The principality of the Oleander -- Naru -- was bounded on the north by the Memphite nome; the frontier ran from the left bank of the Nile to the Libyan range, from the neighbourhood of Riqqah to that of Medum. The principality comprised the territory lying between the Nile and the Bahr Yusuf, from the above-mentioned two villages to the Harabshent Canal -- a district known to Greek geographers as the island of Heracleopolis; -- it moreover included the whole basin of the Fayum, on the west of the valley. In very early times it had been divided into three parts: the Upper Oleander -- Naru Khoniti -- the Lower Oleander -- Naru Pahui -- and the lake land -- To-shit; and these divisions, united usually under the supremacy of one chief, formed a kind of small state, of which Heracleopolis was always the capital. The soil was fertile, well watered, and well tilled, but the revenues from this district, confined between the two arms of the river, were small in comparison with the wealth which their ruler derived from his hands on the other side of the mountain range. The Fayum is approached by a narrow and winding gorge, more than six miles in length -- a depression of natural formation, deepened by the hand of man to allow a free passage to the waters of the Nile. The canal which conveys them leaves the Bahr Yusuf at a point a little to the north of Heracleopolis, carries them in a swift stream through the gorge in the Libyan chain, and emerges into an immense amphitheatre, whose highest side is parallel to the Nile valley, and whose terraced slopes descend abruptly to about a hundred feet below the level of the Mediterranean. Two great arms separate themselves from this canal to the right and left -- the Wady Tamieh and the Wady Nazleh; they wind at first along the foot of the hills, and then again approaching each other, empty themselves into a great crescent or horn-shaped lake, lying east and west -- the Moeris of Strabo, the Birket-Kerun of the Arabs. A third branch penetrates the space enclosed by the other two, passes the town of Shodu, and is then subdivided into numerous canals and ditches, whose ramifications appear on the map as a network resembling the reticulations of a skeleton leaf. The lake formerly extended beyond its present limits, and submerged districts from which it has since withdrawn.*
* Most of the specialists who have latterly investigated the Fayum have greatly exaggerated the extent of the Birket- Kerun in historic times. Prof. Petrie states that it covered the whole of the present province throughout the time of the Memphite kings, and that it was not until the reign of Amenemhait I. that even a very small portion was drained. Major Brown adopts this theory, and considers that it was under Amenemhait III. that the great lake of the Fayum was transformed into a kind of artificial reservoir, which was the Mceris of Herodotus. The city of Shodu, Shadu, Shadit -- the capital of the Fayum -- and its god Sovku are mentioned even in the Pyramid texts: and the eastern district of the Fayum is named in the inscription of Amten, under the IIIrd dynasty.
[Illustration: 297.jpg MAP, THE FAYUM]
In years when the inundation was excessive, the surplus waters were discharged into the lake; when, however, there was a low Nile, the storage which had not been absorbed by the soil was poured back into the valley by the same channels, and carried down by the Bahr-Yusuf to augment the inundation of the Western Delta.
[Illustration: 298.jpg FLAT-BOTTOMED VESSEL OF BRONZE OPEN-WORK BEARING THE CARTOUCHES OF PHARAOH KHITI I]
Drawn by Faucher-Gudin, from the original in the Louvre Museum.
The Nile was the source of everything in this principality, and hence they were gods of the waters who received the homage of the three nomes. The inhabitants of Heracleopolis worshipped the ram Harshafitu, with whom they associated Osiris of Naruduf as god of the dead; the people of the Upper Oleander adored a second ram, Khnumu of Hasmonitu, and the whole Fayum was devoted to the cult of Sovku the crocodile. Attracted by the fertility of the soil, the Pharaohs of the older dynasties had from time to time taken up their residence in Heracleopolis or its neighbourhood, and one of them -- Snofrui -- had built his pyramid at Medum, close to the frontier of the nome. In proportion as the power of the Memphites declined, the princes of the Oleander grew more vigorous and enterprising; and when the Memphite kings passed away, these princes succeeded their former masters and sat "upon the throne of Horus."
The founder of the IXth dynasty was perhaps Khiti I., Miribri, the Akhthoes of the Greeks. He ruled over all Egypt, and his name has been found on rocks at the first cataract. A story dating from the time of the Ramessides mentions his wars against the Bedouin of the regions east of the Delta; and what Manetho relates of his death is merely a romance, in which the author, having painted him as a sacrilegious tyrant like Kheops and Khephren, states that he was dragged down under the water and there devoured by a crocodile or hippopotamus, the appointed avengers of the offended gods. His successors seem to have reigned ingloriously for more than a century. Their deeds are unknown to history, but it was under the reign of one of them -- Nibkauri -- that a travelling fellah, having been robbed of his earnings by an artisan, is said to have journeyed to Heracleopolis to demand justice from the governor, or to charm him by the eloquence of his pleadings and the variety of his metaphors. It would, of course, be idle to look for the record of any historic event in this story; the common people, moreover, do not long remember the names of unimportant princes, and the tenacity with which the Egyptians treasured the memories of several kings of the Heracleopolitan line amply proves that, whether by their good or evil qualities, they had at least made a lasting impression upon the popular imagination.
[Illustration: 300.jpg PART OF THE WALLS OF EL-KAB ON THE NORTHERN SIDE]
Drawn by Boudier, from a photograph by Grebaut. The illustration shows a breach where the gate stood, and the curves of the brickwork courses can clearly be traced both to the right and the left of the opening.
The history of this period, as far as we can discern it through the mists of the past, appears to be one confused struggle: from north to south war raged without intermission; the Pharaohs fought against their rebel vassals, the nobles fought among themselves, and -- what scarcely amounted to warfare -- there were the raids on all sides of pillaging bands, who, although too feeble to constitute any serious danger to large cities, were strong enough either in numbers or discipline to render the country districts uninhabitable, and to destroy national prosperity. The banks of the Nile already bristled with citadels, where the monarchs lived and kept watch over the lands subject to their authority: other fortresses were established wherever any commanding site -- such as a narrow part of the river, or the mouth of a defile leading into the desert -- presented itself. All were constructed on the same plan, varied only by the sizes of the areas enclosed, and the different thickness of the outer walls. The outline of their ground-plan formed a parallelogram, whose enclosure wall was often divided into vertical panels easily distinguished by the different arrangements of the building material. At El-Kab and other places the courses of crude brick are slightly concave, somewhat resembling a wide inverted arch whose outer curve rests on the ground. In other places there was a regular alternation of lengths of curved courses, with those in which the courses were strictly horizontal. The object of this method of structure is still unknown, but it is thought that such building offers better resistance to shocks of earthquake. The most ancient fortress at Abydos, whose ruins now lie beneath the mound of Kom-es-Sultan, was built in this way. Tombs having encroached upon it by the time of the VIth dynasty, it was shortly afterwards replaced by another and similar fort, situate rather more than a hundred yards to the south-east; the latter is still one of the best-preserved specimens of military architecture dating from the times immediately preceding the first Theban empire.*
* My first opinion was that the second fortress had been built towards the time of the XVIIIth dynasty at the earliest, perhaps even under the XXth. Further consideration of the details of its construction and decoration now leads me to attribute it to the period between the VIth and XIIth dynasties.
[Illustration: 302.jpg THE SECOND FORTRESS OF ABYDOS -- THE SHUNET-EZ-ZEBIB -- AS SEEN FROM THE EAST]
Drawn by Boudier, from a photograph by Emil Brugsch-Bey. Modern Arabs call it Shunet-ez-Zebib, the storehouse of raisins.
The exterior is unbroken by towers or projections of any kind, and consists of four sides, the two longer of which are parallel to each other and measure 143 yards from east to west: the two shorter sides, which are also parallel, measure 85 yards from north to south. The outer wall is solid, built in horizontal courses, with a slight batter, and decorated by vertical grooves, which at all hours of the day diversify the surface with an incessant play of light and shade. When perfect it can hardly have been less than 40 feet in height. The walk round the ramparts was crowned by a slight, low parapet, with rounded battlements, and was reached by narrow staircases carefully constructed in the thickness of the walls. A battlemented covering wall, about five and a half yards high, encircled the building at a distance of some four feet. The fortress itself was entered by two gates, and posterns placed at various points between them provided for sorties of the garrison. The principal entrance was concealed in a thick block of building at the southern extremity of the east front. The corresponding entrance in the covering wall was a narrow opening closed by massive wooden doors; behind it was a small place d'armes, at the further end of which was a second gate, as narrow as the first, and leading into an oblong court hemmed in between the outer rampart and two bastions projecting at right angles from it; and lastly, there was a gate purposely placed at the furthest and least obvious corner of the court. Such a fortress was strong enough to resist any modes of attack then at the disposal of the best-equipped armies, which knew but three ways of taking a place by force, viz. scaling, sapping, and breaking open the gates. The height of the walls effectually prevented scaling. The pioneers were kept at a distance by the brave, but if a breach were made in that, the small flanking galleries fixed outside the battlements enabled the besieged to overwhelm the enemy with stones and javelins as they approached, and to make the work of sapping almost impossible. Should the first gate of the fortress yield to the assault, the attacking party would be crowded together in the courtyard as in a pit, few being able to enter together; they would at once be constrained to attack the second gate under a shower of missiles, and did they succeed in carrying that also, it was at the cost of enormous sacrifice. The peoples of the Nile Valley knew nothing of the swing battering-ram, and no representation of the hand-worked battering-ram has ever been found in any of their wall-paintings or sculptures; they forced their way into a stronghold by breaking down its gates with their axes, or by setting fire to its doors.
[Illustration: 304.jpg ATTACK UPON AN EGYPTIAN FORTRESS BY TROOPS OF VARIOUS ARMS]
Drawn by Faucher-Gudin, from a scene in the tomb of Amoni- Amenemhait at Beni-Hasan.
While the sappers were hard at work, the archers endeavoured, by the accuracy of their aim, to clear the enemy from the curtain, while soldiers sheltered behind movable mantelets tried to break down the defences and dismantle the flanking galleries with huge metal-tipped lances. In dealing with a resolute garrison none of these methods proved successful; nothing but close siege, starvation, or treachery could overcome its resistance.
The equipment of Egyptian troops was lacking in uniformity, and men armed with slings, or bows and arrows, lances, wooden swords, clubs, stone or metal axes, all fought side by side. The head was protected by a padded cap, and the body by shields, which were small for light infantry, but of great width for soldiers of the line. The issue of a battle depended upon a succession of single combats between foes armed with the same weapons; the lancers alone seem to have charged in line behind their huge bucklers. As a rule, the wounds were trifling, and the great skill with which the shields were used made the risk of injury to any vital part very slight. Sometimes, however, a lance might be driven home into a man's chest, or a vigorously wielded sword or club might fracture a combatant's skull and stretch him unconscious on the ground. With the exception of those thus wounded and incapacitated for flight, very few prisoners were taken, and the name given to them, "Those struck down alive" -- sokiruonkhu -- sufficiently indicates the method of their capture. The troops were recruited partly from the domains of military fiefs, partly from tribes of the desert or Nubia, and by their aid the feudal princes maintained the virtual independence which they had acquired for themselves under the last kings of the Memphite line. Here and there, at Hermopolis, Shit, and Thebes, they founded actual dynasties, closely connected with the Pharaonic dynasty, and even occasionally on an equality with it, though they assumed neither the crown nor the double cartouche. Thebes was admirably adapted for becoming the capital of an important state. It rose on the right bank of the Nile, at the northern end of the curve made by the river towards Hermonthis, and in the midst of one of the most fertile plains of Egypt. Exactly opposite to it, the Libyan range throws out a precipitous spur broken up by ravines and arid amphitheatres, and separated from the river-bank by a mere strip of cultivated ground which could be easily defended. A troop of armed men stationed on this neck of land could command the navigable arm of the Nile, intercept trade with Nubia at their pleasure, and completely bar the valley to any army attempting to pass without having first obtained authority to do so. The advantages of this site do not seem to have been appreciated during the Memphite period, when the political life of Upper Egypt was but feeble. Elephantine, El-Kab, and Koptos were at that period the principal cities of the country. Elephantine particularly, owing to its trade with the Soudan, and its constant communication with the peoples bordering the Red Sea, was daily increasing in importance. Hermonthis, the Aunu of the South, occupied much the same position, from a religious point of view, as was held in the Delta by Heliopolis, the Aunu of the North, and its god Montu, a form of the Solar Horus, disputed the supremacy with Minu, of Koptos. Thebes long continued to be merely an insignificant village of the Uisit nome and a dependency of Hermonthis. It was only towards the end of the VIIIth dynasty that Thebes began to realize its power, after the triumph of feudalism over the crown had culminated in the downfall of the Memphite kings.
[Illustration: 306.jpg Denderah -- Temple of Tentyra]
[Illustration: 306-text.jpg -- Temple of Tentyra]
A family which, to judge from the fact that its members affected the name of Monthotpu, originally came from Hermonthis, settled in Thebes and made that town the capital of a small principality, which rapidly enlarged its borders at the expense of the neighbouring nomes. All the towns and cities of the plain, Madufc, Hfuifc, Zorit, Hermonthis, and towards the south, Aphroditopolis Parva, at the gorge of the Two Mountains (Gebelen) which formed the frontier of the fief of El-Kab, Kusit towards the north, Denderah, and Hu, all fell into the hands of the Theban princes and enormously increased their territory. After the lapse of a very few years, their supremacy was accepted more or less willingly by the adjacent principalities of El-Kab, Elephantine, Koptos, Qasr-es-Sayad, Thinis, and Ekhmim. Antuf, the founder of the family, claimed no other title than that of Lord of Thebes, and still submitted to the suzerainty of the Heracleopolitan kings. His successors considered themselves strong enough to cast off this allegiance, if not to usurp all the insignia of royalty, including the uraeus and the cartouche. Monthotpu I., Antuf II., and Antuf III. must have occupied a somewhat remarkable position among the great lords of the south, since their successors credited them with the possession of a unique preamble. It is true that the historians of a later date did not venture to place them on a par with the kings who were actually independent; they enclosed their names in the cartouche without giving them a prenomen; but, at the same time, they invested them with a title not met with elsewhere, that of the first Horus -- Horu tapi. They exercised considerable power from the outset. It extended over Southern Egypt, over Nubia, and over the valleys lying between the Nile and the Red Sea.* The origin of the family was somewhat obscure, but in support of their ambitious projects, they did not fail to invoke the memory of pretended alliances between their ancestors and daughters of the solar race; they boasted of their descent from the Papis, from Usirniri Anu, Sahuri, and Snofrui, and claimed that the antiquity of their titles did away with the more recent rights of their rivals.
The revolt of the Theban princes put an end to the IXth dynasty, and, although supported by the feudal powers of Central and Northern Egypt, and more especially by the lords of the Terebinth nome, who viewed the sudden prosperity of the Thebans with a very evil eye, the Xth dynasty did not succeed in bringing them back to their allegiance.**
* In the "Hall of Ancestors" the title of "Horus" is attributed to several Antufs and Monthotpus bearing the cartouche. This was probably the compiler's ingenious device for marking the subordinate position of these personages as compared with that of the Heracleopolitan Pharaohs, who alone among their contemporaries had a right to be placed on such official lists, even when those lists were compiled under the great Theban dynasties. The place in the XIth dynasty of princes bearing the title of "Horus" was first determined by E. de Rouge.
** The history of the house of Thebes was restored at the same time as that of the Heracleopolitan dynasties, by Maspero, in the Revue Critique, 1889, vol. ii. p.220. The difficulty arising from the number of the Theban kings according to Manetho, considered in connection with the forty-three years which made the total duration of the dynasty, has been solved by Barucchi, Discord critici sojpra la Cronologia Egizia, pp.131-134. These forty-three years represent the length of time that the Theban dynasty reigned alone, and which are ascribed to it in the Royal Canon; but the number of its kings includes, besides the recognized Pharaohs of the line, those princes who were contemporary with the Heracleopolitan rulers and are officially reckoned as forming the Xth dynasty.
The family which held the fief of Siut when the war broke out, had ruled there for three generations. Its first appearance on the scene of history coincided with the accession of Akhthoes, and its elevation was probably the reward of services rendered by its chief to the head of the Heracleopolitan family.*
* By ascribing to the princes of Siut an average reign equal to that of the Pharaohs, and admitting with Lepsius that the IXth dynasty consisted of four or five kings, the accession of the first of these princes would practically coincide with the reign of Akhthoes. The name of Khiti, borne by two members of this little local dynasty, may have been given in memory of the Pharaoh Khiti Miribri; there was also a second Khiti among the Heracleopolitan sovereigns, and one of the Khitis of Siut may have been his contemporary. The family claimed a long descent, and said of itself that it was "an ancient litter"; but the higher rank and power of "prince" -- hiqu -- it owed to Khiti I. [Miribri? -- Ed.] or some other king of the Heracleo-politian line.
[Illustration: 309.jpg MAP, PLAIN OF THEBES]
From this time downwards, the title of "ruler" -- hiqu -- which the Pharaohs themselves sometimes condescended to take, was hereditary in the family, who grew in favour from year to year. Khiti I., the fourth of this line of princes, was brought up in the palace of Heracleopolis, and had learned to swim with the royal children. On his return home he remained the personal friend of the king, and governed his domains wisely, clearing the canals, fostering agriculture, and lightening the taxes without neglecting the army. His heavy infantry, recruited from among the flower of the people of the north, and his light infantry, drawn from the pick of the people of the south, were counted by thousands. He resisted the Theban pretensions with all his might, and his son Tefabi followed in his footsteps. "The first time," said he, "that my foot-soldiers fought against the nomes of the south which were gathered together from Elephantine in the south to Gau on the north, I conquered those nomes, I drove them towards the southern frontier, I overran the left bank of the Nile in all directions. When I came to a town I threw down its walls, I seized its chief, I imprisoned him at the port (landing-place) until he paid me ransom. As soon as I had finished with the left bank, and there were no longer found any who dared resist, I passed to the right bank; like a swift hare I set full sail for another chief.... I sailed by the north wind as by the east, by the south as by the west, and him whose ship I boarded I vanquished utterly; he was cast into the water, his boats fled to shore, his soldiers were as bulls on whom falleth the lion; I compassed his city from end to end, I seized his goods, I cast them into the fire." Thanks to his energy and courage, he "extinguished the rebellion by the counsel and according to the tactics of the jackal Uapuaitu, god of Siut."
[Illustration: 310.jpg MAP, THE PRINCIPALITY OF SIUT]
[Illustration: 311.jpg THE HEAVY INFANTRY OF THE PRINCES OF SIUT, ARMED WITH LANCE AND BUCKLER]
Drawn by Boudier, from a photograph by Insinger, taken in 1882. The scene forms part of the decoration of one of the walls of the tomb of Khiti III.
From that time "no district of the desert was safe from his terrors," and he "carried flame at his pleasure among the nomes of the south." Even while bringing desolation to his foes, he sought to repair the ills which the invasion had brought upon his own subjects. He administered such strict justice that evil-doers disappeared as though by magic. "When night came, he who slept on the roads blessed me, because he was as safe as in his own house; for the fear which was shed abroad by my soldiers protected him; and the cattle in the fields were as safe there as in the stable; the thief had become an abomination to the god, and he no longer oppressed the serf, so that the latter ceased to complain, and paid the exact dues of his land for love of me." In the time of Khiti II., the son of Tefabi, the Heracleopolitans were still masters of Northern Egypt, but their authority was even then menaced by the turbulence of their own vassals, and Heracleopolis itself drove out the Pharaoh Mirikari, who was obliged to take refuge in Siut with that Kkiti whom he called his father. Khiti gathered together such an extensive fleet that it encumbered the Nile from Shashhotpu to Gebel-Abufodah, from one end of the principality of the Terebinth to the other. Vainly did the rebels unite with the Thebans; Khiti "sowed terror over the world, and himself alone chastised the nomes of the south." While he was descending the river to restore the king to his capital, "the sky grew serene, and the whole country rallied to him; the commanders of the south and the archons of Heracleopolis, their legs tremble beneath them when the royal urous, ruler of the world, comes to suppress crime; the earth trembles, the South takes ship and flies, all men flee in dismay, the towns surrender, for fear takes hold on their members." Mirikari's return was a triumphal progress: "when he came to Heracleopolis the people ran forth to meet him, rejoicing in their lord; women and men together, old men as well as children." But fortune soon changed. Beaten again and again, the Thebans still returned to the attack; at length they triumphed, after a struggle of nearly two hundred years, and brought the two rival divisions of Egypt under their rule.
[Illustration: 313.jpg PALETTE INSCRIBED WITH THE NAME OF MIRIKARI]
Drawn by Faucher-Gudin, from the original, now in the Museum of the Louvre. The palette is of wood, and bears the name of a contemporary personage; the outlines of the hieroglyphs are inlaid with silver wire. It was probably found in the necropolis of Meir, a little to the north of Siut. The sepulchral pyramid of the Pharaoh Mirikari is mentioned on a coffin in the Berlin Museum.
The few glimpses to be obtained of the early history of the first Theban dynasty give the impression of an energetic and intelligent race. Confined to the most thinly populated, that is, the least fertile part of the valley, and engaged on the north in a ceaseless warfare which exhausted their resources, they still found time for building both at Thebes and in the most distant parts of their dominions. If their power made but little progress southwards, at least it did not recede, and that part of Nubia lying between Aswan and the neighbourhood of Korosko remained in their possession. The tribes of the desert, the Amamiu, the Mazaiu, and the Uauaiu often disturbed the husbandmen by their sudden raids; yet, having pillaged a district, they did not take possession of it as conquerors, but hastily returned to their mountains. The Theban princes kept them in check by repeated counter-raids, and renewed the old treaties with them. The inhabitants of the Great Oasis in the west, and the migratory peoples of the Land of the Gods, recognized the Theban suzerainty on the traditional terms.
[Illustration: 314.jpg THE BRICK PYRAMID OF ANTUFAA, AT THEBES]
Drawn by Faucher-Gudin, from a sketch by Prisse d'Avennes. This pyramid is now completely destroyed.
As in the times of Uni, the barbarians made up the complement of the army with soldiers who were more inured to hardships and more accustomed to the use of arms than the ordinary fellahin; and several obscure Pharaohs -- such as Monthotpu I. and Antuf III. -- owed their boasted victories over Libyans and Asiatics* to the energy of their mercenaries.
* The cartouches of Antufaa, inscribed on the rocks of Elephantine, are the record of a visit which this prince paid to Syene, probably on his return from some raid; many similar inscriptions of Pharaohs of the XIIth dynasty were inscribed in analogous circumstances. Nubkhopirri Antuf boasted of having worsted the Amu and the . On one of the rocks of the island of Konosso, Monthotpu Nibhotpuri sculptured a scene of offerings in which the gods are represented as granting him victory over all peoples. Among the ruins of the temple which he built at Gebelen, is a scene in which he is presenting files of prisoners from different countries to the Theban gods.
But the kings of the XIth dynasty were careful not to wander too far from the valley of the Nile. Egypt presented a sufficiently wide field for their activity, and they exerted themselves to the utmost to remedy the evils from which the country had suffered for hundreds of years. They repaired the forts, restored or enlarged the temples, and evidences of their building are found at Koptos, Gebelen, El-Kab, and Abydos. Thebes itself has been too often overthrown since that time for any traces of the work of the XIth dynasty kings in the temple of Amon to be distinguishable; but her necropolis is still full of their "eternal homes," stretching in lines across the plain, opposite Karnak, at Drah abu'l-Neggah, and on the northern slopes of the valley of Deir-el-Bahari. Some were excavated in the mountain-side, and presented a square facade of dressed stone, surmounted by a pointed roof in the shape of a pyramid. Others were true pyramids, sometimes having a pair of obelisks in front of them, as well as a temple. None of them attained to the dimensions of the Memphite tombs; for, with only its own resources at command, the kingdom of the south could not build monuments to compete with those whose construction had taxed the united efforts of all Egypt, but it used a crude black brick, made without grit or straw, where the Egyptians of the north had preferred more costly stone. These inexpensive pyramids were built on a rectangular base not more than six and a half feet high; and the whole erection, which was simply faced with whitewashed stucco, never exceeded thirty-three feet in height. The sepulchral chamber was generally in the centre; in shape it resembled an oven, its roof being "vaulted" by the overlapping of the courses. Often also it was constructed partly in the base, and partly in the foundations below the base, the empty space above it being intended merely to lighten the weight of the masonry. There was not always an external chapel attached to these tombs, but a stele placed on the substructure, or fixed in one of the outer faces, marked the spot to which offerings were to be brought for the dead; sometimes, however, there was the addition of a square vestibule in front of the tomb, and here, on prescribed days, the memorial ceremonies took place. The statues of the double were rude and clumsy, the coffins heavy and massive, and the figures with which they were decorated inelegant and out of proportion, while the stelae are very rudely cut. From the time of the VIth dynasty the lords of the Said had been reduced to employing workmen from Memphis to adorn their monuments; but the rivalry between the Thebans and the Heracleopolitans, which set the two divisions of Egypt against each other in constant hostility, obliged the Antufs to entrust the execution of their orders to the local schools of sculptors and painters. It is difficult to realize the degree of rudeness to which the unskilled workmen who made certain of the Akhmitn and Gebelen sarcophagi must have sunk; and even at Thebes itself, or at Abydos, the execution of both bas-reliefs and hieroglyphs shows minute carefulness rather than any real skill or artistic feeling. Failing to attain to the beautiful, the Egyptians endeavoured to produce the sumptuous. Expeditions to the Wady Ham marnat to fetch blocks of granite for sarcophagi become more and more frequent, and wells were sunk from point to point along the road leading from Koptos to the mountains. Sometimes these expeditions were made the occasion for pushing on as far as the port of Sau and embarking on the Eed Sea. A hastily constructed boat cruised along by the shore, and gum, incense, gold, and the precious stones of the country were brought from the land of the Troglodytes. On the return of the convoy with its block of stone, and various packages of merchandise, there was no lack of scribes to recount the dangers of the campaign in exaggerated language, or to congratulate the reigning Pharaoh on having sown abroad the fame and terror of his name in the countries of the gods, and as far as the land of Puanit.
The final overthrow of the Heracleopolitan dynasty, and the union of the two kingdoms under the rule of the Theban house, are supposed to have been the work of that Monthotpu whose throne-name was Nibkhrouri; his, at any rate, was the name which the Egyptians of Kamesside times inscribed in the royal lists as that of the founder and most illustrious representative of the XIth dynasty. The monuments commemorate his victories over the Uauaiu and the barbarous inhabitants of Nubia. Even after he had conquered the Delta he still continued to reside in Thebes; there he built his pyramid, and there divine honours were paid him from the day after his decease. A scene carved on the rocks north of Silsileh represents him as standing before his son Antuf; he is of gigantic stature, and one of his wives stands behind him.*
* Brugsch makes him out to be a descendant of Amenemhait, the prince of Thebes who lived under Monthotpu Nibtuiri, and who went to bring the stone for that Pharaoh's sarcophagus from the Wady Hammamat. He had previously supposed him to be this prince himself. Either of these hypotheses becomes probable, according as Nibtuiri is supposed to have lived before or after Nibkhrouri.
[Illustration: 318.jpg THE PHARAOH MONTHOTPU RECEIVING THE HOMAGE OF HIS SUCCESSOR -- ANTUE -- IN THE SHAT ER-RIGELEH.]
Drawn by Boudier, from a sketch by Petrie, Ten Years' Digging in Egypt, p.74, No.2.
Three or four kings followed him in rapid succession; the least insignificant among them appearing to have been a Monthotpii Nibtouiri. Nothing but the prenomen -- Sonkheri -- is known of the last of these latter princes, who was also the only one of them ever entered on the official lists. In their hands the sovereignty remained unchanged from what it had been almost uninterruptedly since the end of the VIth dynasty. They solemnly proclaimed their supremacy, and their names were inscribed at the head of public documents; but their power scarcely extended beyond the limits of their family domain, and the feudal chiefs never concerned themselves about the sovereign except when he evinced the power or will to oppose them, allowing him the mere semblance of supremacy over the greater part of Europe. Such a state of affairs could only be reformed by revolution. Amenemhait I., the leader of the new dynasty, was of the Theban race; whether he had any claim to the throne, or by what means he had secured the stability of his rule, we do not know. Whether he had usurped the crown or whether he had inherited it legitimately, he showed himself worthy of the rank to which fortune had raised him, and the nobility saw in him a new incarnation of that type of kingship long known to them by tradition only, namely, that of a Pharaoh convinced of his own divinity and determined to assert it. He inspected the valley from one end to another, principality by principality, nome by nome, "crushing crime, and arising like Tumu himself; restoring that which he found in ruins, settling the bounds of the towns, and establishing for each its frontiers." The civil wars had disorganized everything; no one knew what ground belonged to the different nomes, what taxes were due from them, nor how questions of irrigation could be equitably decided. Amenemhait set up again the boundary stelae, and restored its dependencies to each nome: "He divided the waters among them according to that which was in the cadastral surveys of former times." Hostile nobles, or those whose allegiance was doubtful, lost the whole or part of their fiefs; those who had welcomed the new order of things received accessions of territory as the reward of their zeal and devotion. Depositions and substitutions of princes had begun already in the time of the XIth dynasty. Antuf V., for instance, finding the lord of Koptos too lukewarm, had had him removed and promptly replaced. The fief of Siut accrued to a branch of the family which was less warlike, and above all less devoted to the old dynasty than that of Khiti had been. Part of the nome of the Gazelle was added to the dominions of Nuhri, prince of the Hare nome; the eastern part of the same nome, with Monait-Khufui as capital, was granted to his father-in-law, Khnumhotpu I. Expeditions against the Uauaiu, the Mazaiu, and the nomads of Libya and Arabia delivered the fellahin from their ruinous raids and ensured to the Egyptians safety from foreign attack. Amenemhait had, moreover, the wit to recognize that Thebes was not the most suitable place of residence for the lord of all Egypt; it lay too far to the south, was thinly populated, ill-built, without monuments, without prestige, and almost without history. He gave it into the hands of one of his relations to govern in his name, and proceeded to establish himself in the heart of the country, in imitation of the glorious Pharaohs from whom he claimed to be descended. But the ancient royal cities of Kheops and his children had ceased to exist; Memphis, like Thebes, was now a provincial town, and its associations were with the VIth and VIIIth dynasties only. Amenemhait took up his abode a little to the south of Dahshur, in the palace of Titoui, which he enlarged and made the seat of his government. Conscious of being in the hands of a strong ruler, Egypt breathed freely after centuries of distress, and her sovereign might in all sincerity congratulate himself on having restored peace to his country. "I caused the mourner to mourn no longer, and his lamentation was no longer heard, -- perpetual fighting was no longer witnessed, -- while before my coming they fought together as bulls unmindful of yesterday, -- and no man's welfare was assured, whether he was ignorant or learned." -- "I tilled the land as far as Elephantine, -- I spread joy throughout the country, unto the marshes of the Delta. -- At my prayer the Nile granted the inundation to the fields: -- no man was an hungered under me, no man was athirst under me, -- for everywhere men acted according to my commands, and all that I said was a fresh cause of love."
In the court of Amenemhait, as about all Oriental sovereigns, there were doubtless men whose vanity or interests suffered by this revival of the royal authority; men who had found it to their profit to intervene between Pharaoh and his subjects, and who were thwarted in their intrigues or exactions by the presence of a prince determined on keeping the government in his own hands.
These men devised plots against the new king, and he escaped with difficulty from their conspiracies. "It was after the evening meal, as night came on, -- I gave myself up to pleasure for a time, -- then I lay down upon the soft coverlets in my palace, I abandoned myself to repose, -- and my heart began to be overtaken by slumber; when, lo! they gathered together in arms to revolt against me, -- and I became weak as a serpent of the field. -- Then I aroused myself to fight with my own hands, -- and I found that I had but to strike the unresisting. -- When I took a foe, weapon in hand, I make the wretch to turn and flee; -- strength forsook him, even in the night; there were none who contended, and nothing vexatious was effected against me." The conspirators were disconcerted by the promptness with which Amenemhait had attacked them, and apparently the rebellion was suppressed on the same night in which it broke out. But the king was growing old, his son Usirtasen was very young, and the nobles were bestirring themselves in prospect of a succession which they supposed to be at hand. The best means of putting a stop to their evil devices and of ensuring the future of the dynasty was for the king to appoint the heir-presumptive, and at once associate him with himself in the exercise of his sovereignty. In the XXth year of his reign, Amenemhait solemnly conferred the titles and prerogatives of royalty upon his son Usirtasen: "I raised thee from the rank of a subject, -- I granted thee the free use of thy arm that thou mightest be feared. -- As for me, I apparelled myself in the fine stuffs of my palace until I appeared to the eye as the flowers of my garden, -- and I perfumed myself with essences as freely as I pour forth the water from my cisterns." Usirtasen naturally assumed the active duties of royalty as his share. "He is a hero who wrought with the sword, a mighty man of valour without peer: he beholds the barbarians, he rushes forward and falls upon their predatory hordes. He is the hurler of javelins who makes feeble the hands of the foe; those whom he strikes never more lift the lance. Terrible is he, shattering skulls with the blows of his war-mace, and none resisted him in his time. He is a swift runner who smites the fugitive with the sword, but none who run after him can overtake him. He is a heart alert for battle in his time. He is a lion who strikes with his claws, nor ever lets go his weapon. He is a heart girded in armour at the sight of the hosts, and who leaves nothing standing behind him. He is a valiant man rushing forward when he beholds the fight. He is a soldier rejoicing to fall upon the barbarians: he seizes his buckler, he leaps forward and kills without a second blow. None may escape his arrow; before he bends his bow the barbarians flee from his arms like dogs, for the great goddess has charged him to fight against all who know not her name, and whom he strikes he spares not; he leaves nothing alive." The old Pharaoh "remained in the palace," waiting until his son returned to announce the success of his enterprises, and contributing by his counsel to the prosperity of their common empire. Such was the reputation for wisdom which he thus acquired, that a writer who was almost his contemporary composed a treatise in his name, and in it the king was supposed to address posthumous instructions to his son on the art of governing. He appeared to his son in a dream, and thus admonished him: "Hearken unto my words! -- Thou art king over the two worlds, prince over the three regions. Act still better than did thy predecessors. -- Let there be harmony between thy subjects and thee, -- lest they give themselves up to fear; keep not thyself apart in the midst of them; make not thy brother solely from the rich and noble, fill not thy heart with them alone; yet neither do thou admit to thy intimacy chance-comers whose place is unknown." The king confirmed his counsels by examples taken from his own life, and from these we have learned some facts in his history. The little work was widely disseminated and soon became a classic; in the time of the XIXth dynasty it was still copied in schools and studied by young scribes as an exercise in style. Usirfcasen's share in the sovereignty had so accustomed the Egyptians to consider this prince as the king de facto, that they had gradually come to write his name alone upon the monuments. When Amenemhait died, after a reign of thirty years, Usirtasen was engaged in a war against the Libyans. Dreading an outbreak of popular feeling, or perhaps an attempted usurpation by one of the princes of the blood, the high officers of the crown kept Amenemhait's death secret, and despatched a messenger to the camp to recall the young king. He left his tent by night, unknown to the troops, returned to the capital before anything had transpired among the people, and thus the transition from the founder to his immediate successor -- always a delicate crisis for a new dynasty -- seemed to come about quite naturally. The precedent of co-regnancy having been established, it was scrupulously followed by most of the succeeding sovereigns. In the XIIIth year of his sovereignty, and after having reigned alone for thirty-two years, Usirtasen I. shared his throne with Amenemhait II.; and thirty-two years later Amenemhait II. acted in a similar way with regard to Usirtasen II. Amenemhait III. and Amenemhait IV. were long co-regnant. The only princes of this house in whose cases any evidence of co-regnancy is lacking are Usirtasen III., and the queen Sovknofriuri, with whom the dynasty died out.
[Illustration: 325.jpg AN ASIATIC CHIEF IS PRESENTED TO KHNUMHOTPU BY NOFIRHOPTU, AND BY KHITI, THE SUPERINTENDENT OF THE HUNTSMEN]
Drawn by Faucher-Gudin, from a chromolithograph in Lepsius, Denhm., ii.133.
It lasted two hundred and thirteen years, one month, and twenty-seven days,* and its history can be ascertained with greater certainty and completeness than that of any-other dynasty which ruled over Egypt.
*This is its total duration, as given in the Turin papyrus. Several Egyptologists have thought that Manetho had, in his estimate, counted the years of each sovereign as
We are doubtless far from having any adequate idea of its great achievements, for the biographies of its eight sovereigns, and the details of their interminable wars are very imperfectly known to us. The development of its foreign and domestic policy we can, however, follow without a break.
[Illustration: 326.jpg SOME OF THE BAND OF ASIATICS, WITH THEIR BEASTS, BROUGHT FROM KHNUMHOTPU]
Asia had as little attraction for these kings as for their Memphite predecessors; they seem to have always had a certain dread of its warlike races, and to have merely contented themselves with repelling their attacks. Amenemhait I. had completed the line of fortresses across the isthmus, and these were carefully maintained by his successors. The Pharaohs were not ambitious of holding direct sway over the tribes of the desert, and scrupulously avoided interfering with their affairs as long as the "Lords of the Sands" agreed to respect the Egyptian frontier. Commercial relations were none the less frequent and certain on this account.
[Illustration: 327.jpg THE WOMEN PASSING BY IN PROCESSION, IN CHARGE OF A WARRIOR AND OF A MAN PLAYING UPON THE LYRE]
Dwellers by the streams of the Delta were accustomed to see the continuous arrival in their towns of isolated individuals or of whole bands driven from their homes by want or revolution, and begging for refuge under the shadow of Pharaoh's throne, and of caravans offering the rarest products of the north and of the east for sale. A celebrated scene in one of the tombs of Beni-Hasan illustrates what usually took place. We do not know what drove the thirty-seven Asiatics, men, women, and children, to cross the Red Sea and the Arabian desert and hills in the VIth year of Usirtasen II.;* they had, however, suddenly appeared in the Gazelle nome, and were there received by Khiti, the superintendent of the huntsmen, who, as his duty was, brought them before the prince Khnumhotpu.
* This bas-relief was first noticed and described by Champollion, who took the immigrants for Greeks of the archaic period. Others have wished to consider it as representing Abraham, the sons of Jacob, or at least a band of Jews entering into Egypt, and on the strength of this hypothesis it has often been reproduced.
The foreigners presented the prince with green eye-paint, antimony powder, and two live ibexes, to conciliate his favour; while he, to preserve the memory of their visit, had them represented in painting upon the walls of his tomb. The Asiatics carry bows and arrows, javelins, axes, and clubs, like the Egyptians, and wear long garments or close-fitting loin-cloths girded on the thigh. One of them plays, as he goes, on an instrument whose appearance recalls that of the old Greek lyre. The shape of their arms, the magnificence and good taste of the fringed and patterned stuffs with which they are clothed, the elegance of most of the objects which they have brought with them, testify to a high standard of civilisation, equal at least to that of Egypt. Asia had for some time provided the Pharaohs with slaves, certain perfumes, cedar wood and cedar essences, enamelled vases, precious stones, lapis-lazuli, and the dyed and embroidered woollen fabrics of which Chaldaea kept the monopoly until the time of the Komans. Merchants of the Delta braved the perils of wild beasts and of robbers lurking in every valley, while transporting beyond the isthmus products of Egyptian manufacture, such as fine linens, chased or cloisonne jewellery, glazed pottery, and glass paste or metal amulets. Adventurous spirits who found life dull on the banks of the Nile, men who had committed crimes, or who believed themselves suspected by their lords on political grounds, conspirators, deserters, and exiles were well received by the Asiatic tribes, and sometimes gained the favour of the sheikhs. In the time of the XIIth dynasty, Southern Syria, the country of the "Lords of the Sands," and the kingdom of Kaduma were full of Egyptians whose eventful careers supplied the scribes and storytellers with the themes of many romances.
Sinuhit, the hero of one of these stories, was a son of Amenemhait I., and had the misfortune involuntarily to overhear a state secret. He happened to be near the royal tent when news of his father's sudden death was brought to Usirtasen. Fearing summary execution, he fled across the Delta north of Memphis, avoided the frontier-posts, and struck into the desert. "I pursued my way by night; at dawn I had reached Puteni, and set out for the lake of Kimoiri. Then thirst fell upon me, and the death-rattle was in my throat, my throat cleaved together, and I said, 'It is the taste of death!' when suddenly I lifted up my heart and gathered my strength together: I heard the lowing of the herds. I perceived some Asiatics; their chief, who had been in Egypt, knew me; he gave me water, and caused milk to be boiled for me, and I went with him and joined his tribe." But still Sinuhit did not feel himself in safety, and fled into Kaduma, to a prince who had provided an asylum for other Egyptian exiles, and where he "could hear men speak the language of Egypt." Here he soon gained honours and fortune. "The chief preferred me before his children, giving me his eldest daughter in marriage, and he granted me that I should choose for myself the best of his land near the frontier of a neighbouring country. It is an excellent land, Aia is its name. Figs are there and grapes; wine is more plentiful than water; honey abounds in it; numerous are its olives and all the produce of its trees; there are corn and flour without end, and cattle of all kinds. Great, indeed, was that which was bestowed upon me when the prince came to invest me, installing me as prince of a tribe in the best of his land. I had daily rations of bread and wine, day by day; cooked meat and roasted fowl, besides the mountain game which I took, or which was placed before me in addition to that which was brought me by my hunting dogs. Much butter was made for me, and milk prepared in every kind of way. There I passed many years, and the children which were born to me became strong men, each ruling his own tribe. When a messenger was going to the interior or returning from it, he turned aside from his way to come to me, for I did kindness to all: I gave water to the thirsty, I set again upon his way the traveller who had been stopped on it, I chastised the brigand. The Pitaitiu, who went on distant campaigns to fight and repel the princes of foreign lands, I commanded them and they marched forth; for the prince of Tonu made me the general of his soldiers for long years. When I went forth to war, all countries towards which I set out trembled in their pastures by their wells. I seized their cattle, I took away their vassals and carried off their slaves, I slew the inhabitants, the land was at the mercy of my sword, of my bow, of my marches, of my well-conceived plans glorious to the heart of my prince. Thus, when he knew my valour, he loved me, making me chief among his children when he saw the strength of my arms.
"A valiant man of Tonu came to defy me in my tent; he was a hero beside whom there was none other, for he had overthrown all his adversaries. He said: 'Let Sinuhit fight with me, for he has not yet conquered me!' and he thought to seize my cattle and therewith to enrich his tribe. The prince talked of the matter with me. I said: 'I know him not. Verily, I am not his brother. I keep myself far from his dwelling; have I ever opened his door, or crossed his enclosures? Doubtless he is some jealous fellow envious at seeing me, and who believes himself fated to rob me of my cats, my goats, my kine, and to fall on my bulls, my rams, and my oxen, to take them.... If he has indeed the courage to fight, let him declare the intention of his heart! Shall the god forget him whom he has heretofore favoured? This man who has challenged me to fight is as one of those who lie upon the funeral couch. I bent my bow, I took out my arrows, I loosened my poignard, I furbished my arms. At dawn all the land of Tonu ran forth; its tribes were gathered together, and all the foreign lands which were its dependencies, for they were impatient to see this duel. Each heart was on live coals because of me; men and women cried 'Ah!' for every heart was disquieted for my sake, and they said: 'Is there, indeed, any valiant man who will stand up against him? Lo! the enemy has buckler, battle-axe, and an armful of javelins.' When he had come forth and I appeared, I turned aside his shafts from me. When not one of them touched me, he fell upon me, and then I drew my bow against him. When my arrow pierced his neck, he cried out and fell to the earth upon his nose; I snatched his lance from him, I shouted my cry of victory upon his back. While the country people rejoiced, I made his vassals whom he had oppressed to give thanks to Montu. This prince, Ammianshi, bestowed upon me all the possessions of the vanquished, and I took away his goods, I carried off his cattle. All that he had desired to do unto me that did I unto him; I took possession of all that was in his tent, I despoiled his dwelling; therewith was the abundance of my treasure and the number of my cattle increased." In later times, in Arab romances such as that of Antar or that of Abu-Zeit, we find the incidents and customs described in this Egyptian tale; there we have the exile arriving at the court of a great sheikh whose daughter he ultimately marries, the challenge, the fight, and the raids of one people against another. Even in our own day things go on in much the same way. Seen from afar, these adventures have an air of poetry and of grandeur which fascinates the reader, and in imagination transports him into a world more heroic and more noble than our own. He who cares to preserve this impression would do well not to look too closely at the men and manners of the desert. Certainly the hero is brave, but he is still more brutal and treacherous; fighting is one object of his existence, but pillage is a far more important one. How, indeed, should it be otherwise? the soil is poor, life hard and precarious, and from remotest antiquity the conditions of that life have remained unchanged; apart from firearms and Islam, the Bedouin of to-day are the same as the Bedouin of the days of Sinuhit.
There are no known documents from which we can derive any certain information as to what became of the mining colonies in Sinai after the reign of Papi II. Unless entirely abandoned, they must have lingered on in comparative idleness; for the last of the Memphites, the Heracleopohtans, and the early Thebans were compelled to neglect them, nor was their active life resumed until the accession of the XIIth dynasty. The veins in the Wady Maghara were much exhausted, but a series of fortunate explorations revealed the existence of untouched deposits in the Sarbut-el-Khadim, north of the original workings. From the time of Amenemhait II. these new veins were worked, and absorbed attention during several generations. Expeditions to the mines were sent out every three or four years, sometimes annually, under the command of such high functionaries as "Acquaintances of the King," "Chief Lectors," and Captains of the Archers. As each mine was rapidly worked out, the delegates of the Pharaohs were obliged to find new veins in order to meet industrial demands. The task was often arduous, and the commissioners generally took care to inform posterity very fully as to the anxieties which they had felt, the pains which they had taken, and the quantities of turquoise or of oxide of copper which they had brought into Egypt. Thus the Captain Haroeris tells us that, on arriving at Sarbut in the month Pha-menoth of an unknown year of Amenemhait III., he made a bad beginning in his work of exploration. Wearied of fruitless efforts, the workmen were quite ready to desert him if he had not put a good face on the business and stoutly promised them the support of the local Hathor.
[Illustration: 334.jpg PLAN OF THE TEMPLE OF SARBUT EL KHADIM]
And, as a matter of fact, fortune did change. When he began to despair, "the desert burned like summer, the mountain was on fire, and the vein exhausted; one morning the overseer who was there questioned the miners, the skilled workers who were used to the mine, and they said: 'There is turquoise for eternity in the mountain.' At that very moment the vein appeared." And, indeed, the wealth of the deposit which he found so completely indemnified Haroeris for his first disappointments, that in the month Pachons, three months after the opening of these workings, he had finished his task and prepared to leave the country, carrying his spoils with him. From time to time Pharaoh sent convoys of cattle and provisions -- corn, sixteen oxen, thirty geese, fresh vegetables, live poultry -- to his vassals at the mines.
[Illustration: 335.jpg THE RUINS OF THE TEMPLE OF HATHOR]
Drawn by Boudier, from a photograph in the Ordnance Survey, Photo-graphs, vol. iii. pl.8.
The mining population increased so fast that two chapels were built, dedicated to Hathor, and served by volunteer priests. One of these chapels, presumably the oldest, consists of a single rock-cut chamber, upheld by one large square pillar, walls and pillar having been covered with finely sculptured scenes and inscriptions which are now almost effaced. The second chapel included a beautifully proportioned rectangular court, once entered by a portico supported on pillars with Hathor-head capitals, and beyond the court a narrow building divided into many small irregular chambers. The edifice was altered and rebuilt, and half destroyed; it is now nothing by a confused heap of ruins, of which the original plan cannot be traced. Votive stehe of all shapes and sizes, in granite, sandstone, or limestone, were erected here and there at random in the two chambers and in the courts between the columns, and flush with the walls. Some are still in situ, others lie scattered in the midst of the ruins. Towards the middle of the reign of Amenemhait III., the industrial demand for turquoise and for copper ore became so great that the mines of Sarbut-el-Khadim could no longer meet it, and those in the Wady Maghara were re-opened. The workings of both sets of mines were carried on with unabated vigour under Amenemhaifc IV., and were still in full activity when the XIIIth dynasty succeeded the XIIth on the Egyptian throne. Tranquillity prevailed in the recesses of the mountains of Sinai as well as in the valley of the Nile, and a small garrison sufficed to keep watch over the Bedouin of the neighbourhood. Sometimes the latter ventured to attack the miners, and then fled in haste, carrying off their meagre booty; but they were vigorously pursued under the command of one of the officers on the spot, and generally caught and compelled to disgorge their plunder before they had reached the shelter of their "douars." The old Memphite kings prided themselves on these armed pursuits as though they were real victories, and had them recorded in triumphal bas-reliefs; but under the XIIth dynasty they were treated as unimportant frontier incidents, almost beneath the notice of the Pharaoh, and the glory of them -- such as it was -- he left to his captains then in command of those districts.
Egypt had always kept up extensive commercial relations with certain northern countries lying beyond the Mediterranean. The reputation for wealth enjoyed by the Delta sometimes attracted bands of the Haiu-nibu to come prowling in piratical excursions along its shores; but their expeditions seldom turned out successfully, and even if the adventurers escaped summary execution, they generally ended their days as slaves in the Fayum, or in some village of the Said. At first their descendants preserved the customs, religion, manners, and industries of their distant home, and went on making rough pottery for daily use, which was decorated in a style recalling that of vases found in the most ancient tombs of the AEgean archipelago; but they were gradually assimilated to their surroundings, and their grandchildren became fellahin like the rest, brought up from infancy in the customs and language of Egypt.
The relations with the tribes of the Libyan desert, the Tihunu and the Timihu, were almost invariably peaceful; although occasional raids of one of their bands into Egyptian territory would provoke counter raids into the valleys in which they took refuge with their flocks and herds. Thus, in addition to the captive Haiu-nibu, another heterogeneous element, soon to be lost in the mass of the Egyptian population, was supplied by detachments of Berber women and children.
[Illustration: 338.jpg MAP]
The relations Egypt with her northern neighbours during the hundred years of the XIIth dynasty were chiefly commercial, but occasionally this peaceful intercourse was broken by sudden incursions or piratical expeditions which called for active measures of repression, and were the occasion of certain romantic episodes. The foreign policy of the Pharaohs in this connexion was to remain strictly on the defensive. Ethiopia attracted all their attention, and demanded all their strength. The same instinct which had impelled their predecessors to pass successively beyond Gebel-Silsileh and Elephantine now drove the XIIth dynasty beyond the second cataract, and even further. The nature of the valley compelled them to this course. From the Tacazze, or rather from the confluence of the two Niles down to the sea, the whole valley forms as it were a Greater Egypt; for although separated by the cataracts into different divisions, it is everywhere subject to the same physical conditions. In the course of centuries it has more than once been forcibly dismembered by the chances of war, but its various parts have always tended to reunite, and have coalesced at the first opportunity. The Amami, the Irittt, and the Sitiu, all those nations which wandered west of the river, and whom the Pharaohs of the VIth and subsequently of the XIth dynasty either enlisted into their service or else conquered, do not seem to have given much trouble to the successors of Amenemhait I. The Uauaiu and the Mazaiu were more turbulent, and it was necessary to subdue them in order to assure the tranquillity of the colonists scattered along the banks of the river from Philo to Korosko. They were worsted by Amenemhait I. in several encounters.
Usirtasen I. made repeated campaigns against them, the earlier ones being undertaken in his father's lifetime. Afterwards he pressed on, and straightway "raised his frontiers" at the rapids of Wady Haifa; and the country was henceforth the undisputed property of his successors. It was divided into nomes like Egypt itself; the Egyptian language succeeded in driving out the native dialects, and the local deities, including Didun, the principal god, were associated or assimilated with the gods of Egypt. Khnumu was the favourite deity of the northern nomes, doubtless because the first colonists were natives of Elephantine, and subjects of its princes. In the southern nomes, which had been annexed under the Theban kings and were peopled with Theban immigrants, the worship of Khnumu was carried on side by side with the worship of Amon, or Amon-Ra, god of Thebes. In accordance with local affinities, now no longer intelligible, the other gods also were assigned smaller areas in the new territory -- Thot at Pselcis and Pnubsit, where a gigantic nabk tree was worshipped, Ra near Derr, and Horus at Miama and Bauka. The Pharaohs who had civilized the country here received divine honours while still alive. Usirtasen III. was placed in triads along with Didun, Amon, and Khnumu; temples were raised to him at Semneh, Shotaui, and Doshkeh; and the anniversary of a decisive victory which he had gained over the barbarians was still celebrated on the 21st of Pachons, a thousand years afterwards, under Thutmosis III. The feudal system spread over the land lying between the two cataracts, where hereditary barons held their courts, trained their armies, built their castles, and excavated their superbly decorated tombs in the mountain-sides. The only difference between Nubian Egypt and Egypt proper lay in the greater heat and smaller wealth of the former, where the narrower, less fertile, and less well-watered land supported a smaller population and yielded less abundant revenues.
The Pharaoh kept the charge of the more important strategical points in his own hands. Strongholds placed at bends of the river and at the mouths of ravines leading into the desert, secured freedom of navigation, and kept off the pillaging nomads. The fortress of Derr [Kubban? -- Ed.], which was often rebuilt, dates in part at least from the early days of the conquest of Nubia. Its rectangular boundary -- a dry brick wall -- is only broken by easily filled up gaps, and with some repairs it would still resist an Ababdeh attack.*
* The most ancient bricks in the fortifications of Derr, easily distinguishable from those belonging to the later restorations, are identical in shape and size with those of the walls at Syene and El-Kab; and the wall at El-Kab was certainly built not later than the XIIth dynasty.
The most considerable Nubian works of the XIIth dynasty were in the three places from which the country can even now be most effectively commanded, namely, at the two cataracts, and in the districts extending from Derr to Dakkeh. Elephantine already possessed an entrenched camp which commanded the rapids and the land route from Syene to Philo. Usirtasen III. restored its great wall; he also cleared and widened the passage to Seriel, as did Papi I. to such good effect that easy and rapid communication between Thebes and the new towns was at all times practicable. Some little distance from Phihe he established a station for boats, and an emporium which he called Hiru Khakeri -- "the Ways of Khakeri" -- after his own throne name -- Khakeri.*
* The widening of the passage was effected in the VIIIth year of his reign, the same year in which he established the Egyptian frontier at Semneh. The other constructions are mentioned, but not very clearly, in a stele of the same year which came from Elephantine, and is now in the British Museum. The votive tablet, engraved in honour of Anukit at Sehel, in which the king boasts of having made for the goddess "the excellent channel [called] 'the Ways of Khakeuri,'" probably refers to this widening and deepening of the passage in the VIIIth year.
Its exact site is unknown, but it appears to have completed on the south side the system of walls and redoubts which protected the cataract provinces against either surprise or regular attacks of the barbarians. Although of no appreciable use for the purposes of general security, the fortifications of Middle Nubia were of great importance in the eyes of the Pharaohs. They commanded the desert roads leading to the Eed Sea, and to Berber and Gebel Barkel on the Upper Nile. The most important fort occupied the site of the present village of Kuban, opposite Dakkeh, and commanded the entrance to the Wady Olaki, which leads to the richest gold deposits known to Ancient Egypt. The valleys which furrow the mountains of Etbai, the Wady Shauanib, the Waddy Umm Teyur, Gebel Iswud, Gebel Umm Kabriteh, all have gold deposits of their own. The gold is found in nuggets and in pockets in white quartz, mixed with iron oxides and titanium, for which the ancients had no use. The method of mining practised from immemorial antiquity by the Uauaiu of the neighbourhood was of the simplest, and traces of the workings may be seen all over the sides of the ravines. Tunnels followed the direction of the lodes to a depth of fifty-five to sixty-five yards; the masses of quartz procured from them were broken up in granite mortars, pounded small and afterwards reduced to a powder in querns, similar to those used for crushing grain; the residue was sifted on stone tables, and the finely ground parts afterwards washed in bowls of sycamore wood, until the gold dust had settled to the bottom.*
* The gold-mines and the method of working them under the Ptolemies have been described by Agatharchides; the processes employed were very ancient, and had hardly changed since the time of the first Pharaohs, as is shown by a comparison of the mining tools found in these districts with those which have been collected at Sinai, in the turquoise- mines of the Ancient Empire.
This was the Nubian gold which was brought into Egypt by nomad tribes, and for which the Egyptians themselves, from the time of the XIIth dynasty onwards, went to seek in the land which produced it. They made no attempt to establish permanent colonies for working the mines, as at Sinai; but a detachment of troops was despatched nearly every year to the spot to receive the amount of precious metal collected since their previous visit. The king Usirtasen would send at one time the prince of the nome of the Gazelle on such an expedition, with a contingent of four hundred men belonging to his fief; at another time, it would be the faithful Sihathor who would triumphantly scour the country, obliging young and old to work with redoubled efforts for his master Amenemhait II. On his return the envoy would boast of having brought back more gold than any of his predecessors, and of having crossed the desert without losing either a soldier or a baggage animal, not even a donkey.
[Illustration: 314.jpg ONE OF TUE FACADES OF THE FORTRESS OF KUBBAN]
Drawn by Boudier, from a photograph by Insinger, taken in 1881.
Sometimes a son of the reigning Pharaoh, even the heir-presumptive, would condescend to accompany the caravan. Amenemhait III. repaired or rebuilt the fortress of Kubban, the starting-place of the little army, and the spot to which it returned. It is a square enclosure measuring 328 feet on each side; the ramparts of crude brick are sloped slightly inwards, and are strengthened at intervals by bastions projecting from the external face of the wall. The river protected one side; the other three were defended by ditches communicating with the Nile. There were four entrances, one in the centre of each facade: that on the east, which faced the desert, and was exposed to the severest attacks, was flanked by a tower.
The cataract of Wady Haifa offered a natural barrier to invasion from the south. Even without fortification, the chain of granite rocks which crosses the valley at this spot would have been a sufficient obstacle to prevent any fleet which might attempt the passage from gaining access to northern Nubia.
[Illustration: 345.jpg THE SECOND CATARACT BETWEEN HAMKEH AND WADY HALFA]
The Nile here has not the wild and imposing aspect which it assumes lower down, between Aswan and Philae. It is bordered by low and receding hills, devoid of any definite outline. Masses of bare black rock, here and there covered by scanty herbage, block the course of the river in some places in such profusion, that its entire bed seems to be taken up by them. For a distance of seventeen miles the main body of water is broken up into an infinitude of small channels in its width of two miles; several of the streams thus formed present, apparently, a tempting course to the navigator, so calm and safe do they appear, but they conceal ledges of hidden reefs, and are unexpectedly forced into narrow passages obstructed by granite boulders. The strongest built and best piloted boat must be dashed to pieces in such circumstances, and no effort or skilfulness on the part of the crew would save the vessel should the owner venture to attempt the descent. The only channel at all available for transit runs from the village of Aesha on the Arabian side, winds capriciously from one bank to another, and emerges into calm water a little above Nakhiet Wady Haifa. During certain days in August and September the natives trust themselves to this stream, but only with boats lightly laden; even then their escape is problematical, for they are in hourly danger of foundering. As soon as the inundation begins to fall, the passage becomes more difficult: by the middle of October it is given up, and communication by water between Egypt and the countries above Wady Haifa is suspended until the return of the inundation. By degrees, as the level of the water becomes lower, remains of wrecks jammed between the rocks, or embedded in sandbanks, emerge into view, as if to warn sailors and discourage them from an undertaking so fraught with perils. Usirtasen I. realized the importance of the position, and fortified its approaches.
[Illustration: 346.jpg THE SECOND CATARACT AT LOW NILE]
He selected the little Nubian town of Bohani, which lay exactly opposite to the present village of Wady Haifa, and transformed it into a strong frontier fortress. Besides the usual citadel, he built there a temple dedicated to the Theban god Amon and to the local Horus; he then set up a stele commemorating his victories over the peoples beyond the cataract.
[Illustration: 349.jpg THE TRIUMPHAL STELE OF USIRTASEN I.]
Drawn by Faucher-Gudin, from a photograph of the original in the museum at Florence.
Ten of their principal chiefs had passed before Amon as prisoners, their arms tied behind their backs, and had been sacrificed at the foot of the altar by the sovereign himself: he represented them on the stele by enclosing their names in battlemented cartouches, each surmounted by the bust of a man bound by a long cord which is held by the conqueror.
Nearly a century later Usirtasen III. enlarged the fortress, and finding doubtless that it was not sufficiently strong to protect the passage of the cataract, he stationed outposts at various points, at Matuga, Fakus, and Kassa. They served as mooring-places where the vessels which went up and down stream with merchandise might be made fast to the bank at sunset. The bands of Bedouin, lurking in the neighbourhood, would have rejoiced to surprise them, and by their depredations to stop the commerce between the Said and the Upper Nile, during the few weeks in which it could be carried on with a minimum of danger. A narrow gorge crossed by a bed of granite, through which the Nile passes at Semneh, afforded another most favourable site for the completion of this system of defence. On cliffs rising sheer above the current, the king constructed two fortresses, one on each bank of the river, which completely commanded the approaches by land and water. On the right bank at Kummeh, where the position was naturally a strong one, the engineers described an irregular square, measuring about two hundred feet each side; two projecting bastions flanked the entrance, the one to the north covering the approaching pathways, the southern one commanding the river-bank. A road with a ditch runs at about thirteen feet from the walls round the building, closely following its contour, except at the north-west and south-east angles, where there are two projections which formed bastions. The town on the other bank, Samninu-Kharp-Khakeri, occupied a less favourable position: its eastern flank was protected by a zone of rocks and by the river, but the three other sides were of easy approach. They were provided with ramparts which rose to the height of eighty-two feet above the plain, and were strengthened at unequal distances by enormous buttresses. These resembled towers without parapets, overlooking every part of the encircling road, and from them the defenders could take the attacking sappers in flank.
[Illustration: 351.jpg THE RAPIDS OF THE NILE AT SEMNEH, AND THE TWO FORTRESSES BUILT BY USIRTASEN III]
Map drawn up by Thuillier from the somewhat obsolete survey of Cailliaud
The intervals between them had been so calculated as to enable the archers to sweep the intervening space with their arrows. The main building is of crude brick, with beams laid horizontally between; the base of the external rampart is nearly vertical, while the upper part forms an angle of some seventy degrees with the horizon, making the scaling of it, if not impossible, at least very difficult. Each of the enclosing walls of the two fortresses surrounded a town complete in itself, with temples dedicated to their founders and to the Nubian deities, as well as numerous habitations, now in ruins. The sudden widening of the river immediately to the south of the rapids made a kind of natural roadstead, where the Egyptian squadron could lie without danger on the eve of a campaign against Ethiopia; the galiots of the there awaited permission to sail below the rapids, and to enter Egypt with their cargoes. At once a military station and a river custom-house, Semneh was the necessary bulwark of the new Egypt, and Usirtasen III. emphatically proclaimed the fact, in two decrees, which he set up there for the edification of posterity. "Here is," so runs the first, "the southern boundary fixed in the year VIII. under his Holiness of Khakeri, Usirtasen, who gives life always and for ever, in order that none of the black peoples may cross it from above, except only for the transport of animals, oxen, goats, and sheep belonging to them." The edict of the year XVI. reiterates the prohibition of the year VIII., and adds that "His Majesty caused his own statue to be erected at the landmarks which he himself had set up." The beds of the first and second cataracts were then less worn away than they are now; they are therefore more efficacious in keeping back the water and forcing it to rise to a higher level above. The cataracts acted as indicators of the inundation, and if their daily rise and fall were studied, it was possible to announce to the dwellers on the banks lower down the river the progress and probable results of the flood.
[Illustration: 353.jpg THE CHANNEL OF THE NILE BETWEEN THE TWO FORTRESSES OF SEMNEH AND KUMMEH]
Reproduction by Faucher-Gudin of a sketch published by Cailliaud, Voyage a Meroe, Atlas, vol. ii. pl. xxx.
As long as the dominion of the Pharaohs reached no further than Philae, observations of the Nile were always taken at the first cataract; and it was from Elephantine that Egypt received the news of the first appearance and progress of the inundation. Amenemhait III. set up a new nilometer at the new frontier, and gave orders to his officers to observe the course of the flood. They obeyed him scrupulously, and every time that the inundation appeared to them to differ from the average of ordinary years, they marked its height on the rocks of Semneh and Kummeh, engraving side by side with the figure the name of the king and the date of the year. The custom was continued there under the XIIIth dynasty; afterwards, when the frontier was pushed further south, the nilometer accompanied it.
The country beyond Semneh was virgin territory, almost untouched and quite uninjured by previous wars. Its name now appears for the first time upon the monuments, in the form of Kaushu -- the humbled Kush. It comprised the districts situated to the south within the immense loop described by the river between Dongola and Khartoum, those vast plains intersected by the windings of the White and Blue Niles, known as the regions of Kordofan and Darfur; it was bounded by the mountains of Abyssinia, the marshes of Lake Nu, and all those semi-fabulous countries to which were relegated the "Isles of the Manes" and the "Lands of Spirits." It was separated from the Red Sea by the land of Puanit; and to the west, between it and the confines of the world, lay the Timihu. Scores of tribes, white, copper-coloured, and black, bearing strange names, wrangled over the possession of this vaguely defined territory; some of them were still savage or emerging from barbarism, while others had attained to a pitch of material civilization almost comparable with that of Egypt. The same diversity of types, the same instability and the same want of intelligence which characterized the tribes of those days, still distinguish the medley of peoples who now frequent the upper valley of the Nile. They led the same sort of animal life, guided by impulse, and disturbed, owing to the caprices of their petty chiefs, by bloody wars which often issued in slavery or in emigration to distant regions.
[Illustration: 355.jpg KUSHITE PRISONERS BROUGHT TO EGYPT]
Drawn by Faucher-Guclin, from the water-colour drawing by Mr. Blackden.
With such shifting and unstable conditions, it would be difficult to build up a permanent State. From time to time some kinglet, more daring, cunning, tenacious, or better fitted to govern than the rest, extended his dominion over his neighbours, and advanced step by step, till he united immense tracts under his single rule. As by degrees his kingdom enlarged, he made no efforts to organize it on any regular system, to introduce any uniformity in the administration of its affairs, or to gain the adherence of its incongruous elements by just laws which would be equally for the good of all: when the massacres which accompanied his first victories were over, when he had incorporated into his own army what was left of the vanquished troops, when their children were led into servitude and he had filled his treasury with their spoil and his harem with their women, it never occurred to him that there was anything more to be done. If he had acted otherwise, it would not probably have been to his advantage. Both his former and present subjects were too divergent in language and origin, too widely separated by manners and customs, and too long in a state of hostility to each other, to draw together and to become easily welded into a single nation. As soon as the hand which held them together relaxed its hold for a moment, discord crept in everywhere, among individuals as well as among the tribes, and the empire of yesterday resolved itself into its original elements even more rapidly than it had been formed. The clash of arms which had inaugurated its brief existence died quickly away, the remembrance of its short-lived glory was lost after two or three generations in the horrors of a fresh invasion: its name vanished without leaving a trace behind. The occupation of Nubia brought Egypt into contact with this horde of incongruous peoples, and the contact soon entailed a struggle. It is futile for a civilized state to think of dwelling peacefully with any barbarous nation with which it is in close proximity. Should it decide to check its own advances, and impose limits upon itself which it shall not pass over, its moderation is mistaken for feebleness and impotence; the vanquished again take up the offensive, and either force the civilized power to retire, or compel it to cross its former boundary. The Pharaohs did not escape this inevitable consequence of conquest: their southern frontier advanced continually higher and higher up the Nile, without ever becoming fixed in a position sufficiently strong to defy the attacks of the Barbarians. Usirtasen I. had subdued the countries of Hahu, of Khonthanunofir, and Shaad, and had beaten in battle the Shemik, the Khasa, the Sus, the Aqin, the Anu, the Sabiri, and the people of Akiti and Makisa. Amenemhait II., Usirtasen II., and Usirtasen III. never hesitated to "strike the humbled Kush" whenever the opportunity presented itself. The last-mentioned king in particular chastised them severely in his VIIIth, XIIth, XVIth, and XIXth years, and his victories made him so popular, that the Egyptians of the Greek period, identifying him with the Sesostris of Herodotus, attributed to him the possession of the universe. On the base of a colossal statue of rose granite which he erected in the temple of Tanis, we find preserved a list of the tribes which he conquered: the names of them appear to us most outlandish -- Alaka, Matakarau, Turasu, Pamaika, Uaraki, Paramaka -- and we have no clue as to their position on the map. We know merely that they lived in the desert, on both sides of the Nile, in the latitude of Berber or thereabouts. Similar expeditions were sent after Usirtasen's time, and Amenem-hait III. regarded both banks of the Nile, between Semneh and Dongola, as forming part of the territory of Egypt proper. Little by little, and by the force of circumstances, the making of Greater Egypt was realized; she approached nearer and nearer towards the limit which had been prescribed for her by nature, to that point where the Nile receives its last tributaries, and where its peerless valley takes its origin in the convergence of many others.
The conquest of Nubia was on the whole an easy one, and so much personal advantage accrued from these wars, that the troops and generals entered on them without the least repugnance. A single fragment has come down to us which contains a detailed account of one of these campaigns, probably that conducted by Usirtasen III. in the XVIth year of his reign. The Pharaoh had received information that the tribes of the district of Hua, on the Tacazze, were harassing his vassals, and possibly also those Egyptians who were attracted by commerce to that neighbourhood. He resolved to set out and chastise them severely, and embarked with his fleet. It was an expedition almost entirely devoid of danger: the invaders landed only at favourable spots, carried off any of the inhabitants who came in their way, and seized on their cattle -- on one occasion as many as a hundred and twenty-three oxen and eleven asses, on others less. Two small parties marched along the banks, and foraging to the right and left, drove the booty down to the river. The tactics of invasion have scarcely undergone any change in these countries; the account given by Cailliaud of the first conquest of Fazogl by Ismail-Pasha, in 1822, might well serve to complete the fragments of the inscription of Usirtasen III., and restore for us, almost in every detail, a faithful picture of the campaigns carried on in these regions by the kings of the XIIth dynasty. The people are hunted down in the same fashion; the country is similarly ravaged by a handful of well-armed, fairly disciplined men attacking naked and disconnected hordes, the young men are massacred after a short resistance or forced to escape into the woods, the women are carried off as slaves, the huts pillaged, villages burnt, whole tribes exterminated in a few hours. Sometimes a detachment, having imprudently ventured into some thorny thicket to attack a village perched on a rocky summit, would experience a reverse, and would with great difficulty regain the main body of troops, after having lost three-fourths of its men. In most cases there was no prolonged resistance, and the attacking party carried the place with the loss of merely two or three men killed or wounded. The spoil was never very considerable in any one locality, but its total amount increased as the raid was carried afield, and it soon became so bulky that the party had to stop and retrace their steps, in order to place it for safety in the nearest fortress. The booty consisted for the most part of herds of oxen and of cumbrous heaps of grain, as well as wood for building purposes. But it also comprised objects of small size but of great value, such as ivory, precious stones, and particularly gold. The natives collected the latter in the alluvial tracts watered by the Tacazze, the Blue Nile and its tributaries. The women were employed in searching for nuggets, which were often of considerable size; they enclosed them in little leather cases, and offered them to the merchants in exchange for products of Egyptian industry, or they handed them over to the goldsmiths to be made into bracelets, ear, nose, or finger rings, of fairly fine workmanship. Gold was found in combination with several other metals, from which they did not know how to separate it: the purest gold had a pale yellow tint, which was valued above all others, but electrum, that is to say, gold alloyed with silver in the proportion of eighty per cent., was also much in demand, while greyish-coloured gold, mixed with platinum, served for making common jewellery.*
* Cailliaud has briefly described the auriferous sand of the Qamamyl, and the way in which it is worked: it is from him that I have borrowed the details given in the text. From analyses which I caused to be made at the Bulaq Museum of Egyptian jewellery of the time of the XVIIIth dynasty, which had been broken and were without value, from an archeo- logical or artistic point of view, I have demonstrated the presence of the platinum and silver mentioned by Cailliaud as being found in the nuggets from the Blue Nile.
None of these expeditions produced any lasting results, and the Pharaohs established no colonies in any of these countries. Their Egyptian subjects could not have lived there for any length of time without deteriorating by intermarriage with the natives or from the effects of the climate; they would have degenerated into a half-bred race, having all the vices and none of the good qualities of the aborigines. The Pharaohs, therefore, continued their hostilities without further scruples, and only sought to gain as much as possible from their victories. They cared little if nothing remained after they had passed through some district, or if the passage of their armies was marked only by ruins. They seized upon everything which came across their path -- men, chattels, or animals -- and carried them back to Egypt; they recklessly destroyed everything for which they had no use, and made a desert of fertile districts which but yesterday had been covered with crops and studded with populous villages. The neighbouring inhabitants, realizing their incapacity to resist regular troops, endeavoured to buy off the invaders by yielding up all they possessed in the way of slaves, flocks, wood, or precious metals. The generals in command, however, had to reckon with the approaching low Nile, which forced them to beat a retreat; they were obliged to halt at the first appearance of it, and they turned homewards "in peace," their only anxiety being to lose the smallest possible number of men or captured animals on their return journey.
As in earlier times, adventurous merchants penetrated into districts not reached by the troops, and prepared the way for conquest. The princes of Elephantine still sent caravans to distant parts, and one of them, Siranpitu, who lived under Usirtasen I. and Amenemhait II., recorded his explorations on his tomb, after the fashion of his ancestors: the king at several different times had sent him on expeditions to the Soudan, but the inscription in which he gives an account of them is so mutilated, that we cannot be sure which tribes he visited. We learn merely that he collected from them skins, ivory, ostrich feathers -- everything, in fact, which Central Africa has furnished as articles of commerce from time immemorial. It was not, however, by land only that Egyptian merchants travelled to seek fortune in foreign countries: the Red Sea attracted them, and served as a quick route for reaching the land of Puanit, whose treasures in perfumes and rarities of all kinds had formed the theme of ancient traditions and navigators' tales. Relations with it had been infrequent, or had ceased altogether, during the wars of the Heracleo-politan period: on their renewal it was necessary to open up afresh routes which had been forgotten for centuries.
[Illustration: 362.jpg THE ROUTES LEADING FROM THE NILE TO THE RED SEA, BETWEEN KOPTOS AND KOSSEIR.]
Traffic was confined almost entirely to two or three out of the many, -- one which ran from Elephantine or from Nekhabit to the "Head of Nekhabit," the Berenice of the Greeks; others which started from Thebes or Koptos, and struck the coast at the same place or at Sau, the present Kosseir. The latter, which was the shortest as well as the favourite route, passed through Wady Hammamat, from whence the Pharaohs drew the blocks of granite for their sarcophagi. The officers who were sent to quarry the stone often took advantage of the opportunity to visit the coast, and to penetrate as far as the Spice Regions. As early as the year VIII. of Sonkheri, the predecessor of Amenemhait I., the "sole friend" Hunu had been sent by this road, "in order to take the command of a squadron to Puanit, and to collect a tribute of fresh incense from the princes of the desert." He got together three thousand men, distributed to each one a goatskin bottle, a crook for carrying it, and ten loaves, and set out from Koptos with this little army. No water was met with on the way: Hunu bored several wells and cisterns in the rock, one at a halting-place called Bait, two in the district of Adahait, and finally one in the valleys of Adabehait. Having reached the seaboard, he quickly constructed a great barge, freighted it with merchandise for barter, as well as with provisions, oxen, cows, and goats, and set sail for a cruise along the coast: it is not known how far he went, but he came back with a large cargo of all the products of the "Divine Land," especially of incense. On his return, he struck off into the Uagai valley, and thence reached that of Rohanu, where he chose out splendid blocks of stone for a temple which the king was building: "Never had 'Royal Cousin' sent on an expedition done as much since the time of the god Ra!" Numbers of royal officers and adventurers followed in his footsteps, but no record of them has been preserved for us. Two or three names only have escaped oblivion -- that of Khnumhotpu, who in the first year of Usirtasen I. erected a stele in the Wady Gasus in the very heart of the "Divine Land;" and that of Khentkhitioiru, who in the XXVIIIth year of Amenemhait II. entered the haven of Sau after a fortunate cruise to Puanit, without having lost a vessel or even a single man. Navigation is difficult in the Red Sea. The coast as a rule is precipitous, bristling with reefs and islets, and almost entirely without strand or haven. No river or stream runs into it; it is bordered by no fertile or wooded tract, but by high cliffs, half disintegrated by the burning sun, or by steep mountains, which appear sometimes a dull red, sometimes a dingy grey colour, according to the material -- granite or sandstone -- which predominates in their composition. The few tribes who inhabit this desolate region maintain a miserable existence by fishing and hunting: they were considered, during the Greek period, to be the most unfortunate of mortals, and if they appeared to be so to the mariners of the Ptolemies, doubtless they enjoyed the same reputation in the more remote time of the Pharaohs. A few fishing villages, however, are mentioned as scattered along the littoral; watering-places, at some distance apart, frequented on account of their wells of brackish water by the desert tribes: such were Nahasit, Tap-Nekhabit, Sau, and Tau: these the Egyptian merchant-vessels used as victualling stations, and took away as cargo the products of the country -- mother-of-pearl, amethysts, emeralds, a little lapis-lazuli, a little gold, gums, and sweet-smelling resins. If the weather was favourable, and the intake of merchandise had been scanty, the vessel, braving numerous risks of shipwreck, continued its course as far as the latitude of Suakin and Massowah, which was the beginning of Puanit properly so called. Here riches poured down to the coast from the interior, and selection became a difficulty: it was hard to decide which would make the best cargo, ivory or ebony, panthers' skins or rings of gold, myrrh, incense, or a score of other sweet-smelling gums. So many of these odoriferous resins were used for religious purposes, that it was always to the advantage of the merchant to procure as much of them as possible: incense, fresh or dried, was the staple and characteristic merchandise of the Red Sea, and the good people of Egypt pictured Puanit as a land of perfumes, which attracted the sailor from afar by the delicious odours which were wafted from it.
These voyages were dangerous and trying: popular imagination seized upon them and made material out of them for marvellous tales. The hero chosen was always a daring adventurer sent by his master to collect gold from the mines of Nubia; by sailing further and further up the river, he reached the mysterious sea which forms the southern boundary of the world. "I set sail in a vessel one hundred and fifty cubits long, forty wide, with one hundred and fifty of the best sailors in the land of Egypt, who had seen heaven and earth, and whose hearts were more resolute than those of lions. They had foretold that the wind would not be contrary, or that there would be even none at all; but a squall came upon us unexpectedly while we were in the open, and as we approached the land, the wind freshened and raised the waves to the height of eight cubits. As for me, I clung to a beam, but those who were on the vessel perished without one escaping. A wave of the sea cast me on to an island, after having spent three days alone with no other companion than my own heart. I slept there in the shade of a thicket; then I set my legs in motion in quest of something for my mouth." The island produced a quantity of delicious fruit: he satisfied his hunger with it, lighted a fire to offer a sacrifice to the gods, and immediately, by the magical power of the sacred rites, the inhabitants, who up to this time had been invisible, were revealed to his eyes. "I heard a sound like that of thunder, which I at first took to be the noise of the flood-tide in the open sea; but the trees quivered, the earth trembled. I uncovered my face, and I perceived that it was a serpent which was approaching. He was thirty cubits in length, and his wattles exceeded two cubits; his body was incrusted with gold, and his colour appeared like that of real lapis. He raised himself before me and opened his mouth; while I prostrated myself before him, he said to me: 'Who hath brought thee, who hath brought thee, little one, who hath brought thee? If thou dost not tell me immediately who brought thee to this island, I will cause thee to know thy littleness: either thou shalt faint like a woman, or thou shalt tell me something which I have not yet heard, and which I knew not before thee.' Then he took me into his mouth and carried me to his dwelling-place, and put me down without hurting me; I was safe and sound, and nothing had been taken from me." Our hero tells the serpent the story of his shipwreck, which moves him to pity and induces him to reciprocate his confidence. "Fear nothing, fear nothing, little one, let not thy countenance be sad! If thou hast come to me, it is the god who has spared thy life; it is he who has brought thee into this 'Isle of the Double,' where nothing is lacking, and which is filled with all good things. Here thou shalt pass one month after another till thou hast remained four months in this island, then shall come a vessel from thy country with mariners; thou canst depart with them to thy country, and thou shalt die in thy city. To converse rejoices the heart, he who enjoys conversation bears misfortune better; I will therefore relate to thee the history of this island." The population consisted of seventy-five serpents, all of one family: it formerly comprised also a young girl, whom a succession of misfortunes had cast on the island, and who was killed by lightning. The hero, charmed with such good nature, overwhelmed the hospitable dragon with thanks, and promised to send him numerous presents on his return home. "I will slay asses for thee in sacrifice, I will pluck birds for thee, I will send to thee vessels filled with all the riches of Egypt, meet for a god, the friend of man in a distant country unknown to men." The monster smiled, and replied that it was needless to think of sending presents to one who was the ruler of Puanit; besides, "as soon as thou hast quitted this place, thou wilt never again see this island, for it will be changed into waves." -- "And then, when the vessel appeared, according as he had predicted to me, I went and perched upon a high tree and sought to distinguish those who manned it. I next ran to tell him the news, but I found that he was already informed of its arrival, and he said to me: 'A pleasant journey home, little one; mayst thou behold thy children again, and may thy name be well spoken of in thy town; such are my wishes for thee!' He added gifts to these obliging words. I placed all these on board the vessel which had come, and prostrating myself, I adored him. He said to me: 'After two months thou shalt reach thy country, thou wilt press thy children to thy bosom, and thou shalt rest in thy sepulchre.' After that I descended the shore to the vessel, and I hailed the sailors who were in it. I gave thanks on the shore to the master of the island, as well as to those who dwelt in it." This might almost be an episode in the voyages of Sindbad the Sailor; except that the monsters which Sindbad met with in the course of his travels were not of such a kindly disposition as the Egyptian serpent: it did not occur to them to console the shipwrecked with the charm of a lengthy gossip, but they swallowed them with a healthy appetite. Putting aside entirely the marvellous element in the story, what strikes us is the frequency of the relations which it points to between Egypt and Puanit. The appearance of an Egyptian vessel excites no astonishment on its coasts: the inhabitants have already seen many such, and at such regular intervals, that they are able to predict the exact date of their arrival. The distance between the two countries, it is true, was not considerable, and a voyage of two months was sufficient to accomplish it. While the new Egypt was expanding outwards in all directions, the old country did not cease to add to its riches. The two centuries during which the XIIth dynasty continued to rule were a period of profound peace; the monuments show us the country in full possession of all its resources and its arts, and its inhabitants both cheerful and contented. More than ever do the great lords and royal officers expatiate in their epitaphs upon the strict justice which they have rendered to their vassals and subordinates, upon the kindness which they have shown to the fellahin, on the paternal solicitude with which, in the years of insufficient inundations or of bad harvests, they have striven to come forward and assist them, and upon the unheard-of disinterestedness which kept them from raising the taxes during the times of average Niles, or of unusual plenty. Gifts to the gods poured in from one end of the country to the other, and the great building works, which had been at a standstill since the end of the VIth dynasty, were recommenced simultaneously on all sides. There was much to be done in the way of repairing the ruins, of which the number had accumulated during the two preceding centuries. Not that the most audacious kings had ventured to lay their hands on the sanctuaries: they emptied the sacred treasuries, and partially confiscated their revenues, but when once their cupidity was satisfied, they respected the fabrics, and even went so far as to restore a few inscriptions, or, when needed, to replace a few stones. These magnificent buildings required careful supervision: in spite of their being constructed of the most durable materials -- sand-stone, granite, limestone, -- in spite of their enormous size, or of the strengthening of their foundations by a bed of sand and by three or four courses of carefully adjusted blocks to form a substructure, the Nile was ever threatening them, and secretly working at their destruction. Its waters, filtering through the soil, were perpetually in contact with the lower courses of these buildings, and kept the foundations of the walls and the bases of the columns constantly damp: the saltpetre which the waters had dissolved in their passage, crystallising on the limestone, would corrode and undermine everything, if precautions were not taken. When the inundation was over, the subsidence of the water which impregnated the subsoil caused in course of time settlements in the most solid foundations: the walls, disturbed by the unequal sinking of the ground, got out of the perpendicular and cracked; this shifting displaced the architraves which held the columns together, and the stone slabs which formed the roof. These disturbances, aggravated from year to year, were sufficient, if not at once remedied, to entail the fall of the portions attacked; in addition to this, the Nile, having threatened the part below with destruction, often hastened by direct attacks the work of ruin, which otherwise proceeded slowly. A breach in the embankments protecting the town or the temple allowed its waters to rush violently through, and thus to effect large gaps in the decaying walls, completing the overthrow of the columns and wrecking the entrance halls and secret chambers by the fall of the roofs. At the time when Egypt came under the rule of the XIIth dynasty there were but few cities which did not contain some ruined or dilapidated sanctuary. Amenemhait I., although fully occupied in reducing the power of the feudal lords, restored; the temples as far as he was able, and his successors pushed forward the work vigorously for nearly two centuries.
The Delta profited greatly by this activity in building. The monuments there had suffered more than anywhere else: fated to bear the first shock of foreign invasion, and transformed into fortresses while the towns in which they were situated were besieged, they have been captured again and again by assault, broken down by attacking engines, and dismantled by all the conquerors of Egypt, from the Assyrians to the Arabs and the Turks. The fellahin in their neighbourhood have for centuries come to them to obtain limestone to burn in their kilns, or to use them as a quarry for sandstone or granite for the doorways of their houses, or for the thresholds of their mosques. Not only have they been ruined, but the remains of their ruins have, as it were, melted away and almost entirely disappeared in the course of ages. And yet, wherever excavations have been made among these remains which have suffered such deplorable ill-treatment, colossi and inscriptions commemorating the Pharaohs of the XIIth dynasty have been brought to light. Amenemhait I. founded a great temple at Tanis in honour of the gods of Memphis: the vestiges of the columns still scattered on all sides show that the main body of the building was of rose granite, and a statue of the same material has preserved for us a portrait of the king. He is seated, and wears the tall head-dress of Osiris. He has a large smiling face, thick lips, a short nose, and big staring eyes: the expression is one of benevolence and gentleness, rather than of the energy and firmness which one would expect in the founder of a dynasty. The kings who were his successors all considered it a privilege to embellish the temple and to place in it some memorial of their veneration for the god. Usirtasen I., following the example of his father, set up a statue of himself in the form of Osiris: he is sitting on his throne of grey granite, and his placid face unmistakably recalls that of Amenemhait I. Amenemhait II., Usirtasen II., and his wife Nofrit have also dedicated their images within the sanctuary.
Nofrit's is of black granite: her head is almost eclipsed by the heavy Hathor wig, consisting of two enormous tresses of hair which surround the cheeks, and lie with an outward curve upon the breast; her eyes, which were formerly inlaid, have fallen out, the bronze eyelids are lost, her arms have almost disappeared. What remains of her, however, gives us none the less the impression of a young and graceful woman, with a lithe and well-proportioned body, whose outlines are delicately modelled under the tight-fitting smock worn by Egyptian women; the small and rounded breasts curve outward between the extremities of her curls and the embroidered hem of her garment; and a pectoral bearing the name of her husband lies flat upon her chest, just below the column of her throat.
[Illustration: 372.jpg THE STATUE OF NOFRIT]
Drawn by Faucher-Gudin, from a photograph by Insinger. In addition to the complete statue, the Museum at Gizeh possesses a torso from the same source. I believe I can recognize another portrait of the same queen in a beautiful statue in black granite, which has been in the Museum at Marseilles since the beginning of the present century.
These various statues have all an evident artistic relationship to the beautiful granite figures of the Ancient Empire. The sculptors who executed them belonged to the same school as those who carved Khephren out of the solid diorite: there is the same facile use of the chisel, the same indifference to the difficulties presented by the material chosen, the same finish in the detail, the same knowledge of the human form. One is almost tempted to believe that Egyptian art remained unchanged all through those long centuries, and yet as soon as a statue of the early period is placed side by side with one of the XIIth dynasty, we immediately perceive something in the one which is lacking in the other. It is a difference in feeling, even if the technique remains unmodified. It was the man himself that the sculptors desired to represent in the older Pharaohs, and however haughty may be the countenance which we admire in the Khephren, it is the human element which predominates in him. The statues of Amenemhait I. and his successors appear, on the contrary, to represent a superior race: at the time when these were produced, the Pharaoh had long been regarded as a god, and the divine nature in him had almost eliminated the human. Whether intentionally or otherwise, the sculptors idealized their model, and made him more and more resemble the type of the divinities. The head always appears to be a good likeness, but smoothed down and sometimes lacking in expression.
Not only are the marks of age rendered less apparent, and the features made to bear the stamp of perpetual youth, but the characteristics of the individual, such as the accentuation of the eyebrows, the protuberance of the cheek-bones, the projection of the under lip, are all softened down as if intentionally, and made to give way to a uniform expression of majestic tranquillity. One king only, Amenemhait III., refused to go down to posterity thus effaced, and caused his portrait to be taken as he really was. He has certainly the round full face of Amenemhait or of Usirtasen I., and there is an undeniable family likeness between him and his ancestors; but at the first glance we feel sure that the artist has not in any way flattered his model. The forehead is low and slightly retreating, narrow across the temples; his nose is aquiline, pronounced in form, and large at the tip; the thick lips are slightly closed; his mouth has a disdainful curve, and its corners are turned down as if to repress the inevitable smile common to most Egyptian statues; the chin is full and heavy, and turns up in front in spite of the weight of the false beard dependent from it; he has small narrow eyes, with full lids; his cheekbones are accentuated and projecting, the cheeks hollow, and the muscles about the nose and mouth strongly defined. The whole presents so strange an aspect, that for a long time statues of this type have been persistently looked upon as productions of an art which was only partially Egyptian. It is, indeed, possible that the Tanis sphinxes were turned out of workshops where the principles and practice of the sculptor's art had previously undergone some Asiatic influence; the bushy mane which surrounds the face, and the lion's ears emerging from it, are exclusively characteristic of the latter. The purely human statues in which we meet with the same type of countenance have no peculiarity of workmanship which could be attributed to the imitation of a foreign art. If the nameless masters to whom we owe their existence desired to bring about a reaction against the conventional technique of their contemporaries, they at least introduced no foreign innovations; the monuments of the Memphite period furnished them with all the models they could possibly wish for.
Bubastis had no less occasion than Tanis to boast of the generosity of the Theban Pharaohs. The temple of Bastit, which had been decorated by Kheops and Khephren, was still in existence: Amenemhait I., Usirtasen I., and their immediate successors confined themselves to the restoration of several chambers, and to the erection of their own statues, but Usirtasen III. added to it a new structure which must have made it rival the finest monuments in Egypt. He believed, no doubt, that he was under particular obligations to the lioness goddess of the city, and attributed to her aid, for unknown reasons, some of his successes in Nubia; it would appear that it was with the spoil of a campaign against the country of the Hua that he endowed a part of the new sanctuary.*
* The fragment found by Naville formed part of an
Nothing now remains of it except fragments of the architraves and granite columns, which have been used over again by Pharaohs of a later period when restoring or altering the fabric.
[Illustration: 376.jpg ONE OF THE TANIS SPHINXES IN THE GIZEH MUSEUM]
Drawn by Faucher-Gudin, from a photograph by Emil Brugsch- Bey, taken in 1881. The sphinx bears on its breast the cartouche of Psiukhanu, a Tanite Pharaoh of the XXIst dynasty.
A few of the columns belong to the lotiform type. The shaft is composed of eight triangular stalks rising from a bunch of leaves, symmetrically arranged, and bound together at the top by a riband, twisted thrice round the bundle; the capital is formed by the union of the eight lotus buds, surmounted by a square member on which rests the architrave. Other columns have Hathor-headed capitals, the heads being set back to back, and bearing the flat head-dress ornamented with the urous. The face of the goddess, which is somewhat flattened when seen closely on the eye-level, stands out and becomes more lifelike in proportion as the spectator recedes from it; the projection of the features has been calculated so as to produce the desired effect at the right height when seen from below. The district lying between Tanis and Bubastis is thickly studded with monuments built or embellished by the Amenemhaits and Usirtasens: wherever the pickaxe is applied, whether at Fakus or Tell-Nebesheh, remains of them are brought to light -- statues, stelae, tables of offerings, and fragments of dedicatory or historical inscriptions. While carrying on works in the temple of Phtah at Memphis, the attention of these Pharaohs was attracted to Heliopolis. The temple of Ra there was either insufficient for the exigencies of worship, or had been allowed to fall into decay. Usirtasen III. resolved, in the third year of his reign, to undertake its restoration. The occasion appears to have been celebrated as a festival by all Egypt, and the remembrance of it lasted long after the event: the somewhat detailed account of the ceremonies which then took place was copied out again at Thebes, towards the end of the XVIIIth dynasty. It describes the king mounting his throne at the meeting of his council, and receiving, as was customary, the eulogies of his "sole friends" and of the courtiers who surrounded him: "Here," says he, addressing them, "has my Majesty ordained the works which shall recall my worthy and noble acts to posterity. I raise a monument, I establish lasting decrees in favour of Harmakhis, for he has brought me into the world to do as he did, to accomplish that which he decreed should be done; he has appointed me to guide this earth, he has known it, he has called it together and he has granted me his help; I have caused the Eye which is in him to become serene, in all things acting as he would have me to do, and I have sought out that which he had resolved should be known. I am a king by birth, a suzerain not of my own making; I have governed from childhood, petitions have been presented to me when I was in the egg, I have ruled over the ways of Anubis, and he raised me up to be master of the two halves of the world, from the time when I was a nursling; I had not yet escaped from the swaddling-bands when he enthroned me as master of men; creating me himself in the sight of mortals, he made me to find favour with the Dweller in the Palace, when I was a youth.... I came forth as Horus the eloquent, and I have instituted divine oblations; I accomplish the works in the palace of my father Atumu, I supply his altar on earth with offerings, I lay the foundations of my palace in his neighbourhood, in order that the memorial of my goodness may remain in his dwelling; for this palace is my name, this lake is my monument, all that is famous or useful that I have made for the gods is eternity." The great lords testified their approbation of the king's piety; the latter summoned his chancellor and commanded him to draw up the deeds of gift and all the documents necessary for the carrying out of his wishes. "He arose, adorned with the royal circlet and with the double feather, followed by all his nobles; the chief lector of the divine book stretched the cord and fixed the stake in the ground."*
* Stehn, Urkunde uber den Bau des Sonnentempels zu On, pl. i.11.13 -- 15. The priest here performed with the king the more important of the ceremonies necessary in measuring the area of the temple, by "inserting the measuring stakes," and marking out the four sides of the building with the cord.
This temple has ceased to exist; but one of the granite obelisks raised by Usirtasen I. on each side of the principal gateway is still standing. The whole of Heliopolis has disappeared: the site where it formerly stood is now marked only by a few almost imperceptible inequalities in the soil, some crumbling lengths of walls, and here and there some scattered blocks of limestone, containing a few lines of mutilated inscriptions which can with difficulty be deciphered; the obelisk has survived even the destruction of the ruins, and to all who understand its language it still speaks of the Pharaoh who erected it.
The undertaking and successful completion of so many great structures had necessitated a renewal of the working of the ancient quarries, and the opening of fresh ones. Amenemhait I. sent Antuf, a great dignitary, chief of the prophets of Minu and prince of Koptos, to the valley of Rohanu, to seek out fine granite for making the royal sarcophagi. Amenemhait III. had, in the XLIIIrd year of his reign, been present at the opening of several fine veins of white limestone in the quarries of Turah, which probably furnished material for the buildings proceeding at Heliopolis and Memphis. Thebes had also its share of both limestone and granite, and Amon, whose sanctuary up to this time had only attained the modest proportions suited to a provincial god, at last possessed a temple which raised him to the rank of the highest feudal divinities. Amon's career had begun under difficulties: he had been merely a vassal-god of Montu, lord of Hermonthis (the Aunu of the south), who had granted to him the ownership of the village of Karnak only. The unforeseen good fortune of the Antufs was the occasion of his emerging from his obscurity: he did not dethrone Montu, but shared with him the homage of all the neighbouring villages -- Luxor, Medamut, Bayadiyeh; and, on the other side of the Nile, Gurneh and Medinet-Habu. The accession of the XIIth dynasty completed his triumph, and made him the most powerful authority in Southern Egypt. He was an earth-god, a form of Minu who reigned at Koptos, at Akhmim and in the desert, but he soon became allied to the sun, and from thenceforth he assumed the name of Amon-Ra. The title of "suton nutiru" which he added to it would alone have sufficed to prove the comparatively recent origin of his notoriety; as the latest arrival among the great gods, he employed, to express his sovereignty, this word "suton," king, which had designated the rulers of the valley ever since the union of the two Egypts under the shadowy Menes. Reigning at first alone, he became associated by marriage with a vague indefinite goddess, called Maut, or Mut, the "mother," who never adopted any more distinctive name: the divine son who completed this triad was, in early times, Montu; but in later times a being of secondary rank, chosen from among the genii appointed to watch over the days of the month or the stars, was added, under the name of Khonsu. Amenemhait laid the foundations of the temple, in which the cultus of Amon was carried on down to the latest times of paganism. The building was supported by polygonal columns of sixteen sides, some fragments of which are still existing.
[Illustration: 381.jpg THE OBELISK OF USIRTASEN I., STILL STANDING IN THE PLAIN OF HELIOPOLIS]
Drawn by Boudier, from a photograph by Insinger.
The temple was at first of only moderate dimensions, but it was built of the choicest sandstone and limestone, and decorated with exquisite bas-reliefs. Usirtasen I. enlarged it, and built a beautiful house for the high priest on the west side of the sacred lake. Luxor, Zorit, Edfu, Hierakonpolis, El-Kab, Elephantine, and Dendera,* shared between them the favour of the Pharaohs; the venerable town of Abydos became the object of their special predilection.
* Duemichen pointed out, in the masonry of the great eastern staircase of the present temple of Hathor, a stone obtained from the earlier temple, which bears the name of Amenemhait; another fragment, discovered and published by Mariette, shows that Amenemhait I. is here again referred to. The buildings erected by this monarch at Dondera must have been on a somewhat large scale, if we may judge from the size of this last fragment, which is the lintel of a door.
Its reputation for sanctity had been steadily growing from the time of the Papis: its god, Khontamentit, who was identified with Osiris, had obtained in the south a rank as high as that of the Mendesian Osiris in the north of Egypt. He was worshipped as the sovereign of the sovereigns of the dead -- he who gathered around him and welcomed in his domains the majority of the faithful of other cults. His sepulchre, or, more correctly speaking, the chapel representing his sepulchre, in which one of his relics was preserved, was here, as elsewhere, built upon the roof. Access to it was gained by a staircase leading up on the left side of the sanctuary: on the days of the passion and resurrection of Osiris solemn processions of priests and devotees slowly mounted its steps, to the chanting of funeral hymns, and above, on the terrace, away from the world of the living, and with no other witnesses than the stars of heaven, the faithful celebrated mysteriously the rites of the divine death and embalming. The "vassals of Osiris" flocked in crowds to these festivals, and took a delight in visiting, at least once during their lifetime, the city whither their souls would proceed after death, in order to present themselves at the "Mouth of the Cleft," there to embark in the "bari" of their divine master or in that of the Sun. They left behind them, "under the staircase of the great god," a sort of fictitious tomb, near the representation of the tomb of Osiris, in the shape of a stele, which immortalized the memory of their piety, and which served as a kind of hostelry for their soul, when the latter should, in course of time, repair to this rallying-place of all Osirian souls. The concourse of pilgrims was a source of wealth to the population, the priestly coffers were filled, and every year the original temple was felt to be more and more inadequate to meet the requirements of worship. Usirtasen I. desired to come to the rescue: he despatched Monthotpu, one of his great vassals, to superintend the works. The ground-plan of the portico of white limestone which preceded the entrance court may still be distinguished; this portico was supported by square pillars, and, standing against the remains of these, we see the colossi of rose granite, crowned with the Osirian head-dress, and with their feet planted on the "Nine Bows," the symbol of vanquished enemies. The best preserved of these figures represents the founder, but several others are likenesses of those of his successors who interested themselves in the temple. Monthotpu dug a well which was kept fully supplied by the infiltrations from the Nile. He enlarged and cleaned out the sacred lake upon which the priests launched the Holy Ark, on the nights of the great mysteries. The alluvial deposits of fifty centuries have not as yet wholly filled it up: it is still an irregularly shaped pond, which dries up in winter, but is again filled as soon as the inundation reaches the village of El-Kharbeh.
[Illustration: 384.jpg USIRTASEN I. OF ABYDOS]
Drawn by Faucher-Gudin, from a photograph by M. de Banville.
A few stones, corroded with saltpetre, mark here and there the lines of the landing stages, a thick grove of palms fringes its northern and southern banks, but to the west the prospect is open, and extends as far as the entrance to the gorge, through which the souls set forth in search of Paradise and the solar bark. Buffaloes now come to drink and wallow at midday where once floated the gilded "bari" of Osiris, and the murmur of bees from the neighbouring orchards alone breaks the silence of the spot which of old resounded with the rhythmical lamentations of the pilgrims.
Heracleopolis the Great, the town preferred by the earlier Theban Pharaohs as their residence in times of peace, must have been one of those which they proceeded to decorate con amore with magnificent monuments.
[Illustration: 385.jpg A PART OF THE ANCIENT SACRED LAKE OF OSIRIS NEAR THE TEMPLE OF ABYDOS]
Drawn by Boudier, from a photograph by Emil Brugsch-Bey, taken in 1884.
Unfortunately it has suffered more than any of the rest, and nothing of it is now to be seen but a few wretched remains of buildings of the Roman period, and the ruins of a barbaric colonnade on the site of a Byzantine basilica almost contemporary with the Arab conquest. Perhaps the enormous mounds which cover its site may still conceal the remains of its ancient temples. We can merely estimate their magnificence by casual allusions to them in the inscriptions.
[Illustration: 368.jpg THE SITE OF THE ANCIENT HERACLEOPOLIS]
Drawn by Boudier, from a photograph by Golenischeff
We know, for instance, that Usirtasen III. rebuilt the sanctuary of Harshafitu, and that he sent expeditions to the Wady Hammamat to quarry blocks of granite worthy of his god: but the work of this king and his successors has perished in the total ruin of the ancient town. Something at least has remained of what they did in that traditional dependency of Heracleopolis, the Fayum: the temple which they rebuilt to the god Sobku in Shodit retained its celebrity down to the time of the Caesars, not so much, perhaps, on account of the beauty of its architecture as for the unique character of the religious rites which took place there daily. The sacred lake contained a family of tame crocodiles, the image and incarnation of the god, whom the faithful fed with their offerings -- cakes, fried fish, and drinks sweetened with honey. Advantage was taken of the moment when one of these creatures, wallowing on the bank, basked contentedly in the sun: two priests opened his jaws, and a third threw in the cakes, the fried morsels, and finally the liquid. The crocodile bore all this without even winking; he swallowed down his provender, plunged into the lake, and lazily reached the opposite bank, hoping to escape for a few moments from the oppressive liberality of his devotees.
[Illustration: 387.jpg SOBKU, THE GOD OF THE FAYUM, UNDER THE FORM OF A SACRED CROCODILE]
Drawn by Faucher-Gudin, from a photograph by Emil Brugsch- Bey, taken in 1885. The original in black granite is now in the Berlin Museum. It represents one of the sacred
As soon, however, as another of these approached, he was again beset at his new post and stuffed in a similar manner. These animals were in their own way great dandies: rings of gold or enamelled terra-cotta were hung from their ears, and bracelets were soldered on to their front paws. The monuments of Shodit, if any still exist, are buried under the mounds of Medinet el-Fayum, but in the neighbourhood we meet with more than one authentic relic of the XIIth dynasty. It was Usirtasen I. who erected that curious thin granite obelisk, with a circular top, whose fragments lie forgotten on the ground near the village of Begig: a sort of basin has been hollowed out around it, which fills during the inundation, so that the monument lies in a pool of muddy water during the greater part of the year. Owing to this treatment, most of the inscriptions on it have almost disappeared, though we can still make out a series of five scenes in which the king hands offerings to several divinities. Near to Biahmu there was an old temple which had become ruinous: Amenemhait III. repaired it, and erected in front of it two of those colossal statues which the Egyptians were wont to place like sentinels at their gates, to ward off baleful influences and evil spirits.
[Illustration: 388.jpg THE REMAINS OF THE OBELISK OF BEGIG]
Drawn by Boudier, from a photograph by Golunischeff.
The colossi at Biahmu were of red sandstone, and were seated on high limestone pedestals, placed at the end of a rectangular court; the temple walls hid the lower part of the pedestals, so that the colossi appeared to tower above a great platform which sloped gently away from them on all sides. Herodotus, who saw them from a distance at the time of the inundation, believed that they crowned the summits of two pyramids rising out of the middle of a lake. Near Illahun, Queen Sovkunofriuri herself has left a few traces of her short reign.
The Fayum, by its fertility and pleasant climate, justified the preference which the Pharaohs of the XIIth dynasty bestowed upon it. On emerging from the gorges of Illahun, it opens out like a vast amphitheatre of cultivation, whose slopes descend towards the north till they reach the desolate waters of the Birket-Kerun.
[Illustration: 389.jpg THE RUINED PEDESTAL OF ONE OF THE COLOSSI OF BIAHMU]
Drawn by Faucher-Gudin, after Major Brown.
On the right and left, the amphitheatre is isolated from the surrounding mountains by two deep ravines, filled with willows, tamarisks, mimosas, and thorny acacias. Upon the high ground, lands devoted to the culture of corn, durra, and flax, alternate with groves of palms and pomegranates, vineyards and gardens of olives, the latter being almost unknown elsewhere in Egypt.
[Illustration: 390.jpg A VIEW IN THE FAYUM IN THE NEIGHBOURHOOD OF THE VILLAGE OF FIDEMIN]
Drawn by Boudier, from a photograph by Golenischeff.
The slopes are covered with cultivated fields, irregularly terraced woods, and meadows enclosed by hedges, while lofty trees, clustered in some places and thinly scattered in others, rise in billowy masses of verdure one behind the other. Shodit [Shadu] stood on a peninsula stretching out into a kind of natural reservoir, and was connected with the mainland by merely a narrow dyke; the water of the inundation flowed into this reservoir and was stored here during the autumn. Countless little rivulets escaped from it, not merely such canals and ditches as we meet with in the Nile Valley, but actual running brooks, coursing and babbling between the trees, spreading out here and there into pools of water, and in places forming little cascades like those of our own streams, but dwindling in volume as they proceeded, owing to constant drains made on them, until they were for the most part absorbed by the soil before finally reaching the lake.
[Illustration: 391.jpg THE COURT OF THE SMALL TEMPLE]
Drawn by Faucher-Gudin, from a photograph by Major Brown.
They brought down in their course part of the fertilizing earth accumulated by the inundation, and were thus instrumental in raising the level of the soil. The water of the Birkeh rose or fell according to the season of the year. It formerly occupied a much larger area than it does at present, and half of the surrounding districts was covered by it. Its northern shores, now deserted and uncultivated, then shared in the benefits of the inundation, and supplied the means of existence for a civilized population. In many places we still find the remains of villages, and walls of uncemented stone; a small temple even has escaped the general ruin, and remains almost intact in the midst of the desolation, as if to point out the furthest limit of Egyptian territory.
[Illustration: 392.jpg THE SHORES OF THE BIRKET-KERUN NEAR THE EMBOUCHURE OF THE WADY NAZLEH]
Drawn by Boudier, from a photograph by Golenischeff.
It bears no inscriptions, but the beauty of the materials of which it is composed, and the perfection of the work, lead us to attribute its construction to some prince of the XIIth dynasty. An ancient causeway runs from its entrance to what was probably at one time the original margin of the lake. The continual sinking of the level of the Birkeh has left this temple isolated on the edge of the Libyan plateau, and all life has retired from the surrounding district, and has concentrated itself on the southern shores of the lake.
[Illustration: 393.jpg THE TWO PYRAMIDS OF THE XIITH DYNASTY AT LISHT]
Drawn by Boudier, from a photograph by Emil Brugsch-Bey.
Here the banks are low and the bottom deepens almost imperceptibly. In winter the retreating waters leave exposed long patches of the shore, upon which a thin crust of snow-white salt is deposited, concealing the depths of mud and quicksands beneath. Immediately after the inundation, the lake regains in a few days the ground it had lost: it encroaches on the tamarisk bushes which fringe its banks, and the district is soon surrounded by a belt of marshy vegetation, affording cover for ducks, pelicans, wild geese, and a score of different kinds of birds which disport themselves there by the thousand. The Pharaohs, when tired of residing in cities, here found varied and refreshing scenery, an equable climate, gardens always gay with flowers, and in the thickets of the Kerun they could pursue their favourite pastimes of interminable fishing and of hunting with the boomerang.
They desired to repose after death among the scenes in which they had lived. Their tombs stretch from Heracleo-polis till they nearly meet the last pyramids of the Memphites: at Dahshur there are still two of them standing. The northern one is an immense erection of brick, placed in close proximity to the truncated pyramid, but nearer than it to the edge of the plateau, so as to overlook the valley. We might be tempted to believe that the Theban kings, in choosing a site immediately to the south of the spot where Papi II. slept in his glory, were prompted by the desire to renew the traditions of the older dynasties prior to those of the Heracleopolitans, and thus proclaim to all beholders the antiquity of their lineage. One of their residences was situated at no great distance, near Miniet Dahshur, the city of Titoui, the favourite residence of Amenemhaifc I. It was here that those royal princesses, Nofirhonit, Sonit-Sonbit, Sithathor, and Monit, his sisters, wives, and daughters, whose tombs lie opposite the northern face of the pyramid, flourished side by side with Amenemhait III.
[Illustration: 394.jpg PAINTING AT THE ENTRANCE OF THE FIFTH TOMB]
There, as of old in their harem, they slept side by side, and, in spite of robbers, their mummies have preserved the ornaments with which they were adorned, on the eve of burial, by the pious act of their lords. The art of the ancient jewellers, which we have hitherto known only from pictures on the walls of tombs or on the boards of coffins, is here exhibited in all its cunning. The ornaments comprise a wealth of gold gorgets, necklaces of agate beads or of enamelled lotus-flowers, cornelian, amethyst, and onyx scarabs. Pectorals of pierced gold-work, inlaid with flakes of vitreous paste or precious stones, bear the cartouches of Usirtasen III. and of Amenemhait II., and every one of these gems of art reveals a perfection of taste and a skilfulness of handling which are perfectly wonderful.
[Illustration: 395.jpg PECTORAL ORNAMENT OF USIRTASEN III]
Drawn by Faucher-Gudin, from a photograph by Emil Brugsch- Bey.
Their delicacy, and their freshness in spite of their antiquity, make it hard for us to realize that fifty centuries have elapsed since they were made. We are tempted to imagine that the royal ladies to whom they belonged must still be waiting within earshot, ready to reply to our summons as soon as we deign to call them; we may even anticipate the joy they will evince when these sumptuous ornaments are restored to them, and we need to glance at the worm-eaten coffins which contain their stiff and disfigured mummies to recall our imagination to the stern reality of fact. Two other pyramids, but in this case of stone, still exist further south, to the left of the village of Lisht: their casing, torn off by the fellahin, has entirely disappeared, and from a distance they appear to be merely two mounds which break the desert horizon line, rather than two buildings raised by the hand of man.
[Illustration: 396.jpg THE PYRAMID OF ILLAHUN, AT THE ENTRANCE OF THE FAiUM]
Drawn by Faucher-Gudin, from a photograph by Golenischeff.
The sepulchral chambers, excavated at a great depth in the sand, are now filled with water which has infiltrated through the soil, and they have not as yet been sufficiently emptied to permit of an entrance being effected: one of them contained the body of Usirtasen I.; does Amenemhait I. or Amenemhait II. repose in the other? We know, at all events, that Usirtasen II. built for himself the pyramid of Illahun, and Amenemhait III. that of Hawara. "Hotpu," the tomb of Usirtasen II., stood upon a rocky hill at a distance of some two thousand feet from the cultivated lands. To the east of it lay a temple, and close to the temple a town, Hait-Usirtasen-Hotpu -- "the Castle of the Repose of Usirtasen" -- which was inhabited by the workmen employed in building the pyramid, who resided there with their families. The remains of the temple consist of scarcely anything more than the enclosing wall, whose sides were originally faced with fine white limestone covered with hieroglyphs and sculptured scenes. It adjoined the wall of the town, and the neighbouring quarters are almost intact: the streets were straight, and crossed each other at right angles, while the houses on each side were so regularly built that a single policeman could keep his eye on each thoroughfare from one end to the other. The structures were of rough material hastily put together, and among the debris are to be found portions of older buildings, stehe, and fragments of statues. The town began to dwindle after the Pharaoh had taken possession of his sepulchre; it was abandoned during the XIIIth dynasty, and its ruins were entombed in the sand which the wind heaped over them. The city which Amenemhait III. had connected with his tomb maintained, on the contrary, a long existence in the course of the centuries. The king's last resting-place consisted of a large sarcophagus of quartzose sandstone, while his favourite consort, Nofriuphtah, reposed beside him in a smaller coffin. The sepulchral chapel was very large, and its arrangements were of a somewhat complicated character. It consisted of a considerable number of chambers, some tolerably large, and others of moderate dimensions, while all of them were difficult of access and plunged in perpetual darkness: this was the Egyptian Labyrinth, to which the Greeks, by a misconception, have given a world-wide renown. Amenemhait III. or his architects had no intention of building such a childish structure as that in which classical tradition so fervently believed. He had richly endowed the attendant priests, and bestowed upon the cult of his double considerable revenues, and the chambers above mentioned were so many storehouses for the safekeeping of the treasure and provisions for the dead, and the arrangement of them was not more singular than that of ordinary storage depots. As his cult persisted for a long period, the temple was maintained in good condition during a considerable time: it had not, perhaps, been abandoned when the Greeks first visited it.*
* The identity of the ruins at Hawara with the remains of the Labyrinth, admitted by Jomard-Caristie and by Lepsius, disputed by Vassali, has been definitely proved by Petrie, who found remains of the buildings erected by Amenemhait III. under the ruins of a village and some Graeco-Roman tombs.
The other sovereigns of the XIIth dynasty must have been interred not far from the tombs of Amenemhait III. and Usirtasen II.: they also had their pyramids, of which we may one day discover the site. The outline of these was almost the same as that of the Memphite pyramids, but the interior arrangements were different. As at Illahun and Dahshur, the mass of the work consisted of crude bricks of large size, between which fine sand was introduced to bind them solidly together, and the whole was covered with a facing of polished limestone. The passages and chambers are not arranged on the simple plan which we meet with in the pyramids of earlier date. Experience had taught the Pharaohs that neither granite walls nor the multiplication of barriers could preserve their mummies from profanation: no sooner was vigilance relaxed, either in the time of civil war or under a feeble administration, than robbers appeared on the scene, and boring passages through the masonry with the ingenuity of moles, they at length, after indefatigable patience, succeeded in reaching the sepulchral vault and despoiling the mummy of its valuables.
[Illustration: 399.jpg THE MOUNTAIN OF SILT WITH THE TOMBS OF THE PRINCES]
Drawn by Boudier, from a photograph by Emil Brugsch-Bey, taken in 1884.
With a view to further protection, the builders multiplied blind passages and chambers without apparent exit, but in which a portion of the ceiling was movable, and gave access to other equally mysterious rooms and corridors. Shafts sunk in the corners of the chambers and again carefully closed put the sacrilegious intruder on a false scent, for, after causing him a great loss of time and labour, they only led down to the solid rock. At the present day the water of the Nile fills the central chamber of the Hawara pyramid and covers the sarcophagus; it is possible that this was foreseen, and that the builders counted on the infiltration as an additional obstacle to depredations from without.*
* Indeed, it should be noted that in the Graeco-Roman period the presence of water in a certain number of the pyramids was a matter of common knowledge, and so frequently was it met with, that it was even supposed to exist in a pyramid into which water had never penetrated, viz. that of Kheops. Herodotus relates that, according to the testimony of the interpreters who acted as his guides, the waters of the Nile were carried to the sepulchral cavern of the Pharaoh by a subterranean channel, and shut it in on all sides, like an island.
The hardness of the cement, which fastens the lid of the stone coffin to the lower part, protects the body from damp, and the Pharaoh, lying beneath several feet of water, still defies the greed of the robber or the zeal of the archaeologist.
The absolute power of the kings kept their feudal vassals in check: far from being suppressed, however, the seignorial families continued not only to exist, but to enjoy continued prosperity. Everywhere, at Elephantine, Koptos, Thinis, in Aphroditopolis, and in most of the cities of the Said and of the Delta, there were ruling princes who were descended from the old feudal lords or even from Pharaohs of the Memphite period, and who were of equal, if not superior rank, to the members of the reigning family. The princes of Siut no longer en-joyed an authority equal to that exercised by their ancestors under the Heracleopolitan dynasties, but they still possessed considerable influence. One of them, Hapizaufi I., excavated for himself, in the reign of Usirtasen I., nor far from the burying-place of Khiti and Tefabi, that beautiful tomb, which, though partially destroyed by Coptic monks or Arabs, still attracts visitors and excites their astonishment.
[Illustration: 401.jpg MAP OF PRINCIPALITY OF THE GAZELLE]
The lords of Shashotpu in the south, and those of Hermopolis in the north, had acquired to some extent the ascendency which their neighbours of Siut had lost. The Hermopolitan princes dated at least from the time of the VIth dynasty, and they had passed safely through the troublous times which followed the death of Papi II. A branch of their family possessed the nome of the Hare, while another governed that of the Gazelle. The lords of the nome of the Hare espoused the Theban cause, and were reckoned among the most faithful vassals of the sovereigns of the south: one of them, Thothotpu, caused a statue of himself, worthy of a Pharaoh, to be erected in his loyal town of Hermopolis, and their burying-places at el-Bersheh bear witness to their power no less than to their taste in art. During the troubles which put an end to the XIth dynasty, a certain Khnumhotpu, who was connected in some unknown manner with the lords of the nome of the Gazelle, entered the Theban service and accompanied Amenemhait I. on his campaigns into Nubia. He obtained, as a reward of faithfulness, Monait-Khufui and the district of Khuit-Horu, -- "the Horizon of Horus," -- on the east bank of the Nile. On becoming possessed of the western bank also, he entrusted the government of the district which he was giving up to his eldest son, Nakhiti I.; but, the latter having died without heirs, Usirtasen I. granted to Biqit, the sister of Nakhiti, the rank and prerogative of a reigning princess. Biqit married Nuhri, one of the princes of Hermopolis, and brought with her as her dowry the fiefdom of the Gazelle, thus doubling the possessions of her husband's house. Khnumhotpu II., the eldest of the children born of this union, was, while still young, appointed Governor of Monait-Khufui, and this title appears to have become an appanage of his heir-apparent, just as the title of "Prince of Kaushu" was, from the XIXth dynasty onwards, the special designation of the heir to the throne. The marriage of Khnumhotpu II. with the youthful Khiti, the heiress of the nome of the Jackal, rendered him master of one of the most fertile provinces of Middle Egypt. The power of this family was further augmented under Nakhiti II., son of Khnumhotpu II. and Khiti: Nakhiti, prince of the nome of the Jackal in right of his mother, and lord of that of the Gazelle after the death of his father, received from Usirtasen II. the administration of fifteen southern nomes, from Aphroditopolis to Thebes. This is all we know of his history, but it is probable that his descendants retained the same power and position for several generations. The career of these dignitaries depended greatly on the Pharaohs with whom they were contemporary: they accompanied the royal troops on their campaigns, and with the spoil which they collected on such occasions they built temples or erected tombs for themselves. The tombs of the princes of the nome of the Gazelle are disposed along the right bank of the Nile, and the most ancient are exactly opposite Minieh. It is at Zawyet el-Meiyetin and at Kom-el-Ahmar, nearly facing Hibonu, their capital, that we find the burying-places of those who lived under the VIth dynasty. The custom of taking the dead across the Nile had existed for centuries, from the time when the Egyptians first cut their tombs in the eastern range; it still continues to the present day, and part of the population of Minieh are now buried, year after year, in the places which their remote ancestors had chosen as the site of their "eternal houses." The cemetery lies peacefully in the centre of the sandy plain at the foot of the hills; a grove of palms, like a curtain drawn along the river-side, partially conceals it; a Coptic convent and a few Mahommedan hermits attract around them the tombs of their respective followers, Christian or Mussulman. The rock-hewn tombs of the XIIth dynasty succeed each other in one long irregular line along the cliffs of Beni-Hasan, and the traveller on the Nile sees their entrances continuously coming into sight and disappearing as he goes up or descends the river. These tombs are entered by a square aperture, varying in height and width according to the size of the chapel. Two only, those of Amoni-Amenemhait and of Khnum-hotpu II., have a columned facade, of which all the members -- pillars, bases, entablatures -- have been cut in the solid rock: the polygonal shafts of the facade look like a bad imitation of ancient Doric. Inclined planes or nights of steps, like those at Elephantine, formerly led from the plain up to the terrace. Only a few traces of these exist at the present day, and the visitor has to climb the sandy slope as best he can: wherever he enters, the walls present to his view inscriptions of immense extent, as well as civil, sepulchral, military, and historical scenes. These are not incised like those of the Memphite mastabas, but are painted in fresco on the stone itself. The technical skill here exhibited is not a whit behind that of the older periods, and the general conception of the subjects has not altered since the time of the pyramid-building kings. The object is always the same, namely, to ensure wealth to the double in the other world, and to enable him to preserve the same rank among the departed as he enjoyed among the living: hence sowing, reaping, cattle-rearing, the exercise of different trades, the preparation and bringing of offerings, are all represented with the same minuteness as formerly. But a new element has been added to the ancient themes.
[Illustration: 405.jpg THE MODERN CEMETERY OF ZAWYET EL-MEIYETIN]
Drawn by Boudier, from a photograph by Insinger.
We know, and the experience of the past is continually reiterating the lesson, that the most careful precautions and the most conscientious observation of customs were not sufficient to perpetuate the worship of ancestors. The day was bound to come when not only the descendants of Khnumhotpu, but a crowd of curious or indifferent strangers, would visit his tomb: he desired that they should know his genealogy, his private and public virtues, his famous deeds, his court titles and dignities, the extent of his wealth; and in order that no detail should be omitted, he relates all that he did, or he gives the representation of it upon the wall. In a long account of two hundred and twenty-two lines, he gives a resume of his family history, introducing extracts from his archives, to show the favours received by his ancestors from the hands of their sovereigns. Amoni and Khiti, who were, it appears, the warriors of their race, have everywhere recounted the episodes of their military career, the movements of their troops, their hand-to-hand fights, and the fortresses to which they laid siege. These scions of the house of the Gazelle and of the Hare, who shared with Pharaoh himself the possession of the soil of Egypt, were no mere princely ciphers: they had a tenacious spirit, a warlike disposition, an insatiable desire for enlarging their borders, together with sufficient ability to realize their aims by court intrigues or advantageous marriage alliances. We can easily picture from their history what Egyptian feudalism really was, what were its component elements, what were the resources it had at its disposal, and we may well be astonished when we consider the power and tact which the Pharaohs must have displayed in keeping such vassals in check during two centuries.
Amenemhait I. had abandoned Thebes as a residence in favour of Heracleopolis and Memphis, and had made it over to some personage who probably belonged to the royal household. The nome of Uisit had relapsed into the condition of a simple fief, and if we are as yet unable to establish the series of the princes who there succeeded each other contemporaneously with the Pharaohs, we at least know that all those whose names have come down to us played an important part in the history of their times. Montunsisu, whose stele was engraved in the XXIVth year of Amenemhait I., and who died in the joint reign of this Pharaoh and his son Usirtasen I., had taken his share in most of the wars conducted against neighbouring peoples, -- the Anitiu of Nubia, the Monitu of Sinai, and the "Lords of the Sands:" he had dismantled their cities and razed their fortresses. The principality retained no doubt the same boundaries which it had acquired under the first Antufs, but Thebes itself grew daily larger, and gained in importance in proportion as its frontiers extended southward. It had become, after the conquests of Usirtasen III., the very centre of the Egyptian world -- a centre from which the power of the Pharaoh could equally well extend in a northerly direction towards the Sinaitic Peninsula and Libya, or towards the Red Sea and the "humiliated Kush" in the south. The influence of its lords increased accordingly: under Amenemhait III. and Amenemhait IV. they were perhaps the most powerful of the great vassals, and when the crown slipped from the grasp of the XIIth dynasty, it fell into the hands of one of these feudatories. It is not known how the transition was brought about which transferred the sovereignty from the elder to the younger branch of the family of Amenemhait I. When Amenemhait IV. died, his nearest heir was a woman, his sister Sovkunofriuri: she retained the supreme authority for not quite four years,* and then resigned her position to a certain Sovkhotpu.**
* She reigned exactly three years, ten months, and eighteen days, according to the fragments of the "Royal Canon of Turin" (Lepsius, Auswahl der wichtigten Urkunden, pl. v. col. vii.1.2).
** Sovkhotpu Khutouiri, according to the present published versions of the Turin Papyrus, an identification which led Lieblein (Recherches sur la Chronologie Egyptienne, pp.102, 103) and Wiedemann to reject the generally accepted assumption that this first king of the XIIIth dynasty was Sovkhotpu Sakhemkhutouiri. Still, the way in which the monuments of Sovkhotpu Sakhemkhutouiri and his papyri are intermingled with the monuments of Amenemhait III. at Semneh and in the Fayum, show that it is difficult to separate him from this monarch. Moreover, an examination of the original Turin Papyrus shows that there is a tear before the word Khutouiri on the first cartouche, no indication of which appears in the facsimile, but which has, none the less, slightly damaged the initial solar disk and removed almost the whole of one sign. We are, therefore, inclined to believe that Sakhemkhutouiri was written instead of Khutouiri, and that, therefore, all the authorities are in the right, from their different points of view, and that the founder of the XIIIth dynasty was a Sakhemkhutouiri I., while the Savkhotpu Sakhemkhutouiri, who occupies the fifteenth place in the dynasty, was a Sakhemkhutouiri II.
[Illustration: 408.jpg THE TOMBS OF PRINCES OF THE GAZELLE-NOME AT BENI-HASAN]
Drawn by Boudier, from a chromolithograph in Lepsius, Denkm., i. pl.61. The first tomb on the left, of which the portico is shown, is that of Khnumhotpu II.
Was there a revolution in the palace, or a popular rising, or a civil war? Did the queen become the wife of the new sovereign, and thus bring about the change without a struggle? Sovkhotpu was probably lord of Uisit, and the dynasty which he founded is given by the native historians as of Theban origin. His accession entailed no change in the Egyptian constitution; it merely consolidated the Theban supremacy, and gave it a recognized position. Thebes became henceforth the head of the entire country: doubtless the kings did not at once forsake Heracleopolis and the Fayum, but they made merely passing visits to these royal residences at considerable intervals, and after a few generations even these were given up. Most of these sovereigns resided and built their Pyramids at Thebes, and the administration of the kingdom became centralized there. The actual capital of a king was determined not so much by the locality from whence he ruled, as by the place where he reposed after death. Thebes was the virtual capital of Egypt from the moment that its masters fixed on it as their burying-place.
Uncertainty again shrouds the history of the country after Sovkhotpu I.: not that monuments are lacking or names of kings, but the records of the many Sovkhotpus and Nonrhotpus found in a dozen places in the valley, furnish as yet no authentic means of ascertaining in what order to classify them. The XIIIth dynasty contained, so it is said, sixty kings, who reigned for a period of over 453 years.*
* This is the number given in one of the lists of Manetho, in Muller-Didot, Fragmenta Historicorum Graecorum, vol. ii. p.565. Lepsius's theory, according to which the shepherds overran Egypt from the end of the XIIth dynasty and tolerated the existence of two vassal dynasties, the XIIIth and XIVth, was disputed and refuted by E. de Rouge as soon as it appeared; we find the theory again in the works of some contemporary Egyptologists, but the majority of those who continued to support it have since abandoned their position.
The succession did not always take place in the direct line from father to son: several times, when interrupted by default of male heirs, it was renewed without any disturbance, thanks to the transmission of royal rights to their children by princesses, even when their husbands did not belong to the reigning family. Monthotpu, the father of Sovkhotpu III., was an ordinary priest, and his name is constantly quoted by his son; but solar blood flowed in the veins of his mother, and procured for him the crown. The father of his successor, Nofirhotpu IL, did not belong to the reigning branch, or was only distantly connected with it, but his mother Kamait was the daughter of Pharaoh, and that was sufficient to make her son of royal rank. With careful investigation, we should probably find traces of several revolutions which changed the legitimate order of succession without, however, entailing a change of dynasty. The Nofirhotpus and Sovkhotpus continued both at home and abroad the work so ably begun by the Amenemhaits and the Usirtasens.
[Illustration: 410.jpg THE COLOSSAL STATUE OF KING SOVKHOTPU IN THE LOUVRE]
They devoted all their efforts to beautifying the principal towns of Egypt, and caused important works to be carried on in most of them -- at Karnak, in the great temple of Amon, at Luxor, at Bubastis, at Tanis, at Tell-Mokhdam, and in the sanctuary of Abydos. At the latter place, Khasoshushri Nofirhotpu restored to Khontamentit considerable possessions which the god had lost; Nozirri sent thither one of his officers to restore the edifice built by Usirtasen I.; Sovkumsauf II. dedicated his own statue in this temple, and private individuals, following the example set them by their sovereigns, vied with each other in their gifts of votive stehe. The pyramids of this period were of moderate size, and those princes who abandoned the custom of building them were content like Autuabri I. Horu with a modest tomb, close to the gigantic pyramids of their ancestors. In style the statues of this epoch show a certain inferiority when compared with the beautiful work of the XIIth dynasty: the proportions of the human figure are not so good, the modelling of the limbs is not so vigorous, the rendering of the features lacks individuality; the sculptors exhibit a tendency, which had been growing since the time of the Usirtasens, to represent all their sitters with the same smiling, commonplace type of countenance. There are, however, among the statues of kings and private individuals which have come down to us, a few examples of really fine treatment. The colossal statue of Sovkhotpu IV., which is now in the Louvre side by side with an ordinary-sized figure of the same Pharaoh, must have had a good effect when placed at the entrance to the temple at Tanis: his chest is thrown well forward, his head is erect, and we feel impressed by that noble dignity which the Memphite sculptors knew how to give to the bearing and features of the diorite Khephren enthroned at Gizeh. The sitting Mirmashau of Tanis lacks neither energy nor majesty, and the Sovkumsauf of Abydos, in spite of the roughness of its execution, decidedly holds its own among the other Pharaohs.
[Illustration: 414.jpg STATUE OF HARSUF IN THE VIENNA MUSEUM]
Drawn by Boudier, from a photograph by Ernest de Bergmann. From Dahshur, now at Gizeh; it has been published in Morgan's Dahshur.
The statuettes found in the tombs, and the smaller objects discovered in the ruins, are neither less carefully nor less successfully treated. The little scribe at Gizeh, in the attitude of walking, is a chef d'oeuvre of delicacy and grace, and might be attributed to one of the best schools of the XIIth dynasty, did not the inscriptions oblige us to relegate it to the Theban art of the XIIIth. The heavy and commonplace figure of the magnate now in the Vienna Museum is treated with a rather coarse realism, but exhibits nevertheless most skilful tooling. It is not exclusively at Thebes, or at Tanis, or in any of the other great cities of Egypt, that we meet with excellent examples of work, or that we can prove that flourishing schools of sculpture existed at this period; probably there is scarcely any small town which would not furnish us at the present day, if careful excavation were carried out, with some monument or object worthy of being placed in a museum. During the XIIIth dynasty both art and everything else in Egypt were fairly prosperous. Nothing attained a very high standard, but, on the other hand, nothing fell below a certain level of respectable mediocrity. Wealth exercised, however, an injurious influence upon artistic taste. The funerary statue, for instance, which Autuabri I. Horu ordered for himself was of ebony, and seems to have been inlaid originally with gold, whereas Kheops and Khephren were content to have theirs of alabaster and diorite.
[Illustration: 415.jpg STATUE OF SOVKHOTPU III.]
Drawn by Boudier, from the sketch by Lepsius; the head was "quite mutilated and separated from the bust."
During this dynasty we hear nothing of the inhabitants of the Sinaitic Peninsula to the east, or of the Libyans to the west: it was in the south, in Ethiopia, that the Pharaohs expended all their surplus energy. The most important of them, Sovkhotpu I., had continued to register the height of the Nile on the rocks of Semneh, but after his time we are unable to say where the Nilometer was moved to, nor, indeed, who displaced it. The middle basin of the river as far as Gebel-Barkal was soon incorporated with Egypt, and the population became quickly assimilated. The colonization of the larger islands of Say and Argo took place first, as their isolation protected them from sudden attacks: certain princes of the XIIIth dynasty built temples there, and erected their statues within them, just as they would have done in any of the most peaceful districts of the Said or the Delta. Argo is still at the present day one of the largest of these Nubian islands:* it is said to be 12 miles in length, and about 2 1/2 in width towards the middle.
* The description of Argo and its ruins is borrowed from Caillaud, Voyage a Meroe, vol. ii. pp.1-7.
It is partly wooded, and vegetation grows there with tropical luxuriance; creeping plants climb from tree to tree, and form an almost impenetrable undergrowth, which swarms with game secure from the sportsman. A score of villages are dotted about in the clearings, and are surrounded by carefully cultivated fields, in which durra predominates. An unknown Pharaoh of the XIIIth dynasty built, near to the principal village, a temple of considerable size; it covered an area, whose limits may still easily be traced, of 174 feet wide by 292 long from east to west. The main body of the building was of sandstone, probably brought from the quarries of Tombos: it has been pitilessly destroyed piecemeal by the inhabitants, and only a few insignificant fragments, on which some lines of hieroglyphs may still be deciphered, remain in situ. A small statue of black granite of good workmanship is still standing in the midst of the ruins. It represents Sovkhotpu III. sitting, with his hands resting on his knees; the head, which has been mutilated, lies beside the body.
[Illustration: 417.jpg ONE OF THE OVERTURNED AND BROKEN STATUES OF MIRMASIIAU AT TANIS]
Drawn by Boudier, from the photograph in Rouge-Banville's Album photographique de la Mission de M. de Bouge, No.114.
The same king erected colossal statues of himself at Tanis, Bubastis, and at Thebes: he was undisputed master of the whole Nile Valley, from near the spot where the river receives its last tributary to where it empties itself into the sea. The making of Egypt was finally accomplished in his time, and if all its component parts were not as yet equally prosperous, the bond which connected them was strong enough to resist any attempt to break it, whether by civil discord within or invasions from without. The country was not free from revolutions, and if we have no authority for stating that they were the cause of the downfall of the XIIIth dynasty, the lists of Manetho at least show that after that event the centre of Egyptian power was again shifted. Thebes lost its supremacy, and the preponderating influence passed into the hands of sovereigns who were natives of the Delta. Xois, situated in the midst of the marshes, between the Phatnitic and Sebennytic branches of the Nile, was one of those very ancient cities which had played but an insignificant part in shaping the destinies of the country. By what combination of circumstances its princes succeeded in raising themselves to the throne of the Pharaohs, we know not: they numbered, so it was said, seventy-five kings, who reigned four hundred and eighty-four years, and whose mutilated names darken the pages of the Turin Papyrus. The majority of them did little more than appear upon the throne, some reigning three years, others two, others a year or scarcely more than a few months: far from being a regularly constituted line of sovereigns, they appear rather to have been a series of Pretenders, mutually jealous of and deposing one another.
The feudal lords who had been so powerful under the Usirtasens had lost none of their prestige under the Sovkhotpus: and the rivalries of usurpers of this kind, who seized the crown without being strong enough to keep it, may perhaps explain the long sequence of shadowy Pharaohs with curtailed reigns who constitute the XIVth dynasty. They did not withdraw from Nubia, of that fact we are certain: but what did they achieve in the north and north-east of the empire? The nomad tribes were showing signs of restlessness on the frontier, the peoples of the Tigris and Euphrates were already pushing the vanguards of their armies into Central Syria. While Egypt had been bringing the valley of the Nile and the eastern corner of Africa into subjection, Chaldaea had imposed both her language and her laws upon the whole of that part of Western Asia which separated her from Egypt: the time was approaching when these two great civilized powers of the ancient world would meet each other face to face and come into fierce collision.
END OF VOL. II.