« ForrigeFortsæt »
early Egyptians were acquainted with the use of iron. The next chamber has chairs of the most elegant form, covered with rich drapery, highly ornamented, and evincing admirable taste; nor can any one, on contemplating the beauty of Egyptian furniture, refuse for one moment his assent to the fact, that this people must have been greatly advanced in the arts of civilisation and the comforts of domestic life. Sofas, coucbes, vases of porcelain and pottery, copper utensils, caldrons, rare woods, printed stuffs, leopard skins, baskets of a very neat and graceful shape, and basins and ewers, whose designs vie with the productions of the cabinet-maker, complete the interesting series of these frescos.
“ The next contains agricultural scenes, in which the inundation of the Nile passing through the canals, sowing and reaping wheat, and a grain, which from its height and round head appears to be the doora or sorghum, as well as the flowers of the country, are represented. But however successful the Egyptians may have been in seizing the character of animals, they failed in the art of drawing trees and flowers, and their coloured plants would perplex the most profound botanist equally with the fanciful productions of an Arabic herbarium. That which follows contains different forms of the god Osiris, having various attributes."
This is truly a precious glimpse, that gives us a greater knowledge of what the ancient Egyptians really were, than the loftiest pyramid, or the inscription the most inflated. A populous horde of mere slaves, or uncivilized barbarians, may be coerced by despotic power, and placed under the direction of one or two men of science, perhaps foreigners, and erect a magnificent temple; and though its lofty columns may stand unshattered for ages, it cannot be a fair index of the progress of civilisation in the land in which it was erected. But when we discover that a nation has attained the art of making steel, forming vessels of copper, and, as is elsewhere shown, knowing the use of glass, and applying all these inventions, not only in the palace of the priest or the king, but in administering to domestic happiness, we must pronounce that nation not only civilized, but refined. But we should like to have one other test of their farther advancement in all that dignifies life, and that is, their literature. Of obtaining this criterion we do not despair. What Dr. Young originated, and Mons. Champollion has advanced, if health and life be spared to him, Mr. Wilkinson will complete. We conceive that there must be much history and much poetry (could such a nation be without its poetry?) still concealed in the yet unexplored catacombs, or wrapped around the shrivelled mummies. There has been already enough discovered to give a brief history, by means of the hieroglyphics, the paintings, and the sculptures, of some very important epochs of this ancient nation.
Friendly as we are, nay, ardently attached, to the monarchical principle, we cannot help smiling at the spirit of usurpation so prevalent among kings- we mean, of course, to except constitutional monarchs. Thrones have been usurped from times immemorial; but it was reserved for an Egyptian potentate to usurp the grave of his predecessor. The tomb in question originally belonged to King Pthasepthah, but was feloniously entered and appropriated by King Osirei II. As this happened more than three thousand years ago, we presume the regal and legal mummy has lost his right of ejectment, the case coming clearly within the statute of limitations, without such statute be in Egypt of the most unlimited description. However, we rejoice that Mr. Wilkinson has made a forceful entrance into this domicile of ambitious death, as he saw one of its halls represented
various objects of Egyptian furniture, such as mirrors, boxes, and chairs of very elegant shapes, vases, fans, arms, necklaces, and numerous insignia. Indeed, the tomb seems to have been well worth a little usurpation.
The third chapter, dedicated to the tombs of the priests and private individuals, is replete with the most valuable information. But those Turks, those villanous Turks, have been at their barbarian work here, burning the stones of which these chambers, sacred to the ancient dead were composed, into lime. These gentlemen have always been terrible stumbling-blocks in the road of civilisation. They have a dreadful faculty of burning when the conflagration may prove eminently disastrous, as their exploits with the Alexandrian library must testify. As, however, there is no remedy for their various mischiefs, regrets are unavailing.
However, of those private tombs we find some devoted to almost every trade ; as, for instance, saddlers, curriers, carpenters, cabinet-makers, boat-builders, chariot-makers, &c. &c., not forgetting glass-blowers. If individuals, strictly speaking, of private and even humble life, were thus lavish upon their graves, we may safely infer that they must have possessed considerable wealth and great means for commanding domestic enjoyments.
As we are ourselves a scribe, we cannot resist the temptation of transcribing the tomb of a scribe.
“ Number 16 is a very interesting tomb, as well in point of chronology as in the execution of its paintings. Here the names of four kings, from the third Thothmes to Amunoph III., inclusive, satisfactorily confirm the order of their succession as given in the Abydus tablet and the lists of Thebes. In the inner chamber, the iumate of the tomb, a 'royal scribe,' or basilico-grammat, undergoes his final judgment, previous to admission into the presence of Osiris. Then follows a long procession, arranged in four lines, representing the lamentations of the women and the approach of the baris or coffin, containing the body of the deceased, drawn on a sledge by four oxen. In the second line men advance with different insignia belonging io tbe king Amunoph; in the third, with various offerings, a chariot, chairs, and other objects ;t and in the last line a priest, followed by the chief mourners, officiates before the boats, in which are seated the basilico-grammat and his sister.
The rudders,' as Herodotus observes, are passed through the keel' in their larger boats of burthen, while those of smaller size have one on either side. They consist, like the other, of a species of large paddle, || with a rope fastened to the upper end, by which their sway on the centre of motion is regulated to and fro. One square sail, lowered at pleasure over the cabin, with a yard at the top and bottom, is suspended at its centre to the summit of a short mast which stands in the middle, and is braced by stays fastened to the fore and after part of the boat.
“ On the opposite wall is a fowling and fishing scene; and the dried fish sus
* “ They had also hired mourners, like the Romans, and as at the present day in Egypt, 'qui conducti plorant in funere.'-Hor. Ar. Poet.
† “ The small wooden chambers, about the height of a man, so frequently seen in these tombs, were used as repositories for mummies or as sedan chairs, wbich being placed on sledges, were drawn by their servants. They were even put into boats as a temporary cabin. Palanquins were also used by the grandees.
+ "Though it was a common custom of the Egyptians to marry their sisters, it does not appear that she was also bis wife, as this would not be omitted in the hieroglyphics. Vide Diodor. i. s. 27 ; Hieroglypbics passim. conf.; also the History of the Ptolemies ; Isis and Osiris, &c.
“ Herodot. lib. ii. s. 96. Il " As in the Burmese and otber boats.
In rowing, the Egyptians generally stood to the oar."
pended in the boat remind us of the observations of Herodotus* and Diodorus, who mention them as constituting a very considerable article of food among this people, for, with the exception of the priesthood, ther were at all times permitted to eat those which were not comprised among the sacred animals of the country. Here is also the performance of the liturgies to the mummies of the deceased.|| Nor do the frescos of the outer chamber less merit our attention. Among the most interesting is a party entertained at the bouse of the basilico-grammat, who, seated with his mother, caresses on his knee the youthful daughter of his sovereign, to whom he probably had been tutor. Women dance to the sound of the Egyptian guitar in their presence, or place before them vases of flowers and precious ointment; and the guests, seated on handsome chairs, are attended by servants, who offer them wine in golden goblets,'each having previously been welcomed by the usual ceremony of putting sweet-scented ointment on bis head.**
“ In the lower part of the picture, a minstrel, seated cross-legged, according to the custom of the East,t+ plays on a harp of seven strings, accompanied by a guitar, and the chorus of a vocal performer, the words of whose song appear to be contained in eight lines of hieroglyphics, which relate to Amun, and to the person of the tomb, beginning, “Incense, drink-offerings, and sacrifices of oxen, and concluding with an address to the basilico-grammat. Beyond these an ox is slaughtered, and two men having cut off the head, remove the skin from the leg and body. Servants carry away the joints as they are separated, the head and right fore-leg being invariably the first, the other legs and the parts of the body following in proper succession. A mendicant receives a head $$ from the charity of the steward, who also offers him a bottle of water. On the opposite wall are some buffoons, who dance to the sound of a drum, and other subjects.”
This is very well for a scribe. But we fear that he has usurped too much of our space to the exclusion of matter more interesting.
It appears that the Egyptians had a lively talent for caricature, for even in their most sacred subjects, the funeral procession, they could not resist their impulse to drollery.
“ Lib. ii. s. 92.
# Herodot. ii. s. 37. $ " Some even of those sacred in one part of Egypt were eaten by those of other districts.
“Similar to the inferiæ or parentalia of the Romans.
" I infer this from the frequent use of wine in their offerings and repasts. Nor was it forbidden to the priests. Plut. s. 6. Herodotus says, they drink out of brass or bronze goblets, which they take care to cleanse every day; not one,' he adds, but all adopt this custom. Lib. ii. 37. But they had gold, silver, and porcelain vases; and the expression, “ with a cup of gold' in the bieroglyphics above confirms this fact. Conf. Genesis xliv. 2,5. Joseph's • silver cup,' and the sculptures passim.
*** In another of these tombs a servant is represented bringing the ointment in a vase, and putting it on the beads of the guests, as well as of the master and mis. tress of the house. A lotus flower was also presented to them on their arrival. Wasbing the feet and anointing the head was an old Eastern custom. Gen. xliii. 24; Luke vii. 46.
" Including Egypt: there, however, it was generally confined to the lower orders.
11 “Conf. Herodot, ii. s. 39. ... 'they cut off the head, and then skin the body.'
Øs “ The animal to which this head belongs is not added; perhaps by one ox we are to understand the slaughter of several others, which it was not considered necessary to show to the oculis fidelibus' of the spectator. Herodotus makes a strange mistake on the subject of the bead, which he says no Egyptian will on any account touch, since it is always met with in the offerings placed before the deities themselves, and even before the Egyptian guests at an Egyptian repast. There were no Greeks in Egypt at this time, and the colour of this man (for the Egyptians were careful in distinguishing that of foreigners) is that usually given to the inhabitants of the Nile. I have attempted to explain the origin of his mistake in my Materia Hierog. pp. 16, 17.”
Before we take leave of Thebes, we must be permitted a few remarks upon the very imperfect state of the art of representation displayed by the Egyptian painters; so imperfect in comparison to their architecture, and to that portion of the fine arts that were put in requisition to administer to household luxuries. We have seen a copy of the drawings of the tomb of Belzoni, which was allowed to be perfect, and which was open to public inspection in Leicester Square. It is from these that we shall speak, and in so doing, must respectfully beg leave to entertain a slight difference of opinion from Mr. Wilkinson, who says
“ The greatest enemy to deviation from the rules of Grecian art cannot fail to take a lively interest in the study of the Egyptian school, were it merely from the circumstance of its having been the parent of that refined and exquisite taste which has ennobled the name of Corinth and of Athens; where superior talent, unrestrained by the shackles of superstitious regulations forbidding the smallest deriation from prescribed rules as unpardonable profanation,* rose to that perfection which the student of nature can alone attain. In spite of all the defects of Egyptian art, it has at least the great merit of originality; nor can any one, however prepossessed against it, deny the imposing grandeur of the Theban temples, or the admi. rable style of drawing in the unfinished chamber of Belzoni's tomb, and other monuments of the earliest eras, where the freedom of tbe outlines evinces the skill of no ordinary artist.”
With all deference to our author, the style of drawing in Belzoni's tomb was not admirable. In fact, the lines were mere signs of convention for what they were supposed to represent, and not at all representations, in the artist's sense, of any thing either on the face of the earth, or in the waters under the earth. Yet were they boldly and freely struck out in their way. We can give an adequate idea of this by calling attention to a writing-master's flourished angel: every body sees that it is nothing like an angel, yet every body admires the delicacy, the freedom, and the off-handedness of the penman.
Now the Egyptians who sculptured and built so well, could also have painted better, and rivalled, at least, the two arts of statuary and architecture, but they were restricted by laws that were looked upon as sacred and immutable, and by a priestocracy that pervaded and governed the whole social scheme. In those good, old, orthodox times, a little perspective would have been a great religious
error, and the foreshortening of a limb a damnable heresy. The office of painters was hereditary: as the fathers painted, the sons were constrained to paint from generation to generation without any alteration; and, as it was orthodox to represent a tree with a symbol something like a school-boy's peg-top three or four thousand years ago, had the Egyptians still preserved their nationality, a peg-top would have been a tree to this day upon the banks of the Nile.
But in the palmy days of Egypt, architecture was continually im · proving; and why? because the priests themselves were the architects ;
According to Synesius, the profession of artist was not allowed to be exercised by any common or illiterate persons, lest they should attempt anything contrary to the laws and regulations regarding the figures of the gods; and Plato (in his second Book of Laws) says, 'they never suffered any painters or statuaries to innovate anything in their art, or to invent any new subjects or any new habits Hence the art still remains the same, the rules of it still the same.'
in their body they possessed all the sciences, and kept them secret. They were the freemasons. To the common herd, as the painters and mere decorators, they said, Thus far shalt thou go and no farther : knowledge is not good for you: obey us, and we will protect you from worse evils than ignorance, provided that ignorant you consent to be. Then they did rightly: such conduct never could be the height of iniquity. In those early ages the true system of morality was as little understood as a pure religion known. The strong and the violent would have degraded all. The few really wise men saw this evil, this worst of all impediments to civilisation; they bonded together, and clothing their wisdom in the robes of superstition, and throwing round themselves the mysteries of an inscrutable secrecy, they stood between the spoiler and the oppressed. They thus tempered the rule of the sword, and took care, most judiciously, always to initiate the reigning king in their order, and thus governed as much by legitimate authority as by religious fears.
Dr. Marryat, a skilful and very learned physician of the last century, though unpossessed of all the advantages derivable from the late discoveries of Young, Champollion, and more especially Mr. Wilkinson, saw all this darkly, and thus delivered himself upon the subject.
“ The society of masons was first formed in Egypt, the mother and nurse of arts and sciences, where they all originated. This seems no more than natural, for the probability is very great that Egypt was the first land which emerged from the
and is consequently the oldest country in the world. Moses, who was by no means friendly to the Egyptians, yet ingenuously acknowledges that they were the wisest peo on earth. From the earliest ages, the ascent to which it is impossible to reach, as men discovered any art, or improved any science, (in a state of society) they felt the necessity of communicating them for their own sakes, that they might be supported and assisted. To promote their lucrative views it was also necessary that such communications should be confined to as few in number as possible. It was unavoidably requisite that every member of the society should be laid under the most solemn obligation to preserve the various deposits intrusted to him from all those who were not intitled to similar emoluments. As architecture was of the highest consequence to mankind, with respect to utility, convenience and magnificence, the masons were the only persons to be applied to on this account. No other persons were capable of planning or erecting edifices adapted to usefulness or splendor. It is remarkable that these philosophers in every age and every nation distinguished themselves by the appellation which in all languages signifies a mason. It is true that every fellow-craft, before he obtained the dignity of a master-mason, must have made great proficiency in grammar, logic, rhetoric, arithmetic, geometry, music, and astronomy.
“ The masons had long confined all the sciences within the limits of their own fraternity, till they admitted amongst them the travelling Greek philosophers, who visited Egypt in search of knowledge. They indeed were not very scrupulous in pursuing the means of obtaining science by any sacrifice ; nor less nice or conscientious in divulging those secrets which were under the strongest obligation imparted to them.
“ Euclid first made public all he had learned of geometry: the bigher part of the mathematics he had not acquired. The application of this science to the measurement of land, building and various other arts, was so obvious, that many ingenious Greeks availed themselves of it to the no small detriment of the masons. This, as it was the first, was the severest blow our society ever felt. Some of them to this day assert, and seriously too, that the extraordinary death of this apostate was a judgment on him for the breach of his obligation: an eagle, mistaking his bald head for a stone, having dropped a tortoise on it to crush the shell.
“ Pythagoras resided more years in Egypt than any other Grecian philosopher. On his return, he enjoined a three years inviolable silence on all bis pupils. He