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ART. I.-ANCIENT EGYPT UNDER THE
Ancient Egypt under the Pharaohs. By John Kenrick, M.A.
Egypt has been, from the days of Herodotus to the present, regarded as a country of marvels, and frequented by curious travellers from every nation. The Greek and Roman visited it to contemplate the remains of a greatness as much anterior to theirs, as theirs is to our own. It was to them what Greece and Italy are to us, the resort of the tourist and the scholar. Greek and Roman have long passed away, but Egypt remains with its temples and pyramids not yet overthrown, and its hieroglyphics still sharp and fresh; and, strange as it may seem, the modern English party who hire their kandja on the Nile for a pleasure-trip to the second Cataract, go to view the very same objects which attracted the tourists of two thousand years ago; to gaze at the same ruins, or read the same inscriptions which the cicerone-priest interpreted to Germanicus, or wonder with Adrian or Strabo, how the colossal Memnon could greet so musically the rising sun. Nor is it the ruins alone which give to this remarkable land its interest and charm. Its singular physical features; its wondrous river, to which it owes not only its fertility, but its very soil; its mysterious wisdom, which once drew
CHRISTIAN TEACHER.—No. 51.
to its seats of learning Solon and Pythagoras and Plato; its history, decyphered sufficiently to show that it was the seat of the most ancient known civilization of our race; all these things have imparted, and will continue to impart, unusual interest to the ancient people of the valley of the Nile.
Till within the last half century, however, the treasures of Egyptian antiquity have been in great measure mute and meaningless to the student and the historian: though the monuments were covered with records, no one was found who could read them. It was not till the commencement of the present century, when the French expedition lent to the solution of the Egyptian problem the
arely allied troops of Science and War, that the key to the sacred character was found. Since that time, the researches of both individual travellers and national expeditions have been constantly adding to the stock of materials. Philologers too and antiquaries have applied themselves with vigour to the work of arrangement, comparison and induction, and that with so much success, that the “stoneengraved words” which had been as a sealed book for at least twenty centuries, may now be considered as open for our perusal. Still, the knowledge drawn from them has been accessible to a very small number even of the educated. Spread over numerous and often expensive works of travels or antiquities, or scattered through transactions of learned societies or isolated private communications, the newly recovered lore of Egypt has been almost confined to those who have chosen it as their special study. Little had been done, except in the works of Sir G. Wilkinson, and the Chevalier Bunsen, to present a general view of the subject; and of these, admirable as they both are, the former is principally descriptive, the latter philological, and addressed rather to the learned than the general reader. Mr. Kenrick's object in the work before us has been to supply this important want, by reviewing the progress of Egyptian discovery, and presenting in a clear, concise and untechnical form, an account of its results. It is matter of no small congratulation that a task demanding so many difficult and various qualifications, should have been undertaken by one so eminent both in classical and Egyptian scholarship, as the editor of the Egypt of Herodotus is known to be, and who unites to great attainments, the scarcely less important requisites of a sound and cautious judgment, and a style unsurpassed in elegance and clearness. We feel that we are in the hands a guide, who will have weighed in the balance every statement that he makes, and having no favourite theory of his own to support, will convey to us with impartiality those conclusions, and those only, which the evidence has warranted.
The work is divided into two main parts, the Description, occupying the first volume and a small part of the second; and the History. The Description embraces not only the physical features and remaining monuments of the country, but its climate, productions and inhabitants, with their manners and customs, theology, philosophy and laws; giving on each of these subjects the best and latest information. Nor is it, as, from the mass of materials which must have been elaborated, might well have been expected, a dry abstract or abridgment of the statements of others. It has the vigour and freshness of originality. We confess to having been surprised at the attractiveness with which the author has invested the product of so much labour and erudition. Not having ourselves made Egyptian antiquity our special study, and judging from the impression which an attempt to peruse Bunsen's work had made upon us, as well as from the known learning of our author, we began the work with the certainty that we should find in it most valuable instruction indeed, and in this we were not disappointed, but we did not expect to be particularly charmed or interested; in this, therefore, we were most agreeably surprised, and we think that our experience in this respect will be that of very many eaders.
Mr. Kenrick naturally begins his description by an account of the valley of the Nile itself. He thus speaks of the remarkable relation between the river and the country.
“ The geography and history of every country are closely connected with the origin and course of its rivers. In cold and humid climates like our own, their neighbourhood may have been avoided by the early inhabitants, who found more healthy abodes on the open sides of the hills. But in the East, where many months succeed each other without any supply of rain, the vicinity of a peren
nial stream the first condition of a settled and civilized life. The history of the world begins on the banks of the great rivers of China, India, Assyria and Egypt. The Nile, however, holds a far more important relation to the country through which it flows than any
other river of the world. The courses of the Rhine, the Danube, or the Rhone, are only lines on the surface of Germany or France; the valleys of the Euphrates and the Tigris were a very small part of the dominions of the Assyrian and Babylonian kings; but the banks of the Nile are Egypt and Nubia. To live below the Cataracts, and to drink of its waters, was, according to the Oracle of Ammon, to be an Egyptian. Upwards or downwards, it is through the valley of the Nile that civilization and conquest have taken their course. We should, therefore, naturally begin by tracing it from its origin to the Sea. But this is still impracticable. The Mesopotamian rivers have been followed to their sources, amidst the mountains of Armenia and Kurdistan ; the traveller has even penetrated to the place where the Ganges bursts forth from the everlasting snows of the Himalaya; but the sacred river of Egypt still conceals its true fountains. The question which Herodotus asked of the priests of Egypt, and Alexander of the Oracle of Ammon; which learned curiosity has so often addressed to geographical science, has been only partially answered. We must, therefore, begin our survey from the confluence of the two tributaries, whose united stream has been known in all ages as THE NILE.”
From the junction then of the Blue and the White Nile at Kartoum, the description of the river properly begins. Even were it better known than it is above this point, it formed no part of either ancient or modern Egypt. Our author, accordingly, was not called upon to enter at any length into the question of its sources. He contents himself with sketching briefly but clearly, the story of the progressive steps towards the solution of that most singular geographical problem, the discovery of the origin of the stream, which, though it has nurtured on its banks the earliest civilization of our race, has veiled its sources from the researches even of the latest.
Following the downward course of the river, our attention is drawn both to the features of the country through which it flows, and to the successive monuments upon its banks. A detailed account of these was of course inadmissible; both from the space it would have occupied, and from the necessary insufficiency of all verbal description to convey any just idea of the forms or the effects of archi