Images de page

159. At the expiration of this line in the person of Takelot II, about B. C. 847, a rival family sprang up at Tanis, forming the Twenty-third Dynasty. It comprised only four kings, none of whom were famous. B. C. 847–758.

160. B. C. 758-714. The Twenty-fourth Dynasty consisted of one king, Boccho'ris. He fixed the government at Sa'ïs, another city of the Delta, and was widely famed for the wisdom and justice of his administration. In the latter half of this period, Sabaco, the Ethiopian, over- B. C. 730.. ran the country and reduced the Saïte monarch to a mere

vassal. Bocchoris, attempting to revolt, was captured and burned to death, after a reign of forty-four years.

161. Sabaco I, having subdued Egypt, established the Twenty-fifth Dynasty. He fought with the king of Assyria for the dominion of western Asia, but was defeated by Sargon in the battle of Raphia, B. C. 718. Assyrian influence became predominant in the Delta, while the power of the Ethiopian was undisturbed only in Upper Egypt. The second king of this family was also named Sabaco. The third and last, B. C. 690-665.

Tir'hakeh, was the greatest of the line. He maintained war

successively with three Assyrian monarchs. The first, Sennacherib, was overthrown* B. C. 698. His son, Esarhaddon, was successful for a time in breaking Lower Egypt into a number of tributary provinces. Tirhakeh recovered his power and reunited his kingdom; but after two years' war with Asshur-bani-pal, the next king of Assyria, he was obliged to abdicate in favor of his son. The son was expelled, and Egypt was divided for thirty years into many petty kingdoms, which remained subject to Assyria until the death of the conqueror.

162. For the Egyptians this was merely a change of foreign rulers. Their patriotism had long been declining, and their native army had lost its fame and valor from the time when the kings of the Twenty-second Dynasty intrusted the national defense to foreigners. The military caste became degraded, and the crown even attempted to deprive the soldiers of their lands. Egypt had become in some degree a naval power, and a commercial class had arisen to rival the soldiers and farmers.

* See ? 33.

163. About 630 B. C., the Assyrians had to concentrate their forces at home in resistance to the Scythians; and Psammet'ichus, one of the native viceroys whom they had set up in Egypt, seized the opportunity to throw off their yoke. The great Assyrian Empire was now falling under the Median and Babylonian revolt, and its power ceased to be felt in distant provinces. Psammetichus gained victories over his brother viceroys, and established the Twenty-sixth Dynasty over all Egypt. He was an enlightened monarch, and during his reign art and science received a new impulse.

164. Having overcome the dodecarchy by means of his Greek and Tyrian auxiliaries, he settled these foreign troops in permanent camps, the latter near Memphis, the former near the Pelusiac branch of the Nile, His native soldiery were so incensed by being thus superseded by foreign mercenaries, that many deserted and took up their residence in Ethiopia. So many foreigners of all classes now flocked to the ports of Egypt, that a new caste of dragomans, or interpreters, arose. Psammetichus caused his own son to be instructed in Greek learning, a sure sign that the barriers which had hitherto separated the intellectual life of Egypt from the rest of the world were now broken down.

165. Those northern barbarians who had terrified the Assyrians had now overrun Palestine and threatened an invasion of Egypt; but the messengers of Psammetichus met them at Ascalon with bribes which induced them to return.

166. B. C. 610–594. In the reign of Necho, son of Psammetichus, the navy and commerce of Egypt were greatly increased, and Africa was for the first time circumnavigated by an Egyptian fleet. This expedition sailed by way of the Red Sea. Twice the seamen landed, encamped, sowed grain, and waited for a harvest. Having reaped their crop, they again set sail, and in the third year arrived in Egypt by way of the Mediterranean. The foreign conquests of Necho may even be compared with those of the great Rameses, for he enlarged his dominions by all the country between Egypt and the Euphrates. But he met a stronger foe in Nebuchadnezzar, and when he fled from the field of Car'chemish all his Asiatic conquests fell into the hands of the great Babylonian.

B. C. 605.

B. C. 569-525.

167. B. C. 588-569. His grandson, Apries, the Pharaoh-hophra of Scripture, resumed the warlike schemes of Necho. He besieged Sidon, fought a naval battle with Tyre, and made an unsuccessful alliance with Zedekiah, king of Judah, against Nebuchadnezzar. He was deposed, and his successor, Ama'sis, held his crown at first as a tributary to the Babylonian. He afterward made himself independent; and many monuments throughout Egypt bear witness to his liberal encouragement of the arts, while his foreign policy enriched the country. He was on friendly terms with Greece and her colonies, and many Greek merchants settled in Egypt.

168. Alarmed by the increasing power of Persia, he sought to strengthen himself by alliances with Croesus of Lydia, and Polycrates of Samos. The precaution was ineffectual, but Amasis did not live to see the ruin of his country. Cambyses, king of Persia, was already on his march at the head of a great army, when Psammen'itus, son of Amasis, succeeded to the throne of Egypt. The new king hastened to meet the invader at Pelusium, but was defeated and compelled to shut himself up in Memphis, his capital,

where the Persians now advanced to besiege him. The city was taken and its king made captive, after a reign of only six months. A little later he was put to death; and the Kingdom of Egypt, after a thousand years of independent existence, became a mere province of the Persian Empire, B. C. 525.


At a very early period Egypt was highly civilized, but not united, for it consisted of many independent nomes governed by priests. Menes built Memphis, and founded the Empire of Upper and Lower Egypt, which was ruled by twentysix dynasties before the Persian Conquest. Sesorcheres founded the Third Dynasty; Sesonchosis patronized all the arts, and his son improved the laws and worship. The Fourth Dynasty built many pyramids, while the Second and Fifth reigned as dependents in This and Elephantine. Egypt was afterward divided into five kingdoms, and became subject to the Hyksos from Asia, who enslaved the people, and after a time subdued the whole country, except Xois in the Delta. During the early part of their invasion, the Twelfth Dynasty reigned at Thebes in great power and splendor.

B. C. 1525, Amosis led a revolt which expelled the Hyksos, and founded the Eighteenth Dynasty at Memphis. Several queens were highly honored. The people were prosperous, but the captive Hebrews were oppressed. Thothmes III built many palaces; Seti re-conquered Syria; and his son, Rameses the Great, gained victories in Europe, Asia, and Africa. In the reign of Menephthah, the Israelites were led out of Egypt by Moses. Under the Twentieth Dynasty, the art, enterprise, and power of Egypt declined. The Twenty-first Dynasty was composed of priests; the Twenty-second, of soldiers. The Twenty-fourth was overthrown by Sabaco the Ethiopian; the Twenty-fifth, which he founded, was, in turn, reduced by the Assyrians. After thirty years' subjection, Egypt was delivered and united by Psammetichus, with the aid of foreign troops. Necho, his son, was successful in many naval and military enterprises, but was defeated at last by Nebuchadnezzar, in the battle of Carchemish. Apries was deposed by the same king, and Amasis came to the throne as a viceroy of Babylon. His son, Psammenitus, was conquered by Cambyses, and Egypt became a Persian province.


169. The religion of the ancient Egyptians was a perplexing mixture of grand conceptions and degrading superstitions. No other ancient people had so firm an assurance of immortality, or felt its motives so intimately affecting their daily life; yet no other carried its idolatries to so debasing and ridiculous an extreme. The contradiction is partly solved if we remember two distinctions: the first applying chiefly to the ancient and heathen world, between the religion of priests and people; the second every-where existing, even in the One True Faith, between theory and practice― between ideal teaching and the personal character of those who receive it.

170. The sacred books of the Egyptians contained the system adopted by the priests. Their fundamental doctrine was that God is one, unrepresented, invisible. But as God acts upon the world, his various attributes

or modes of manifestation were represented in various forms. As the Creator, he was Phtha; as the Revealer, he was Am'un; as the Benefactor and the Judge of men, he was Osiris; and so on through an endless list of primary, secondary, and tertiary characters, which to the uneducated became so many separate divinities. Some portion of his divine life was even supposed to reside in plants and animals, which were accordingly cherished and worshiped by the ignorant. For what to the wise were merely symbols, to the people became distinct objects of adoration; and the Egyptian priests, like all other heathen philosophers, disdained to spread abroad the light which they possessed. They despised the common people, whom they judged incapable of apprehending the sacred mysteries, and taught them only those convenient doctrines which would render them submissive to kingly and priestly authority.

171. The people, then, believed in eight gods of the first order, twelve of the second, and seven of the third; but each of these was worshiped under many titles, or as connected with different places. Isis was, therefore, surnamed Myriônyma, or "with ten thousand names." The sun and the moon were admitted to their worship; the former as representing the life-giving power of the deity, the latter as the regulator of time and the messenger of heaven. The moon was figured as the Ibis-headed Thoth, who corresponds to the Greek Hermes, the god of letters and recorder of all human actions.

172. A principle of evil was worshiped, in very early times, under the name of Seth, the Satan of Egyptian mythology. He was figured on a monument as instructing a king in the use of a bow. Sin is elsewhere represented as a great serpent, the enemy of gods and men, slain by the spear of Horus, the child of Isis. It seems impossible to doubt that the Egyptians had preserved some traditions of the promises made to Eve. At a later period the worship of the evil principle was abolished, and the square-eared images of Seth were chiseled off from the monuments.

173. The most interesting article of Egyptian mythology is the appearance of Osiris on earth for the benefit of mankind, under the title of Manifestor of Goodness and Truth; his death by the malice of the evil one; his burial and resurrection, and his office as judge of the dead. In every part of Egypt, and during all periods of its history, Osiris was regarded as the great arbiter of the future state.

174. In the earliest times human sacrifices were practiced, as is proved by the Sacrificial Seal which was accustomed to be affixed to the victim, and copies of which are frequently found in the tombs. It represents a kneeling human figure, bound, and awaiting the descent of the knife which glitters in the hand of a priest. But the practice was abolished by Amosis (B. C. 1525-1499), who ordered an equal number of waxen effigies to be offered instead of the human victims.

175. The worship of animals was the most revolting feature of Egyptian ceremonies. Throughout Egypt the ox, dog, cat, ibis, hawk, and the fishes lepidotus and oxyrrynchus were held sacred. Beside these there were innumerable local idolatries. Men'des worshiped the goat; Heracleop'olis, the ichneumon; Cynop'olis, the dog; Lycop'olis, the wolf; A'thribis, the shrew-mouse; Sa'ïs and Thebes, the sheep; Babylon near Memphis the ape, etc. Still more honored were the bull Apis, at Memphis; the calf Mne'vis, at Heliopolis; and the crocodiles of Om'bos and Arsin ́oë. These were tended in their stalls by priests, and worshiped by the people with profound reverence. Apis, the living symbol of Osiris, passed his days in an Apeum attached to the Serapeum at Memphis. When he died he was embalmed, and buried in so magnificent a manner that the persons in charge of the ceremony were often ruined by the expense. He was supposed to be the son of the moon, and was known by a white triangle or square on his black forehead, the figure of a vulture on his back, and of a beetle under his tongue. He was never allowed to live more than twenty-five years. If he seemed likely to survive this period, he was drowned in the sacred fountain, and another Apis was sought. The chemistry of the priests had already produced the required white spots in the black hair of some young calf, and the candidate was never sought in vain. At the annual rising of the Nile, a seven-days' feast was held in honor of Osiris.

176. Difference of worship sometimes led to bitter enmities between the several nomes. Thus, at Ombos the crocodile was worshiped, while at Ten'tyra it was hunted and abhorred; the ram-headed Am'un was an object of adoration at Thebes, and the sheep was a sacred animal, while the goat was killed for food; in Men'des the goat was worshiped and the sheep was eaten. The Lycopol'ites also ate mutton in compliment to the wolves, which they venerated.

177. If we turn from the trivial rites to the moral effects of the Egyptian faith, we find more to respect. The rewards and punishments of a future life were powerful incitements to right dealing in the present. At death all became equal: the king or the highest pontiff equally with the lowest swine-herd must be acquitted by the judges before his body was permitted to pass the sacred lake and be buried with his fathers. Every nome had its sacred lake, across which all funeral processions passed on their way to the city of the dead. On the side nearest the abodes of the living, have been found the remains of multitudes who failed to pass the ordeal, and whose bodies were ignominiously returned to their friends, to be disposed of in the speediest manner.

178. Beside the earthly tribunal of forty-two judges, who decided the fate of the body, it was believed that the soul must pass before the divine judgment-seat before it could enter the abodes of the blessed. The Book

« PrécédentContinuer »