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for some deep and transcendental lore, or listen- CHAP. ing with the eagerness and awe of children to the stories which had long been whispered in the learned circles of On, of Thebes, of Memphis; so that he who is desirous of understanding the precise development of human thought, alike in Western Asia and in Europe, in Athens, Rome, or even (some would tell us) in Jerusalem itself, must take up his position at this fountain-head of wisdom, and from thence survey the parting of the mighty stream as it flows forth into contiguous regions'.
Now the scholar of the present age has many Advantages fresh facilities for the successful carrying out of the inquirer such investigations. The recovery of the hiero- of the preglyphic character has given, and is still giving every year, a new complexion to the ancient history of the Valley of the Nile. We can no longer speak of Egypt barely as the 'land of ruins,' or the birthplace of insoluble enigmas; her true title is the land of sculptured monuments,—of monuments again made vocal to the ear of science, and from which their secret must ere long be wrested more completely by the ardent pupils of Champollion. Favoured by the excellence of the material, and the singular purity and dryness of the climate, the co
Uhlemann scarcely overrates the influence of Egypt, when, after sketching its position in the ancient world, and its relation both to Greeks and Hebrews, he adds (Thoth, oder die Wissenschaften der alten Aegypter, p. 6, Göttingen, 1855): 'Aegypten muss als ursprüngliche Quelle alles dessen betrachtet werden, was in späterer Zeit an diesen beiden und anderen von denselben abhängigen
Völkern bewundert und angestaunt
2 Egyptian archæology and his-
Variety of monuments.
CHAP. lossal tombs and temples, to say nothing of those minor works of art dug out of the sepulchral chambers, have preserved a rich variety of inscriptions, more or less decypherable, and more or less conducing to an accurate knowledge of the past. 'There was not a wall, a platform, a pillar, an architrave, a frieze, or even a door-post, in an Egyptian temple, which was not covered within, without, and on every available surface, with pictures in relief, and with hieroglyphic texts explaining those reliefs. There is not one of these reliefs that is not history: some of them actually representing the conquests of foreign nations; others, the offerings and devotional exercises of the monarch by whom the temple or the portion of the temple on which the relief stood, had been constructed... There was no colossus too great, and no amulet too small, to be inscribed with the name of its owner, and some account of the occasion on which it was executed'.' Sanguine We can easily understand that when the power of Egyptology, reading these inscriptions began to be recovered, men would turn with fresh enthusiasm to the study of Egyptian antiquities. Here, at least, they seemed to argue, we are building on a definite and stable basis. Our materials are no more of doubtful age and questionable reputation. The mind and spirit of that ancient world, with which we long to hold communion, left its impress deeply graven on the face of pyramids which tower, as they have towered for ages, high above the sandy flats of the adjoining desert. There, accordingly, if ever, we may hope to find the master-clue which is to guide
1 Osburn, Monumental History of Egypt, 1. 195, substantially from Lepsius, as above, pp. 36, 37.
us through the intricacies of primeval history, CHAP. reveal afresh the hopes and fears which then were struggling in the human bosom, and resolve for us, it may be, many an arduous problem which concerns the origin, the early wanderings, and the final destiny of man.
Nor can we say that expectations of this kind Actual dishave been entirely disappointed. Very large accessions to our knowledge of the ancient East have flowed, and are still flowing, from investigations of the learned Egyptologer. As we gaze for instance on the long array of monumental paintings in our great Museums; as we listen to interpretations of the hieroglyphic texts by which those paintings are accompanied; the daily life of men who were perhaps contemporary with Moses has again been vividly depicted on the dullest imagination. We behold as well the toils, the sufferings, and the pastimes of the many, as the power and luxury of the few. The peasant labours at the plough or tends his cattle, while the lordly owner of the soil is near him in a two-horsed chariot. The goldsmith and the scribe, the potter and the glassblower, the boat-builder, the weaver, and the dyer, each is occupied in his appropriate calling. Here we see a group of idlers watching the caprices of a game of ball, or listening in the midst of flowers and perfumes to the music of the seven stringed harp: while there a countless multitude are shaping the materials of some stately edifice, or pressing a beleaguered town, or marching home victorious with a lengthened train of captives.
It seems to be confessed, however, by the great Small majority of Egyptologers, that notwithstanding the rendered to
CHAP. number and minuteness of these revelations, our
I. familiarity with monuments of ancient Egypt has the theolo- contributed in no proportionate degree to our ac
Scope and spirit of the
present in quiry.
quaintance with the inner being of the people. The manners of the Old Egyptian we may thoroughly appreciate: his mental and moral life is still obscurely apprehended. Means are now at hand for studying the grotesque configuration of his gods, and tracing out the smallest details in his pompous ritual; yet the thoughts which underlay those symbols, and found utterance in those sacrifices1, must be learned, if ever, from a different source and by a different process.
If I venture, therefore, on a fresh discussion of such problems, it is not from any wish to speak with confidence where confidence is really unattainable. I do not purpose to invade the province. of the Egyptologer whose main conclusions are no longer open to dispute; but rather, taking those conclusions for a guide, wherever they are held in common by the learned in each special study, my aim will be to estimate the leading characteristics of Egyptian heathenism, as one of many forms in which the moral wants and instincts of our nature found expression during the first ages of the world. In doing this, however, exception will be freely taken to the crude and arbitrary theories of some modern writers, who, not content with 'reconstruct
1 'When we endeavour to penetrate into the conceptions which this splendid ritual expressed, we encounterinsuperable difficulties:' Kenrick, I. 349: cf. I. 437.
2 That English critics are not alone in their misgivings with respect to
some of Baron Bunsen's generalisations may be gathered from an extract like the following. The author, Dr Max Uhlemann, is also an Egyptologer of no mean reputation (Aegyptisch. Alterthumskunde, III. 12, Leipzig, 1858) 'Bunsen's Untersuchungen
ing' almost every text which militates against their CHAP. favourite dream of a society 'existing many thousand years before the date usually assigned to the Creation,' are further bent on sacrificing to a spirit of conjectural criticism the highest of all Christian teachings and the best convictions of the human heart.
The great antiquity which is now commonly at- Was Egyptributed to Egyptian culture has in several cases been sation alconnected with the thought, that in the Valley of ways the the Nile, the prominent forms of social and religious life had been completely stereotyped at once, and so distinguished in all future ages by an air of absolute immobility.
case of In
Now the same conclusion, we must bear in mind, Parallel was formerly adopted with respect to India and dia and the regions of the Further East. So meagre was our knowledge of the subject, when presented to us by the earliest race of Oriental scholars, that the Védas and Puránas, for example, were regarded as not only products of the same age, but also as reflecting the same modes of thought, the same archaic aspects of Hindú society. There, however, the unanimous verdict of a riper criticism, while fatal to pretensions of unfathomable antiquity, has certified us that the national spirit both of India
sind unbezweifelt und unbestritten ein geistreiches Werk, ... aber in der Chronologie enthalten auch sie, wie die aller übrigen Forscher, nur Muthmaassungen und unerweisbare Annahmen, die jedoch durch die Zuversichtlichkeit, mit der sie auftreten, dem unaufmerksamen Leser als unzweifelhaft erscheinen dürften, da
durch Zahlenveränderungen, durch