in pyramids continued to the close of Manetho's
sixth dynasty, but no later monarchs rivalled the great works of Khufu
and Shafra. The tombs of their successors were monuments of a moderate
size, involving no oppression of the people, but perhaps rather
improving their condition by causing a rise in the rate of wages.
Certainly, the native remains of the period give a cheerful
representation of the condition of all classes. The nation for the most
part enjoys peace, and applies itself to production. The wealth of the
nobles increases, and the position of their dependents is improved.
Slaves were few, and there was ample employment for the labouring
classes. We do not see the stick at work upon the backs of the labourers
in the sculptures of the time; they seem to accomplish their various
tasks with alacrity and gaiety of heart. They plough, and hoe, and reap;
drive cattle or asses; winnow and store corn; gather grapes and tread
them, singing in chorus as they tread; cluster round the winepress or
the threshingfloor, on which the animals tramp out the grain; gather
lotuses; save cattle from the inundation; engage in fowling or fishing;
and do all with an apparent readiness and cheerfulness which seems
indicative of real content. There may have been a darker side to the
picture, and undoubtedly was while Khufu and Shafra held the throne; but
kings of a morose and cruel temper seem to have been the exception,
rather than the rule, in Egypt; and the moral code, which required
kindness to be shown to dependents, seems, at this period at any rate,
to have had a hold upon the consciences, and to have influenced the
conduct, of the mass of the people. "Happy the nation that has no
history!" Egypt during this golden age was neither assailed by any
aggressive power beyond her borders, nor had herself conceived the idea
of distant conquest. An occasional raid upon the negroes of the South,
or chastisement of the nomades of the East, secured her interests in
those quarters, and prevented her warlike virtues from dying out through
lack of use. But otherwise tranquillity was undisturbed, and the
energies of the nation were directed to increasing its material
prosperity, and to progress in the arts.

Among the marvels of Egypt perhaps the Sphinx is second to none. The
mysterious being with the head of a man and the body of a lion is not at
all uncommon in Egyptian architectural adornment, but the one placed
before the Second Pyramid (the Pyramid of Shafra), and supposed to be
contemporary with it, astonishes the observer by its gigantic
proportions. It is known to the Arabs as Abul-hôl, the father of terror.
It measures more than one hundred feet in length, and was partially
carved from the rocks of the Lybian hills. Between its out-stretched
feet there stands a chapel, uncovered in 1816, three walls of which are
formed by tablets bearing inscriptions indicative of its use and origin.

A small temple behind the great Sphinx, probably also built by Shafra,
is formed of great blocks of the hardest red granite, brought from the
neighbourhood of Syene and fitted to each other with a nicety
astonishing to modern architects, who are unable to imagine what tools
could have proved equal to the difficult achievement. Mysterious
passages pierce the great Sphinx and connect it with the Second Pyramid,
three hundred feet west of it. In the face of this mystery all questions
are vain, and yet every visitor adds new queries to those that others
have asked before him.

    Since what unnumbered year
      Hast thou kept watch and ward,
    And o'er the buried land of fear
      So grimly held thy guard?
    No faithless slumber snatching,
      Still couched in silence brave,
    Like some fierce hound, long watching
      Above her master's grave....

      Dost thou in anguish thus
      Still brood o'er Œdipus?
    And weave enigmas to mislead anew,
      And stultify the blind
      Dull heads of human-kind,
        And inly make thy moan,
    That, mid the hated crew,
      Whom thou so long couldst vex,
      Bewilder and perplex,
    Thou yet couldst find a subtler than thine own?

      Even now; methinks that those
      Dark, heavy lips which close
      In such a stern repose,
    Seem burdened with some thought unsaid,
    And hoard within their portals dread
      Some fearful secret there,
    Which to the listening earth
    She may not whisper forth.
      Not even to the air!

      Of awful wonders hid
      In yonder dread Pyramid,
        The home of magic fears;
      Of chambers vast and lonely,
      Watched by the Genii only,
    Who tend their masters' long-forgotten biers,
      And treasures that have shone
      On cavern walls alone,
        For thousand, thousand years.

      Would she but tell. She knows
      Of the old Pharaohs;
    Could count the Ptolemies' long line;
    Each mighty myth's original hath seen,
    Apis, Anubis,--ghosts that haunt between
      The bestial and divine,--
    (Such he that sleeps in Philæ,--he that stands
      In gloom unworshipped, 'neath his rock-hewn lane,--
    And they who, sitting on Memnonian sands,
      Cast their long shadows o'er the desert plain:)
        Hath marked Nitocris pass,
        And Oxymandyas
    Deep-versed in many a dark Egyptian wile,--
      The Hebrew boy hath eyed
      Cold to the master's bride;
    And that Medusan stare hath frozen the smile
    Of all her love and guile,
      For whom the Cæsar sighed,
      And the world-loser died,--
    The darling of the Nile.


[8] Fergusson, "History of Architecture," vol. i. pp. 91, 92.



Hitherto Egypt had been ruled from a site at the junction of the narrow
Nile valley with the broad plain of the Delta--a site sufficiently
represented by the modern Cairo. But now there was a shift of the seat
of power. There is reason to believe that something like a disruption of
Egypt into separate kingdoms took place, and that for a while several
distinct dynasties bore sway in different parts of the country.
Disruption was naturally accompanied by weakness and decline. The old
order ceased, and opportunity was offered for some new order--some new
power--to assert itself. The site on which it arose was one three
hundred and fifty miles distant from the ancient capital, or four
hundred and more by the river. Here, about lat. 26°, the usually narrow
valley of the Nile opens into a sort of plain or basin. The mountains on
either side of the river recede, as though by common consent, and leave
between themselves and the river's bank a broad amphitheatre, which in
each case is a rich green plain--an alluvium of the most productive
character--dotted with _dom_ and date palms, sometimes growing single,
sometimes collected into clumps or groves. On the western side the
Libyan range gathers itself up into a single considerable peak, which
has an elevation of twelve hundred feet. On the east the desert-wall
maintains its usual level character, but is pierced by valleys
conducting to the coast of the Red Sea. The situation was one favourable
for commerce. On the one side was the nearest route through the sandy
desert to the Lesser Oasis, which commanded the trade of the African
interior; on the other the way led through the valley of Hammamât, rich
with _breccia verde_ and other valuable and rare stones, to a district
abounding in mines of gold, silver, and lead, and thence to the Red Sea
coast, from which, even in very early times, there was communication
with the opposite coast of Arabia, the region of gums and spices.

In this position there had existed, probably from the very beginnings of
Egypt, a provincial city of some repute, called by its inhabitants Apé
or Apiu, and, with the feminine article prefixed, Tapé, or Tapiu, which
some interpret "The city of thrones". To the Greeks the name "Tapé"
seemed to resemble their own well-known "Thebai", whence they
transferred the familiar appellation from the Bæotian to the
Mid-Egyptian town, which has thus come to be known to Englishmen and
Anglo-Americans as "Thebes." Thebes had been from the first the capital
of a "nome". It lay so far from the court that it acquired a character
of its own--a special cast of religion, manners, speech, nomenclature,
mode of writing, and the like--which helped to detach it from Lower or
Northern Egypt more even than its isolation. Still, it was not until
the northern kingdom sank into decay from internal weakness and
exhaustion, and disintegration supervened in the Delta and elsewhere,
that Thebes resolved to assert herself and claim independent
sovereignty. Apparently, she achieved her purpose without having
recourse to arms. The kingdoms of the north were content to let her go.
They recognized their own weakness, and allowed the nascent power to
develop itself unchecked and unhindered.

The first known Theban monarch is a certain Antef or Enantef, whose
coffin was discovered in the year 1827 by some Arabs near Qurnah, to the
west of Thebes. The mummy bore the royal diadem, and the epigraph on the
lid of the coffin declared the body which it contained to be that of
"Antef, king of _the two Egypts._" The phrase implied a claim to
dominion over the whole country, but a claim as purely nominal as that
of the kings of England from Edward IV. to George III. to be monarchs of
France and Navarre. Antef s rule may possibly have reached to
Elephantine on the one hand, but is not likely to have extended much
beyond Coptos on the other. He was a local chieftain posing as a great
sovereign, but probably with no intention to deceive either his own
contemporaries or posterity. His name appears in some of the later
Egyptian dynastic lists; but no monument of his time has come down to us
except the one that has been mentioned.

Antef I. is thought to have been succeeded by Mentu-hotep I., a monarch
even more shadowy, known to us only from the "Table of Karnak." This
prince, however, is followed by one who possesses a greater amount of
substance--Antef-aa, or "Antef the Great," grandson, as it would seem,
of the first Antef--a sort of Egyptian Nimrod, who delighted above all
things in the chase. Antefaa's sepulchral monument shows him to us
standing in the midst of his dogs, who wear collars, and have their
names engraved over them. The dogs are four in number, and are of
distinct types. The first, which is called _Mahut_ or "Antelope," has
drooping ears, and long but somewhat heavy legs; it resembles a
foxhound, and was no doubt both swift and strong, though it can scarcely
have been so swift as its namesake. The second was called _Abakaru_, a
name of unknown meaning; it has pricked up, pointed ears, a pointed
nose, and a curly tail. Some have compared it with the German _spitz_
dog, but it seems rather to be the original dog of nature, a near
congener of the jackal, and the type to which all dogs revert when
allowed to run wild and breed indiscriminately. The third, named
_Pahats_ or _Kamu, i.e._ "Blacky," is a heavy animal, not unlike a
mastiff; it has a small, rounded, drooping ear, a square, blunt nose, a
deep chest, and thick limbs. The late Dr. Birch supposed that it might
have been employed by Antefaa in "the chase of the lion;" but we should
rather regard it as a watch-dog, the terror of thieves, and we suspect
that the artist gave it the sitting attitude to indicate that its
business was not to hunt, but to keep watch and ward at its master's
gate. The fourth dog, who bears the name of _Tekal_, and walks between
his master's legs, has ears that seem to have been cropped. He has been
said to resemble "the Dalmatian hound": but this is questionable. His
peculiarities are not marked; but, on the whole, it seems most probable
that he is "a pet house-dog"[9] of the terrier class, the special
favourite of his master. Antefaa's dogs had their appointed keeper, the
master of his kennel, who is figured on the sepulchral tablet behind the
monarch, and bears the name of Tekenru.

The hunter king was buried in a tomb marked only by a pyramid of unbaked
brick, very humble in its character, but containing a mortuary chapel in
which the monument above described was set up. An inscription on the
tablet declared that it was erected to the memory of Antef the Great,
Son of the Sun, King of Upper and Lower Egypt, in the fiftieth year of
his reign.

Other Mentu-hoteps and other Antefs continued on the line of Theban
kings, reigning quietly and ingloriously, and leaving no mark upon the
scroll of time, yet probably advancing the material prosperity of their
country, and preparing the way for that rise to greatness which gives
Thebes, on the whole, the foremost place in Egyptian history. Useful
projects occupied the attention of these monarchs. One of them sank
wells in the valley of Hammamât, to provide water for the caravans which
plied between Coptos and the Red Sea. Another established military posts
in the valley to protect the traffic and the Egyptian quarrymen. Later
on, a king called Sankh-ka-ra launched a fleet upon the Red Sea waters,
and opened direct communications with the sacred land of Punt, the
region of odoriferous gums and of strange animals, as giraffes,
panthers, hunting leopards, cynocephalous apes, and long-tailed monkeys.
There is some doubt whether "Punt" was Arabia Felix, or the Somauli
country. In any case, it lay far down the Gulf, and could only be
reached after a voyage of many days.

The dynasty of the Antefs and Mentu-hoteps, which terminated with
Sankh-ka-ra, was followed by one in which the prevailing names were
Usurtasen and Amenemhat. This dynasty is Manetho's twelfth, and the time
of its rule has been characterized as "the happiest age of Egyptian
history?"[10] The second phase of Egyptian civilization now set in--a
phase which is regarded by many as outshining the glories of the first
The first civilization had subordinated the people to the monarch, and
had aimed especially at eternizing the memory and setting forth the
power and greatness of king after king. The second had the benefit and
advantage of the people for its primary object; it was utilitarian,
beneficent, appealing less to the eye than to the mind, far-sighted in
its aims, and most successful in the results which it effected. The wise
rulers of the time devoted their energies and their resources, not, as
the earlier kings, to piling up undying memorials of themselves in the
shape of monuments that "reached to heaven," but to useful works, to the
excavation of wells and reservoirs, the making of roads, the
encouragement of commerce, and the development of the vast agricultural
wealth of the country. They also diligently guarded the frontiers,
chastised aggressive tribes, and checked invasion by the establishment
of strong fortresses in positions of importance. They patronized art,
employing themselves in building temples rather than tombs, and adorned
their temples not only with reliefs and statues, but also with the novel
architectural embellishment of the obelisk, a delicate form, and one
especially suited to the country.

The founder of the "twelfth dynasty," Amenemhat I., deserves a few words
of description. He found Thebes in a state of anarchy; civil war raged
on every side; all the traditions of the past were forgotten; noble
fought against noble; the poor were oppressed; life and property were
alike insecure; "there was stability of fortune neither for the ignorant
nor for the learned man." One night, after he had lain down to sleep, he
found himself attacked in his bed-chamber; the clang of arms sounded
near at hand. Starting from his couch, he seized his own weapons and
struck out; when lo! his assailants fled; detected in their attempt to
assassinate him, they dared not offer any resistance, thus showing
themselves alike treacherous and cowardly. Amenemhat, having once taken
arms, did not lay them down till he had defeated every rival, and so
fought his way to the crown. Once acknowledged as king, he ruled with
moderation and equity; he "gave to the humble, and made the weak to
live;" he "caused the afflicted to cease from their afflictions, and
their cries to be heard no more;" he brought it to pass that none
hungered or thirsted in the land; he gave such orders to his servants
as continually increased the love of his people towards him. At the same
time, he was an energetic warrior. He "stood on the boundaries of the
land, to keep watch on its borders," personally leading his soldiers to
battle, armed with the _khopesh_ or falchion. He carried on wars with
the Petti, or bowmen of the Libyan interior, with the Sakti or Asiatics,
with the Maxyes or Mazyes of the north-west, and with the Ua-uat and
other negro tribes of the south; not, however, as it would seem, with
any desire of making conquests, but simply for the protection of his own
frontier. With the same object he constructed on his north-eastern
frontier a wall or fortress "to keep out the Sakti," who continually
harassed the people of the Eastern Delta by their incursions.

The wars of Amenemhat I. make it evident that by his time Thebes had
advanced from the position of a petty kingdom situated in a remote part
of Egypt, and held in check by two or more rival kingdoms in the lower
Nile valley and the Delta, to that of a power which bore sway over the
whole land from Elephantine to the Mediterranean. "I sent my messengers
up to Abu (Elephantine) and my couriers down to Athu" (the coast lakes),
says the monarch in his "Instructions" to his son--the earliest literary
production from a royal pen that has come down to our days; and there is
no reason to doubt the truth of his statement. In the Delta alone could
he come into contact with either the Mazyes or the Sakti, and a king of
Thebes could not hold the Delta without being master also of the lower
Nile valley from Coptos to Memphis. We must regard Egypt, then, under
the "twelfth dynasty." as once more consolidated into a single state--a
state ruled, however, not from Memphis, but from Thebes, a decidedly
inferior position.


Amenemhat I. is the only Egyptian king who makes a boast of his hunting
prowess. "I hunted the lion," he says, "and brought back the crocodile a
prisoner." Lions do not at the present time frequent Egypt, and, indeed,
are not found lower down the Nile valley than the point where the Great
Stream receives its last tributary, the Atbara. But anciently they seem
to have haunted the entire desert tracts on either side of the river.
The Roman Emperor Hadrian is said to have hunted one near Alexandria,
and the monuments represent lions as tamed and used in the chase by the
ancient inhabitants. Sometimes they even accompanied their masters to
the battlefield. We know nothing of Amenemhat's mode of hunting the king
of beasts, but may assume that it was not very different from that
which prevailed at a later date in Assyria. There, dogs and beaters were
employed to rouse the animals from their lairs, while the king and his
fellow-sportsmen either plied them with flights of arrows, or withstood
their onset with swords and spears. The crocodile was certainly
sometimes attacked while he was in the water, the hunters using a boat,
and endeavouring to spear him at the point where the head joins the
spine; but this could not have been the mode adopted by Amenemhat, since
it would have resulted in instant death, whereas he tells us that he
"brought the crocodile home a prisoner." Possibly, therefore, he
employed the method which Herodotus says was in common use in his day.
This was to bait a hook with a joint of pork and throw it into the water
at a point where the current would carry it out into mid-stream; then to
take a live pig to the river-side, and belabour him well with a stick
till he set up the squeal familiar to most ears. Any crocodile within
hearing was sure to come to the sound, and falling in with the pork on
the way, would instantly swallow it down. Upon this the hunters hauled
at the rope to which the hook was attached, and, notwithstanding his
struggles, drew "leviathan" to shore. Amenemhat, having thus "made the
crocodile a prisoner," may have carried his captive in triumph to his
capital, and exhibited him before the eyes of the people.

Amenemhat, having reigned as sole king for twenty years, was induced to
raise his eldest son, Usurtasen, to the royal dignity, and associate him
with himself in the government of the empire. Usurtasen was a prince of
much promise, He "brought prosperity to the affairs of his father. He
was, as a god, without fears; before him was never one like to him. Most
skilful in affairs, beneficent in his mandates, both in his going out
and in his coming in he made Egypt flourish." His courage and his
warlike capacity were great. Already, in the lifetime of his father, he
had distinguished himself in combats with the Petti and the Sakti. When
he was settled upon the throne, he made war upon the Cushite tribes who
bordered Egypt upon the south, employing the services of a general named
Ameni, but also taking a part personally in the campaign. The Cushites
or Ethiopians, who in later times became such dangerous neighbours to
Egypt, were at this early period weak and insignificant. After the king
had made his expedition, Ameni was able with a mere handful of four
hundred troops to penetrate into their country, to "conduct the golden
treasures" which it contained to the presence of his master, and to
capture and carry off a herd of three thousand cattle.

It was through his sculptures and his architectural works that the first
Usurtasen made himself chiefly conspicuous. Thebes, Abydos, Heliopolis
or On, the Fayoum and the Delta, were equally the scenes of his
constructive activity, and still show traces of his presence. At Thebes,
he carried to its completion the cell, or _naos_, of the great temple of
Ammon, in later times the innermost sanctuary of the building, and
reckoned so sacred, that when Thothmes III. rebuilt and enlarged the
entire edifice he reproduced the structure of Usurtasen, unchanged in
form, and merely turned from limestone into granite. At Abydos and
other cities of Middle Egypt, he constructed temples adorned with
sculptures, inscriptions, and colossal statues. At Tanis, he set up his
own statue, exhibiting himself as seated upon his throne. In the Fayoum
he erected an obelisk forty-one feet high to the honour of Ammon,
Phthah, and Mentu, which now lies prone upon the ground near the Arab
village of Begig. Indications of his ubiquitous activity are found also
at the Wady Magharah, in the Sinaitic peninsula, and at Wady Haifa in
Nubia, a little above the Second Cataract; but his grandest and most
elaborate work was his construction of the great temple of the Sun at
Heliopolis, and his best memorial is that tall finger pointing to the
sky which greets the traveller approaching Egypt from the east as the
first sample of its strange and mystic wonders. This temple the king
began in his third year. After a consultation with his lords and
counsellors, he issued the solemn decree: "It is determined to execute
the work; his majesty chooses to have it made. Let the superintendent
carry it on in the way that is desired; let all those employed upon it
be vigilant; let them see that it is made without weariness; let every
due ceremony be performed; let the beloved place arise." Then the king
rose up, wearing a diadem, and holding the double pen; and all present
followed him. The scribe read the holy book, and extended the measuring
cord, and laid the foundations on the spot which the temple was to
occupy. A grand building arose; but it has been wholly demolished by the
ruthless hand of time and the barbarity of conquerors. Of all its
glories nothing now remains but the one taper obelisk of pink
granite, which rises into the soft sleepy air above the green cornfields
of Matariyeh, no longer tipped with gold, but still catching on its
summit the earliest and latest sun-rays, while wild-bees nestle in the
crannies of the weird characters cut into the stone.


Usurtasen, after reigning ten years in conjunction with his father and
thirty-two years alone, associated his son, Amenemhat II., who became
sole king about three years later. His reign, though long, was
undistinguished, and need not occupy our attention. He followed the
example of his predecessors in associating a son in the government; and
this son succeeded him, and is known as Usurtasen II. One event of
interest alone belongs to this time. It is the reception by one of his
great officials of a large family or tribe of Semitic immigrants from
Asia, who beg permission to settle permanently in the fertile Egypt
under the protection of its powerful king. Thirty-seven Amu, men, women,
and children, present themselves at the court which the great noble
holds near the eastern border, and offer him their homage, while they
solicit a favourable hearing. The men are represented draped in long
garments of various colours, and wearing sandals unlike the
Egyptian--more resembling, in fact, open shoes with many straps. Their
arms are bows, arrows, spears, and clubs. One plays on a seven-stringed
lyre by means of a plectrum. Four women, wearing fillets round their
heads, with garments reaching below the knee, and wearing anklets but no
sandals, accompany them. A boy, armed with a spear, walks at the side
of the women; and two children, seated in a kind of pannier placed on
the back of an ass, ride on in front. Another ass, carrying a spear, a
shield, and a pannier, precedes the man who plays on the lyre. The great
official, who is named Khnum-hotep, receives the foreigners, accompanied
by an attendant who carries his sandals and a staff, and who is followed
by three dogs. A scribe, named Nefer-hotep, unrolls before his master a
strip of papyrus, on which are inscribed the words, "The sixth year of
the reign of King Usurtasen Sha-khepr-ra: account rendered of the Amu
who in the lifetime of the chief, Khnum-hotep, brought to him the
mineral, _mastemut_, from the country of Pit-shu--they are in all
thirty-seven persons." The mineral _mastemut_ is thought to be a species
of stibium or antimony, used for dying the skin around the eyes, and so
increasing their beauty. Besides this offering, the head of the tribe,
who is entitled _khak_, or "prince," and named Abusha, presents to
Khnum-hotep a magnificent wild-goat, of the kind which at the present
day frequents the rocky mountain tract of Sinai. He wears a richer dress
than his companions, one which is ornamented with a fringe, and has a
wavy border round the neck. The scene has been generally recognized as
strikingly illustrating the coming of Jacob's family into Egypt (Gen.
xlvi. 28-34), and was at one time thought by some to represent that
occurrence; but the date of Abusha's coming is long anterior to the
arrival in Egypt of Jacob's family, the number is little more than half
that of the Hebrew immigrants, the names do not accord; and it is now
agreed on all hands, that the interest of the representation is
confined to its illustrative force.

Usurtasen II. reigned for nineteen years. He does not seem to have
associated a son, but was succeeded by another Usurtasen, most probably
a nephew. The third Usurtasen was a conquering monarch, and advanced the
power and glory of Egypt far more than any other ruler belonging to the
Old Empire. He began his military operations in his eighth year, and
starting from Elephantine in the month Epiphi, or May, moved southward,
like another Lord Wolseley, with a fixed intention, which he expressed
in writing upon the rocks of the Elephantine island, of permanently
reducing to subjection "the miserable land of Cush." His expedition was
so far successful that in the same year he established two forts, one on
either side of the Nile, and set up two pillars with inscriptions
warning the black races that they were not to proceed further northward,
except with the object of importing into Egypt cattle, oxen, goats, or
asses. The forts are still visible on either bank of the river a little
above the Second Cataract, and bear the names of Koommeh and Semneh.
They are massive constructions, built of numerous squared blocks of
granite and sandstone, and perched upon two steep rocks which rise up
perpendicularly from the river. Usurtasen, having made this beginning,
proceeded, from his eighth to his sixteenth year, to carry on the war
with perseverance and ferocity in the district between the Nile and the
Red Sea--to kill the men, fire the crops, and carry off the women and
children, much as recently did the Arab traders whom Baker and Gordon
strove to crush. The memory of his razzias was perpetuated upon stone
columns set up to record his successes. Later on, in his nineteenth year
he made a last expedition, to complete the conquest of "the miserable
Kashi," and recorded his victory at Abydos.

The effect of these inroads was to advance the Egyptian frontier one
hundred and fifty miles to the south, to carry it, in fact, from the
First to above the Second Cataract. Usurtasen drew the line between
Egypt and Ethiopia at this period, very much where the British
Government drew it between Egypt and the Soudan in 1885. The boundary is
a somewhat artificial one, as any boundary must be on the course of a
great river; but it is probably as convenient a point as can be found
between Assouan (Syene) and Khartoum. The conquest was regarded as
redounding greatly to Usurtasen's glory, and made him the hero of the
Old Empire. Myths gathered about his name, which, softened into
Sesostris, became a favourite One in the mouths of Egyptian minstrels
and minnesingers. Usurtasen grew to be a giant more than seven feet
high, who conquered, not only all Ethiopia, but also Europe and Asia;
his columns were said to be found in Palestine, Asia Minor, Scythia, and
Thrace; he left a colony at Colchis, the city of the golden fleece; he
dug all the canals by which Egypt was intersected; he invented geometry;
he set up colossi above fifty feet high; he was the greatest monarch
that had ruled Egypt since the days of Osiris!

No doubt these tales were, in the main, imaginary; but they marked the
fact that in Usurtasen III. the military glories of the Old Empire


[9] So Mr. A.D. Bartlett, F.Z.S., in the "Transactions of the Society of
Biblical Archæology," vol. iv. p. 195.

[10] R. Stuart Poole, "Cities of Egypt," p. 52.



The great river to which Egypt owes her being, is at once the source of
all her blessings and her chiefest danger. Swelling with a uniformity,
well calculated to call forth man's gratitude and admiration, almost
from a fixed day in each year, and continuing to rise steadily for
months, it gradually spreads over the lands, covering the entire soil
with a fresh coating of the richest possible alluvium, and thus securing
to the country a perpetual and inexhaustible fertility. Nature's
mechanism is so perfect, that the rise year after year scarcely varies a
foot, and is almost exactly the same now as it was when the first
Pharaoh poured his libation to the river-god from the embankment which
he had made at Memphis; but though this uniformity is great, and
remarkable, and astonishing, it is not absolute. There are occasions,
once in two or three centuries, when the rainfall in Abyssinia is
excessive. The Blue Nile and the Atbara pour into the deep and steady
stream of the White Nile torrents of turbid water for months together.
The windows of heaven seem to have been opened, and the rain pours down
as if it would never cease. Then the river of the Egyptians assumes a
threatening character; faster and faster it rises, and higher and
higher; and further and further it spreads, until it begins to creep up
the sides of the two ranges of hills. Calamitous results ensue. The
mounds erected to protect the cities, the villages, and the pasture
lands, are surmounted, or undermined, or washed away; the houses, built
often of mud, and seldom of any better material than crude brick,
collapse; cattle are drowned by hundreds; human life is itself
imperilled; the population has to betake itself to boats, and to fly to
the desert regions which enclose the Nile valley to the east and west,
regions of frightful sterility, which with difficulty support the few
wandering tribes that are their normal inhabitants. If the excessive
rise continues long, thousands or millions starve; if it passes off
rapidly, then the inhabitants return to find their homes desolated,
their cattle drowned, their household goods washed away, and themselves
dependent on the few rich men who may have stored their corn in stone
granaries which the waters have not been able to penetrate. Disasters of
this kind are, however, exceedingly rare, though, when they occur, their
results are terrible to contemplate.

The more usual form of calamity is of the opposite kind. Once or twice
in a century the Abyssinian rainfall is deficient. The rise of the Nile
is deferred beyond the proper date. Anxious eyes gaze daily on the
sluggish stream, or consult the "Nilometers" which kings and princes
have constructed along its course to measure the increase of the waters.
Hopes and fears alternate as good or bad news reaches the inhabitants of
the lower valley from those who dwell higher up the stream. Each little
rise is expected to herald a greater one, and the agony of suspense is
prolonged until the "hundred days," traditionally assigned to the
increase, have gone by, and there is no longer a doubt that the river
has begun to fall. Then hope is swallowed up in despair. Only the lands
lying nearest to the river have been inundated; those at a greater
distance from it lie parched and arid during the entire summer-time, and
fail to produce a single blade of grass or spike of corn. Famine stares
the poorer classes in the face, and unless large supplies of grain have
been laid up in store previously, or can be readily imported from
abroad, the actual starvation of large numbers is the inevitable
consequence. We have heartrending accounts of such famines. In the year
457 of the Hegira (A.D. 1064) a famine began, which lasted seven years,
and was so severe that dogs and cats, and even human flesh, were eaten;
all the horses of the Caliph but three perished, and his family had to
fly into Syria. Another famine in A.D. 1199 is recorded by Abd-el-Latif,
an eye-witness, in very similar terms.

There is reason to believe that, under the twelfth dynasty, some
derangement of meteoric or atmospheric conditions passed over Abyssinia
and Upper Egypt, either in both the directions above noticed, or, at any
rate, in the latter and more ordinary one. An official belonging to the
later part of this period, in enumerating his merits upon his tomb,
tells us, "There was no poverty in my days, no starvation in my time,
even when there were years of famine. I ploughed all the fields of Mah
to its southern and northern boundaries; I gave life to its
inhabitants, making its food; no one was starved in it. I gave to the
widow as to the married woman." As the late Dr. Birch observes, "Egypt
was occasionally subject to famines; and these, at the time of the
twelfth dynasty, were so important, that they attracted great attention,
and were considered worthy of record by the princes or hereditary lords
who were buried at Beni-Hassan. Under the twelfth dynasty, also, the
tombs of Abydos show the creation of superintendents, or storekeepers of
the public granaries, a class of functionaries apparently created to
meet the contingency."[11]

The distress of his subjects under these circumstances seems to have
drawn the thoughts of "the good Amenemhat" to the devising of some
system which should effectually remedy these evils, by preventing their
occurrence. In all countries where the supply of water is liable to be
deficient, it is of the utmost importance to utilize to the full that
amount of the life-giving fluid, be it more or be it less, which the
bounty of nature furnishes. Rarely, indeed, is nature absolutely a
niggard. Mostly she gives far more than is needed, but the improvidence
or the apathy of man allows her gifts to run to waste. Careful and
provident husbanding of her store will generally make it suffice for all
man's needs and requirements. Sometimes this has been effected in a
thirsty land by conducting all the rills and brooks that flow from the
highlands or hills into subterranean conduits, where they are shielded
from the sun's rays, and prolonging these ducts for miles upon miles,
till every drop of the precious fluid has been utilized for irrigation.
Such is the _kareez_ or _kanat_ system of Persia. In other places vast
efforts have been made to detain the abundant supply of rain which
nature commonly provides in the spring of the year, to store it, and
prevent it from flowing off down the river-courses to the sea, where it
is absolutely lost. For this purpose, either huge reservoirs must be
constructed by the hand of man, or else advantage must be taken of some
facility which nature offers for storing the water in convenient
situations. Valleys may be blocked by massive dams, and millions of
gallons thus imprisoned for future use, as is done in many parts of the
North of England, but for manufacturing and not for irrigation purposes.
Or naturally land-locked basins may be found, and the overflow of
streams at their flood-time turned into them and arrested, to be made
use of later in the year.

In Egypt the one and only valley was that of the Nile, and the one and
only stream that which had formed it, and flowed along it, at a lower or
higher level, ceaselessly. It might perhaps have been possible for
Egyptian engineering skill to have blocked the valley at Silsilis, or at
the Gebelein, and to have thus turned Upper Egypt into a huge reservoir
always full, and always capable of supplying Lower Egypt with enough
water to eke out a deficient inundation. But this could only have been
done by an enormous work, very difficult to construct, and at the
sacrifice of several hundred square miles of fertile territory, thickly
inhabited, which would have been covered permanently by the artificial
lake. Moreover, the Egyptians would have known that such an embankment
can under no circumstances be absolutely secure, and may have foreseen
that its rupture would spread destruction over the whole of the lower
country. Amenemhat, at any rate, did not venture to adopt so bold a
design. He sought for a natural depression, and found one in the Libyan
range of hills to the west of the Nile valley, about a degree south of
the latitude of Memphis--a depression of great depth and of ample
expanse, fifty miles or more in length by thirty in breadth, and
containing an area of six or seven hundred square miles. It was
separated from the Nile valley by a narrow ridge of hills about two
hundred feet high, through which ran from south-east to north-west a
narrow rocky gorge, giving access to the depression. It is possible that
in very high floods some of the water of the inundation passed naturally
into the basin through this gorge; but whether this were so or no, it
was plain that by the employment of no very large amount of labour a
canal or cutting might be carried along the gorge, and the Nile water
given free access into the depression, not only in very high floods, but
annually when the inundation reached a certain moderate height. This is,
accordingly, what Amenemhat did. He dug a canal from the western branch
of the Nile--the modern Bahr Yousuf--leaving it at El-Lahoun, carried
his canal through the gorge, in places cutting deep into its rocky
bottom, and by a system of sluices and flood-gates retained such an
absolute control over the water that he could either admit or exclude
the inundation at his will, as it rose; and when it fell, could either
allow the water that had flowed in to return, or imprison it and keep it
back. Within the gorge he had thus at all times a copious store of the
invaluable fluid, banked up to the height of high Nile, and capable of
being applied to purposes of cultivation both within and without the
depression by the opening and shutting of the sluices.

So much appears to be certain. The exact size and position of
Amenemhat's reservoir within the depression, which a French _savant_ was
supposed to have discovered, are now called in question, and must be
admitted to be still _sub judice_. M. Linant de Bellefonds regarded the
reservoir as occupying the south-eastern or upper portion of the
depression only, as extending from north to south a distance of fourteen
miles only, and from east to west a distance varying from six to eleven
miles. He regarded it as artificially confined towards the west and
north by two long lines of embankment, which he considered that he had
traced, and gave the area of the lake as four hundred and five millions
of square mêtres, or about four hundred and eighty millions of square
yards. Mr. Cope Whitehouse believes that the water was freely admitted
into the whole of the depression, which it filled, with the exception of
certain parts, which stood up out of the water as islands, from one
hundred and fifty to two hundred feet high. He believes that it was in
places three hundred feet deep, and that the circuit of its shores was
from three hundred to five hundred miles. It is to be hoped that a
scientific expedition will ere long set this dispute at rest, and enable
the modern student distinctly to grasp and understand the great work of
Amenemhat. Whatever may be the truth regarding "Lake Mœris," as this
great reservoir was called, it is certain that it furnished the ancients
one of the least explicable of all the many problems that the remarkable
land of the Nile presented to them. Herodotus added to the other marvels
of the place a story about two sitting statues based upon pyramids,
which stood three hundred feet above the level of the lake, and a famous
labyrinth, of which we shall soon speak.

Whether the reservoir of Amenemhat had the larger or the smaller
dimensions ascribed to it, there can be no doubt that it was a grand
construction, undertaken mainly for the benefit of his people, and
greatly conducing to their advantage. Even if the reservoir had only the
dimensions assigned to it by M. de Bellefonds, it would, according to
his calculations, have contained water sufficient, not only for
irrigating the northern and western portions of the Fayoum throughout
the year, but also for the supply of the whole western bank of the Nile
from Beni-Souef to the embouchure at Canopus for six months. This alone
would in dry seasons have been a sensible relief to a large portion of
the population. If the dimensions exceeded those of De Bellefonds, the
relief would have been proportionately greater.

The good king was not, however, content merely to benefit his people by
increasing the productiveness of Egypt and warding off the calamities
that occasionally befell the land; he further gave employment to large
numbers, which was not of a severe or oppressive kind, but promoted
their comfort and welfare. In connection with his hydraulic works in
the Fayoum he constructed a novel species of building, which after ages
admired even above the constructions of the pyramid-builders, and
regarded as the most wonderful edifice in all the world. "I visited the
place," says Herodotus,[12] "and found it to surpass description; for if
all the walls and other great works of the Greeks could be put together
in one, they would not equal, either for labour or expense, this
Labyrinth; and yet the temple of Ephesus is a building worthy of note,
and so is the temple of Samos. The pyramids likewise surpass
description, and are severally equal to a number of the greatest works
of the Greeks; but the Labyrinth surpasses the pyramids. It has twelve
courts, all of them roofed, with gates exactly opposite one another, six
looking to the north, and six to the south. A single wall surrounds the
whole building. It contains two different sorts of chambers, half of
them underground, and half above-ground, the latter built upon the
former; the whole number is three thousand, of each kind fifteen
hundred. The upper chambers I myself passed through and saw, and what I
say of them is from my own observation; of the underground chambers I
can only speak from report, for the keepers of the building could not be
induced to show them, since they contained (they said) the sepulchres of
the kings who built the Labyrinth, and also those of the sacred
crocodiles. Thus it is from hearsay only that I can speak of them; but
the upper chambers I saw with my own eyes, and found them to excel all
other human productions; for the passages through the houses, and the
varied windings of the paths across the courts, excited in me infinite
admiration, as I passed from the courts into chambers, and from the
chambers into colonnades, and from the colonnades into fresh houses, and
again from these into courts unseen before. The roof was, throughout, of
stone, like the walls; and the walls were carved all over with figures;
every court was surrounded with a colonnade, which was built of white
stones, exquisitely fitted together. At the corner of the Labyrinth
stands a pyramid, forty fathoms high, with large figures engraved upon
it, which is entered by a subterranean passage."

The pyramid intended is probably that examined by Perring and Lepsius,
which had a base of three hundred feet, and an elevation, probably, of
about one hundred and eighty-five feet. It was built of crude brick
mixed with a good deal of straw, and cased with a white silicious
limestone. The same material was employed for the greater part of the
so-called "Labyrinth," but many of the columns were of red granite, and
some perhaps of porphyry. Most likely the edifice was intended as a
mausoleum for the sacred crocodiles, and was gradually enlarged for
their accommodation--Amenemhat, whose prænomen was found on the pyramid,
being merely the first founder. The number of the pillared courts, and
their similarity, made the edifice confusing to foreigners, and got it
the name of "The Labyrinth"; but it is not likely the designers of the
building had any intention to mislead or to confuse.

Amenemhat's prænomen, or throne-name, assumed (according to ordinary
custom) on his accession, was Ra-n-mat, "Sun of Justice" or "Sun of
Righteousness." The assumption of the title indicates his desire to
leave behind him a character for justice and equity. It is perhaps
noticeable that the name by which the Greeks knew him was Mœris, which
may mean "the beloved." With him closes the first period of Theban
greatness. A cloud was impending, and darker days about to follow; but
as yet Egypt enjoyed a time of progressive, and in the main peaceful,
development. Commerce, art, religion, agriculture, occupied her. She did
not covet other men's lands, nor did other men covet hers. The world
beyond her borders knew little of her, except that she was a fertile and
well-ordered land, whereto, in time of dearth, the needy of other
countries might resort with confidence.


[11] "Records of the Past," vol. xii. p. 60.

[12] Euterpe, ch. 148



"Now there was a famine in the land of Canaan; and Abram went down into
Egypt to sojourn there" (Gen. xii. 10). Few events in the history of
mankind are more interesting than the visit which the author of the
Pentateuch thus places before us in less than a dozen words. The "father
of the faithful," the great apostle of Monotheism, the wanderer from the
distant "Ur of the Chaldees," familiar with Babylonian greatness, and
Babylonian dissoluteness, and Babylonian despotism, having quitted his
city home and adopted the simple habits of a Syrian nomadic sheikh,
finds himself forced to make acquaintance with a second form of
civilization, a second great organized monarchy, and to become for a
time a sojourner among the people who had held for centuries the valley
of the Nile. He had obeyed the call which took him from Ur to Haran,
from Haran to Damascus, from Damascus to the hills of Canaan; he had
divorced himself from city life and city usages; he had embraced the
delights of that free, wandering existence which has at all times so
singular a charm for many, and had dwelt for we know not how many years
in different parts of Palestine, the chief of a tribe rich in flocks and
herds, moving with them from place to place as the fancy took him. It
was assuredly with much reluctance that he quitted the open downs and
fresh breezes and oak groves of Canaan the land promised to him and to
his seed after him, and took his way through the "desert of the south"
to the great kingdom with which he and his race could never hope to be
on terms of solid friendship. But the necessity which constrained him
was imperative. When, from the want of the ordinary spring rains,
drought and famine set in on the Palestinian uplands, there was in
ancient times but one resource. Egypt was known as a land of plenty.
Whether it were Hebrew nomads, or Hittite warriors, or Phœnician traders
that suffered, Egypt was the sole refuge, the sole hope. There the river
gave the plenteous sustenance which would be elsewhere sought in vain.
There were granaries and storehouses, and an old established system
whereby corn was laid up as a reserve in case of need, both by private
individuals of the wealthier classes and by the kings. There among the
highest officers of state was the "steward of the public granary." whose
business it was, when famine pressed, to provide, so far as was
possible, both for natives and foreigners, alleviating the distress of
all, while safeguarding, of course, the king's interests (Gen. xlvii.

Abraham, therefore, when he found that "the famine was grievous in the
land" of Canaan, did the only thing that it was possible for him to
do--left Palestine, and wended his way through the desert to the
Egyptian frontier. What company he took with him is uncertain. A few
years later we find him at the head of a body of three hundred and
eighteen men capable of bearing arms--"trained servants born in his
house"--which implies the headship over a tribe of at least twelve
hundred persons. He can scarcely have entered Egypt with a much smaller
number. It was before his separation from his nephew, Lot, whose
followers were not much fewer than his own. And to leave any of his
dependents behind would have been to leave them to starvation. We must
suppose a numerous caravan organized, with asses and camels to carry
provisions and household stuff, and with the women and the little ones
conveyed as we see them in the sculpture representing the arrival of
Abusha from the same quarter, albeit with a smaller _entourage._ The
desert journey would be trying, and probably entail much loss,
especially of the cattle and beasts; but at length, on the seventh or
eighth day, as the water was getting low in the skins and the camels
were beginning to faint and groan with the scant fare and the long
travel, a dark low line would appear upon the edge of the horizon in
front, and soon the line would deepen into a delicate fringe, sparkling
here and there as though it were sown with diamonds.[13] Then it would
be recognized that there lay before the travellers the fields and
gardens and palaces and obelisks of Egypt, the broad flood and rich
plain of the Nile, and their hearts would leap with joy, and lift
themselves up in thanksgiving to the Most High, who had brought them
through the great and terrible wilderness to a land of plenty.

But now a fresh anxiety fell upon the spirit of the chief. Tradition
tells us that already in Babylonia he had had experience of the violence
and tyranny of earthly potentates, and had with difficulty escaped from
an attempt which the king of Babylon made upon his life. Either memory
recalled this and similar dangers, or reason suggested what the
unbridled licence of irresponsible power might conceive and execute
under the circumstances. The Pharaohs had, it is plain, already departed
from the simple manners of the earlier times, when each prince was
contented with a single wife, and had substituted for the primitive law
of monogamy that corrupt system of hareem life which has kept its ground
in the East from an ancient date to the present day. Abraham was aware
of this, and "as he was come near to enter into Egypt," but was not yet
entered, he was seized with a great fear. "Behold," he said to Sarai his
wife, "Behold now, I know that thou art a fair woman to look upon;
therefore it shall come to pass, when the Egyptians shall see thee, that
they shall say, This is his wife: and they will kill me, but they will
save thee alive," Under these circumstances Abraham, with a craft not
unnatural in an Oriental, but certainly far from commendable, resolved
to dissemble his relationship towards Sarah, and to represent her as not
his wife, but his sister. She was, in point of fact, his half-sister, as
he afterwards pleaded to Abimelech (Gen. xx. 12), being the daughter of
Terah by a secondary wife, and married to her half-brother "Say, I pray
thee," he said, "thou art my sister, that it may be well with me for thy
sake; and my soul shall live because of thee." Sarah acquiesced; and no
doubt the whole tribe was made acquainted with the resolution come to,
so that they might all be in one story.

The frontier was then approached. We learn from the history of Abusha,
as well as from other scattered notices in the papyri, how carefully the
eastern border was always guarded, and what precautions were taken to
apprise the Court when any considerable body of immigrants arrived. The
chief official upon the frontier, either Khnumhotep or some one
occupying a similar position, would receive the in-comers, subject them
to interrogation, and cause his secretary to draw up a report, which
would be forwarded by courier to the capital. The royal orders would be
awaited, and meantime perhaps fresh reports would be sent by other
officials of the neighbourhood. In the present instance, we are told
that several "princes of Pharaoh," having been struck with the beauty of
Sarah, commended her to their royal master, who sent for her and had her
brought into his own house. Abraham himself was well received and
treated with much distinction "for her sake." According to Eupolemus, he
and his were settled in the sacred city of On or Heliopolis; and there,
in that seat of learning and religion, the Patriarch, as the same
authority declares, lived peacefully for many years and taught the
Egyptians the sciences of astronomy and arithmetic. The author of
Genesis says nothing of the place of his abode, but simply informs us of
his well-being. "Pharaoh entreated Abram well for Sarai's sake; and he
had sheep, and oxen, and he-asses, and men-servants, and maid-servants,
and she-asses, and camels." The collocation of the clauses implies that
all these were presents from the king. The pleased monarch lavished on
his brother-in-law such gifts of honour as were usual at the time and
suitable to his circumstances. Abraham became "very rich in cattle, in
silver, and in gold" (Gen. xiii. 2). He flourished greatly, whether for
months or for years the scripture does not say. He was separated from
his wife, and she was an inmate of Pharaoh's hareem; but he kept his
secret, and no one betrayed him. Apparently, he was content.

Ere long, however, a discovery was made. Calamity came upon the royal
house in some marked way, probably either in the form of sickness or of
death. The king became convinced that he was the object of a Divine
chastisement, and cast about for a cause to which his sufferings might
reasonably be attributed. How had he provoked God's anger? Either, as
Josephus thinks, the priests had by this time found out the truth, and
made the suggestion to him, that he was being punished for having taken
another man's wife into his seraglio; or possibly, as others have
surmised, Sarah herself divined the source of the calamities, and made
confession of the truth. At any rate, by some means or other, the facts
of the case became known; and the Pharaoh thereupon hastened to set
matters right. Sarah, though an inmate of the hareem, was probably still
in the probationary condition, undergoing the purification necessary
before the final completion of her nuptials (Esth. ii. 12), and could
thus be restored intact. The Pharaoh sent for Abraham, reproached him
with his deceit, pointed out the ill consequences which had followed,
and, doubtless in some displeasure, required him to take his wife and
depart. The famine was at an end, and there was no reason why he should
linger. Beyond reproach, however, Pharaoh inflicted no punishment. He
"commanded his men concerning Abraham; and they sent him away, and his
wife, and _all that he had_."

Such is the account which has come down to us of Abraham's sojourn in
Egypt. If it be asked, Why is it inserted into the "story of Egypt" at
this point? the reply must be, because, on a dispassionate consideration
of all the circumstances, chronological and other, which attach to the
narrative, it has been generally agreed that the event belongs to
_about_ this time. There is no special reign to which it can be
definitely assigned; but the best critics acquiesce in the judgment of
Canon Cook upon the point, who says: "For my own part, I regard it as
all but certain that Abraham visited Egypt in some reign between the
middle of the eleventh and the thirteenth dynasty, and most probably
under one of the earliest Pharaohs of the twelfth."[14]

This is not the only entrance of Hebrews or people of Semitic race into
Egypt. Emigrants from less favoured countries had frequently looked with
interest to the fertile Delta of the Nile, hoping that there they might
find homes free from the vicissitudes of their own. Previous to this,
one Amu had entered Egypt, perhaps from Midian, with his family,
counting thirty-seven, the little ones riding upon asses, and had sought
the protection of the reigning sovereign. It was again the experience
of Egypt to receive emigrants from the north-east, from Syria or
Northern Arabia, at a little later period, when the nomads in those
regions looked over to the south and, by contrast with their
over-peopled country, thought they saw a sort of "fairy-land of wealth,
culture, and wisdom," which they hoped to enjoy by force: and they were
not the last to seek asylum there. We shall soon have to remark on the
familiar case of the immigration of the sons of Jacob with their
households. In process of time the Semitic wanderers increased so
materially that the population in the eastern half of the Delta became
half Asiatic, prepared to submit readily to Asiatic rule and to worship
Semitic deities; they had already imposed a number of their words upon
the language of Egypt.


[13] Adapted from Kinglake's "Eothen," p. 201.

[14] See "Speaker's Commentary," vol. i. p. 447, col. i.



The prowess of the Egyptians had not yet been put to any severe proof.
They had themselves shown little of an aggressive spirit. Attracted by
the mineral wealth of the Sinaitic peninsula, they had indeed made
settlements in that region, which had involved them in occasional wars
with the natives, whom they spoke of as "Mena" or "Menti"; and they had
had a contest of more importance with the tribes of the south, negro and
Ethiopic, in which they had shown a decided superiority over those rude
barbarians; but, as yet, they had attempted no important conquest, and
had been subjected to no serious attack. The countries upon their
borders were but sparsely peopled, and from neither the Berber tribes of
the northern African coast, nor from the Sinaitic nomads, nor even from
the negroes of the south, with their allies--the "miserable
Cushites"--was any dangerous invasion to be apprehended. Egypt had been
able to devote herself almost wholly to the cultivation of the arts of
peace, and had not been subjected to the severe ordeal, which most
nations pass through in their infancy, of a struggle for existence with
warlike and powerful enemies.

The time was now come for a great change. Movements had begun among the
populations of Asia which threatened a general disturbance of the peace
of the world. Asshur had had to "go forth" out of the land of Shinar,
and to make himself a habitation further to the northward, which must
have pressed painfully upon other races. In Elam an aggressive spirit
had sprung up, and military expeditions had been conducted by Elamitic
kings, which started from the shores of the Persian Gulf and terminated
in Southern Syria and Palestine. The migration of the tribes which moved
with Terah and Abraham from Ur to Haran, and from Haran to Hebron, is
but one of many indications of the restlessness of the period. The
Hittites were growing in power, and required an enlarged territory for
their free expansion. It was now probably that they descended from the
hills of Cappadocia upon the region below Taurus and Amanus, where we
find them dominant in later ages. Such a movement on their part would
displace a large population in Upper Syria, and force it to migrate
southwards. There are signs of a pressure upon the north-eastern
frontier of Egypt on the part of Asiatics needing a home as early as the
commencement of the twelfth dynasty; and it is probable that, while the
dynasty lasted, the pressure was continually becoming greater. Asiatics
were from time to time received within the barrier of Amenemhat I., some
to sojourn and some to dwell. The eastern Delta was more or less
Asiaticized; and a large portion of its inhabitants was inclined to
welcome a further influx from Asia.

We have one account only of the circumstances of the great invasion by
which Egypt fell under a foreign yoke. It purports to come from the
native historian, Manetho; but it is delivered to us directly by
Josephus, who, in his reports of what other writers had narrated, is not
always to be implicitly trusted. Manetho, according to him, declared as
follows: "There was once a king of Egypt named Timæus, in whose reign
the gods being offended, for I know not what cause, with our nation,
certain men of ignoble race, coming from the eastern regions, had the
courage to invade the country, and falling upon it unawares, conquered
it easily without a battle. After the submission of the princes, they
conducted themselves in a most barbarous fashion towards the whole of
the inhabitants, slaying some, and reducing to slavery the wives and the
children of the others. Moreover they savagely set the cities on fire,
and demolished the temples of the gods. At last, they took one of their
number called Salatis, and made him king over them. Salatis resided at
Memphis, where he received tribute both from Upper and Lower Egypt,
while at the same time he placed garrisons in all the most suitable
situations. He strongly fortified the frontier, especially on the side
of the east, since he foresaw that the Assyrians, who were then
exceedingly powerful, might desire to make themselves masters of his
kingdom. Having found, moreover, in the Sethroïte nome, to the east of
the Bubastite branch of the Nile, a city very favourably situated, and
called, on account of an ancient theological tradition, Avaris, he
rebuilt it and strengthened it with walls of great thickness, which he
guarded with a body of two hundred and forty thousand men. Each summer
he visited the place, to see their supplies of corn measured out for his
soldiers and their pay delivered to them, as well as to superintend
their military exercises, in order that foreigners might hold them in

The king, Timæus, does not appear either in the lists of Manetho or upon
the monuments, nor is it possible to determine the time of the invasion
more precisely than this--that it fell into the interval between
Manetho's twelfth and his eighteenth dynasties. The invaders are
characterized by the Egyptians as Menti or Sati; but these terms are
used so vaguely that nothing definite can be concluded from them. On the
whole, it is perhaps most probable that the invading army, like that of
Attila, consisted of a vast variety of races--"a collection of all the
nomadic hordes of Syria and Arabia"--who made common cause against a foe
known to be wealthy, and who all equally desired settlements in a land
reputed the most productive in the East. An overwhelming flood of men--a
quarter of a million, if we may believe Manetho--poured into the land,
impetuous, irresistible. All at once, a danger had come beyond all
possible previous calculation--a danger from which there was no escape.
It was as when the northern barbarians swooped down in their countless
thousands on the outlying provinces of the Roman Empire, or as when the
hordes of Jingis Khan overran Kashgar and Kharesm--the contest was too
unequal for anything that can be called a struggle to be made. Egypt
collapsed before the invader. Manetho says that there was no battle; and
we can readily understand that in the divided condition of the country,
with two or three subordinate dynasties ruling in different parts of the
Delta, and another dynasty at Thebes, no army could be levied which
could dare to meet the enemy in the field. The inhabitants fled to their
cities, and endeavoured to defend themselves behind walls; but it was in
vain. The walls of the Egyptian cities were rather banks to keep out the
inundation than ramparts to repel an enemy. In a short time the
strongholds that resisted were taken, the male population put to the
sword, the women and children enslaved, the houses burnt, the temples
ruthlessly demolished. An iconoclastic spirit possessed the conquerors.
The gods and worship of Egypt were hateful to them. Where-ever the flood
passed, it swept away the existing civilization, deeply impregnated as
it was with religion; it covered the ground with the _débris_ of temples
and shrines, with the fragments of statues and sphinxes; it crushed
existing religious usages, and for a time, as it would seem, substituted
nothing in their place. "A study of the monuments," says M. François
Lenormant, "attests the reality of the frightful devastations which took
place at the first moment of the invasion. With a solitary exception,
all the temples anterior to the event have disappeared, and no traces
can be found of them except scattered ruins which bear the marks of a
destructive violence. To say what during these centuries Egypt had to
endure in the way of upsetting of her past is impossible. The only fact
which can be stated as certain is, that not a single monument of this
desolate epoch has come down to our days to show us what became of the
ancient splendour of Egypt under the Hyksôs. We witness under the
fifteenth and sixteenth dynasties a fresh shipwreck of Egyptian
civilization. Vigorous as it had been, the impulse given to it by the
Usurtasens suddenly stops; the series of monuments is interrupted, and
Egypt informs us by her very silence of the calamities with which she
was smitten."[15]

It was, fortunately, not the entire country that was overrun. So far as
appears, the actual occupation of Egypt by the Hyksôs was confined to
the Delta, to the Lower Nile valley, and to the district of the Fayoum.
Elephantine, Thebes, Abydos, escaped the destroyers, and though forced
to certain formal acts of submission, to an acknowledgment of the Hyksôs
suzerainty, and to the payment of an annual tribute, retained a
qualified independence. The Theban monuments of the eleventh and twelfth
dynasties were undisturbed. Even in Lower Egypt there were structures
that suffered little or nothing at the conqueror's hands, being too
humble to attract his attention or too massive to yield to the means of
destruction known to him. Thus the pyramids scarcely suffered, though it
is possible that at this time their sanctity was first violated and
their contents rifled. The great obelisk of Usurtasen I., which still
stands at Heliopolis, was not overthrown. The humbler tombs at Ghizeh,
so precious to the antiquary, were for the most part untouched.
Amenemhat's buildings in the Fayoum may have been damaged, but they were
not demolished. Though Egyptian civilization received a rude shock from
the invasion, it was not altogether swallowed up or destroyed; and when
the deluge had passed it emerged once more, and soon reached, and even
surpassed, its ancient glories.

The Hyksôs king who led the invasion, or who, at any rate, was brought
to the front in its course, bore, we are told, either the name of
Salatis, or that of Saites. Of these two forms the second is undoubtedly
to be preferred, since the first has in its favour only the single
authority of Josephus, while the second is supported by Africanus,
Eusebius, George the Syncellus, and to a certain extent by the
monuments. The "tablet of four hundred years" contains the name of
Sut-Aapehti as that of a king of Egypt who must have belonged to the
Middle Empire, and this name may fairly be regarded as represented in an
abbreviated form by the Greek "Saïtes." Saïtes, having made himself
absolute master of the Lower Country, and forced the king of the Upper
Country to become his tributary, fixed his residence at Memphis, at the
same time strongly fortifying and garrisoning various other towns in
important positions. Of these the most considerable was the city, called
Auaris, or Avaris, in the Sethroïte nome, which lay east of the Pelusiac
branch of the Nile, and was probably not far from Pelusium itself, if
indeed it was not identical with that city. Another strong fort, by
means of which the Delta was held and overawed, seems to have been Zan
or Tanis, now San, situated on what was called the Tanitic branch of the
Nile, the next most easterly branch to the Pelusiac. A third was in the
Fayoum, on the site now called Mit-Fares. A large body of troops must
also have been maintained at Memphis, if the king, as we are told,
ordinarily held his court there.

How long the Egyptians groaned under the tyranny of the "Shepherds," it
is difficult to say. The epitomists of Manetho are hopelessly at
variance on the subject, and the monuments are silent, or nearly so.
Moderns vary in the time, which they assign to the period between two
centuries and five. On the whole, criticism seems to incline towards the
shorter term, though why Manetho, or his epitomists, should have
enlarged it, remains an insoluble problem. There is but one dynasty of
"Shepherd Kings" that has any distinct historical substance, or to which
we can assign any names. This is a dynasty of six kings only, whose
united reigns are not likely to have exceeded two centuries. Nor does it
seem possible that, if the duration of the foreign oppression had been
much longer, Egypt could have returned, so nearly as she did, to the
same manners and customs, the same religious usages, the same rules of
art, the same system of government, even the very same proper names, at
the end of the period, as had been in use at its beginning. One cannot
but think that the _bouleversement_ which Egypt underwent has been
somewhat exaggerated by the native historian for the sake of rhetorical
effect, to enhance by contrast the splendour of the New Empire.

In another respect, too, if he has not misrepresented the rule of the
"Shepherd Kings," he has failed to do it justice. He has painted in
lurid colours the advent of the foreign race, the war of extermination
in which they engaged, the cruel usage to which they subjected the
conquered people; he has represented the invaders as rude, savage,
barbarous, bent on destruction, careless of art, the enemies of progress
and civilization. He has neglected to point out, that, as time went on,
there was a sensible change. The period of constant bitter hostilities
came to an end. Peace succeeded to war. In Lower Egypt the "Shepherds"
reigned over quiet and unresisting subjects; in Upper Egypt they bore
rule over submissive tributaries. Under these circumstances a
perceptible softening of their manners and general character took place.
As the Mongols and the Mandchus in China suffered themselves by degrees
to be conquered by the superior civilization of the people whom they had
overrun and subdued, so the Hyksôs yielded little by little to the
influences which surrounded them, and insensibly assimilated themselves
to their Egyptian subjects. They adopted the Egyptian dress, titles,
official language, art, mode of writing, architecture. In Tanis,
especially, temples were built and sculptures set up under the later
"Shepherd Kings," differing little in their general character from those
of purely Egyptian periods. The foreign monarchs erected their effigies
at this site, which were sculptured by native artists according to the
customary rules of Egyptian glyptic art, and only differ from those of
the earlier native Pharaohs in the head-dress, the expression of the
countenance, and a peculiar arrangement of the beard. A friendly
intercourse took place during this period between the kings of the
North, established at Tanis and Memphis, and those of the South,
resident at Thebes; frequent embassies were interchanged; and blocks of
granite and syenite were continually floated down the Nile, past Thebes,
to be employed by the "Shepherds" in their erections at the southern

[Illustration: BUST OF A SHEPHERD KING.]

The "Shepherds" brought with them into Egypt the worship of a deity,
whom they called Sut or Sutekh, and apparently identified with the sun.
He was described as "the great ruler of heaven," and identified with
Baal in later times. The kings regarded themselves as especially under
his protection. At the time of the invasion, they do not seem to have
considered this deity as having any special connection with any of the
Egyptian gods, and they consequently made war indiscriminately against
the entire Egyptian Pantheon, plundering and demolishing all the temples
alike. But when the first burst of savage hostility was gone by, when
more settled times followed, and the manners and temper of the
conquerors grew softened by pacific intercourse with their subjects, a
likeness came to be seen between Sutekh, their own ancestral god, and
the "Set" of the Egyptians. Set in the old Egyptian mythology was
recognized as "the patron of foreigners, the power which swept the
children of the desert like a sand-storm over the fertile land." He was
a representative of physical, but not of moral, evil; a strong and
powerful deity, worthy of reverence and worship, but less an object of
love than of fear. The "Shepherds" acknowledged in this god their
Sutekh; and as they acquired settled habits, and assimilated themselves
to their subjects, they began to build temples to him, after the
Egyptian model, in their principal towns. After the dynasty had borne
rule for five reigns, covering the space perhaps of one hundred and
fifty years, a king came to the throne named Apepi, who has left several
monuments, and is the only one of the "Shepherds" that stands out for us
in definite historical consistency as a living and breathing person.
Apepi built a great temple to Sutekh at Zoan, or Tanis, his principal
capital, composed of blocks of red granite, and adorned it with obelisks
and sphinxes. The obelisks are said to have been fourteen in number, and
must have been dispersed about the courts, and not, as usual, placed
only at the entrance. The sphinxes, which differed from the ordinary
Egyptian sphinx in having a mane like a lion and also wings, seem to
have formed an avenue or vista leading up to the temple from the town.
They are in diorite, and have the name of Apepi engraved upon them.

The pacific rule of Apepi and his predecessors allowed Thebes to
increase in power, and her monuments now recommence. Three kings who
bore the family name of Taa, and the throne name of Ra-Sekenen, bore
rule in succession at the southern capital. The third of these, Taa-ken,
or "Taa the Victorious," was contemporary with Apepi, and paid his
tribute punctually, year by year, to his lawful suzerain. He does not
seem to have had any desire to provoke war; but Apepi probably thought
that he was becoming too powerful, and would, if unmolested, shortly
make an effort to throw off the Hyksôs yoke. He therefore determined to
pick a quarrel with him, and proceeded to send to Thebes a succession of
embassies with continually increasing demands. First of all he required
Taa-ken to relinquish the worship of all the Egyptian gods except
Amen-Ra, the chief god of Thebes, whom he probably identified with his
own Sutekh. It is not quite clear whether Taa-ken consented to this
demand, or politely evaded it. At any rate, a second embassy soon
followed the first, with a fresh requirement; and a third followed the
second. The policy was successful, and at last Taa-ken took up arms. It
would seem that he was successful, or was at any rate able to hold his
own; for he maintained the war till his death, and left it to his
successor, Aahmes.

There was an ancient tradition, that the king who made Joseph his prime
minister, and committed into his hands the entire administration of
Egypt, was Apepi. George the Syncellus says that the synchronism was
accepted by all. It is clear that Joseph's arrival did not fall, like
Abraham's, into the period of the Old Empire, since under Joseph horses
and chariots are in use, as well as wagons or carts, all of which were
unknown till after the Hyksôs invasion. It is also more natural that
Joseph, a foreigner, should have been advanced by a foreign king than by
a native one, and the favour shown to his brethren, who were shepherds
(Gen. xlvi. 32), is consonant at any rate with the tradition that it was
a "Shepherd King" who held the throne at the time of their arrival. A
priest of Heliopolis, moreover, would scarcely have given Joseph his
daughter in marriage unless at a time when the priesthood was in a state
of depression. Add to this that the Pharaoh of Joseph is evidently
resident in Lower Egypt, not at Thebes, which was the seat of government
for many hundred years both before and after the Hyksôs rule.

If, however, we are to place Joseph under one of the "Shepherd Kings,"
there can be no reason why we should not accept the tradition which
connects him with Apepi. Apepi was dominant over the whole of Egypt, as
Joseph's Pharaoh seems to have been. He acknowledged a single god, as
did that monarch (Gen. xli. 38, 39). He was a thoroughly Egyptianized
king. He had a council of learned scribes, a magnificent court, and a
peaceful reign until towards its close. His residence was in the Delta,
either at Tanis or Auaris. He was a prince of a strong will, firm and
determined; one who did not shrink from initiating great changes, and
who carried out his resolves in a somewhat arbitrary way. The arguments
in favour of his identity with Joseph's master are, perhaps, not wholly
conclusive; but they raise a presumption, which may well incline us,
with most modern historians of Egypt, to assign the touching story of
Joseph to the reign of the last of the Shepherds.


[15] "Manuel d'Histoire Ancienne de l'Orient," vol i. p. 360.



At first sight it seems strange that the terrible warriors who, under
Set or Saïtes, so easily reduced Egypt to subjection, and then still
further weakened the population by massacre and oppression, should have
been got rid of, after two centuries or two centuries and a half, with
such comparative ease. But the rapid deterioration of conquering races
under certain circumstances is a fact familiar to the historian.
Elamites, Babylonians, Assyrians, Medes, Persians, Greeks, rapidly
succeeded each other as the dominant power in Western Asia, each race
growing weaker and becoming exhausted, after a longer or a shorter
interval, through nearly the same causes. Nor are the reasons for the
deterioration far to seek. Each race when it sets out upon its career of
conquest is active, energetic, inured to warlike habits, simple in its
manners, or at any rate simpler than those which it conquers, and,
comparatively speaking, poor. It is urged on by the desire of bettering
its condition. If it meets with a considerable resistance, if the
conquest occupies a long space, and the conquered are with difficulty
held under, rebelling from time to time, and making frantic efforts to
throw off the yoke which galls and frets them, then the warlike habits
of the conquerors are kept up, and their dominion may continue for
several centuries. Or, if the nation is very energetic and unresting,
not content with its earlier conquests, or willing to rest upon its
oars, but continually seeking out fresh enemies upon its borders, and
regarding war as the normal state of its existence, then the centuries
may be prolonged into millennia, and it may be long indeed before any
tendency to decline shows itself; but, ordinarily, there is no very
prolonged resistance on the one side, and no very constant and unresting
energy on the other. A poor and hardy people, having swooped down upon
one that is softer and more civilized, easily carries all before it,
acquires the wealth and luxury which it desires, and being content with
them, seeks for nothing further, but assimilates itself by degrees to
the character and condition of the people whom it has conquered. A
standing army, disposed in camps and garrisons, may be kept up; but if
there is a cessation of actual war even for a generation, the severity
of military discipline will become relaxed, the use of arms will grow
unfamiliar, the physical type will decline, the belligerent spirit will
die away, and the conquerors of a century ago will have lost all the
qualities which secured them success when they made their attack, and
have sunk to the level of their subjects. When this point is reached,
thoughts of rebellion are apt to arise in the hearts of these latter;
the old terror which made the conqueror appear irresistible is gone, and
is perhaps succeeded by contempt--the subjects feel that they have at
least the advantage of numbers on their side; they have also probably
been leading harder and more bracing lives; they see that, man for man,
they are physically stronger than their conquerors; and at last they
rebel, and are successful.

In Egypt there was, further, this peculiarity--the conquered people
occupied two entirely distinct positions. In the Delta, the Fayoum, and
the northern Nile valley, they were completely reduced, and lived
intermixed with their conquerors, a despised class, suffering more or
less of oppression. In Upper Egypt the case was different. There the
people had submitted in a certain sense, acknowledged the Hyksôs
monarchs as their suzerains, and indicated their subjection by the
payment of an annual tribute; but they retained their own native
princes, their own administration and government, their own religion,
their own laws; they did not live intermixed with the new comers; they
were not subject to daily insult or ill-treatment; the fact that they
paid a tribute did not hinder their preserving their self-respect, and
consequently they suffered neither moral nor physical deterioration.
Further, it would seem to have been possible for them to engage in wars
on their own account with the races living further up the Nile, or with
the wild tribes of the desert, and thus to maintain warlike habits among
themselves, while the Hyksôs were becoming unaccustomed to them. The
Ra-Sekenens of Thebes, who called themselves "great" and "very great,"
had probably built up a considerable power in Upper Egypt during the
reigns of the later "Shepherd Kings;" had improved their military
system by the adoption of the horse and the chariot, which the Hyksôs
had introduced; had practised their people in arms, and acquired a
reputation as warriors.

More particularly must this have been the case with Ra-Sekenen III., the
contemporary of Apepi. Ra-Sekenen the Third called himself "the great
victorious Taa." He surrounded himself with a council of "mighty chiefs,
captains, and expert leaders." He acquired so much repute, that he
provoked Apepi's jealousy before he had in any way transgressed the
duties which he owed him as a feudatory. In the long negotiation between
the two, of which the "First Sallier Papyrus" gives an account, it is
evident that, while Ra-Sekenen has committed no act whereof Apepi has
any right to complain, he has awoke in him feelings of such hostility,
that Apepi will be content with nothing less than either unqualified
submission to every demand that he chooses to make, or war _à outrance_.
Never was a subject monarch more goaded and driven into rebellion
against his inclination by over-bearing conduct on the part of his
suzerain than was Ra-Sekenen by the last "Shepherd King." The
disinclination of himself and his court to fight is almost ludicrous:
they "are silent and in great dismay; they know not how to answer the
messenger sent to them, good of ill." Ra-Sekenen, powerful as he had
become, "victorious" as he may have been against Libyans and negroes,
and even Cushites, dreaded exceedingly to engage in a struggle with the
redoubted people which, two centuries previously, had shown itself so

It would seem, however, that he was forced to take up arms at last. We
have, unfortunately, no description of the war which followed, so far as
it was conducted by this monarch. But it is evident that Apepi was
completely disappointed in his hope of crushing the rising native power
before it had grown too strong. He had in fact delayed too late.
Ra-Sekenen, compelled to defend himself against his aggressive suzerain,
raised the standard of national independence, invited aid from all parts
of Egypt, and succeeded in bringing a large army into the field. At the
first he simply held his own against Apepi, but by degrees he was able
to do more. The Hyksôs, who marched against Thebes, found enemies rise
up against them in their rear, as first one and then another native
chief declared against them in this or that city; their difficulties
continually increased; they had to re-descend the Nile valley and to
concentrate their forces nearer home. But each year they lost ground.
First the Fayoum was yielded, then Memphis, then Tanis. At last nothing
remained to the invaders but their great fortified camp, Uar or Auaris,
which they had established at the time of their arrival upon the eastern
frontier, and had ever since kept up. In this district, which was
strongly fortified by walls and moats, and watered by canals derived
from the Pelusiac branch of the Nile, they had concentrated themselves,
we are told, to the number of 240,000 men, determined to make there a
final stand against the Egyptians.

It was when affairs were in this position that Ra-Sekenen died, and was
succeeded by a king of a different family, the first monarch of the
"Eighteenth Dynasty," Aahmes. Aahmes was a prince of great force of
character, brave, active, energetic, liberal, beloved by his subjects.
He addressed himself at once to the task of completing the liberation of
his country by dislodging the Hyksôs from Auaris, and driving them
beyond his borders. With this object he collected a force, which is said
to have amounted to nearly half a million of men, and at the same time
placed a flotilla of ships upon the Nile, which was of the greatest
service in his later operations. Auaris was not only defended by broad
moats connected with the waters of the Nile, but also bordered upon a
lake, or perhaps rather a lagoon, of considerable dimensions. Hence it
was necessary that it should be attacked not only by land, but also by
water. Aahmes seems to have commanded the land forces in person, riding
in a war-chariot, the first of which we have distinct mention. A
favourite officer, who bore the same name as his master, accompanied
him, sometimes marching at his side as he rode in his chariot, sometimes
taking his place in one of the war-vessels, and directing the movements
of the fleet. After a time formal siege was laid to Auaris; the fleet
was ordered to attack the walls on the side of the lagoon, while the
land force was engaged in battering the defences elsewhere. Assaults
were made day after day with only partial success; but at last the
defenders were wearied out--a panic seized them, and, hastily evacuating
the place, they retired towards Syria, the quarter from which they had
originally come. Aahmes may have been willing that they should escape:
since, if they had been completely blocked in and driven to bay, they
might have made a desperate resistance, and caused the Egyptians an
enormous loss. He followed, however, upon their footsteps, to make sure
that they did not settle anywhere in his neighbourhood, and was not
content till they had crossed the desert and entered the hill country of
Palestine. Even then he still hung upon their rear, harassing them and
cutting off their stragglers; finally, when they made a stand at
Sharuhen in Southern Palestine, he laid siege to the town, took it, and
made a great slaughter of the hapless defenders.

The war did not terminate until the fifth year of Aahmes' reign. Its
result was the complete defeat of the invading hordes which had held
Lower and Middle Egypt for so long, and their expulsion from Egypt with
such ignominy and loss that they made no effort to retaliate or to
recover themselves. Vast numbers must have been slain in the battles, or
have perished amid the hardships of the retreat; and many thousands
were, no doubt, made prisoners and carried back into Egypt as slaves. It
is thought that these captives were so numerous as to become an
important element in the population of the eastern Delta, and even to
modify the character of the Egyptian race in that quarter. The lively
imagination of M. François Lenormant sees their descendants in the
"strange people, with robust limbs, an elongated face, and a severe
expression, which to this day inhabits the tract bordering on Lake

It is probable that Aahmes had for allies in his war with the
"Shepherds" the great nation which adjoined Egypt on the south, and
which was continually growing in power--the Kashi, Cushites, or
Ethiopians. His wife appears by her features and complexion to have been
a Cushite princess, and the marriage is likely to have been less one of
inclination than of policy. The Egyptians admired fair women rather than
dark ones, as is plain from the unduly light complexions which the
artists, in their desire to flatter, ordinarily assign to women, as well
as from the attractiveness of Sarah, even in advanced age. When a Theban
king contracted marriage with an Ethiopian of ebon blackness, we are
entitled to assume a political motive; and the most probable political
motive under the circumstances of the time was the desire for military
assistance. Though in the early wars between the Kashi and the Egyptians
the prowess of the former is not represented as great, and the
designation of "miserable Cushites" is evidently used in depreciation of
their warlike qualities, yet the very use of the epithet implies a
feeling of hostility which could scarcely have been provoked by a weak
people. And the Cushites certainly advanced in prowess and in military
vigour as time went on. They formed the most important portion of the
Egyptian troops for some centuries; at a later period they conquered
Egypt, and were the dominant power for a hundred years; still further
on, they defied the might of Persia when Egypt succumbed to it. Aahmes,
in contracting his marriage with the Ethiopian princess, to whom he gave
the name of Nefertari-Aahmes--or "the good companion of Aahmes"--was,
we may be tolerably sure, bent on obtaining a contingent of those
stalwart troops whose modern representatives are either the Blacks of
the Soudan or the Gallas of the highlands of Abyssinia. The "Shepherds"
thus yielded to a combination of the North with the South, of the
Egyptians with the Ethiopians, such as in later times, on more than one
occasion, drove the Assyrians out of the country.



[16] "Manuel d'Histoire Ancienne de l'Orient," vol. i. p. 368.



Thothmes I. was the grandson of the Aahmes who drove out the Hyksôs. He
had thus hereditary claims to valour and military distinction. The
Ethiopian blood which flowed in his veins through his grandmother,
Nefertari-Aahmes, may have given him an additional touch of audacity,
and certainly showed itself in his countenance, where the short
depressed nose and the unduly thick lips are of the Cushite rather than
of the Egyptian type. His father, Amen-hotep I., was a somewhat
undistinguished prince; so that here, as so often, where superior talent
runs in a family, it seems to have skipped a generation, and to have
leapt from the grand-sire to the grandson. Thothmes began his military
career by an invasion of the countries upon the Upper Nile, which were
still in an unsettled state, notwithstanding the campaigns which had
been carried on, and the victories which had been gained in them, during
the two preceding reigns, by King Aahmes, and by the generals of
Amen-hotep. He placed a flotilla of ships upon the Nile above the Second
Cataract, and supporting it with his land forces on either side of the
river, advanced from Semneh, the boundary established by Usurtasen III.,
which is in lat. 21° 50' to Tombos, in lat. 19°, conquering the tribes,
Nubian and Cushite, as he proceeded, and from time to time
distinguishing himself in personal combats with his enemies. On one
occasion, we are told, "his majesty became more furious than a panther,"
and placing an arrow on his bowstring, directed it against the Nubian
chief so surely that it struck him, and remained fixed in his knee,
whereupon the chief "fell fainting down before the royal diadem." He was
at once seized and made a prisoner; his followers were defeated and
dispersed; and he himself, together with others, was carried off on
board the royal ship, hanging with his head downwards, to the royal
palace at the capital This victory was the precursor of others;
everywhere "the Petti of Nubia were hewed in pieces, and scattered all
over their lands," till "their stench filled the valleys." At last a
general submission was made, and a large-tract of territory was ceded.
The Egyptian terminus was pushed on from the twenty-second parallel to
the nineteenth, and at Tombos, beyond Dongola, an inscription was set
up, at once to mark the new frontier, and to hand down to posterity the
glory of the conquering monarch. The inscription still remains, and is
couched in inflated terms, which show a departure from the old official
style. Thothmes declares that "he has taken tribute from the nations of
the North, and from the nations of the South, as well as from _those of
the whole earth_; he has laid hold of the barbarians; he has not let a
single one of them escape his gripe upon their hair; the Petti of Nubia
have fallen beneath his blows; he has made their waters to flow
backwards; he has overflowed their valleys like a deluge, like waters
which mount and mount. He has resembled Horus, when he took possession
of his eternal kingdom; all the countries included within the
circumference of the entire earth are prostrate under his feet." Having
effected his conquest, Thothmes sought to secure it by the appointment
of a new officer, who was to govern the newly-annexed country under the
title of "Prince of Cush," and was to have his ordinary residence at

[Illustration: BUST OF THOTHMES I.]

Flushed with his victories in this quarter, and intoxicated with the
delight of conquest, Thothmes, on his return to Thebes, raised his
thoughts to a still grander and more adventurous enterprize. Egypt had
a great wrong to avenge, a huge disgrace to wipe out. She had been
Invaded, conquered, plundered, by an enemy whom she had not provoked by
any aggression; she had seen her cities laid in ashes, her temples torn
down and demolished, the images of her gods broken to pieces, her soil
dyed with her children's blood; she had been trampled under the iron
heel of the conqueror for centuries; she had been exhausted by the
payment of taxes and tribute; she had had to bow the knee, and lick the
dust under the conqueror's feet--was not retribution needed for all
this? True, she had at last risen up and expelled her enemy, she had
driven him beyond her borders, and he seemed content to acquiesce in his
defeat, and to trouble her no more; but was this enough? Did not the law
of eternal justice require something more:

    "Nec lex justior ulla est,
     Quàm necis artifices arte perire sua."

Was it not proper, fitting, requisite for the honour of Egypt, that
there should be retaliation, that the aggressor should suffer what he
had inflicted, should be attacked in his own country, should be made to
feel the grief, the despair, the rage, the shame, that he had forced
Egypt to feel for so many years; should expiate his guilt by a penalty,
not only proportioned to the offence, but Its exact counterpart? Such
thoughts, we may be sure, burned in the mind of the young warrior, when,
having secured Egypt on the south, he turned his attention to the north,
and asked himself the question how he should next employ the power that
he had inherited, and the talents with which nature had endowed him.

It is uncertain what amount of knowledge the Egyptians of the time
possessed concerning the internal condition, population, and resources,
of the continent which adjoined them on the north-east. We cannot say
whether Thothmes and his counsellors could, or could not, bring before
their mind's eye a fairly correct view of the general position of
Asiatic affairs, and form a reasonable estimate of the probabilities of
success or discomfiture, if a great expedition were led into the heart
of Asia. Whatever may have been their knowledge or ignorance, it will be
necessary for the historical student of the present day to have some
general ideas on the subject, if he is to form an adequate conception
either of the dangers which Thothmes affronted, or of the amount of
credit due to him for his victories. We propose, therefore, in the
present place, to glance our eye over the previous history of Western
Asia, and to describe, so far as is possible, its condition at the time
when Thothmes began to contemplate the invasion which it is his great
glory to have accomplished.

Western Asia is generally allowed to have been the cradle of the human
race. Its more fertile portions were thickly peopled at a very early
date. Monarchy, it is probable, first grew up in Babylonia, towards the
mouths of the Tigris and Euphrates. But it was not long ere a sister
kingdom established itself in Susiana, or Elam, the fertile tract
between the Lower Tigris and the Zagros mountains. The ambition of
conquest first showed itself in this latter country, whence
Kudur-Nakhunta, about B.C. 2300, made an attack on Erech, and
Chedor-laomer (about B.C. 2000) established an empire which extended
from the Zagros mountains on the one hand to the shores of the
Mediterranean on the other (Gen. xiv. 1-4) Shortly after this, a third
power, that of the Hittites, grew up towards the north, chiefly perhaps
in Asia Minor, but with a tendency to project itself southward into the
Mesopotamian region. Upper Mesopotamia, Syria, and Palestine, were at
this time inhabited by weak tribes, each under its own chief, with no
coherence, and no great military spirit. The chief of these tribes, at
the time when Thothmes I. ascended the Egyptian throne, were the Rutennu
in Syria, and the Nahari or Naïri in Upper Mesopotamia. The two
monarchies of the south, Elam and Babylon were not in a flourishing
condition, and exercised no suzerainty beyond their own natural limits.
They were, in fact, a check upon each other, constantly engaged in feuds
and quarrels, which prevented either from maintaining an extended sway
for more than a few years, Assyria had not yet acquired any great
distinction, though it was probably independent, and ruled by monarchs
who dwelt at Asshur (Kileh-Sherghat). The Hittites, about B.C. 1900, had
received a severe check from the Babylonian monarch, Sargon, and had
withdrawn themselves into their northern fortresses. Thus the
circumstances of the time were, on the whole, favourable to the
enterprize of Thothmes. No great organized monarchy was likely to take
the field against him, or to regard itself as concerned to interfere
with the execution of his projects, unless they assumed extraordinary
dimensions. So long as he did not proceed further north than Taurus, or
further east than the western Khabour, the great affluent of the
Euphrates, he would come into contact with none of the "great powers" of
the time; he would have, at the worst, to contend with loose
confederacies of tribes, distrustful of each other, unaccustomed to act
together, and, though brave, possessing no discipline or settled
military organization. At the same time, his adversaries must not be
regarded as altogether contemptible. The Philistines and Canaanites in
Palestine, the Arabs of the Sinaitic and Syrian deserts, the Rutennu of
the Lebanon and of Upper Syria, the Naïri of the western Mesopotamian
region, were individually brave men, were inured to warfare, had a
strong love of independence, and were likely to resist with energy any
attempt to bring them under subjection. They were also, most of them,
well acquainted with the value of the horse for military service, and
could bring into the field a number of war-chariots, with riders well
accustomed to their management Egypt had only recently added the horse
to the list of its domesticated animals, and followed the example of the
Asiatics by organizing a chariot force. It was open to doubt whether
this new and almost untried corps would be able to cope with the
experienced chariot-troops of Asia.

The country also in which military operations were to be carried on was
a difficult one. It consisted mainly of alternate mountain and desert.
First, the sandy waste called El Tij--the "Wilderness of the
Wanderings"--had to be passed, a tract almost wholly without water,
where an army must carry Its own supply. Next, the high upland of the
Negeb would present itself, a region wherein water may be procured from
wells, and which in some periods of the world's history has been highly
cultivated, but which in the time of Thothmes was probably almost as
unproductive as the desert itself. Then would come the green rounded
hills, the lofty ridges, and the deep gorges of Palestine, untraversed
by any road, in places thickly wooded, and offering continually greater
obstacles to the advance of an army, as it stretched further and further
towards the north. From Palestine the Lebanon region would have to be
entered on, where, though the Cœle-Syrian valley presents a
comparatively easy line of march to the latitude of Antioch, the country
on either side of the valley is almost untraversable, while the valley
itself contains many points where it can be easily blocked by a small
force. The Orontes, moreover, and the Litany, are difficult to cross,
and in the time of Thothmes I. would be unbridged, and form no
contemptible obstacles. From the lower valley of the Orontes, first
mountains and then a chalky desert had to be crossed in order to reach
the Euphrates, which could only be passed in boats, or else by swimming.
Beyond the Euphrates was another dreary and infertile region, the tract
about Haran, where Crassus lost his army and his life.

How far Thothmes and his counsellors were aware of these topographical
difficulties, or of the general condition of Western Asia, it is, as
already observed, impossible to determine. But, on the whole, there are
reasons for believing that intercourse between nation and nation was,
even in very early times, kept up, and that each important country had
its "intelligence department," which was not badly served. Merchants,
refugees, spies, adventurers desirous of bettering their condition, were
continually moving, singly or in bodies, from one land to another, and
through them a considerable acquaintance with mundane affairs generally
was spread abroad. The knowledge was, of course, very inexact. No
surveys were made, no plans of cities or fortresses, no maps; the
military force that could be brought into the field by the several
nations was very roughly estimated; but still, ancient conquerors did
not start off on their expeditions wholly in the dark as to the forces
which they might have to encounter, or the difficulties which were
likely to beset their march.

Thothmes probably set out on his expedition into Asia in about his sixth
or seventh year. He was accompanied by two officers, who had served his
father and his grandfather, known respectively as "Aahmes, son of
Abana," and "Aahmes Pennishem." Both of them had been engaged in the war
which he had conducted against the Petti of Nubia and their Ethiopian
allies, and both had greatly distinguished themselves. Aahmes, the son
of Abana, boasts that he seven times received the prize of valour--a
collar of gold--for his conduct in the field; and Aahmes Pennishem gives
a list of twenty-nine presents given to him as military rewards by three
kings. It does not appear that any resistance was offered to the
invading force as it passed through Palestine; but in Syria Thothmes
engaged the Rutennu, and "exacted satisfaction" from them, probably on
account of the part which they had taken in the Hyksôs struggle; after
which he crossed the Euphrates and fell upon the far more powerful
nation of the Naïri. The Naïri, when first attacked by the Assyrians,
had twenty-three cities, and as many kings; they were rich in horses and
mules, and had so large a chariot force that we hear of a hundred and
twenty chariots being taken from them in a single battle. At this time
the number of the chariots was probably much smaller, for each of the
two officers named Ahmes takes great credit to himself on account of the
capture of one such vehicle. It is uncertain whether more than a single
battle was fought. All that we are told is, that "His Majesty, having
arrived in Naharina" (_i.e._ the Naïri country), "encountered the enemy,
and organized an attack. His Majesty made a great slaughter of them; an
immense number of live captives was carried off by His Majesty." These
words would apply equally to a single battle and to a series of battles.
All that can be said is, that Thothmes returned victorious from his
Asiatic expedition, having defeated the Rutennu and the Naïri, and
brought with him into Egypt a goodly booty, and a vast number of Asiatic

The warlike ambition of Thothmes I. was satisfied by his Nubian and
Asiatic victories. On his return to Egypt at the close of his
Mesopotamian campaign, he engaged in the peaceful work of adorning and
beautifying his capital cities. At Thebes he greatly enlarged the temple
of Ammon, begun by Amenemhat I., and continued under his son, the first
Usurtasen, by adding to it the cloistered court in front of the central
cell--a court two hundred and forty feet long by sixty-two broad,
surrounded by a colonnade, of which the supports were Osirid pillars, or
square piers with a statue of Osiris in front. This is the first known
example of the cloistered court, which became afterwards so common;
though it is possible that constructions of a similar character may have
been made by the "Shepherd Kings" at Tanis, Thothmes also adorned this
temple with obelisks. In front of the main entrance to his court he
erected two vast monoliths of granite, each of them seventy-five feet in
height, and bearing dedicatory inscriptions, which indicated his piety
and his devotion to all the chief deities of Egypt.

Further, at Memphis he built a new royal palace, which he called "The
Abode of Aa-khepr-ka-ra," a grand building, afterwards converted into a
magazine for the storage of grain.

The greatness of Thothmes I. has scarcely been sufficiently recognized
by historians. It may be true that he did not effect much; but he broke
ground in a new direction; he set an example which led on to grand
results. To him it was due that Egypt ceased to be the isolated,
unaggressive power that she had remained for perhaps ten centuries, that
she came boldly to the front and aspired to bring Asia into subjection.
Henceforth she exercised a potent influence beyond her borders--an
influence which affected, more or less, all the western Asiatic powers.
She had forced her way into the comity of the great nations. Henceforth
whether it was for good or for evil, she had to take her place among
them, to reckon with them, as they reckoned with her, to be a factor in
the problem which the ages had to work out--What should be the general
march of events, and what states and nations should most affect the
destiny of the world.



Hasheps, or Hatasu, was the daughter of the great warrior king, Thothmes
the First, and, according to some, was, during his later years,
associated with him in the government. An inscription is quoted in which
he assigns to her her throne-name of Ra-ma-ka, and calls her "Queen of
the South and of the North," But it was not till after the death of her
father that she came prominently forward, and assumed a position not
previously held by any female in Egypt, unless it were Net-akret
(Nitocris). Women in Egypt had been, it is true, from very early times
held in high estimation, were their husbands' companions, not their
playthings or their slaves, appeared freely in public, and enjoyed much
liberty of action. One of the ancient mythical monarchs, of the time
before Sneferu, is said to have passed a law permitting them to exercise
the sovereign authority. Nitocris of the sixth dynasty of Manetho ruled,
apparently, as sole queen; and Sabak-nefru-ra of the twelfth, the wife
of Amenemhat IV., reigned for some years conjointly with her husband.
Hatasu's position was intermediate between these. Her father had left
behind him two sons, as well as a daughter; and the elder of these,
according to Egyptian law, succeeded him. He reigned as
Thothmes-nefer-shau, and is known to moderns as Thothmes the Second. He
was, however, a mere youth, of a weak and amiable temper; while Hatasu,
his senior by some years, was a woman of great energy and of a masculine
mind, clever, enterprizing, vindictive, and unscrupulous. The contrast
of their portrait busts is remarkable, and gives a fair indication of
the character of each of them. Thothmes has the appearance of a soft and
yielding boy: he has a languishing eye, a short upper lip, a sensuous
mouth and chin. Hatasu looks the Amazon: she holds her head erect, has a
bold aquiline nose, a firmly-set mouth, and a chin that projects
considerably, giving her an indescribable air of vigour and resolution.
The effect is increased, no doubt, by her having attached to it the male
appendage of an artificial beard; but even apart from this, her face
would be a strong one, expressive of firmness, pride, and decision. It
is thought that she contracted a marriage with her brother, such unions
being admissible by the Egyptian marriage law, and not infrequent among
the Pharaohs, whether of the earlier or the later dynasties. In any
case, it is certain that she took the direction of affairs under his
reign, reducing him to a cipher, and making her influence paramount in
every department of the government.

[Illustration: HEAD OF THOTHMES II.]

[Illustration: HEAD OF HATASU.]

At this period of her life the ambition of Queen Hatasu was to hand her
name down to posterity as a constructor of buildings. She made many
additions to the old temple of Ammon at Karnak; and she also built at
Medinet Abou, in the vicinity of Thebes, a temple of a more elaborate
character than any that had preceded it, the remains of which are still
standing, and have attracted much attention from architects. Egyptian
temple-architecture is here seen tentatively making almost its first
advances from the simple cell of Usurtasen I. towards that richness of
complication and multiplicity of parts which it ultimately reached.
Pylons, courts, corridors supported by columns, pillared apartments,
meet us here in their earliest germ; while there are also indications of
constructive weakness, which show that the builders were aspiring to go
beyond previous models. The temple is cruciform in shape, but the two
arms of the cross are unequal. In front, two pylons of moderate
dimensions, not exceeding twenty-four feet in height, and built with the
usual sloping sides and strongly projecting cornice, guarded a doorway
which gave entrance into a court, sixty feet long by thirty broad. At
the further end of the court stood a porch, thirty feet long and nine
deep, supported by four square stone piers, emplaced at equal distances.
The porch led into the cell, a long, narrow chamber of extreme
plainness, about twenty-five feet long by nine wide, with a doorway at
either end. At either side of the cell were corridors, supported, like
the porch, by square piers, and roofed in by blocks of stone from nine
to ten feet long. These blocks have in some instances shown signs of
giving way; and, to counteract the tendency, octagonal pillars have been
introduced at the weak points, without regard to exact regularity or
correspondence. Behind the cell are chambers for the officiating
priests, which are six in number, and on either side of the porch are
also chambers, forming the arms of the cross, but of unequal
dimensions. That on the left is nearly square, about fifteen feet by
twelve; that on the right is oblong, twenty-seven feet by fifteen, and
has needed the support of two pillars internally, which seem, however,
to have been part of the original design. This chamber is open towards
the north-east, terminating in a porch of three square piers.


The joint reign of Hatasu and Thothmes II. did not continue for more
than a few years. It is suspected that she engaged in a conspiracy
against him in order to rid herself of the small restraint which his
participation in the sovereignty exercised upon her, and was privy to
his murder. But there is no sufficient evidence to substantiate these
charges, which have been somewhat recklessly made. All that distinctly
appears is, that Thothmes II. died while he was still extremely young,
and when he had reigned only a short time, and that after his death
Hatasu showed her hostility to his memory by erasing his name wherever
it occurred on the monuments, and substituting for it either her own
name or that of her father. She appears also at the same time to have
taken full possession of the throne, and to have been accepted as actual
sovereign of the Egyptian people. She calls herself "The living Horus,
abounding in divine gifts, the mistress of diadems, rich in years, the
golden Horus, goddess of diadems, Queen of Upper and Lower Egypt,
daughter of the Sun, consort of Ammon, living for ever, and daughter of
Ammon, dwelling in his heart." Nor was she content with attributes which
made acknowledgment of her sex. She wished to be regarded as a man,
assumed male apparel and an artificial beard, and gave herself on many
of her monuments the style and title of a king. Her name of Hatasu she
changed into Hatasu-Khnum-Ammon, thus identifying herself with two of
the chief Egyptian gods. She often represented herself as crowned with
the tall plumes of Ammon. She took the titles of "_son_ of the sun,"
"the good _god_," "_lord_ of the two lands," "beloved of Ammon, the
protector of _kings_." A curious anomaly appears in some of her
inscriptions, where masculine and feminine forms are inextricably mixed
up; though spoken of consistently as "the king," and not "the queen,"
yet the personal and possessive pronouns which refer to her are feminine
for the most part, while sometimes such perplexing expressions occur as
"le roi qui est bien _aimée_ par Ammon," or "His Majesty herself."


The legal position which Hatasu occupied during the sixteen years that
followed the death of Thothmes II. was probably that of regent for
Thothmes III., his (and her) younger brother; but practically she was
full sovereign of Egypt. It was now that she formed her grand schemes of
foreign commerce, and had them carried out by her officers. First of
all, she caused to be built, in some harbour on the western coast of the
Red Sea, a fleet of ships, certainly not fewer than five, each
constructed so as to be propelled both by oars and sails, and each
capable of accommodating some sixty or seventy passengers. Of these
thirty were the rowers, whose long sweeps were to plough the waves, and
bring the vessels into port, whether the wind were favourable or no;
some ten or twelve formed the crew; and the remainder consisted of
men-at-arms, whose services, it was felt, might be required, if the
native tribes were not sufficiently impressed with the advantages of
commercial dealings. An expedition then started from Thebes under the
conduct of a royal ambassador, who was well furnished with gifts for
distribution among the barbarian chiefs, and instructed to proceed with
his fleet down the Red Sea to its mouth, or perhaps even further, and
open communications with the land of "Punt," which was in this quarter.
"Punt" has been generally identified with Southern Arabia, and it is
certainly in favour of this view that the chief object of the expedition
was to procure incense and spices, which Arabia is known to have
produced anciently in profusion. But among the other products of the
land mentioned in the inscriptions of Hatasu, there are several which
Arabia could not possibly have furnished; and the conjecture has
therefore been made that Punt, or at any rate the Punt of this
expedition, was not the Arabian peninsula, or any part of it, but the
African tract outside the Gulf, known to moderns as "the Somauli
country." However this may have been, it is certain that the fleet
weighed anchor, and sailed down the Red Sea, borne by favourable winds,
which were ascribed to the gracious majesty of Ammon, and reached their
destination, the Ta-neter, or "Holy Land"--the "abode of Athor," and
perhaps the original home of Ammon himself--without accident or serious
difficulty. The natives gave them a good reception. They were simple
folk, living in rounded huts or cabins, which were perched on floors
supported by piles, probably on account of the marshiness of the
ground, and which had to be entered by means of ladders. Cocoa-nut palms
overshadowed the huts, interspersed with incense trees, while near them
flowed a copious stream, in which were a great variety of fishes. The
principal chief of the country was a certain Parihu, who was married to
a wife of an extraordinary appearance. A dwarf, hunchbacked, with a
drawn face and short, deformed legs, she can scarcely, one would think,
have been a countrywoman of the Queen of Sheba. She belonged, more
probably, to one of the dwarfish tribes of which Africa has so many, as
Dokos, Bosjesmen, and others. The royal couple were delighted with their
visitors, and with the presents which they received from them; they made
a sort of acknowledgment of the suzerainty of the Pharaohs, but at the
same time stipulated that the peace and liberty of the land of Punt
should be respected by the Egyptians. Perfect freedom of trade was
established. The Egyptians had permission to enter the incense forests,
and either to cut down the trees for the sake of the resin which they
exuded, or to dig them up and convey them to the ships. We see the
trees, or rather bushes, dug up with as much earth as possible about
their roots, then slung on poles and carried to the sea-shore, and
finally placed upright upon the ships' decks, and screened from the heat
of the sun's rays by an awning. Thirty-one trees were thus embarked,
with the object of transplanting them to Egypt, where it was hoped that
they might grow and flourish. A large quantity of the resin was also
collected and packed in sacks, which were tied at the mouth and piled up
upon the decks. Various other products and commodities were likewise
brought to the beach by the natives, and exchanged for those which the
Egyptians had taken care to bring with them in their ships' holds. The
most prized were gold, silver, ivory, ebony and other woods, cassia,
kohl or stibium, apes, baboons, dogs, slaves, and leopard skins. The
utmost friendliness prevailed during the whole period of the Egyptians'
stay in the country; and at their departure, a number of the natives, of
their own free-will, accompanied them to Egypt. Among these would seem to
have been the deformed queen and several chiefs.



The return journey to Thebes was effected partly by way of the Nile. No
doubt the sea-going ships sailed back to the harbour from which they had
started; while the incense trees and other commodities were disembarked,
and conveyed across the desert tract which borders the Nile valley
towards the east; but instead of being brought to Thebes by land they
were re-shipped on board a number of large Nile boats, and conveyed down
the river to the capital. The day of their arrival was made a grand
gala-day. All the city went out to meet the returning travellers. There
was a grand parade of the household troops, and also of those which had
accompanied the expedition; the incense trees, the strange animals, the
many products of the distant country, were exhibited; a tame leopard,
with his negro keeper, followed the soldiers; a band of natives, called
Tamahu, engaged in a sort of sham-fight or war-dance. The misshapen
queen and the chiefs of the land of Punt, together with a number of
Nubian hunters from the region of Chent-hen-nefer, which lay far up the
course of the Nile, were conducted to the presence of Hatasu, offered
their homage to her as she sat upon her throne, and presented her with
valuable gifts. "Homage to thy countenance," they said, "O Queen of
Egypt, Sun beaming like the sun-disk, Aten, Arabia's mistress." An
offering was then made by Hatasu to the god Ammon; a bull was
sacrificed, and two vases of the precious frankincense presented to him
by the queen herself. Sacrifice was likewise made and prayers offered to
Athor, "Queen of Punt" and "Mistress of Heaven." The incense trees were
finally planted in ground prepared for them, and the day concluded with
general festivity and rejoicing.

The complete success of so important and difficult an enterprize might
well please even a great queen. Hatasu, delighted with the result, did
her best to prevent it fading away from human remembrance by building a
new temple to Ammon, and representing the entire expedition upon its
walls. At Tel-el-Bahiri, in the valley of El-Assasif, near Thebes, she
found a convenient site for her new structure, which she imposed upon
four steps, and covered internally with a series of bas-reliefs, highly
coloured, depicting the chief scenes of the expedition. Here are to be
seen, even at the present day, the ships--the most ancient
representations of sea-going ships that the world contains--the crews,
the incense-trees, the chiefs and queen of Punt, the native dwellings,
the trees and fish of the land, the arrival of the expedition at Thebes
in twelve large boats, the prostration of the native chiefs before
Hatasu, the festival held on the occasion, and the offerings made to the
gods. It is seldom that any single event of ancient history is so
profusely illustrated as this expedition of Queen Hatasu, which is
placed before our eyes in all its various phases from the gathering of
the fleet on the Red Sea coast to the return of those engaged in it, in
gladness and triumph, to Thebes.

After exercising all the functions of sovereignty for fifteen years,
during which she kept her royal brother in a subjection that probably
became very galling to him, Hatasu found herself under the necessity of
admitting him to a share in the royal authority, and allowed his name to
appear on her monuments in a secondary and subordinate position. About
this time she was especially engaged in the ornamentation of the old
temple of Ammon at Thebes, begun by Usurtasen I., and much augmented by
her father, Thothmes I. The chief of all her works in this quarter were
two obelisks of red granite, or syenite, drawn from the quarries of
Elephantine, and set up before the entrance, which her father had made
in front of Usurtasen's construction. These great works are unexcelled,
in form, colour, and beauty of engraving, by any similar productions of
Egyptian art, either earlier or later. They measure nearly a hundred
feet in height, and are covered with the most delicately finished
hieroglyphics. On them Hatasu declares that she "has made two great
obelisks for her father, Ammon, from a heart that is full of love for
him." They are "of hard granite of the South, each of a single stone,
without any joining or division." The summit of each, or cap of the
pyramidion, is "of pure gold, taken from the chiefs of nations," so that
they "are seen from a distance of many leagues--Upper and Lower Egypt
are bathed in their splendour"(!).

Hatasu reigned conjointly with Thothmes III. for the space of seven
years. Their common monuments have been found at Thebes, in the Wady
Magharah, and elsewhere. It is not probable that the relations of the
brother and sister during this period were very cordial. Hatasu still
claimed the chief authority, and placed her name before that of her
brother on all public documents. She was, as she has been called, "a
bold, ambitious woman," and evidently admitted with reluctance any
partner of her greatness. Thothmes III., a man of great ambition and no
less ability, is not likely to have acquiesced very willingly in the
secondary position assigned to him. Whether he openly rebelled against
it, broke with Hatasu, and deprived her of the throne, or even put her
to death, is wholly uncertain. The monuments hitherto discovered are
absolutely silent as to what became of this great queen. She may have
died a natural death, opportunely for her brother, who must have wished
to find himself unshackled; or she may have been the victim of a
conspiracy within the palace walls. All that we know is that she
disappears from history in about her fortieth year, and that her brother
and successor, the third Thothmes, actuated by a strong and settled
animosity, caused her name to be erased, as far as possible, from all
her monuments. There is scarcely one on which it remains intact. The
greatest of Egyptian queens--one of the greatest of Egyptian
sovereigns--is indebted for the continuance of her memory among mankind
to the accident that the stonemasons employed by Thothmes to carry out
his plan of vengeance were too careless or too idle to effect the
actual obliteration of the name, which they everywhere marred with their
chisels. Hatred, for once, though united with absolute power, missed its
aim; and Hatasu's great constructions, together with her "Merchant
Fleet," are among the indisputable facts of history which can never be



No sooner had Thothmes III. burst the leading-strings in which his
sister had held him for above twenty years, then he showed the metal of
which he was made by at once placing himself at the head of his troops,
and marching into Asia. Persuaded that the great god, Ammon, had
promised him a long career of victory, he lost no time in setting to
work to accomplish his glorious destiny. Starting from an Egyptian post
on the Eastern frontier, called Garu or Zalu, in the month of February,
he took his march along the ordinary coast route, and in a short time
reached Gaza, the strong Philistine city, which was already a fortress
of repute, and regarded as "the key of Syria." The day of his arrival
was the anniversary of his coronation, and according to his reckoning
the first day of his twenty-third year. Gaza made no resistance: its
chief was friendly to the Egyptians, and gladly opened his gates to the
invading army. Having rested at Gaza no more than a single night,
Thothmes resumed his march, and continuing to skirt the coast, arrived
on the eleventh day at a fortified town called Jaham, probably Jamnia.
Here he was met by his scouts, who brought the intelligence that the
enemy was collected at Megiddo, on the edge of the great plain of
Esdraelon, the ordinary battle-field of the Palestinian nations. They
consisted of "all the people dwelling between the river of Egypt on the
one hand and the land of Naharaïn (Mesopotamia) on the other." At their
head was the king of Kadesh, a great city on the upper Orontes, which
afterwards became one of the chief seats of the Hittite power, but was
at this time in the possession of the Rutennu (Syrians). They were
strongly posted at the mouth of a narrow pass, behind the ridge of hills
which connects Carmel with the Samaritan upland, and Thothmes was
advised by his captains to avoid a direct attack, and march against them
by a circuitous route, which was undefended. But the intrepid warrior
scorned this prudent counsel. "His generals," he said, "might take the
roundabout road, if they liked; _he_ would follow the straight one." The
event justified his determination. Megiddo was reached in a week without
loss or difficulty, and a great battle was fought in the fertile plain
to the north-west of the fortress, in which the Egyptian king was
completely victorious, and his enemies were scattered like chaff before
him. The Syrians must have fled precipitately at the first attack; for
they lost in killed no more than eighty-three, and in prisoners no more
than two hundred and forty, or according to another account three
hundred and forty, while the chariots taken were nine hundred and
twenty-four, and the captured horses 2,132. Megiddo was near at hand,
and the bulk of the fugitives would reach easily the shelter of its
walls. Others may have dispersed themselves among the mountains. The
Syrian camp was, however, taken, together with vast treasures in silver
and gold, lapis lazuli, turquoise, and alabaster; and the son of the
king of Kadesh fell into Thothmes' hands. Megiddo itself, soon
afterwards, surrendered, as did the towns of Inunam, Anaugas, and
Hurankal or Herinokol. An immense booty in corn and cattle was also
carried off. Thothmes returned to Egypt in triumph, and held a prolonged
festival to Ammon-Ra in Thebes, accompanied by numerous sacrifices and
offerings. Among the last we find included three of the cities taken
from the Rutennu, which were assigned to the god in order that they
might "supply a yearly contribution to his sacred food."

It is a familiar saying, that "increase of appetite doth grow by what it
feeds on." Thothmes certainly found his appetite for conquest whetted,
not satiated, by his Syrian campaign. If we may trust M. Lenormant, he
took the field in the very year that followed his victory of Megiddo,
and after traversing the whole of Syria, and ravaging the country about
Aleppo, proceeded to Carchemish, the great Hittite town on the Upper
Euphrates, and there crossed the river into Naharaïn, or Mesopotamia,
whence he carried off a number of prisoners. Two other campaigns, which
cannot be traced in detail, belong to the period between his
twenty-fourth and his twenty-ninth year. Thenceforward to his fortieth
year his military expeditions scarcely knew any cessation. At one time
he would embark his troops on board a fleet, and make descents upon the
coast of Syria, coming as unexpectedly and ravaging as ruthlessly as the
Normans of the Middle Ages. He would cut down the fruit trees, carry off
the crops, empty the magazines of grain, lay hands upon all valuables
that were readily removable, and carry them on board his ships,
returning to Egypt with a goodly store of gold and silver, of lapis
lazuli and other precious stones, of vases in silver and in bronze, of
corn, wine, incense, balsam, honey, iron, lead, emery, and male and
female slaves. At another, he would march by land, besiege and take the
inland towns, demand and obtain the sons of the chiefs as hostages,
exact heavy war contributions, and bring back with him horses and
chariots, flocks and herds, strange animals, trees, and plants.

Of all his expeditions, that undertaken in his thirty-third year was
perhaps the most remarkable. Starting from the country of the Rutennu,
he on this occasion directed the main force of his attack upon the
Mesopotamian region, which he ravaged far and wide, conquering the
towns, and "reducing to a level plain the strong places of the miserable
land of Naharaïn," capturing thirty kings or chiefs, and erecting two
tablets in the region, to indicate its subjection. It is possible that
he even crossed the Tigris into Adiabene or the Zab country, since he
relates that on his return he passed through the town of Ni or Nini,
which many of the best historians of Egypt identify with Nineveh.
Nineveh was not now (about B.C. 1500) the capital of Assyria, which was
lower down the Tigris, at Asshur or Kileh Sherghat, but was only a
provincial town of some magnitude. Still it was within the dominions of
the Assyrian monarch of the time, and any attack upon it would have been
an insult and a challenge to the great power of Upper Mesopotamia, which
ruled from the alluvium to the mountains. It is certain that the king of
Assyria did not accept the challenge, but preferred to avoid an
encounter with the Egyptian troops. Both at this time and subsequently
he sent envoys with rich presents to court the favour of Thothmes, who
accepted the gifts as "tribute," and counted "the chief of Assuru" among
his tributaries. Submission was also made to him at the same time by the
"prince of Senkara," a name which still exists in the lower Babylonian
marsh region. Among the gifts which this prince sent was "lapis lazuli
of Babylon." It is an exaggeration to represent the expedition as having
resulted in the conquest of the great empires of Assyria and Babylon;
but it is quite true to say that it startled and shook those empires,
that it filled them with a great fear of what might be coming, and
brought Egypt into the position of the principal military power of the
time. Assyrian influence especially was checked and curtailed. There is
reason to believe, from the Egyptian remains found at Arban on the
Khabour,[17] that Thothmes added to the Egyptian empire the entire
region between the Euphrates and its great eastern affluent--a broad
tract of valuable territory--and occupied it with permanent garrisons.
The Assyrian monarch bought off the further hostility of his dangerous
neighbour by an annual embassy which conveyed rich gifts to the court
of the Pharaohs, gifts that were not reciprocated. Among these we find
enumerated gold and silver ornaments, lapis lazuli, vases of Assyrian
stone (alabaster?), slaves, chariots adorned with gold and silver,
silver dishes and silver beaten out into sheets, incense, wine, honey,
ivory, cedar and sycomore wood, mulberry trees, vines, and fig trees,
buffaloes, bulls, and a gold habergeon with a border of lapis lazuli.

A curious episode of the expedition is related by Amenemheb, an officer
who accompanied it, and was in personal attendance upon the Egyptian
monarch. It appears that in the time of Thothmes III. the elephant
haunted the woods and jungles of the Mesopotamian region, as he now does
those of the peninsula of Hindustan. The huge unwieldy beasts were
especially abundant in the neighbourhood of Ni or Nini, the country
between the middle Tigris and the Zagros range. As Amenemhat I. had
delighted in the chase of the lion and the crocodile, so Thothmes III.
no sooner found a number of elephants within his reach than he proceeded
to hunt and kill them, mainly no doubt for the sport, but partly in
order to obtain their tusks. No fewer than a hundred and twenty are said
to have been killed or taken. On one occasion, however, the monarch ran
a great risk. He was engaged in the pursuit of a herd, when the "rogue,"
or leading elephant, turned and made a rush at the royal sportsman, who
would probably have fallen a victim, gored by a tusk or trampled to
death under the huge beast's feet, had not Amenemheb hastened to the
rescue, and by wounding the creature's trunk drawn its rage upon
himself. The brute was then, after a short struggle, overpowered and

Further expeditions were led by Thothmes into Asia in his thirty-fourth,
thirty-fifth, thirty-eighth, thirty-ninth, fortieth, and forty-second
years; but in none of them does he seem to have outdone the exploits of
the great campaign of the year 33. The brunt of his attacks at this time
fell upon the Zahi, or Tahai, of northern Phœnicia, and upon the Naïri
of the Mesopotamian region, who continually rebelled, and had to be
reconquered. The Rutennu seem for the most part to have paid their
tribute without resistance and without much difficulty. This may have
been partly owing to the judicious system which Thothmes had established
among them, whereby each chief was forced to give a son or brother as
hostage for his good behaviour, and if the hostage died to send another
in his place. It was certainly not because the tribute was light, since
it consisted of a number of slaves, silver vases of the weight of 762
pounds, nineteen chariots, 276 head of cattle, 1,622 goats, several
hundredweight of iron and lead, a number of suits of armour, and "all
kinds of good plants." The Rutennu had also to supply the stations along
the military road, whereby Thothmes kept up the communications between
Egypt and Mesopopotamia, with bread, wine, dates, incense, honey, and

While thus engaged in enlarging the limits of his empire towards the
north and the north-east, the careful monarch did not allow the regions
brought under Egyptian influence by former rulers to escape him. He
took a tribute of gold, spices, male and female slaves, cattle, ivory,
ebony, and panther skins from the land of Punt, of cattle and slaves
from Cush, and of the same products from the Uauat. Altogether he is
said to have carried off from the subject countries above 11,000
captives, 1,670 chariots, 3,639 horses, 4,491 of the larger cattle, more
than 35,000 goats, silver to the amount of 3,940 pounds, and gold to the
amount of 9,054 pounds. He also conveyed to Egypt from the conquered
lands enormous quantities of corn and wine, together with incense,
balsam, honey, ivory, ebony and other rare woods, lapis lazuli,
furniture, statues, vases, dishes, basins, tent-poles, bows, habergeons,
fruit trees, live birds, and monkeys! With a curiosity which was
insatiable, he noted all that was strange or unusual in the lands which
he visited, and sought to introduce the various novelties into his own
proper country. Two unknown kinds of birds, and a variety of the goose,
which he found in Mesopotamia, and transported from the valley of the
Khabour to that of the Nile, are said to have been "dearer to the king
than anything else." His artists had instructions to make careful
studies of the different objects, and to represent them faithfully on
his monuments. We see on these "water-lilies as high as trees, plants of
a growth like cactuses, all sorts of trees and shrubs, leaves, flowers,
and fruits, including melons and pomegranates; oxen and calves also
figure, and among them a wonderful animal with three horns. There are
likewise herons, sparrow-hawks, geese, and doves. All these objects
appear gaily intermixed in the pictures, as suited the simple childlike
conception of the artist."[18] An inscription tells the intention of the
monarch. "Here," it runs, "are all sorts of plants and all sorts of
flowers of the Holy Land, which the king discovered when he went to the
land of Ruten to conquer it. Thus says the king--I swear by the sun, and
I call to witness my father Ammon, that all is plain truth; there is no
trace of deception in that which I relate. What the splendid soil brings
forth in the way of productions, I have had portrayed in these pictures,
with the intention of offering them to my father Ammon, as a memorial
for all times."

Besides his army, Thothmes also maintained a naval force, and used it
largely in his expeditions. According to one writer, he placed a fleet
on the Euphrates, and in an action which took place with the Assyrians,
defeated and chased the enemy for a distance of between seven and eight
miles. He certainly upon some occasions made his attacks on Syria and
Phœnicia from the sea; nor is it improbable that his maritime forces
reduced Cyprus (which was conquered and held in a much less flourishing
period by Amasis) and plundered the coast of Cilicia; but a judicious
criticism will scarcely extend the voyages of his fleet, as has been
done by another writer, to Crete, and the islands of the Ægean, the
sea-boards of Greece and Asia Minor, the southern coast of Italy,
Algeria, and the waters of the Euxine! There is no evidence in the
historical inscriptions of Thothmes of any such far-reaching
expeditions. The supposed evidence for them is in a song of victory,
put into the mouth of the god, Ammon, and inscribed on one of the walls
of the great temple of Karnak. The song is interesting, but it scarcely
bears out the deductions that have been drawn from it, as will appear
from the subjoined translation.

(AMMON _loquitur_.)

    I came, and thou smotest the princes of Zahi;
    I scattered them under thy feet over all their lands;
    I made them regard thy Holiness as the blazing sun;
    Thou shinest in sight of them in my form.

    I came, and thou smotest them that dwell in Asia;
    Thou tookest captive the goat-herds of Ruten;
    I made them behold thy Holiness in thy royal adornments,
    As thou graspest thy weapons in the war-chariot.

    I came, and thou smotest the land of the East;
    Thou marchedst against the dwellers in the Holy Land;
    I made them behold thy Holiness as the star Canopus,
    Which sends forth its heat and disperses the dew.

    I came, and thou smotest the land of the West;
    Kefa and Asebi (_i.e._ Phœnicia and Cyprus) held thee in fear;
    I made them look upon thy Holiness as a young bull,
    Courageous, with sharp horns, which none can approach.

    I came, and thou smotest the subjects of their lords;
    The land of Mathen trembled for fear of thee;
    I made them look upon thy Holiness as upon a crocodile,
    Terrible in the waters, not to be encountered.

    I came, and thou smotest them that dwelt in the Great Sea;
    The inhabitants of the isles were afraid of thy war-cry;
    I made them behold thy Holiness as the Avenger,
    Who shews himself at the back of his victim.

    I came, and thou smotest the land of the Tahennu;
    The people of Uten submitted themselves to thy power;
    I made them see thy Holiness as a lion, fierce of eye,
    Who leaves his den and stalks through the valleys.

    I came, and thou smotest the hinder (_i.e._ northern) lands;
    The circuit of the Great Sea is bound in thy grasp;
    I made them behold thy Holiness as the hovering hawk.
    Which seizes with his glance whatever pleases him.

    I came, and thou smotest the lands in front:
    Those that sat upon the sand thou carriedst away captive;
    I made them behold thy Holiness like the jackal of the South,
    Which passes through the lands as a hidden wanderer.

    I came, and thou smotest the nomad tribes of Nubia,
    Even to the land of Shut, which thou holdest in thy grasp;
    I made them behold thy Holiness like thy pair of brothers,
    Whose hands I have united to give thee power.[19]

It is impossible to conclude this sketch of Thothmes III. without some
notice of his buildings. He was the greatest of Egyptian conquerors, but
he was also one of the greatest of Egyptian builders and patrons of art.
The grand temple of Ammon at Thebes was the especial object of his
fostering care; and he began his career of builder and restorer by
repairs and restorations, which much improved and beautified that
edifice. Before the southern propylæa he re-erected, in the first year
of his independent reign, colossal statues of his father, Thothmes I.,
and his grandfather, Amenhotep, which had been thrown down in the
troublous time succeeding Thothmes the First's death. He then proceeded
to rebuild the central sanctuary, the work of Usurtasen I., which had
probably begun to decay, and, recognizing its importance as the very
_penetrale_ of the temple, he resolved to reconstruct it in granite,
instead of common stone, that he might render it, practically,
imperishable. With a reverence and a self-restraint that it might be
wished restorers possessed more commonly, he preserved all the lines and
dimensions of the ancient building, merely reproducing in a better
material the work of his great predecessor. Having accomplished this
pious task, he gave a vent to his constructive ambition by a grand
addition to the temple on its eastern side. Behind the cell, at the
distance of about a hundred and fifty feet, he erected a magnificent
hall, or pillared chamber, of dimensions previously unknown in Egypt, or
elsewhere in the world at the time--an oblong square, one hundred and
forty-three feet long by fifty-three feet wide, or nearly half as large
again as the nave of Canterbury Cathedral. The whole of the apartment
was roofed in with slabs of solid stone; it was divided in its longest
direction into five avenues or vistas by means of rows of pillars and
piers, the former being towards the centre, and attaining a height of
thirty feet, with bell capitals, and the latter towards the sides, with
a height of twenty feet. This arrangement enabled the building to be
lighted by means of a clerestory, in the manner shown by the
accompanying woodcut. In connection with this noble hall, on three sides
of it, northwards, eastwards, and southwards, Thothmes further erected
chambers and corridors, partly open, partly supported by pillars, which
might form convenient store-chambers for the vestments of the priests
and the offerings of the people.

Thothmes also added propylæa to the temple on the south, and erected in
front of the grand entrance which was (as usual) between the pylons of
the propylæa, two or perhaps four great obelisks, one of which exists
to the present day, and is the largest and most magnificent of all such
monuments now extant. It stands in front of the Church of St. John
Lateran at Rome, and has a height of a hundred and five feet, exclusive
of the base, with a width diminishing from nine feet six inches to eight
feet seven inches. It is estimated to weigh above four hundred and fifty
tons, and is covered with well-cut hieroglyphics. No other obelisk
approaches within twelve feet of its elevation, or within fifty tons of
its weight. Yet, if we may believe an inscription of Thothmes, found on
the spot, the pair of obelisks whereof this was one shrank into
insignificance in comparison with another pair, also placed by him
before his propylæa, the height of which was one hundred and eight
cubits, or one hundred and sixty-two feet, and their weight consequently
from seven hundred to eight hundred tons! As no trace has been found of
these monsters, and as it seems almost impossible that they should have
been removed, and highly improbable that they could have been broken up
without leaving some indication of their existence, perhaps we may
conclude that they were designed rather than executed, and that the
inscription was set up in anticipation of an achievement contemplated
but never effected.


Other erections of the Great Thothmes are the enclosure of the famous
Temple of the Sun at Heliopolis, the temple of Phthah at Thebes, the
small temple at Medinet-Abou, a temple to Kneph adorned with obelisks at
Elephantine, and a series of temples and monuments erected at Ombos,
Esneh, Abydos, Coptos, Denderah, Eileithyia, Hermonthis, and Memphis in
Egypt, and at Amada, Corte, Talmis, Pselcis, Semneh, Koummeh, and Napata
in Nubia. Extensive ruins of many of these buildings still remain,
particularly at Koummeh, Semneh, Napata, Denderah, and Ombos.
Altogether, Thothmes III. is pronounced to have left behind him more
monuments than any other Pharaoh excepting Rameses II., and though
occasionally showing himself, as a builder, somewhat capricious and
whimsical, still, on the whole, to have worked in a pure style and
proved that he was not deficient in good taste.[20]

It has happened, moreover, by a curious train of circumstances, that
Thothmes III. is, of all the Pharaohs, the one whose great works are
most widely diffused, and display Egyptian skill and taste to the
largest populations, and in the most important cities, of the modern
world. Rome, as we have seen, possesses his grandest obelisk, which is
at the same time the greatest of all extant monoliths. The millions who
have flocked to Rome in all ages have learnt the lesson of Egyptian
greatness from the monument erected before the Church of St. John
Lateran. Constantinople holds an obelisk of Thothmes III., which is
placed in the middle of the Atmeidan. London has put on its embankment,
half-way between St. Paul's and the Palace and Abbey of Westminster,
another obelisk of the same monarch, erected originally at Heliopolis,
thence removed to Alexandria by Augustus, and now adorning the banks of
the Thames, nearly in the centre of the most populous city that the
world has ever seen. The companion monument, after having, similarly,
stood at Heliopolis for fifteen centuries, and then at Alexandria for
eighteen, has crossed the Atlantic Ocean, and now teaches the million
residents, and the tens of thousands of visitors, of New York what great
things could be done by the Egyptian engineers and artists of the time
of the eighteenth dynasty.

Thothmes III. has been called "the Alexander of Egyptian history." The
phrase is at once exaggerated and misleading. It is exaggerated as
applied to his military ability; for, though beyond a doubt this monarch
was by far the greatest of Egyptian conquerors, and possessed
considerable military talent, much personal bravery, and an energy that
has seldom been exceeded, yet, on the other hand, his task was trivial
as compared with that of the Macedonian general, and his achievements
insignificant. Instead of plunging with a small force into the midst of
populous countries, and contending with armies ten or twenty times as
numerous as his own, defeating them, and utterly subduing a vast empire,
Thothmes marched at the head of a numerous disciplined army into thinly
peopled regions, governed by petty chiefs jealous one of another,
fought scarcely a single great battle, and succeeded in conquering two
regions of a moderate size, Syria and Upper Mesopotamia, as far as the
Khabour river. Alexander overran and subdued the entire tract between
the Ægean and the Sutlej, the Persian Gulf and the Oxus. He conquered
Egypt, and founded a dynasty there which endured for nearly three
centuries. Thothmes subdued not a tenth part of the space, and the
empire which he established did not endure for much more than a century.
It is thus absurd to compare Thothmes III. to Alexander the Great as a

Alexander was, besides, much more than a conqueror; he was a first-rate
administrator. Had he lived twenty years longer he would probably have
built up a universal monarchy, which might have lasted for a millenium.
As it was, he so organized the East that it continued for nearly three
centuries mainly under Greek rule, in the hands of the monarchs who are
known as his "successors." Thothmes III., on the contrary, organized
nothing. He left his conquests in such a condition that they, all of
them, revolted at his death. His successor had to reconquer all the
countries that had submitted to his father, and to re-establish over
them the Egyptian sovereignty.

In person the great Egyptian monarch was not remarkable. He had a long,
well-shaped, and somewhat delicate nose, which was almost in line with
his forehead, an eye prominent and larger than that of most Egyptians, a
shortish upper lip, a resolute mouth with rather over-full lips, and a
rounded, slightly retreating chin. The expression of his portrait
statues is grave and serious, but lacks strength and determination.
Indeed, there is something about the whole countenance that is a little
womanish, though his character certainly presents no appearance of
effeminacy. He died after a reign of fifty-four years, according to his
own reckoning, having practically exercised the sovereign power for
about thirty-two of the fifty-four. His age at his death must have been
about sixty.

[Illustration: BUST OF THOTHMES III.]

During these stirring times, what were the children of Israel doing? We
have supposed that Joseph was minister of the last of the Shepherd
Kings, under whose reign his people had entered upon the peaceful
occupation of the land of Goshen, where they were received with
hospitality by a population of the same simple pastoral habits with
themselves; and it seems probable that, under Thothmes III., they were
increasing abundantly and waxing mighty, and that the land between the
Sebennytic and Pelusiac branches of the Nile was gradually being filled
by them. Their period of severe oppression had not yet begun; there had
as yet arisen no sufficient reason for any measures of repression, such
as were pursued by the new king who "knew not Joseph." The name and
renown of the great minister seems still to have protected his kinsmen
in the peaceful enjoyment of their privileges in the land that must by
this time have lost for them most of its strangeness.

Thothmes III. was succeeded by his son, Amenhotep, whom historians
commonly term Amenophis the Second. This king was a warrior like his
father, and succeeded in reducing, without much difficulty, the various
nations that had thrown off the authority of Egypt on receiving the news
of his father's death. He even carried his arms, according to some, as
far as Nineveh, which he claims to have besieged and taken; he does not,
however, mention the Assyrians as his opponents. His contests were with
the Naïri, the Rutennu, and the Shasu (Arabs) in Asia, with the Tahennu
(Libyans) and Nubians in Africa. On all sides victory crowned his arms;
but he stained the fair fame that his victories would have otherwise
secured him by barbarous practices, and cruel and unnecessary bloodshed.
He tells us that at Takhisa in northern Syria he killed seven kings with
his own hand, and he represents himself in the act of destroying them
with his war-club, not in the heat of battle, but after they have been
taken prisoners. He further adds that, after killing them, he suspended
their bodies from the prow of the vessel In which he returned to Egypt,
and brought them, as trophies of victory, to Thebes, where he hung six
of the seven outside the walls of the city, as the Philistines hung the
bodies of Saul and Jonathan on the wall of Beth-shan (i Sam. xxxi. 10,
12); while he had the seventh conveyed to Napata in Nubia, and there
similarly exposed, to terrify his enemies in that quarter. It has been
said of the Russians--not perhaps without some justice--"Grattez le
Russe et vous trouverez le Tartare;" with far greater reason may we say
of the ancient Egyptians, that, notwithstanding the veneer of
civilization which they for the most part present to our observation,
there was In their nature, even at the best of times, an underlying
ingrained barbarism which could not be concealed, but was continually
showing itself.

Amenophis II. appears to have had a short reign; his seventh year is the
last noted upon his monuments. As a builder he was unenterprizing. One
temple at Amada, one hall at Thebes, and his tomb at Abd-el-Qurnah, form
almost the whole of his known constructions. None of them is remarkable.
Egypt under his sway had a brief rest before she braced herself to fresh
efforts, military and architectural.


[17] Layard, "Nineveh and Babylon," pp. 280-282.

[18] Brugsch, "History of Egypt," vol. 1. pp. 367, 368.

[19] Brugsch, "History of Egypt" (first ed., 1879), vol. 1. pp. 371,

[20] Wilkinson in Rawlinson's "Herodotus," vol. ii. p. 302.



The fame of Amen-hotep the Third, the grandson of the great Thothmes,
rests especially upon his Twin Colossi, the grandest, if not actually
the largest, that the world has ever beheld. Imagine sitting figures,
formed of a single solid block of sandstone, which have sat on for above
three thousand years, mouldering gradually away under the influence of
time and weather changes, yet which are still more than sixty feet high,
and must originally, when they wore the tall crown of an Egyptian king,
have reached very nearly the height of seventy feet! We think a statue
vast, colossal, of magnificent dimensions, if it be as much as ten or
twenty feet high--as Chantrey's statue of Pitt, or Phidias's
chryselephantine statue of Jupiter. What, then, must these be, which are
of a size so vastly greater? Let us hear how they impress an eye-witness
of world-wide experience. "There they sit," says Harriet Martineau,
"together, yet apart, in the midst of the plain, serene and vigilant,
still keeping their untired watch over the lapse of ages and the eclipse
of Europe. I can never believe that anything else so majestic as this
pair has been conceived of by the imagination of art. Nothing
certainly, even in nature, ever affected me so unspeakably; no
thunderstorms in my childhood, nor any aspect of Niagara, or the great
lakes of America, or the Alps, or the Desert, in my later years.... The
pair, sitting alone amid the expanse of verdure, with islands of ruins
behind them, grew more striking to us every day. To-day, for the first
time, we looked up to them from their base. The impression of sublime
tranquillity which they convey when seen from distant points, is
confirmed by a nearer approach. There they sit, keeping watch--hands on
knees, gazing straight forward; seeming, though so much of the face is
gone, to be looking over to the monumental piles on the other side of
the river, which became gorgeous temples, after these throne-seats were
placed here--the most immovable thrones that have ever been established
on this earth!"[21]


The design of erecting two such colossi must be attributed to the
monarch himself, and we must estimate, from the magnificence of the
design, the grandeur of his thoughts and the wonderful depth of his
artistic imagination; but the skill to execute, the genius to express in
stone such dignity, majesty, and repose as the statues possess, belongs
to the first-rate sculptor, who turned the rough blocks of stone, hewn
by the masons in a distant quarry, into the glorious statues that have
looked down upon the plain for so many ages. The sculptors of Egyptian
works are, in general, unknown; but, by good fortune, in this particular
case, the name of the artist has remained on record, and he has himself
given us an account of the feelings with which he saw them set up in the
places where they still remain. The sculptor, who bore the same name as
his royal master, _i.e._ Amenhotep or Amen-hept, declares in the
exultation of his heart: "I immortalized the name of the king, and no
one has done the like of me in my works. I executed two portrait-statues
of the king, astonishing for their breadth and height; their completed
form dwarfed the temple tower--forty cubits was their measure; they were
cut in the splendid sandstone mountain on either side, the eastern and
the western. I caused to be built eight ships, whereon the statues were
carried up the river; they were emplaced in their sublime temple; they
will last as long as heaven. A joyful event was it when they were landed
at Thebes and raised up in their place."

A peculiar and curious interest attaches to one--the more eastern--of
the two statues. It was known to the Romans of the early empire as "The
Vocal Memnon," and formed one of the chief attractions which drew
travellers to Egypt, from the fact, which is quite indisputable, that at
that time, for two centuries or perhaps more, it emitted in the early
morning a musical sound, which was regarded as a sort of standing
miracle. The fact is mentioned by Strabo, Pliny the elder, Pausanias,
Tacitus, Juvenal, Lucian, Philostratus, and others, and is recorded by a
number of ear-witnesses on the lower part of the colossus itself in
inscriptions which may be seen at the present day. Amenhotep, identified
by the idle fancy of some Greek or Roman scholar with the Memnon of
Homer, son of Tithonus and _The Dawn_, who led an army of Ethiopians to
the assistance of Priam of Troy against the Greeks, was regarded as a
god, and to hear the sound was not only to witness a miracle, but to
receive an assurance of the god's favourable regard. For the statue did
not emit a sound--the god did not speak--every day. Sometimes travellers
had to depart disappointed altogether, sometimes they had to make a
second, a third, or a fourth visit before hearing the desired voice. But
still it was a frequent phenomenon; and a common soldier has recorded
the fact on the base of the statue, that he heard it no fewer than
thirteen times. The origin of the sound, the time when it began to be
heard, and the circumstances under which it ceased, are all more or less
doubtful. Some of those exceedingly clever persons who find priest-craft
everywhere, think that the musical sound was the effect of human
contrivance, and explain the whole matter to their entire satisfaction
by "the jugglery of the priests." The priests either found a naturally
vocal piece of rock, and intentionally made the statue out of it; or
they cunningly introduced a pipe into the interior of the figure, by
which they could make musical notes issue from the mouth at their
pleasure. It is against this view that in the palmy days of the Egyptian
hierarchy, the vocal character of the statue was entirely unknown; we
have no evidence of the sound having been heard earlier than the time of
Strabo (B.C. 25-10), when Egypt was in the possession of the Romans, and
the priests had little influence. Moreover, the theory is disproved by
the fact that, during the two centuries of the continuance of the
marvel, there were occasions when Memnon was obstinately silent, though
the priests must have been most anxious that he should speak, while
there were others when he spoke freely, though they must have been
perfectly indifferent. The wife of a prefect of Egypt made two visits to
the spot to no purpose; and the Empress Sabina, wife of the Emperor
Hadrian, was, on her first visit, also disappointed, so that "her
venerable features were inflamed with anger." On the other hand, as
already mentioned, a common Roman soldier heard the sound thirteen

With respect to the time when, and the circumstances under which, the
phenomenon first showed itself, all that can be said is, that the
earliest literary witness to the fact is Strabo (about B.C. 25); that
the earliest of the inscriptions on the base that can be dated belongs
to the reign of Nero, and that it is at least questionable whether the
sound ever issued from the stone before B.C. 27. In that year there was
an earthquake which wrought great havoc at Thebes; and it is an acute
suggestion, that it was this earthquake which at once shattered the
upper part of the colossus, and so affected the remainder of the block
of stone that it became vocal then for the first time. For centuries the
figure remained a _torso_, and it was while a _torso_ that it emitted
the musical tone--

    "_Dimidio_ magicæ resonabant Memnone chordæ."

After a long interval of years, probably about A.D. 174, that
restoration of the monument took place which is to be seen to the
present day. Five blocks of stone, rudely shaped into a form like that
of the unharmed colossus, were emplaced upon the _torso_, which was thus
reconstructed. The intention was to do Memnon honour; but the effect was
to strike him dumb. The peculiar condition of the stone, which the
earthquake had superinduced, and which made it vocal, being changed by
the new arrangement, the sound ceased, and has been heard no more.

It is a fact well known to scientific persons at the present day, that
musical sounds are often given forth both by natural rocks and by
quarried masses of stone, in consequence of a sudden change of
temperature. Baron Humboldt, writing on the banks of the Oronooko, says:
"The granite rock on which we lay is one of those where travellers have
heard from time to time, towards sunrise, subterraneous sounds,
resembling those of the organ. The missionaries call these stones _loxas
de musica_. 'It is witchcraft,' said our young Indian pilot.... But the
existence of a phenomenon that seems to depend on a certain state of the
atmosphere cannot be denied. The shelves of rock are full of very narrow
and deep crevices. They are heated during the day to about 50°. I often
found their temperature during the night at 39°. It may easily be
conceived that the difference of temperature between the subterraneous
and the external air would attain its _maximum_ about sunrise."
Analogous phenomena occur among the sandstone rocks of El Nakous, in
Arabia Petræa, near Mount Maladetta in the Pyrenees, and (perhaps) in
the desert between Palestine and Egypt. "On the fifth day of my
journey," says the accomplished author of 'Eothen.' "the sun growing
fiercer and fiercer, ... as I drooped my head under his fire, and closed
my eyes against the glare that surrounded me, I slowly fell asleep--for
how many minutes or moments I cannot tell--but after a while I was
gently awakened by a peal of church bells--my native bells--the innocent
bells of Marlen that never before sent forth their music beyond the
Blagdon hills! My first idea naturally was that I still remained fast
under the power of a dream. I roused myself, and drew aside the silk
that covered my eyes, and plunged my bare face into the light. Then at
least I was well enough awakened, _but still those old Marlen bells rang
on_, not ringing for joy, but properly, prosily, steadily, merrily
ringing 'for church.' _After a while the sound died away slowly_; it
happened that neither I nor any of my party had a watch to measure the
exact time of its lasting; but it seemed to me that about ten minutes
had passed before the bells ceased."[22] The gifted writer proceeds to
give a metaphysical explanation of the phenomena; but it may be
questioned whether he did not hear actual musical sounds, emitted by the
rocks that lay beneath the sands over which he was moving.

And similar sounds have been heard when the stones that sent them forth
were quarried blocks, no longer in a state of nature, but shaped by
human tools, and employed in architecture. Three members of the French
Expedition, MM. Jomard, Jollois, and Devilliers, were together in the
granite cell which forms the centre of the palace-temple of Karnak,
when, according to their own account, they "heard a sound, resembling
that of a chord breaking, issue from the blocks at sunrise." Exactly the
same comparison is employed by Pausanias to describe the sound that
issued from "the vocal Memnon."

On the whole, we may conclude that the musical qualities of his
remarkable colossus were unknown alike to the artist who sculptured the
monument and to the king whom it represented. To them, in its purpose
and object, it belonged, not to Music, but wholly to the sister art of
Architecture. "The Pair" sat at one extremity of an avenue leading to
one of the great palace-temples reared by Amenhotep III.--a
palace-temple which is now a mere heap of sandstone, "a little roughness
in the plain." The design of the king was, that this grand edifice
should be approached by a _dromos_ or paved way, eleven hundred feet
long, which should be flanked on either side by nine similar statues,
placed at regular intervals along the road, and all representing
himself. The egotism of the monarch may perhaps be excused on account of
the grandeur of his idea, which we nowhere else find repeated, avenues
of sphinxes being common in Egypt, and avenues of sitting human
_life-size_ figures not unknown to Greece, but the history of art
containing no other instance of an avenue of colossi.

Another of Amenhotep's palace-temples has been less unkindly treated by
fortune than the one just mentioned. The temple of Luxor, or El-Uksur,
on the eastern bank of the river, about a mile and a half to the south
of the great temple of Karnak, is a magnificent edifice to this day; and
though some portions of it, and some of its most remarkable features,
must be assigned to Rameses II., yet still it is, in the main, a
construction of Amenhotep's, and must be regarded as being, even if it
stood alone, sufficient proof of his eminence as a builder. The length
of the entire building is about eight hundred feet, the breadth varying
from about one hundred feet to two hundred. Its general arrangement
comprised, first, a great court, at a different angle from the rest,
being turned so as to face Karnak. In front of this stood two colossal
statues of the founder, together with two obelisks, one of which has
been removed to France, and now adorns the centre of the Place de la
Concorde at Paris. Behind this was a great pillared hall, of which only
the two central ranges of columns are now standing. Still further back
were smaller halls and numerous apartments, evidently meant for the
king's residence, rather than for a temple or place exclusively devoted
to worship. The building is remarkable for its marked affectation of
irregularity. "Not only is there a considerable angle in the direction
of the axis of the building, but the angles of the courtyards are hardly
ever right angles; the pillars are variously spaced, and pains seem to
have been gratuitously taken to make it as irregular as possible in
nearly every respect."[23]

Besides this grand edifice, Amenhotep built two temples at Karnak to
Ammon and Maut, embellished the old temple of Ammon there with a new
propylon, raised temples to Kneph, or Khnum, at Elephantine and built a
shrine to contain his own image at Soleb in Nubia, another shrine at
Napata, and a third at Sedinga. He left traces of himself at Semneh, in
the island of Konosso, on the rocks between Philæ and Assouan, at
El-Kaab, at Toora near Memphis, at Silsilis, and at Sarabit-el-Khadim in
the Sinaitic peninsula. He was, as M. Lenormant remarks, "un prince
essentiellement batisseur." The scale and number of his works are such
as to indicate unremitting attention to sculpture and building during
the entire duration of his long reign of thirty-six years.

On the other hand, as a general he gained little distinction. He
maintained, indeed, the dominion over Syria and Western Mesopotamia,
which had been established by Thothmes III., and his cartouche has been
found at Arban on the Khabour; but there is no appearance of his having
made any additional conquests in this quarter. The subjected peoples
brought their tribute regularly, and the neighbouring nations, whether
Hittites, Assyrians, or Babylonians, gave him no trouble. The dominion
of Egypt over Western Asia had become "an accomplished fact," and was
generally recognized by the old native kingdoms. It did not extend,
however, beyond Taurus and Niphates towards the north, or beyond the
Khabour eastward or southward, but remained fixed within the limits
which it had attained under the Third Thothmes.

The only quarter in which Amenhotep warred was towards Ethiopia. He
conducted in person several expeditions up the valley of the Nile,
against the negro tribes of the Soudan. But these attacks were not so
much wars as raids, or razzias. They were not made with the object of
advancing the Egyptian frontier, or even of extending Egyptian
influence, but partly for the glorification of the monarch, who thus
obtained at a cheap rate the credit of military successes, and
partly--probably mainly--for the material gain which resulted from them
through the capture of highly valuable slaves. The black races have
always been especially sought for this purpose, and were in great demand
in the Egyptian slave-market: ladies of rank were pleased to have for
their attendants negro boys, whom they dressed in a fanciful manner; and
the court probably indulged in a similar taste. Amenhotep's aim was
certainly rather to capture than to kill. In one of his most successful
raids the slain were only three hundred and twelve, while the captives
consisted of two hundred and five men, two hundred and fifty women, and
two hundred and eighty-five children, or a total of seven hundred and
forty; and the proportion in the others was similar. The trade of slave
hunting was so lucrative that even a Great King could not resist the
temptation of having a share in its profits.

When Amenhotep was not engaged in hunting men his favourite recreation
was to indulge in the chase of the lion. On one of his scarabæi he
states that between his first and his tenth year he slew with his own
hand one hundred and ten of these ferocious beasts. Later on in his
reign he presented to the priests who had the charge of the ancient
temple of Karnak a number of live lions, which he had probably caught in
traps. The lion was an emblem both of Horus and of Turn, and may, when
tamed, have been assigned a part in religious processions. It is
uncertain what was Amenhotep's hunting-ground; but the large number of
his victims makes it probable that the scene of his exploits was
Mesopotamia rather than any tract bordering on Egypt: since lions have
always been scarce animals in North-Eastern Africa, but abounded in
Mesopotamia even much later than the time of Amenhotep, and are "not
uncommon" there even at the present day. We may suppose that he had a
hunting pavilion at Arban, where one of his scarabs has been found, and
from that centre beat the reed-beds and jungles of the Khabour.

[Illustration: BUST OF AMENHOTEP III.]

In person, Amenhotep III. was not remarkable. His features were good,
except that his nose was somewhat too much rounded at the end; his
expression was pensive, but resolute; his forehead high, his upper lip
short, his chin a little too prominent. He left behind him a character
for affectionateness, kindliness, and generosity. Some historians have
reproached him with being too much under female influence; and certainly
in the earlier portion of his reign he deferred greatly to his mother,
Mutemua, and in the latter portion to his wife, Tii or Taia; but there
is no evidence that any evil result followed, or that these princesses
did not influence him for good. It is too much taken for granted by many
writers that female influence is corrupting. No doubt it is so in some
cases; but it should not be forgotten that there are women whom to have
known is "a liberal education." Mutemua and Tii may have been of the


[21] "Eastern Life," vol. i. pp. 84, 289.

[22] Kinglake, "Eothen," pp. 188, 189.

[23] Fergusson, "Handbook of Architecture," vol. i. p. 234.



On the death of Amenhotep III., his son, Amenhotep IV., mounted the
throne. Left by Amenhotep III to the guardianship of his mother, Tii,
who was of some entirely foreign race, he embraced a new form of
religion, which she appears to have introduced, and shocked the
Egyptians by substituting, so far as he found to be possible, this new
creed for the old polytheism of the country. The heresy of Amenhotep IV
has been called "Disk-worship;" and he, and the next two or three kings,
are known in Egyptian history as "the Disk-worshippers." It is difficult
to discover what exactly was the belief professed. Externally, it
consisted, primarily, in a marked preference of a single one of the
Egyptian gods over all the others, and a certain hatred or contempt for
the great bulk of the deities composing the old Pantheon. Thus far it
resembled the religion which Apepi, the last "Shepherd King," had
endeavoured to introduce; but the new differed from the old reformation
in the matter of the god selected for special honour. Apepi had sought
to turn the Egyptians away from all other worships except the worship of
Set; Amenhotep desired their universal adhesion to the worship of Aten.
Aten, in Egyptian theology, had hitherto represented a particular aspect
or character of Ra, "the sun"--that aspect which is expressed by the
phrase, "the solar disk." How it was possible to keep Aten distinct from
the other sun-gods, Ra, Khepra, Turn, Shu, Mentu, Osiris, and Horus or
Harmachis, is a puzzle to moderns; but it seems to have been a
difficulty practically overcome by the Egyptians, to whom it did not
perhaps even present itself as a difficulty at all. Disk-worship
consisted then, primarily, in an undue exaltation of this god, who was
made to take the place of Ammon-Ra in the Pantheon, and was ordinarily
represented by a circle with rays proceeding from it, the rays mostly
terminating in hands, which frequently presented the symbols of life and
health and strength to the worshipper.

What was the inward essence of the religion? Was it simple
sun-worship--the adoration of the visible material sun--considered as
the ruling and vivifying power in the universe, whence heat and light,
and so life, proceeded? Of all the forms of nature worship this was the
most natural, and in the old world it was widely spread. Men adored the
orb of day as the grandest object which nature presented to them, as the
great quickener of all things upon the earth, the cause of germination
and growth, of fruitage and harvest, the dispenser to man of ten
thousand blessings, the sustainer of his life and health and happiness.
With some the worship was purely and wholly material--the sun was viewed
as a huge mass of fiery matter, uninformed by any animate life,
unintelligent, impersonal; but with others, sun-worship was something
higher than this: the orb of day was regarded as informed by a good,
wise, bright, beneficent Spirit, which lived in it, and worked through
it, and was the true benefactor of mankind and sustainer of life and of
the universe. Sun-worship of this latter kind was no mean form of
natural religion. If not purged from the debasing element of
materialism, if not incompatible with a certain kind of polytheism, it
is yet consistent with the firmest belief in the absolute supremacy of
one God over all others, with the conception of that God as all-wise,
all-powerful, pure, holy, kind, loving, and with the entire devotion of
the worshipper to Him exclusively. And this latter form of sun-worship
was, quite conceivably, the religion of the "Disk worshippers." "Aten"
is probably the same as "Adon," the root of Adonis and Adonai, and has
the signification of "Lord"--a term implying personality, and when used
specially of one Being, implying absolute mastery and lordship, an
exclusive right to worship, homage, and devotion. It is not unlikely
that the "Disk-worshippers" were drawn on towards their monotheistic
creed by the presence in Egypt at the time of a large monotheistic
population, the descendants of Joseph and his brethren, who by this time
had multiplied greatly, and must have attracted attention, from their
numbers and from the peculiarity of their tenets. A historian of Egypt
remarks that "curious parallels might be drawn between the external
forms of the worship of the Israelites in the desert and those set up by
the Disk-worshippers at Tel-el-Amarna; portions of the sacred furniture,
as the 'table of shewbread,' described in the Book of Exodus as placed
within the Tabernacle, are repeated among the objects belonging to the
worship of Aten, and do not occur among the representations of any other
epoch." He further notes that the commencement of the persecution of the
Israelites in Egypt coincides nearly with the downfall of the
"Disk-worshippers" and the return of the Egyptians to their old creed,
as if the captive race had been involved in the discredit and the odium
which attached to Amenhotep and his immediate successors on account of
their religious reformation.


The aversion of the "Disk-worshippers" to the old Egyptian religion was
shown (1) in the change of his own name which the new monarch made soon
after his accession, from Amenhotep to Khu-en-Aten, whereby he cleared
himself from any connection with the old discarded head of the Pantheon,
and associated himself with the new supreme god, Aten; (2) in the
obliteration of the name of Ammon from monuments; and (3) in the removal
of the seat of government from the site polluted by Ammon-worship and
polytheism to a new site at Tel-el-Amarna, where Aten alone was
worshipped and alone represented in the temples. The enmity, however,
was not indiscriminate. Amenhotep took for one of his titles the
epithet, "Mi-Harmakhu," or "beloved by Harmachis," probably because he
could look on Harmachis, a purely sun-god, as a form of Aten; and to
this god he erected an obelisk at Silsilis. His monumental war upon the
old religion seems also not to have been general, but narrowly
circumscribed, being, in fact, confined to the erasure of Ammon's name,
especially at Thebes, and the mutilation of his form in a few instances;
but there does not appear to have been any such general iconoclasm
practised by the "Disk-worshippers" as by the "Shepherd Kings," or any
such absolute requirement that "one god alone should be worshipped in
all the land" as was put forth by Apepi. The "Disk-worshippers" did not
so much attempt to change the religion of Egypt as to establish for
themselves a peculiar court-religion of a pure and elevated character.

It has been remarked above that the motive power which brought about
the religious revolution is probably to be found in the powerful
influence and the peculiar views of the queen mother, Tii or Taia. This
princess was of foreign origin; her complexion was fair, her eyes blue,
her hair flaxen, her cheeks rosy; she probably brought her
"disk-worship" with her from her own country, whether it were Syria, or
Arabia, or any other. Already in the lifetime of her husband, Amenhotep
III., she had prevailed on him, as his wives prevailed on Solomon (i
Kings xi. 4-8), to allow her the free exercise of her own religion, and
to provide her with the means of carrying it on with all proper pomp and
ceremony. At her instance, Amenhotep III. constructed a great lake or
basin, more than a mile long and a thousand feet broad, to be made use
of for religious purposes on the queen's special festival day. It was
proper on that festival day that "the barge of the most beautiful Disk"
should perform a voyage on a sheet of water in the presence of his
worshippers--a voyage probably representing the course of the sun
through the heavens during the year. There is evidence that this
festival was kept on the sixteenth day of the month Athor, in the
eleventh year of Amenhotep III., and that the king himself took part in

So far, Queen Taia succeeded in introducing her religion into Egypt
while her husband was alive. At his death she found herself regent for
her son, or, at any rate, associated with him upon the throne, and saw
that a fresh opportunity for pushing her religious views offered itself.
Amenhotep IV. was of a most extraordinary _physique_ and physiognomy.
His appearance was rather that of a woman than of a man; he had a
slanting forehead, a long aquiline nose, a flexible projecting mouth,
and a strongly developed chin. His neck, which is represented as most
unusually long, seems scarcely equal to the support of his head; and his
spindle shanks seem ill adapted to sustain the weight of his
over-corpulent frame. He readily yielded himself to his mother's
influence, and completed her work in the manner which has been already
described. As Thebes opposed itself to his reforms, he deserted it,
withdrew his court to Tel-el-Amarna, and there raised the temples,
palaces, and other monuments, in a "very advanced" style of art, which
may be seen at the present day.


Amenhotep also introduced certain changes into the court ceremonial. He
surrounded himself with officials of foreign race, probably kinsmen of
his mother, and required from them an open display of submission and
servility which Egyptian courts had not witnessed previously. An abject
prostration was enforced on all, while the king posed before his
courtiers as a benevolent god, who showered down his gifts upon them
from a superior sphere, since his greatness did not permit a closer
contact. He was himself the "Light of the Solar Disk," an _apaugasma_,
or "Light proceeding from Light;" it behoved him to imitate the Sun-god,
and perpetually bestow his gifts on men, but it behoved them to veil
their faces from his radiance and receive his bounty prostrate in the
dust beneath him.

The peculiar views of Khuen-Aten, or Amenhotep IV., were maintained by
the two or three succeeding kings, who had short and disturbed reigns.
After them there arose a king called Horus, or Har-em-hebi, who utterly
swept away the "Disk-worshippers," ruined their new city, obliterated
their names, mutilated their monuments, and restored the ancient
religion of the Egyptians to its former place as the religion, not only
of the people, but of the court. Henceforth, what was called "heresy"
ceased to show itself in the land.



The internal troubles connected with the "Disk-worship" had for about
forty years distracted the attention of the Egyptians from their Asiatic
possessions; and this circumstance had favoured the development of a
highly important power in Western Asia. The Hittites, whose motto was
"reculer pour mieux sauter," having withdrawn themselves from Syria
during the time of the Egyptian attacks, retaining, perhaps, their hold
on Carchemish (Jerabus), but not seeking to extend themselves further
southward, took heart of grace when the Egyptian expeditions ceased, and
descending from their mountain fastnesses to the Syrian plains and
vales, rapidly established their dominion over the regions recently
conquered by Thothmes I. and Thothmes III. Without absorbing the old
native races, they reduced them under their sway, and reigned as lords
paramount over the entire region between the Middle Euphrates and the
Mediterranean, the Taurus range and the borders of Egypt. The chief of
the subject races were the Kharu, in the tract bordering upon Egypt; the
Rutennu, in Central and Northern Palestine; and in Southern Cœlesyria,
the Amairu or Amorites. The Hittites themselves occupied the lower
Cœlesyrian valley, and the tract reaching thence to the Euphrates. They
were at this period so far centralized into a nation as to have placed
themselves under a single monarch; and about the time when Egypt had
recovered from the troubles caused by the "Disk-worshippers," and was
again at liberty to look abroad, Saplal, Grand-Duke of Khita, a great
and puissant sovereign, sat upon the Hittite throne.

Saplal's power, and his threatening attitude on the north-eastern border
of Egypt, drew upon him the jealousy of Ramesses I., father of the great
Seti, and (according to the prevalent tradition) founder of the
"nineteenth dynasty." To defend oneself it is often best to attack, and
Ramesses, taking this view, in his first or second year plunged into the
enemy's dominions. He had the plea that Palestine and Syria, and even
Western Mesopotamia, belonged of right to Egypt, which had conquered
them by a long series of victories, and had never lost them by any
defeat or disaster. His invasion was a challenge to Saplal either to
fight for his ill-gotten gains, or to give them up. The Hittite king
accepted the challenge, and a short struggle followed with an indecisive
result. At its close peace was made, and a formal treaty of alliance
drawn out. Its terms are unknown; but it was probably engraved on a
silver plate in the languages of the two powers--the Egyptian
hieroglyphics, and the now well-known Hittite picture-writing--and set
up in duplicate at Carchemish and Thebes.

A brief pause followed the conclusion of the first act of the drama. On
the opening of the second act we find the _dramatis personæ_ changed.
Saplal and Ramesses have alike descended into the grave, and their
thrones are occupied respectively by the son of the one and the grandson
of the other. In Egypt, Seti-Menephthah I., the Sethos of Manetho, has
succeeded his father, Ramesses I.; in the Hittite kingdom, Saplal has
left his sceptre to his grandson Mautenar, the son of Marasar, who had
probably died before his father. Two young and inexperienced princes
confront one the other in the two neighbour lands, each distrustful of
his rival, each covetous of glory, each hopeful of success if war should
break out. True, by treaty the two kings were friends and allies--by
treaty the two nations were bound to abstain from all aggression by the
one upon the other: but such bonds are like the "green withes" that
bound Samson, when the desire to burst them seizes those upon whom they
have been placed. Seti and Mautenar were at war before the latter had
been on the throne a year, and their swords were at one another's
throats. Seti was, apparently, the aggressor. We find him at the head of
a large army in the heart of Syria before we could have supposed that he
had had time to settle himself comfortably in his father's seat.

Mautenar was taken unawares. He had not expected so prompt an attack. He
had perhaps been weak enough to count on his adversary's good faith, or,
at any rate on his regard for appearances. But Seti, as a god upon
earth, could of course do no wrong, and did not allow himself to be
trammelled by the moral laws that were binding upon ordinary mortals.
He boldly rushed into war at the first possible moment, crossed the
frontier, and having chastised the Shasu, who had recently made an
invasion of his territory, fell upon the Kharu, or Southern Syrians, and
gave them a severe defeat near Jamnia in the Philistine country. He then
pressed forward into the country of the Rutennu, overcame them in
several pitched battles, and, assisted by a son who fought constantly at
his side, slaughtered them almost to extermination. His victorious
progress brought him, after a time, to the vicinity of Kadesh, the
important city on the Orontes which, a century earlier, had been
besieged and taken by the Great Thothmes. Kadesh was at this time in
possession of the Amorites, who were tributary to the Khita (Hittites)
and held the great city as their subject allies. Seti, having carefully
concealed his advance, came upon the stronghold suddenly, and took its
defenders by surprise. Outside the city peaceful herdsmen were pasturing
their cattle under the shade of the trees, when they were startled by
the appearance of the Egyptian monarch, mounted on his war-chariot drawn
by two prancing steeds. At once all was confusion: every one sought to
save himself; the herds with their keepers fled in wild panic, while the
Egyptians plied them with their arrows. But the garrison of the town
resisted bravely: a portion sallied from the gates and met Seti in the
open field, but were defeated with great slaughter; the others defended
themselves behind the walls. But all was in vain. The disciplined troops
of Egypt stormed the key of Northern Syria, and the whole Orontes valley
lay open to the conqueror.

Hitherto the Hittites had not been engaged in the struggle. Attacked at
a disadvantage, unprepared, they had left their subject allies to make
such resistance as they might find possible, and had reserved themselves
for the defence of their own country. Mautenar had, no doubt, made the
best preparations of which circumstances admitted--he had organized his
forces in three bodies, "on foot, on horseback, and in chariots." At the
head of them, he gave battle to the invaders so soon as they attacked
him in his own proper country, and a desperate fight followed, in which
the Egyptians, however, prevailed at last. The Hittites received a
"great overthrow." The song of triumph composed for Seti on the occasion
declared: "Pharaoh is a jackal which rushes leaping through the Hittite
land; he is a grim lion exploring the hidden ways of all regions; he is
a powerful bull with a pair of sharpened horns. He has struck down the
Asiatics; he has thrown to the ground the Khita; he has slain their
princes; he has overwhelmed them in their own blood; he has passed among
them as a flame of fire; he has brought them to nought."

The victory thus gained was followed by a treaty of peace. Mautenar and
Seti agreed to be henceforth friends and allies, Southern Syria being
restored to Egypt, and Northern Syria remaining under the dominion of
the Hittites, probably as far as the sources of the Orontes river. A
line of communication must, however, have been left open between Egypt
and Mesopotamia, for Seti still exercised authority over the Naïri, and
received tribute from their chiefs. He was also, by the terms of the
treaty, at liberty to make war on the nations of the Upper Syrian
coast, for we find him reducing the Tahai, who bordered on Cilicia,
without any disturbance of his relations with Mautenar. The second act
in the war between the Egyptians and the Hittites thus terminated with
an advantage to the Egyptians, who recovered most of their Asiatic
possessions, and had, besides, the prestige of a great victory.

The third act was deferred for a space of some thirty-five years, and
fell into the reign of Ramesses II., Seti's son and successor. Before
giving an account of it, we must briefly touch the other wars of Seti,
to show how great a warrior he was, and mention one further fact in his
warlike policy indicative of the commencement of Egypt's decline as a
military power. Seti, then, had no sooner concluded his peace with the
great power of the North, than he turned his arms against the West and
South, invading, first of all, "the blue-eyed, fair-skinned nation of
the Tahennu," who inhabited the North African coast from the borders of
Egypt to about Cyrene, and engaging in a sharp contest with them. The
Tahennu were a wild, uncivilized people, dwelling in caves, and having
no other arms besides bows and arrows. For dress they wore a long cloak
or tunic, open in front; and they are distinguished on the Egyptian
monuments by wearing two ostrich feathers and having all their hair
shaved excepting one large lock, which is plaited and hangs down on the
right side of the head. This unfortunate people could make only a poor
resistance to the Egyptian trained infantry and powerful chariot force.
They were completely defeated in a pitched battle; numbers of the
chiefs were made prisoners, while the people generally fled to their
caves, where they remained hidden, "like jackals, through fear of the
king's majesty." Seti, having struck terror into their hearts, passed on
towards the south, and fiercely chastised the Cushites on the Upper
Nile, who during the war with the Hittites had given trouble, and showed
themselves inclined to shake off the Egyptian yoke. Here again he was
successful; the negroes and Cushites submitted after a short struggle;
and the Great King returned to his capital victorious on all sides--"on
the south to the arms of the Winds, and on the north to the Great Sea."

Seti was not dazzled with his military successes. Notwithstanding his
triumphs in Syria, he recognized the fact that Egypt had much to fear
from her Asiatic neighbours, and could not hope to maintain for long her
aggressive attitude in that quarter. Without withdrawing from any of the
conquered countries, while still claiming their obedience and enforcing
the payment of their tributes, he began to made preparation for the
changed circumstances which he anticipated by commencing the
construction of a long wall on his north-eastern frontier, as a security
against invasion from Asia. This wall began at Pelusium, and was carried
across the isthmus in a south-westerly direction by Migdol to Pithom, or
Heroopolis, where the long line of lagoons began, which were connected
with the upper end of the Red Sea. It recalls to the mind of the
historical student the many ramparts raised by nations, in their
decline, against aggressive foes--as the Great Wall of China, built to
keep off the Tartars; the Roman wall between the Rhine and Danube,
intended to restrain the advance of the German tribes; and the three
Roman ramparts in Great Britain, built to protect the Roman province
from its savage northern neighbours. Walls of this kind are always signs
of weakness; and when Seti began, and Ramesses II. completed, the
rampart of Egypt, it was a confession that the palmy days of the empire
were past, and that henceforth she must look forward to having to stand,
in the main, on the defensive.

Before acquiescing wholly in this conclusion, Ramesses II., who, after
reigning conjointly with his father for several years, was now sole
king, resolved on a desperate and prolonged effort to re-assert for
Egypt that dominant position in Western Asia which she had held and
obtained under the third Thothmes. Mautenar, the adversary of Seti,
appears to have died, and his place to have been taken by his brother,
Khita-sir, a brave and enterprizing monarch. Khita-sir, despite the
terms of alliance on which the Hittites stood with Egypt, had commenced
a series of intrigues with the nations bordering on Upper Syria, and
formed a confederacy which had for its object to resist the further
progress of the Egyptians, and, if possible, to drive them from Asia.
This confederacy embraced the Naïri, or people of Western Mesopotamia,
reckoned by the Egyptians among their subjects; the Airatu or people of
Aradus; the Masu or inhabitants of the Mous Masius; the Leka, perhaps
Lycians; the inhabitants of Carchemish, of Kadesh on the Orontes, of
Aleppo, Anaukasa, Akarita, &c.--all warlike races, and accustomed to the
use of chariots. Khitasir's proceedings, having become known to
Ramesses, afforded ample grounds for a rupture, and quite justified him
in pouring his troops into Syria, and doing his best to meet and
overcome the danger which threatened him. Unaware at what point his
enemy would elect to meet him, he marched forward cautiously, having
arranged his troops in four divisions, which might mutually support each
other. Entering the Cœlesyrian valley from the south, he had proceeded
as far as the lake of Hems, and neighbourhood of Kadesh, before he
received any tidings of the position taken up by the confederate army.
There his troops captured two of the enemy's scouts, and on questioning
them were told that the Hittite army had been at Kadesh, but had retired
on learning the Egyptian's advance and taken up a position near Aleppo,
distant nearly a hundred miles to the north-east. Had Ramesses believed
the scouts, and marched forward carelessly, he would have fallen into a
trap, and probably suffered defeat; for the whole confederate army was
massed just beyond the lake, and there lay concealed by the embankment
which blocks the lake at its lower end. But the Egyptian king was too
wary for his adversary. He ordered the scouts to be examined by
scourging, to see if they would persist in their tale, whereupon they
broke down and revealed the true position of the army. The battle had
thus the character of a regular pitched engagement, without surprise or
other accident on either side. Khitasir, finding himself foiled, quitted
his ambush, and marched openly against the Egyptians, with his troops
marshalled in exact and orderly array, the Hittite chariots in front
with their lines carefully dressed, and the auxiliaries and irregulars
on the flanks and rear. Of the four divisions of the Egyptian army, one
seems to have been absent, probably acting as a rear-guard; Ramesses,
with one, marched down the left bank of the stream, while the two
remaining divisions proceeded along the right bank, a slight interval
separating them. Khitasir commenced the fight by a flank movement to the
left, which brought him into collision with the extreme Egyptian right,
"the brigade of Ra," as it was called, and enabled him to engage that
division separately. His assault was irresistible. "Foot and horse of
King Ramesses," we are told, "gave way before him," the "brigade of Ra"
was utterly routed, and either cut to pieces or driven from the field.
Ramesses, informed of this disaster, endeavoured to cross the river to
the assistance of his beaten troops; but, before he could effect his
purpose, the enemy had anticipated him, had charged through the Orontes
in two lines, and was upon him. The adverse hosts met. The chariot of
Ramesses, skilfully guided by his squire, Menna, seems to have broken
through the front line of the Hittite chariot force; but his brethren in
arms were less fortunate, and Ramesses found himself separated from his
army, behind the front line and confronted by the second line of the
hostile chariots, in a position of the greatest possible danger. Then
began that Homeric combat, which the Egyptians were never tired of
celebrating, between a single warrior on the one hand, and the host of
the Hittites, reckoned at two thousand five hundred chariots, on the
other, in which Ramesses, like Diomed or Achilles, carried death and
destruction whithersoever he turned himself. "I became like the god
Mentu," he is made to say; "I hurled the dart with my right hand, I
fought with my left hand; I was like Baal in his fury against them. I
had come upon two thousand five hundred pairs of horses; I was in the
midst of them; but they were dashed in pieces before my steeds. Not one
of them raised his hand to fight; their heart shrank within them; their
limbs gave way, they could not hurl the dart, nor had they strength to
thrust with the spear. As crocodiles fall into the water, so I made them
fall; they tumbled headlong one over another. I killed them at my
pleasure, so that not one of them looked back behind him, nor did any
turn round. Each fell, and none raised himself up again."

The temporary isolation of the monarch, which is the main point of the
heroic poem of Pentaour, and which Ramesses himself recorded over and
over again upon the walls of his magnificent constructions, must no
doubt be regarded as a fact; but it is not likely to have continued for
more than a few minutes. The minutes may have seemed as hours to the
king; and there may have been time for him to perform several exploits.
But we may be sure that, when his companions found that he was lost to
their sight, they at once made frantic efforts to recover him, dead or
alive; they forced openings in the first Hittite chariot line, and sped
to the rescue of their sovereign. He had, perhaps, already emptied many
chariots of the second line, which was paralysed by his audacity; and
his companions found it easy to complete the work which he had begun.
The broken second line turned and fled; the confusion became general; a
headlong flight carried the entire host to the banks of the Orontes,
into which some precipitated themselves, while others were forced into
the water by their pursuers. The king of Khirabu (Aleppo) was among
these, and was with great difficulty drawn out by his friends, exhausted
and half dead, when he reached the eastern shore. But the great bulk of
the Hittite army perished, either in the battle or in the river. Among
the killed and wounded were Grabatasa, the charioteer of Khitasir;
Tarakennas, the commander of the cavalry; Rabsuna, another general;
Khirapusar, a royal secretary; and Matsurama, a brother of the Hittite

On the next day the battle was renewed; but, after a short time,
Khitasir retired, and sent a humble embassy to the camp of his adversary
to implore for peace. Ramesses held a council of war with his generals,
and by their advice agreed to accept the submission made to him, and,
without entering into any formal engagement, to withdraw his army and
return to Egypt. It seems probable that his victory had cost him dear,
and that he was not in a condition to venture further from his
resources, or to affront new dangers in a difficult, and to him unknown,

Experience tells us that it is one thing to gain a battle, quite another
to be successful in the result of a long war. Whatever glory Ramesses
obtained by the battle of Kadesh, and the other victories which he
claims to have won in the Syrian campaigns of several succeeding years,
it is certain that he completely failed to break the power of the
Hittites, and that he was led in course of time to confess his failure,
and to adopt a policy of conciliation towards the people which he found
himself unable to subdue. Sixteen years after the battle of Kadesh he
concluded a solemn treaty with Khitasir, which was engraved on silver
and placed under the most sacred sanctions, whereby an exact equality
was established between the high contracting powers. Each nation bound
itself under no circumstances to attack the other; each promised to give
aid to the other, if requested, in case of its ally being attacked; each
pledged itself to the extradition both of criminals flying from justice
and of any other subjects wishing to change their allegiance; each
stipulated for an amnesty of offences in the case of all persons thus
surrendered. Thirteen years after the conclusion of the treaty the close
alliance between the two powers was further cemented by a marriage,
which, by giving the two dynasties common interests, greatly
strengthened the previously existing bond. Ramesses requested and
received in marriage a daughter of Khitasir in the thirty-fourth year of
his sole reign, when he had borne the royal title for forty-six years.
He thus became the son-in-law of his former adversary, whose daughter
was thenceforth recognized as his sole legitimate queen.

A considerable change in the relations of Egypt to her still remaining
Asiatic dependencies accompanied this alteration in the footing upon
which she stood with the Hittites. "The bonds of their subjection
became much less strict than they had been under Thothmes III.;
prudential motives constrained the Egyptians to be content with very
much less--with such acknowledgments, in fact, as satisfied their
vanity, rather than with the exercise of any real power." From and after
the conclusion of peace and alliance between Ramesses and Khitasir,
Egyptian influence in Asia grew vague, shadowy, and discontinuous. At
long intervals monarchs of more enterprize than the ordinary run
asserted it, and a brief success generally crowned their efforts; but,
speaking broadly, we may say that her Asiatic dominion was lost, and
that Egypt became once more an African power, confined within nearly her
ancient limits.

If, from a military point of view, the decline of Egypt is to be dated
from the reigns, partly joint reigns, of Seti I. and Ramesses II., from
the stand-point of art the period must be pronounced the very apogee of
Egyptian greatness. The architectural works of these two monarchs
transcend most decidedly all those of all other Pharaohs, either earlier
or later. No single work, indeed, of either king equals _in mass_ either
the First or the Second Pyramid; but in number, in variety, in beauty,
in all that constitutes artistic excellence, the constructions of Seti
and Ramesses are unequalled, not only among Egyptian monuments, but
among those of all other nations. Greece is, of course, unapproachable
in the matter of sculpture, whether in the way of statuary, or of high
or low relief; but, apart from this, Egypt in her architectural works
will challenge comparison with any country that ever existed, or any
people that ever gave itself to the embodiment of artistic conceptions
in stone or marble. And Egyptian architecture culminated under Seti and
his son Ramesses. The greatest of all Seti's works was his pillared hall
at Karnak, the most splendid single chamber that has ever been built by
any architect, and, even in its ruins, one of the grandest sights that
the world contains. Seti's hall is three hundred and thirty feet long,
by one hundred and seventy feet broad, having thus an internal area of
fifty-six thousand square feet, and covers, together with its walls and
pylons, an area of eighty-eight thousand such feet, or a larger space
than that covered by the Dom of Cologne, the largest of all the
cathedrals north of the Alps. It was supported by one hundred and
sixty-four massive stone columns, which were divided into three
groups--twelve central ones, each sixty-six feet high and thirty-three
feet in circumference, formed the main avenue down its midst; while on
either side, two groups of sixty-one columns, each forty-two feet high
and twenty-seven round, supported the huge wings of the chamber,
arranged in seven rows of seven each, and two rows of six. The whole was
roofed over with solid blocks of stone, the lighting being, as in the
far smaller hall of Thothmes III., by means of a clerestory. The roof
and pillars and walls were everywhere covered with painted bas-reliefs
and hieroglyphics, giving great richness of effect, and constituting the
whole building the most magnificent on which the eye of man has ever
rested. Fergusson, the best modern authority on architecture, says of
it: "No language can convey an idea of its beauty, and no artist has yet
been able to reproduce its form so as to convey to those who have not
seen it an idea of its grandeur. The mass of its central piers,
illumined by a flood of light from the clerestory, and the smaller
pillars of the wings gradually fading into obscurity, are so arranged
and lighted as to convey an idea of infinite space; at the same time the
beauty and massiveness of the forms, and the brilliancy of their
coloured decorations, all combine to stamp this as _the greatest of
man's architectural works_, but such a one as it would be impossible to
reproduce, except in such a climate, and in that individual style, in
which and for which it was created."[24]

As Seti constructed the most wonderful of all the palatial buildings
which Egypt produced, so he also constructed what is, on the whole, the
most wonderful of the tombs. The pyramids impose upon us by their
enormity, and astonish by the engineering skill shown in their
execution; but they embody a single simple idea; they have no
complication of parts, no elaboration of ornament; they are taken in at
a glance; they do not gradually unfold themselves, or furnish a
succession of surprises. But it is otherwise with the rock-tombs,
whereof Seti's is the most magnificent The rock-tombs are "gorgeous
palaces, hewn out of the rock, and painted with all the decorations that
could have been seen in palaces." They contain a succession of passages,
chambers, corridors, staircases, and pillared halls, each further
removed from the entrance than the last, and all covered with an
infinite variety of the most finished and brilliant paintings. The tomb
of Seti contains three pillared halls, respectively twenty-seven feet
by twenty-five, twenty-eight feet by twenty-seven, and forty-three feet
by seventeen and a half; a large saloon with an arched roof, thirty feet
by twenty-seven; six smaller chambers of different sizes; three
staircases, and two long corridors. The whole series of apartments, from
end to end of the tomb, is continuously ornamented with painted
bas-reliefs. "The idea is that of conducting the king to the world of
death. The further you advance into the tomb, the deeper you become
involved in endless processions of jackal-headed gods, and monstrous
forms of genii, good and evil; and the goddess of Justice, with her
single ostrich feather; and barges carrying mummies, raised aloft over
the sacred lake; and mummies themselves; and, more than all, everlasting
convolutions of serpents in every possible form and
attitude--human-legged, human-headed, crowned, entwining mummies,
enwreathing or embraced by processions, extending down whole galleries,
so that meeting the head of a serpent at the top of a staircase, you
have to descend to its very end before you reach his tail. At last you
arrive at the close of all--the vaulted hall, in the centre of which
lies the immense alabaster sarcophagus, which ought to contain the body
of the king. Here the processions, above, below, and around, reach their
highest pitch--meandering round and round--white, and black, and red,
and blue--legs and arms and wings spreading in enormous forms over the
ceilings; and below lies the sarcophagus itself."[25]

The greatest of the works of Ramesses are of a different description,
and are indicative of that inordinate vanity which is the leading
feature of his character. They are colossal images of himself. Four of
these, each seventy feet in height, form the façade of the marvellous
rock-temple of Ipsambul--"the finest of its class known to exist
anywhere"--and constitute one of the most impressive sights which the
world has to offer. There stands the Great King, four times repeated,
silent, majestic, superhuman--with features marked by profound repose
and tranquillity, touched perhaps with a little scorn, looking out
eternally on the grey-white Nubian waste, which stretches far away to a
dim and distant horizon. Here, as you sit on the deep pure sand, you
seem to see the monarch, who did so much, who reigned so long, who
covered, not only Egypt, but Nubia and Ethiopia with his memorials. "You
can look at his features inch by inch, see them not only magnified to
tenfold their original size, so that ear and mouth and nose, and every
link of his collar, and every line of his skin, sinks into you with the
weight of a mountain; but those features are repeated exactly the same
three times over--four times they once were, but the upper part of the
fourth statue is gone. Look at them as they emerge--the two northern
figures--from the sand which reaches up to their throats; the
southernmost, as he sits unbroken, and revealed from the top of his
royal helmet to the toe of his enormous foot"[26] Look at them, and
remember that you have here portrait-statues of one of the greatest of
the kings of the Old World, of the world that was "old" when Greece and
Rome were either unborn or in their swaddling clothes; portrait-statues,
moreover, of the king who, if either tradition or chronology can be
depended on, was the actual great oppressor of Israel--the king who
sought the life of Moses--the king from whom Moses fled, and until whose
death he did not dare to return out of the land of Midian.

According to the almost unanimous voice of those most conversant with
Egyptian antiquities, the "great oppressor" of the Hebrews was this
Ramesses. Seti may have been the originator of the scheme for crushing
them by hard usage, but, as the oppression lasted close upon eighty
years (Ex. ii, I; vii. 7), it must have covered at least two reigns, so
that, if it began under Seti, it must have continued under his son and
successor. The bricks found at Tel-el-Maskoutah show Ramesses as the
main builder of Pithom (Pa-Tum), and the very name indicates that he was
the main builder of Raamses (Pa-Ramessu). We must thus ascribe to him,
at any rate, the great bulk of that severe and cruel affliction, which
provoked Moses (Ex. ii, 12), which made Israel "sigh" and "groan" (ib.
23, 24), and on which God looked down with compassion (ib. iii. 7). It
was he especially who "made their lives bitter in mortar, and in brick,
and in all manner of service in the field"--service which was "with
rigour." Ramesses was a builder on the most extensive scale. Without
producing any single edifice so perfect as the "Pillared Hall of Seti,"
he was indefatigable in his constructive efforts, and no Egyptian king
came up to him in this respect. The monuments show that he erected his
buildings chiefly by forced labour, and that those employed on them were
chiefly foreigners. Some have thought that the Hebrews are distinctly
mentioned as employed by him on his constructions under the term
"Aperu," or "Aperiu"; but this view is not generally accepted. Still,
"the name is so often used for foreign bondsmen engaged in the very work
of the Hebrews, and especially during the oppression, that it is hard
not to believe it to be a general term in which they are included,
though it does not actually describe them."[27]

[Illustration: HEAD OF SETI]

[Illustration: BUST OF RAMESSES II.]

The physiognomies of Seti I. and Ramesses II., as represented on the
sculptures,[28] offer a curious contrast Seti's face is thoroughly
African, strong, fierce, prognathous, with depressed nose, thick lips,
and a heavy chin. The face of Ramesses is Asiatic. He has a good
forehead, a large, well-formed, slightly aquiline nose, a well-shaped
mouth, with lips that are not too full, a small delicate chin, and an
eye that is thoughtful and pensive. We may conclude that Seti was of the
true Egyptian race, with perhaps an admixture of more southern blood;
while Ramesses, born of a Semitic mother, inherited through her Asiatic
characteristics, and, though possessing less energy and strength of
character than his father, had a more sensitive temperament, a wider
range of taste, and a greater inclination towards peace and
tranquillity. His important wars were all concluded within the limit of
his twenty-first year, while his entire reign was one of sixty-seven
years, during fifty of which he held the sole sovereignty. Though he
left the fame of a great warrior behind him, his chief and truest
triumphs seem to have been those of peace--the Great Wall for the
protection of Egypt towards the east, with its strong fortresses and
"store-cities," the canal which united the Nile with the Red Sea, and
the countless buildings, excavations, obelisks, colossal statues, and
other great works, with which he adorned Egypt from one end to the


[24] "History of Architecture," vol. i. pp. 119, 120.

[25] Adapted from Dean Stanley's "Sinai and Palestine," Introduction, p.

[26] Stanley, "Sinai and Palestine," p. xlvii.

[27] Stuart Poole, "Cities of Egypt," p. 105

[28] The mummy of Seti I. has been recently uncovered. It was in good
condition, and is said to have revealed a face very closely resembling
that of Ramesses II., with fine delicate features, and altogether of an
elevated type. "The nose, mouth, chin, in short all the features," says
M. Maspero, "are the same; but in the father they are more refined, more
intelligent, more spiritual, than when reproduced in the son. Seti I.
is, as it were, the idealized type of Ramesses II." (Letter of M.
Maspero in _The Times_ of July 23, 1886.) It may perhaps be doubted
whether the shrunken mummy, 3300 years old, is better evidence of the
living reality than the contemporary sculptures.



Menephthah, the thirteenth son and immediate successor of Ramesses II.,
came to the throne under circumstances which might at first sight have
seemed favourable. Egypt was on every side at peace with her neighbours.
The wail of Ramesses, and his treaty with the Hittites, cemented as it
had been by a marriage, secured the eastern frontier. No formidable
attack had ever yet fallen upon Egypt from the west or from the south,
and so no danger could well be apprehended from those quarters. Internal
tranquillity might not be altogether assured, so long as there was
within the limits of Egypt a large subject population, suffering
oppression and bitterly discontented with its lot. But this population
was quite unwarlike, and had hitherto passively submitted itself to the
will of its rulers, without giving any indication that it might become
actively hostile. Menephthah, who was perhaps not more than five and
twenty, may have been justified in looking forward to a long, quiet, and
uneventful reign, during which he might indulge the natural apathy of
his temper, or dream away life, like his fabled neighbours, the

Menephthah's features were soft and womanly. He had a full but sleepy
eye, a slightly aquiline nose an extremely short upper-lip, a broad
cheek, and a rounded chin. In character he was weak, irresolute, wanting
in physical courage, yet, as so often happens with weak characters,
harsh, oppressive, and treacherous. The monuments depict him as neither
a soldier nor an administrator, but as "one whose mind was turned almost
exclusively towards the chimeras of sorcery and magic," which he
regarded as of the utmost importance. Still, had the times been quiet,
had the prospect of tranquillity which seemed to lie before him on his
accession been realized, he might perhaps have so conducted affairs as
to bring neither discredit nor injury upon his country. But the
circumstances of the period were against him. The unclouded prospect of
his early years gave place, after a brief interval, to storm and tempest
of the most fearful kind; a terrible invasion carried fire and sword
into the heart of his dominions; and he had scarcely escaped this danger
by meeting it in a way not very honourable to himself, when internal
troubles broke out: a subject race, highly valued for services which it
was compelled to render, insisted on quitting the land; a great loss was
incurred in an attempt to compel it to remain; then open rebellion broke
out in the weakened state; and the reign, which had commenced under such
fair auspices, terminated in calamity and confusion. Menephthah was
quite incompetent to deal with the difficulties and complications
wherewith he found himself surrounded; he hesitated, temporized, made
concessions, retracted them, and finally conducted Egypt to a
catastrophe from which she did not recover for a generation.

[Illustration: HEAD OF MENEPHTHAH.]

The first great trouble which disturbed the tranquillity of his reign
was an invasion of his territories from the north-west. Hitherto, though
no serious danger had ever threatened from this quarter, there had been
frequent raids into Egypt on the part of the native Africans, and most
of the more warlike of the Egyptian monarchs had regarded it as
incumbent on them to lead from time to time expeditions into the region,
for the purpose of weakening the wild tribes, Tahennu, Maxyes, and
others, and inspiring them with a wholesome dread of the Egyptian power.
Ramesses II. had on one occasion warred in this quarter, as already
related, and had met with a certain amount of success. But since that
time many years had passed. A new generation had grown up, which the
Egyptians had allowed to remain unmolested, and which felt no fear of
its quiet, peaceful, and industrious neighbours. Population had probably
multiplied in the region, and the tribes began to feel stinted for room.
Above all, new relations had been contracted between the old inhabitants
of the tract and some other races, now for the first time heard of in
authentic history, who had been brought into contact with them. A league
of nations had become possible; and the force of the united league must
have been considerable. Might not an actual conquest be effected, and
the half-starved nomads of Marmarica and the Cyrenaica become the lords
and masters of the rich plain, so long coveted, which adjoined upon
their eastern frontier?

The leading spirit of the combination was a native African prince,
Marmaiu, the son of Deid. Having determined on a serious invasion of
Egypt, for the purpose of conquest, not of plunder, he first of all
collected his native forces, Lubu, Tahennu, Mashuash, Kahaka, to the
number of twenty-five or thirty thousand, and then purchased the
services of a number of auxiliaries, who raised his force probably to a
total of thirty-five or forty thousand men. A peculiar interest attaches
to these auxiliaries. They consisted of contingents from five nations,
whose names are read as Akausha, Luku, Tursha, Shartana or Shardana, and
Sheklusha, and whom most modern historians of Egypt identify with the
Achæans Laconians, Tyrsenians, Sardinians, and Sicilians. If these
identifications are accepted--- and they are at least plausible--we
shall have to suppose that, as early as the fourteenth century B.C., the
nations of Southern Europe were so far advanced as to launch fleets upon
the Mediterranean, to enter into a regular league with an African
prince, and in conjunction with him to make an attack on one of the
chief civilized monarchies of the world, the old kingdom of the
Pharaohs. We shall have to imagine the Achæans of the Peloponnese, a
century before the time of Agamemnon, braving the perils of the Levant
in their cockle-shells of ships, and not merely plundering the coasts,
but landing large bodies of men on the North African shore to take part
in a regular campaign. We shall have to picture to ourselves the
Laconians--the people of Menelaüs--about the time of his grandfather,
Atreus, or his great-grandfather, Pelops, similarly employed, and
contending with the Pharaoh of the Exodus on the soil of the Delta. Nay,
we shall have to antedate the rise of the Tyrsenians to naval greatness
by about seven hundred years, and to suppose that the Sicels and Sardi,
whom the Greeks and Romans found living the life of savages in Sicily
and Sardinia, when they first visited their shores, about B.C. 750-600,
were flourishing peoples and skilful navigators half a millennium
earlier. The picture which we thus obtain of the ancient world is very
surprising, and quite unlike anything that could be gathered from the
literature of the Greeks; but it is not to be regarded as beyond the
range of possibility, since nations are quite as apt to lapse from
civilization into barbarism as to emerge out of barbarism into
civilization. It is quite conceivable that the nations of South-Eastern
Europe were more advanced in civilization and the arts of life about
B.C. 1400-1300 than they are found to have been six centuries later, the
false dawn having been succeeded by a time of darkness before the true
dawn came.

However this may have been, it is certain that Menephthah, in the fifth
year of his reign, had to meet a formidable, and apparently unprovoked,
attack from a combination of nations, the like of which we do not again
meet with in Egyptian history, either earlier or later. Marmaiu, son of
Deid, led against him a confederate army, consisting of three principal
tribes of the Tahennu--- the Lubu (Libyans), the Mashuash (Maxyes), and
the Kahaka--together with auxiliaries from five other tribes or peoples,
the Akausha, the Luku, the Tursha, the Shartana, and the Sheklusha. The
entire number of the army, as already stated, was probably not less than
forty thousand; they had numerous chariots, and were armed with bows and
arrows, cuirasses, and bronze or copper swords. They had skin tents, and
brought with them their wives and children, with the intention of
settling in Egypt, as the Hyksôs had done five hundred years earlier.
They had also with them a considerable number of cattle, as bulls, oxen,
and goats. The chiefs came provided with thrones, and both they and
their officers had numerous drinking vessels of bronze, of silver, and
of gold.

The attack was made on the western side of Egypt, towards the apex of
the Delta. It was at first completely successful. The small frontier
towns were taken by assault, and "turned Into heaps of rubbish;" the
Delta was entered upon, and a position taken up In the nome of
Paari-sheps, or Prosopis, which lay between the Canobic and Sebennytic
branches of the Nile, commencing at the point of their separation. From
this position Memphis and Heliopolis were alike menaced. Menephthah
hastily fortified these cities, or rather, we must suppose, strengthened
their existing defences. Meanwhile the Libyans and their allies ravaged
the open country. "The like had not been seen," as the native scribe
observes, "even in the times of the kings of Lower Egypt, when the
plague (_i.e._ the Hyksôs power) was in the land, and the kings of Upper
Egypt were unable to drive it out." Egypt was desolated; its people
"trembled like geese;" the fertile lands were overrun and wasted; the
cities were pillaged; even the harbours were in some cases ruined and
destroyed. Menephthah for a time remained on the defensive, shut up
within the walls of Memphis, whose god Phthah he viewed as his special
protector. He made, however, strenuous efforts to gather together a
powerful force; his captains collected the native troops from the
various provinces of Egypt, while he sent a number of emissaries Into
Asia, who were instructed to raise a large body of mercenaries in that
quarter. At last all was ready, and Menephthah appointed the fourteenth
day as that on which he would place himself at the head of his army and
lead them in person against the enemy; but, before the day came, his
courage failed him. He "saw in a dream"--at least so he himself
declares--"as it were a figure of the god Phthah, standing so as to
prevent his advance;" and the figure said to him, "Stay where thou art,
and let thy troops proceed against the enemy." So the pious king, in
obedience to this convenient vision, remained secure behind the walls of
Memphis, and sent his forces, native and mercenary, into the nome of
Prosopis against the Libyans. The two armies joined battle on the 3rd of
Epiphi (May 18), and a desperate engagement took place, in which, after
six hours of hard fighting, the Egyptians were victorious, and the
confederates suffered a severe defeat. Menephthah charges the Libyan
chief with cowardice, but only because, after the battle was lost, he
precipitately quitted the field, leaving behind him, not only his
camp-equipage, but his throne, the ornaments of his wives, his bow, his
quiver, and his sandals. The reproaches uttered recoil upon himself.
Whose conduct is the more cowardly, that of the man who fights at the
head of his troops for six hours against an enemy, probably more
numerous, certainly better armed and better disciplined, and only quits
the field when his forces are utterly overthrown and put to flight; or
that of one who avoids exposing himself to danger, and lurks behind the
walls of a fortress while his soldiers are affronting wounds and death
in the battlefield? There is no evidence that Marmaiu, son of Deid, in
the battle of Prosopis, conducted himself otherwise than as became a
prince and a general; there is abundant evidence that Menephthah, son of
Ramesses, who declined to be present at the engagement, showed the white

The defeat of Prosopis was decisive. Marmaiu lost in slain between eight
thousand and nine thousand of his troops, or, according to another
estimate, between twelve thousand and thirteen thousand. Above nine
thousand were made prisoners. The tents, camp-equipage, and cattle, fell
into the hands of the enemy. The expedition at once broke up and
dispersed. Marmaiu returned into his own land with a shattered remnant
of his grand army, and devoted himself to peaceful pursuits, or at any
rate abstained from any further collision with the Egyptians. The
mercenaries, whatever the races to which they in reality belonged,
learned by experience the wisdom of leaving the Libyans to fight their
own battles, and are not again found in alliance with them. The Akaiusha
and Luku appear in Egyptian history no more. The Tursha and Sheklusha do
not wholly disappear, but receive occasional mention among the races
hostile to Egypt As for the Shartana or Shardana, they were struck with
so much admiration of the Egyptian courage and conduct, that they
shortly afterwards entered the Egyptian service, and came to hold a
place among the most trusted of the Egyptian troops.

Despite his cowardice in absenting himself from the battle of Prosopis
under the transparent device of a divine vision, Menephthah took to
himself the whole credit of the victory, and gloried in it as much as if
he had really had a hand in bringing about the result. "The Lubu," he
says, "were meditating to do evil in Egypt; they were as grasshoppers;
every road was blocked by their hosts. Then I vowed to lead them
captive. Lo, I vanquished them; I slaughtered them, making a spoil of
their country. I made the land of Egypt traversable once more; I gave
breath to those who were in the cities." Egyptian generals, like Roman
poets, had to content themselves with complaining secretly, "Sic vos non

So far as we can tell, no long period elapsed between the expedition of
Marmaiu, son of Deid, and the second great trouble in which Menephthah
was involved. Moses must have returned to Egypt from his sojourn in
Midian within a year or two of the death of Ramesses II., and cannot
have allowed any very long time to elapse before he proffered the demand
which he was divinely commissioned to make. Still, as he was timid, and
a somewhat unwilling messenger, he may have delayed both his return and
his first address to Pharaoh as long as he dared (Ex. iv. 19); and if
the invasion of Marmaiu had begun before he had summoned courage to
address Pharaoh a second time, he would then naturally wait until the
danger was past, and the king could again be approached without manifest
impropriety. In this case, the severe oppression of the Israelites,
which followed the first application of Moses (Ex. v. 5-23) may have
lasted longer than has generally been supposed; and it may not have been
till Menephthah's sixth or seventh year that the divine messenger became
urgent, and began to press his request, and to show the signs and
wonders which alone, as he had been told (Ex. vii. 2-4), would break the
spirit of the king. The signs then followed each other at moderately
short intervals, the entire series of the plagues not covering a longer
space than about six months, from October till April. None of the
plagues affected the king greatly except the last, through which he lost
his own eldest son, a bereavement mentioned in an inscription. This
loss, combined with the dread power shown in the infliction during one
night of not less than a million of deaths, produced a complete
revolution in the mind of the king, and made him as anxious at the
moment to get rid of the Israelites out of his country as he had
previously been anxious to retain them. So he called for Moses and Aaron
by night and said. "Rise up, get you forth from among my people, both ye
and the children of Israel, and go, serve the Lord, as ye have said.
Also take your flocks and your herds, as ye have said, and be gone; and
bless me also" (Ex. xii. 31, 32). Moses was prepared for the event, and
had prepared his people. All were ready, with their loins girded, their
sandals on their feet, and their staves in their hands; the word was
given, and the exodus began. "The children of Israel journeyed from
Rameses to Succoth, about six hundred thousand on foot that were men,
beside children; and a mixed multitude went up also with them; and
flocks, and herds, even very much cattle."

Hereupon the king's mind underwent another change. "Unstable as water,"
he was certain not to "excel." Learning that the Israelites, instead of
marching away into the desert, had after reaching its edge turned
southward, and were "entangled" in a corner of his territory, between
high mountains on the one hand, and on the other the Red Sea, which
then stretched far further to the north than at present, perhaps to Lake
Timseh, at any rate as far as the "Bitter Lakes," he thought he saw an
opportunity of following and recovering the fugitives, whose services as
bondsmen he highly valued. Rapidly calling together such troops as were
tolerably near at hand, he collected a considerable force of infantry
and chariots--of the latter more than six hundred--and following upon
the steps of the Hebrews, he caught them on the western shore of the Red
Sea, encamped "between Migdol and the sea, over against Baal-Zephon."
The exact spot cannot be fixed, on account of the alterations in the bed
of the Red Sea, and the uncertainty of the ancient geography of Egypt,
in which names so often repeat themselves; but it was probably some part
of the region that is now dry land, between Suez and the southern
extremity of the Bitter Lakes. Here in high tides the sea and the lakes
communicated; but on the evening of Menephthah's arrival, an unusual ebb
of the tide, cooperating with a "strong east wind" which held back the
water of the Bitter Lakes, left the bed of the sea bare for a certain
space; and the Israelites were thus able to cross during the night from
one side of the sea to the other. As morning dawned, Menephthah, once
more carefully guarding his own person, sent his chariots in pursuit.
The force entered on the slippery and dangerous ground, and advanced
half-way; but its progress was slow; the chariot-wheels sank into the
soft ooze, the horses slipped and floundered; all was disorder and
confusion. Before the troops could extricate themselves, the waters
returned on either hand; a high flow of the tide, the necessary
consequence of a low ebb, brought In the whelming flood from the
south-east; a strong wind from the Mediterranean, drove down upon them
the pent up waters of the Bitter Lakes from the north-west. The channel,
which had lately been dry land, became once more sea, and the entire
force that had entered it in pursuit of the Israelites perished. Safe on
the opposite shore, the Israelites saw the utter destruction of their
adversaries, whose dead bodies, driven before the gale, were cast up in
hundreds upon the coast where they sate encamped (Ex. xiv. 30).

The disaster paralyzed the monarch, and he made no further effort. If
the loss was not great numerically, it affected the most important arm
of the service, and it was the destruction of the very _élite_ of the
Egyptian troops. It was a blow in which the anger of the Egyptian gods
may well have been seen by some, while others may have regarded it as a
revelation of the incompetence of the monarch. The blow seems to have
been followed, within a short time, by revolt. Menephthah's last
monumental year is his eighth. A pretender to the crown arose in a
certain Amon-mes, or Amon-meses, who contested the throne with Seti II.,
Menephthah's son, and succeeded in establishing himself as king; but for
many years there raged in Egypt, as so often happens when a state is
suddenly weakened, civil war, bloodshed, and confusion.

The two dynasties that have last occupied us constitute the most
brilliant period of Egyptian architecture; for, as Fergusson, the latest
historian of architecture, has said, the hall of Seti at Karnak is "the
greatest of man's architectural works," the building to which it belongs
is "the noblest effort of architectural magnificence ever produced by
the hand of man," and the rock-cut temple of Ipsambul is "the finest of
its class known to exist anywhere." These works combine enormous mass
and size with a profusion of elaborate ornamentation. Covering nearly as
much ground as the greatest of the pyramids, and containing equally
enormous blocks of stone, the Theban palace-temples unite a wealth of
varied ornamentation almost unparalleled among the edifices erected by
man. Here are long avenues of sphinxes and colossi, leading to tall,
tapering obelisks which shoot upwards like the pinnacles, towers, and
spires of a modern cathedral, while beyond the obelisks are vistas of
gateways and courts, of colonnades and pillared halls, that impress the
beholder with a deep sense of the constructive imagination of the
architect who could design them, no less than with admiration of the
ruler whose resources were sufficient to make them realities.

Truly the Egyptians were, as Mr. Fergusson enthusiastically asserts,
"the most essentially a building people of all those we are acquainted
with, and the most generally successful in all that they attempted in
this way. The Greeks, it is true, surpassed them in refinement and
beauty of detail, and in the class of sculpture with which they
ornamented their buildings, while the Gothic architects far excelled
them in constructive cleverness; but with these exceptions, no other
styles can be put into competition with them. At the same time, neither
Grecian nor Gothic architects understood more perfectly all the
gradations of art, and the exact character that should be given to every
form and every detail.... They understood also better than any other
nation, how to use sculpture In combination with architecture, and to
make their colossi and avenues of sphinxes group themselves into parts
of one great design, and at the same time to use historical paintings,
fading by insensible degrees into hieroglyphics on the one hand, and
into sculpture on the other, linking the whole together with the highest
class of phonetic utterance. With the most brilliant colouring, they
thus harmonized all these arts Into one great whole, unsurpassed by
anything the world has seen during the thirty centuries of struggle and
aspiration that have elapsed since the brilliant days of the great
kingdom of the Pharaohs."

Not only did architecture and the glyphic art reach such perfection
during this period, but the arts of life made considerable progress. The
royal costumes became suddenly most elaborate; brilliant colours, costly
armlets and bracelets, many-hued collars, complicated head-dresses,
elegant sandals, jewels of price, gay sashes, and wigs with conventional
adornment, came into vogue. Luxury was exhibited in the designs of the
dwellings of the wealthy; the grounds were laid out with formal courts
and alleys, palms and vines adorned them, ponds and reservoirs gave
freshness to the summer temperature, irrigation clothed the lawns with
verdure. Inside, there was richly carved furniture covered with cushions
of delicate stuffs, and adding the harmony of colour to the luxurious

The horse, which had been introduced from Asia, helped in the march of
extravagance and refinement; the chariot took the place of the
palanquin, and there was a new opportunity for adornment in the
trappings, as well as in the construction of light or heavy vehicles.

At the same time, letters made equal progress; men of wisdom devoted
themselves to the preservation of the knowledge of the past, and to the
composition of original works in history, divinity, poetry,
correspondence, and practical philosophy, for the preservation of which
a public library was established at Thebes under a competent director.
The highest perfection thus reached in the arts of peace seems to have
been coincident with an advance in sensualism; indecency in apparel was
common, polygamy increased, woman lost her former degree of purity;
cruelty and barbarism were more and more common in war; taxation bore
heavily and without pity upon the lower orders, and the wretched
fellahin were beaten by the severest of tyrants, the irresponsible
tax-gatherer; women as well as men were stripped for the indignity and
pain of the terrible bastinado; and even dead enemies were mutilated for
the purpose of preserving evidence of their numbers.



The troublous period which followed the death of Menephthah issued
finally in complete anarchy, Egypt broke up into nomes, or cantons, the
chiefs of which acknowledged no superior. It was as though in England,
after centuries of centralized rule, the Heptarchy had suddenly returned
and re-established itself. But even this was not the worst. The suicidal
folly of internal division naturally provokes foreign attack; and it was
not long before Aarsu, a Syrian chieftain, took advantage of the state
of affairs in Egypt to extend his own dominion over one nome after
another, until he had made almost the whole country subject to him.
Then, at last, the spirit of patriotism awoke. Egypt felt the shame of
being ruled by a foreigner of a race that she despised; and a prince was
found after a time, a descendant of the Ramesside line, who unfurled the
national banner, and commenced a war of independence. This prince, who
bore the name of Set-nekht, or "Set the victorious," is thought by some
to have been a son of Seti II., and so a grandson of Menephthah; but the
evidence is insufficient to establish any such relationship. There is
reason to believe that the blood of the nineteenth dynasty, of Seti I.
and Ramesses II., ran in his veins; but no particular relationship to
any former monarch can be made out. And certainly he owed his crown less
to his descent than to his strong arm and his stout heart. It was by
dint of severe fighting that he forced his way to the throne, defeating
Aarsu, and gradually reducing all Egypt under his power.

Set-nekht's reign must have been short He set himself to "put the whole
land in order, to execute the abominables, to set up the temples, and
re-establish the divine offerings for the service of the gods, as their
statutes prescribed," But he was unable to effect very much. He could
not even discharge properly the main duty of a king towards himself,
which was to prepare a fitting receptacle for his remains when he should
quit the earth. To excavate a rock-tomb in the style fashionable at the
day was a task requiring several years for its due accomplishment;
Set-nekht felt that he could not look forward to many years--perhaps not
even to many months--of life. In this difficulty, he felt no shame in
appropriating to himself a royal tomb recently constructed by a king,
named Siphthah, whom he looked upon as a usurper, and therefore as
unworthy of consideration. In this sepulchre we see the names of
Siphthah and his queen, Taouris, erased by the chisel from their
cartouches, and the name of Set-nekht substituted in their place. By one
and the same act the king punished an unworthy predecessor, and provided
himself with a ready--made tomb befitting his dignity.

It was also, probably, on account of his advanced age at his accession,
that he almost immediately associated in the kingdom his son Ramesses, a
prince of much promise, whom he made "Chief of On," and viceroy over
Lower Egypt, with Heliopolis (On) for his residence and capital.
Ramesses the Third, as he is commonly called, was one of the most
distinguished of Egyptian monarchs, and the last who acquired any great
glory until we come down to the time of the Ethiopians, Shabak and
Tirhakah. He reigned as sole monarch for thirty-one years, during the
earlier portion of which period he carried on a number of important
wars, while during the later portion he employed himself in the
construction of those magnificent buildings, which have been chiefly
instrumental in carrying his name down to posterity, and in other works
of utility. Lenormant calls him "the last of the great sovereigns of
Egypt," and observes with reason, that though he never ceased, during
the whole time that he occupied the throne, to labour hard to
re-establish the integrity of the empire abroad, and the prosperity of
the country at home, yet his wars and his conquests had a character
essentially defensive; his efforts, like those of the Trajans, the
Marcus Aurelius's and the Septimius Severus's of history, were directed
to making head against the ever rising flood of barbarians, which had
already before his time burst the dykes that restrained it, and though
once driven back, continued to dash itself on every side against the
outer borders of the empire, and to presage its speedy overthrow. His
efforts were, on the whole, successful; he was able to uphold and
preserve for some considerable time longer the territorial greatness
which the nineteenth dynasty had built up a second time. The monumental
temple of Medinet-Abou, near Thebes, is the Pantheon erected to the
glory of this great Pharaoh. Every pylon, every gateway, every chamber,
relates to us the exploits which he accomplished. Sculptured
compositions of large dimensions represent his principal battles.

There are times in the world's history when a restless spirit appears to
seize on the populations of large tracts of country, and, without any
clear cause that can be alleged, uneasy movements begin. Subdued
mutterings are heard; a tremor goes through the nations, expectation of
coming change stalks abroad; the air is rife with rumours; at last there
bursts out an eruption of greater or less violence--the destructive
flood overleaps its barriers, and flows forth, carrying devastation and
ruin in one direction of another, until its energies are exhausted, or
its progress stopped by some obstacle that it cannot overcome, and it
subsides reluctantly and perforce. Such a time was that on which
Ramesses III. was cast. Wars threatened him on every side. On his
north-eastern frontier the Shasu or Bedouins of the desert ravaged and
plundered, at once harrying the Egyptian territory and threatening the
mining establishments of the Sinaitic region. To the north-west the
Libyan tribes, Maxyes, Asbystæ, Auseis, and others, were exercising a
continuous pressure, to which the Egyptians were forced to yield, and
gradually a foreign population was "squatting" on the fertile lands, and
driving the former possessors of the soil back upon the more eastern
portion-of the Delta. "The Lubu and Mashuash," says Ramesses, "were
_seated_ in Egypt; they took the cities on the western side from Memphis
as far as Karbana, reaching the Great River along its entire course
(from Memphis northwards), and capturing the city of Kaukut For many
years had they been in Egypt" Ramesses began his warlike operations by a
campaign against the Shasu, whose country he invaded and overran,
spoiling and destroying their cabins, capturing their cattle, slaying
all who resisted him, and carrying back into Egypt a vast number of
prisoners, whom he attached to the various temples as "sacred slaves."
He then turned against the Libyans, and coming upon them unexpectedly in
the tract between the Sebennytic branch of the Nile and the Canopic, he
defeated in a great battle the seven tribes of the Mashuash, Lubu,
Merbasat, Kaikasha, Shai, Hasa, and Bakana, slaughtering them with the
utmost fury, and driving them before him across the western branch of
the river. "They trembled before him," says the native historian, "as
the mountain goats tremble before a bull, who stamps with his foot,
strikes with his horns, and makes the mountains shake as he rushes on
whoever opposes him." The Egyptians gave no quarter that memorable day.
Vengeance had free course: the slain Libyans lay in heaps upon
heaps--the chariot wheels passed over them--the horses trampled them in
the mire. Hundreds were pushed and forced into the marshes and into the
river itself, and, if they escaped the flight of missiles which
followed, found for the most part a watery grave in the strong current.
Ramesses portrays this flight and carnage in the most graphic way. The
slain enemy strew the ground, as he advances over them with his prancing
steeds and in his rattling war-car, plying them moreover with his arrows
as they vainly seek to escape. His chariot force and his infantry have
their share in the pursuit, and with sword, or spear, or javelin, strike
down alike the resisting and the unresisting. No one seeks to take a
prisoner. It is a day of vengeance and of down-treading, of fury allowed
to do its worst, of a people drunk with passion that has cast off all

Even passion exhausts itself at last, and the arm grows weary of
slaughtering. Having sufficiently revenged themselves in the great
battle, and the pursuit that followed it, the Egyptians relaxed somewhat
from their policy of extreme hostility. They made a large number of the
Libyans prisoners, branded them with a hot iron, as the Persians often
did their prisoners, and forced them to join the naval service and serve
as mariners on board the Egyptian fleet. The chiefs of greater
importance they confined in fortresses. The women and children became
the slaves of the conquerors; the cattle, "too numerous to count," was
presented by Ramesses to the Priest-College of Ammon at Thebes.

So far success had crowned his arms; and it may well be that Ramesses
would have been content with the military glory thus acquired, and have
abstained from further expeditions, had not he been forced within a few
years to take the field against a powerful combination of new and
partly unheard-of enemies. The uneasy movement among the nations, which
has been already noticed, had spread further afield, and now agitated at
once the coasts and islands of South-Eastern Europe, and the more
western portion of Asia Minor. Seven nations banded themselves together,
and resolved to unite their forces, both naval and military, against
Egypt, and to attack her both by land and sea, not now on the
north-western frontier, where some of them had experienced defeat
before, but in exactly the opposite quarter, by way of Syria and
Palestine. Of the seven, three had been among her former adversaries in
the time of Menephthah, namely, the Sheklusha, the Shartana, and the
Tursha; while four were new antagonists, unknown at any former period.
There were, first, the Tânauna, in whom it is usual to see either the
Danai of the Peloponnese, so celebrated in Homer, or the Daunii of
south-eastern Italy, who bordered on the Iapyges; secondly, the Tekaru,
or Teucrians, a well-known people of the Troad; thirdly, the Uashasha,
who are identified with the Oscans or Ausones, neighbours of the
Daunians; and fourthly, the Purusata, whom some explain as the Pelasgi,
and others as the Philistines. The lead in the expedition was taken by
these last. At their summons the islands and shores of the Mediterranean
gave forth their piratical hordes--the sea was covered by their light
galleys and swept by their strong pars--Tânauna, Shartana, Sheklusha,
Tursha, and Uashasha combined their squadrons into a powerful fleet,
while Purusata and Tekaru advanced in countless numbers along the land.
The Purusata were especially bent on effecting a settlement; they
marched into Northern Syria from Asia Minor accompanied by their wives
and children, who were mounted upon carts drawn by oxen, and formed a
vast unwieldy crowd. The other nations sent their sailors and their
warriors without any such encumbrances. Bursting through the passes of
Taurus, the combined Purusata and Tekaru spread themselves over Northern
Syria, wasting and plundering the entire country of the Khita, and
proceeding eastward as far as Carchemish "by Euphrates," while the ships
of the remaining confederates coasted along the Syrian shore. Such
resistance as the Hittites and Syrians made was wholly ineffectual. "No
people stood before their arms." Aradus and Kadesh fell. The conquerors
pushed on towards Egypt, anticipating an easy victory. But their fond
hopes were doomed to disappointment.

Ramesses had been informed of the designs and approach of the enemy, and
had had ample time to make all needful preparations. He had strengthened
his frontier, called out all his best-disciplined troops, and placed the
mouths of the Nile in a state of defence by means of forts, strong
garrisons, and flotillas upon the stream and upon the lakes adjacent. He
had selected an eligible position for encountering the advancing hordes
on the coast route from Gaza to Egypt, about half-way between Raphia and
Pelusium, where a new fort had been built by his orders. At this point
he took his stand, and calmly awaited his enemies, not having neglected
the precaution to set an ambush or two in convenient places. Here, as
he kept his watch, the first enemy to arrive was the land host of the
Purusata, encumbered with its long train of slowly moving bullock-carts,
heavily laden with women and children. Ramesses instantly attacked
them--his ambushes rose up out of their places of concealment--and the
enemy was beset on every side. They made no prolonged resistance.
Assaulted by the disciplined and seasoned troops of the Egyptians, the
entire confused mass was easily defeated. Twelve thousand five hundred
men were slain in the fight; the camp was taken; the army shattered to
pieces. Nothing was open to the survivors but an absolute surrender, by
which life was saved at the cost of perpetual servitude.

The danger, however, was as yet but half overcome--the snake was
scotched but not killed. For as yet the fleet remained intact, and might
land its thousands on the Egyptian coasts and carry fire and sword over
the broad region of the Delta. The Tânauna and their
confederates--Sheklusha, Shartana, and Tursha--made rapidly for the
nearest mouth of the Nile, which was the Pelusiac, and did their best to
effect a landing. But the precautions taken by Ramesses, before he set
forth on his march, proved sufficient to frustrate their efforts. The
Egyptian fleet met the combined squadrons of the enemy in the shallow
waters of the Pelusiac lagoon, and contended with them in a fierce
battle, which Ramesses caused to be represented in his sculptures--the
earliest representation of a sea-fight that has come down to us. Both
sides have ships propelled at once by sails and oars, but furl their
sails before engaging. Each ship has a single yard, constructed to
carry a single large square-sail, and hung across the vessel's single
mast at a short distance below the top. The mast is crowned by a
bell-shaped receptacle, large enough to contain a man, who is generally
a slinger or an archer, placed there to gall the enemy with stones or
arrows, and so to play the part of our own sharpshooters in the
main-tops. The rowers are from sixteen to twenty-two in number, besides
whom each vessel carries a number of fighting men, armed with shields,
spears, swords, and bows. The fight is a promiscuous _melée_, the two
fleets being intermixed, and each ship engaging that next to it, without
a thought of combined action or of manoeuvres. One of the enemy's
vessels is represented as capsized and sinking; the rest continue the
engagement. Several are pressing towards the shore of the lagoon, and
the men-at-arms on board them are endeavouring to effect a landing; but
they are met by the land-force under Ramesses himself, who greet them
with such a hail of arrows as renders it impossible for them to carry
out their purpose.


It would seem that Ramesses had no sooner defeated and destroyed the
army of the Purusata and Tekaru than he set off in haste for Pelusium,
and marched with such speed as to arrive in time to witness the naval
engagement, and even to take a certain part in it. The invading fleet
was so far successful as to force its way through the opposing vessels
of the Egyptians, and to press forward towards the shore; but here its
further progress was arrested. "A wall of iron," says Ramesses, "shut
them in upon the lake," The best troops of Egypt lined the banks of
the lagoon, and wherever the invaders attempted to land they were
foiled. Repulsed, dashed to the ground, hewn down or shot down at the
edge of the water, they were slain "by hundreds of heaps of corpses."
"The infantry," says the monarch in his vainglorious inscription, set up
in memory of the event, "all the choicest troops of the army of Egypt,
stood upon the bank, furious as roaring lions; the chariot force,
selected from among the heroes that were quickest in battle, was led by
officers confident in themselves. The war-steeds quivered in all their
limbs, and burned to trample the nations under their feet. I myself was
like the god Mentu, the warlike; I placed myself at their head, and they
saw the achievements of my hands. I, Ramesses the king, behaved as a
hero who knows his worth, and who stretches out his arm over his people
in the day of combat. The invaders of my territory will gather no more
harvests upon the earth, their life is counted to them as eternity.
Those that gained the shore, I caused to fall at the water's edge, they
lay slain in heaps; I overturned their vessels; all their goods sank In
the waves." After a brief combat, all resistance ceased. The empty
ships, floating at random upon the still waters of the lagoon, or stuck
fast in the Nile mud, became the prize of the victors, and were found to
contain a rich booty. Thus ended this remarkable struggle, in which
nations widely severed and of various bloods--scarcely, as one would
have thought, known to each other, and separated by a diversity of
interests--united in an attack upon the foremost power of the known
world, traversed several hundreds of miles of land or sea successfully,
neither quarrelling among themselves nor meeting with disaster from
without, and reached the country which they had hoped to conquer, but
were there completely defeated and repulsed in two engagements--one by
land, the other partly by land and partly by sea--so that "their spirit
was annihilated, their soul was taken from them." Henceforth no one of
the nations which took part in the combined attack is found in arms
against the power that had read them so severe a lesson.

It was not long after repulsing this attack upon the independence of
Egypt that Ramesses undertook his "campaign of revenge." Starting with a
fleet and army along the line that his assailants had followed, he
traversed Palestine and Syria, hunting the lion in the outskirts of
Lebanon, and re-establishing for a time the Egyptian dominion over much
of the region which had been formerly held in subjection by the great
monarchs of the eighteenth and nineteenth dynasties. He claims to have
carried his arms to Aleppo and Carchemish, in which case we must suppose
that he defeated the Hittites, or else that they declined to meet him in
the field; and he gives a list of thirty-eight conquered countries or
tribes, which are thought to belong to Upper Syria, Southern Asia Minor,
and Cyprus. In some of his inscriptions he even speaks of having
recovered Naharaina, Kush, and Punt; but there is no evidence that he
really visited--much less conquered--these remote regions.

The later life of Ramesses III. was, on the whole a time of
tranquillity and repose. The wild tribes of North Africa, after one
further attempt to establish themselves in the western Delta, which
wholly failed, acquiesced in the lot which nature seemed to have
assigned them, and, leaving the Egyptians in peace, contented themselves
with the broad tract over which they were free to rove between the
Mediterranean and the Sahara Desert. On the south Ethiopia made no sign.
In the east the Hittites had enough to do to rebuild the power which had
been greatly shattered by the passage of the hordes of Asia Minor
through their territory, on their way to Egypt and on their return from
it. The Assyrians had not yet commenced their aggressive wars towards
the north and west, having probably still a difficulty in maintaining
their independence against the attacks of Babylon. Egypt was left
undisturbed by her neighbours for the space of several generations, and
herself refrained from disturbing the peace of the world by foreign
expeditions. Ramesses turned his attention to building, commerce, and
the planting of Egypt with trees. He constructed and ornamented the
beautiful temple of Ammon at Medinet-Abou, built a fleet on the Red Sea
and engaged in trade with Punt, dug a great reservoir in the country of
Aina (Southern Palestine), and "over the whole land of Egypt planted
trees and shrubs, to give the inhabitants rest under their cool shade."

The general decline of Egypt must, however, be regarded as having
commenced in his reign. His Eastern conquests were more specious than
solid, resulting in a nominal rather than a real subjection of Palestine
and Syria to his yoke. His subjects grew unaccustomed to the use of
arms during the last twenty, or five and twenty, years of his life.
Above all, luxury, intrigue, and superstition invaded the court, where
the eunuchs and concubines exercised a pernicious influence. Magic was
practised by some of the chief men in the State, and the belief was
widely spread that it was possible by charms, incantations, and the use
of waxen images, to bewitch men, or paralyse their limbs, or even to
cause their deaths. Hags were to be found about the court as wicked as
Canidia, who were willing to sell their skill in the black art to the
highest bidder. The actual person of the monarch was not sacred from the
plottings of this nefarious crew, who planned assassinations and hatched
conspiracies in the very purlieus of the royal palace. Ramesses himself
would, apparently, have fallen a victim to a plot of the kind, had not
the parties to it been discovered, arrested, tried by a Royal
Commission, and promptly executed.

The descendants of Ramesses III. occupied the throne from his death
(about B.C. 1280) to B.C. 1100. Ten princes of the name of Ramesses, and
one called Meri-Tum, bore sway during this interval, each of them
showing, if possible, greater weakness than the last, and all of them
sunk in luxury, idle, effeminate, sensual. Ramesses III. provoked
caricature by his open exhibition of harem-scenes on the walls of his
Medinet-Abou palace. His descendants, content with harem life, scarcely
cared to quit the precincts of the royal abode, desisted from all war,
and even devolved the task of government on other shoulders. The
Pharaohs of the twentieth dynasty became absolute _fainéants_, and
devolved their duties on the high-priests of the great temple of Ammon
at Thebes, who "set themselves to play the same part which at a distant
period was played by the Mayors of the Palace under the later French
kings of the Merovingian line."

In an absolute monarchy, the royal authority is the mainspring which
controls all movements and all actions in every part of the State. Let
this source of energy grow weak, and decline at once shows itself
throughout the entire body politic. It is as when a fatal malady seizes
on the seat of life in an individual--instantly every member, every
tissue, falls away, suffers, shrinks, decays, perishes. Egyptian
architecture is simply non-existent from the death of Ramesses III. to
the age of Sheshonk; the "grand style" of pictorial art disappears;
sculpture in relief becomes a wearisome repetition of the same
stereotyped religious groups; statuary deteriorates and is rare; above
all, literature declines, undergoing an almost complete eclipse. A
galaxy of literary talent had, as we have seen, clustered about the
reigns of Ramesses II. and Menephthah, under whose encouragement authors
had devoted themselves to history, divinity, practical philosophy,
poetry, epistolary correspondence, novels, travels, legend. From the
time of Ramesses III.--nay, from the time of Seti II.--all is a blank:
"the true poetic inspiration appears to have vanished," literature is
almost dumb; instead of the masterpieces of Pentaour, Kakabu, Nebsenen,
Enna, and others, which even moderns can peruse with pleasure, we have
only documents in which "the dry official tone" prevails--abstracts of
trials, lists of functionaries, tiresome enumerations in the greatest
detail of gifts made to the gods, together with fulsome praises of the
kings, written either by themselves or by others, which we are half
inclined to regret the lapse of ages has spared from destruction. At the
same time morals fall off. Sensuality displays itself in high places.
Intrigue enters the charmed circle of the palace. The monarch himself is
satirized in indecent drawings. Presently, the whole idea of a divinity
hedging in the king departs; and a "thieves' society" is formed for
rifling the royal tombs, and tearing the jewels, with which they have
been buried, from the monarchs' persons. The king's life is aimed at by
conspirators, who do not scruple to use magical arts; priests and high
judicial functionaries are implicated in the proceedings. Altogether,
the old order seems to be changed, the old ideas to be upset; and no
new principles, possessing any vital efficacy, are introduced. Society
gradually settles upon its lees; and without some violent application of
force from without, or some strange upheaval from within, the nation
seems doomed to fall rapidly into decay and dissolution.




The position of the priests in Egypt was, from the first, one of high
dignity and influence. Though not, strictly speaking, a caste, they
formed a very distinct order or class, separated by important
privileges, and by their habits of life, from the rest of the community,
and recruited mainly from among their own sons, and other near
relatives. Their independence and freedom was secured by a system of
endowments. From a remote antiquity a considerable portion of the land
of Egypt--perhaps as much as one-third--was made over to the priestly
class, large estates being attached to each temple, and held as common
property by the "colleges," which, like the chapters of our cathedrals,
directed the worship of each sacred edifice. These priestly estates
were, we are told, exempt from taxation of any kind; and they appear to
have received continual augmentation from the piety or superstition of
the kings, who constantly made over to their favourite deities fresh
"gardens, orchards, vineyards, fields," and even "cities."

The kings lived always in a considerable amount of awe of the priests.
Though claiming a certain qualified divinity themselves, they yet could
not but be aware that there were divers flaws and Imperfections in
their own divinity--"little rifts within the lute"--which made it not
quite a safe support to trust to, or lean upon, entirely. There were
other greater gods than themselves--gods from whom their own divinity
was derived; and they could not be certain what power or influence the
priests might not have with these superior beings, in whose existence
and ability to benefit and injure men they had the fullest belief.
Consequently, the kings are found to occupy a respectful attitude
towards the priests throughout the whole course of Egyptian history,
from first to last; and this respectful attitude Is especially
maintained towards the great personages in whom the hierarchy
culminates, the head officials, or chief priests, of the temples which
are the principal centres of the national worship--the temple of Ra, or
Tum, at Heliopolis, that of Phthah at Memphis, and that of Ammon at
Thebes. According to the place where the capital was fixed for the time
being, one or other of these three high-priests had the pre-eminence;
and, in the later period of the Ramessides, Thebes having enjoyed
metropolitan dignity for between five and six centuries, the Theban
High-Priest of Ammon was recognized as beyond dispute the chief of the
sacerdotal order, and the next person in the kingdom after the king.

It had naturally resulted from this high position, and the weight of
influence which it enabled its possessor to exercise, that the office
had become hereditary. As far back as the reign of Ramesses IX., we find
that the holder of the position has succeeded his father in it, and
regards himself as high-priest rather by natural right than by the will
of the king. The priest of that time, Amenhotep by name, the son of
Ramesses-nekht, undertakes the restoration of the Temple of Ammon at
Thebes of his own proper motion, "strengthens its walls, builds it anew,
makes its columns, inserts in its gates the great folding-doors of
acacia wood." Formerly, the kings were the builders, and the
high-priests carried out their directions and then in the name of the
gods gave thanks to the kings for their pious munificence. Under the
ninth Ramesses the order was reversed--"now it is the king who testifies
his gratitude to the High-Priest of Ammon for the care bestowed on his
temple by the erection of new buildings and the improvement and
maintenance of the older ones." The initiative has passed out of the
king's hands into those of his subject; he is active, the king is
passive; all the glory is Amenhotep's; the king merely comes in at the
close of all, as an ornamental person, whose presence adds a certain
dignity to the final ceremony.

[Illustration: HEAD OF HER-HOR.]

Under the last of the Ramessides the High-Priest of Ammon at Thebes was
a certain Her-hor. He was a man of a pleasing countenance, with features
that were delicate and good, and an expression that was mild and
agreeable. He had the art so to ingratiate himself with his sovereign as
to obtain at his hands at least five distinct offices of state besides
his sacred dignity. He was "Chief of Upper and Lower Egypt," "Royal son
of Gush," "Fanbearer on the right hand of the King," "Principal
Architect," and "Administrator of the Granaries," Some of these offices
may have been honorary; but the duties of others must have been
important, and their proper discharge would have required a vast amount
of varied ability. It is not likely that Herhor possessed all the
needful qualifications; rather we must presume that he grasped at the
multiplicity of appointments in order to accumulate power, so far as was
possible, in his own hands, and thereby to be in a better position to
seize the royal authority on the monarch's demise. If Ramesses III. died
without issue, his task must have been facilitated; at any rate, he
seems to have had the skill to accomplish it without struggle or
disturbance; and if, as some suppose, he banished the remaining
descendants of Ramesses III. to the Great Oasis, at any rate he did not
stain his priestly hands with bloodshed, or force his way to the throne
through scenes of riot and confusion. Egypt, so far as appears, quietly
acquiesced in his rule, and perhaps rejoiced to find herself once more
governed by a prince of a strong and energetic nature.

For some time after he had mounted the throne, Herhor did not abandon
his priestly functions. He bore the title of High-Priest of Ammon
regularly on one of his royal escutcheons, while on the other he called
himself "Her-Hor Si-Ammon," or "Her-Hor, son of Ammon," following the
example of former kings, who gave themselves out for sons of Ra, or
Phthah, or Mentu, or Horus. But ultimately he surrendered the priestly
title to his eldest son, Piankh, and no doubt at the same time devolved
upon him the duties which attached to the high-priestly office. There
was something unseemly in a priest being a soldier, and Herhor was
smitten with the ambition of putting himself at the head of an army, and
reasserting the claim of Egypt to a supremacy over Syria. He calls
himself "the conqueror of the Ruten," and there is no reason to doubt
that he was successful in a Syrian campaign, though to what distance he
penetrated must remain uncertain. The Egyptian monarchs are not very
exact in their geographical nomenclature, and Herhor may have spoken of
Ruten, when his adversaries were really the Bedouins of the desert
between Egypt and Palestine. The fact that his expedition is unnoticed
in the Hebrew Scriptures renders it tolerably certain that he did not
effect any permanent conquest, even of Palestine.

Herhor's son, Piankh, who became High-Priest of Ammon on his father's
abdication of the office, does not appear to have succeeded him in the
kingdom. Perhaps he did not outlive his father. At any rate, the kingly
office seems to have passed from Herhor to his grandson, Pinetem, who
was a monarch of some distinction, and had a reign of at least
twenty-five years. Pinetem's right to the crown was disputed by
descendants of the Ramesside line of kings; and he thought it worth
while to strengthen his title by contracting a marriage with a princess
of that royal stock, a certain Ramaka, or Rakama, whose name appears on
his monuments. But compromise with treason has rarely a tranquillizing
effect; and Pinetem's concession to the prejudices which formed the
stock-in-trade of his opponents only exasperated them and urged them to
greater efforts. The focus of the conspiracy passed from the Oasis to
Thebes, which had grown disaffected because Pinetem had removed the seat
of government to Tanis in the Delta, which was the birthplace of his
grandfather, Herhor. So threatening had become the general aspect of
affairs, that the king thought it prudent to send his son, Ra-men-khepr
or Men-khepr-ra, the existing high-priest of the Temple of Ammon at
Thebes, from Tanis to the southern capital, in order that he should make
himself acquainted with the secret strength, and with the designs of the
disaffected, and see whether he could not either persuade or coerce
them. It was a curious part for the Priest of Ammon to play. Ordinarily
an absentee from Thebes and from the duties of his office, he visits the
place as Royal Commissioner, entrusted with plenary powers to punish or
forgive offenders at his pleasure. His fellow-townsmen are in the main
hostile to him; but the terror of the king's name is such that they do
not dare to offer him any resistance, and he singles out those who
appear to him most guilty for punishment, and has them executed, while
he grants the royal pardon to others without any let or hindrance on the
part of the civic authorities. Finally, having removed all those whom he
regarded as really dangerous, he ventured to conclude his commission by
granting a general amnesty to all persons implicated in the conspiracy,
and allowing the political refugees to return from the Oasis to Thebes
and to live there unmolested.

Men-khepr-ra soon afterwards became king. He married a wife named
Hesi-em-Kheb, who is thought to have been a descendant of Seti L, and
thus gave an additional legitimacy to the dynasty of Priest-Kings. He
also adorned the city of Kheb, the native place of his wife, with public
buildings; but otherwise nothing is known of the events of his reign. As
a general rule, the priest-kings were no more active or enterprizing
than their predecessors, the Ramessides of the twentieth dynasty. They
were content to rule Egypt in peace, and enjoy the delights of
sovereignty, without fatiguing themselves either with the construction
of great works or the conduct of military expeditions. If the people
that has no history is rightly pronounced happy, Egypt may have
prospered under their rule; but the historian can scarcely be expected
to appreciate a period which supplies him with no materials to work

The inaction of Egypt was favourable to the growth and spread of other
kingdoms and empires. Towards the close of the Ramesside period Assyria
had greatly increased in power, and extended her authority beyond the
Euphrates as far as the Mediterranean. After this, causes that are still
obscure had caused her to decline, and, Syria being left to itself, a
new power grew up in it. In the later half of the eleventh century,
probably during the reign of Men-khepr-ra in Egypt, David began that
series of conquests by which he gradually built up an empire, uniting in
one all the countries and tribes between the river of Egypt
(Wady-el-Arish) and the Euphrates. Egypt made no attempt to interfere
with his proceedings; and Assyria, after one defeat (1 Chron. xix.
16-19), withdrew from the contest. David's empire was inherited by
Solomon (1 Kings iv. 21-24); and Solomon's position was such as
naturally brought him into communication with the great powers beyond
his borders, among others with Egypt. A brisk trade was carried on
between his subjects and the Egyptians, especially in horses and
chariots (ib. x. 28, 29): and diplomatic intercourse was no doubt
established between the courts of Tanis and Jerusalem. It Is a little
uncertain which Egyptian prince was now upon the throne; but
Egyptologers incline to Pinetem II., the second in succession after
Men-khepr-ra, and the last king but one of the dynasty. The Hebrew
monarch having made overtures through his ambassador, this prince, it
would seem, received them favourably; and, soon after his accession (1
Kings iii. 1), Solomon took to wife his daughter, an Egyptian princess,
receiving with her as a dowry the city and territory of Gezer, which
Pinetem had recently taken from its independent Canaanite inhabitants
(ib. ix. 16). The new connection had advantages and disadvantages. The
excessive polygamy, which had been affected by the Egyptian monarchs
ever since the time of Ramesses II., naturally spread into Judea, and
"King Solomon loved many strange women, together with the daughter of
Pharaoh, women of the Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Zidonians, and
Hittites ... and he had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three
hundred concubines; and his wives turned away his heart" (ib. xi. 1, 3).
On the other hand, commerce was no doubt promoted by the step taken, and
much was learnt in the way of art from the Egyptian sculptors and
architects. The burst of architectural vigour which distinguishes
Solomon's reign among those of other Hebrew kings, is manifestly the
direct result of ideas brought to Jerusalem from the capital of the
Pharaohs. The plan of the Temple, with its open court in front, its
porch, its Holy Place, its Holy of Holies, and its chambers, was
modelled after the Egyptian pattern. The two pillars, Jachin and Boaz,
which stood in front of the porch, took the place of the twin obelisks,
which in every finished example of an Egyptian temple stood just in
front of the principal entrance. The lions on the steps of the royal
throne (ib. x. 20) were imitations of those which in Egypt often
supported the seat of the monarch on either side; and "the house of the
forest of Lebanon" was an attempt to reproduce the effect of one of
Egypt's "pillared halls." Something in the architecture of Solomon was
clearly learnt from Phœnicia, and a little--a very little--may perhaps
have been derived from Assyria; but Egypt gave at once the impulse and
the main bulk of the ideas and forms.

The line of priest-kings terminated with Hor-pa-seb-en-sha, the
successor of Pinetem II. They held the throne for about a century and a
quarter; and if they cannot be said to have played a very important part
in the "story of Egypt," or in any way to have increased Egyptian
greatness, yet at least they escape the reproach, which rests upon most
of the more distinguished dynasties, of seeking their own glory in modes
which caused their subjects untold suffering. [Illustration:



The rise of the twenty-second resembles in many respects that of the
twenty-first dynasty. In both cases the cause of the revolution Is to be
found in the weakness of the royal house, which rapidly loses its
pristine vigour, and is impotent to resist the first assault made upon
it by a bold aggressor. Perhaps the wonder is rather that Egyptian
dynasties continued so long as they did, than that they were not
longer-lived, since there was in almost every instance a rapid decline,
alike in the _physique_ and in the mental calibre of the holders of
sovereignty; so that nothing but a little combined strength and audacity
was requisite in order to push them from their pedestals. Shishak was an
official of a Semitic family long settled in Egypt, which had made the
town of Bubastis its residence. We may suspect, if we like, that the
family had noble--shall we say royal?--blood in its veins, and could
trace its descent to dynasties which had ruled at Nineveh or Babylon.
The connexion is possible, though scarcely probable, since no _éclat_
attended the first arrival of the Shishak family In Egypt, and the
family names, though Semitic, are decidedly neither Babylonian nor
Assyrian. It is tempting to adopt the sensational views of writers,
who, out of half a dozen names, manufacture an Assyrian conquest of
Egypt, and the establishment on the throne of the Pharaohs of a branch
derived from one or other of the royal Mesopotamian houses; but "facts
are stubborn things," and the imagination is scarcely entitled to mould
them at its will. It is necessary to face the two certain facts--(1)
that no one of the dynastic names is the natural representative of any
name known to have been borne by any Assyrian or Babylonian; and (2)
that neither Assyria nor Babylonia was at the time in such a position as
to effect, or even to contemplate, distant enterprizes. Babylonia did
not attain such a position till the time of Nabopolassar; Assyria had
enjoyed it about B.C. 1150-1100, but had lost it, and did not recover it
till B.C. 890. Moreover, Solomon's empire blocked the way to Egypt
against both countries, and required to be shattered in pieces before
either of the great Mesopotamian powers could have sent a _corps
d'armée_ into the land of the Pharaohs.

Sober students of history will therefore regard Shishak (Sheshonk)
simply as a member of a family which, though of foreign extraction, had
been long settled in Egypt, and had worked its way into a high position
under the priest-kings of Herhor's line, retaining a special connection
with Bubastis, the place which it had from the first made its home.
Sheshonk's grandfather, who bore the same name; had had the honour of
intermarrying into the royal house, having taken to wife Meht-en-hont, a
princess of the blood whose exact parentage is unknown to us. His
father Namrut, had held a high military office, being commander of the
Libyan mercenaries, who at this time formed the most important part of
the standing army. Sheshonk himself, thus descended, was naturally in
the front rank of Egyptian court-officials. When we first hear of him he
is called "His Highness," and given the title of "Prince of the
princes," which is thought to imply that he enjoyed the first rank among
all the chiefs of mercenaries, of whom there were many. Thus he held a
position only second to that occupied by the king, and when his son
became a suitor for the hand of a daughter of the reigning sovereign, no
one could say that etiquette was infringed, or an ambition displayed
that was excessive and unsuitable. The match was consequently allowed to
come off, and Sheshonk became doubly connected with the royal house,
through his daughter-in-law and through his grandmother. When,
therefore, on the death of Hor-pa-seb-en-sha, he assumed the title and
functions of king, no opposition was offered: the crown seemed to have
passed simply from one member of the royal family to another.

In monarchies like the Egyptian, it is not very difficult for an
ambitious subject, occupying a certain position, to seize the throne;
but it is far from easy for him to retain it Unless there is a general
impression of the usurper's activity, energy, and vigour, his authority
is liable to be soon disputed, or even set at nought It behoves him to
give indications of strength and breadth of character, or of a wise,
far-seeing policy, in order to deter rivals from attempting to undermine
his power. Sheshonk early let it be seen that he possessed both caution
and far-reaching views by his treatment of a refugee who, shortly after
his accession, sought his court. This was Jeroboam, one of the highest
officials in the neighbouring kingdom of Israel, whom Solomon, the great
Israelite monarch, regarded with suspicion and hostility, on account of
a declaration made by a prophet that he was at some future time to be
king of Ten Tribes out of the Twelve. To receive Jeroboam with favour
was necessarily to offend Solomon, and thus to reverse the policy of the
preceding dynasty, and pave the way for a rupture with the State which
was at this time Egypt's most important neighbour. Sheshonk,
nevertheless, accorded a gracious reception to Jeroboam; and the favour
in which he remained at the Egyptian court was an encouragement to the
disaffected among the Israelites, and distinctly foreshadowed a time
when an even bolder policy would be adopted, and a strike made for
imperial power. The time came at Solomon's demise. Jeroboam was at once
allowed to return to Palestine, and to foment the discontent which it
was foreseen would terminate in separation. The two kings had, no doubt,
laid their plans. Jeroboam was first to see what he could effect
unaided, and then, if difficulty supervened, his powerful ally was to
come to his assistance. For the Egyptian monarch to have appeared in the
first instance would have roused Hebrew patriotism against him. Sheshonk
waited till Jeroboam had, to a certain extent, established his kingdom,
had set up a new worship blending Hebrew with Egyptian notions, and had
sufficiently tested the affection or disaffection towards his rule of
the various classes of his subjects. He then marched out to his
assistance. Levying a force of twelve hundred chariots, sixty thousand
horse (? six thousand), and footmen "without number" (2 Chron, xii. 3),
chiefly from the Libyan and Ethiopian mercenaries which now formed the
strength of the Egyptian armies, he proceeded into the Holy Land,
entering it "in three columns," and so spreading his troops far and wide
over the southern country. Rehoboam, Solomon's son and successor, had
made such preparation as was possible against the attack. He had
anticipated it from the moment of Jeroboam's return, and he had
carefully guarded the main routes whereby his country could be
approached from the south, fortifying, among other cities, Shoco,
Adullam, Azekah, Gath, Mareshah, Ziph, Tekoa, and Hebron (2 Chron. xi.
6-10). But the host of Sheshonk was irresistible. Never before had the
Hebrews met in battle the forces of their powerful southern
neighbour--never before had they been confronted with huge masses of
disciplined troops, armed and trained alike, and soldiers by profession.
The Jewish levies were a rude and untaught militia, little accustomed to
warfare, or even to the use of arms, after forty years of peace, during
which "every man had dwelt safely under the shade of his own vine and
his own fig-tree" (1 Kings iv. 25). They must have trembled before the
chariots, and cavalry, and trained footmen of Egypt. Accordingly, there
seems to have been no battle, and no regularly organized resistance. As
the host of Sheshonk advanced along the chief roads that led to the
Jewish capital, the cities, fortified with so much care by Rehoboam,
either opened their gates to him, or fell after brief sieges (2 Chron.
xii. 4). Sheshonk's march was a triumphal progress, and in an incredibly
short space of time he appeared before Jerusalem, where Rehoboam and
"the princes of Judah" were tremblingly awaiting his arrival. The son of
Solomon surrendered at discretion; and the Egyptian conqueror entered
the Holy City, stripped the Temple of its most valuable treasures,
including the shields of gold which Solomon had made for his body-guard,
and plundered the royal palace (2 Chron, xii. 9). The city generally
does not appear to have been sacked: nor was there any massacre.
Rehoboam's submission was accepted; he was maintained in his kingdom;
but he had to become Sheshonk's "servant" (2 Chron. xii. 8), _i.e.,_ he
had to accept the position of a tributary prince, owing fealty and
obedience to the Egyptian monarch.

The objects of Sheshonk's expedition were-not yet half accomplished. By
the long inscription which he set up on his return to Egypt, we find
that, after having made Judea subject to him, he proceeded with his army
into the kingdom of Israel, and there also took a number of towns which
were peculiarly circumstanced. The Levites of the northern kingdom had
from the first disapproved of the religious changes effected by
Jeroboam; and the Levitical cities within his dominions were regarded
with an unfriendly eye by the Israelite monarch, who saw in them hotbeds
of rebellion. He had not ventured to make a direct attack upon them
himself, since he would thereby have lighted the torch of civil war
within his own borders; but, having now an Egyptian army at his beck
and call, he used the foreigners as an instrument at once to free him
from a danger and to execute his vengeance upon those whom he looked
upon as traitors. Sheshonk was directed or encouraged to attack and take
the Levitical cities of Rehob, Gibeon, Mahanaim, Beth-horon, Kedemoth,
Bileam or Ibleam, Alemoth, Taanach, Golan, and Anem, to plunder them and
carry off their inhabitants as slaves; while he was also persuaded to
reduce a certain number of Canaanite towns, which did not yield Jeroboam
a very willing obedience. We may trace the march of Sheshonk by Megiddo,
Taanach, and Shunem, to Beth-shan, and thence across the Jordan to
Mahanaim and Aroer; after which, having satisfied his vassal, Jeroboam,
he proceeded to make war on his own account with the Arab tribes
adjoining on Trans-Jordanic Israel, and subdued the Temanites, the
Edomites, and various tribes of the Hagarenes. His dominion was thus
established from the borders of Egypt to Galilee, and from the
Mediterranean to the Great Syrian Desert.

On his return to Egypt from Asia, with his prisoners and his treasures,
it seemed to the victorious monarch that he might fitly follow the
example of the old Pharaohs who had made expeditions into Palestine and
Syria, and commemorate his achievements by a sculptured record. So would
he best impress the mass of the people with his merits, and induce them
to put him on a par with the Thothmeses and the Amenhoteps of former
ages. On the southern external wall of the great temple of Karnak, he
caused himself to be represented twice--once as holding by the hair of
their heads thirty-eight captive Asiatics, and threatening them with
uplifted mace; and a second time as leading captive one hundred and
thirty-three cities or tribes, each specified by name and personified in
an individual form, the form, however, being incomplete. Among these
representations is one which bears the inscription "Yuteh Malek," and
which must be regarded as figuring the captive Judæan kingdom.


Thus, after nearly a century and a half of repose, Egypt appeared once
more in Western Asia as a conquering power, desirious of establishing an
empire. The political edifice raised with so much trouble by David, and
watched over with such care by Solomon, had been shaken to its base by
the rebellion of Jeroboam; it was shattered beyond all hope of recovery
by Shishak. Never more would the fair fabric of an Israelite empire rear
itself up before the eyes of men; never more would Jerusalem be the
capital of a State as extensive as Assyria or Babylonia, and as populous
as Egypt. After seventy years, or so, of union, Syria was broken up--the
cohesion effected by the warlike might of David and the wisdom of
Solomon ceased--the ill-assimilated parts fell asunder; and once more
the broad and fertile tract intervening between Assyria and Egypt became
divided among a score of petty States, whose weakness invited a

[Illustration: HEAD OF SHISHAK]

Sheshonk did not live many years to enjoy the glory and honour brought
him by his Asiatic successes. He died after a reign of twenty-one years,
leaving his crown to his second son, Osorkon, who was married to the
Princess Keramat, a daughter of Sheshonk's predecessor. The dynasty thus
founded continued to occupy the Egyptian throne for the space of about
two centuries, but produced no other monarch of any remarkable
distinction. The Asiatic dominion, which Sheshonk had established, seems
to have been maintained for about thirty years, during the reigns of
Osorkon L, Sheshonk's son, and Takelut I., his grandson; but in the
reign of Osorkon II., the son of Takelut, the Jewish monarch of the
time, Asa, the grandson of Rehoboam, shook off the Egyptian yoke,
re-established Judæan independence, and fortified himself against attack
by restoring the defences of all those cities which Sheshonk had
dismantled, and "making about them walls, and towers, gates, and bars"
(2 Chron. xiv. 7). At the same time he placed under arms the whole male
population of his kingdom, which is reckoned by the Jewish historian at
580,000 men. The "men of Judah" bore spears and targets, or small round
shields; the "men of Benjamin" had shields of a larger size, and were
armed with the bow (ib. ver. 8). "All these," says the historian, "were
mighty men of valour." It was not to be supposed that Egypt would bear
tamely this defiance, or submit to the entire loss of her Asiatic
dominion, which was necessarily involved in the revolt of Judæa, without
an effort to retain it. Osorkon II., or whoever was king at the time,
rose to the occasion. If it was to be a contest of numbers, Egypt should
show that she was certainly not to be outdone numerically; so more
mercenaries than ever before were taken into pay, and an army was
levied, which is reckoned at "a thousand thousand" (ib. ver. 9),
consisting of Cushites or Ethiopians, and of Lubim (ib. xvi. 8), or
natives of the North African coast-tract, With these was sent a picked
force of three hundred war-chariots, probably Egyptian; and the entire
host was placed under the command of an Ethiopian general, who is called
Zerah. The host set forth from Egypt, confident of victory, and
proceeded as far as Mareshah in Southern Judæa, where they were met by
the undaunted Jewish king. What force he had brought with him is
uncertain, but the number cannot have been very great. Asa had recourse
to prayer, and, in words echoed in later days by the great Maccabee (1
Mac. iii. 18, 19), besought Jehovah to help him against the Egyptian
"multitude." Then the two armies joined battle; and, notwithstanding the
disparity of numbers, Zerah was defeated. "The Ethiopians and the Lubim,
a huge host, with very many chariots and horsemen" (2 Chron. xvi. 8)
fled before Judah--they were "overthrown that they could not recover
themselves, and were destroyed before Jehovah and before His host" (ib.
xiv. 13). The Jewish troops pursued them as far as Gerar, smiting them
with a great slaughter, taking their camp? and loading themselves with
spoil. What became of Zerah we are not told. Perhaps he fell in the
battle; perhaps he carried the news of his defeat to his Egyptian
master, and warned him against any further efforts to subdue a people
which could defend itself so effectually.

The direct effect of the victory of Asa was to put an end, for three
centuries, to those dreams of Asiatic dominion which had so long floated
before the eyes of Egyptian kings, and dazzled their imaginations. If a
single one of the petty princes between whose rule Syria was divided
could defeat and destroy the largest army that Egypt had ever brought
into the field, what hope was there of victory over twenty or thirty of
such chieftains? Henceforth, until the time of the great revolution
brought about in Western Asia through the destruction of the Assyrian
Empire by the Medes, the eyes of Egypt were averted from Asia, unless
when attack threatened her. She shrank from provoking the repetition of
such a defeat as Zerah had suffered, and was careful to abstain from all
interference with the affairs of Palestine, except on invitation. She
learnt to look upon the two Israelite kingdoms as her bulwarks against
attack from the East, and it became an acknowledged part of her policy
to support them against Assyrian aggression. If she did not succeed in
rendering them any effective assistance, it was not for lack of
good-will. She was indeed a "bruised reed" to lean upon, but it was
because her strength was inferior to that of the great Mesopotamian

From the time of Osorkon II., the Sheshonk dynasty rapidly declined in
power. A system of constituting appanages for the princes of the
reigning house grew up, and in a short time conducted the country to
the verge of dissolution. "For the purpose of avoiding usurpations
analogous to that of the High-Priests of Ammon," says M. Maspero,
"Sheshonk and his descendants made a rule to entrust all positions of
importance, whether civil or military, to the princes of the blood
royal. A son of the reigning Pharaoh, most commonly his eldest son, held
the office of High-Priest of Ammon and Governor of Thebes; another
commanded at Sessoun (Hermopolis); another at Hakhensu, others in all
the large towns of the Delta and of Upper Egypt. Each of them had with
him several battalions of those Libyan soldiers--Matsiou and
Mashuash--who formed at this time the strength of the Egyptian army, and
on whose fidelity it was always safe to count. Ere long these commands
became hereditary, and the feudal system, which had anciently prevailed
among the chiefs of nomes or cantons, re-established itself for the
advantage of the members of the reigning house. The Pharaoh of the time
continued to reside at Memphis, or at Bubastis, to receive the taxes, to
direct as far as was possible the central administration, and to preside
at the grand ceremonies of religion, such as the enthronement or the
burial of an Apis-Bull; but, in point of fact, Egypt found itself
divided into a certain number of principalities, some of which comprised
only a few towns, while others extended over several continuous cantons.
After a time the chiefs of these principalities were emboldened to
reject the sovereignty of the Pharaoh altogether; relying on their bands
of Libyan mercenaries, they usurped, not only the functions of royalty,
but even the title of king, while the legitimate dynasty, cooped up in a
corner of the Delta, with difficulty preserved a certain remnant of

Upon disintegration followed, as a natural consequence, quarrel and
disturbance. In the reign of Takelut II., the grandson of Osorkon II.,
troubles broke out both in the north and in the south. Takelut's eldest
son, Osorkon, who was High-Priest of Ammon, and held the government of
Thebes and the other provinces of the south, was only able to maintain
the integrity of the kingdom by means of perpetual civil wars. Under his
successors, Sheshonk III., Pamai, and Sheshonk IV., the revolts became
more and more serious. Rival dynasties established themselves at Thebes,
Tanis, Memphis, and elsewhere. Ethiopia grew more powerful as Egypt
declined, and threatened ere long to establish a preponderating
influence over the entire Nile valley. But the Egyptian princes were too
jealous of each other to appreciate the danger which threatened them. A
very epidemic of decentralization set in; and by the middle of the
eighth century, just at the time when Assyria was uniting together and
blending into one all the long-divided tribes and nations of Western
Asia, Egypt suicidally broke itself up into no fewer than twenty

Such a condition of things was, of course, fatal to literature and art.
Art, as has been said, "did not so much decline as disappear." After
Sheshonk I. no monarch of the line left any building or sculpture of the
slightest importance. The very tombs became unpretentious, and merely
repeated antique forms without any of the antique spirit. Each Apis,
indeed, had, in his turn, his arched tomb cut for him in the solid rock
of the Serapeum at Memphis, and was laid to rest in a stone sarcophagus,
formed of a single block. A stela, moreover, was in every case inscribed
and set up to his memory: but the stelæ were rude memorials, devoid of
all artistic taste; the tombs were mere reproductions of old models; and
the inscriptions were of the dullest and most prosaic kind. Here is one,
as a specimen: "In the year 2, the month Mechir, on the first day of the
month, under the reign of King Pimai, the god Apis was carried to his
rest in the beautiful region of the west, and was laid in the grave, and
deposited in his everlasting house and his eternal abode. He was born in
the year 28, in the time of the deceased king, Sheshonk III. His glory
was sought for in all places of Lower Egypt. He was found after some
months in the city of Hashedabot. He was solemnly introduced into the
temple of Phthah, beside his father--the Memphian god Phthah of the
south wall--by the high-priest in the temple of Phthah, the great prince
of the Mashuash, Petise, the son of the high-priest of Memphis and great
prince of the Mashuash, Takelut, and of the princess of royal race,
Thes-bast-per, in the year 28, in the month of Paophi, on the first day
of the month. The full lifetime of this god amounted to twenty-six
years." Such is the historical literature of the period. The only other
kind of literature belonging to it which has come down to us, consists
of what are called "Magical Texts." These are to the following
effect:--"When Horns weeps, the water that falls from his eyes grows
into plants producing a sweet perfume. When Typhon lets fall blood from
his nose, it grows into plants changing to cedars, and produces
turpentine instead of the water. When Shu and Tefnut weep much, and
water falls from their eyes, it changes into plants that produce
incense. When the Sun weeps a second time, and lets water fall from his
eyes, it is changed into working bees; they work in the flowers of each
kind, and honey and wax are produced instead of the water. When the Sun
becomes weak, he lets fall the perspiration of his members, and this
changes to a liquid." Or again--"To make a magic mixture: Take two
grains of incense, two fumigations, two jars of cedar-oil, two jars of
_tas_, two jars of wine, two jars of spirits of wine. Apply it at the
place of thy heart. Thou art protected against the accidents of life;
thou art protected against a violent death; thou art protected against
fire; thou art not ruined on earth, and thou escapest in heaven."



The name of Ethiopia was applied in ancient times, much as the term
Soudan is applied now, vaguely to the East African interior south of
Egypt, from about lat. 24° to about lat. 9°. The tract was for the most
part sandy or rocky desert, interspersed with oases, but contained along
the course of the Nile a valuable strip of territory; while, south and
south-east of the point where the Nile receives the Atbara, it spread
out into a broad fertile region, watered by many streams, diversified by
mountains and woodlands, rich in minerals, and of considerable
fertility. At no time did the whole of this vast tract--a thousand miles
long by eight or nine hundred broad--form a single state or monarchy.
Rather, for the most part, was it divided up among an indefinite number
of states, or rather of tribes, some of them herdsmen, others hunters or
fishermen, very jealous of their independence, and frequently at war one
with another. Among the various tribes there was a certain community of
race, a resemblance of physical type, and a similarity of language.
Their neighbours, the Egyptians, included them all under a single ethnic
name, speaking of them as Kashi or Kushi--a term manifestly identical
with the Cush or Cushi of the Hebrews. They were a race cognate with the
Egyptians, but darker in complexion and coarser in feature--not by any
means negroes, but still more nearly allied to the negro than the
Egyptians were. Their best representatives in modern times are the
pure-bred Abyssinian tribes, the Gallas, Wolaïtzas, and the like, who
are probably their descendants.

The portion of Ethiopia which lay nearest to Egypt had been from a very
early date penetrated by Egyptian influence. Wars with "the miserable
Kashi" began as far back as the time of Usurtasen I.; and Usurtasen III.
carried his arms beyond the Second Cataract, and attached the northern
portion of Ethiopia to Egypt. The great kings of the eighteenth dynasty,
Thothmes III., Amenhotep II., and Amenhotep III., proceeded still
further southward; and the last of these monarchs built a temple to
Ammon at Napata, near the modern Gebel Berkal. The Ethiopians of this
region, a plastic race, adopted to a considerable extent the Egyptian
civilization, worshipped Egyptian gods in Egyptian shrines, and set up
inscriptions in the hieroglyphic character and in the Egyptian tongue.
Napata, and the Nile valley both below it and above it, was already half
Egyptianized, when, on the establishment of the Sheshonk dynasty in
Egypt, the descendants of Herhor resolved to quit their native country,
and remove themselves into Ethiopia, where they had reason to expect a
welcome. They were probably already connected by marriage with some of
the leading chiefs of Napata, and their sacerdotal character gave them
a great hold on a peculiarly superstitious people. The "princes of Noph"
received them with the greatest favour, and assigned them the highest
position in the state. Retaining their priestly office, they became at
once Ethiopian monarchs, and High-Priests of the Temple of Ammon which
Amenhotep III. had erected at Napata. Napata, under their government,
flourished greatly, and acquired a considerable architectural
magnificence. Fresh temples were built, in which the worship of Egyptian
was combined with that of Ethiopian deities; avenues of sphinxes adorned
the approaches to these new shrines; the practice of burying the members
of the royal house in pyramids was reverted to; and the necropolis of
Napata recalled the glories of the old necropolis of Memphis.

Napata was also a place of much wealth. The kingdom, whereof it was the
capital, reached southward as far as the modern Khartoum, and eastward
stretched up to the Abyssinian highlands, including the valleys of the
Atbara and its tributaries, together with most of the tract between the
Atbara and the Blue Nile. This was a region of great natural wealth,
containing many mines of gold, iron, copper, and salt, abundant woods of
date-palm, almond-trees, and ilex, some excellent pasture-ground, and
much rich meadow-land suitable for the growth of _doora_ and other sorts
of grain. Fish of many kinds, and excellent turtle, abounded in the
Atbara and the other streams; while the geographical position was
favourable for commerce with the tribes of the interior, who were able
to furnish an almost inexhaustible supply of ivory, skins, and ostrich

The first monarch of Napata, whose name has come down to us, is a
certain Piankhi, who called himself Mi-Ammon, or Meri-Ammon--that is to
say, "beloved of Ammon." He is thought to have been a descendant of
Herhor, and to have begun to reign about B.C. 755. At this time Egypt
had reached the state of extreme disintegration described in the last
section. A prince named Tafnekht, probably of Libyan origin, ruled in
the western Delta, and held Saïs and Memphis; an Osorkon was king of the
eastern Delta, and held his court at Bubastis; Petesis was king of
Athribis, near the apex of the Delta; and a prince named Aupot, or
Shupot, ruled in some portion of the same region. In Middle Egypt, the
tract immediately above Memphis formed the kingdom of Pefaabast, who had
his residence in Sutensenen, or Heracleopolis Magna, and held the Fayoum
under his authority; while further south the Nile valley was in the
possession of a certain Namrut, whose capital was Sesennu, or
Hermopolis. Bek-en-nefi, and a Sheshonk, had also principalities, though
in what exact position is uncertain; and various towns, including
Mendes, were under the government of chiefs of mercenaries, of whom it
is reckoned that there were more than a dozen. Thebes and Southern Egypt
from about the latitude of Hermopolis had already been absorbed into the
kingdom of Napata, and were ruled directly by Piankhi.

Such being the state of affairs when he came to the throne, Piankhi
contrived between his first and his twenty-first year (about B.C.
755-734) gradually to extend his authority over the other kings, and to
reduce them to the position of tributary princes or feudatories. It is
uncertain whether he used force to effect his purpose. Perhaps the fear
of the Assyrians, who, under Tiglath-pileser II., were about this time
(B.C. 745-730) making great advances in Syria and Palestine, may have
been sufficiently strong to induce the princes voluntarily to adopt the
protection of Piankhi, whom they may have regarded as an Egyptian rather
than a foreigner. At any rate, we do not hear of violence being used
until revolt broke out. In the twenty-first year of Piankhi, news
reached him that Tafnekht, king of Memphis and Saïs, had rebelled, and,
not content with throwing off his allegiance, had commenced a series of
attacks upon the princes that remained faithful to their suzerain, and
was endeavouring to make himself master of the whole country. Already
had he fallen upon Pafaabast, and forced him to surrender at discretion;
he was advancing up the river; Namrut had joined him; and he would soon
threaten Thebes, unless a strenuous resistance were offered. Piankhi
seems at first to have despised his enemy. He thought it enough to send
two generals, at the head of a strong body of troops, down the Nile,
with orders to suppress the revolt, and bring the arch-rebel into his
presence. The expedition left Thebes. On its way down the river, it fell
in with the advancing fleet of the enemy, and completely defeated it.
The rebel chiefs, who now included Petesis, Osorkon, and Aupot, as well
as Tafnekht, Pefaabast, and Namrut, abandoning Hermopolis and the
Middle Nile, fell back upon Sutensenen or Heracleopolis Magna, where
they concentrated their forces, and awaited a second attack. This was
not long delayed. Piankhi's fleet and army, having besieged and taken
Hermopolis, descended the river to Sutensenen, gave the confederates a
second naval defeat, and disembarking, followed up their success with
another great victory on land, completely routing the rebels, and
driving them to take refuge in Lower Egypt, or in the towns on the river
bank below Heracleopolis. But now a strange reverse of fortune befell
them. Namrut, the Hermopolitan monarch, hearing of the occupation of his
capital by Piankhi's army, resolved on a bold attempt to retake it; and,
having collected a number of ships and troops, quitted his confederates,
sailed up the Nile, besieged the Ethiopian garrison which had been left
to hold the place, overpowered them, and recovered his city.

This unexpected blow roused Piankhi from his inaction. Having collected
a fresh army, he quitted Napata in the first month of the year, and
reached Thebes in the second, where he stopped awhile to perform a
number of religious ceremonies; at their close, he descended the Nile to
Hermopolis, invested it, and commenced its siege. Moveable towers were
brought up against the walls, from which machines threw stones and
arrows into the city; the defenders suffered terribly, and after a short
time insisted on a surrender. Namrut made his peace with his offended
sovereign through the intercession of his wife with Piankhi's wives,
sisters, and daughters, and was allowed once more to do homage to his
lord in the temple of Thoth, leading his war-horse in one hand and
holding a sistrum, the instrument wherewith it was usual to approach a
god, in the other. Piankhi entered Hermopolis, and examined the
treasury, store-houses, and stables, finding in the last a number of
horses, which had been reduced almost to starvation by the siege. Either
on this account, or for some other reason, Piankhi treated the
Hermopolitan prince with coldness, and did not for some time reinstate
him in his kingdom.


Continuing his triumphal march towards the north, Piankhi received the
submission of Heracleopolis, the capital of Pefaabast, and of various
other cities on either bank of the Nile, and in a short time appeared
before Memphis and summoned it to surrender; but his summons was set at
nought. Tafnekht had recently visited the city, had strengthened its
defences, augmented its supplies, and reinforced its garrison with an
addition of eight thousand men, thereby greatly inspiriting them. It was
resolved to resist to the uttermost. So the gates were shut, the walls
manned, and Piankhi challenged to do his worst. "Then was His Majesty
furious against them, like a panther." Piankhi attacked the city
fiercely, both by land and water. Taking the command of the fleet in
person, he sailed down the Nile, and, bringing his vessels close up to
the walls and towers on the riverside, made use of the masts and yards
as ladders, and so scaled the fortifications; then after slaughtering
thousands on the ramparts, he forced an entrance into the town. Memphis,
upon this, surrendered. Piankhi entered the town, and sacrificed to the
god Phthah. A number of the princes, including Aupot and Merkaneshu, a
leader of mercenaries, came in and made their submission; but two of the
principal rebels still remained unsubdued--Tafnekht, the leader of the
revolt, and Osorkon, king of Bubastis, Piankhi proceeded against the
latter. Advancing first on Heliopolis, instead of resistance he was
received with acclamations, the people, priests, and soldiery having
gone over to his side. "Nothing succeeds like success." Egypt was as
prone as other countries to "worship the rising sun;" and Piankhi's
victories had by this time marked him out in the eyes of the Egyptians
as the favourite of Heaven, their predestined monarch and ruler.
Accordingly, Heliopolis received him gladly, hailing him as "the
indestructible Horus"--he was allowed to bathe in the sacred lake within
the precincts of the great temple, to offer sacrifice to Ra, and to
enter through the folding-doors into the central shrine, where were laid
up the sacred boats of Ra and Turn. After this surrender, Osorkon
thought it vain to attempt further resistance. He quitted Bubastis,
and, seeking the presence of the victorious Piankhi, submitted himself
and renewed his homage. At the same time, Petisis, king of Athribis,
made his submission.

The only prince who still remained unsubdued was Tafnekht, the original
rebel. Tafnekht had fled after the fall of Memphis, and had taken refuge
either in one of the islands of the Delta, or beyond the seas, in Aradus
or Cyprus. But he saw that further resistance was vain; and that, if he
was to rule an Egyptian principality, it must be as a secondary monarch.
Accordingly he, too, submitted himself, and was restored to his former
kingdom. Piankhi returned up the Nile to his own city of Napata amid
songs and rejoicings--whether sincere or feigned, who shall say? His own
account of the matter is the following: "When His Majesty sailed up the
river, his heart was glad; all its banks resounded with music. The
inhabitants of the west and of the east betook themselves to making
melody at His Majesty's approach. To the notes of the music they sang,
'O king, thou conqueror! O Piankhi, thou conquering king! Thou hast come
and smitten Lower Egypt; thou madest the men as women. The heart of the
mother rejoices who bare such a son, for he who begat thee dwells in the
vale of death. Happiness be to thee, O cow that hast borne the Bull!
Thou shalt live for ever in after ages. Thy victory shall endure, O king
and friend of Thebes!'"

This happy condition of things did not, however, continue long. Piankhi,
soon after his return to his capital, died without leaving issue; and
the race of Herhor being now extinct, the Ethiopians had to elect a king
from the number of their own nobles. Their choice fell on a certain
Kashta, a man of little energy, who allowed Egypt to throw off the
Ethiopian sovereignty without making any effort to prevent it.
Bek-en-ranf, the son of Tafnekht, was the leader of this successful
rebellion, and is said to have reigned over all Egypt for six years. He
got a name for wisdom and justice, but he could not alter that condition
of affairs which had been gradually brought about by the slow working of
various more or less occult causes, whereby Ethiopia had increased and
Egypt diminished in power, their relative strength, as compared with
former times, having become inverted. Ethiopia, being now the stronger,
was sure to reassert herself, and did so in Bek-en-ranf's seventh year.
Shabak, the son of Kashta, whose character was cast in a far stronger
mould than that of his father, having mounted the Ethiopian throne, lost
no time in swooping down upon Egypt from the upper region, and, carrying
all before him, besieged and took Saïs, made Bek-en-ranf a prisoner, and
barbarously burnt him alive for his rebellion. His fierce and sensuous
physiognomy is quite in keeping with this bloody deed, which was well
calculated to strike terror into the Egyptian nation, and to ensure a
general submission.

The rule of the Ethiopians was now for some fifty years firmly
established. Shabak founded a dynasty which the Egyptians themselves
admitted to be legitimate, and which the historian Manetho declared to
have consisted of three kings--Sabacos (or Shabak), Sevechus (or
Shabatok), and Taracus (or Tehrak), the Hebrew Tirhakah. The extant
monuments confirm the names, and order of succession, of these monarchs.
They were of a coarser and ruder fibre than the native Egyptians, but
they did not rule Egypt in any alien or hostile spirit. On the contrary,
they were pious worshippers of the old Egyptian gods; they repaired and
beautified the old Egyptian temples; and, instead of ruling Egypt, as a
conquered province, from Napata, they resided permanently, or at any
rate occasionally, at the Egyptian capitals, Thebes and Memphis. There
are certain indications which make it probable that to some extent they
pursued the policy of Piankhi, and governed Lower Egypt by means of
tributary kings, who held their courts at Saïs, Tanis, and perhaps
Bubastis. But they kept a jealous watch over their subject princes, and
allowed none of them to attain a dangerous pre-eminence.

[Illustration: HEAD OF SHABAK (SABACO).]

By a curious coincidence the Ethiopic sway, or extension of influence
over Egypt by the great monarchy of the south, exactly synchronized with
the development of Assyrian power in south-western Asia, which bordered
Egypt upon the north; and thus were brought into hostile collision, the
two greatest military powers of the then known world who fought over the
prostrate Egypt, like Achilles and Hector over the corpse of Patroclus.
Shabak's conquest of the Lower Nile valley took place about B.C. 725 or
724. Exactly at that time Shalmaneser IV. was proceeding to extremities
against the kingdom of Israel, and was thus threatening to sweep away
one of the last two feeble barriers which had hitherto been interposed
between the Assyrian territory and the Egyptian. Shabak, entreated by
Hoshea, the last Israelite monarch, to lend him aid, consented to take
the kingdom of Israel under his protection (2 Kings xvii. 4), actuated
no doubt by an enlightened view of his own interest. But when Samaria
was besieged (B.C. 723) and the danger became pressing, he had not the
courage to act up to his engagements. The stout resistance offered by
the Israelite capital for more than two years (2 Kings xvii. 5) drew
forth no corresponding effort on the part of the Ethiopic king. Hoshea
was left to his own resources, and in B.C. 722 was forced to succumb.
His capital was taken by storm, its inhabitants seized and carried off
by the conqueror, the whole territory absorbed into that of Assyria, and
the cities occupied by Assyrian colonists (2 Kings xvii. 24). Assyria
was brought one step nearer to Egypt, and it became more than ever
evident that contact and collision could not be much longer deferred.

The collision came in B.C. 720. In that year Sargon, the founder of the
last and greatest of the Assyrian dynasties, who had succeeded
Shalmaneser IV. in B.C. 722, having arranged matters in Samaria and
taken Hamath, pressed on against Philistia, the last inhabited country
on the route which led to Egypt. Shabak, having made alliance with
Hanun, king of Gaza, marched to his aid. The opposing hosts met at
Ropeh, the Raphia of the Greeks, on the very borders of the desert.
Sargon commanded in person on the one side, Shabak and Hanun on the
other. A great battle was fought, which was for a long time stoutly
contested; but the strong forms, the superior arms, and the better
discipline of the Assyrians, prevailed. Asia proved herself, as she has
generally done, stronger than Africa; the Egyptians and Philistines fled
away in disorder; Hanun was made a prisoner; Shabak with difficulty
escaped. Negotiations appear to have followed, and a convention to have
been drawn up, to which the Ethiopian and Assyrian monarchs attached
their seals. The lump of clay which received the impressions was found
by Sir A. Layard at Nineveh, and is now in the British Museum.

Shortly afterwards, about B.C. 712, Shabak died, and was succeeded in
Egypt by his son Shabatok, in Ethiopia by a certain Tehrak, who appears
to have been his nephew, Tehrak exercised the paramount authority over
the whole realm, but resided at Napata, while Shabatok held his court at
Memphis and ruled Lower Egypt as Tehrak's representative, Assyrian
aggression still continued. In B.C. 711 Sargon took Ashdod, and
threatened an invasion of Egypt, which Shabatok averted by sending a
submissive embassy with presents.

[Illustration: SEAL OF SHABAK.]

Six years afterwards Sargon died, and his son, Sennacherib, mounted the
Assyrian throne. At once south-western Asia was in a ferment. The
Phœnician and Philistine kings recently subjected by Tiglath-Pileser and
Sargon, broke out in open revolt. Hezekiah, king of Judah, joined the
malcontents. The aid of Egypt was implored, and certain promises of
support and assistance received, in part from Tehrak, in part from
Shabatok and other native rulers of nomes and cities. Sennacherib, in
B.C. 701, led his army into Syria to suppress the rebellion, reduced
Phœnicia, received the submission of Ashdod, Ammon, Moab, and Edom; took
Ascalon, Hazor, and Joppa, and was proceeding against Ekron, when for
the first time he encountered an armed force in the field. A large
Egyptian and Ethiopian contingent had at last reached Philistia, and,
having united itself with the Ekronites, stood prepared to give the
Assyrians battle near Eltekeh. The force consisted of chariots,
horsemen, and footmen, and was so numerous that Sennacherib calls it "a
multitude that no man could number." Once more, however, Africa had to
succumb. Sennacherib at Eltekeh defeated the combined forces of Egypt
and Ethiopia with as much ease and completeness as Sargon at Raphia; the
multitudinous host was entirely routed, and fled from the field, leaving
in the hands of the victors the greater portion of their war-chariots
and several sons of one of their kings.

After this defeat, it is not surprising that Tehrak made no further
effort. Hezekiah, the last rebel unsubdued, was left to defend himself
as he best might. The Egyptians retreated to their own borders, and
there awaited attack. It seemed as if the triumph of Assyria was
assured, and as if her yoke must almost immediately be imposed alike
upon Judea, upon Egypt, and upon the kingdom of Napata; but an
extraordinary catastrophe averted the immediate danger, and gave to
Egypt and Ethiopia a respite of thirty-four years. Sennacherib's army,
of nearly two hundred thousand men, was almost totally destroyed in one
night. "The angel of the Lord went forth," says the contemporary writer,
Isaiah, "and smote in the camp of the Assyrians a hundred and fourscore
and five thousand; and when they arose early in the morning, behold,
they were all dead corpses" (Isa. xxxvii. 36). Whatever the agency
employed in this remarkable destruction--whether it was caused by a
simoon, or a pestilence, or by a direct visitation of the Almighty, as
different writers have explained it--the event is certain. Its truth is
written in the undeniable facts of later history, which show us a sudden
cessation of Assyrian attack in this quarter, the kingdom of Judea saved
from absorption, and the countries on the banks of the Nile left
absolutely unobstructed by Assyria for the third part of a century. As
the destruction happened on their borders, the Egyptians naturally
enough ascribed it to their own gods, and made a boast of it centuries
after. Everything marks, as one of the most noticeable facts in
history, this annihilation of so great a portion of the army of the
greatest of all the kings of Assyria.

[Illustration: HEAD OF TEHRAK (TIRHAKAH).]

The reign of Tirhakah (Tehrak) during this period appears to have been
glorious. He was regarded by Judea as its protector, and exercised a
certain influence over all Syria as far as Taurus, Amanus, and the
Euphrates. In Africa, he brought into subjection the native tribes of
the north coast, carrying his arms, according to some, as far as the
Pillars of Hercules. He is exhibited at Medinet-Abou in the dress of a
warrior, smiting with a mace ten captive foreign princes. He erected
monuments in the Egyptian style at Thebes, Memphis, and Napata. Of all
the Ethiopian sovereigns of Egypt he was undoubtedly the greatest; but
towards the close of his life reverses befell him, which require to be
treated of in another section.



The miraculous destruction of his army was accepted by Sennacherib as a
warning to desist from all further attempts against the independence of
Judea, and from all further efforts to extend his dominions towards the
south-west. He survived the destruction during a period of seventeen
years, and was actively engaged in a number of wars towards the east,
the north, and the north-west, but abstained carefully from further
contact with either Palestine or Egypt. His son Esarhaddon succeeded him
on the throne in B.C. 681, and at once, to a certain extent, modified
this policy. He re-established the Assyrian dominion over Upper Syria,
Phœnicia, and even Edom; but during the first nine years of his reign
the memory of his father's disaster caused him to leave Judea and Egypt
unattacked. At last, however, in B.C. 672, encouraged by his many
military successes, by the troubled state of Judea under the idolatrous
Manasseh, who "shed innocent blood very much from one end of Jerusalem
to the other" (2 Kings xxi. 16), and by the advanced age of Tehrak,
which seemed to render him a less formidable antagonist now than
formerly, he resumed the designs on Egypt which his father and
grandfather had entertained, swept Manasseh from his path by seizing him
and carrying him off a prisoner to Babylon, marched his troops from
Aphek along the coast of Palestine to Raphia, and there made the
dispositions which seemed to him best calculated to effect the conquest
of the coveted country. As Tirhakah, aware of his intentions, had
collected all his available force upon his north-east frontier, about
Pelusium and its immediate neighbourhood, the Assyrian monarch took the
bold resolution of proceeding southward through the waste tract, known
to the Hebrews as "the desert of Shur," in such a way as to turn the
flank of Tirhakah's army, to reach Pithom (Heroopolis) and to attack
Memphis along the line of the Old Canal. The Arab Sheikhs of the desert
were induced to lend him their aid, and facilitate his march by
conveying the water necessary for his army on the backs of their camels
in skins. The march was thus made in safety, though the soldiers are
said to have suffered considerably from fatigue and thirst, and to have
been greatly alarmed by the sight of numerous serpents.

Tehrak, on his part, did all that was possible. On learning Esarhaddon's
change of route, he broke up from Pelusium, and, by a hasty march across
the eastern Delta succeeded in interposing his army between Memphis and
the host of the Assyrians, which had to follow the line taken by Sir
Garnet Wolseley in 1884, and encountered the enemy, probably, not far
from the spot where the British general completely defeated the troops
of Arabi. Here for the third time Asia and Africa stood arrayed the one
against the other. Assyria brought into the field a host of probably not
fewer than two hundred thousand men, including a strong chariot force, a
powerful cavalry, and an infantry variously armed and appointed--some
with huge shields and covered by almost complete panoplies, others
lightly equipped with targe and dart, or even simply with slings. Egypt
opposed to her a force, probably, even more numerous, but consisting
chiefly of a light-armed infantry, containing a large proportion of
mercenaries whose hearts would not be in the fight, deficient in
cavalry, and apt to trust mainly to its chariots. In the flat Egyptian
plains lightly accoutred troops fight at a great disadvantage against
those whose equipment is of greater solidity and strength; cavalry are
an important arm, since there is nothing to check the impetus of a
charge; and personal strength is a most important element in determining
the result of a conflict. The Assyrians were more strongly made than the
Egyptians; they had probably a better training; they certainly wore more
armour, carried larger shields and longer spears, and were better
equipped both for offence and defence. We have, unfortunately, no
description of the battle; but it is in no way surprising to learn that
the Assyrians prevailed; Tehrak's forces suffered a complete defeat,
were driven from the field in confusion, and hastily dispersed

Memphis was then besieged, taken, and given up to pillage. The statues
of the gods, the gold and silver, the turquoise and lapis lazuli, the
vases, censers, jars, goblets, amphorae, the stores of ivory, ebony,
cinnamon, frankincense, fine linen, crystal, jasper, alabaster,
embroidery, with which the piety of kings had enriched the
temples--especially the Great Temple of Phthah--during fifteen or twenty
centuries, were ruthlessly carried off by the conquerors, who destined
them either for the adornment of the Ninevite shrines or for their own
private advantage. Tehrak's wife and concubines, together with several
of his children and numerous officers of his court, left behind in
consequence of his hurried flight, fell into the enemy's hands. Tehrak
himself escaped, and fled first to Thebes, and then to Napata; while the
army of Esarhaddon, following closely on his footsteps, advanced up the
valley of the Nile, scoured the open country with their cavalry, stormed
the smaller towns, and after a siege of some duration took "populous
No," or Thebes, "that was situate among the rivers, that had the waters
round about it, whose rampart was the great deep" (Nahum iii. 8). All
Egypt was overrun from the Mediterranean to the First Cataract;
thousands of prisoners were taken and carried away captive; the Assyrian
monarch was undisputed master of the entire land of Mizraïm from Migdol
to Syene and from Pelusium to the City of Crocodiles.

Upon conquest followed organization. The great Assyrian was not content
merely to overrun Egypt; he was bent upon holding it. Acting on the
Roman principle, "_Divide et impera_," he broke up the country into
twenty distinct principalities, over each of which he placed a governor,
while in the capital of each he put an Assyrian garrison. Of the
governors, by far the greater number were native Egyptians; but in one
or two instances the command was given to an Assyrian. For the most
part, the old divisions of the nomes were kept, but sometimes two or
more nomes were thrown together and united under a single governor.
Neco, an ancestor of the great Pharaoh who bore the same name (2 Kings
xxiii. 29-35), had Saïs, Memphis, and the nomes that lay between them;
Mentu-em-ankh had Thebes and southern Egypt as far as Elephantine.
Satisfied with these arrangements, the conqueror returned to Nineveh,
having first, however, sculptured on the rocks at the mouth of the
Nahr-el-Kelb a representation of his person and an account of his


Egypt lay at the feet of Assyria for about three or four years (B.C.
672-669). Then the struggle was renewed. Tehrak, who had bided his time,
learning that Esarhaddon was seized with a mortal malady, issued (B.C.
669) from his Ethiopian fastnesses, descended the valley of the Nile,
expelled the governors whom Esarhaddon had set up, and possessed himself
of the disputed territory. Thebes received him with enthusiasm, as one
attached to the worship of Ammon; and the priests of Phthah opened to
him the gates of Memphis, despite the efforts of Neco and the Assyrian
garrison. The religious sympathy between Ethiopia and Egypt was an
important factor in the as yet undecided contest, and helped much to
further the Ethiopic cause. But in war sentiment can effect but little.
Physical force, on the whole, prevails, unless in the rare instances
where miracle intervenes, or where patriotic enthusiasm is exalted to
such a pitch as to strike physical force with impotency.

In the conflict that was now raging patriotism had little part. Ethiopia
and Assyria were contending, partly for military pre-eminence, partly
for the prey that lay between them, inviting a master--the rich and now
weak Egyptian kingdom. Tehrak's success, communicated to the Assyrian
Court by the dispossessed governors, drew forth almost immediately a
counter effort on the part of Assyria, which did not intend to
relinquish without a struggle the important addition that Esarhaddon had
made to the empire. In B.C. 668, Asshur-bani-pal, the Sardanapalus of
the Greeks, having succeeded his father Esarhaddon, put the forces of
Assyria once more in motion, and swooping down upon the unhappy Egypt,
succeeded in carrying all before him, defeated Tehrak at Karbanit in the
Delta, recovered Memphis and Thebes, forced Tehrak to take refuge at
Napata, re-established in power the twenty petty kings, and restored the
country in all respects to the condition into which it had been brought
four years previously by Esarhaddon. Egypt thus passed under the
Assyrians for the second time, Ethiopia relinquishing her hold upon the
prey as soon as Assyria firmly grasped it.

Still the matter was not yet settled, the conflict was not yet ended.
The petty kings themselves began now to coquet with Tehrak, and to
invite his co-operation in an attempt, which they promised they would
make, to throw off the yoke of the Assyrians. Detected in this intrigue,
Neco and two others were arrested by the Assyrian commandants, loaded
with chains, and sent as prisoners to Nineveh. But their arrest did not
check the movement. On the contrary, the spirit of revolt spread. The
commandants tried to stop it by measures of extreme severity: they
sacked the great cities of the Delta--Saïs, Mendes, and Tanis or Zoan;
but all was of no avail. Tehrak once more took the field, descended the
Nile valley, recovered Thebes, and threatened Memphis. Asshur-bani-pal
upon this hastily sent Neco from Nineveh at the head of an Assyrian army
to exert his influence on the Assyrian side--which he was content to do,
since the Ninevite monarch had made him chief of the petty kings, and
conferred the principality of Athribis on his son, Psamatik. Tehrak, in
alarm retreated from his bold attempt, evacuated Thebes and returned to
his own dominions, where he shortly afterwards died (B.C. 667).

It might have been expected that the death of the aged warrior-king
would have been the signal for Ethiopia to withdraw from the struggle so
long maintained, and relinquish Egypt to her rival; but the actual
result was the exact contrary. Tehrak was succeeded at Napata by his
step-son, Rut-Ammon, a young prince of a bold and warlike temper. Far
from recoiling from the enterprize which Tehrak had adjudged hopeless,
he threw himself into it with the utmost ardour. Once more an Ethiopian
army descended the Nile valley, occupied Thebes, engaged and defeated a
combined Egyptian and Assyrian force near Memphis, took the capital,
made its garrison prisoners, and brought under subjection the greater
portion of the Delta. Neco, having fallen into the hands of the
Ethiopians, was cruelly put to death. His son, Psamatik, saved himself
by a timely flight.

History now "repeated itself." In B.C. 666 Asshur-bani-pal made, in
person, a second expedition into Egypt, defeated Rut-Ammon upon the
frontier, recovered Memphis, marched upon Thebes, Rut-Ammon retiring as
he advanced, stormed and sacked the great city, inflicted wanton injury
on its temples, carried off its treasures, and enslaved its population.
The triumph of the Assyrian arms was complete. Very shortly all
resistance ceased. The subject princes were replaced in their
principalities. Asshur-bani-pal's sovereignty was universally
acknowledged, and Ethiopia, apparently, gave up the contest.

One more effort was, however, made by the southern power. On the death
of Rut-Ammon, Mi-Ammon-Nut, probably a son of Tirhakah's, became king of
Ethiopia, and resolved on a renewal of the war. Egyptian disaffection
might always be counted on, whichever of the two great powers held
temporary possession of the country; and Mi-Ammon-Nut further courted
the favour of the Egyptian princes, priests, and people, by an
ostentatious display of zeal for their religion. Assyria had allowed the
temples to fall into decay; the statues of the gods had in some
instances been cast down, the temple revenues confiscated, the priests
restrained in their conduct of the religious worship. Mi-Ammon-Nut
proclaimed himself the chosen of Ammon, and the champion of the gods of
Egypt. On entering each Egyptian town he was careful to visit its chief
temple, to offer sacrifices and gifts, to honour the images and lead
them in procession, and to pay all due respect to the college of
priests. This prudent policy met with complete success. As he advanced
down the Nile valley, he was everywhere received with acclamations. "Go
onward in the peace of thy name," they shouted, "go onward in the peace
of thy name. Dispense life throughout all the land--that the temples may
be restored which are hastening to ruin; that the statues of the gods
may be set up after their manner; that their revenues may be given back
to the gods and goddesses, and the offerings of the dead to the
deceased; that the priest may be established in his place, and all
things be fulfilled according to the Holy Ritual." In many places where
it had been intended to oppose his advance in arms, the news of his
pious acts produced a complete revulsion of feeling, and "those whose
intention it had been to fight were moved with joy." No one opposed him
until he had nearly reached the northern capital, Memphis, which was
doubtless held in force by the Assyrians, to whom the princes of Lower
Egypt were still faithful. A battle, accordingly, was fought before the
walls, and in this Mi-Ammon-Nut was victorious; the Egyptians probably
did not fight with much zeal, and the Assyrians, distrusting their
subject allies, may well have been dispirited. After the victory,
Memphis opened her gates, and soon afterwards the princes of the Delta
thought it best to make their submission--the Assyrians, we must
suppose, retired--Mi-Ammon-Nut's authority was acknowledged, and the
princes, having transferred their allegiance to him, were allowed to
retain their governments.

The consequences of this last Ethiopian invasion of Egypt appear to have
been transient. Mi-Ammon-Nut did not live very long to enjoy his
conquest, and in Egypt he had no successor. He was not even recognized
by the Egyptians among their legitimate kings. Egypt at his death
reverted to her previous position of dependence upon Assyria, feeling
herself still too weak to stand alone, and perhaps not greatly caring,
so that she had peace, which of the two great powers she acknowledged as
her suzerain. She had now (about B.C. 650) for above twenty years been
fought over by the two chief kingdoms of the earth--each of them had
traversed with huge armies, as many as five or six times, the Nile
valley from one extremity to the other; the cities had been half ruined,
harvest after harvest destroyed, trees cut down, temples rifled,
homesteads burnt, villas plundered. Thebes, the Hundred-gated, probably
for many ages quite the most magnificent city in the world, had become a
by-word for desolation (Nahum iii. 8, 9); Memphis, Heliopolis, Tanis,
Saïs, Mendes, Bubastis, Heracleopolis, Hermopolis; Crocodilopolis, had
been taken and retaken repeatedly; the old buildings and monuments had
been allowed to fall into decay; no king had been firmly enough
established on his throne to undertake the erection of any but
insignificant new ones. Egypt was "fallen, fallen, fallen--fallen from
her high estate;" an apathy, not unlike the stillness of death, brooded
over her; literature was silent, art extinct; hope of recovery can
scarcely have lingered in many bosoms. As events proved, the vital spark
was not actually fled; but the keenest observer would scarcely have
ventured to predict, at any time between B.C. 750 and B.C. 650, such a
revival as marked the period between B.C. 650 and B.C. 530.



When a country has sunk so gradually, so persistently, and for so long a
series of years as Egypt had now been sinking, if there is a revival, it
must almost necessarily come from without. The corpse cannot rise
without assistance--the expiring patient cannot cure himself. All the
vital powers being sapped, all the energies having departed, the Valley
of the Shadow of Death having been entered, nothing can arrest
dissolution but some foreign stock, some blood not yet vitiated, some
"saviour" sent by Divine providence from outside the nation (Isa. xix.
20), to recall the expiring life, to revivify the paralyzed frame, to
infuse fresh energy into it, and to make it once more live, breathe,
act, think, assert itself. Yet the saviour must not be altogether from
without. He must not be a conqueror, for conquest necessarily weakens
and depresses; he must not be too remote in blood, or he will lack the
power fully to understand and sympathize with the nation which he is to
restore, and without true understanding and true sympathy he can effect
nothing; he must not be a stranger to the nation's recent history, or
he will make mistakes that will be irremediable. What is wanted is a
scion of a foreign stock, connected by marriage and otherwise with the
nation that he is to regenerate, and well acquainted with its
circumstances, character, position, history, virtues, weaknesses. No
entirely new man can answer to these requirements; he must be found, if
he is to be found at all, among the principal men of the time, whose lot
has for some considerable period been cast in with the State which is to
be renovated.

In Egypt, at the time of which we are speaking, exactly this position
was occupied by Psamatik, son of Neco. He was, according to all
appearance, of Libyan origin; his stock was new; his name and his
father's name are unheard of hitherto in Egyptian history;
etymologically, they are non-Egyptian; and Psamatik has a non-Egyptian
countenance. He was probably of the same family as "Inarus the Libyan,"
whose father was a Psamatik. He belonged thus to a Libyan stock, which
had, however, been crossed, more than once, with the blood of the
Egyptians. The family was one of those Libyan families which had long
been domiciled at Saïs, and had intermarried with the older Saites, who
were predominantly Egyptian. He had also for twenty years or more been
an important unit in the Egyptian political system, having shared the
vicissitudes of his father's fortunes from B.C. 672 to B.C. 667, and
having then been placed at the head of one of the many principalities
into which Egypt was divided. In the same, or the next, year he seems to
have succeeded his father; and he had reigned at Saïs for sixteen or
seventeen years before he felt himself called upon to take any step that
was at all abnormal, or attempt in any way to change his position.

[Illustration: HEAD OF PSAMATIK I.]

Familiar with the politics and institutions of Egypt, yet, as a
semi-Libyan, devoid of Egyptian prejudices, and full of the ambition
which naturally inspires young princes of a vigorous stock, Psamatik had
at once the desire to shake off the yoke of Assyria, and reunite Egypt
under his own sway, and also a willingness to adopt any means, however
new and strange, by which such a result might be accomplished. He had
probably long watched for a favourable moment at which to give his
ambition vent, and found it at last in the circumstances that ushered in
the second half of the seventh century. Assyria was, about B.C. 651,
brought into a position of great difficulty, by the revolt of Babylon in
alliance with Elam, and was thus quite unable to exercise a strict
surveillance over the more distant parts of the Empire. The garrison by
which she held Egypt had probably been weakened by the withdrawal of
troops for the defence of Assyria Proper; at any rate, it could not be
relieved or strengthened under the existing circumstances. At the same
time a power had grown up in Asia Minor, which was jealous of Assyria,
having lately been made to tremble for its independence. Gyges of Lydia
had, in a moment of difficulty, been induced to acknowledge himself
Assyria's subject; but he had emerged triumphant from the perils
surrounding him, had reasserted his independent authority, and was
anxious that the power of Assyria should be, as much as possible,
diminished. Psamatik must have been aware of this. Casting his eyes
around the political horizon in search of any ally at once able and
willing to lend him aid, he fixed upon Lydia as likely to be his best
auxiliary, and dispatched an embassy into Asia Minor. Gyges received his
application favourably, and sent him a strong Asiatic contingent,
chiefly composed of Ionians and Carians. Both races were at this time
warlike, and wore armour of much greater weight and strength than any
which the Egyptians were accustomed to carry. It was in reliance,
mainly, on these foreigners, that Psamatik ventured to proclaim himself
"King of the Two Countries," and to throw out a gage of defiance at once
to his Assyrian suzerain and to his nineteen fellow-princes.

The gage was not taken up by Assyria. Immersed in her own difficulties,
threatened in three quarters, on the south, on the south-east, and on
the east by Babylonia, by Elam, and by Media, she had enough to do at
home in guarding her own frontiers, and seeking to keep under her
immediate neighbours, and was therefore in no condition to engage in
distant expeditions, or even to care very much what became of a remote
and troublesome dependency. Thus Assyria made no sign. But the petty
princes took arms at once. To them the matter was one of life or death;
they must either crush the usurper or be themselves swept out of
existence. So they gathered together in full force. Pakrur from Pisabtu,
and Petubastes from Tanis, and Sheshonk from Busiris, and Tafnekht from
Prosopitis, and Bek-en-nefi from Athribis, and Nakh-he from
Heracleopolis, and Pimai from Mendes, and Lamentu from Hermopolis, and
Mentu-em-ankh from Thebes, and other princes from other cities, met and
formed their several contingents into a single army, and stood at bay
near Momemphis, the modern Menouf, in the western Delta, on the borders
of the Libyan Desert. Here a great battle was fought, which was for some
time doubtful; but the valour of the Greco-Carians, and the superiority
of their equipment, prevailed. The victory rested with Psamatik; his
adversaries were defeated and dispersed; following up his first success,
he proceeded to attack city after city, forcing all to submit, and
determined that he would nowhere tolerate even the shadow of a rival.
Disintegration had been the curse of Egypt for the space of above a
century; Psamatik put an end to it. No more princes of Bubastis, or of
Tanis, or of Saïs, or of Mendes, or of Heracleopolis, or of Thebes! No
more eikosiarchies, dodecarchies, or heptarchies even! Monarchy pure,
the absolute rule of one and one only sovereign over the whole of Egypt,
from the cataracts of Syene to the shores of the Mediterranean, and from
Pelusium and Migdol to Momemphis and Marea, was established, and
henceforth continued, as long as Egyptian rule endured. The lesson had
been learnt at a tremendous cost, but it had now at last been thoroughly
learnt, that only in unity is there strength--that the separate sticks
of the faggot are impotent to resist the external force which the
collective bundle might without difficulty have defied and scorned.

Psamatik had gained the object of his ambition--sovereignty over all
Egypt; he had now to consider how it might best be kept. And first, as
that which is won by the sword must be kept by the sword, he made
arrangements with the troops sent to his aid by Gyges, that they should
take permanent service under his banner, and form the most important
element in his standing army. His native troops were quartered at
Elephantine, in the extreme south, and in Marea and Daphnæ, at the two
extremities of the Delta towards the west and east. The new accession to
his military strength he stationed at no great distance from the
capital, settling them in permanent camps on either side of the Pelusiac
branch of the Nile, near the city of Bubastis. We are told that this
exaltation of the new corps to the honourable position of keeping watch
upon the capital, greatly offended the native troops, and induced
200,000 of them to quit Egypt and seek service with the Ethiopians. The
facts have probably been exaggerated, for Ethiopia certainly does not
gain, or Egypt lose, in strength, either at or after this period.

Psamatik, further, for the better securing of his throne against
pretenders, thought it prudent to contract a marriage with the
descendant of a royal stock held in honour by many of his subjects. The
princess, Shepenput, was the daughter of a Piankhi, who claimed descent
from the unfortunate Bek-en-ranf, the king burnt alive by Shabak, and
who had also probably some royal Ethiopian blood in his veins. By his
nuptials with this princess, Psamatik assured to his crown the
legitimacy which it had hitherto lacked. Uniting henceforth in his own
person the rights of the twenty-fourth and twenty-fifth dynasties, those
of the Saïtes and those of the Ethiopians, he became the one and only
legal king, and no competitor could possibly arise with a title to
sovereignty higher or better than his own.

Being now personally secure, he could turn his attention to the
restoration and elevation of the nationality of which he had taken it
upon him to assume the direction. He could cast his eyes over the
unhappy Egypt--depressed, down-trodden, well-nigh trampled to death--and
give his best consideration to the question what was to be done to
restore her to her ancient greatness. There she lay before his eyes in a
deplorable state of misery and degradation. All the great cities, her
glory and her boast in former days, had suffered more or less in the
incessant wars; Memphis had been besieged and pillaged half a dozen
times; Thebes had been sacked and burnt twice; from Syene to Pelusium
there was not a town which had not been injured in one or other of the
many invasions. The canals and roads, carefully repaired by Shabak, had
since his decease met with entire neglect; the cultivable lands had been
devastated, and the whole population decimated periodically. Out of the
ruins of the old Egypt, Psamatik had to raise up a new Egypt. He had to
revivify the dead corpse, and put a fresh life into the stiff and
motionless limbs. With great energy and determination he set himself to
accomplish the task. Applying himself, first of all, to the restoration
of what was decayed and ruined, he re-established the canals and the
roads, encouraged agriculture, favoured the development of the
population. The ruined towns were gradually repaired and rebuilt, and
vast efforts made everywhere to restore, and even to enlarge and
beautify the sacred edifices. At Memphis, Psamatik built the great
southern portal which gave completeness to the ancient temple of the god
Phthah, and also constructed a grand court for the residence of the
Apis-Bulls, surrounded by a colonnade, against the piers of which stood
colossal figures of Osiris, from eighteen to twenty feet in height. At
Thebes he re-erected the portions of the temple of Karnak, which had
been thrown down by the Assyrians; at Saïs, Mendes, Heliopolis, and
Philæ he undertook extensive works. The entire valley of the Nile became
little more than one huge workshop, where stone-cutters and masons,
bricklayers and carpenters, laboured incessantly. Under the liberal
encouragement of the king and of his chief nobles, the arts recovered
themselves and began to flourish anew. The engraving and painting of the
hieroglyphics were resumed with success, and carried out with a
minuteness and accuracy that provokes the admiration of the beholder.
Bas-reliefs of extreme beauty and elaboration characterize the period.
There rests upon some of them "a gentle and almost feminine tenderness,
which has impressed upon the imitations of living creatures the stamp of
an incredible delicacy both of conception and execution." Statues and
statuettes of merit were at the same time produced in abundance. The
"Saïtie art", as that of the revival under the Psamatiks has been
called, is characterized by an extreme neatness of manipulation in the
drawings and lines, the fineness of which often reminds us of the
performances of a seal-engraver, by grace, softness, tenderness, and
elegance. It is not the broad, but somewhat realistic style of the
Memphitic period, much less the highly imaginative and vigorous style of
the Ramesside kings; but it is a style which has quiet merits of its
own, sweet and pure, full of refinement and delicacy.


Egypt was thus rendered flourishing at home; her magnificent temples and
other edifices put off their look of neglect; her cities were once more
busy seats of industry and traffic; her fields teemed with rich
harvests; her population increased; her whole aspect changed. But the
circumstances of the time led Psamatik to attempt something more. His
employment of Greek and Carian mercenaries naturally led him on into an
intimacy with foreigners, and into a regard and consideration for them
quite unknown to previous Pharaohs, and in contradiction to ordinary
Egyptian prejudices. Egypt was the China of the Old World, and had for
ages kept herself as much as possible aloof from foreigners, and looked
upon them with aversion. Foreign vessels were, until the time of
Psamatik, forbidden to enter any of the Nile mouths, or to touch at an
Egyptian port. Psamatik saw that the new circumstances required an
extensive change. The mercenaries, if they were to be content with
their position, must be allowed to communicate freely with the cities
and countries from which they came, and intercourse between Greece and
Egypt must be encouraged rather than forbidden. Accordingly the Greeks
were invited to make settlements in the Delta, and Naucratis, favourably
situated on the Canopic branch of the Nile, was specially assigned to
them as a residence. Most of the more enterprizing among the commercial
states of the time took advantage of the opening, and Miletus, Phocæa,
Rhodes, Samos, Chios, Mytilene, Halicarnassus, and Ægina established
factories at the locality specified, built temples there to the Greek
gods, and sent out a body of colonists. A considerable trade grew up
between Egypt and Greece. The Egyptians of the higher classes especially
appreciated the flavour and quality of the Greek wines, which were
consequently imported into the country in large quantities. Greek
pottery and Greek glyptic art also attracted a certain amount of favour.
On her side Egypt exported corn, alum, muslin and linen fabrics, and the
excellent paper which she made from the _Cyperus Papyrus_.

The trade thus established was carried on mainly, if not wholly, in
Greek bottoms, the Egyptians having a distaste to the sea, and regarding
commerce with no great favour. Nevertheless, the life and stir which
foreign commerce introduced among them, the familiarity with strange
customs and manners, engendered by daily intercourse with the Greeks,
the acquisition (on the part of some) of the Greek language, the sight
of Greek modes of worship, of Greek painting and Greek sculpture, the
insight into Greek habits of thought, which could not but follow,
produced no inconsiderable effect upon the national character of the
Egyptians, shaking them out of their accustomed groove, and awakening
curiosity and inquiry. The effect was scarcely beneficial. Egyptian
national life had been eminently conservative and unchanging. The
introduction of novelty in ten thousand shapes unsettled and disturbed
it. The old beliefs were shaken, and a multitude of superstitions rushed
in. The corruptions introduced by the Greeks were more easy of adoption
and imitation than the sterling points of their character, their
intelligence, their unwearied energy, their love of truth. Egypt was
awakened to a new life by the novel circumstances of the Psamatik
period; but it was a fitful life, unquiet, unnatural, feverish. The
character of the men lost in dignity and strength by the discontinuance
of military training consequent upon the substitution for a native army
of an army of mercenaries. The position of the women sank through the
adoption of those ideas concerning them which their contact with
orientals had engrained into the minds of the Asiatic Greeks. The
national spirit of the people was sapped by the concentration of the
royal favour on a race of foreigners whose manners and customs were
abhorrent to them, and whom they regarded with envy and dislike. If some
improvement is to be seen on the surface of Egyptian life under the
Psamatiks, some greater activity and enterprise, some increased
intellectual stir, some improved methods in art, these ameliorations
scarcely compensate for the indications of decline which lie deeper, and
which in the sequel determined the fate of the nation.

The later years of the reign of Psamatik were coincident with a time of
extreme trouble and confusion in Asia, in the course of which the
Assyrian Monarchy came to an end, and south-western Asia was partitioned
between the Medes and the Babylonians. A tempting field was laid open
for an ambitious prince, who might well have dreamt of Syrian or even
Mesopotamian conquest, and of recalling the old glories of Seti,
Thothmes, and Amenhotep. Psamatik did go so far as to make an attack
upon Philistia, but met with so little success that he was induced to
restrain any grander aspirations which he may have cherished, and to
leave the Asiatic monarchs to settle Asiatic affairs as it pleased them.
Ashdod, we are told, resisted the Egyptian arms for twenty-nine years;
and though it fell at last, the prospect of half-a-dozen such sieges was
not encouraging. Psamatik, moreover, was an old man by the time that the
Assyrian Empire fell to pieces, and we can understand his shrinking from
a distant and dangerous expedition. He left the field open for his son,
Neco, having in no way committed him, but having secured for him a ready
entrance into Asia by his conquest of the Philistine fortress.

Neco, the son of Psamatik I., from the moment that he ascended the
throne, resolved to make the bold stroke for empire from which his
father had held back. Regarding his mercenary army as a sufficient land
force, he concentrated his energies on the enlargement and improvement
of his navy, which was weak in numbers and of antiquated construction.
Naval architecture had recently made great strides, first by the
inventiveness of the Phœnicians, who introduced the bireme, and then by
the skill of the Greeks, who, improving on the hint furnished them,
constructed the trireme. Neco, by the help of Greek artificers, built
two fleets, both composed of triremes, one in the ports which opened on
the Red Sea, the other in those upon the Mediterranean. He then, with
the object of uniting the two fleets into one, when occasion should
require, made an attempt to re-open the canal between the Nile and the
Red Sea, which had been originally constructed by Seti I. and Ramesses
II., but had been allowed to fall into disrepair. The Nile mud and the
desert sand had combined to silt it up. Neco commenced excavations on a
large scale, following the line of the old cutting, but greatly widening
it, so that triremes might meet in it and pass each other, without
shipping their oars. After a time, however, he felt compelled to desist,
without effecting his purpose, owing to an extraordinary mortality among
the labourers. According to Herodotus, 120,000 of them perished. At any
rate, the suffering and loss of life, probably by epidemics, was such as
induced him to relinquish his project, and to turn his thoughts toward
gaining his end in another way.

[Illustration: HEAD OF NECO.]

Might not Nature have herself established a water communication between
the two seas by which Egypt was washed? It was well known that the
Mediterranean and the Red Sea both communicated with an open ocean, and
it was the universal teaching of the Greek geographers, that the ocean
flowed round the whole earth. Neco determined to try whether Africa was
not circumnavigable. Manning some ships with Phœnician mariners, as the
boldest and most experienced, accustomed to brave the terrors of the
Atlantic outside the Pillars of Hercules, he dispatched them from a port
on the Red Sea, with orders to sail southwards, keeping the coast of
Africa on their right, and see if they could not return to Egypt by way
of the Mediterranean. The enterprise succeeded. The ships, under the
skilful guidance of the Phœnicians, anticipated the feat of Vasco di
Gama--rounded the Cape of Storms, and returned by way of the Atlantic,
the Straits of Gibraltar, and the Mediterranean to the land from which
they had set out. But they did not reach Egypt _till the third year_.
The success obtained was thus of no practical value, so far as the
Pharaoh's warlike projects were concerned. He had to relinquish the
idea of uniting his two fleets in one, owing to the length of the way
and the dangers of the navigation.

He had, however, no mind to relinquish his warlike projects, Syria,
Phœnicia, and Palestine were still in an unsettled state, the yoke of
Assyria being broken, and that of Babylon not yet firmly fixed on them.
Josiah was taking advantage of the opportunity to extend his authority
over Samaria. Phœnicia was hesitating whether to submit to Nabopolassar
or to assert her freedom. The East generally was In a ferment. Neco in
B.C. 608, determined to make his venture. At the head of a large army,
consisting mainly of his mercenaries, he took the coast route into
Syria, supported by his Mediterranean fleet along the shore, and
proceeding through the low tracts of Philistia and Sharon, prepared to
cross the ridge of hills which shuts in on the south the great plain of
Esdraëlon; but here he found his passage barred by an army. Josiah,
either because he feared that, if Neco were successful, his own position
would be imperilled, or because he had entered into engagements with
Nabopolassar, had resolved to oppose the further progress of the
Egyptian army, and had occupied a strong position near Megiddo, on the
southern verge of the plain. In vain did Neco seek to persuade him to
retire, and leave the passage free. Josiah was obstinate, and a battle
became unavoidable. As was to be expected, the Jewish army suffered
complete defeat; Neco swept it from his path, and pursued his way, while
Josiah mortally wounded, was conveyed in his reserve chariot to
Jerusalem. The triumphant Pharaoh pushed forward into Syria and carried
all before him as far as Carchemish on the Euphrates. The whole country
submitted to him. After a campaign which lasted three months, Neco
returned in triumph to his own land, carrying with him Jehoahaz, the
second son of Josiah, as a prisoner, and leaving Jehoiakim, the eldest
son, as tributary monarch, at Jerusalem.

For three years Egypt enjoyed the sense of triumph, and felt herself
once more a conquering power, capable of contending on equal terms with
any state or kingdom that the world contained. But then Nemesis swooped
down on her. In B.C. 605 Nabopolassar of Babylon woke up to a
consciousness of his loss of prestige, and determined on an effort to
retrieve it. Too old to undertake a distant campaign in person, he
placed his son, Nebuchadnezzar, at the head of his troops, and sent him
into Syria to recover the lost provinces. Neco met him on the Euphrates.
A great battle was fought at Carchemish between the forces of Egypt and
Babylon, in which the former suffered a terrible defeat. We have no
historical account of it, but may gratefully accept, instead, the
prophetic description of Jeremiah:--

  "Order ye the buckler and the shield, and draw ye near to battle;
  Harness the horses; and get up, ye horsemen,
          and stand forth with your helmets;
  Furbish the spears, and put on the brigandines.
  Wherefore have I seen them dismayed, and turned away backward?
  And their mighty ones are beaten down, and fled apace,
          and look not behind them;
  For fear is round about, saith Jehovah.
  Let not the swift flee away, nor the mighty men escape;
  They shall stumble and fall toward the north by the river Euphrates.
  Who is this that cometh up as a flood [like the Nile],
          whose waters are moved as the rivers?
  Egypt rises up as a flood [like the Nile],
          and his waters are moved as the rivers;
  And he saith, I will go up, and I will cover the earth;
  I will destroy the city, with its inhabitants.
  Come up, ye horses; and rage, ye chariots;
          and let the mighty men come forth;
  Cush and Phut, that handle the shield,
          and Lud that handles and bends the bow.
  For this is the day of the Lord, the Lord of hosts,
          a day of vengeance, that he may smite his foes;
  And the sword shall devour, and be made satiate and drunk with blood;
  For the Lord, the Lord of Hosts hath a sacrifice in the north country,
          by the river Euphrates.
  Go up into Gilead, and take balm, O virgin daughter of Egypt!
  In vain shalt thou use many medicines; to thee no cure shall come.
  The nations have heard of thy shame, and thy cry hath filled the land;
  For the mighty man has stumbled against the mighty,
          and both are fallen together."[29]

The disaster was utter, complete, not to be remedied--the only thing to
be done was to "fly apace," to put the desert and the Nile between the
vanquished and the victors, and to deprecate the conqueror's anger by
submission. Neco gave up the contest, evacuated Syria and Palestine, and
hastily sought the shelter of his own land, whither Nebuchadnezzar would
probably have speedily followed him, had not news arrived of his
father's, Nabopolassar's, death. To secure the succession, he had to
return, as quickly as he could, to Babylon, and to allow the Egyptian
monarch, at any rate, a breathing space.

Thus ended the dream of the recovery of an Asiatic Empire, which
Psamatik may have cherished, and of which Neco attempted the
realization. The defeat of Carchemish shattered the unsubstantial fabric
into atoms, and gave a death-blow to hopes which no Pharaoh ever
entertained afterwards.


[29] Jeremiah xlvi. 3-12.



The Saïtic revival in art and architecture, in commercial and general
prosperity, which Psamatik the First inaugurated, continued under his
successors. To the short reign of Psamatik II. belong a considerable
number of inscriptions, some good bas-reliefs at Abydos and Philæ, and a
large number of statues. One of these, in the collection of the Vatican,
is remarkable for its beauty. Apries erected numerous _stelæ_, and at
least one pair of obelisks, wherewith he adorned the Temple of Neith at
Saïs. Amasis afforded great encouragement to art and architecture. He
added a court of entrance to the above temple, with propylæa of unusual
dimensions, adorned the dromos conducting to it with numerous
andro-sphinxes, erected colossal statues within the temple precincts,
and conveyed thither from Elephantine a monolithic shrine or chamber of
extraordinary dimensions. Traces of his architectural activity are also
found at Memphis, Thebes, Abydos, Bubastis, and Thmuïs or Leontopolis.
Statuary flourished during his reign. Even portrait-painting was
attempted; and Amasis sent a likeness of himself, painted on panel, as
a present to the people of Cyrene. It was maintained by the Egyptians of
a century later that the reign of Amasis was the most prosperous time
which Egypt had ever seen, the land being more productive, the cities
more numerous, and the entire people more happy than either previously
or subsequently. Amasis certainly gave a fresh impulse to commerce,
since he held frequent communication with the Greek states of Asia
Minor, as well as with the settlers at Cyrene, and gave increased
privileges to the trading community of Naucratis.

Even in a military point of view, there was to some extent a recovery
from the disaster of Carchemish. The Babylonian empire was not
sufficiently established or consolidated at the accession of
Nebuchadnezzar for that monarch to form at once extensive schemes of
conquest. There was much to be done in Elam, in Asia Minor, in Phœnicia,
and in Palestine, before his hands could be free to occupy themselves in
the subjugation of more distant regions. Within three years after the
battle of Carchemish Judæa threw off the yoke of Babylon, and a few
years later Phœnicia rebelled under the hegemony of Tyre. Nebuchadnezzar
had not much difficulty in crushing the Jewish outbreak; but Tyre
resisted his arms with extreme obstinacy, and it was not till thirteen
years after the revolt took place that Phœnicia was re-conquered. Even
then the position of Judæa was insecure: she was known to be thoroughly
disaffected, and only waiting an opportunity to rebel a second time.
Thus Nebuchadnezzar was fully occupied with troubles within his own
dominions, and left Egypt undisturbed to repair her losses, and recover
her military prestige, as she best might.

Neco outlived his defeat about eight or nine years, during which he
nursed his strength, and abstained from all warlike enterprises. His
son, Psamatik II., who succeeded him B.C. 596, made an attack on the
Ethiopians, and seems to have penetrated deep into Nubia, where a
monument was set up by two of his generals, Apollonius, a Greek, and
Amasis, an Egyptian, which may still be seen on the rocks of Abu-Simbel,
and is the earliest known Greek inscription. The following is a
facsimile, only reduced in size:--

[Illustration: Greek inscription]

Apries, the son of Neco, brought this war to an end in the first year of
his reign (B.C. 590) by the arms of one of his generals; and, finding
that Nebuchadnezzar was still unable to reduce Phœnicia to subjection,
he ventured, in B.C. 588, to conclude a treaty with Zedekiah, king of
Judah, and to promise him assistance, if he would join him against the
Babylonians. This Zedekiah consented to do, and the war followed which
terminated in the capture and destruction of Jerusalem, and the transfer
of the Jewish people to Babylonia.

It is uncertain what exact part Apries took in this war. We know that he
called out the full force of the empire, and marched into Palestine,
with the object of relieving Zedekiah. as soon as he knew that that
monarch's safety was threatened. We know that he marched towards
Jerusalem, and took up such a threatening attitude that Nebuchadnezzar
at one time actually raised the siege (Jer. xxxvii. 5). We do not know
what followed. Whether Apries, on finding that the whole Chaldæan force
had broken up from before Jerusalem and was marching against himself,
took fright at the danger which he had affronted, and made a sudden
inglorious retreat; or whether he boldly met the Babylonian host and
contended with them in a pitched battle, wherein he was worsted, and
from which he was forced to fly into his own land, is uncertain.
Josephus positively declares that he took the braver and more honourable
course: the silence of Scripture as to any battle is thought to imply
that he showed the white feather. In either case, the result was the
same. Egypt recoiled before Babylon; Palestine was evacuated; and
Zedekiah was left to himself. In B.C. 586 Jerusalem fell; Zedekiah was
made a prisoner and cruelly deprived of sight; the Temple and city were
burnt, and the bulk of the people carried into captivity. Babylon
rounded off her dominion in this quarter by the absorption of the last
state upon her south-western border that had maintained the shadow of
independence: and the two great powers of these parts, hitherto
prevented from coming into contact by the intervention of a sort of
political "buffer," became conterminous, and were thus brought into a
position in which it was not possible that a collision should for any
considerable time be avoided.

Recognizing the certainty of the impending collision, Apries sought to
strengthen his power for resistance by attaching to his own empire the
Phœnician towns of the Syrian coast, whose adhesion to his side would
secure him, at any rate, the maritime superiority. He made an expedition
against Tyre and Sidon both by land and sea, defeated the combined fleet
of Phœnicia and Cyprus in a great engagement, besieged Sidon, and after
a time compelled it to surrender. He then endeavoured further to
strengthen himself on the land side by bringing under subjection the
Greek city of Cyrene, which had now become a flourishing community; but
here his good fortune forsook him; the Cyrenæan forces defeated the army
which he sent against them, with great slaughter; and the event brought
Apries into disfavour with his subjects, who imagined that he had, of
malice prepense, sent his troops into the jaws of destruction. According
to Herodotus, the immediate result was a revolt, which cost Apries his
throne, and, within a short time, his life; but the entire narrative of
Herodotus is in the highest degree improbable, and some recent
discoveries suggest a wholly different termination to the reign of this
remarkable king.

It is certain that in B.C. 568 Nebuchadnezzar made an expedition into
Egypt According to all accounts this date fell into the lifetime of
Apries. Amasis, however, the successor of Apries, appears to have been
Nebuchadnezzar's direct antagonist, and to have resisted him in the
field, while Apries remained in the palace at Saïs. The two were joint
kings from B.C. 571 to B.C. 565. Nebuchadnezzar, at first, neglected
Saïs, and proceeded, by way of Heliopolis and Bubastis (Ezek. xxx. 17),
against the old capitals, Memphis and Thebes. Having taken these, and
"destroyed the idols and made the images to cease," he advanced up the
Nile valley to Elephantine, which he took, and then endeavoured to
penetrate into Nubia. A check, however, was inflicted on his army by
Nes-Hor, the Governor of the South, whereupon he gave up his idea of
Nubian conquest. Returning down the valley, he completed that ravage of
Egypt which is described by Jeremiah and Ezekiel. It is probable that in
B.C. 565, three years after his first invasion, he took Saïs and put the
aged Apries to death.[30] Amasis he allowed still to reign, but only as
a tributary king, and thus Egypt became "a base kingdom" (Ezek. xxix.
14), "the basest of the kingdoms" (ibid. verse 15), if its former
exaltation were taken into account.

The "base kingdom" was, however, materially, as flourishing as ever. The
sense of security from foreign attack was a great encouragement to
private industry and commercial enterprise. The discontinuances of
lavish expenditure on military expeditions improved the state finances,
and enabled those at the head of the government to employ the money,
that would otherwise have been wasted, in reproductive undertakings. The
agricultural system of Egypt was never better organized or better
managed than under Amasis. Nature seemed to conspire with man to make
the time one of joy and delight, for the inundation was scarcely ever
before so regularly abundant, nor were the crops ever before so
plentiful. The "twenty thousand cities," which Herodotus assigns to the
time, may be a myth; but, beyond all doubt, the tradition which told of
them was based upon the fact of a period of unexampled prosperity.
Amasis's law, that each Egyptian should appear once each year before the
governor of his canton, and show the means by which he was getting an
honest living, may have done something towards making industry general;
but his example, his active habits, and his encouragement of art and
architecture, probably did more. His architectural works must have given
constant employment to large numbers of persons as quarrymen, boatmen,
bricklayers, plasterers, masons, carpenters, and master builders; his
patronage of art not only gave direct occupation to a multitude of
artists, but set a fashion to the more wealthy among his subjects by
which the demand for objects of art was multiplied a hundredfold.
Sculptors and painters had a happy time under a king who was always
building temples, erecting colossi, or sending statues or paintings of
himself as presents to foreign states or foreign shrines.

The external aspect of Egypt under the reign of Amasis is thus as bright
and flourishing as that which she ever wore at any former time; but, as
M. Lenormant observes, this apparent prosperity did but ill conceal the
decay of patriotism and the decline of all the institutions of the
nation. The kings of the Saïte dynasty had thought to re-vivify Egypt,
and infuse a little new blood into the old monarchy founded by Menes, by
allowing the great stream of liberal ideas, whereof Greece had already
made herself the propagator, to expand itself in her midst. Without
knowing it, they had by these means introduced on the banks of the Nile
a new element of decline. Constructed exclusively for continuance, for
preserving its own traditions in defiance of the flight of centuries,
the civilization of Egypt could only maintain itself by remaining
unmoved. From the day on which it found itself in contact with the
spirit of progress, personified in the Grecian civilization and in the
Greek race, it was under the absolute necessity of perishing. It could
neither launch itself upon a wholly new path, one which was the direct
negation of its own genius, nor continue on without change its own
existence. Thus, as soon as it began to be penetrated by Greek
influence, it fell at once into complete dissolution, and sank into a
state of decrepitude, that already resembled death. We shall see, in the
next section, how suddenly and completely the Egyptian power collapsed
when the moment of trial came, and how little support the surface
prosperity which marked the reign of Amasis was able to render to the
Empire in the hour of need and distress.


[30] Josephus, _Ant. Jud_. x. 9, 97.



The subjection of Egypt to Babylon, which commenced in B.C. 565, was of
that light and almost nominal character, which a nation that is not very
sensitive, or very jealous of its honour, does not care to shake off. A
small tribute was probably paid by the subject state to her suzerain,
but otherwise the yoke was unfelt There was no interference with the
internal government, or the religion of the Egyptians; no appointment of
Babylonian satraps, or tax-collectors; not even, so far as appears, any
demands for contingents of troops. Thus, although Nebuchadnezzar died
within seven years of his conquest of Egypt, and though a time of
disturbance and confusion followed his death, four kings occupying the
Babylonian throne within little more than six years, two of whom met
with a violent end, yet Amasis seems to have continued quiescent and
contented, in the enjoyment of a life somewhat more merry and amusing
than that of most monarchs, without making any effort to throw off the
Babylonian supremacy or reassert the independence of his country. It was
not till his self-indulgent apathy was intruded upon from without, and
he received an appeal from a foreign nation, to which he was compelled
to return an answer, that he looked the situation in the face, and came
to the conclusion that he might declare himself independent without much
risk. He had at this time patiently borne his subject position for the
space of above twenty years, though he might easily have reasserted
himself at the end of seven.

The circumstances under which the appeal was made were the following. A
new power had suddenly risen up in Asia. About B.C. 558, ten years after
Nebuchadnezzar's subjection of Egypt, Cyrus, son of Cambyses, the
tributary monarch of Persia under the Medes, assumed an independent
position and began a career of conquest. Having made himself master of a
large portion of the country of Elam, he assumed the title of "King of
Ansan," and engaged in a long war with Astyages (Istivegu), his former
suzerain, which terminated (in B.C. 549) in his taking the Median
monarch prisoner and succeeding to his dominions. It was at once
recognized through Asia that a new peril had arisen. The Medes, a
mountain people of great physical strength and remarkable bravery, had
for about a century been regarded as the most powerful people of Western
Asia. They had now been overthrown and conquered by a still more
powerful mountain race. That race had at its head an energetic and
enterprising prince, who was in the full vigour of youth, and fired
evidently with a high ambition. His position was naturally felt as a
direct menace by the neighbouring states of Babylon and Lydia, whose
royal families were interconnected. Crœsus of Lydia was the first to
take alarm and to devise measures for his own security. He formed the
conception of a grand league between the principal powers whom the rise
of Persia threatened, for mutual defence against the common enemy; and,
in furtherance of this design, sent, in B.C. 547, an embassy to Egypt,
and another to Babylon, proposing a close alliance between the three
countries. Amasis had to determine whether he would maintain his
subjection to Babylon and refuse the offer; or, by accepting it, declare
himself a wholly independent monarch. He learnt by the embassy, if he
did not know it before that Nabonadius, the Babylonian monarch, was in
difficulties, and could not resent his action. He might probably think
that, under the circumstances, Nabonadius would regard his joining the
league as a friendly, rather than an unfriendly, proceeding. At any
rate, the balance of advantage seemed to him on the side of complying
with the request of Crœsus. Crœsus was lord of Asia Minor, and it was
only by his permission that the Ionian and Carian mercenaries, on whom
the throne of the Pharaohs now mainly depended, could be recruited and
maintained at their proper strength. It would not do to offend so
important a personage; and accordingly Amasis came into the proposed
alliance, and pledged himself to send assistance to whichever of his two
confederates should be first attacked. Conversely, they no doubt pledged
themselves to him; but the remote position of Egypt rendered it
extremely improbable that they would be called upon to redeem their

Nor was even Amasis called upon actually to redeem the pledges which he
had given. In B.C. 546, Crœsus, without summoning any contingents from
his allies, precipitated the war with Persia by crossing the river
Halys, and invading Cappadocia, which was included in the dominions of
Cyrus. Having suffered a severe defeat at Pteria, a Cappadocian city, he
returned to his capital and hastily sent messengers to Egypt and
elsewhere, begging for immediate assistance. What steps Amasis took upon
this, or intended to take, is uncertain; but it must have been before
any troops could have been dispatched, that news reached Egypt which
rendered it useless to send out an expedition. Crœsus had scarcely
reached his capital when he found himself attacked by Cyrus in his turn;
his army suffered a second defeat in the plain before Sardis; the city
was besieged, stormed, and taken within fourteen days. Crœsus fell,
alive, into the hands of his enemy, and was kindly treated; but his
kingdom had passed away. It was evidently too late for Amasis to attempt
to send him succour. The tripartite alliance had, by the force of
circumstances, come to an end, and Amasis was an independent monarch, no
longer bound by any engagements.

Shortly afterwards, in B.C. 538, the conquering monarchy of Persia
absorbed another victim. Nabonadius was attacked, Babylon taken, and the
Chaldæan monarchy, which had lasted nearly two thousand years, brought
to an end. The contest had been prolonged, and in the course of it some
disintegration of the empire had taken place. Phœnicia had asserted her
independence; and Cyprus, which was to a large extent Phœnician, had
followed the example of the mother-country. Under these circumstances,
Amasis thought he saw an opportunity of gaining some cheap laurels, and
accordingly made a naval expedition against the unfortunate islanders,
who were taken unawares and forced to become his tributaries. It was
unwise of the Egyptian monarch to remind Cyrus that he had still an open
enemy unchastised, one who had entered into a league against him ten
years previously, and was now anxious to prevent him from reaping the
full benefit of his conquests. We may be sure that the Persian monarch
noted and resented the interference with territories which he had some
right to consider his own; whether he took any steps to revenge himself
is doubtful. According to some, he required Amasis to send him one of
his daughters as a concubine, an insult which the Egyptian king escaped
by _finesse_ while he appeared to submit to it.

It can only have been on account of the other wars which pressed upon
him and occupied him during his remaining years, that Cyrus did not
march in person against Amasis. First, the conquest of the nations
between the Caspian and the Indian Ocean detained him; and after this, a
danger showed itself on his north-eastern frontier which required all
his attention, and in meeting which he lost his life. The independent
tribes beyond the Oxus and the Jaxartes have through all history been an
annoyance and a peril to the power which rules over the Iranian plateau,
and it was in repelling an attack in this quarter that Cyrus fell.
Amasis, perhaps, congratulated himself on the defeat and death of the
great warrior king; but Egypt would, perhaps, have suffered less had the
invasion, which was sure to come, been conducted by the noble,
magnanimous, and merciful Cyrus, than she actually endured at the hands
of the impulsive tyrannical, and half-mad Cambyses.

The first step taken by Cambyses, who succeeded his father Cyrus in B.C.
529, was to reduce Phœnicia under his power. The support of a fleet was
of immense importance to an army about to attack Egypt, both for the
purpose of conveying water and stores, and of giving command over the
mouths of the Nile, so that the great cities, Pelusium, Tanis, Saïs,
Bubastis, Memphis, might be blockaded both by land and water. Persia, up
to the accession of Cambyses, had (so to speak) no fleet. Cambyses, by
threatening the Phœnician cities on the land side, succeeded in inducing
them to submit to him; he then, with their aid, detached Cyprus from her
Egyptian masters, and obtained the further assistance of a Cypriote
squadron. Some Greek ships also gave their services, and the result was
that he had the entire command of the sea, and was able to hold
possession of all the Nile mouths, and to bring his fleet up the river
to the very walls of Memphis.

Still, there were difficulties to overcome in respect of the passage of
an army. Egypt is separated from Palestine by a considerable tract of
waterless desert and it was necessary to convey by sea, or on the backs
of camels, all the water required for the troops, for the
camp-followers, and for the baggage animals. A numerous camel corps was
indispensable for the conveyance, and the Persians, though employing
camels on their expeditions, are not likely to have possessed any very
considerable number of these beasts. At any rate, it was extremely
convenient to find a fresh and abundant supply of camels on the spot,
together with abundant water-skins. This good fortune befell the Persian
monarch, who was able to make an alliance with the sheikh of the most
powerful Bedouin tribe of the region, who undertook the entire
responsibility of the water supply. He thus crossed the desert without
disaster or suffering, and brought his entire force intact to the
Pelusiac branch of the Nile, near the point where it poured its waters
into the Mediterranean Sea.

At this point he found a mixed Egyptian and Græco-Carian army prepared
to resist his further progress. Amasis had died about six months
previously, leaving his throne to his son, Psamatik the Third. This
young prince, notwithstanding his inexperience, had taken all the
measures that were possible to protect his kingdom from the invader. He
had gathered together his Greek and Carian mercenaries, and having also
levied a large native army, had posted the entire force not far from
Pelusium, in an advantageous position. On his Greeks and Carians he
could thoroughly depend, though they had lately seen but little service;
his native levies, on the contrary, were of scarcely any value; they
were jealous of the mercenaries, who had superseded them as the ordinary
land force, and they had had little practice in warfare for the last
forty years. At no time, probably, would an Egyptian army composed of
native troops have been a match for such soldiers as Cambyses brought
with him into Egypt--Persians, Medes, Hyrcanians, Mardians,
Greeks--trained in the school of Cyrus, inured to arms, and confident of
victory. But the native soldiery of the time of Psamatik III. fell far
below the average Egyptian type; it had little patriotism, it had no
experience, it was smarting under a sense of injury and ill-treatment at
the hands of the Saïte kings. The engagement between the two armies at
Pelusium was thus not so much a battle as a carnage. No doubt the
mercenaries made a stout resistance, but they were vastly outnumbered,
and were not much better troops than their adversaries. The Egyptians
must have been slaughtered like sheep. According to Ctesias, fifty
thousand of them fell, whereas the entire loss on the Persian side was
only six thousand. After a short struggle, the troops of Psamatik fled,
and in a little time the retreat became a complete rout. The fugitives
did not stop till they reached Memphis, where they shut themselves up
within the walls.

It is the lot of Egypt to have its fate decided by a single battle. The
country offers no strong positions, that are strategically more
defensible than others. The whole Delta is one alluvial flat, with no
elevation that has not been raised by man. The valley of the Nile is so
wide as to furnish everywhere an ample plain, wherein the largest armies
may contend without having their movements cramped or hindered. An army
that takes to the hills on either side of the valley is not worth
following: it is self-destroyed, since it can find no sustenance and no
water. Thus the sole question, when a foreign host invades Egypt, is
this: Can it, or can it not, defeat the full force of Egypt in an open
battle? If it gains one battle, there is no reason why it should not
gain fifty; and this is so evident, and so well known, that on Egyptian
soil one defeat has almost always been accepted as decisive of the
military supremacy. A beaten army may, of course, protract its
resistance behind walls, and honour, fame, patriotism, may seem
sometimes to require such a line of conduct; but, unless there is a
reasonable expectation of relief arriving from without, protracted
resistance is useless, and, from a military point of view, indefensible.
Defeated commanders have not, however, always seen this, or, seeing it,
they have allowed prudence to be overpowered by other considerations.
Psamatik, like many another ruler of Egypt, though defeated in the
field, determined to defend his capital to the best of his power. He
threw himself, with the remnant of his beaten army, into Memphis, and
there stood at bay, awaiting the further attack of his adversary.

It was not long before the Persian army drew up under the walls, and
invested the city by land, while the fleet blockaded the river. A single
Greek vessel, having received orders to summon the defenders of the
place to surrender it, had the boldness to enter the town, whereupon it
was set upon by the Egyptians, captured, and destroyed. Contrarily to
the law of nations, which protects ambassadors and their escort, the
crew was torn limb from limb, and an outrage thus committed which
Cambyses was justified in punishing with extreme severity. Upon the fall
of the city, which followed soon after its investment, the offended
monarch avenged the crime which had been committed by publicly executing
two thousand of the principal citizens, including (it is said) a son of
the fallen king. The king himself was at first spared, and might perhaps
have been allowed to rule Egypt as a tributary monarch, had he not been
detected in a design to rebel and renew the war. For this offence he,
too, was condemned to death, and executed by Cambyses' order.

The defeat had been foretold by the prophet Ezekiel, who had said:--

  "Woe worth the day! For the day is near,
   Even the day of the Lord is near, a day of clouds;
   It shall be the time of the heathen.
   And a sword shall come upon Egypt, and anguish shall be in Ethiopia;
   When the slain shall fall in Egypt;
          and they shall take away her multitude,
   And her foundations shall be broken down.
   Ethiopia and Phut and Lud, and all the mingled people, and Chub,
   And the children of the land that is in league,
          shall fall with them by the sword....
   I will put a fear in the land of Egypt.
   And I will make Pathros desolate,
   And will set a fire in Zoan, and will execute judgments in No....
   Sin [Pelusium] shall be in great anguish,
   And No shall be broken up,
          and Noph shall have adversaries in the daytime.
   The young men of Aven and of Pi-beseth shall fall by the sword:
   And these cities shall go into captivity.
   At Tehaphnehes also the day shall withdraw itself,
   When I shall break there the yokes of Egypt;
   And the pride of her power shall cease."[31]

According to Herodotus, Cambyses was not content with the
above-mentioned severities, which were perhaps justifiable under the
circumstances, but proceeded further to exercise his rights as conqueror
in a most violent and tyrannical way. He tore from its tomb the mummy of
the late king, Amasis, and subjected it to the grossest indignities. He
stabbed in the thigh an Apis-Bull, recently inaugurated at the capital
with joyful ceremonies, suspecting that the occasion was feigned, and
that the rejoicings were really over the ill-success of expeditions
carried out by his orders against the oasis of Ammon, and against
Ethiopia. He exhumed numerous mummies for the mere purpose of examining
them. He entered the grand temple of Phthah at Memphis, and made sport
of the image. He burnt the statues of the Cabeiri, which he found in
another temple. He scourged the priests of Apis, and massacred in the
streets those Egyptians who were keeping the festival. Altogether, his
object was, if the informants of Herodotus are to be believed, to pour
contempt and contumely on the Egyptian religion, and to insult the
religious feelings of the entire people.

On the other hand, we learn from a contemporary inscription, that
Cambyses so far conformed to Egyptian usages as to take a "throne-name,"
after the pattern of the ancient Pharaohs; that he cleared the temple of
Neith at Saïs of the foreigners who had taken possession of it; that he
entrusted the care of the temple to an Egyptian officer of high
standing; and that he was actually himself initiated into the mysteries
of the goddess. Perhaps we ought not to be greatly surprised at these
contradictions. Cambyses had the iconoclastic spirit strong in him, and,
under excitement, took a pleasure in showing his abhorrence of Egyptian
superstitions. But he was not always under excitement--he enjoyed lucid
intervals, during which he was actuated by the spirit of an
administrator and a statesman. Having in many ways greatly exasperated
the Egyptians against his rule, he thought it prudent, ere he quitted
the country, to soothe the feelings which he had so deeply wounded, and
conciliate the priest-class, to which he had given such dire offence.
Hence his politic concessions to public feeling at Saïs, his Initiation
into the mysteries of Neith, his assumption of a throne-name, and his
restoration of the temple of Saïs to religious uses. And the policy of
conciliation, which he thus inaugurated, was continued by his successor,
Darius. Darius built, or repaired, the temple of Ammon, in the oasis of
El Khargeh, and made many acknowledgments of the deities of Egypt; when
an Apis-Bull died early in his reign, he offered a reward of a hundred
talents for the discovery of a new Apis; and he proposed to adorn the
temple of Ammon at Thebes with a new obelisk. At the same time, in his
administration he carefully considered the interests of Egypt, which he
entrusted to a certain Aryandes as satrap; he re-opened the canal
between the Nile and the Red Sea, for the encouragement of Egyptian
commerce; he kept up the numbers of the Egyptian fleet; in his
arrangement of the satrapies, he placed no greater burthen on Egypt than
it was well able to bear; and he seems to have honoured Egypt by his
occasional presence. He failed, however, to allay the discontent, and
even hatred, which the outrages of Cambyses had aroused; they still
remained indelibly impressed on the Egyptian mind; the Persian rule was
detested; and in sullen dissatisfaction the entire nation awaited an
opportunity of reclaiming its independence and flinging off the accursed


[31] Ezekiel xxx. 3-18.



The first revolt of the Egyptians against their conquerors, appears to
have been provoked by the news of the battle of Marathon. Egypt heard,
in B.C. 490, that the arms of the oppressor, as she ever determined to
consider Darius, had met with a reverse in European Greece, where
200,000 Medes and Persians had been completely defeated by 20,000
Athenians and Platæns. Darius, it was understood, had taken greatly to
heart this reverse, and was bent on avenging it. The strength of the
Persian Empire was about to be employed towards the West, and an
excellent opportunity seemed to have arisen for a defection on the
South. Accordingly Egypt, after making secret preparations for three
years, in B.C. 487 broke out in open revolt. She probably overpowered
and massacred the Persian garrison in Memphis, which is said to have
numbered 120,000 men, and, proclaiming herself independent, set up a
native sovereign.

The Egyptian monuments suggest that this monarch bore the
foreign-sounding name of Khabash. He fortified the coast of Egypt
against attempts which might be made upon it by the Persian fleet, and
doubtless prepared himself also to resist an invasion by land. But he
was quite unable to do anything effectual. Though Darius died in the
year after the revolt, B.C. 486, yet its suppression was immediately
undertaken by his son and successor, Xerxes, who invaded Egypt in the
next year, easily crushed all resistance, and placed the province under
a severer rule than any that it had previously experienced. Achæmenes,
his brother, was made satrap.

Twenty-five years of tranquillity followed, during which the Egyptians
were submissive subjects of the Persian crown, and even showed
remarkable courage and skill in the Persian military expeditions. Egypt
furnished as many as two hundred triremes to the fleet which was brought
against Greece by Xerxes, and the squadron particularly distinguished
itself in the sea-fights off Artemisium, where they actually captured
five Grecian vessels with their crews. Mardonius, moreover, set so high
a value on the marines who fought on board the Egyptian ships, that he
retained them as land-troops when the Persian fleet returned to Asia
after Salamis.

No further defection took place during the reign of Xerxes; but in B.C.
460, after the throne had been occupied for about five years by Xerxes'
son, Artaxerxes, a second rebellion broke out, which led to a long and
terrible struggle. A certain Inarus, who bore rule over some of the
African tribes on the western border of Egypt, and who may have been a
descendant of the Psamatiks, headed the insurrection, and in conjunction
with an Egyptian, named Amyrtæus, suddenly attacked the Persian garrison
stationed in Egypt, the ordinary strength of which was 120,000 men. A
great battle was fought at Papremis, in the Delta, wherein the Persians
were completely defeated, and their leader, Achæmenes, perished by the
hand of Inarus himself. Memphis, however, the capital, still resisted,
and the struggle thus remained doubtful. Inarus and Amyrtæus implored
the assistance of Athens, which had the most powerful navy of the time,
and could lend most important aid by taking possession of the river.
Athens, which was under the influence of the farsighted Pericles,
cheerfully responded to the call, and sent two hundred triremes, manned
by at least forty thousand men, to assist the rebels, and to do as much
injury as possible to the Persians. On sailing up the Nile, the Athenian
fleet found a Persian squadron already moored in the Nile waters, but it
swept this obstacle from its path without any difficulty. Memphis was
then blockaded both by land and water; the city was taken, and only the
citadel. Leucon-Teichos, or "the White Fortress," held out. A formal
siege of the citadel was commenced, and the allies lay before it for
months, but without result. Meanwhile, Artaxerxes was not idle. Having
collected an army of 300,000 men, he gave the command of it to
Megabyzus, one of his best generals, and sent him to Egypt against the
rebels. Megabyzus marched upon Memphis, defeated the Egyptians and their
allies in a great battle under the walls of the town, relieved the
Persian garrison which held the citadel, and recovered possession of the
place. The Athenians retreated to the tract called Prosopitis, a sort of
island in the Delta, surrounded by two of the branch streams of the
Nile, which they held with their ships. Here Megabyzus besieged them
without success for eighteen months; but at last he bethought himself of
a stratagem like that whereby Cyrus is said to have captured Babylon,
and adapted it to his purpose. Having blocked the course of one of the
branch streams, and diverted its waters into a new channel, he laid bare
the river-bed, captured the triremes that were stuck fast in the soft
ooze, marched his men into the island, and overwhelmed the unhappy
Greeks by sheer force of numbers. A few only escaped, and made their way
to Cyrene. The entire fleet of two hundred vessels fell into the hands
of the conqueror; and fifty others, sent as a reinforcement, having soon
afterwards entered the river, were attacked unawares and defeated, with
the loss of more than half their number. Inarus, the Libyan monarch,
became a fugitive, but was betrayed by some of his followers,
surrendered, and crucified. Amyrtæus, who had been recognized as king of
Egypt during the six years that the struggle lasted, took refuge in the
Nile marshes, where he dragged out a miserable existence for another
term of six years. The Egyptians offered no further resistance; and
Egypt became once more a Persian satrapy (B.C. 455).

It was at about this time that Herodotus, the earliest Greek historian,
the Father of History, as he has been called, visited Egypt in pursuance
of his plan of gathering information for his great work. He was a young
man, probably not far from thirty years of age (for he was born between
the dates of the battles of Marathon and Thermopylæ). He travelled
through the land as far as Elephantine, viewing with his observant eyes
the wonders with which the "Story of Egypt" has been so much occupied;
and he described them with the enthusiasm that we have occasionally
noted. He saw the battle-field on which Inarus had just been
defeated--the ground strewn with the skulls and other bones of the
slain; he made his longest stay at Memphis, then at the acme of its
greatness; he visited the quarries on the east of the Nile whence the
stone had been dug for the pyramids, and he gazed upon the great
monuments themselves, on the opposite side of the stream. We have seen
that he visited Lake Mœris, and examined the famous Labyrinth, which he
thought even more wonderful than the pyramids themselves. Finally, he
sailed away for Tyre, and Egypt was again closed to travellers from

A second period of tranquillity followed, which covered the space of
about half a century. Nothing is known of Egypt during this interval;
and it might have been thought that she had grown contented with her
lot, and that her aspirations after independence were over. For fifty
years she had made no sign. Even the troubled time between the death of
Artaxerxes I. and the accession of Darius II. had not tempted her to
strike a blow for freedom. But still she was, in reality,
irreconcilable. She was biding her time, and preparing herself for a
last desperate effort.

In B.C. 406 or 405, towards the close of the reign of Darius Nothus, the
third rebellion of Egypt against Persia broke out. A native of Mendes,
by name Nepheritis, or more properly Nefaa-rut, raised the banner of
independence, and commenced a war, which must have lasted for some
years, but which terminated in the expulsion of the Persian garrison,
and the reestablishment of the throne of the Pharaohs. It is unfortunate
that no ancient authority gives any account of the struggle. We only
know that, after a time, the power of Nefaa-rut was established; that
Persia left him in undisturbed possession of Egypt, and that he reigned
quietly for the space of six years, employing himself in the repair and
restoration of the temple of Ammon at Karnak. Nothing that can be called
a revival, or _renaissance_, distinguished his reign; and we must view
his success rather as the result of Persian weakness, than of his own
energy. His revolt, however, inaugurated a period of independence, which
lasted about sixty years, and which threw over the last years of the
doomed monarchy a gleam of sunshine, that for a brief space recalled the
glories of earlier and happier ages.



A troubled time followed the reign of Nefaa-rut. The Greek mercenary
soldiery, on whom the monarchs depended, were fickle in their
temperament, and easily took offence, if their inclinations were in any
way thwarted. Their displeasure commonly led to the dethronement of the
king who had provoked it; and we have thus, at this period of the
history, five reigns in twenty-five years. No monarch had time to
distinguish himself by a re-organization of the kingdom, or even by
undertaking buildings on a large scale--each was forced to live from
hand to mouth, meeting as he best might the immediate difficulties of
his position, without providing for a future, which he might never live
to see. Fear of re-conquest was also perpetual; and the monarchs had
therefore constantly to be courting alliances with foreign states, and
subjecting themselves thereby to risks which it might have been more
prudent to have avoided.

With the accession of Nectanebo I. (Nekht-Horheb), about B.C. 385, an
improvement in the state of affairs set in. Nekht-hor-heb was a vigorous
prince, who held the mercenaries well under control, and, having raised
a considerable Egyptian army, set himself to place Egypt in such a
state of defence, that she might confidently rely on her own strength,
and be under no need of entangling herself with foreign alliances. He
strongly fortified all the seven mouths of the Nile, guarding each by
two forts, one on either side of each stream, and establishing a
connection between each pair of forts by a bridge. At Pelusium, where
the danger of hostile attack was always the greatest, he multiplied his
precautions, guarding it on the side of the east by a deep ditch, and
carefully obstructing all the approaches to the town, whether by land or
sea, by forts and dykes and embankments, and contrivances for laying the
neighbouring territory under water. No doubt these precautions were
taken with special reference to an expected attack on the part of
Persia, which was preparing, about B.C. 376, to make a great effort to
bring Egypt once more into subjection.

The expected attack came in the next year. Having obtained the services
of the Athenian general, Iphicrates, and hired Greek mercenaries to the
number of twenty thousand, Artaxerxes Mnemon, in B.C. 375, sent a huge
armament against Egypt, consisting of 220,000 men, 500 ships of war, and
a countless number of other vessels carrying stores and provisions.
Pharnabazus commanded the Persian soldiery, Iphicrates the mercenaries.
Having rendezvoused at Acre in the spring of the year, they set out
early in the summer, and proceeded in a leisurely manner through
Philistia and the desert, the fleet accompanying them along the coast.
This route brought them to Pelusium, which they found so strongly
fortified that they despaired of being able to force the defences and
felt it necessary to make a complete change in their plan of attack.
Putting to sea with a portion of the fleet, and with troops to the
number of three thousand, and sailing northward till they could no
longer be seen from the shore, they then, probably at nightfall, changed
their course, and steering south-west, made for the Mendesian mouth of
the Nile, which was only guarded by the twin forts with their connecting
bridge. Here they landed without opposition, and proceeded to
reconnoitre the forts. The garrison gave them battle outside the walls,
but was defeated with great loss; and the forts themselves were taken.
The remainder of the force conveyed by the ships, was then landed
without difficulty; and the invaders, having the complete mastery of one
of the Nile mouths, had it in their power to direct their attack to any
point that might seem to them at once most important and most

Under these circumstances the Athenian general, Iphicrates, strongly
recommended a dash at Memphis. The main strength of the Egyptian army
had been concentrated at Pelusium. Strong detachments held the other
mouths of the Nile. Memphis, he felt sure, must be denuded of troops,
and could probably be carried by a _coup de main_; but the advice of the
rapid Greek was little to the taste of the slow-moving and cautious
Persian. Pharnabazus declined to sanction any rash enterprise--he would
proceed according to the rules of art. He had the advantage of
numbers--why was he to throw it away? No, a thousand times no. He would
wait till his army was once more collected together, and would then
march on Memphis, without exposing himself or his troops to any danger.
The city would be sure to fall, and the object of the expedition would
be accomplished. In vain did Iphicrates offer to run the whole risk
himself--to take no troops with him besides his own mercenaries, and
attack the city with them. As the Greek grew more hot and reckless, the
Persian became more cool and wary. What might not be behind this
foolhardiness? Might it not be possible that the Greek was looking to
his own interests, and designing, if he got possession of Memphis, to
set himself up as king of Egypt? There was no knowing what his intention
might be; and at any rate it was safest to wait the arrival of the
troops. So Pharnabazus once more coolly declined his subordinate's

Nectanebo, on his side, having thrown a strong garrison into Memphis,
moved his army across the Delta from the Pelusiac to the Mendesian
branch of the Nile, and having concentrated it in the neighbourhood of
the captured forts, proceeded to operate against the invaders. His
troops harassed the enemy in a number of petty engagements, and in the
course of time inflicted on them considerable loss. In this way
midsummer was reached--the Etesian winds began to blow, and the Nile to
rise. Gradually the abounding stream spread itself over the broad Delta;
roads were overflowed, river-courses obliterated; the season for
military operations was clearly past. There was no possible course but
to return to Asia. Iphicrates and Pharnabazus took their departure amid
mutual recriminations, each accusing the other of having caused the
expedition to be a complete failure.

The repulse of this huge host was felt by the Egyptians almost as the
repulse of the host of Xerxes was felt by the Greeks. Nectanebo was
looked upon as a hero and a demigod; his throne was assured; it was felt
that he had redeemed all the failures of the past, and had restored
Egypt to the full possession of all her ancient dignity and glory.
Nectanebo continued to rule over "the Two Lands" for nine years longer
in uninterrupted peace, honour, and prosperity. During this time he
applied himself, with considerable success, to the revival of Egyptian
art and architecture. At Thebes he made additions to the great temple of
Karnak, restored the temple of Khonsu, and adorned with reliefs a shrine
originally erected by Ramesses XII. At Memphis he was extraordinarily
active: he built a small temple in the neighbourhood of the Serapeum,
set up inscriptions in the Apis repository in honour of the sacred
bulls, erected two small obelisks in black granite, and left his name
inscribed more than once in the quarries of Toora. Traces of his
activity are also found at Edfu, at Abydos, at Bubastis, at Rosetta in
the Delta, and at Tel-el-Maskoutah. The art of his time is said to have
all the elegance of that produced under the twenty-sixth (Psamatik)
dynasty, but to have been somewhat more florid. The two black obelisks
above-mentioned, which are now in the British Museum, show the admirable
finish which prevailed at this period. The sarcophagus which Nectanebo
prepared for himself, which adorns the same collection, is also of great

We cannot be surprised to find that Nectanebo was worshipped after his
death as a divine being. A priesthood was constituted in his honour,
which handed down his cult to later times, and bore witness to the
impression made on the Egyptian mind by his character and his successes.



Nectanebo's successors had neither his foresight nor his energy. Te-her,
the Tachos or Teos of the Greeks, who followed him on the throne in B.C.
366, went out of his way to provoke the Persians by fomenting the war of
the satraps against Artaxerxes Mnemon, and, having obtained the services
of Agesilaüs and Chabrias, even ventured to invade Phœnicia and attempt
its reduction. His own hold upon Egypt was, however, far too weak to
justify so bold a proceeding. Scarcely had he reached Syria, when revolt
broke out behind him. The Regent, to whom he had entrusted the direction
of affairs during his absence, proved unfaithful, and incited his son,
Nekht-nebf, to become a candidate for the crown, and to take up arms
against his father. The young prince was seduced by the offers made him,
and Egypt became plunged in a civil war. But for the courage and conduct
of Agesilaüs, which were conspicuously displayed, Tacho would have
yielded to despair and have given up the contest. In two decisive
battles the Spartan general completely defeated the army of the rebels,
which far outnumbered that of Tacho, and replaced the king on his
tottering throne.

However, it was not long before the party of the rebels recovered from
their defeats. Agesilaüs either joined them, or withdrew from the
struggle, and removing to Cyrene died there at an advanced age. Tacho,
deserted by his followers, quitted Egypt and fled to Sidon, whence he
made his way across the desert to the court of the Great King. Ochus,
who had by this time succeeded Mnemon, received him favourably, and
professed an intention of embracing his cause; but nothing came of this
expression of good-will. Tacho lived a considerable time at the court of
Ochus, without any steps being taken to restore him to his former
position. At last a dysentery carried him off, and legitimated the
position of the usurper who had driven him into exile.

The end now drew nigh. Nekht-nebf, whom the Greeks called Nectanebo II.,
having after a time established himself firmly upon the throne, and got
rid of pretenders, resumed the ambitious policy of his predecessor, and
entered into an alliance with the people of Sidon and their neighbours,
who were in revolt against Persia. He had the excuse that Ochus, some
time previously, had sent an expedition against Egypt, which he had
repulsed by the assistance of two Greek generals, Diophantus of Athens
and Lamius of Sparta. But this expedition was a thing of the past; it
had inflicted no injury on Egypt, and it demanded no revenge. Nekht-nebf
was in no way called upon to join the rebel confederacy, which (in B.C.
346) raised the flag of revolt from Persia, and sought to enrol in its
ranks as many allies as possible. But he rashly gave in his name, and
sent to Sidon as his contingent towards the army that was being raised,
four thousand of his Greek mercenaries, under the command of Mentor of
Rhodes. With their aid, Tennes, the Sidonian king, completely defeated
the troops which Ochus had sent against him, and drove the Persians out
of Phœnicia.

The success, however, which was thus gained by the rebels only
exasperated the Persian king, and made him resolve all the more on a
desperate effort. The time had gone by, he felt, for committing wars to
satraps, or sending out generals, with a few thousand troops, to put
down this or that troublesome chieftain. The conjuncture called for
measures of no ordinary character. The Great King must conduct an
expedition in person. Every sort of preparation must be made; arms and
provisions and stores of all kinds must be accumulated; the best troops
must be collected from all parts of the empire; a sufficient fleet must
be manned; and such an armament must go forth under the royal banner as
would crush all opposition. Ochus succeeded in gathering together from
the nations under his direct rule 300,000 foot, 30,000 horse, 300
triremes, and 500 transports or provision-ships. He then directed his
efforts towards obtaining efficient assistance from the Greeks. Though
refused aid by Athens and Sparta, he succeeded in obtaining a thousand
Theban heavy-armed under Lacrates, three thousand Argives under
Nicostratus, and six thousand Æolians, Ionians, and Dorians from the
Greek cities of Asia Minor. The assistance thus secured was numerically
small, amounting to no more than ten thousand men--not a thirtieth part
of his native force; but it formed, together with the Greek mercenaries
from Egypt--who went over to him afterwards--the force on which he
placed his chief reliance, and to which the ultimate success of his
expedition was mainly due.

The overwhelming strength of the armament which Ochus had brought with
him into Syria alarmed the chiefs of the rebel confederacy. Tennes,
especially, the Sidonian monarch, despaired of a successful resistance,
and made up his mind that his only chance of safety lay in his appeasing
the anger of Ochus by the betrayal of his confederates and followers. He
opened his designs to Mentor of Rhodes, the commander of the Greek
mercenaries furnished by Egypt, and found him quite ready to come into
his plans. The two in conjunction betrayed Sidon into the hands of
Persia, by the admission of a detachment within the walls; after which
the defence became impracticable. The Sidonians, having experienced the
unrelenting temper and sanguinary spirit of the Persian king, who had
transfixed with javelins six hundred of their principal citizens, came
to the desperate resolution of setting fire to their houses, and so
destroying themselves with their town. One is glad to learn that the
cowardly traitor, Tennes, who had brought about these terrible
calamities, did not derive any profit from them, but was executed by the
command of Ochus, as soon as Sidon had fallen.

The reduction of Sidon was followed closely by the invasion of Egypt.
Ochus, besides his 330,000 Asiatics, had now a force of 14,000 Greeks,
the mercenaries under Mentor having joined him. Marshalling his army in
four divisions, he proceeded to the attack. The first, second, and
third divisions contained, each of them, a contingent of Greeks and a
contingent of Asiatics, commanded respectively by a Greek and a Persian
leader. The Greeks of the first division, consisting mainly of Bœotians,
were under the orders of Lacrates, a Theban of enormous strength, who
regarded himself as a second Hercules, and adopted the traditional
costume of that hero, a lion's skin and a club. His Persian colleague
was Rhosaces, satrap of Ionia and Lydia, who claimed descent from one of
"the Seven" that put down the conspiracy of the Magi. In the second
division, where the Argive mercenaries served, the Greek leader was
Nicostratus, the Persian Aristazanes, a court usher, and one of the most
trusted friends of the king. Mentor and the eunuch Bagoas, Ochus's chief
minister in his later years, were at the head of the third division,
Mentor commanding his own mercenaries, and Bagoas the Greeks whom Ochus
had levied in his own dominions, together with a large body of Asiatics.
The king himself was sole commander of the fourth division, as well as
commander-in-chief of the entire host. Nekht-nebf, on his side, was only
able to oppose to this vast array an army less than one-third of the
size. He had enrolled as many as sixty thousand of the Egyptian warrior
class, and had the services of twenty thousand Greek mercenaries, and of
about the same number of Libyan troops.

Pelusium, as usual, was the first point of attack. Nekht-nebf had taken
advantage of the long delay of Ochus in Syria to see that the defences
of Egypt were in good order; he had made preparations for resistance at
all the seven mouths of the Nile, and had guarded Pelusium with especial
care. Ochus, as he had expected, advanced along the coast route which
led to this place. Part of his army traversed the narrow spit of land
which separated the Lake Serbonis from the Mediterranean, and in doing
so met with a disaster. A strong wind setting in from the north, as the
troops were passing, brought the waters of the Mediterranean over the
low strip of sand which is ordinarily dry, and confounding sea and shore
and lake together, caused the destruction of a large detachment; but the
main army, which had probably kept Lake Serbonis on the right, reached
its destination intact. A skirmish followed between the Theban troops of
the first division under Lacrates and the garrison of Pelusium under
Philophron; but this first engagement was without definite result.

The two armies lay now for a while on the Pelusiac branch of the Nile,
which was well protected by forts, fortified towns, and a network of
canals on either side of it. There was every reason to expect that
Nekht-nebf, by warily guarding his frontier, and making full use of his
resources, might baffle for a considerable time, if not wholly
frustrate, the Persian attack. But his combined self-conceit and
timidity ruined his cause. Taking the direction of affairs wholly upon
himself and asking no advice from his Greek captains, he failed to show
any of the qualities of a great commander, and was speedily involved in
difficulties with which he was quite incapable of dealing. Having had
his first line of defence partially forced by a bold movement on the
part of the Argives under Nicostratus, instead of trying to redeem the
misfortune by a counter-movement, or a concentration of troops, he
hastily abandoned to his generals the task of continuing the resistance
on this outer line, and retiring to Memphis, concentrated all his
efforts on making preparations to resist a siege.

Meantime, the Persians were advancing. Lacrates the Theban set himself
to reduce Pelusium, and, having drained dry one of the ditches, brought
his military engines up to the walls of the place. In vain, however, did
he batter down a portion of the wall--the garrison had erected another
wall behind it; in vain did he advance his towers--they had movable
towers ready prepared to resist him. No progress had been made by the
besiegers, when on a sudden the resistance of the besieged slackened.
Intelligence had reached them of Nekht-nebf's hasty retreat. If the king
gave up hope, why should they pour out their blood to no purpose?
Accordingly they made overtures to Lacrates for a surrender upon terms,
and it was agreed that they should be allowed to evacuate the place and
return to Greece, with all the goods and chattels that they could carry
with them. Bagoas demurred to the terms; but Ochus confirmed them, and
Pelusium passed into the possession of the Persians without further

About the same time Mentor had proceeded southwards and laid siege to
Bubastis. Having invested the town, he caused intelligence to reach the
besieged that Ochus had determined to spare all who should surrender
their cities to him without resistance, and to treat with the utmost
severity all who should fight strenuously in their defence. By these
means he introduced dissension within the walls of the towns, since the
native Egyptians and their Greek allies naturally distrusted and
suspected each other. At Bubastis the Egyptians were the first to move.
The siege had only just begun when they sent an envoy to Mentor's
colleague, Bagoas, to offer to surrender the town to him. But this
proceeding did not suit the Greeks, who caught the messenger, extracted
from him his message, and then attacked the Egyptian portion of the
garrison and slew great numbers of them. The Egyptians, however, though
beaten, persisted, established communication with Bagoas, and fixed a
day on which they would receive his forces into the town. Mentor, who
wished to secure to himself the credit of the surrender, hereupon
exhorted his Greek friends to be on the watch, and, when the time came,
to resist the movement. This they did with such success that they not
only frustrated the attempt, but captured Bagoas himself, who had
ventured within the walls. Bagoas had to implore the interference of his
colleague on his behalf, and was obliged to promise that henceforth he
would attempt nothing without Mentor's knowledge and consent. Mentor
gained his ends, had the credit of being the person to whom the town
surrendered itself, and at the same time established his ascendancy over
Bagoas. It is clear that had the Egyptians possessed an active and able
commander, advantage might have been taken of the jealousies which
divided the Persian generals from their Greek colleagues, to bring the
expedition into difficulties.

Unfortunately, the Egyptian monarch, alike pusillanimous and incapable,
was so far from making any offensive effort, that he was not prepared
even to defend his capital against the invaders. When he found that
Pelusium and Bubastis had both fallen, and that the way lay open for the
Persians to march upon Memphis and invest it, he left the city with all
the wealth on which he could lay his hands, and fled away into Ethiopia.
Ochus did not pursue him. He was content to have regained a valuable
province, which for above fifty years had been lost to the Persian
crown, without even having had to fight a single pitched battle, or to
engage in one difficult siege. According to the Greek writers, he showed
his contempt of the Egyptian religion after his conquest by stabbing an
Apis-Bull, and violating the sanctity of a number of the most holy
shrines; but the story of the Apis-Bull is probably a fiction, and it
was to obtain the plunder of the temples, not to insult the Egyptian
gods, that he violated the shrines. There is no trace of his having
treated the conquered people with cruelty, or even with severity.
Prudence induced him to destroy the walls and other fortifications of
the chief Egyptian towns; and cupidity led him to carry off into Persia
all the treasures that Nekht-nebf had left behind. Even the sacred
books, of which he is said to have robbed the temples, may have been
taken on account of their value. We do not hear of his having dragged
off any prisoners, or inflicted any punishment on the country for its
rebellion. Even the tribute is not said to have been increased.

There is nothing surprising in the fact that, when once Persia took
resolutely in hand the subjugation of the revolted province, a few
months sufficed for its accomplishment. The resources of Persia were out
of all comparison with those of Egypt; alike in respect of men and of
money, there was an extreme disparity. What had protected Egypt so long
was the multiplicity of Persia's enemies, the large number of wars that
were continually being waged and the want of a bold, energetic, and
warlike monarch. As soon as the full power of the vast empire of the
Achæmenidæ was directed against the little country which had detached
itself, and pretended to a separate existence, the result was certain.
Egypt could no more maintain a struggle against Persia in full force
than a lynx could contend with a lion. But while all this is indubitably
true, the end of Egypt might have been more dignified and more
honourable than it was. Nekht-nebf, the last king, was a poor specimen
of the Pharaonic type of monarch. He had none of the qualities of a
great king. He did not even know how to fall with dignity. Had he
gathered together all the troops that he could anyhow muster, and met
Ochus in the open field, and fallen fighting for his crown, or had he
even defended Memphis to the last, and only yielded himself when he
could resist no longer, a certain halo of glory would have surrounded
him. As it was, Egypt sank ingloriously at the last--her art, her
literature, her national spirit decayed and almost extinct--paying, by
her early disappearance from among the nations of the earth, the penalty
of her extraordinarily precocious greatness.





Aahmes I., 152
"Aa-khepr-ka-ra, Abode of," 168
"Abode of Aa-khepr-ka-ra," 168
Abraham, deceit of, 127, 129
Abraham in Egypt, 125
Abyssinia, rainfall in, 113
Alliance with Babylon and Lydia, 371
Amasis, prosperity under, 367
Amenemhat I., 101
Amenemhat I., hunting prowess of, 103
Amenemhat III., 109
"Amenemhat the Good," 116
Amenemhat's Labyrinth, 121
Amenemhat's Reservoir, 118
Amenhotep II., conquests of, 206
Amenhotep II., cruelty of, 207
Amenhotep III., colossi of, 208
Amenhotep III., lion-hunting of, 220
Amenhotep III., personal appearance of, 222
Amenhotep III., wars of, 219
Amenhotep IV., accession of, 223
Ammon, High Priest of, 289
Ammon, restoration of temple of, 290
Ammon, temple of, 105, 167, 173, 186
Amon-mes, or Amomneses, pretender to crown, 265
Animal worship, 31
Animals, sacred, 31
Antef I., 97
Antef II.'s dogs, 98
Antiquities of Egypt, 45
Apé, or Apiu, city of, 56
Apepi and Joseph, 145
Apepi, rule of, 144
Apis, sacred bull, 32
Apries offends Nebuchadnezzar, 363
Architecture, 21, 245, 267
Art and literature, decline of, 285, 311
Art and literature, revival of, 350
Asa, Judæa revolts under, 307
Asa, victory of, 309
Asia, invasion of, 167, 195
Asshur-bani-pal, accession of, 336
Asshur-bani-pal, death of, 338
Asshur-bani-pal, defeat of Tehrak by, 336
Assyria, II
Assyrian gifts to Thothmes III., 194
Athor cow, 33
Auaris, siege of, 152


Babylon, revolt of, 345
Bacis, sacred bull, 32
Bahr Yousouf, 1
Bastinado, 45
Bek-en-ranf, burning of, 323
Builders, the Pyramid, 82
Buildings of Thothmes III., 199, 201
Bulls, sacred, 32


Cairo., Modern, 52, 95
Cambyses, indignities by, 378
Campaigns of Thothmes III., 191
Chaldean Monarchy, end of, 371
Character, Egyptian, 24
Character, types of, 27
Colossi of Amenhotep III., 208
Condition, social, 60
Corrupting influences, 353
Costume, early, 60
Costume of Women, 62
Crocodile, mode of hunting, 104
Crœsus, 370
Cushites, the, 154
Cyprus, 197
Cyrene, death of, 394
Cyrus, death of, 372


Darius, death of, 382
Darius, revolt against, 381
David and Solomon, empire of, 295
Decline, 244, 269, 283
Decline of art and literature, 285, 311
Decline of morals, 286
Defeat, double, of invaders, 277
Defeat of Neco by Nebuchadnezzar, 358
Deities, Egyptian, 30
Deities, evil, 36, 37
Delta, the, 1, 95, 102
Disaster of the Red Sea, 264
Disintegration, 311, 317
Disk worship, 223, 225, 230, 231
Drollery, Egyptian, 29
Dynasties, rival, established, 311


Egypt, monotony of, 19
Egypt, seasons of, 14
Egypt, shape of, 1
Egypt, situation of, 11
Egypt, size of, 9
Egypt, soil of, 10
Egyptian history, happiest age of, 100
Egyptian independence re-established, 389
Egyptian myths, 47
Egyptian physique, 25
Egyptians, nature of, 28
Elephant hunting, 194
El-Uksur, temple of, 217
Empire of David and Solomon, 295
Esarhaddon, accession of, 331
Esarhaddon's defeat of Tehrak, 333
Ethiopia and Syria, struggles between, 337
Ethiopia, Egyptian influence in, 315
Ethiopia, last efforts of, 339
Ethiopian rule firmly established, 323
Ethiopians, cruelty of, 338
Evil deities, 36, 37
Expeditions into Asia, 167, 195


Famines through deficient inundation, 115
Fayoum, obelisk at, 106
Fayoum, the, 4, 7
Fellahin, explanation of, 45
First sea-fight, 277
Fleet of Hatasu, 178
Flora of Egypt, 15
Foreigners, encouragement of, 351
Forests, incense, 183
Free Trade in Punt, 183


Geology of Egypt, 15
Great Pyramid, 72
Greece, trade with, 352
Ghizeh, three Pyramids at, 67
Ghizeh, tombs at, 56, 137
Gyges and Psamatik, 345


Hall at Karnak, 266
Hall of Seti, 245
Handicrafts, Egyptian, 44
Hapi, 32
Hapi, merchant fleet of, 178
Hapi regarded as a male, 178
Hapi regent for Thothmes II., 173
Hapi, Thothmes III.'s animosity against, 187
Hatasu actual queen, 177
Hatasu's fleet, return of 184
Hebrew art, Egyptian influence in, 297
Heliopolis, temple at, 106
Her-hor, first high-priest king, 290
Herodotus, 384
Hittites, peace with, 242
Hittites, treaty with, 243
Hittites, war with, 233
Hosea, Shabak's dealings with, 325
Hostage, Thothmes III.'s system of, 195
Hyksôs conquered, 151
Hyksôs, religion of, 143
Hyksôs rule, 139


Immigrants, Semitic, 109, 130
Immortality of the soul, belief in, 39
Inarus, death of, 384
Inarus, revolt of, 383
Incense forests, 183
Industries, revival of, 350
Influences, corrupting, 353
Inundation, 13
Inundation, deficient, famines through, 115
Invasion, 396
Invasion by land and sea, 275
Invasion, Libyan, 235
Invasion, the great, 134
Israel's oppressor, 249


Jeroboam at Shishak's court, 301
Jerusalem, destruction of, 362
Joseph and Apepi, 145
Josiah, defeat of, by Nico, 357
Judæa insecure, 361
Judæa's conquest, record of, 305


Kadesh, battle of, 239
Karnak, hall at, 266
Karnak, temple at, 173, 198, 200, 304, 349, 386
Khabash, accession of, 381
Khartoum, 8
Khu-en-Aten, 227
Khu-en-Aten, personal appearance of, 229
Khufu, King, 82, 90
King, supposed first, 49
Kings in awe of priests, 288


Labouring class, condition of, 45
Labyrinth, Amenemhat's, 121
Legend of Osiris, 34
Libyan desert, battle in, 346
Libyan invasion, 255
Libyans, defeat of, 274
Libyans, slaughter of,
Literature and art, decline of, 311
Lower Egypt, 96
Lower orders, condition of, 45
Luxor, temple of, 217


Medes, the, 369
Medinet-Abou, temple at, 272
Megiddo, capture of, 191
Memphis, 51
Memphis, blockade and fall of, 377, 383
Memphis taken by Esarhaddon, 333
Menephthah I., accession of, 253
Menes, King, 50, 52
Men-kau-ra, King, 68, 82, 90
Men-khepr-ra, King, accession, of, 294
Mentu-hotep I., 97
Mertitefs, wife of Sneferu, 64
Meydoum, pyramid of, 58
Mi-Ammon-Nut, accession of, 338
Mi-Ammon-Nut, death of, 340
Mi-Ammon-Nut, Submission to, 340
Mnevis, sacred bull, 32
Mœris, lake, 120
Monuments, objects on, 196
Moral standard, 42
Morality, Egyptian, 41
Morals, decline of, 286
Myth, chief Egyptian, 34
Myths, Egyptian, 47


Naïri, war on the, 167
Napatra, Necropolis at, 316
Natural History of Egypt, 16
Naval power of Thothmes, 111
Navy of Nero, 354
Nebuchadnezzar and Neco, 358
Nebuchadnezzar overruns Egypt, 365
Neco, accession of, 354
Neco defeats Josiah, 357
Neco, navy of, 354
Neco, victories of, 358
Nectanebo I., accession of, 387
Nectanebo I., sarcophagus of, 391
Nefer-mat, son of Sneferu, 64
Nekht-nebf, accession of, 394
Nile, navigation on, 13
Nile, rising of the, 113
Nile valley, 1, 95, 102, 117
Nineveh, 192


Obelisk of Usurtasen I., 137
Objects on monuments, 196
Ochus, expedition of, 394
Osiris, legend of, 34
Osorkon I., accession of, 306


Pacis, sacred bull, 32
Parihu, king of Punt, 182
Payment of tribute, 149
Pelusium, surrender of, 399
Persia, third rebellion against, 385
Persian conquest, 368
Persian power, rise of, 369
Persians, revolt against, 382
Pharnabazus, attack by, 388
Pharnabazus, repulse of, 390
Phœnicia, 11
Phthah, temple of, 51, 349
Piankhi, king of Napatra, 317
Piankhi, rebellion against, 318
Piankhi, submission of petty princes to, 320
Pinetum I., accession of, 293
Plagues of Egypt, the, 262
Polytheism, 31
Priest, High, of Ammon, 289
Priest-kings, last of the, 297
Priests, kings in awe of, 288
Prosopis, battle of, 260
Prosperity under Amasis, 367
Psamatik I. and Gyges, 345
Psamatik I., origin of, 343
Psamatik I., sole king, 347
Psamatik I., marriage of, 348
Psamatik I., victory of, 346
Psamatik II., architectural activity of, 361
Psamatik III., accession of, 374
Psamatik III., death of, 377
Psamatik III., defeat of, 375
Public schools, 45
Punt, free trade in, 183
Punt's, Queen of, visit to Hatasu, 182
Pyramid builders, Egypt under the, 91
Pyramid builders, the, 82
Pyramid, great, 72
Pyramid of Meydoum, 58
Pyramid of Saccarah, 59
Pyramids, Egyptian idea of, 66
Pyramids, three, at Ghizeh, 67


Ra-Sekenen III., Apepi's jealousy of, 150
Ra-Sekenen III., war forced upon, 151
Ramesses I., 232
Ramesses II., Hittite war of, 239
Ramesses II., Israel's oppressor, 249
Ramesses III., accession of, 271
Ramesses III., closing years of, 283
Ramesses III., plot to kill, 284
Ramesses III., temple of, 272
Red Sea, disaster of, 264
Rehoboam, submission of, 303
Religion, 35-41
Reservoir, Amenemhat's, 118
Revival of Arts and Industries, 350
Revolt against Darius, 381
Revolt against the Persians, 382
Rival dynasties, 311
Rut-Ammon, accession and death of, 338


Saccarah, Great Pyramid of, 59
Sacred animals, 31
Sacred bulls, 32
St. John Lateran, monument of, 202
Sankh-ka-ra, King, 99
Saplal, Hittite king, 232
Sargon, death of, 327
Sargon, founder of last Assyrian dynasty, 326
Schools, public, 45
Sea-fight, first, 277
Second cataract, 106, 111
Semetic immigrants, 130
Sennacherib, accession of, 327
Sennacherib, victories of, 328
Sennacherib's army, destruction of, 329, 331
Set, Egyptian deity, 143
Set the victorious, 269
Seti the Great, victories of, 234
Seti the Great, wars of, 236
Seti the Great, long wall of, 237
Seti the Great, Pillared Hall, 245
Seti the Great, tomb of, 246
Seti I., head of, 250
Seti I., images of, 248
Seti I., mummy of, 251
Shabak bums Bek-en-ranf, 323
Shabak, death of, 327
Shabak's conquest of Lower Nile, 324
Shabak's dealings with Hosea, 325
Shabatok, accession of, 327
Shafra, King, 82, 90, 92
Shasu, campaign against the, 273
Shepherds, Egypt under, 139
Sheshonk dynasty, defeat of, 309
Shishak, accession of, 300
Shishak, dominion of, 304
Shishak, foreign origin of, 298
Shishak invades Judæa, 303
Shishak's reception of Jeroboam, 301
Sidon, capture of, 396
Siege of Memphis, 376
Signs on tombs, 57
Slave-hunting lucrative, 220
Sneferu, first certain king, 54
Social condition, 60
Social ranks, 43
Society, divisions of, 43
Song of Egyptians, 26
Song of victory, 198
Soul, belief in immortality of, 39
Sphinx, the, 92
Standard, moral, 42
Suez, Isthmus of, 11
Syria and Ethiopia, struggle between, 337
Syria evacuated by Neco, 359


Tachos, accession of, 393
Taxation, heavy, 45
Tehrak, death of, 337
Tehrak defeated by Asshur-bani-pal, 336
Tehrak defeated by Esarhaddon, 333
Tel-el-Bahiri, 185
Tel-Mouf, 51
Temple of Ammon, 167, 173, 186, 290
Temple of Karnak, 198, 200, 304, 349, 386
Temple of Medinet-Abou, 272
Temple of Phthah, 349
Temple of Tel-el-Bahiri, 185
Theban kings, 99
Thothmes I., accession of, 158
Thothmes I., greatness of, 168
Thothmes I., victories of, 159
Thothmes II., death of, 177
Thothmes III., animosity against Hatasu, 187
Thothmes III., buildings of, 199, 201
Thothmes III., campaigns of, 191
Thothmes III., conquests of, 204
Thothmes III., lost obelisks of, 201
Thothmes III., naval power of, 197
Thothmes III., personal appearance of, 204
Thothmes III.'s system of tribute, 195
Thothmes III., tributes of, 196
Tinæus, King, 135
Tombs at Ghizeh, 56, 137
Tombs, description of, 57
Tombs, signs on, 57
Trade with Greece, 352
Trade with the Jews, 295
Transport, difficulty of, 12
Treaty with the Hittites, 243
Tribute, payment of, 149


Usurtasen I., obelisk of, 137
Usurtasen I., son of Amenemhat, 104
Usurtasen I., statue of, 105
Usurtasen II., 109
Usurtasen III., conquest of, 111


Victoria, lake, 8
Victory, song of, 198
Vocal Memnon, the, 212


Wady Haifa, 106
Wady Magharah, 54, 106
Water, modes of storing, 117
Western Asia, history of, 162
Western Asia, topography of, 155
"Wilderness of the Wanderings," 164
Women, costume of, 62
Women held in high estimation, 170
Worship, animal, 31


Zabara, Mount, 15
Zerah, defeat of, 308


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