Drawn by Faucher-Gudin. The coffin is in the British Museum. The drawing of it was published by Vyse, by Birch-Lenormant, and by Lepsius. Herr Sethe has recently revived an ancient hypothesis, according to which it had been reworked in the Saite period, and he has added to archaeological considerations, up to that time alone brought to bear upon the question, new philological facts.
Mykerinos was not, it appears, the eldest son and appointed heir of Khephren; while still a mere prince he was preparing for himself a pyramid similar to those which lie near the "Horizon," when the deaths of his father and brother called him to the throne. What was sufficient for him as a child, was no longer suitable for him as a Pharaoh; the mass of the structure was increased to its present dimensions, and a new inclined passage was effected in it, at the end of which a hall panelled with granite gave access to a kind of antechamber.* The latter communicated by a horizontal corridor with the first vault, which was deepened for the occasion; the old entrance, now no longer of use, was roughly filled up.**
* Vyse discovered here fragments of a granite sarcophagus, perhaps that of the queen; the legends which Herodotus (ii. 134, 135), and several Greek authors after him, tell concerning this, show clearly that an ancient tradition assumed the existence of a female mummy in the third pyramid alongside of that of the founder Mykerinos.
** Vyse has noticed, in regard to the details of the structure, that the passage now filled up is the only one driven from the outside to the interior; all the others were made from the inside to the outside, and consequently at a period when this passage, being the only means of penetrating into the interior of the monument, had not yet received its present dimensions.
Mykerinos did not find his last resting-place in this upper level of the interior of the pyramid: a narrow passage, hidden behind the slabbing of the second chamber, descended into a secret crypt, lined with granite and covered with a barrel-vaulted roof. The sarcophagus was a single block of blue-black basalt, polished, and carved into the form of a house, with a facade having three doors and three openings in the form of windows, the whole framed in a rounded moulding and surmounted by a projecting cornice such as we are accustomed to see on the temples.*
* It was lost off the coast of Spain in the vessel which was bringing it to England. We have only the drawing remaining which was made at the time of its discovery, and published by Vyse. M. Borchardt has attempted to show that it was reworked under the XXVIth Saite dynasty as well as the wooden coffin of the king.
The mummy-case of cedar-wood had a man's head, and was shaped to the form of the human body; it was neither painted nor gilt, but an inscription in two columns, cut on its front, contained the name of the Pharaoh, and a prayer on his behalf: "Osiris, King of the two Egypts, Menkauri, living eternally, given birth to by heaven, conceived by Nuit, flesh of Sibii, thy mother Nuit has spread herself out over thee in her name of 'Mystery of the Heavens,' and she has granted that thou shouldest be a god, and that thou shouldest repulse thine enemies, O King of the two Egypts, Menkauri, living eternally." The Arabs opened the mummy to see if it contained any precious jewels, but found within it only some leaves of gold, probably a mask or a pectoral covered with hieroglyphs. When Vyse reopened the vault in 1837, the bones lay scattered about in confusion on the dusty floor, mingled with bundles of dirty rags and wrappings of yellowish woollen cloth.
The worship of the three great pyramid-building kings continued in Memphis down to the time of the Greeks and Romans. Their statues, in granite, limestone, and alabaster, were preserved also in the buildings annexed to the temple of Phtah, where visitors could contemplate these Pharaohs as they were when alive.
Drawn by Faucher-Gudin, from a chromolithograph in Prisse D'Avennes, Histoire de l'Art Egyptien.
Those of Khephren show us the king at different ages, when young, mature, or already in his decadence. They are in most cases cut out of a breccia of green diorite, with long irregular yellowish veins, and of such hardness that it is difficult to determine the tool with which they were worked. The Pharaoh sits squarely on his royal throne, his hands on his lap, his body firm and upright, and his head thrown back with a look of self-satisfaction. A sparrow-hawk perched on the back of his seat covers his head with its wings—an image of the god Horus protecting his son. The modelling of the torso and legs of the largest of these statues, the dignity of its pose, and the animation of its expression, make of it a unique work of art which may be compared with the most perfect products of antiquity. Even if the cartouches which tell us the name of the king had been hammered away and the insignia of his rank destroyed, we should still be able to determine the Pharaoh by his bearing: his whole appearance indicates a man accustomed from his infancy to feel himself invested with limitless authority. Mykerinos stands out less impassive and haughty: he does not appear so far removed from humanity as his predecessor, and the expression of his countenance agrees, somewhat singularly, with the account of his piety and good nature preserved by the legends. The Egyptians of the Theban dynasties, when comparing the two great pyramids with the third, imagined that the disproportion in their size corresponded with a difference of character between their royal occupants. Accustomed as they were from infancy to gigantic structures, they did not experience before "the Horizon" and "the Great" the feeling of wonder and awe which impresses the beholder of to-day. They were not the less apt on this account to estimate the amount of labour and effort required to complete them from top to bottom. This labour seemed to them to surpass the most excessive corvee which a just ruler had a right to impose upon his subjects, and the reputation of Kheops and Khephren suffered much in consequence. They were accused of sacrilege, of cruelty, and profligacy.
Drawn by Boudier, from a photograph by Emil Brugsch-Bey. It is one of the most complete statues found by Mariette in the temple of the Sphinx.
It was urged against them that they had arrested the whole life of their people for more than a century for the erection of their tombs. Kheops began by closing the temples and by prohibiting the offering of sacrifices: he then compelled all the Egyptians to work for him. To some he assigned the task of dragging the blocks from the quarries of the Arabian chain to the Nile: once shipped, the duty was incumbent on others of transporting them as far as the Libyan chain. A hundred thousand men worked at a time, and were relieved every three months.*
* Professor Petrie thinks that this detail rests upon an authentic tradition. The inundation, he says, lasts three months, during which the mass of the people have nothing to do; it was during these three months that Kheops raised the 100,000 men to work at the transport of the stone. The explanation is very ingenious, but it is not supported by the text: Herodotus does not relate that 100,000 men were called by the corvee for three months every year; but from three months to three months, possibly four times a year, bodies of 100,000 men relieved each other at the work. The figures which he quotes are well-known legendary numbers, and we must leave the responsibility for them to the popular imagination (Wiedemann, Herodots Zweites Buck, p. 465).
The period of the people's suffering was divided as follows: ten years in making the causeway along which the blocks were dragged—a work, in my opinion, very little less onerous than that of erecting the pyramid, for its length was five stadia, its breadth ten orgyio, its greatest height eight, and it was made of cut stone and covered with figures.* Ten years, therefore, were consumed in constructing this causeway and the subterranean chambers hollowed out in the hill.... As for the pyramid itself, twenty years were employed in the making of it.... There are recorded on it, in Egyptian characters, the value of the sums paid in turnips, onions, and garlic, for the labourers attached to the works; if I remember aright, the interpreter who deciphered the inscription told me that the total amounted to sixteen hundred talents of silver. If this were the case, how much must have been expended for iron to make tools, and for provisions and clothing for the workmen?**
* Diodorus Siculus declares that there were no causeways to be seen in his time. The remains of one of them appear to have been discovered and restored by Vyse.
** Herodotus, ii. 124, 125. The inscriptions which were read upon the pyramids were the graffiti of visitors, some of them carefully executed. The figures which were shown to Herodotus represented, according to the dragoman, the value of the sums expended for vegetables for the workmen; we ought, probably, to regard them as the thousands which, in many of the votive temples, served to mark the quantities of different things presented to the god, that they might be transmitted to the deceased.
The whole resources of the royal treasure were not sufficient for such necessaries: a tradition represents Kheops as at the end of his means, and as selling his daughter to any one that offered, in order to procure money.* Another legend, less disrespectful to the royal dignity and to paternal authority, assures us that he repented in his old age, and that he wrote a sacred book much esteemed by the devout.**
* Herodotus, ii. 126. She had profited by what she received to build a pyramid for herself in the neighbourhood of the great one—the middle one of the three small pyramids: it would appear in fact, that this pyramid contained the mummy of a daughter of Kheops, Honitsonu.
** Manetho, Unger's edition, p. 91. The ascription of a book to Kheops, or rather the account of the discovery of a "sacred book" under Kheops, is quite in conformity with Egyptian ideas. The British Museum possesses two books, which were thus discovered under this king; the one, a medical treatise, in a temple at Coptos; the other comes from Tanis. Among the works on alchemy published by M. Berthelot, there are two small treatises ascribed to Sophe, possibly Souphis or Kheops: they are of the same kind as the book mentioned by Manetho, and which Syncellus says was bought in Egypt.
Khephren had imitated, and thus shared with, him, the hatred of posterity. The Egyptians avoided naming these wretches: their work was attributed to a shepherd called Philitis, who in ancient times pastured his flocks in the mountain; and even those who did not refuse to them the glory of having built the most enormous sepulchres in the world, related that they had not the satisfaction of reposing in them after their death. The people, exasperated at the tyranny to which they had been subject, swore that they would tear the bodies of these Pharaohs from their tombs, and scatter their fragments to the winds: they had to be buried in crypts so securely placed that no one has succeeded in finding them.
Like the two older pyramids, "the Supreme" had its anecdotal history, in which the Egyptians gave free rein to their imagination. We know that its plan had been rearranged in the course of building, that it contained two sepulchral chambers, two sarcophagi, and two mummies: these modifications, it was said, belonged to two distinct reigns; for Mykerinos had left his tomb unfinished, and a woman had finished it at a later date—according to some, Nitokris, the last queen of the VIth dynasty; according to others, Rhodopis, the Ionian who was the mistress of Psammetichus I. or of Ainasis.*
* Zoega had already recognized that the Rhodopis of the Greeks was no other than the Nitokris of Manetho, and his opinion was adopted and developed by Bunsen. The legend of Rhodopis was completed by the additional ascription to the ancient Egyptian queen of the character of a courtesan: this repugnant trait seems to have been borrowed from the same class of legends as that which concerned itself with the daughter of Kheops and her pyramid. The narrative thus developed was in a similar manner confounded with another popular story, in which occurs the episode of the slipper, so well known from the tale of Cinderella. Herodotus connects Rhodopis with his Amasis, AElian with King Psammetichus of the XXVIth dynasty.
The beauty and richness of the granite casing dazzled all eyes, and induced many visitors to prefer the least of the pyramids to its two imposing sisters; its comparatively small size is excused on the ground that its founder had returned to that moderation and piety which ought to characterize a good king. "The actions of his father were not pleasing to him; he reopened the temples and sent the people, reduced to the extreme of misery, back to their religious observances and their occupations; finally, he administered justice more equitably than all other kings. On this head he is praised above those who have at any time reigned in Egypt: for not only did he administer good justice, but if any one complained of his decision he gratified him with some present in order to appease his wrath." There was one point, however, which excited the anxiety of many in a country where the mystic virtue of numbers was an article of faith: in order that the laws of celestial arithmetic should be observed in the construction of the pyramids, it was necessary that three of them should be of the same size. The anomaly of a third pyramid out of proportion to the two others could be explained only on the hypothesis that Mykerinos, having broken with paternal usage, had ignorantly infringed a decree of destiny—a deed for which he was mercilessly punished. He first lost his only daughter; a short time after he learned from an oracle that he had only six more years to remain upon the earth. He enclosed the corpse of his child in a hollow wooden heifer, which he sent to Sais, where it was honoured with divine worship.*
* Herodotus, ii. 129-133. The manner in which Herodotus describes the cow which was shown to him in the temple of Sais, proves that he was dealing with Nit, in animal form, Mihi-uirit, the great celestial heifer who had given birth to the Sun. How the people could have attached to this statue the legend of a daughter of Mykerinos is now difficult to understand. The idea of a mummy or a corpse shut up in a statue, or in a coffin, was familiar to the Egyptians: two of the queens interred at Deir el-Bahari, Nofritari Ahhotpu II., were found hidden in the centre of immense Osirian figures of wood, covered with stuccoed fabric. Egyptian tradition supposed that the bodies of the gods rested upon the earth. The cow Mihi-uirit might, therefore, be bodily enclosed in a sarcophagus in the form of a heifer, just as the mummified gazelle of Deir el-Bahari is enclosed in a sarcophagus of gazelle form; it is even possible that the statue shown to Herodotus really contained what was thought to be a mummy of the goddess.
"He then communicated his reproaches to the god, complaining that his father and his uncle, after having closed the temples, forgotten the gods and oppressed mankind, had enjoyed a long life, while he, devout as he was, was so soon about to perish. The oracle answered that it was for this very reason that his days were shortened, for he had not done that which he ought to have done. Egypt had to suffer for a hundred and fifty years, and the two kings his predecessors had known this, while he had not. On receiving this answer, Mykerinos, feeling himself condemned, manufactured a number of lamps, lit them every evening at dusk, began to drink and to lead a life of jollity, without ceasing for a moment night and day, wandering by the lakes and in the woods wherever he thought to find an occasion of pleasure. He had planned this in order to convince the oracle of having spoken falsely, and to live twelve years, the nights counting as so many days." Legend places after him Asychis or Sasychis, a later builder of pyramids, but of a different kind. The latter preferred brick as a building material, except in one place, where he introduced a stone bearing the following inscription: "Do not despise me on account of the stone pyramids: I surpass them as much as Zeus the other gods. Because, a pole being plunged into a lake and the clay which stuck to it being collected, the brick out of which I was constructed was moulded from it." The virtues of Asychis and Mykerinos helped to counteract the bad impression which Kheops and Khephren had left behind them. Among the five legislators of Egypt Asychis stood out as one of the best. He regulated, to minute details, the ceremonies of worship. He invented geometry and the art of observing the heavens.*
* Diodorus, i. 94. It seems probable that Diodorus had received knowledge from some Alexandrian writer, now lost, of traditions concerning the legislative acts of Shashanqu I. of the XXIInd dynasty; but the name of the king, commonly written Sesonkhis, had been corrupted by the dragoman into Sasykhis.
He put forth a law on lending, in which he authorized the borrower to pledge in forfeit the mummy of his father, while the creditor had the right of treating as his own the tomb of the debtor: so that if the debt was not met, the latter could not obtain a last resting-place for himself or his family either in his paternal or any other tomb.
History knows nothing either of this judicious sovereign or of many other Pharaohs of the same type, which the dragomans of the Greek period assiduously enforced upon the respectful attention of travellers. It merely affirms that the example given by Kheops, Khephren, and Mykerinos were by no means lost in later times. From the beginning of the IVth to the end of the XIVth dynasty—during more than fifteen hundred years—the construction of pyramids was a common State affair, provided for by the administration, secured by special services. Not only did the Pharaohs build them for themselves, but the princes and princesses belonging to the family of the Pharaohs constructed theirs, each one according to his resources; three of these secondary mausoleums are ranged opposite the eastern side of "the Horizon," three opposite the southern face of "the Supreme," and everywhere else—near Abousir, at Saqqara, at Dahshur or in the Fayum—the majority of the royal pyramids attracted around them a more or less numerous cortege of pyramids of princely foundation often debased in shape and faulty in proportion. The materials for them were brought from the Arabian chain. A spur of the latter, projecting in a straight line towards the Nile, as far as the village of Troiu, is nothing but a mass of the finest and whitest limestone. The Egyptians had quarries here from the earliest times. By cutting off the stone in every direction, they lowered the point of this spur for a depth of some hundreds of metres. The appearance of these quarries is almost as astonishing as that of the monuments made out of their material. The extraction of the stone was carried on with a skill and regularity which denoted ages of experience. The tunnels were so made as to exhaust the finest and whitest seams without waste, and the chambers were of an enormous extent; the walls were dressed, the pillars and roofs neatly finished, the passages and doorways made of a regular width, so that the whole presented more the appearance of a subterranean temple than of a place for the extraction of building materials.*
* The description of the quarries of Turah, as they were at the beginning of the century, was somewhat briefly given by Jomard, afterwards more completely by Perring. During the last thirty years the Cairo masons have destroyed the greater part of the ancient remains formerly existing in this district, and have completely changed the appearance of the place.
Hastily written graffiti, in red and black ink, preserve the names of workmen, overseers, and engineers, who had laboured here at certain dates, calculations of pay or rations, diagrams of interesting details, as well as capitals and shafts of columns, which were shaped out on the spot to reduce their weight for transport. Here and there true official stelas are to be found set apart in a suitable place, recording that after a long interruption such or such an illustrious sovereign had resumed the excavations, and opened fresh chambers. Alabaster was met with not far from here in the Wady Gerraui. The Pharaohs of very early times established a regular colony here, in the very middle of the desert, to cut the material into small blocks for transport: a strongly built dam, thrown across the valley, served to store up the winter and spring rains, and formed a pond whence the workers could always supply themselves with water. Kheops and his successors drew their alabaster from Hatnubu, in the neighbourhood of Hermopolis, their granite from Syene, their diorite and other hard rocks, the favourite material for their sarcophagi, from the volcanic valleys which separate the Nile from the Red Sea—especially from the Wady Hammamat. As these were the only materials of which the quantity required could not be determined in advance, and which had to be brought from a distance, every king was accustomed to send the principal persons of his court to the quarries of Upper Egypt, and the rapidity with which they brought back the stone constituted a high claim on the favour of their master. If the building was to be of brick, the bricks were made on the spot, in the plain at the foot of the hills. If it was to be a limestone structure, the neighbouring parts of the plateau furnished the rough material in abundance. For the construction of chambers and for casing walls, the rose granite of Elephantine and the limestone of Troiu were commonly employed, but they were spared the labour of procuring these specially for the occasion. The city of the White Wall had always at hand a supply of them in its stores, and they might be drawn upon freely for public buildings, and consequently for the royal tomb. The blocks chosen from this reserve, and conveyed in boats close under the mountain-side, were drawn up slightly inclined causeways by oxen to the place selected by the architect.
The internal arrangements, the length of the passages and the height of the pyramids, varied much: the least of them had a height of some thirty-three feet merely. As it is difficult to determine the motives which influenced the Pharaohs in building them of different sizes, some writers have thought that the mass of each increased in proportion to the time bestowed upon its construction—that is to say, to the length of each reign. As soon as a prince mounted the throne, he would probably begin by roughly sketching out a pyramid sufficiently capacious to contain the essential elements of the tomb; he would then, from year to year, have added fresh layers to the original nucleus, until the day of his death put an end for ever to the growth of the monument.*
* This was the theory formulated by Lepsius, after the researches made by himself, and the work done by Erbkam, and the majority of Egyptologists adopted it, and still maintain it. It was vigorously attacked by Perrot-Chipiez and by Petrie; it was afterwards revived, with amendments, by Borchardt whose conclusions have been accepted by Ed. Meyer. The examinations which I have had the opportunity of bestowing on the pyramids of Saqqara, Abusir, Dahshur, Rigah, and Lisht have shown me that the theory is not applicable to any of these monuments.
This hypothesis is not borne out by facts: such a small pyramid as that of Saqqara belonged to a Pharaoh who reigned thirty years, while "the Horizon" of Gizeh is the work of Kheops, whose rule lasted only twenty-three years.
The plan of each pyramid was arranged once for all by the architect, according to the instructions he had received, and the resources at his command. Once set on foot, the work was continued until its completion, without addition or diminution, unless something unforeseen occurred. The pyramids, like the mastabas, ought to present their faces to the four cardinal points; but owing to unskilfulness or negligence, the majority of them are not very accurately orientated, and several of them vary sensibly from the true north. The great pyramid of Saqqara does not describe a perfect square at its base, but is an oblong rectangle, with its longest sides east and west; it is stepped—that is to say, the six sloping sided cubes of which it is composed are placed upon one another so as to form a series of treads and risers, the former being about two yards wide and the latter of unequal heights. The highest of the stone pyramids of Dahshur makes at its lower part an angle of 54 deg. 41' with the horizon, but at half its height the angle becomes suddenly more acute and is reduced to 42 deg. 59'. It reminds one of a mastaba with a sort of huge attic on the top. Each of these monuments had its enclosing wall, its chapel and its college of priests, who performed there for ages sacred rites in honour of the deceased prince, while its property in mortmain was administered by the chief of the "priests of the double." Each one received a name, such as "the Fresh," "the Beautiful," "the Divine in its places," which conferred upon it a personality and, as it were, a living soul. These pyramids formed to the west of the White Wall a long serrated line whose extremities were lost towards the south and north in the distant horizon: Pharaoh could see them from the terraces of his palace, from the gardens of his villa, and from every point in the plain in which he might reside between Heliopolis and Medum—as a constant reminder of the lot which awaited him in spite of his divine origin. The people, awed and inspired by the number of them, and by the variety of their form and appearance, were accustomed to tell stories of them to one another, in which the supernatural played a predominant part. They were able to estimate within a few ounces the heaps of gold and silver, the jewels and precious stones, which adorned the royal mummies or rilled the sepulchral chambers: they were acquainted with every precaution taken by the architects to ensure the safety of all these riches from robbers, and were convinced that magic had added to such safeguards the more effective protection of talismans and genii. There was no pyramid so insignificant that it had not its mysterious protectors, associated with some amulet—in most cases with a statue, animated by the double of the founder. The Arabs of to-day are still well acquainted with these protectors, and possess a traditional respect for them. The great pyramid concealed a black and white image, seated on a throne and invested with the kingly sceptre. He who looked upon the statue "heard a terrible noise proceeding from it which almost caused his heart to stop beating, and he who had heard this noise would die." An image of rose-coloured granite watched over the pyramid of Khephren, standing upright, a sceptre in its hand and the urous on its brow, "which serpent threw himself upon him who approached it, coiled itself around his neck, and killed him." A sorcerer had invested these protectors of the ancient Pharaohs with their powers, but another equally potent magician could elude their vigilance, paralyze their energies, if not for ever, at least for a sufficient length of time to ferret out the treasure and rifle the mummy. The cupidity of the fellahin, highly inflamed by the stories which they were accustomed to hear, gained the mastery over their terror, and emboldened them to risk their lives in these well-guarded tombs. How many pyramids had been already rifled at the beginning of the second Theban empire!
The IVth dynasty became extinct in the person of Shop-siskaf, the successor and probably the son of Mykerinos.* The learned of the time of Ramses II. regarded the family which replaced this dynasty as merely a secondary branch of the line of Snofrui, raised to power by the capricious laws which settled hereditary questions.**
* The series of kings beginning with Mykerinos was drawn up for the first time in an accurate manner by E. de Rouge, recherches sur les Monu-mails qu'on peut attribuer aux six premieres dynasties, pp. 66-84, M. de Rouge's results have been since adopted by all Egyptologists. The table of the IVTH dynasty, restored as far as possible with the approximate dates, is subjoined:—
** The fragments of the royal Turin Papyrus exhibit, in fact, no separation between the kings which Manetho attributes to the IVth dynasty and those which he ascribes to the Vth, which seems to show that the Egyptian annalist considered them all as belonging to one and the same family of Pharaohs.
Nothing on the contemporary monuments, it is true, gives indication of a violent change attended by civil war, or resulting from a revolution at court: the construction and decoration of the tombs continued without interruption and without indication of haste, the sons-in-law of Shopsiskaf and of Mykerinos, their daughters and grandchildren, possess under the new kings, the same favour, the same property, the same privileges, which they had enjoyed previously. It was stated, however, in the time of the Ptolemies, that the Vth dynasty had no connection with the IVth; it was regarded at Memphis as an intruder, and it was asserted that it came from Elephantine.* The tradition was a very old one, and its influence is betrayed in a popular story, which was current at Thebes in the first years of the New Empire. Kheops, while in search of the mysterious books of Thot in order to transcribe from them the text for his sepulchral chamber,** had asked the magician Didi to be good enough to procure them for him; but the latter refused the perilous task imposed upon him.
* Such is the tradition accepted by Manetho. Lepsius thinks that the copyists of Manetho were under some distracting influence, which made them transfer the record of the origin of the VIth dynasty to the Vth: it must have been the VIth dynasty which took its origin from Elephantine. I think the safest plan is to respect the text of Manetho until we know more, and to admit that he knew of a tradition ascribing the origin of the Vth dynasty to Elephantine.
** The Great Pyramid is mute, but we find in other pyramids inscriptions of some hundreds of lines. The author of the story, who knew how much certain kings of the VIth dynasty had laboured to have extracts of the sacred books engraved within their tombs, fancied, no doubt, that his Kheops had done the like, but had not succeeded in procuring the texts in question, probably on account of the impiety ascribed to him by the legends. It was one of the methods of explaining the absence of any religious or funereal inscription in the Great Pyramid.
"'Sire, my lord, it is not I who shall bring them to thee.' His Majesty asks: 'Who, then, will bring them to me?' Didi replies, 'It is the eldest of the three children who are in the womb of Ruditdidit who will bring them to thee.' His Majesty says: 'By the love of Ra! what is this that thou tellest me; and who is she, this Ruditdidit?' Didi says to him: 'She is the wife of a priest of Ra, lord of Sakhibu. She carries in her womb three children of Ra, lord of Sakhibu, and the god has promised to her that they shall fulfil this beneficent office in this whole earth,* and that the eldest shall be the high priest at Heliopolis." His Majesty, his heart was troubled at it, but Didi says to him: "'What are these thoughts, sire, my lord? Is it because of these three children? Then I say to thee: 'Thy son, his son, then one of these.'"** The good King Kheops doubtless tried to lay his hands upon this threatening trio at the moment of their birth; but Ra had anticipated this, and saved his offspring. When the time for their birth drew near, the Majesty of Ra, lord of Sakhibu, gave orders to Isis, Nephthys, Maskhonit, Hiquit,*** and Khnumu: "Come, make haste and run to deliver Buditdidit of these three children which she carries in her womb to fulfil that beneficent office in this whole earth, and they will build you temples, they will furnish your altars with offerings, they will supply your tables with libations, and they will increase your mortmain possessions."
* This kind of circumlocution is employed on several occasions in the old texts to designate royalty. It was contrary to etiquette to mention directly, in common speech, the Pharaoh, or anything belonging to his functions or his family. Cf. pp. 28, 29 of this History.
** This phrase is couched in oracular form, as befitting the reply of a magician. It appears to have been intended to reassure the king in affirming that the advent of the three sons of Ra would not be immediate: his son, then a son of this son, would succeed him before destiny would be accomplished, and one of these divine children succeed to the throne in his turn. The author of the story took no notice of Dadufri or Shopsiskaf, of whose reigns little was known in his time.
*** Hiquit as the frog-goddess, or with a frog's head, was one of the mid-wives who is present at the birth of the sun every morning. Her presence is, therefore, natural in the case of the spouse about to give birth to royal sons of the sun.
The goddesses disguised themselves as dancers and itinerant musicians: Khnumu assumed the character of servant to this band of nautch-girls and filled the bag with provisions, and they all then proceeded together to knock at the door of the house in which Buditdidit was awaiting her delivery. The earthly husband Bausir, unconscious of the honour that the gods had in store for him, introduced them to the presence of his wife, and immediately three male children were brought into the world one after the other. Isis named them, Maskhonit predicted for them their royal fortune, while Khnumu. infused into their limbs vigour and health; the eldest was called Usirkaf, the second Sahuri, the third Kakiu. Kausir was anxious to discharge his obligation to these unknown persons, and proposed to do so in wheat, as if they were ordinary mortals: they had accepted it without compunction, and were already on their way to the firmament, when Isis recalled them to a sense of their dignity, and commanded them to store the honorarium bestowed upon them in one of the chambers of the house, where henceforth prodigies of the strangest character never ceased to manifest themselves. Every time one entered the place a murmur was heard of singing, music, and dancing, while acclamations such as those with which kings are wont to be received gave sure presage of the destiny which awaited the newly born. The manuscript is mutilated, and we do not know how the prediction was fulfilled. If we may trust the romance, the three first princes of the Vth dynasty were brothers, and of priestly descent, but our experience of similar stories does not encourage us to take this one very seriously: did not such tales affirm that Kheops and Khephren were brothers also?
The Vth dynasty manifested itself in every respect as the sequel and complement of the IVth.* It reckons nine Pharaohs after the three which tradition made sons of the god Ra himself and of Ruditdidifc. They reigned for a century and a half; the majority of them have left monuments, and the last four, at least, Usirniri Anu, Menkau-horu, Dadkeri Assi, and Unas, appear to have ruled gloriously. They all built pyramids,** they repaired temples and founded cities.***
* A list is appended of the known Pharaohs of the Vth dynasty, restored as far as can be, with the closest approximate dates of their reigns:—
** It is pretty generally admitted, but without convincing proofs, that the pyramids of Abusir served as tombs for the Pharaohs in the Vth dynasty, one for Sahuri, another to Usirniri Anu, although Wiedemann considers that the truncated pyramid of Dahshur was the tomb of this king. I am inclined to think that one of the pyramids of Saqqara was constructed by Assi; the pyramid of Unas was opened in 1881, and the results made known by Maspero, Etudes de Mythologie et d'Archeologie, vol. i. p. 150, et seq., and Recueil de Travaux, vols. iv. and v. The names of the majority of the pyramids are known to us from the monuments: that of Usirkaf was called "Uabisitu"; that of Sahuri, "Khabi"; that of Nofiririkeri, "Bi"; that of Anu, "Min-isuitu"; that of Menkauhoru, "Nutirisuitu"; that of Assi, "Nutir"; that of Unas, "Nofir-isuitu."
*** Pa Sahuri, near Esneh, for instance, was built by Sahuri. The modern name of the village of Sahoura still preserves, on the same spot, without the inhabitants suspecting it, the name of the ancient Pharaoh.
Drawn by Boudier, from a photograph by Emil Brugsch-Bey.
The Bedouin of the Sinaitic peninsula gave them much to do. Sahuri brought these nomads to reason, and perpetuated the memory of his victories by a stele, engraved on the face of one of the rocks in the Wady Magharah; Anu obtained some successes over them, and Assi repulsed them in the fourth year of his reign. On the whole, they maintained Egypt in the position of prosperity and splendour to which their predecessors had raised it.
In one respect they even increased it. Egypt was not so far isolated from the rest of the world as to prevent her inhabitants from knowing, either by personal contact or by hearsay, at least some of the peoples dwelling outside Africa, to the north and east.
Drawn by Boudier, from the water-colour published in Lepsius, Denhn., i. pl. 8, No. 2
They knew that beyond the "Very Green," almost at the foot of the mountains behind which the sun travelled during the night, stretched fertile islands or countries and nations without number, some barbarous or semi-barbarous, others as civilized as they were themselves. They cared but little by what names they were known, but called them all by a common epithet, the Peoples beyond the Seas, "Haui-nibu." If they travelled in person to collect the riches which were offered to them by these peoples in exchange for the products of the Nile, the Egyptians could not have been the unadventurous and home-loving people we have imagined. They willingly left their own towns in pursuit of fortune or adventure, and the sea did not inspire them with fear or religious horror. The ships which they launched upon it were built on the model of the Nile boats, and only differed from the latter in details which would now pass unnoticed. The hull, which was built on a curved keel, was narrow, had a sharp stem and stern, was decked from end to end, low forward and much raised aft, and had a long deck cabin: the steering apparatus consisted of one or two large stout oars, each supported on a forked post and managed by a steersman. It had one mast, sometimes composed of a single tree, sometimes formed of a group of smaller masts planted at a slight distance from each other, but united at the top by strong ligatures and strengthened at intervals by crosspieces which made it look like a ladder; its single sail was bent sometimes to one yard, sometimes to two; while its complement consisted of some fifty men, oarsmen, sailors, pilots, and passengers. Such were the vessels for cruising or pleasure; the merchant ships resembled them, but they were of heavier build, of greater tonnage, and had a higher freeboard. They had no hold; the merchandise had to remain piled up on deck, leaving only just enough room for the working of the vessel. They nevertheless succeeded in making lengthy voyages, and in transporting troops into the enemy's territory from the mouths of the Nile to the southern coast of Syria. Inveterate prejudice alone could prevent us from admitting that the Egyptians of the Memphite period went to the ports of Asia and to the Haui-nibu by sea. Some, at all events, of the wood required for building* and for joiner's work of a civil or funereal character, such as pine, cypress or cedar, was brought from the forests of Lebanon or those of Amanus.
* Cedar-wood must have been continually imported into Egypt. It is mentioned in the Pyramid texts; in the tomb of Ti, and in the other tombs of Saqqara or Gizeh, workmen are represented making furniture of it. Chips of wood from the coffins of the VIth dynasty, detached in ancient times and found in several mastabas at Saqqara, have been pronounced to be, some cedar of Lebanon, others a species of pine which still grows in Cilicia and in the north of Syria.
Drawn by Faucher-Gudin, from a photograph by Emil Brugsch- Bey; the picture is taken from one of the walls of the tomb of Api, discovered at Saqqara, and now preserved in the Gizeh Museum (VIth dynasty). The man standing at the bow is the fore-pilot, whose duty it is to take soundings of the channel, and to indicate the direction of the vessel to the pilot aft, who works the rudder-oars.
Beads of amber are still found near Abydos in the tombs of the oldest necropolis, and we may well ask how many hands they had passed through before reaching the banks of the Nile from the shores of the Baltic.* The tin used to alloy copper for making bronze,** and perhaps bronze itself, entered doubtless by the same route as the amber.
* I have picked up in the tombs of the VIth dynasty at Kom- es-Sultan, and in the part of the necropolis of Abydos containing the tombs of the XIth and XIIth dynasties, a number of amber beads, most of which were very small. Mariette, who had found some on the same site, and who had placed them in the Boulaq Museum, mistook them for corroded yellow or brown glass beads. The electric properties which they still possess have established their identity.
** I may recall the fact that the analysis of some objects discovered at Medum by Professor Petrie proved that they were made of bronze, and contained 9.l per cent, of tin; the Egyptians, therefore, used bronze from the IVth dynasty downwards, side by side with pure copper.
The tribes of unknown race who then peopled the coasts of the AEgean Sea, were amongst the latest to receive these metals, and they transmitted them either directly to the Egyptians or Asiatic intermediaries, who carried them to the Nile Valley. Asia Minor had, moreover, its treasures of metal as well as those of wood—copper, lead, and iron, which certain tribes of miners and smiths, had worked from the earliest times. Caravans plied between Egypt and the lands of Chaldaean civilization, crossing Syria and Mesopotamia, perhaps even by the shortest desert route, as far as Ur and Babylon. The communications between nation and nation were frequent from this time forward, and very productive, but their existence and importance are matters of inference, as we have no direct evidence of them. The relations with these nations continued to be pacific, and, with the exception of Sinai, Pharaoh had no desire to leave the Nile Valley and take long journeys to pillage or subjugate countries from whence came so much treasure. The desert and the sea which protected Egypt on the north and east from Asiatic cupidity, protected Asia with equal security from the greed of Egypt.
On the other hand, towards the south, the Nile afforded an easy means of access to those who wished to penetrate into the heart of Africa. The Egyptians had, at the outset, possessed only the northern extremity of the valley, from the sea to the narrow pass of Silsileh; they had then advanced as far as the first cataract, and Syene for some time marked the extreme limit of their empire. At what period did they cross this second frontier and resume their march southwards, as if again to seek the cradle of their race? They had approached nearer and nearer to the great bend described by the river near the present village of Korosko,* but the territory thus conquered had, under the Vth dynasty, not as yet either name or separate organization: it was a dependency of the fiefdom of Elephantine, and was under the immediate authority of its princes.
* This appears to follow from a passage in the inscription of Uni. This minister was raising troops and exacting wood for building among the desert tribes whose territories adjoined at this part of the valley: the manner in which the requisitions were effected shows that it was not a question of a new exaction, but a familiar operation, and consequently that the peoples mentioned had been under regular treaty obligations to the Egyptians, at least for some time previously.
Those natives who dwelt on the banks of the river appear to have offered but a slight resistance to the invaders: the desert tribes proved more difficult to conquer. The Nile divided them into two distinct bodies. On the right side, the confederation of the Uauaiu spread in the direction of the Bed Sea, from the district around Ombos to the neighbourhood of Korosko, in the valleys now occupied by the Ababdehs: it was bounded on the south by the Mazaiu tribes, from whom our contemporary Maazeh have probably descended. The Amamiu were settled on the left bank opposite to the Mazaiu, and the country of Iritit lay facing the territory of the Uauaiu. None of these barbarous peoples were subject to Egypt, but they all acknowledged its suzerainty,—a somewhat dubious one, indeed, analogous to that exercised over their descendants by the Khedives of to-day. The desert does not furnish them with the means of subsistence: the scanty pasturages of their wadys support a few flocks of sheep and asses, and still fewer oxen, but the patches of cultivation which they attempt in the neighbourhood of springs, yield only a poor produce of vegetables or dourah. They would literally die of starvation were they not able to have access to the banks of the Nile for provisions. On the other hand, it is a great temptation to them to fall unawares on villages or isolated habitations on the outskirts of the fertile lands, and to carry off cattle, grain, and male and female slaves; they would almost always have time to reach the mountains again with their spoil and to protect themselves there from pursuit, before even the news of the attack could reach the nearest police station. Under treaties concluded with the authorities of the country, they are permitted to descend into the plain in order to exchange peaceably for corn and dourah, the acacia-wood of their forests, the charcoal that they make, gums, game, skins of animals, and the gold and precious stones which they get from their mines: they agree in return to refrain from any act of plunder, and to constitute a desert police, provided that they receive a regular pay.
The same arrangement existed in ancient times. The tribes hired themselves out to Pharaoh. They brought him beams of "sont" at the first demand, when he was in need of materials to build a fleet beyond the first cataract. They provided him with bands of men ready armed, when a campaign against the Libyans or the Asiatic tribes forced him to seek recruits for his armies: the Mazaiu entered the Egyptian service in such numbers, that their name served to designate the soldiery in general, just as in Cairo porters and night watchmen are all called Berberines. Among these people respect for their oath of fealty yielded sometimes to their natural disposition, and they allowed themselves to be carried away to plunder the principalities which they had agreed to defend: the colonists in Nubia were often obliged to complain of their exactions. When these exceeded all limits, and it became impossible to wink at their misdoings any longer, light-armed troops were sent against them, who quickly brought them to reason. As at Sinai, these were easy victories. They recovered in one expedition what the Uauaiu had stolen in ten, both in flocks and fellahin, and the successful general perpetuated the memory of his exploits by inscribing, as he returned, the name of Pharaoh on some rock at Syene or Elephantine: we may surmise that it was after this fashion that Usirkaf, Nofiririkeri, and Unas carried on the wars in Nubia. Their armies probably never went beyond the second cataract, if they even reached so far: further south the country was only known by the accounts of the natives or by the few merchants who had made their way into it. Beyond the Mazaiu, but still between the Nile and the Red Sea, lay the country of Puanit, rich in ivory, ebony, gold, metals, gums, and sweet-smelling resins. When some Egyptian, bolder than his fellows, ventured to travel thither, he could choose one of several routes for approaching it by land or sea. The navigation of the Red Sea was, indeed, far more frequent than is usually believed, and the same kind of vessels in which the Egyptians coasted along the Mediterranean, conveyed them, by following the coast of Africa, as far as the Straits of Bab-el-Mandeb. They preferred, however, to reach it by land, and they returned with caravans of heavily laden asses and slaves.
Drawn by Faucher-Gudin, from a photograph by Professor Petrie. This head was taken from the bas-relief at Karnak, on which the Pharaoh Harmhabi of the XVIIIth dynasty recorded his victories over the peoples of the south of Egypt.
All that lay beyond Puanit was held to be a fabulous region, a kind of intermediate boundary land between the world of men and that of the gods, the "Island of the Double," "Land of the Shades," where the living came into close contact with the souls of the departed. It was inhabited by the Dangas, tribes of half-savage dwarfs, whose grotesque faces and wild gestures reminded the Egyptians of the god Bisu (Bes). The chances of war or trade brought some of them from time to time to Puanit, or among the Amamiu: the merchant who succeeded in acquiring and bringing them to Egypt had his fortune made. Pharaoh valued the Dangas highly, and was anxious to have some of them at any price among the dwarfs with whom he loved to be surrounded; none knew better than they the dance of the god—that to which Bisu unrestrainedly gave way in his merry moments. Towards the end of his reign Assi procured one which a certain Biurdidi had purchased in Puanit. Was this the first which had made its appearance at court, or had others preceded it in the good graces of the Pharaohs? His wildness and activity, and the extraordinary positions which he assumed, made a lively impression upon the courtiers of the time, and nearly a century later there were still reminiscences of him.
A great official born in the time of Shopsiskaf, and living on to a great age into the reign of Nofiririkeri, is described on his tomb as the "Scribe of the House of Books." This simple designation, occurring incidentally among two higher titles, would have been sufficient in itself to indicate the extraordinary development which Egyptian civilization had attained at this time. The "House of Books" was doubtless, in the first place, a depository of official documents, such as the registers of the survey and taxes, the correspondence between the court and the provincial governors or feudal lords, deeds of gift to temples or individuals, and all kinds of papers required in the administration of the State. It contained I also, however, literary works, many of which even at this early date were already old, prayers drawn up during the first dynasties, devout poetry belonging to times prior to the misty personage called Mini—hymns to the gods of light, formulas of black magic, collections of mystical works, such as the "Book of the Dead"* and the "Ritual of the Tomb;" scientific treatises on medicine, geometry, mathematics, and astronomy; manuals of practical morals; and lastly, romances, or those marvellous stories which preceded the romance among Oriental peoples.
* The "Book of the Dead" must have existed from prehistoric times, certain chapters excepted, whose relatively modern origin has been indicated by those who ascribe the editing of the work to the time of the first human dynasties.
All these, if we had them, would form "a library much more precious to us than that of Alexandria;" unfortunately up to the present we have been able to collect only insignificant remains of such rich stores. In the tombs have been found here and there fragments of popular songs. The pyramids have furnished almost intact a ritual of the dead which is distinguished by its verbosity, its numerous pious platitudes, and obscure allusions to things of the other world; but, among all this trash, are certain portions full of movement and savage vigour, in which poetic glow and religious emotion reveal their presence in a mass of mythological phraseology. In the Berlin Papyrus we may read the end of a philosophic dialogue between an Egyptian and his soul, in which the latter applies himself to show that death has nothing terrifying to man. "I say to myself every day: As is the convalescence of a sick person, who goes to the court after his affliction, such is death.... I say to myself every day: As is the inhaling of the scent of a perfume, as a seat under the protection of an outstretched curtain, on that day, such is death.... I say to myself every day: As the inhaling of the odour of a garden of flowers, as a seat upon the mountain of the Country of Intoxication, such is death.... I say to myself every day: As a road which passes over the flood of inundation, as a man who goes as a soldier whom nothing resists, such is death.... I say to myself every day: As the clearing again of the sky, as a man who goes out to catch birds with a net, and suddenly finds himself in an unknown district, such is death." Another papyrus, presented by Prisse d'Avennes to the Bibliotheque Nationale, Paris, contains the only complete work of their primitive wisdom which has come down to us. It was certainly transcribed before the XVIIIth dynasty, and contains the works of two classic writers, one of whom is assumed to have lived under the IIIrd and the other under the Vth dynasty; it is not without reason, therefore, that it has been called "the oldest book in the world." The first leaves are wanting, and the portion preserved has, towards its end, the beginning of a moral treatise attributed to Qaqimni, a contemporary of Huni. Then followed a work now lost: one of the ancient possessors of the papyrus having effaced it with the view of substituting for it another piece, which was never transcribed.
The last fifteen pages are occupied by a kind of pamphlet, which has had a considerable reputation, under the name of the "Proverbs of Phtahhotpu."
This Phtahhotpu, a king's son, flourished under Menkauhoru and Assi: his tomb is still to be seen in the necropolis of Saqqara. He had sufficient reputation to permit the ascription to him, without violence to probability, of the editing of a collection of political and moral maxims which indicate a profound knowledge of the court and of men generally. It is supposed that he presented himself, in his declining years, before the Pharaoh Assi, exhibited to him the piteous state to which old age had reduced him, and asked authority to hand down for the benefit of posterity the treasures of wisdom which he had stored up in his long career. The nomarch Phtahhotpu says: "'Sire, my lord, when age is at that point, and decrepitude has arrived, debility comes and a second infancy, upon which misery falls heavily every day: the eyes become smaller, the ears narrower, strength is worn out while the heart continues to beat; the mouth is silent and speaks no more; the heart becomes darkened and no longer remembers yesterday; the bones become painful, everything which was good becomes bad, taste vanishes entirely; old age renders a man miserable in every respect, for his nostrils close up, and he breathes no longer, whether he rises up or sits down. If the humble servant who is in thy presence receives an order to enter on a discourse befitting an old man, then I will tell to thee the language of those who know the history of the past, of those who have heard the gods; for if thou conductest thyself like them, discontent shall disappear from among men, and the two lands shall work for thee!' The majesty of this god says: 'Instruct me in the language of old times, for it will work a wonder for the children of the nobles; whosoever enters and understands it, his heart weighs carefully what it says, and it does not produce satiety.'" We must not expect to find in this work any great profundity of thought. Clever analyses, subtle discussions, metaphysical abstractions, were not in fashion in the time of Phtahhotpu. Actual facts were preferred to speculative fancies: man himself was the subject of observation, his passions, his habits, his temptations and his defects, not for the purpose of constructing a system therefrom, but in the hope of reforming the imperfections of his nature and of pointing out to him the road to fortune. Phtahhotpu, therefore, does not show much invention or make deductions. He writes down his reflections just as they occur to him, without formulating them or drawing any conclusion from them as a whole. Knowledge is indispensable to getting on in the world; hence he recommends knowledge. Gentleness to subordinates is politic, and shows good education; hence he praises gentleness. He mingles advice throughout on the behaviour to be observed in the various circumstances of life, on being introduced into the presence of a haughty and choleric man, on entering society, on the occasion of dining with a dignitary, on being married. "If thou art wise, thou wilt go up into thine house, and love thy wife at home; thou wilt give her abundance of food, thou wilt clothe her back with garments; all that covers her limbs, her perfumes, is the joy of her life; as long as thou lookest to this, she is as a profitable field to her master." To analyse such a work in detail is impossible: it is still more impossible to translate the whole of it. The nature of the subject, the strangeness of certain precepts, the character of the style, all tend to disconcert the reader and to mislead him in his interpretations. From the very earliest times ethics has been considered as a healthy and praiseworthy subject in itself, but so hackneyed was it, that a change in the mode of expressing it could alone give it freshness. Phtahhotpu is a victim to the exigencies of the style he adopted. Others before him had given utterance to the truths he wished to convey: he was obliged to clothe them in a startling and interesting form to arrest the attention of his readers. In some places he has expressed his thought with such subtlety, that the meaning is lost in the jingle of the words. The art of the Memphite dynasties has suffered as much as the literature from the hand of time, but in the case of the former the fragments are at least numerous and accessible to all. The kings of this period erected temples in their cities, and, not to speak of the chapel of the Sphinx, we find in the remains still existing of these buildings chambers of granite, alabaster and limestone, covered with religious scenes like those of more recent periods, although in some cases the walls are left bare. Their public buildings have all, or nearly all, perished; breaches have been made in them by invading armies or by civil wars, and they have been altered, enlarged, and restored scores of times in the course of ages; but the tombs of the old kings remain, and afford proof of the skill and perseverance exhibited by the architects in devising and carrying out their plans. Many of the mastabas occurring at intervals between Gizeh and Medum have, indeed, been hastily and carelessly built, as if by those who were anxious to get them finished, or who had an eye to economy; we may observe in all of them neglect and imperfection,—all the trade-tricks which an unscrupulous jerry-builder then, as now, could be guilty of, in order to keep down the net cost and satisfy the natural parsimony of his patrons without lessening his own profits.* Where, however, the master-mason has not been hampered by being forced to work hastily or cheaply, he displays his conscientiousness, and the choice of materials, the regularity of the courses, and the homogeneousness of the building leave nothing to be desired; the blocks are adjusted with such precision that the joints are almost invisible, and the mortar between them has been spread with such a skilful hand that there is scarcely an appreciable difference in its uniform thickness.**
* The similarity of the materials and technicalities of construction and decoration seem to me to prove that the majority of the tombs were built by a small number of contractors or corporations, lay or ecclesiastical, both at Memphis, under the Ancient, as well as at Thebes, under the New Empire.
** Speaking of the Great Pyramid and of its casing, Professor Petrie says: "Though the stones were brought as close as [—] inch, or, in fact, into contact, and the mean opening of the joint was but [—] inch, yet the builders managed to fill the joint with cement, despite the great area of it, and the weight of the stone to be moved—some 16 tons. To merely place such stones in exact contact at the sides would be careful work; but to do so with cement in the joint seems almost impossible."
The long low flat mass which the finished tomb presented to the eye is wanting in grace, but it has the characteristics of strength and indestructibility well suited to an "eternal house." The facade, however, was not wanting in a certain graceful severity: the play of light and shade distributed over its surface by the stelae, niches, and deep-set doorways, varied its aspect in the course of the day, without lessening the impression of its majesty and serenity which nothing could disturb. The pyramids themselves are not, as we might imagine, the coarse and ill-considered reproduction of a mathematical figure disproportionately enlarged. The architect who made an estimate for that of Kheops, must have carefully thought out the relative value of the elements contained in the problem which had to be solved—the vertical height of the summit, the length of the sides on the ground line, the angle of pitch, the inclination of the lateral faces to one another—before he discovered the exact proportions and the arrangement of lines which render his monument a true work of art, and not merely a costly and mechanical arrangement of stones.*
* Cf. Borchardt's article, Wie wurden die Boschungen der Pyramiden bestimmt? in which the author—an architect by profession as well as an Egyptologist—interprets the theories and problems of the Rhind mathematical Papyrus in a new manner, comparing the result with his own calculations, made from measurements of pyramids still standing, and in which he shows, by an examination of the diagrams discovered on the wall of a mastaba at Medum, that the Egyptian contractors of the Memphite period were, at that early date, applying the rules and methods of procedure which we find set forth in the Papyri of Theban times.
The impressions which he desired to excite, have been felt by all who came after him when brought face to face with the pyramids. From a great distance they appear like mountain-peaks, breaking the monotony of the Libyan horizon; as we approach them they apparently decrease in size, and seem to be merely unimportant inequalities of ground on the surface of the plain. It is not till we reach their bases that we guess their enormous size. The lower courses then stretch seemingly into infinity to right and left, while the summit soars up out of our sight into the sky. "The effect is gained by majesty and simplicity of form, in the contrast and disproportion between the stature of man and the immensity of his handiwork: the eye fails to take it in; it is even difficult for the mind to grasp it. We see, we may touch hundreds of courses formed of blocks, two hundred cubic feet in size,... and thousands of others scarcely less in bulk, and wo are at a loss to know what force has moved, transported, and raised so great a number of colossal stones, how many men were needed for the work, what amount of time was required for it, what machinery they used; and in proportion to our inability to answer these questions, we increasingly admire the power which regarded such obstacles as trifles."
We are not acquainted with the names of any of the men who conceived these prodigious works. The inscriptions mention in detail the princes, nobles, and scribes who presided over all the works undertaken by the sovereign, but they have never deigned to record the name of a single architect.*
* The title "mir kautu nibu niti suton," frequently met with under the Ancient Empire, does not designate the architects, as many Egyptologists have thought: it signifies "director of all the king's works," and is applicable to irrigation, dykes and canals, mines and quarries, and all branches of an engineer's profession, as well as to those of the architect's. The "directors of all the king's works " were dignitaries deputed by Pharaoh to take the necessary measurements for the building of temples, for dredging canals, for quarrying stone and minerals; they were administrators, and not professionals possessing the technical knowledge of an architect or engineer.
They were people of humble extraction, living hard lives under fear of the stick, and their ordinary assistants, the draughtsmen, painters, and sculptors, were no better off than themselves; they were looked upon as mechanics of the same social status as the neighbouring shoemaker or carpenter. The majority of them were, in fact, clever mechanical workers of varying capability, accustomed to chisel out a bas-relief or set a statue firmly on its legs, in accordance with invariable rules which they transmitted unaltered from one generation to another: some were found among them, however, who displayed unmistakable genius in their art, and who, rising above the general mediocrity, produced masterpieces. Their equipment of tools was very simple—iron picks with wooden handles, mallets of wood, small hammers, and a bow for boring holes. The sycamore and acacia furnished them with a material of a delicate grain and soft texture, which they used to good advantage: Egyptian art has left us nothing which, in purity of Hue and delicacy of modelling, surpasses the panels of the tomb of Hosi, with their seated or standing male figures and their vigorously cut hieroglyphs in the same relief as the picture. Egypt possesses, however, but few trees of suitable fibre for sculptural purposes, and even those which were fitted for this use were too small and stunted to furnish blocks of any considerable size. The sculptor, therefore, turned by preference to the soft white limestone of Turah.
Drawn by Boudier, from a photograph by Emil Brugsch-Bey. The original is now in the Gizeh Museum.
He quickly detached the general form of his statue from the mass of stone, fixed the limits of its contour by means of dimension guides applied horizontally from top to bottom, and then cut away the angles projecting beyond the guides, and softened off the outline till he made his modelling correct. This simple and regular method of procedure was not suited to hard stone: the latter had to be first chiselled, but when by dint of patience the rough hewing had reached the desired stage, the work of completion was not entrusted to metal tools. Stone hatchets were used for smoothing off the superficial roughnesses, and it was assiduously polished to efface the various tool-marks left upon its surface. The statues did not present that variety of gesture, expression, and attitude which we aim at to-day. They were, above all things, the accessories of a temple or tomb, and their appearance reflects the particular ideas entertained with regard to their nature. The artists did not seek to embody in them the ideal type of male or female beauty: they were representatives made to perpetuate the existence of the model.
Drawn by Faucher-Gudin, from a chromolithograph by Prisse d'Avennes, Histoire de l'Art Egyptien. The original is in the tomb of Rakhmiri, who lived at Thebes under the XVIIIth dynasty. The methods which were used did not differ from those employed by the sculptors and painters of the Memphite period more than two thousand years previously.
The Egyptians wished the double to be able to adapt itself easily to its image, and in order to compass that end, it was imperative that the stone presentment should be at least an approximate likeness, and should reproduce the proportions and peculiarities of the living prototype for whom it was meant. The head had to be the faithful portrait of the individual: it was enough for the body to be, so to speak, an average one, showing him at his fullest development and in the complete enjoyment of his physical powers. The men were always represented in their maturity, the women never lost the rounded breast and slight hips of their girlhood, but a dwarf always preserved his congenital ugliness, for his salvation in the other world demanded that it should be so. Had he been given normal stature, the double, accustomed to the deformity of his members in this world, would have been unable to accommodate himself to an upright carriage, and would not have been in a fit condition to resume his course of life.
Drawn by Boudier, from a photograph by Emil Brugsch-Bey. The original is now in the Gizeh Museum.
The particular pose of the statue was dependent on the social position of the person. The king, the nobleman, and the master are always standing or sitting: it was in these postures they received the homage of their vassals or relatives. The wife shares her husband's seat, stands upright beside him, or crouches at his feet as in daily life. The son, if his statue was ordered while he was a child, wears the dress of childhood; if he had arrived to manhood, he is represented in the dress and with the attitude suited to his calling. Slaves grind the grain, cellarers coat their amphorae with pitch, bakers knead their dough, mourners make lamentation and tear their hair. The exigencies of rank clung to the Egyptians in temple and tomb, wherever their statues were placed, and left the sculptor who represented them scarcely any liberty. He might be allowed to vary the details and arrange the accessories to his taste; he might alter nothing in the attitude or the general likeness without compromising the end and aim of his work. The statues of the Memphite period may be counted at the present day by hundreds.
Drawn by Boudier, from a photograph by Bechard. The original is now in the Gizeh Museum.
Some are in the heavy and barbaric style which has caused them to be mistaken for primaeval monuments: as, for instance, the statues of Sapi and his wife, now in the Louvre, which are attributed to the beginning of the IIIrd dynasty or even earlier. Groups exactly resembling these in appearance are often found in the tombs of the Vth and VIth dynasties, which according to this reckoning would be still older than that of Sapi: they were productions of an inferior studio, and their supposed archaism is merely the want of skill of an ignorant sculptor. The majority of the remaining statues are not characterized either by glaring faults or by striking merits: they constitute an array of honest good-natured folk, without much individuality of character and no originality. They may be easily divided into five or six groups, each having a style in common, and all apparently having been executed on the lines of a few chosen models; the sculptors who worked for the mastaba contractors were distributed among a very few studios, in which a traditional routine was observed for centuries. They did not always wait for orders, but, like our modern tombstone-makers, kept by them a tolerable assortment of half-finished statues, from which the purchaser could choose according to his taste. The hands, feet, and bust lacked only the colouring and final polish, but the head was merely rough-hewn, and there were no indications of dress; when the future occupant of the tomb or his family had made their choice, a few hours of work were sufficient to transform the rough sketch into a portrait, such as it was, of the deceased they desired to commemorate, and to arrange his garment according to the latest fashion. If, however, the relatives or the sovereign* declined to be satisfied with these commonplace images, and demanded a less conventional treatment of body for the double of him whom they had lost, there were always some among the assistants to be found capable of entering into their wishes, and of seizing the lifelike expression of limbs and features.
* It must not be forgotten that the statues were often, like the tomb itself, given by the king to the man whose services he desired to reward. His burying-place then bore the formulary, "By the favour of the king," as I have mentioned previously.
Drawn by Boudier, from a photograph by Emil Brugsch-Bey.
We possess at the present day, scattered about in museums, some score of statues of this period, examples of consummate art,—the Khephrens, the Kheops, the Anu, the Nofrit, the Rahotpu I have already mentioned, the "Sheikh-el-Beled" and his wife, the sitting scribe of the Louvre and that of Gizeh, and the kneeling scribe. Kaapiru, the "Sheikh-el-Beled," was probably one of the directors of the corvee employed to build the Great Pyramid.* He seems to be coming forward to meet the beholder, with an acacia staff in his hand. He has the head and shoulders of a bull, and a common cast of countenance, whose vulgarity is not wanting in energy. The large, widely open eye has, by a trick of the sculptor, an almost uncanny reality about it.
* It was discovered by Mariette at Saqqara. "The head, torso, arms, and even the staff, were intact; but the pedestal and legs were hopelessly decayed, and the statue was only kept upright by the sand which surrounded it." The staff has since been broken, and is replaced by a more recent one exactly like it. In order to set up the figure, Mariette was obliged to supply new feet, which retain the colour of the fresh wood. By a curious coincidence, Kaapiru was an exact portrait of one of the "Sheikhs el-Beled," or mayors of the village of Saqqara: the Arab workmen, always quick to see a likeness, immediately called it the "Sheikh el-Beled," and the name has been retained ever since.
Drawn by Faucher-Gudin, from a photograph by Emil Brugsch- Bey.
Drawn by Boudier, from a photograph by Emil Brugsch-Bey. This scribe was discovered at Saqqara, by M. de Morgan, in the beginning of 1893.
The socket which holds it has been hollowed out and filled with an arrangement of black and white enamel; a rim of bronze marks the outline of the lids, while a little silver peg, inserted at the back of the pupil, reflects the light and gives the effect of the sparkle of a living glance. The statue, which is short in height, is of wood, and one would be inclined to think that the relative plasticity of the material counts for something in the boldness of the execution, were it not that though the sitting scribe of the Louvre is of limestone, the sculptor has not shown less freedom in its composition. We recognize in this figure one of those somewhat flabby and heavy subordinate officials of whom so many examples are to be seen in Oriental courts. He is squatting cross-legged on the pedestal, pen in hand, with the outstretched leaf of papyrus conveniently placed on the right: he waits, after an interval of six thousand years, until Pharaoh or his vizier deigns to resume the interrupted dictation. His colleague at the Gizeh Museum awakens in us no less wonder at his vigour and self-possession; but, being younger, he exhibits a fuller and firmer figure with a smooth skin, contrasting strongly with the deeply wrinkled appearance of the other, aggravated as it is by his flabbiness. The "kneeling scribe" preserves in his pose and on his countenance that stamp of resigned indecision and monotonous gentleness which is impressed upon subordinate officials by the influence of a life spent entirely under the fear of the stick. Banofir, on the contrary, is a noble lord looking upon his vassals passing in file before him: his mien is proud, his head disdainful, and he has that air of haughty indifference which is befitting a favourite of the Pharaoh, possessor of generously bestowed sinecures, and lord of a score of domains. The same haughtiness of attitude distinguishes the director of the granaries, Nofir. We rarely encounter a small statue so expressive of vigour and energy. Sometimes there may be found among these short-garmented people an individual wrapped and almost smothered in an immense abayah; or a naked man, representing a peasant on his way to market, his bag on his left shoulder, slightly bent under the weight, carrying his sandals in his other hand, lest they should be worn out too quickly in walking. Everywhere we observe the traits of character distinctive of the individual and his position, rendered with a scrupulous fidelity: nothing is omitted, no detail of the characteristics of the model is suppressed. Idealisation we must not expect, but we have here an intelligent and sometimes too realistic fidelity. Portraits have been conceived among other peoples and in other periods in a different way: they have never been better executed.
* Drawn by Boudier, from a photograph by Bechard. The original is at Gizeh.—Vth dynasty.
The decoration of the sepulchres provided employment for scores of draughtsmen, sculptors, and painters, whose business it was to multiply in these tombs scenes of everyday life which were indispensable to the happiness or comfort of the double. The walls are sometimes decorated with isolated pictures only, each one of which represents a distinct operation; more frequently we find traced upon them a single subject whose episodes are superimposed one upon the other from the ground to the ceiling, and represent an Egyptian panorama from the Nile to the desert. In the lower portion, boats pass to and fro, and collide with each other, while the boatmen come to blows with their boat-hooks within sight of hippopotami and crocodiles. In the upper portions we see a band of slaves engaged in fowling among the thickets of the river-bank, or in the making of small boats, the manufacture of ropes, the scraping and salting of fish. Under the cornice, hunters and dogs drive the gazelle across the undulating plains of the desert. Every row represents one of the features of the country; but the artist, instead of arranging the pictures in perspective, separated them and depicted them one above the other.
Drawn by Boudier, from a photograph by Emil Brugsch-Bey. original is in the Gizeh Museum.—Vth dynasty.
The groups are repeated in one tomb after another; they are always the same, but sometimes they are reduced to two or three individuals, sometimes increased in number, spread out and crowded with figures and inscriptions. Each chief draughtsman had his book of subjects and texts, which he combined in various ways, at one time bringing them close together, at another duplicating or extending them according to the means put at his disposal or the space he had to cover. The same men, the same animals, the same features of the landscape, the same accessories, appear everywhere: it is industrial and mechanical art at its highest. The whole is, however, harmonious, agreeable to the eye, and instructive. The conventionalisms of the drawing as well as those of the composition are very different from ours. Whether it is man or beast, the subject is invariably presented in outline by the brush, or by the graving tool in sharp relief upon the background; but the animals are represented in action, with their usual gait, movement, and play of limbs distinguishing each species. The slow and measured walk of the ox, the short step, meditative ears, and ironical mouth of the ass, the calm strength of the lion at rest, the grimaces of the monkeys, the slender gracefulness of the gazelle and antelope, are invariably presented with a consummate skill in drawing and expression. The human figure is the least perfect: every one is acquainted with those strange figures, whose heads in profile, with the eye drawn in full face, are attached to a torso seen from the front and supported by limbs in profile. These are truly anatomical monsters, and yet the appearance they present to us is neither laughable nor grotesque. The defective limbs are so deftly connected with those which are normal, that the whole becomes natural: the correct and fictitious lines are so ingeniously blent together that they seem to rise necessarily from each other. The actors in these dramas are constructed in such a paradoxical fashion that they could not exist in this world of ours; they live notwithstanding, in spite of the ordinary laws of physiology, and to any one who will take the trouble to regard them without prejudice, their strangeness will add a charm which is lacking in works more conformable to nature. A layer of colour spread over the whole heightens and completes them. This colouring is never quite true to nature nor yet entirely false. It approaches reality as far as possible, but without pretending to copy it in a servile way. The water is always a uniform blue, or broken up by black zigzag lines; the skin of the men is invariably brown, that of the women pale yellow.
Drawn by Boudier, from a photograph by Bouriant. The original is in private possession.
The shade befitting each being or object was taught in the workshops, and once the receipt for it was drawn up, it was never varied in application. The effect produced by these conventional colours, however, was neither discordant nor jarring. The most brilliant colours were placed alongside each other with extreme audacity, but with a perfect knowledge of their mutual relations and combined effect. They do not jar with, or exaggerate, or kill each other: they enhance each other's value, and by their contact give rise to half-shades which harmonize with them. The sepulchral chapels, in cases where their decoration had been completed, and where they have reached us intact, appear to us as chambers hung with beautifully luminous and interesting tapestry, in which rest ought to be pleasant during the heat of the day to the soul which dwells within them, and to the friends who come there to hold intercourse with the dead.
The decoration of palaces and houses was not less sumptuous than that of the sepulchres, but it has been so completely destroyed that we should find it difficult to form an idea of the furniture of the living if we did not see it frequently depicted in the abode of the double. The great armchairs, folding seats, footstools, and beds of carved wood, painted and inlaid, the vases of hard stone, metal, or enamelled ware, the necklaces, bracelets, and ornaments on the walls, even the common pottery of which we find the remains in the neighbourhood of the pyramids, are generally distinguished by an elegance and grace reflecting credit on the workmanship and taste of the makers.* The squares of ivory which they applied to their linen-chests and their jewel-cases often contained actual bas-reliefs in miniature of as bold workmanship and as skilful execution as the most beautiful pictures in the tombs: on these, moreover, were scenes of private life—dancing or processions bringing offerings and animals.**
* The study of the alabaster and diorite vases found near the pyramids has furnished Petrie with very ingenious views on the methods among the Egyptians of working hard stone. Examples of stone toilet or sacrificial bottles are not unfrequent in our museums: I may mention those in the Louvre which bear the cartouches of Dadkeri Assi (No. 343), of Papi I., and of Papi II., the son of Papi I.; not that they are to be reckoned among the finest, but because the cartouches fix the date of their manufacture. They came from the pyramids of these sovereigns, opened by the Arabs at the beginning of this century: the vase of the VIth dynasty, which is in the Museum at Florence, was brought from Abydos.
** M. Grebaut bought at the Great Pyramids, in 1887, a series of these ivory sculptures of the Ancient Empire. They are now at the Gizeh Museum. Others belonging to the same find are dispersed among private collections: one of them is reproduced on p. 249 of this History.
Drawn by Faucher-Gudin, from a photograph by Bochard.
One would like to possess some of those copper and golden statues which the Pharaoh Kheops consecrated to Isis in honour of his daughter: only the representation of them upon a stele has come down to us; and the fragments of sceptres or other objects which too rarely have reached us, have unfortunately no artistic value.
A taste for pretty things was common, at least among the upper classes, including not only those about the court, but also those in the most distant nomes of Egypt. The provincial lords, like the courtiers of the palace, took a pride in collecting around them in the other world everything of the finest that the art of the architect, sculptor, and painter could conceive and execute. Their mansions as well as their temples have disappeared, but we find, here and there on the sides of the hills, the sepulchres which they had prepared for themselves in rivalry with those of the courtiers or the members of the reigning family. They turned the valley into a vast series of catacombs, so that wherever we look the horizon is bounded by a row of historic tombs. Thanks to their rock-cut sepulchres, we are beginning to know the Nomarchs of the Gazelle and the Hare, those of the Serpent-Mountain, of Akhmim, Thinis, Qasr-es-Sayad, and Aswan,—all the scions, in fact, of that feudal government which preceded the royal sovereignty on the banks of the Nile, and of which royalty was never able to entirely disembarrass itself. The Pharaohs of the IVth dynasty had kept them in such check that we can hardly find any indications during their reigns of the existence of these great barons; the heads of the Pharaonic administration were not recruited from among the latter, but from the family and domestic circle of the sovereign. It was in the time of the kings of the Vth dynasty, it would appear, that the barons again entered into favour and gradually gained the upper hand; we find them in increasing numbers about Anu, Menkauhoru, and Assi. Did Unas, who was the last ruler of the dynasty of Elephantine, die without issue, or were his children prevented from succeeding him by force? The Egyptian annals of the time of the Ramessides bring the direct line of Menes to an end with this king. A new line of Memphite origin begins after him.
Drawn by Boudier, from a photograph by Faucher-Gudin. The original, which came from Mariette's excavations at the Serapeum, is in the Louvre.
It is almost certain that the transmission of power was not accomplished without contention, and that there were many claimants to the crown. One of the latter, Imhotpu, whose legitimacy was always disputed, has left hardly any traces of his accession to power,* but Ati established himself firmly on the throne for a year at least:** he pushed on actively the construction of his pyramid, and sent to the valley of Hammamat for the stone of his sarcophagus.
* The monuments furnish proof that their contemporaries considered these ephemeral rulers as so many illegitimate pretenders. Phtahshopsisu and his son Sabu-Abibi, who exercised important functions at the court, mention only Unas and Teti III.; Uni, who took office under Teti III., mentions after this king only Papi I. and Mihtimsauf I. The official succession was, therefore, regulated at this epoch in the same way as we afterwards find it in the table of Saqqara, Unas, Teti III., Papi I., Mihtimsauf I., and in the Royal Canon of Turin, without the intercalation of any other king.
** Brugsch, in his Histoire d'Egypte, pp. 44, 45, had identified this king with the first Metesouphis of Manetho: E. de Rouge prefers to transfer him to one of the two Memphite series after the VIth dynasty, and his opinion has been adopted by Wiedemann. The position occupied by his inscription among those of Hamraamat has decided me in placing him at the end of the Vth or beginning of the VIth dynasty: this E. Meyer has also done.
We know not whether revolution or sudden death put an end to his activity: the "Mastabat-el-Faraun" of Saqqara, in which he hoped to rest, never exceeded the height which it has at present.* His name was, however, inscribed in certain official lists,** and a tradition of the Greek period maintained that he had been assassinated by his guards.*** Teti III. was the actual founder of the VIth dynasty,**** historians representing him as having been the immediate successor of Unas.
* Ati is known only from the Hammamat, inscription dated in the first year of his reign. He was identified by Brugsch with the Othoes of Manetho, and this identification has been generally adopted. M. de Rouge is inclined to attribute to him as praenomen the cartouche Usirkeri, which is given in the Table of Abydos between those of Teti III. and Papi I. Mariette prefers to recognize in Urikeri an independent Pharaoh of short reign. Several blocks of the Mastabat-el- Faraun at Saqqara contain the cartouche of Unas, a fact which induced Mariette to regard this as the tomb of the Pharaoh. The excavations of 1881 showed that Unas was entombed elsewhere, and the indications are in favour of attributing the mastaba to Ati. We know, indeed, the pyramids of Teti III., of the two Papis, and of Metesouphis I.; Ati is the only prince of this period with whose tomb we are unacquainted. It is thus by elimination, and not by direct evidence, that the identification has been arrived at: Ati may have drawn upon the workshops of his predecessor Unas, which fact would explain the presence on these blocks of the cartouche of the latter.
** Upon that of Abydos, if we agree with E. de Rouge that the cartouche Usirkeri contains his praenomen; upon that from which Manetho borrowed, if we admit his identification with Othoes.
*** Manetho (Unger's edition, p. 101), where the form of the name is Othoes.
**** He is called Teti Menephtah, with the cartouche praenomen of Seti I., on a monument of the early part of the XIXth dynasty, in the Museum at Marseilles: we see him in his pyramid represented as standing. This pyramid was opened in 1881, and its chambers are covered with long funerary inscriptions. It is a work of the time of Seti I., and not a contemporary production of the time of Menkauhoru.