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CHAP. and of China had been subject, in the lapse of ages, to extensive fluctuations1.
Mobility of Egyptian art, language, and religion.
And a like remark is equally true of Egypt, even while she bowed beneath the sceptre of the Pharaohs. Her supposed exemption from the law of human mutability is vanishing with every fresh accession to our knowledge. The minute inspection and decyphering of her monumental archives have disclosed to us a series of important transformations, have established the existence of successive strata of development, and thus contributed to make us conscious of distinctive epochs in the life-time of the whole community. It may be, indeed, that all the principal characteristics of Egyptian culture, had, as in the case of China, been projected with so much rapidity at first, that we can never hope to understand the origin and real infancy of the people3. It may further be contended, that the nationality of Egypt, or the genius which distinguished her from African and Asiatic neighbours, was 'very much the same' in earlier and in later times. All statements of this kind if not unduly pressed convey a large
amount of truth; they serve to represent the gene- CHAP. ral fixity of corporate as of personal idiosyncrasies; and yet we can no longer doubt that after Egypt had begun to print her records on the pyramids of Ghizeh and Sakkarah, she passed through numerous and important changes,-changes which affected not only her political institutions, but the character of art, of language, of religion.
The second province, that of language, where The chasome modifying agency had been at work, I leave art at diffor the discussion of the competent Egyptologer'. riods. ferent peThe third will come more properly before us at a future stage of our inquiry; but the point relating to the gradual changes in the quality of Egyptian art it is expedient to consider now, because the epochs thus obtained are thought by some who are most-eminently learned in such matters, to agree with main divisions of Egyptian history in the Pharaonic era.
It is commonly admitted that the finest speci- Early mens of Egyptian art2 are those which have the period. fairest claims to be regarded as the oldest,—those which fall within the period of the 'first twelve dynasties.' The bloom of youth is ever traceable on the productions of the early race of artists; all the statues and bas-reliefs are executed with surprising truthfulness and vigour; and although we must allow that both in purity and finish several
1 See the Revue des Deux Mondes, as above, pp. 1055 sq. on the recent labours of M. de Rougé in this special province.
2 See The British Museum (Egyptian Antiquities), two volumes in the 'Library of Entertaining Knowledge.' Mr Osburn, Monumental History of
Egypt, I. 260 sq. (Lond. 1854), in-
CHAP. Works belonging to the close of this great period indicate considerable progress, it is no less certain that the character of the whole is so distinctive as to mark it off completely from the period next ensuing.
In the second stage of art, embracing monuments of the eighteenth and nineteenth dynasties,' the fervour and simplicity of earlier times. have been succeeded by a large amount of stiffness and conventionality. It is the Middle Age of Egypt; during which the symptoms of deterioration are constantly apparent, even where the vast proportions of the works constructed must excite
our deepest admiration of the power and energy of
With the twentieth dynasty' commences a of renais fresh era, the age of revival, when the artists of the Valley of the Nile, reverting to the ancient models, executed their works with far greater freedom; yet this period also was of short duration, and when Egypt was absorbed into the empire of the Ptolemies, and finally of the Cæsars, she retained but little of the old artistic spirit: all attempts to mingle Greek with native methods issued in comparative failure, and hastened the extinction of her pristine glory.
Length of intervals.
If, however, it be now established to the satisfaction of most writers that transitions of this kind are really visible on Egyptian monuments, far less has been effected in determining the point of primary departure, or the length of time to be assigned to each successive period of Egyptian history. I shrink from a minute investigation of the chronological difficulties by which the present sub
ject is confessedly embarrassed. While discussing CHAP. the religions of ancient India, it appeared to be sufficient for my purpose if I pointed out the general order of the changes which had supervened upon the old mythology and habits of the people; and a similar course would be adopted now, if statements were not hazarded in various quarters with the object of discrediting the Bible' as a whole, by ridiculing what is called the 'Mosaic chronology.'
How far, indeed, the Books of Moses, in their Difficulties present state, supply materials for constructing any with the definite system of chronology has long been ques- chronology. tioned by the ablest and most reverential of our sacred critics. The important variations of the Hebrew and Samaritan texts on one side, and the Septuagint and certain passages of Josephus on the other, have involved the period reaching from the Deluge to the seventieth year of Terah in comparative obscurity. The whole duration of that
1 See Part I. pp. 61, 63, where two American champions of human inequality adopt this line of argument. In like manner, the account of the Deluge, which was prevalent both in the Old and New World, is said by M. Bunsen and others to have left no echo whatever in the hieroglyphic legends of Egypt. Their avowed object in reiterating this statement is to shew that the emigration of the Old Egyptians must have been 'anteNoachian,'and indeed many thousand years before the date ascribed by them to the 'Caucasian' deluge. But the silence which has been alleged in justification of their statement is apparently a mere invention of deter
mined theorizers. Osburn, for ex-
CHAP. period in the Hebrew is no more than 352 years; while in the Vatican manuscript of the Seventy it extends as far as 1172 years'.
But the indefiniteness arising from this cause racter of will never justify the random guesses of some motian tradi- dern Egyptologers, who, dazzled it would seem by the occasional brilliance of their own discoveries,
are carrying back the civilisation of the Valley of the Nile to ages long anterior to the earliest glimpse of history in other regions of the world. Those writers should remember, while demanding our entire belief in catalogues of kings and 'palaceregisters,' that in the North of India where the course of civilisation was most parallel to that of Egypt, we have means of proving the untruthfulness of similar documents, and are able to convict their authors of antedating one event of great importance by as many as twelve hundred years2. Those writers should again remember, that the testimony of Egyptian priests is not above suspicion; that Herodotus and Diodorus both derived their information from the same authorities, and yet that while Herodotus extends the number of obscure descendants of Menes to 330, Diodorus limits them to 52; and while the former makes the native monarchy of Egypt to have lasted in all 11,340 years, the calculation of the latter stops short at 4,7003. These, and other discrepancies, are so 'enormous and so fundamental as to preclude the idea that they can have been superinduced by
1 The sum total for this period, according to the various authorities, is Heb. 352; Samar. 942; Septuag. (Vat.) 1172; Septuag. (Alexand.)
1072; Josephus, 1002.
2 Lassen, Ind. Alterth. I. 501.