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9. Egyptian Writing. In writing their language, the ancient Egyptians employed three different kinds of characters. First: figurative; or representations of the objects themselves. Secondly: symbolic ; or representations of certain physical or material objects, expressing metaphorically, or conventionally, certain ideas; such as, a people obedient to their king, figured, metaphorically, by a bee; the universe, conventionally, by a beetle. Thirdly: phonetic, or representative of sounds, that is to say, strictly alphabetical characters. The phonetic signs were also portraits of physical and material objects; and each stood for the initial sound of the word in the Egyptian language which expressed the object portrayed; thus a lion was the sound L, because a lion was called Labo ; and a hand a T, because a hand was called Tot. The form in which these objects were presented, when employed as phonetic characters, was conventional and definite, to distinguish them from the same objects used either figuratively or symbolically. Thus, the conventional form of the phonetic T was the hand open and outstretched. In any other form the hand would be either a figurative or a symbolic sign. The number of distinct characters employed as phonetic signs appears to have been about 120 ; consequently, many were homophones, or having the same signification. The three kinds of characters were used indiscriminately in the same writing, and occasionally in the composition of the same j. The formal Egyptian writing, therefore, such as we see it still existing on the monuments of the country, was a series of portraits of physical and material objects, of which a small proportion had a symbolical meaning, a still smaller proportion a figurative meaning, but the great body were phonetic or alphabetical signs: and to these portraits, sculptured or painted with sufficient fidelity to leave no doubt of the object represented, the name of hieroglyphics or sacred characters has been attached from their earliest historic notice. The manuscripts of the same ancient period make us acquainted with two other forms of writing practised by the ancient Egyptians, both apparently distinct from the hieroglyphic, but which, on careful examination, are found to be its immediate derivatives; every hieroglyphic having its corresponding sign in the hieratic, or writing of the priests, in which the funeral rituals, forming a large portion of the manuscripts, are principally composed; and in the demotic, called also enchorial, which was employed for all more ordinary and popular usages. The characters of the hieratic are, for the most part, obvious running imitations or abridgments of the corresponding hieroglyphics; but in the demotic, which is still farther removed from the original type, the derivation is less frequently and less obviously traceable. In the hieratic, fewer figurative or symbolic signs are employed than in the hieroglyphic; their absence being supplied by means of the phonetic or alphabetical characters, the words being spelt instead of figured ; and this is still more the case in the demotic, which is, in consequence, almost entirely alphabetical. After the conversion of the Egyptians to Christianity, the ancient mode of writing their language fell into disuse; and an alphabet was adopted in substitution, consisting of the twenty-five Greek letters, with six additional signs expressing articulations and aspirations unknown to the Greeks, the characters for which were retained from the demotic. This is the Coptic alphabet, in which the Egyptian appears as a written language in the Coptic books and manuscripts preserved in our libraries; and in which, consequently, the language of the inscriptions on the monuments may be studied. The original mode in which the language was written having thus fallen into disuse, it happened at length that the signification of the characters, and even the nature of the system of
writing which they formed, became entirely lost, such notices on the subject as existed in the early historians being either too impersect, or appearing too vague, to furnish a clew, although frequently and carefully studied for the purpose. The repossession of this knowledge will form, in literary history, one of the most remarkable distinctions, if not the principal one, of the age in which we live. It is due primarily to the discovery by the French, during their possession of Egypt, of the since well-known monument, called the Rosetta Stone, which, on their defeat and expulsion by the British troops, remained in the hands of the victors, was conveyed to England, and deposited in the British Museum. On this monument the same inscription is repeated in the Greek and in the Egyptian language, being written in the latter both in hieroglyphics and in the demotic or enchorial character. The words Ptolemy and Cleopatra, written in hieroglyphics, and recognised by means of the corresponding Greek of the Rosetta inscription, and by a Greek inscription on the base of an obelisk at Philae, gave the phonetic characters of the letters which form those words: by their means the names were discovered, in hieroglyphic writing, on the monuments of all the Grecian kings and Grecian queens of Egypt, and by the comparison of these names one with another, the value of all the phonetic characters was finally ascertained. The first ste in this great discovery was made by a j scholar of England, the late Dr. Young; the key found by him has been greatly improved, and applied with indefatigable perseverance, ingenuity, and skill to the monuments of Egypt, by the celebrated Champollion. (Quarterly Journal of Science, &c., New Series, vol. 1, p. 176, seqq.—Compare Edinburgh Review, Nos. 89 and 90.-American Quarterly Review, No. 2, p. 438, seqq.—Foreign Quarterly Review, No. 8, p. 438, seqq., and the Supplement to the Encyclopædia Britannica, vol. 4, pt. 1, s. v. Egypt.—Wiseman's Lectures, p. 255, seqq.)
10. Animal Worship.
There was no single feature in the character and customs of the ancient Egyptians which appeared to foreigners so strange and portentous as the religious worship paid to animals. The pompous processions and grotesque ceremonies of this celebrated people excited the admiration of all spectators, and their admiration was turned into ridicule on beholding the object of their devotions. It was remarked by Clemens (Padag. lib. 3) and Origen (adv. Cels. 3, p. 121), that those who visited Egypt, approached with delight its sacred groves, and splendid temples, adorned with superb vestibules and lofty porticoes, the scenes of many solemn and mysterious rites. “The walls,” says Clemens, “shine with gold and silver, and with amber, and sparkle with the various gems of India and Ethiopia; and the recesses are concealed by splendid curtains. But if you enter the penetralia, and inquire for the image of the god for whose sake the sane was built, one of the Pastophori, or some other attendant on the temple, approaches with a solemn and mysterious aspect, and, putting aside the veil, suffers you to peep in and obtain a glimpse of the divinity. There you behold a snake, a crocodile, or a cat, or some other beast, a fitter inhabitant of a cavern or a bog than a temple.” The devotion with which their sacred animals were regarded by the Egyptians, displayed itself in the most whimsical absurdities. It was a capital crime to kill any of them voluntarily (Herod. 2, 65); but if an ibis or a hawk were accidentally destroyed, the unfortunate author of the deed was often put to death by the multitude, without form of law. ... In order to avoid suspicion of such an impious act, and the speedy fate which often ensued, a man who chanced to meet with the carcass of such a bird began immediately to wail
and lament with the utmost vociferation, and to protest that he found it already dead. (Diodorus Siculus, 1, 83.) When a house happened to be set on fire, the chief alarm of the Egyptians arose from the propensity of the cats to rush into the flames over the heads or between the legs of the spectators: if this catastrophe took place, it excited a general lamentation. At the death of a cat, every inmate of the house cut off his eyebrows; but at the funeral of a dog, he shaved his head and whole body. (Herod. 2, 66.) The carcasses of all the cats were salted, and carried to Bubastus to be interred (Herod. 2, 67); and it is said that many Egyptians, arriving from warlike expeditions to foreign countries, were known to bring with them dead cats and hawks, which they had met with accidentally, and had salted and prepared for sepulture with much pious grief and lamentation. (Diod. Suc. 1, 83.) In the extremity of famine, when they were driven by hunger to devour each other, the Egyptians were never accused of touching the sacred animals. Every nome in Egypt paid a particular worship to the animal that was consecrated to its tutelar god; but there were certain species which the whole nation held in great reverence. These were the ox (pud. Apis), the dog, and the cat; the hawk and the ibis; and the fishes termed oxyrhynchus and lepidotus. (Strabo, 812.) In each nome the whole species of animals, to the worship of which it was dedicated, was held in great respect; but one favoured individual was selected to receive the adoration of the multitude, and supply the place of an image of the god. Perhaps this is not far from the sense in which Strabo distinguishes the sacred from the dirine animals. Thus, in the nome of Arsinoë, where crocodiles were sacred, one of this species was kept in the temple and worshipped as a god. He was tamed and watched with great care by the priests, who called him “Suchos,” and he ate meat and cakes which were of. fered to him by strangers. (Strabo, 811.) In the same neighbourhood there was a pond appropriated to the feeding of crocodiles, with which it was filled, the Arsinoites carefully abstaining from hunting any of them. Sacred bulls were kept in several towns and villages, and nothing was spared that seemed to contribute to the enjoyment of these horned gods, which were pampered in the utmost luxury. Among insects, the cantharus, scarabaeus, or beetle, was very celebrated as an object of worship. Plutarch says it was an emblem of the sun; but Horapollo is more particular, and informs us that there were three species of sacred beetles, of which one was dedicated to the god of Heliopolis, or the Sun; another was sacred to the Moon; and a third to Hermes or Thoth. The reasons he assigns for the consecration of this insect are derived from the notions entertained respecting its mode of reproduction and its habits, in which the Egyptians traced analogies to the movements of the heavenly bodies. It was believed that all these insects were of the male sex. The beetle was said to fecundate a round ball of earth, which it formed for the purpose. In this they saw a type of the sun, in the office of demiurgus, or as forming and fecundating the lower world. (Horapoll. Hieroglyph. 1, 10.—Plut. de Is. et Os., p. 355.-Porphyr. de Abstin., lib. 4.—Euseb. Prop. Evang. 3, 4.) Nor was the adoration of the Egyptians confined to animals merely. Many plants were reded as mystical or sacred, and none more so than the lotus, of which mention has already been made, in the section that treats of the fertility of Egypt. In the lotus, or nymphaea nelumbo, which throws its flowers above the surface of the water, the Egyptians found an allusion to the sun rising from the surface of the ocean, and it is on the blossom of this plant that the infant Harpocrates is represented as reposing. The peach-tree was also sacred to Harpocrates; and to him the first fruits of lentils and other plants were ossered, in the month Mesori. It is well known, too, that the Egyptians worshipped the onion. Plutarch refers
this superstition to a fancied relation between this plant and the moon. Leeks also, and various legumina, were held in similar veneration. (Minutius Feliz, p. 278.) The acacia and the heliotrope are said to have been among the number of those plants that were consecrated to the sun. (Compare Kircher's (Edipus, 3, 2.) The laurel was regarded as the most noble of all plants. We learn from Clemens Alexandrinus that there were thirty-six plants dedicated to the thirty-six genii, or decans, who presided over their portions of the twelve signs of the zodiac. (Prichard's Analysis of Egyptian Mythology, p. 301, seqq.)
11. Erplanation of Animal Worship.
The origin of animal worship, and the reasons or motives which induced the Egyptians to represent their gods under such strange forms, or to pay divine honours to irrational brutes, and even to the meanest objects in nature, is an inquiry which has occupied the attention of the learned in various times. Herodotus pretended to be in possession of more information on this subject than he chose to make public. It has been conjectured that he was desirous of concealing his ignorance under a cloak of mystery. The later Greek writers seem to have been more intent on offering excuses for the follies of the Egyptians, than on unfolding the real principles of their mythology; and we find various and contradictory opinions maintained with equal confidence. It appears, indeed, that the Egyptian priests themselves, in the time of the Ptolemies, and at the era of the Roman conquest, were by no means agreed on this subject. To endeavour to explain it by a reference to the metamorphoses which the gods underwent, when they fled from Typhon and sought concealment under the forms of animals, is to account for an absurdity by a fable. To go back, as some do, to the standards, or banners, borne by the different tribes or communities that formed the compoment parts of the earlier population, is to invert the order of ideas. A people may choose for a standard the representation of an object which they adore; but they will not be found to adore any particular object because they may have chosen it for a standard or banner. The opinion, on the other hand, which refers animal worship to the policy of kings, and to their seeking to divide their subjects by giving them different objects of religious veneration, is an awkward application of the system of Euhemerus, according to which all religions were nothing in effect but civil institutions, the offspring of skilful legislators. Fetichism has been anterior to all positive law. Favoured by the interests of a particular class, it has been enabled, it is true, to prolong itself during a state of civilization and by the force of authority; but it must spring originally and freely from the very bosom of barbarism. Equally untenable is the position, which supposes, that the Egyptians were induced to pay divine honours to animals, out of gratitude for the benefits which they derived from them; to the cow and the sheep, for the clothing and sustenance which they afford; to the dog, for his care in protecting their houses against thieves; to the ibis, for delivering their country from serpents; and to the ichneumon, for destroying the eggs of the crocodile. This conjecture is refuted by the wellknown fact, that a variety of animals which are of no apparent utility, and even several species which are noxious and destructive, and the natural enemies of mankind, received their appropriate honours, and were regarded with as much reverence as the more obviously useful members of the animal creation. The shrewmouse, the pike, the beetle, the crow, the hawk, the hippopotamus, can claim no particular regard for the benefits they are known to confer on the human race; still less can the crocodile, the lion, the wolf, or the venomous asp urge any such pretension. Yet we have seen that all these creatures, and others of a sim
ilar description, were worshipped by the Egyptians with the most profound devotion: nay, mothers even rejoiced when their children were devoured by crocodises. It may be farther observed, that some of those animals which afford us food and raiment, and which are, on that account, among the most serviceable, were rendered of little or no utility to the Egyptians on account of this very superstition. They regarded it as unlawful to kill oxen for the sake of food, and not only abstained from slaughtering the sheep, but likewise, under a variety of circumstances, from wearing any garment made of its wool, which was regarded as impure, and defiling the body that was clothed with it. These considerations seem to prove, that the adoration of animals among the Egyptians was not founded on the advantages which mankind derive from them. Another attempt at explaining this mystery, which receives greater countenance from the general character of the Egyptian manners and superstition, is the conjecture of i. (De Astrolog—ed. Bip., vol. 5, p. 218.) .This writer pretends, that the sacred animals were only types or emblems of the asterisms, or of those imaginary figures or groups into which the ancients had, at a very early period, distributed the stars; distinguishing them by the names of living creatures and other terrestrial objects. According to Lucian, the worshippers of the bull Apis adored a living image of the celestial Taurus; and Anubis represented the Dog-star or the constellation of Sirius. This hypothesis has received more attention than any other among modern writers. Dupuis has made it the basis of a very ingenious attempt to explain the mythologue of Isis and Osiris, and several other fables of antiquity, which this author resolves into astronomical figments, or figurative accounts of certain changes in the positions of the heavenly bodies. (Origine de tous les Cultes, 2, 270, seqq., ed. 1822.) The hypothesis of Lucian, however, will not endure the test of a rigid scrutiny. For if we examine the constellations of the most ancient spheres, we find but few coincidences between the zodia or celestial images, and that extensive catalogue of brute creatures which were adored as divinities on the banks of the Nile. Where, for example, shall we discover the ibis, the cat, the hippopotamus, or the crocodile ! Besides, if we could trace the whole series of deified brutes in the heavens, it would still remain doubtful, whether the Egyptian animals were consecrated subsequently to the formation of the sphere, as types or images of the constellations; or the stars distributed into groups, and these groups named with reference to the quadrupeds, birds, and fishes that were already regarded as sacred. There are, indeed, many circumstances which might render the latter alternative the more probable. But the relation between the animals of the sphere and those of the Egyptian temples are by far too limited to warrant any such speculation; and Lucian, moreover, is an author who is by no means deserving of much credit on a subject of this nature. Porphyry, in his conjectures, approaches nearer the truth. The divinity, according to him, embraces all beings; he resides, therefore, in animals also, and man adores him wherever he is found. In other words, the worship of animals was intimately connected, according to this writer, with the doctrine of emanation. (Porphyr. de Abstinentia, 4, 9–Compare Eusebius, Praep. Evang. 3, 4.) This explana. tion, however, does not go far enough. It takes no notice of that peculiar combination by which the worship of animals is made to assume a regular form, and to continue itself long after man has placed the deity far above the limits of physical existence.—The discovery of a mode of worship among certain savage tribes in our own days, perfectly analogous to the system of animal adoration which prevailed among the Egyptians, furnishes us with a certain clew amid these conflicting hypotheses, and that clew is Fetichism. We
perceive, remarks Heeren (Ideen, vol. 2, p. 664), the worship of animals from Ethiopia to Senegal, among nations completely uncivilized. Why, then, seek for a different origin among the Egyptians ? Place among the African negroes of the present day corporations of priests arrived at the knowledge of the movement of the heavenly bodies, and preserving in their sanctuary this branch of human science screened from the curiosity of the uninitiated and profane. These sacerdotal corporations will never seek to change the objects of vulgar adoration; on the contrary, they will consecrate the worship that is paid them, and will giye that worship more of pomp and regularity. They will seek, above all, to make the intervention of the sacerdotal caste a necessary requisite in every ceremony; they will then attach, in a mystic sense, these material objects of worship to their hidden science; and the result will be a system of religion precisely similar to that of Egypt, with Fetichism for its basis, the worship of the heavenly bodies for its outward characteristic, and within, a science founded on astronomy, and by the operation of which the setichs, that serve as gods for the people, become merely symbols for the priests. It was thus that the priests of Meroë, in sending forth their sacerdotal colonies, carefully observed the rule of attaching to themselves the natives among whom they chanced to come, by adopting a part of their external worship, and by assigning to the animals which these natives adored a place in the temples erected by them, which thence became the common sanctuaries and the centres of religion for all. To invert the order to which we have just alluded is a palpable error. What had been for a long time acknowledged for a sign or symbol, could not, on a sudden, be transformed into a god; but it is easy to conceive how that which passes for a god with the mass of the people may be. come an allegory or emblem with a more enlightened caste. Apis, for example, owed to certain spots, at first fortuitous, afterward renewed by art, the honour of being one of the signs of the zodiac. The salacity of the goat made it a type of the great productive power in nature. The cat was indebted to its glossy fur, and the ibis to its equivocal colour, which appeared, as it were, something intermediate between the night and the day, for being symbols of the moon; the falcon became one of the year, and the scarabaeus of the sun. The case was the same with trees and plants, setichs no less highly revered than animals. The leaves of the palm, the longevity of which tree seemed a special privilege from on high, adorned the couches of the priests, because this tree, putting forth branches every month, marks the renewal of the lunar cycle. (Diod. Sic. 1, 34.—Plin. 13, 17.) The lotus, known also as a sacred plant to the people of India, the cradle of Brahma (Maurice, Hist. of Indost. 1,60), as well as that of Harpocrates; the persea, brought from Ethiopia by a sacerdotal colony (Diod. Sic. l. c.—Schol. in Nicandr. Therapeut. v. 764); the amoglossum, whose seven sides recall to mind the seven planets; and which was styled, on this account, the glory of the skies (Kircher, OEd. AEgypt. 3, 2); the onion, whose pellicles were thought to resemble so many concentric spheres, and which was therefore viewed as a vegetable image of the universe, always different and yet always the same, and where each part served as the representative of the whole; all these became so many symbols having more or less connexion with astronomical science. In them the people beheld the objects of ancient adoration, and the priests characteristics that enabled them to mark out and perpetuate their scientific discoveries. To these elements of worship was added, without doubt, the influence of localities, that at one time disturbed by partial differences the uniformity which the sacred caste were desirous of establishing, and at another associated with the rites, that had reference to the general principles of astronomical science, certain practices which resulted merely from peculiarity of situation. Hence, on the one hand, the diversity of animals adored by the communities of Egypt. Had these been merely pure symbols, would the priests, who sought to impart a uniform character to their institutions, have ever introduced them! These varieties in the objects of worship are only to be explained by the yielding, on the part of a sacerdotal or der, to the antecedent habits of the people. (Vogel, Rel, der Æg., p. 97, seqq.) Hence, too, on the other hand, those numerous allegories, heaped up together without being connected by any common bond, and forming, if the expression be allowed, so many layers of fable. Apis, for example, at first the manitou-prototype of his kind, afterward the depository of the soul of Osiris, is found to have a third meaning, which holds a middle place between the other two. He is the symbol of the Nile, the fertilizing stream of Egypt; and while his colour, the spots of white on his front, and the duration of his existence, which could not exceed twenty-five years, have a reference to astronomy, the festival of his reappearance was celebrated on the day when the river begins to rise. The result, then, of what we have here advanced, is simply this: The animal-worship of the Egyptians originated in fetichism. The sacerdotal caste, in allowing it to remain unmolested, arrayed it in a more imposing garb, and, while they permitted the mass of the people to indulge in this gross and humiliating species of adoration, reserved for themselves a secret and visionary system of pantheism or emanation. (Constant, de la Religion, 3, 62, seqq. —Prichard's Analysis of Egyptian Mythology, p. 330, seqq.) 12. Egyptian Castes.
Among the institutions of Egypt, none was more important in its influence on the character of the nation, than the division of the people into tribes or samilies, who were obliged by the laws and superstitions of the country to follow, without deviation, the professions and habits of their forefathers. Such an institution could not fail of impressing the idea of abject servility on the lower classes; and, by removing in a great measure the motive of emulation, it must have created, in all, an apathy and indifference to improvement in their articular professions. Wherever the system of castes i. existed, it has produced a remarkably permanent and uniform character in the nation; as in the example furnished by the natives of Hindustan. These people agree in almost every point with the description given of them by Megasthenes, who visited the court of an Indian king soon after the conquest of the East by the Macedonians. We have no very accurate and circumstantial account of the castes into which the Egyptian people were divided, and of the particular customs of each. It appears, indeed, that innovations on the old civil and religious constitution of Egypt had begun to be introduced as early as the time of Psammetichus, when the ancient aversion of the people to foreigners was first overcome. The various conflicts which the nation underwent, between that era and the time when Herodotus visited Egypt, could not fail to break down many of the fences, which ancient priestcraft had established for maintaining the influence of superstition. Herodotus is the earliest writer who mentions the castes or hereditary classes of the Egyptians, and his account appears to be the result of his personal observation only. Had this historian understood the native language of the people; had he been able to read the books of Hermes, in which the old sacerdotal institutions were contained, we might have expected from him as correct and ample a description of the distribution of the castes in Egypt, as that which modern writers have gained in India from the code of Menu, respecting the orders and subdivisions of the community in Hindustan. Diodorus, who had more favourable
opportunities of information, and who seems to have made a very diligent use of them, may be supposed to be more accurate, in what refers to the internal polity of this nation, than Herodotus. Strabo has mentioned, in a very summary manner, the division of the Egyptians into classes. He distinguishes the two higher ranks, namely, the sacerdotal and the military classes, and includes all the remainder of the community under the designation of the agricultural class, to whom he assigns the employments of agriculture and the arts.
Diodorus subdivides this latter class. After distinguishing from it the sacerdotal and military orders, he observes, that the remainder öf the community is distributed into three divisions, which he terms Herds
men, Agriculturists, and Artificers, or men who la
boured at trades. Herodotus very nearly agrees in his
enumeration with that of Diodorus. His names for
the different classes are as follows: 1. Priests, or the
sacerdotal class. 2. Warriors, or the military class.
3. Cowherds. 4. Swineherds. 5. Traders. 6. In
terpreters. 7. Pilots. In this catalogue the third and
fourth classes are plainly subdivisions of the third of
Diodorus, whom that writer includes under the gener
al title of herdsmen. The caste of interpreters, as well
as that of pilots, must have comprised a very small
number of men, since the Egyptians had little inter
course with foreigners, and, until the time of the Greek
dynasty, their navigation was #. confined to
sailing up and down the Nile. The pilots were proba
bly a tribe of the same class with the artificers or la
bouring artisans of Diodorus. The traders of Herod
otus must be the same class who are called agricul
turists by Diodorus. Thus, by comparing the differ
ent accounts, we are enabled to arrange the several
branches of the Egyptian community into the follow
ing classes. 1. The Sacerdotal order. 2. The Mil
itary. 3. The Herdsmen. 4. The Agricultural and
Commercial class. 5. The Artificers, or labouring
artisans. The employments of all these classes were
hereditary, and no man was allowed by the law to en
gage in any occupation different from that in which he
had been educated by his parents. It was accounted
an honourable distinction to belong either to the sacer
dotal or the military class. The other orders were
considered greatly inferior in dignity, and no Egyptian
could mount the throne who was not descended from
the priesthood or the soldiery. (Prichard's Analysis
of Egyptian Mythology, p. 373, seqq.) After death,
however, no grade was regarded, and every good soul
was supposed to become united to that essence from
which it derived its origin. (Wilkinson, Manners and
Customs, &c., 1, 245.)
13. Egyptian Priesthood.
The inquiry respecting the sacerdotal caste of Egypt is rendered a difficult one principally on the following account, because the writers, from whose statements we obtain our information, lived in an age when the Egyptian priesthood had already suffered many and important alterations, and had been deprived of a large portion of their former consideration and influence. Each successive revolution in the state must have had a direct bearing upon them, or, rather, they must have been the first with whom it came in contact. Their political influence, therefore, must have been gradually diminished, and their sphere of action circumscribed. Under the Persian sway, in particular, their power must have been reduced to within but narrow limits, and our only wonder is, when we consider the strong hostility displayed by these conquerors towards the sacerdotal or ruling caste, that it did not fall entirely to the ground. Herodotus then, and still more the writers from whom Diodorus Siculus has received his information on this subject, saw merely the shadow of that extensive power and influence
which the priests of Egypt had formerly possessed.
And yet, even in the statements which we obtain from this quarter, traces may easily be found of what the Egyptian hierarchy once was ; so that from these, when taken together, we are enabled to form a tolerably accurate idea of the earlier power which this remarkable order had enjoyed. The sacerdotal caste was spread over the whole of Egypt; their chief places of abode, however, were the great cities, which, at one time or other, had been the capitals of the land, or else had held a high rank among the other Egyptian cities. These were Thebes, Memphis, Sais, Heliopolis, &c. Here, too, were the chief temples, which are so often mentioned in the accounts of Herodotus and other writers. Every Egyptian priest had to belong to the service of some particular deity, or, in other words, to be attached to some temple. The number of priests for any deity was never determined; nor could it indeed have been subjected to any regulations on this head, since priesthood was hereditary in families, and these must have been more or less numerous according to circumstances. Not only was the priestly caste hereditary in its nature, but also the priesthoods of individual deities. The sons, for example, of the priests of Vulcan at Memphis, could not enter as members into the sacerdotal college at Heliopolis; nor could the offspring of the priests of Heliopolis belong to the college of Memphis. Strange as this regulation may appear, it was nevertheless a natural one. Each temple had extensive portions of land attached to it, the revenues of which, belonging as they did to those whose forefathers had erected the temple, were received by the priests as matters of hereditary right, and made those who tilled these lands be regarded as their dependants or subjects. Hence, as both the templelands and revenues were inherited, the sacerdotal colleges had of consequence to be kept distinct. The priesthood, moreover, of each temple was carefully organized. They had a high-priest over them, whose office was likewise hereditary. It need hardly be remarked, that there must have been gradations also among the various high-priests, and that those of Thebes, Memphis, and the other chief cities of the country, must have stood at the head of the order. These were, in a certain sense, a species of hereditary princes, who stood by the side of the monarchs, and enjoyed almost equal privileges. Their Egyptian title was PiTomis, which Herodotus translates by kažňc kāyatóg, i.e., “noble and good,” and which points not so much to moral excellence as to nobility of origin. (Compare Welker, Theognidis Reliquia, p. xxiv.) Their statues were placed in the temples. Whenever they are mentioned in the history of the country, they appear as the first persons in the state, even in the Mosaic age. When Joseph was to be elevated to power, he had to connect himself by marriage with the sacerdotal caste, and was united to the daughter of the high-priest at On, or Heliopolis. The organization of the inferior priesthood was different probably in different cities, according to the situation and wants of the surrounding country. They formed not only the ruling caste, and supplied from their number all the of. fices of government, but were in possession likewise of all the learning and knowledge of the land, and the exercise of this last had always immediate reference to the wants of the adjacent population. We must banish the idea, then, that the priests of Egypt were merely the ministers of religion, or that religious observances constituted their principal employment. They were, on the contrary, judges also, physicians, astronomers, architects; in a word, they had charge of every department that was in any way connected with learning and science. It appears, from the whole tenour of Egyptian history, that each of the great cities of the land possessed originally one chief temple, which, in process of time, became the head temple of the surrounding o and the deity worshipped in it the
local or patron deity of the adjacent country. The priests of Memphis were always styled (according to the momenclature of the Greeks) priests of Vulcan; those of Thebes, priests of the Theban Jove; those of Sais, priests of the Sun, &c. These head-temples mark the first settlements of the sacerdotal colonies as they gradually descended the valley of the Nile. The number of deities to whom temples were erected, in Upper Egypt at least, seem to have been always very limited. In this quarter we hear merely of the temples of Ammon, Osiris, Isis, and Typhon. In Middle and Lower Egypt, the number appears to have been gradually enlarged.—The next subject of inquiry has reference to the revenues of the sacerdotal order. Here also we must dismiss the too common opinion, that the priests of Egypt were a class supported by the monarch or the state. They were, on the contrary, the principal landholders of the country, and, besides them, the right of holding lands was enjoyed only by the king and the military caste. Changes, of course, must have ensued amid the various political revolutions to which the state has been subject, in this important branch of the sacerdotal power, yet none of such a nature as materially to affect the right itself; and hence we find that a large, if not the largest and fairest, portion of the lands of Egypt, remained always in the hands of the priests. To each temple, as has already been remarked, were attached extensive domains, the common possession of the whole fraternity, and their original place of settlement. These lands were let out for a moderate sum, and the revenue derived from them went to the common treasury of the temple, over which a superintendent, or treasurer, was o: who was also a member of the sacerdotal body.
rom this treasury were supplied the wants of the various families that composed the sacred college. They had also a common table in their respective temples, which was daily provided with all the good things, not excepting imported wines, that their rules allowed. So that no part of their private property was required for their immediate support. For that they possessed private property is not only apparent from the circumstance of their marrying and having families, but it is also expressly asserted by Herodotus. From all that has been said then, it follows, that the sacerdotal families of Egypt were the richest and most distinguished in the land, and that the whole order formed, in fact, a highly privileged nobility. The priests of Egypt were distinguished for so cleanliness of person and peculiarity of attire. ... It cannot be doubted but that the nature of the climate and the character of the country exercised a great influence, not only on these points, but also on their general mode of life; though, independent of this, they would seem to have been well aware how important agents general cleanliness and frequent ablutions become in producing and establishing the o: of health, both in individuals and communities. Hence the conspicuous example of external cleanliness which they made a point of showing the lower orders. They wore garments of linen, not, as some think, of fine cotton (Schmidt, de Sacerdotibus AEgypt., p. 26), freshwashed, taking particular care to have them always clean. They shaved all parts of their body once in three days. They wore shoes made of byblus, bathed themselves twice in cold water by day and twice by night, and entirely rejected the use of woollen garments. (Heeren's Ideen, 2, 2, 125, seqq.)
14. Motives for Embalming Bodies.
It has often been observed, that the practice of embalming the dead, and preserving them with so much care and in so costly a manner, seems to indicate some peculiarity in the opinions of the Egyptian philosophers respecting the fate of the soul. On this subject we have no precise and satisfactory information. The an