In the court of Amenemhait, as about all Oriental sovereigns, there were doubtless men whose vanity or interests suffered by this revival of the royal authority; men who had found it to their profit to intervene between Pharaoh and his subjects, and who were thwarted in their intrigues or exactions by the presence of a prince determined on keeping the government in his own hands.
These men devised plots against the new king, and he escaped with difficulty from their conspiracies. "It was after the evening meal, as night came on,—I gave myself up to pleasure for a time,—then I lay down upon the soft coverlets in my palace, I abandoned myself to repose,—and my heart began to be overtaken by slumber; when, lo! they gathered together in arms to revolt against me,—and I became weak as a serpent of the field.—Then I aroused myself to fight with my own hands,—and I found that I had but to strike the unresisting.—When I took a foe, weapon in hand, I make the wretch to turn and flee;—strength forsook him, even in the night; there were none who contended, and nothing vexatious was effected against me." The conspirators were disconcerted by the promptness with which Amenemhait had attacked them, and apparently the rebellion was suppressed on the same night in which it broke out. But the king was growing old, his son Usirtasen was very young, and the nobles were bestirring themselves in prospect of a succession which they supposed to be at hand. The best means of putting a stop to their evil devices and of ensuring the future of the dynasty was for the king to appoint the heir-presumptive, and at once associate him with himself in the exercise of his sovereignty. In the XXth year of his reign, Amenemhait solemnly conferred the titles and prerogatives of royalty upon his son Usirtasen: "I raised thee from the rank of a subject,—I granted thee the free use of thy arm that thou mightest be feared.—As for me, I apparelled myself in the fine stuffs of my palace until I appeared to the eye as the flowers of my garden,—and I perfumed myself with essences as freely as I pour forth the water from my cisterns." Usirtasen naturally assumed the active duties of royalty as his share. "He is a hero who wrought with the sword, a mighty man of valour without peer: he beholds the barbarians, he rushes forward and falls upon their predatory hordes. He is the hurler of javelins who makes feeble the hands of the foe; those whom he strikes never more lift the lance. Terrible is he, shattering skulls with the blows of his war-mace, and none resisted him in his time. He is a swift runner who smites the fugitive with the sword, but none who run after him can overtake him. He is a heart alert for battle in his time. He is a lion who strikes with his claws, nor ever lets go his weapon. He is a heart girded in armour at the sight of the hosts, and who leaves nothing standing behind him. He is a valiant man rushing forward when he beholds the fight. He is a soldier rejoicing to fall upon the barbarians: he seizes his buckler, he leaps forward and kills without a second blow. None may escape his arrow; before he bends his bow the barbarians flee from his arms like dogs, for the great goddess has charged him to fight against all who know not her name, and whom he strikes he spares not; he leaves nothing alive." The old Pharaoh "remained in the palace," waiting until his son returned to announce the success of his enterprises, and contributing by his counsel to the prosperity of their common empire. Such was the reputation for wisdom which he thus acquired, that a writer who was almost his contemporary composed a treatise in his name, and in it the king was supposed to address posthumous instructions to his son on the art of governing. He appeared to his son in a dream, and thus admonished him: "Hearken unto my words!—Thou art king over the two worlds, prince over the three regions. Act still better than did thy predecessors.—Let there be harmony between thy subjects and thee,—lest they give themselves up to fear; keep not thyself apart in the midst of them; make not thy brother solely from the rich and noble, fill not thy heart with them alone; yet neither do thou admit to thy intimacy chance-comers whose place is unknown." The king confirmed his counsels by examples taken from his own life, and from these we have learned some facts in his history. The little work was widely disseminated and soon became a classic; in the time of the XIXth dynasty it was still copied in schools and studied by young scribes as an exercise in style. Usirfcasen's share in the sovereignty had so accustomed the Egyptians to consider this prince as the king de facto, that they had gradually come to write his name alone upon the monuments. When Amenemhait died, after a reign of thirty years, Usirtasen was engaged in a war against the Libyans. Dreading an outbreak of popular feeling, or perhaps an attempted usurpation by one of the princes of the blood, the high officers of the crown kept Amenemhait's death secret, and despatched a messenger to the camp to recall the young king. He left his tent by night, unknown to the troops, returned to the capital before anything had transpired among the people, and thus the transition from the founder to his immediate successor—always a delicate crisis for a new dynasty—seemed to come about quite naturally. The precedent of co-regnancy having been established, it was scrupulously followed by most of the succeeding sovereigns. In the XIIIth year of his sovereignty, and after having reigned alone for thirty-two years, Usirtasen I. shared his throne with Amenemhait II.; and thirty-two years later Amenemhait II. acted in a similar way with regard to Usirtasen II. Amenemhait III. and Amenemhait IV. were long co-regnant. The only princes of this house in whose cases any evidence of co-regnancy is lacking are Usirtasen III., and the queen Sovknofriuri, with whom the dynasty died out.
Drawn by Faucher-Gudin, from a chromolithograph in Lepsius, Denhm., ii. 133.
It lasted two hundred and thirteen years, one month, and twenty-seven days,* and its history can be ascertained with greater certainty and completeness than that of any-other dynasty which ruled over Egypt.
*This is its total duration, as given in the Turin papyrus. Several Egyptologists have thought that Manetho had, in his estimate, counted the years of each sovereign as consecutive, and have hence proposed to conclude that the dynasty only lasted 168 years (Brugscii), or 160 (Lieblein), or 194 (Ed. Meyer). It is simpler to admit that the compiler of the papyrus was not in error; we do not know the length of the reigns of Usirtasen II., Usirtasen III., and Amenemhait III., and their unknown years may be considered as completing the tale of the two hundred and thirteen years.
We are doubtless far from having any adequate idea of its great achievements, for the biographies of its eight sovereigns, and the details of their interminable wars are very imperfectly known to us. The development of its foreign and domestic policy we can, however, follow without a break.
Asia had as little attraction for these kings as for their Memphite predecessors; they seem to have always had a certain dread of its warlike races, and to have merely contented themselves with repelling their attacks. Amenemhait I. had completed the line of fortresses across the isthmus, and these were carefully maintained by his successors. The Pharaohs were not ambitious of holding direct sway over the tribes of the desert, and scrupulously avoided interfering with their affairs as long as the "Lords of the Sands" agreed to respect the Egyptian frontier. Commercial relations were none the less frequent and certain on this account.
Dwellers by the streams of the Delta were accustomed to see the continuous arrival in their towns of isolated individuals or of whole bands driven from their homes by want or revolution, and begging for refuge under the shadow of Pharaoh's throne, and of caravans offering the rarest products of the north and of the east for sale. A celebrated scene in one of the tombs of Beni-Hasan illustrates what usually took place. We do not know what drove the thirty-seven Asiatics, men, women, and children, to cross the Red Sea and the Arabian desert and hills in the VIth year of Usirtasen II.;* they had, however, suddenly appeared in the Gazelle nome, and were there received by Khiti, the superintendent of the huntsmen, who, as his duty was, brought them before the prince Khnumhotpu.
* This bas-relief was first noticed and described by Champollion, who took the immigrants for Greeks of the archaic period. Others have wished to consider it as representing Abraham, the sons of Jacob, or at least a band of Jews entering into Egypt, and on the strength of this hypothesis it has often been reproduced.
The foreigners presented the prince with green eye-paint, antimony powder, and two live ibexes, to conciliate his favour; while he, to preserve the memory of their visit, had them represented in painting upon the walls of his tomb. The Asiatics carry bows and arrows, javelins, axes, and clubs, like the Egyptians, and wear long garments or close-fitting loin-cloths girded on the thigh. One of them plays, as he goes, on an instrument whose appearance recalls that of the old Greek lyre. The shape of their arms, the magnificence and good taste of the fringed and patterned stuffs with which they are clothed, the elegance of most of the objects which they have brought with them, testify to a high standard of civilisation, equal at least to that of Egypt. Asia had for some time provided the Pharaohs with slaves, certain perfumes, cedar wood and cedar essences, enamelled vases, precious stones, lapis-lazuli, and the dyed and embroidered woollen fabrics of which Chaldaea kept the monopoly until the time of the Komans. Merchants of the Delta braved the perils of wild beasts and of robbers lurking in every valley, while transporting beyond the isthmus products of Egyptian manufacture, such as fine linens, chased or cloisonne jewellery, glazed pottery, and glass paste or metal amulets. Adventurous spirits who found life dull on the banks of the Nile, men who had committed crimes, or who believed themselves suspected by their lords on political grounds, conspirators, deserters, and exiles were well received by the Asiatic tribes, and sometimes gained the favour of the sheikhs. In the time of the XIIth dynasty, Southern Syria, the country of the "Lords of the Sands," and the kingdom of Kaduma were full of Egyptians whose eventful careers supplied the scribes and storytellers with the themes of many romances.
Sinuhit, the hero of one of these stories, was a son of Amenemhait I., and had the misfortune involuntarily to overhear a state secret. He happened to be near the royal tent when news of his father's sudden death was brought to Usirtasen. Fearing summary execution, he fled across the Delta north of Memphis, avoided the frontier-posts, and struck into the desert. "I pursued my way by night; at dawn I had reached Puteni, and set out for the lake of Kimoiri. Then thirst fell upon me, and the death-rattle was in my throat, my throat cleaved together, and I said, 'It is the taste of death!' when suddenly I lifted up my heart and gathered my strength together: I heard the lowing of the herds. I perceived some Asiatics; their chief, who had been in Egypt, knew me; he gave me water, and caused milk to be boiled for me, and I went with him and joined his tribe." But still Sinuhit did not feel himself in safety, and fled into Kaduma, to a prince who had provided an asylum for other Egyptian exiles, and where he "could hear men speak the language of Egypt." Here he soon gained honours and fortune. "The chief preferred me before his children, giving me his eldest daughter in marriage, and he granted me that I should choose for myself the best of his land near the frontier of a neighbouring country. It is an excellent land, Aia is its name. Figs are there and grapes; wine is more plentiful than water; honey abounds in it; numerous are its olives and all the produce of its trees; there are corn and flour without end, and cattle of all kinds. Great, indeed, was that which was bestowed upon me when the prince came to invest me, installing me as prince of a tribe in the best of his land. I had daily rations of bread and wine, day by day; cooked meat and roasted fowl, besides the mountain game which I took, or which was placed before me in addition to that which was brought me by my hunting dogs. Much butter was made for me, and milk prepared in every kind of way. There I passed many years, and the children which were born to me became strong men, each ruling his own tribe. When a messenger was going to the interior or returning from it, he turned aside from his way to come to me, for I did kindness to all: I gave water to the thirsty, I set again upon his way the traveller who had been stopped on it, I chastised the brigand. The Pitaitiu, who went on distant campaigns to fight and repel the princes of foreign lands, I commanded them and they marched forth; for the prince of Tonu made me the general of his soldiers for long years. When I went forth to war, all countries towards which I set out trembled in their pastures by their wells. I seized their cattle, I took away their vassals and carried off their slaves, I slew the inhabitants, the land was at the mercy of my sword, of my bow, of my marches, of my well-conceived plans glorious to the heart of my prince. Thus, when he knew my valour, he loved me, making me chief among his children when he saw the strength of my arms.
"A valiant man of Tonu came to defy me in my tent; he was a hero beside whom there was none other, for he had overthrown all his adversaries. He said: 'Let Sinuhit fight with me, for he has not yet conquered me!' and he thought to seize my cattle and therewith to enrich his tribe. The prince talked of the matter with me. I said: 'I know him not. Verily, I am not his brother. I keep myself far from his dwelling; have I ever opened his door, or crossed his enclosures? Doubtless he is some jealous fellow envious at seeing me, and who believes himself fated to rob me of my cats, my goats, my kine, and to fall on my bulls, my rams, and my oxen, to take them.... If he has indeed the courage to fight, let him declare the intention of his heart! Shall the god forget him whom he has heretofore favoured? This man who has challenged me to fight is as one of those who lie upon the funeral couch. I bent my bow, I took out my arrows, I loosened my poignard, I furbished my arms. At dawn all the land of Tonu ran forth; its tribes were gathered together, and all the foreign lands which were its dependencies, for they were impatient to see this duel. Each heart was on live coals because of me; men and women cried 'Ah!' for every heart was disquieted for my sake, and they said: 'Is there, indeed, any valiant man who will stand up against him? Lo! the enemy has buckler, battle-axe, and an armful of javelins.' When he had come forth and I appeared, I turned aside his shafts from me. When not one of them touched me, he fell upon me, and then I drew my bow against him. When my arrow pierced his neck, he cried out and fell to the earth upon his nose; I snatched his lance from him, I shouted my cry of victory upon his back. While the country people rejoiced, I made his vassals whom he had oppressed to give thanks to Montu. This prince, Ammianshi, bestowed upon me all the possessions of the vanquished, and I took away his goods, I carried off his cattle. All that he had desired to do unto me that did I unto him; I took possession of all that was in his tent, I despoiled his dwelling; therewith was the abundance of my treasure and the number of my cattle increased." In later times, in Arab romances such as that of Antar or that of Abu-Zeit, we find the incidents and customs described in this Egyptian tale; there we have the exile arriving at the court of a great sheikh whose daughter he ultimately marries, the challenge, the fight, and the raids of one people against another. Even in our own day things go on in much the same way. Seen from afar, these adventures have an air of poetry and of grandeur which fascinates the reader, and in imagination transports him into a world more heroic and more noble than our own. He who cares to preserve this impression would do well not to look too closely at the men and manners of the desert. Certainly the hero is brave, but he is still more brutal and treacherous; fighting is one object of his existence, but pillage is a far more important one. How, indeed, should it be otherwise? the soil is poor, life hard and precarious, and from remotest antiquity the conditions of that life have remained unchanged; apart from firearms and Islam, the Bedouin of to-day are the same as the Bedouin of the days of Sinuhit.
There are no known documents from which we can derive any certain information as to what became of the mining colonies in Sinai after the reign of Papi II. Unless entirely abandoned, they must have lingered on in comparative idleness; for the last of the Memphites, the Heracleopohtans, and the early Thebans were compelled to neglect them, nor was their active life resumed until the accession of the XIIth dynasty. The veins in the Wady Maghara were much exhausted, but a series of fortunate explorations revealed the existence of untouched deposits in the Sarbut-el-Khadim, north of the original workings. From the time of Amenemhait II. these new veins were worked, and absorbed attention during several generations. Expeditions to the mines were sent out every three or four years, sometimes annually, under the command of such high functionaries as "Acquaintances of the King," "Chief Lectors," and Captains of the Archers. As each mine was rapidly worked out, the delegates of the Pharaohs were obliged to find new veins in order to meet industrial demands. The task was often arduous, and the commissioners generally took care to inform posterity very fully as to the anxieties which they had felt, the pains which they had taken, and the quantities of turquoise or of oxide of copper which they had brought into Egypt. Thus the Captain Haroeris tells us that, on arriving at Sarbut in the month Pha-menoth of an unknown year of Amenemhait III., he made a bad beginning in his work of exploration. Wearied of fruitless efforts, the workmen were quite ready to desert him if he had not put a good face on the business and stoutly promised them the support of the local Hathor.
And, as a matter of fact, fortune did change. When he began to despair, "the desert burned like summer, the mountain was on fire, and the vein exhausted; one morning the overseer who was there questioned the miners, the skilled workers who were used to the mine, and they said: 'There is turquoise for eternity in the mountain.' At that very moment the vein appeared." And, indeed, the wealth of the deposit which he found so completely indemnified Haroeris for his first disappointments, that in the month Pachons, three months after the opening of these workings, he had finished his task and prepared to leave the country, carrying his spoils with him. From time to time Pharaoh sent convoys of cattle and provisions—corn, sixteen oxen, thirty geese, fresh vegetables, live poultry—to his vassals at the mines.
Drawn by Boudier, from a photograph in the Ordnance Survey, Photo-graphs, vol. iii. pl. 8.
The mining population increased so fast that two chapels were built, dedicated to Hathor, and served by volunteer priests. One of these chapels, presumably the oldest, consists of a single rock-cut chamber, upheld by one large square pillar, walls and pillar having been covered with finely sculptured scenes and inscriptions which are now almost effaced. The second chapel included a beautifully proportioned rectangular court, once entered by a portico supported on pillars with Hathor-head capitals, and beyond the court a narrow building divided into many small irregular chambers. The edifice was altered and rebuilt, and half destroyed; it is now nothing by a confused heap of ruins, of which the original plan cannot be traced. Votive stehe of all shapes and sizes, in granite, sandstone, or limestone, were erected here and there at random in the two chambers and in the courts between the columns, and flush with the walls. Some are still in situ, others lie scattered in the midst of the ruins. Towards the middle of the reign of Amenemhait III., the industrial demand for turquoise and for copper ore became so great that the mines of Sarbut-el-Khadim could no longer meet it, and those in the Wady Maghara were re-opened. The workings of both sets of mines were carried on with unabated vigour under Amenemhaifc IV., and were still in full activity when the XIIIth dynasty succeeded the XIIth on the Egyptian throne. Tranquillity prevailed in the recesses of the mountains of Sinai as well as in the valley of the Nile, and a small garrison sufficed to keep watch over the Bedouin of the neighbourhood. Sometimes the latter ventured to attack the miners, and then fled in haste, carrying off their meagre booty; but they were vigorously pursued under the command of one of the officers on the spot, and generally caught and compelled to disgorge their plunder before they had reached the shelter of their "douars." The old Memphite kings prided themselves on these armed pursuits as though they were real victories, and had them recorded in triumphal bas-reliefs; but under the XIIth dynasty they were treated as unimportant frontier incidents, almost beneath the notice of the Pharaoh, and the glory of them—such as it was—he left to his captains then in command of those districts.
Egypt had always kept up extensive commercial relations with certain northern countries lying beyond the Mediterranean. The reputation for wealth enjoyed by the Delta sometimes attracted bands of the Haiu-nibu to come prowling in piratical excursions along its shores; but their expeditions seldom turned out successfully, and even if the adventurers escaped summary execution, they generally ended their days as slaves in the Fayum, or in some village of the Said. At first their descendants preserved the customs, religion, manners, and industries of their distant home, and went on making rough pottery for daily use, which was decorated in a style recalling that of vases found in the most ancient tombs of the AEgean archipelago; but they were gradually assimilated to their surroundings, and their grandchildren became fellahin like the rest, brought up from infancy in the customs and language of Egypt.
The relations with the tribes of the Libyan desert, the Tihunu and the Timihu, were almost invariably peaceful; although occasional raids of one of their bands into Egyptian territory would provoke counter raids into the valleys in which they took refuge with their flocks and herds. Thus, in addition to the captive Haiu-nibu, another heterogeneous element, soon to be lost in the mass of the Egyptian population, was supplied by detachments of Berber women and children.
The relations Egypt with her northern neighbours during the hundred years of the XIIth dynasty were chiefly commercial, but occasionally this peaceful intercourse was broken by sudden incursions or piratical expeditions which called for active measures of repression, and were the occasion of certain romantic episodes. The foreign policy of the Pharaohs in this connexion was to remain strictly on the defensive. Ethiopia attracted all their attention, and demanded all their strength. The same instinct which had impelled their predecessors to pass successively beyond Gebel-Silsileh and Elephantine now drove the XIIth dynasty beyond the second cataract, and even further. The nature of the valley compelled them to this course. From the Tacazze, or rather from the confluence of the two Niles down to the sea, the whole valley forms as it were a Greater Egypt; for although separated by the cataracts into different divisions, it is everywhere subject to the same physical conditions. In the course of centuries it has more than once been forcibly dismembered by the chances of war, but its various parts have always tended to reunite, and have coalesced at the first opportunity. The Amami, the Irittt, and the Sitiu, all those nations which wandered west of the river, and whom the Pharaohs of the VIth and subsequently of the XIth dynasty either enlisted into their service or else conquered, do not seem to have given much trouble to the successors of Amenemhait I. The Uauaiu and the Mazaiu were more turbulent, and it was necessary to subdue them in order to assure the tranquillity of the colonists scattered along the banks of the river from Philo to Korosko. They were worsted by Amenemhait I. in several encounters.
Usirtasen I. made repeated campaigns against them, the earlier ones being undertaken in his father's lifetime. Afterwards he pressed on, and straightway "raised his frontiers" at the rapids of Wady Haifa; and the country was henceforth the undisputed property of his successors. It was divided into nomes like Egypt itself; the Egyptian language succeeded in driving out the native dialects, and the local deities, including Didun, the principal god, were associated or assimilated with the gods of Egypt. Khnumu was the favourite deity of the northern nomes, doubtless because the first colonists were natives of Elephantine, and subjects of its princes. In the southern nomes, which had been annexed under the Theban kings and were peopled with Theban immigrants, the worship of Khnumu was carried on side by side with the worship of Amon, or Amon-Ra, god of Thebes. In accordance with local affinities, now no longer intelligible, the other gods also were assigned smaller areas in the new territory—Thot at Pselcis and Pnubsit, where a gigantic nabk tree was worshipped, Ra near Derr, and Horus at Miama and Bauka. The Pharaohs who had civilized the country here received divine honours while still alive. Usirtasen III. was placed in triads along with Didun, Amon, and Khnumu; temples were raised to him at Semneh, Shotaui, and Doshkeh; and the anniversary of a decisive victory which he had gained over the barbarians was still celebrated on the 21st of Pachons, a thousand years afterwards, under Thutmosis III. The feudal system spread over the land lying between the two cataracts, where hereditary barons held their courts, trained their armies, built their castles, and excavated their superbly decorated tombs in the mountain-sides. The only difference between Nubian Egypt and Egypt proper lay in the greater heat and smaller wealth of the former, where the narrower, less fertile, and less well-watered land supported a smaller population and yielded less abundant revenues.
The Pharaoh kept the charge of the more important strategical points in his own hands. Strongholds placed at bends of the river and at the mouths of ravines leading into the desert, secured freedom of navigation, and kept off the pillaging nomads. The fortress of Derr [Kubban?—Ed.], which was often rebuilt, dates in part at least from the early days of the conquest of Nubia. Its rectangular boundary—a dry brick wall—is only broken by easily filled up gaps, and with some repairs it would still resist an Ababdeh attack.*
* The most ancient bricks in the fortifications of Derr, easily distinguishable from those belonging to the later restorations, are identical in shape and size with those of the walls at Syene and El-Kab; and the wall at El-Kab was certainly built not later than the XIIth dynasty.
The most considerable Nubian works of the XIIth dynasty were in the three places from which the country can even now be most effectively commanded, namely, at the two cataracts, and in the districts extending from Derr to Dakkeh. Elephantine already possessed an entrenched camp which commanded the rapids and the land route from Syene to Philo. Usirtasen III. restored its great wall; he also cleared and widened the passage to Seriel, as did Papi I. to such good effect that easy and rapid communication between Thebes and the new towns was at all times practicable. Some little distance from Phihe he established a station for boats, and an emporium which he called Hiru Khakeri—"the Ways of Khakeri"—after his own throne name—Khakeri.*
* The widening of the passage was effected in the VIIIth year of his reign, the same year in which he established the Egyptian frontier at Semneh. The other constructions are mentioned, but not very clearly, in a stele of the same year which came from Elephantine, and is now in the British Museum. The votive tablet, engraved in honour of Anukit at Sehel, in which the king boasts of having made for the goddess "the excellent channel [called] 'the Ways of Khakeuri,'" probably refers to this widening and deepening of the passage in the VIIIth year.
Its exact site is unknown, but it appears to have completed on the south side the system of walls and redoubts which protected the cataract provinces against either surprise or regular attacks of the barbarians. Although of no appreciable use for the purposes of general security, the fortifications of Middle Nubia were of great importance in the eyes of the Pharaohs. They commanded the desert roads leading to the Eed Sea, and to Berber and Gebel Barkel on the Upper Nile. The most important fort occupied the site of the present village of Kuban, opposite Dakkeh, and commanded the entrance to the Wady Olaki, which leads to the richest gold deposits known to Ancient Egypt. The valleys which furrow the mountains of Etbai, the Wady Shauanib, the Waddy Umm Teyur, Gebel Iswud, Gebel Umm Kabriteh, all have gold deposits of their own. The gold is found in nuggets and in pockets in white quartz, mixed with iron oxides and titanium, for which the ancients had no use. The method of mining practised from immemorial antiquity by the Uauaiu of the neighbourhood was of the simplest, and traces of the workings may be seen all over the sides of the ravines. Tunnels followed the direction of the lodes to a depth of fifty-five to sixty-five yards; the masses of quartz procured from them were broken up in granite mortars, pounded small and afterwards reduced to a powder in querns, similar to those used for crushing grain; the residue was sifted on stone tables, and the finely ground parts afterwards washed in bowls of sycamore wood, until the gold dust had settled to the bottom.*
* The gold-mines and the method of working them under the Ptolemies have been described by Agatharchides; the processes employed were very ancient, and had hardly changed since the time of the first Pharaohs, as is shown by a comparison of the mining tools found in these districts with those which have been collected at Sinai, in the turquoise- mines of the Ancient Empire.
This was the Nubian gold which was brought into Egypt by nomad tribes, and for which the Egyptians themselves, from the time of the XIIth dynasty onwards, went to seek in the land which produced it. They made no attempt to establish permanent colonies for working the mines, as at Sinai; but a detachment of troops was despatched nearly every year to the spot to receive the amount of precious metal collected since their previous visit. The king Usirtasen would send at one time the prince of the nome of the Gazelle on such an expedition, with a contingent of four hundred men belonging to his fief; at another time, it would be the faithful Sihathor who would triumphantly scour the country, obliging young and old to work with redoubled efforts for his master Amenemhait II. On his return the envoy would boast of having brought back more gold than any of his predecessors, and of having crossed the desert without losing either a soldier or a baggage animal, not even a donkey.
Drawn by Boudier, from a photograph by Insinger, taken in 1881.
Sometimes a son of the reigning Pharaoh, even the heir-presumptive, would condescend to accompany the caravan. Amenemhait III. repaired or rebuilt the fortress of Kubban, the starting-place of the little army, and the spot to which it returned. It is a square enclosure measuring 328 feet on each side; the ramparts of crude brick are sloped slightly inwards, and are strengthened at intervals by bastions projecting from the external face of the wall. The river protected one side; the other three were defended by ditches communicating with the Nile. There were four entrances, one in the centre of each facade: that on the east, which faced the desert, and was exposed to the severest attacks, was flanked by a tower.
The cataract of Wady Haifa offered a natural barrier to invasion from the south. Even without fortification, the chain of granite rocks which crosses the valley at this spot would have been a sufficient obstacle to prevent any fleet which might attempt the passage from gaining access to northern Nubia.
The Nile here has not the wild and imposing aspect which it assumes lower down, between Aswan and Philae. It is bordered by low and receding hills, devoid of any definite outline. Masses of bare black rock, here and there covered by scanty herbage, block the course of the river in some places in such profusion, that its entire bed seems to be taken up by them. For a distance of seventeen miles the main body of water is broken up into an infinitude of small channels in its width of two miles; several of the streams thus formed present, apparently, a tempting course to the navigator, so calm and safe do they appear, but they conceal ledges of hidden reefs, and are unexpectedly forced into narrow passages obstructed by granite boulders. The strongest built and best piloted boat must be dashed to pieces in such circumstances, and no effort or skilfulness on the part of the crew would save the vessel should the owner venture to attempt the descent. The only channel at all available for transit runs from the village of Aesha on the Arabian side, winds capriciously from one bank to another, and emerges into calm water a little above Nakhiet Wady Haifa. During certain days in August and September the natives trust themselves to this stream, but only with boats lightly laden; even then their escape is problematical, for they are in hourly danger of foundering. As soon as the inundation begins to fall, the passage becomes more difficult: by the middle of October it is given up, and communication by water between Egypt and the countries above Wady Haifa is suspended until the return of the inundation. By degrees, as the level of the water becomes lower, remains of wrecks jammed between the rocks, or embedded in sandbanks, emerge into view, as if to warn sailors and discourage them from an undertaking so fraught with perils. Usirtasen I. realized the importance of the position, and fortified its approaches.
He selected the little Nubian town of Bohani, which lay exactly opposite to the present village of Wady Haifa, and transformed it into a strong frontier fortress. Besides the usual citadel, he built there a temple dedicated to the Theban god Amon and to the local Horus; he then set up a stele commemorating his victories over the peoples beyond the cataract.
Drawn by Faucher-Gudin, from a photograph of the original in the museum at Florence.
Ten of their principal chiefs had passed before Amon as prisoners, their arms tied behind their backs, and had been sacrificed at the foot of the altar by the sovereign himself: he represented them on the stele by enclosing their names in battlemented cartouches, each surmounted by the bust of a man bound by a long cord which is held by the conqueror.
Nearly a century later Usirtasen III. enlarged the fortress, and finding doubtless that it was not sufficiently strong to protect the passage of the cataract, he stationed outposts at various points, at Matuga, Fakus, and Kassa. They served as mooring-places where the vessels which went up and down stream with merchandise might be made fast to the bank at sunset. The bands of Bedouin, lurking in the neighbourhood, would have rejoiced to surprise them, and by their depredations to stop the commerce between the Said and the Upper Nile, during the few weeks in which it could be carried on with a minimum of danger. A narrow gorge crossed by a bed of granite, through which the Nile passes at Semneh, afforded another most favourable site for the completion of this system of defence. On cliffs rising sheer above the current, the king constructed two fortresses, one on each bank of the river, which completely commanded the approaches by land and water. On the right bank at Kummeh, where the position was naturally a strong one, the engineers described an irregular square, measuring about two hundred feet each side; two projecting bastions flanked the entrance, the one to the north covering the approaching pathways, the southern one commanding the river-bank. A road with a ditch runs at about thirteen feet from the walls round the building, closely following its contour, except at the north-west and south-east angles, where there are two projections which formed bastions. The town on the other bank, Samninu-Kharp-Khakeri, occupied a less favourable position: its eastern flank was protected by a zone of rocks and by the river, but the three other sides were of easy approach. They were provided with ramparts which rose to the height of eighty-two feet above the plain, and were strengthened at unequal distances by enormous buttresses. These resembled towers without parapets, overlooking every part of the encircling road, and from them the defenders could take the attacking sappers in flank.
Map drawn up by Thuillier from the somewhat obsolete survey of Cailliaud
The intervals between them had been so calculated as to enable the archers to sweep the intervening space with their arrows. The main building is of crude brick, with beams laid horizontally between; the base of the external rampart is nearly vertical, while the upper part forms an angle of some seventy degrees with the horizon, making the scaling of it, if not impossible, at least very difficult. Each of the enclosing walls of the two fortresses surrounded a town complete in itself, with temples dedicated to their founders and to the Nubian deities, as well as numerous habitations, now in ruins. The sudden widening of the river immediately to the south of the rapids made a kind of natural roadstead, where the Egyptian squadron could lie without danger on the eve of a campaign against Ethiopia; the galiots of the negroes there awaited permission to sail below the rapids, and to enter Egypt with their cargoes. At once a military station and a river custom-house, Semneh was the necessary bulwark of the new Egypt, and Usirtasen III. emphatically proclaimed the fact, in two decrees, which he set up there for the edification of posterity. "Here is," so runs the first, "the southern boundary fixed in the year VIII. under his Holiness of Khakeri, Usirtasen, who gives life always and for ever, in order that none of the black peoples may cross it from above, except only for the transport of animals, oxen, goats, and sheep belonging to them." The edict of the year XVI. reiterates the prohibition of the year VIII., and adds that "His Majesty caused his own statue to be erected at the landmarks which he himself had set up." The beds of the first and second cataracts were then less worn away than they are now; they are therefore more efficacious in keeping back the water and forcing it to rise to a higher level above. The cataracts acted as indicators of the inundation, and if their daily rise and fall were studied, it was possible to announce to the dwellers on the banks lower down the river the progress and probable results of the flood.
Reproduction by Faucher-Gudin of a sketch published by Cailliaud, Voyage a Meroe, Atlas, vol. ii. pl. xxx.
As long as the dominion of the Pharaohs reached no further than Philae, observations of the Nile were always taken at the first cataract; and it was from Elephantine that Egypt received the news of the first appearance and progress of the inundation. Amenemhait III. set up a new nilometer at the new frontier, and gave orders to his officers to observe the course of the flood. They obeyed him scrupulously, and every time that the inundation appeared to them to differ from the average of ordinary years, they marked its height on the rocks of Semneh and Kummeh, engraving side by side with the figure the name of the king and the date of the year. The custom was continued there under the XIIIth dynasty; afterwards, when the frontier was pushed further south, the nilometer accompanied it.
The country beyond Semneh was virgin territory, almost untouched and quite uninjured by previous wars. Its name now appears for the first time upon the monuments, in the form of Kaushu—the humbled Kush. It comprised the districts situated to the south within the immense loop described by the river between Dongola and Khartoum, those vast plains intersected by the windings of the White and Blue Niles, known as the regions of Kordofan and Darfur; it was bounded by the mountains of Abyssinia, the marshes of Lake Nu, and all those semi-fabulous countries to which were relegated the "Isles of the Manes" and the "Lands of Spirits." It was separated from the Red Sea by the land of Puanit; and to the west, between it and the confines of the world, lay the Timihu. Scores of tribes, white, copper-coloured, and black, bearing strange names, wrangled over the possession of this vaguely defined territory; some of them were still savage or emerging from barbarism, while others had attained to a pitch of material civilization almost comparable with that of Egypt. The same diversity of types, the same instability and the same want of intelligence which characterized the tribes of those days, still distinguish the medley of peoples who now frequent the upper valley of the Nile. They led the same sort of animal life, guided by impulse, and disturbed, owing to the caprices of their petty chiefs, by bloody wars which often issued in slavery or in emigration to distant regions.
Drawn by Faucher-Guclin, from the water-colour drawing by Mr. Blackden.
With such shifting and unstable conditions, it would be difficult to build up a permanent State. From time to time some kinglet, more daring, cunning, tenacious, or better fitted to govern than the rest, extended his dominion over his neighbours, and advanced step by step, till he united immense tracts under his single rule. As by degrees his kingdom enlarged, he made no efforts to organize it on any regular system, to introduce any uniformity in the administration of its affairs, or to gain the adherence of its incongruous elements by just laws which would be equally for the good of all: when the massacres which accompanied his first victories were over, when he had incorporated into his own army what was left of the vanquished troops, when their children were led into servitude and he had filled his treasury with their spoil and his harem with their women, it never occurred to him that there was anything more to be done. If he had acted otherwise, it would not probably have been to his advantage. Both his former and present subjects were too divergent in language and origin, too widely separated by manners and customs, and too long in a state of hostility to each other, to draw together and to become easily welded into a single nation. As soon as the hand which held them together relaxed its hold for a moment, discord crept in everywhere, among individuals as well as among the tribes, and the empire of yesterday resolved itself into its original elements even more rapidly than it had been formed. The clash of arms which had inaugurated its brief existence died quickly away, the remembrance of its short-lived glory was lost after two or three generations in the horrors of a fresh invasion: its name vanished without leaving a trace behind. The occupation of Nubia brought Egypt into contact with this horde of incongruous peoples, and the contact soon entailed a struggle. It is futile for a civilized state to think of dwelling peacefully with any barbarous nation with which it is in close proximity. Should it decide to check its own advances, and impose limits upon itself which it shall not pass over, its moderation is mistaken for feebleness and impotence; the vanquished again take up the offensive, and either force the civilized power to retire, or compel it to cross its former boundary. The Pharaohs did not escape this inevitable consequence of conquest: their southern frontier advanced continually higher and higher up the Nile, without ever becoming fixed in a position sufficiently strong to defy the attacks of the Barbarians. Usirtasen I. had subdued the countries of Hahu, of Khonthanunofir, and Shaad, and had beaten in battle the Shemik, the Khasa, the Sus, the Aqin, the Anu, the Sabiri, and the people of Akiti and Makisa. Amenemhait II., Usirtasen II., and Usirtasen III. never hesitated to "strike the humbled Kush" whenever the opportunity presented itself. The last-mentioned king in particular chastised them severely in his VIIIth, XIIth, XVIth, and XIXth years, and his victories made him so popular, that the Egyptians of the Greek period, identifying him with the Sesostris of Herodotus, attributed to him the possession of the universe. On the base of a colossal statue of rose granite which he erected in the temple of Tanis, we find preserved a list of the tribes which he conquered: the names of them appear to us most outlandish—Alaka, Matakarau, Turasu, Pamaika, Uaraki, Paramaka—and we have no clue as to their position on the map. We know merely that they lived in the desert, on both sides of the Nile, in the latitude of Berber or thereabouts. Similar expeditions were sent after Usirtasen's time, and Amenem-hait III. regarded both banks of the Nile, between Semneh and Dongola, as forming part of the territory of Egypt proper. Little by little, and by the force of circumstances, the making of Greater Egypt was realized; she approached nearer and nearer towards the limit which had been prescribed for her by nature, to that point where the Nile receives its last tributaries, and where its peerless valley takes its origin in the convergence of many others.
The conquest of Nubia was on the whole an easy one, and so much personal advantage accrued from these wars, that the troops and generals entered on them without the least repugnance. A single fragment has come down to us which contains a detailed account of one of these campaigns, probably that conducted by Usirtasen III. in the XVIth year of his reign. The Pharaoh had received information that the tribes of the district of Hua, on the Tacazze, were harassing his vassals, and possibly also those Egyptians who were attracted by commerce to that neighbourhood. He resolved to set out and chastise them severely, and embarked with his fleet. It was an expedition almost entirely devoid of danger: the invaders landed only at favourable spots, carried off any of the inhabitants who came in their way, and seized on their cattle—on one occasion as many as a hundred and twenty-three oxen and eleven asses, on others less. Two small parties marched along the banks, and foraging to the right and left, drove the booty down to the river. The tactics of invasion have scarcely undergone any change in these countries; the account given by Cailliaud of the first conquest of Fazogl by Ismail-Pasha, in 1822, might well serve to complete the fragments of the inscription of Usirtasen III., and restore for us, almost in every detail, a faithful picture of the campaigns carried on in these regions by the kings of the XIIth dynasty. The people are hunted down in the same fashion; the country is similarly ravaged by a handful of well-armed, fairly disciplined men attacking naked and disconnected hordes, the young men are massacred after a short resistance or forced to escape into the woods, the women are carried off as slaves, the huts pillaged, villages burnt, whole tribes exterminated in a few hours. Sometimes a detachment, having imprudently ventured into some thorny thicket to attack a village perched on a rocky summit, would experience a reverse, and would with great difficulty regain the main body of troops, after having lost three-fourths of its men. In most cases there was no prolonged resistance, and the attacking party carried the place with the loss of merely two or three men killed or wounded. The spoil was never very considerable in any one locality, but its total amount increased as the raid was carried afield, and it soon became so bulky that the party had to stop and retrace their steps, in order to place it for safety in the nearest fortress. The booty consisted for the most part of herds of oxen and of cumbrous heaps of grain, as well as wood for building purposes. But it also comprised objects of small size but of great value, such as ivory, precious stones, and particularly gold. The natives collected the latter in the alluvial tracts watered by the Tacazze, the Blue Nile and its tributaries. The women were employed in searching for nuggets, which were often of considerable size; they enclosed them in little leather cases, and offered them to the merchants in exchange for products of Egyptian industry, or they handed them over to the goldsmiths to be made into bracelets, ear, nose, or finger rings, of fairly fine workmanship. Gold was found in combination with several other metals, from which they did not know how to separate it: the purest gold had a pale yellow tint, which was valued above all others, but electrum, that is to say, gold alloyed with silver in the proportion of eighty per cent., was also much in demand, while greyish-coloured gold, mixed with platinum, served for making common jewellery.*
* Cailliaud has briefly described the auriferous sand of the Qamamyl, and the way in which it is worked: it is from him that I have borrowed the details given in the text. From analyses which I caused to be made at the Bulaq Museum of Egyptian jewellery of the time of the XVIIIth dynasty, which had been broken and were without value, from an archeo- logical or artistic point of view, I have demonstrated the presence of the platinum and silver mentioned by Cailliaud as being found in the nuggets from the Blue Nile.
None of these expeditions produced any lasting results, and the Pharaohs established no colonies in any of these countries. Their Egyptian subjects could not have lived there for any length of time without deteriorating by intermarriage with the natives or from the effects of the climate; they would have degenerated into a half-bred race, having all the vices and none of the good qualities of the aborigines. The Pharaohs, therefore, continued their hostilities without further scruples, and only sought to gain as much as possible from their victories. They cared little if nothing remained after they had passed through some district, or if the passage of their armies was marked only by ruins. They seized upon everything which came across their path—men, chattels, or animals—and carried them back to Egypt; they recklessly destroyed everything for which they had no use, and made a desert of fertile districts which but yesterday had been covered with crops and studded with populous villages. The neighbouring inhabitants, realizing their incapacity to resist regular troops, endeavoured to buy off the invaders by yielding up all they possessed in the way of slaves, flocks, wood, or precious metals. The generals in command, however, had to reckon with the approaching low Nile, which forced them to beat a retreat; they were obliged to halt at the first appearance of it, and they turned homewards "in peace," their only anxiety being to lose the smallest possible number of men or captured animals on their return journey.
As in earlier times, adventurous merchants penetrated into districts not reached by the troops, and prepared the way for conquest. The princes of Elephantine still sent caravans to distant parts, and one of them, Siranpitu, who lived under Usirtasen I. and Amenemhait II., recorded his explorations on his tomb, after the fashion of his ancestors: the king at several different times had sent him on expeditions to the Soudan, but the inscription in which he gives an account of them is so mutilated, that we cannot be sure which tribes he visited. We learn merely that he collected from them skins, ivory, ostrich feathers—everything, in fact, which Central Africa has furnished as articles of commerce from time immemorial. It was not, however, by land only that Egyptian merchants travelled to seek fortune in foreign countries: the Red Sea attracted them, and served as a quick route for reaching the land of Puanit, whose treasures in perfumes and rarities of all kinds had formed the theme of ancient traditions and navigators' tales. Relations with it had been infrequent, or had ceased altogether, during the wars of the Heracleo-politan period: on their renewal it was necessary to open up afresh routes which had been forgotten for centuries.
Traffic was confined almost entirely to two or three out of the many,—one which ran from Elephantine or from Nekhabit to the "Head of Nekhabit," the Berenice of the Greeks; others which started from Thebes or Koptos, and struck the coast at the same place or at Sau, the present Kosseir. The latter, which was the shortest as well as the favourite route, passed through Wady Hammamat, from whence the Pharaohs drew the blocks of granite for their sarcophagi. The officers who were sent to quarry the stone often took advantage of the opportunity to visit the coast, and to penetrate as far as the Spice Regions. As early as the year VIII. of Sonkheri, the predecessor of Amenemhait I., the "sole friend" Hunu had been sent by this road, "in order to take the command of a squadron to Puanit, and to collect a tribute of fresh incense from the princes of the desert." He got together three thousand men, distributed to each one a goatskin bottle, a crook for carrying it, and ten loaves, and set out from Koptos with this little army. No water was met with on the way: Hunu bored several wells and cisterns in the rock, one at a halting-place called Bait, two in the district of Adahait, and finally one in the valleys of Adabehait. Having reached the seaboard, he quickly constructed a great barge, freighted it with merchandise for barter, as well as with provisions, oxen, cows, and goats, and set sail for a cruise along the coast: it is not known how far he went, but he came back with a large cargo of all the products of the "Divine Land," especially of incense. On his return, he struck off into the Uagai valley, and thence reached that of Rohanu, where he chose out splendid blocks of stone for a temple which the king was building: "Never had 'Royal Cousin' sent on an expedition done as much since the time of the god Ra!" Numbers of royal officers and adventurers followed in his footsteps, but no record of them has been preserved for us. Two or three names only have escaped oblivion—that of Khnumhotpu, who in the first year of Usirtasen I. erected a stele in the Wady Gasus in the very heart of the "Divine Land;" and that of Khentkhitioiru, who in the XXVIIIth year of Amenemhait II. entered the haven of Sau after a fortunate cruise to Puanit, without having lost a vessel or even a single man. Navigation is difficult in the Red Sea. The coast as a rule is precipitous, bristling with reefs and islets, and almost entirely without strand or haven. No river or stream runs into it; it is bordered by no fertile or wooded tract, but by high cliffs, half disintegrated by the burning sun, or by steep mountains, which appear sometimes a dull red, sometimes a dingy grey colour, according to the material—granite or sandstone—which predominates in their composition. The few tribes who inhabit this desolate region maintain a miserable existence by fishing and hunting: they were considered, during the Greek period, to be the most unfortunate of mortals, and if they appeared to be so to the mariners of the Ptolemies, doubtless they enjoyed the same reputation in the more remote time of the Pharaohs. A few fishing villages, however, are mentioned as scattered along the littoral; watering-places, at some distance apart, frequented on account of their wells of brackish water by the desert tribes: such were Nahasit, Tap-Nekhabit, Sau, and Tau: these the Egyptian merchant-vessels used as victualling stations, and took away as cargo the products of the country—mother-of-pearl, amethysts, emeralds, a little lapis-lazuli, a little gold, gums, and sweet-smelling resins. If the weather was favourable, and the intake of merchandise had been scanty, the vessel, braving numerous risks of shipwreck, continued its course as far as the latitude of Suakin and Massowah, which was the beginning of Puanit properly so called. Here riches poured down to the coast from the interior, and selection became a difficulty: it was hard to decide which would make the best cargo, ivory or ebony, panthers' skins or rings of gold, myrrh, incense, or a score of other sweet-smelling gums. So many of these odoriferous resins were used for religious purposes, that it was always to the advantage of the merchant to procure as much of them as possible: incense, fresh or dried, was the staple and characteristic merchandise of the Red Sea, and the good people of Egypt pictured Puanit as a land of perfumes, which attracted the sailor from afar by the delicious odours which were wafted from it.
These voyages were dangerous and trying: popular imagination seized upon them and made material out of them for marvellous tales. The hero chosen was always a daring adventurer sent by his master to collect gold from the mines of Nubia; by sailing further and further up the river, he reached the mysterious sea which forms the southern boundary of the world. "I set sail in a vessel one hundred and fifty cubits long, forty wide, with one hundred and fifty of the best sailors in the land of Egypt, who had seen heaven and earth, and whose hearts were more resolute than those of lions. They had foretold that the wind would not be contrary, or that there would be even none at all; but a squall came upon us unexpectedly while we were in the open, and as we approached the land, the wind freshened and raised the waves to the height of eight cubits. As for me, I clung to a beam, but those who were on the vessel perished without one escaping. A wave of the sea cast me on to an island, after having spent three days alone with no other companion than my own heart. I slept there in the shade of a thicket; then I set my legs in motion in quest of something for my mouth." The island produced a quantity of delicious fruit: he satisfied his hunger with it, lighted a fire to offer a sacrifice to the gods, and immediately, by the magical power of the sacred rites, the inhabitants, who up to this time had been invisible, were revealed to his eyes. "I heard a sound like that of thunder, which I at first took to be the noise of the flood-tide in the open sea; but the trees quivered, the earth trembled. I uncovered my face, and I perceived that it was a serpent which was approaching. He was thirty cubits in length, and his wattles exceeded two cubits; his body was incrusted with gold, and his colour appeared like that of real lapis. He raised himself before me and opened his mouth; while I prostrated myself before him, he said to me: 'Who hath brought thee, who hath brought thee, little one, who hath brought thee? If thou dost not tell me immediately who brought thee to this island, I will cause thee to know thy littleness: either thou shalt faint like a woman, or thou shalt tell me something which I have not yet heard, and which I knew not before thee.' Then he took me into his mouth and carried me to his dwelling-place, and put me down without hurting me; I was safe and sound, and nothing had been taken from me." Our hero tells the serpent the story of his shipwreck, which moves him to pity and induces him to reciprocate his confidence. "Fear nothing, fear nothing, little one, let not thy countenance be sad! If thou hast come to me, it is the god who has spared thy life; it is he who has brought thee into this 'Isle of the Double,' where nothing is lacking, and which is filled with all good things. Here thou shalt pass one month after another till thou hast remained four months in this island, then shall come a vessel from thy country with mariners; thou canst depart with them to thy country, and thou shalt die in thy city. To converse rejoices the heart, he who enjoys conversation bears misfortune better; I will therefore relate to thee the history of this island." The population consisted of seventy-five serpents, all of one family: it formerly comprised also a young girl, whom a succession of misfortunes had cast on the island, and who was killed by lightning. The hero, charmed with such good nature, overwhelmed the hospitable dragon with thanks, and promised to send him numerous presents on his return home. "I will slay asses for thee in sacrifice, I will pluck birds for thee, I will send to thee vessels filled with all the riches of Egypt, meet for a god, the friend of man in a distant country unknown to men." The monster smiled, and replied that it was needless to think of sending presents to one who was the ruler of Puanit; besides, "as soon as thou hast quitted this place, thou wilt never again see this island, for it will be changed into waves."—"And then, when the vessel appeared, according as he had predicted to me, I went and perched upon a high tree and sought to distinguish those who manned it. I next ran to tell him the news, but I found that he was already informed of its arrival, and he said to me: 'A pleasant journey home, little one; mayst thou behold thy children again, and may thy name be well spoken of in thy town; such are my wishes for thee!' He added gifts to these obliging words. I placed all these on board the vessel which had come, and prostrating myself, I adored him. He said to me: 'After two months thou shalt reach thy country, thou wilt press thy children to thy bosom, and thou shalt rest in thy sepulchre.' After that I descended the shore to the vessel, and I hailed the sailors who were in it. I gave thanks on the shore to the master of the island, as well as to those who dwelt in it." This might almost be an episode in the voyages of Sindbad the Sailor; except that the monsters which Sindbad met with in the course of his travels were not of such a kindly disposition as the Egyptian serpent: it did not occur to them to console the shipwrecked with the charm of a lengthy gossip, but they swallowed them with a healthy appetite. Putting aside entirely the marvellous element in the story, what strikes us is the frequency of the relations which it points to between Egypt and Puanit. The appearance of an Egyptian vessel excites no astonishment on its coasts: the inhabitants have already seen many such, and at such regular intervals, that they are able to predict the exact date of their arrival. The distance between the two countries, it is true, was not considerable, and a voyage of two months was sufficient to accomplish it. While the new Egypt was expanding outwards in all directions, the old country did not cease to add to its riches. The two centuries during which the XIIth dynasty continued to rule were a period of profound peace; the monuments show us the country in full possession of all its resources and its arts, and its inhabitants both cheerful and contented. More than ever do the great lords and royal officers expatiate in their epitaphs upon the strict justice which they have rendered to their vassals and subordinates, upon the kindness which they have shown to the fellahin, on the paternal solicitude with which, in the years of insufficient inundations or of bad harvests, they have striven to come forward and assist them, and upon the unheard-of disinterestedness which kept them from raising the taxes during the times of average Niles, or of unusual plenty. Gifts to the gods poured in from one end of the country to the other, and the great building works, which had been at a standstill since the end of the VIth dynasty, were recommenced simultaneously on all sides. There was much to be done in the way of repairing the ruins, of which the number had accumulated during the two preceding centuries. Not that the most audacious kings had ventured to lay their hands on the sanctuaries: they emptied the sacred treasuries, and partially confiscated their revenues, but when once their cupidity was satisfied, they respected the fabrics, and even went so far as to restore a few inscriptions, or, when needed, to replace a few stones. These magnificent buildings required careful supervision: in spite of their being constructed of the most durable materials—sand-stone, granite, limestone,—in spite of their enormous size, or of the strengthening of their foundations by a bed of sand and by three or four courses of carefully adjusted blocks to form a substructure, the Nile was ever threatening them, and secretly working at their destruction. Its waters, filtering through the soil, were perpetually in contact with the lower courses of these buildings, and kept the foundations of the walls and the bases of the columns constantly damp: the saltpetre which the waters had dissolved in their passage, crystallising on the limestone, would corrode and undermine everything, if precautions were not taken. When the inundation was over, the subsidence of the water which impregnated the subsoil caused in course of time settlements in the most solid foundations: the walls, disturbed by the unequal sinking of the ground, got out of the perpendicular and cracked; this shifting displaced the architraves which held the columns together, and the stone slabs which formed the roof. These disturbances, aggravated from year to year, were sufficient, if not at once remedied, to entail the fall of the portions attacked; in addition to this, the Nile, having threatened the part below with destruction, often hastened by direct attacks the work of ruin, which otherwise proceeded slowly. A breach in the embankments protecting the town or the temple allowed its waters to rush violently through, and thus to effect large gaps in the decaying walls, completing the overthrow of the columns and wrecking the entrance halls and secret chambers by the fall of the roofs. At the time when Egypt came under the rule of the XIIth dynasty there were but few cities which did not contain some ruined or dilapidated sanctuary. Amenemhait I., although fully occupied in reducing the power of the feudal lords, restored; the temples as far as he was able, and his successors pushed forward the work vigorously for nearly two centuries.
The Delta profited greatly by this activity in building. The monuments there had suffered more than anywhere else: fated to bear the first shock of foreign invasion, and transformed into fortresses while the towns in which they were situated were besieged, they have been captured again and again by assault, broken down by attacking engines, and dismantled by all the conquerors of Egypt, from the Assyrians to the Arabs and the Turks. The fellahin in their neighbourhood have for centuries come to them to obtain limestone to burn in their kilns, or to use them as a quarry for sandstone or granite for the doorways of their houses, or for the thresholds of their mosques. Not only have they been ruined, but the remains of their ruins have, as it were, melted away and almost entirely disappeared in the course of ages. And yet, wherever excavations have been made among these remains which have suffered such deplorable ill-treatment, colossi and inscriptions commemorating the Pharaohs of the XIIth dynasty have been brought to light. Amenemhait I. founded a great temple at Tanis in honour of the gods of Memphis: the vestiges of the columns still scattered on all sides show that the main body of the building was of rose granite, and a statue of the same material has preserved for us a portrait of the king. He is seated, and wears the tall head-dress of Osiris. He has a large smiling face, thick lips, a short nose, and big staring eyes: the expression is one of benevolence and gentleness, rather than of the energy and firmness which one would expect in the founder of a dynasty. The kings who were his successors all considered it a privilege to embellish the temple and to place in it some memorial of their veneration for the god. Usirtasen I., following the example of his father, set up a statue of himself in the form of Osiris: he is sitting on his throne of grey granite, and his placid face unmistakably recalls that of Amenemhait I. Amenemhait II., Usirtasen II., and his wife Nofrit have also dedicated their images within the sanctuary.
Nofrit's is of black granite: her head is almost eclipsed by the heavy Hathor wig, consisting of two enormous tresses of hair which surround the cheeks, and lie with an outward curve upon the breast; her eyes, which were formerly inlaid, have fallen out, the bronze eyelids are lost, her arms have almost disappeared. What remains of her, however, gives us none the less the impression of a young and graceful woman, with a lithe and well-proportioned body, whose outlines are delicately modelled under the tight-fitting smock worn by Egyptian women; the small and rounded breasts curve outward between the extremities of her curls and the embroidered hem of her garment; and a pectoral bearing the name of her husband lies flat upon her chest, just below the column of her throat.
Drawn by Faucher-Gudin, from a photograph by Insinger. In addition to the complete statue, the Museum at Gizeh possesses a torso from the same source. I believe I can recognize another portrait of the same queen in a beautiful statue in black granite, which has been in the Museum at Marseilles since the beginning of the present century.
These various statues have all an evident artistic relationship to the beautiful granite figures of the Ancient Empire. The sculptors who executed them belonged to the same school as those who carved Khephren out of the solid diorite: there is the same facile use of the chisel, the same indifference to the difficulties presented by the material chosen, the same finish in the detail, the same knowledge of the human form. One is almost tempted to believe that Egyptian art remained unchanged all through those long centuries, and yet as soon as a statue of the early period is placed side by side with one of the XIIth dynasty, we immediately perceive something in the one which is lacking in the other. It is a difference in feeling, even if the technique remains unmodified. It was the man himself that the sculptors desired to represent in the older Pharaohs, and however haughty may be the countenance which we admire in the Khephren, it is the human element which predominates in him. The statues of Amenemhait I. and his successors appear, on the contrary, to represent a superior race: at the time when these were produced, the Pharaoh had long been regarded as a god, and the divine nature in him had almost eliminated the human. Whether intentionally or otherwise, the sculptors idealized their model, and made him more and more resemble the type of the divinities. The head always appears to be a good likeness, but smoothed down and sometimes lacking in expression.
Not only are the marks of age rendered less apparent, and the features made to bear the stamp of perpetual youth, but the characteristics of the individual, such as the accentuation of the eyebrows, the protuberance of the cheek-bones, the projection of the under lip, are all softened down as if intentionally, and made to give way to a uniform expression of majestic tranquillity. One king only, Amenemhait III., refused to go down to posterity thus effaced, and caused his portrait to be taken as he really was. He has certainly the round full face of Amenemhait or of Usirtasen I., and there is an undeniable family likeness between him and his ancestors; but at the first glance we feel sure that the artist has not in any way flattered his model. The forehead is low and slightly retreating, narrow across the temples; his nose is aquiline, pronounced in form, and large at the tip; the thick lips are slightly closed; his mouth has a disdainful curve, and its corners are turned down as if to repress the inevitable smile common to most Egyptian statues; the chin is full and heavy, and turns up in front in spite of the weight of the false beard dependent from it; he has small narrow eyes, with full lids; his cheekbones are accentuated and projecting, the cheeks hollow, and the muscles about the nose and mouth strongly defined. The whole presents so strange an aspect, that for a long time statues of this type have been persistently looked upon as productions of an art which was only partially Egyptian. It is, indeed, possible that the Tanis sphinxes were turned out of workshops where the principles and practice of the sculptor's art had previously undergone some Asiatic influence; the bushy mane which surrounds the face, and the lion's ears emerging from it, are exclusively characteristic of the latter. The purely human statues in which we meet with the same type of countenance have no peculiarity of workmanship which could be attributed to the imitation of a foreign art. If the nameless masters to whom we owe their existence desired to bring about a reaction against the conventional technique of their contemporaries, they at least introduced no foreign innovations; the monuments of the Memphite period furnished them with all the models they could possibly wish for.
Bubastis had no less occasion than Tanis to boast of the generosity of the Theban Pharaohs. The temple of Bastit, which had been decorated by Kheops and Khephren, was still in existence: Amenemhait I., Usirtasen I., and their immediate successors confined themselves to the restoration of several chambers, and to the erection of their own statues, but Usirtasen III. added to it a new structure which must have made it rival the finest monuments in Egypt. He believed, no doubt, that he was under particular obligations to the lioness goddess of the city, and attributed to her aid, for unknown reasons, some of his successes in Nubia; it would appear that it was with the spoil of a campaign against the country of the Hua that he endowed a part of the new sanctuary.*
* The fragment found by Naville formed part of an inscription engraved on a wall: the wars which it was customary to commemorate in a temple were always selected from those in which the whole or a part of the booty had been consecrated to the use of the local divinity.
Nothing now remains of it except fragments of the architraves and granite columns, which have been used over again by Pharaohs of a later period when restoring or altering the fabric.
Drawn by Faucher-Gudin, from a photograph by Emil Brugsch- Bey, taken in 1881. The sphinx bears on its breast the cartouche of Psiukhanu, a Tanite Pharaoh of the XXIst dynasty.
A few of the columns belong to the lotiform type. The shaft is composed of eight triangular stalks rising from a bunch of leaves, symmetrically arranged, and bound together at the top by a riband, twisted thrice round the bundle; the capital is formed by the union of the eight lotus buds, surmounted by a square member on which rests the architrave. Other columns have Hathor-headed capitals, the heads being set back to back, and bearing the flat head-dress ornamented with the urous. The face of the goddess, which is somewhat flattened when seen closely on the eye-level, stands out and becomes more lifelike in proportion as the spectator recedes from it; the projection of the features has been calculated so as to produce the desired effect at the right height when seen from below. The district lying between Tanis and Bubastis is thickly studded with monuments built or embellished by the Amenemhaits and Usirtasens: wherever the pickaxe is applied, whether at Fakus or Tell-Nebesheh, remains of them are brought to light—statues, stelae, tables of offerings, and fragments of dedicatory or historical inscriptions. While carrying on works in the temple of Phtah at Memphis, the attention of these Pharaohs was attracted to Heliopolis. The temple of Ra there was either insufficient for the exigencies of worship, or had been allowed to fall into decay. Usirtasen III. resolved, in the third year of his reign, to undertake its restoration. The occasion appears to have been celebrated as a festival by all Egypt, and the remembrance of it lasted long after the event: the somewhat detailed account of the ceremonies which then took place was copied out again at Thebes, towards the end of the XVIIIth dynasty. It describes the king mounting his throne at the meeting of his council, and receiving, as was customary, the eulogies of his "sole friends" and of the courtiers who surrounded him: "Here," says he, addressing them, "has my Majesty ordained the works which shall recall my worthy and noble acts to posterity. I raise a monument, I establish lasting decrees in favour of Harmakhis, for he has brought me into the world to do as he did, to accomplish that which he decreed should be done; he has appointed me to guide this earth, he has known it, he has called it together and he has granted me his help; I have caused the Eye which is in him to become serene, in all things acting as he would have me to do, and I have sought out that which he had resolved should be known. I am a king by birth, a suzerain not of my own making; I have governed from childhood, petitions have been presented to me when I was in the egg, I have ruled over the ways of Anubis, and he raised me up to be master of the two halves of the world, from the time when I was a nursling; I had not yet escaped from the swaddling-bands when he enthroned me as master of men; creating me himself in the sight of mortals, he made me to find favour with the Dweller in the Palace, when I was a youth.... I came forth as Horus the eloquent, and I have instituted divine oblations; I accomplish the works in the palace of my father Atumu, I supply his altar on earth with offerings, I lay the foundations of my palace in his neighbourhood, in order that the memorial of my goodness may remain in his dwelling; for this palace is my name, this lake is my monument, all that is famous or useful that I have made for the gods is eternity." The great lords testified their approbation of the king's piety; the latter summoned his chancellor and commanded him to draw up the deeds of gift and all the documents necessary for the carrying out of his wishes. "He arose, adorned with the royal circlet and with the double feather, followed by all his nobles; the chief lector of the divine book stretched the cord and fixed the stake in the ground."*
* Stehn, Urkunde uber den Bau des Sonnentempels zu On, pl. i. 11. 13—15. The priest here performed with the king the more important of the ceremonies necessary in measuring the area of the temple, by "inserting the measuring stakes," and marking out the four sides of the building with the cord.
This temple has ceased to exist; but one of the granite obelisks raised by Usirtasen I. on each side of the principal gateway is still standing. The whole of Heliopolis has disappeared: the site where it formerly stood is now marked only by a few almost imperceptible inequalities in the soil, some crumbling lengths of walls, and here and there some scattered blocks of limestone, containing a few lines of mutilated inscriptions which can with difficulty be deciphered; the obelisk has survived even the destruction of the ruins, and to all who understand its language it still speaks of the Pharaoh who erected it.
The undertaking and successful completion of so many great structures had necessitated a renewal of the working of the ancient quarries, and the opening of fresh ones. Amenemhait I. sent Antuf, a great dignitary, chief of the prophets of Minu and prince of Koptos, to the valley of Rohanu, to seek out fine granite for making the royal sarcophagi. Amenemhait III. had, in the XLIIIrd year of his reign, been present at the opening of several fine veins of white limestone in the quarries of Turah, which probably furnished material for the buildings proceeding at Heliopolis and Memphis. Thebes had also its share of both limestone and granite, and Amon, whose sanctuary up to this time had only attained the modest proportions suited to a provincial god, at last possessed a temple which raised him to the rank of the highest feudal divinities. Amon's career had begun under difficulties: he had been merely a vassal-god of Montu, lord of Hermonthis (the Aunu of the south), who had granted to him the ownership of the village of Karnak only. The unforeseen good fortune of the Antufs was the occasion of his emerging from his obscurity: he did not dethrone Montu, but shared with him the homage of all the neighbouring villages—Luxor, Medamut, Bayadiyeh; and, on the other side of the Nile, Gurneh and Medinet-Habu. The accession of the XIIth dynasty completed his triumph, and made him the most powerful authority in Southern Egypt. He was an earth-god, a form of Minu who reigned at Koptos, at Akhmim and in the desert, but he soon became allied to the sun, and from thenceforth he assumed the name of Amon-Ra. The title of "suton nutiru" which he added to it would alone have sufficed to prove the comparatively recent origin of his notoriety; as the latest arrival among the great gods, he employed, to express his sovereignty, this word "suton," king, which had designated the rulers of the valley ever since the union of the two Egypts under the shadowy Menes. Reigning at first alone, he became associated by marriage with a vague indefinite goddess, called Maut, or Mut, the "mother," who never adopted any more distinctive name: the divine son who completed this triad was, in early times, Montu; but in later times a being of secondary rank, chosen from among the genii appointed to watch over the days of the month or the stars, was added, under the name of Khonsu. Amenemhait laid the foundations of the temple, in which the cultus of Amon was carried on down to the latest times of paganism. The building was supported by polygonal columns of sixteen sides, some fragments of which are still existing.
Drawn by Boudier, from a photograph by Insinger.
The temple was at first of only moderate dimensions, but it was built of the choicest sandstone and limestone, and decorated with exquisite bas-reliefs. Usirtasen I. enlarged it, and built a beautiful house for the high priest on the west side of the sacred lake. Luxor, Zorit, Edfu, Hierakonpolis, El-Kab, Elephantine, and Dendera,* shared between them the favour of the Pharaohs; the venerable town of Abydos became the object of their special predilection.
* Duemichen pointed out, in the masonry of the great eastern staircase of the present temple of Hathor, a stone obtained from the earlier temple, which bears the name of Amenemhait; another fragment, discovered and published by Mariette, shows that Amenemhait I. is here again referred to. The buildings erected by this monarch at Dondera must have been on a somewhat large scale, if we may judge from the size of this last fragment, which is the lintel of a door.
Its reputation for sanctity had been steadily growing from the time of the Papis: its god, Khontamentit, who was identified with Osiris, had obtained in the south a rank as high as that of the Mendesian Osiris in the north of Egypt. He was worshipped as the sovereign of the sovereigns of the dead—he who gathered around him and welcomed in his domains the majority of the faithful of other cults. His sepulchre, or, more correctly speaking, the chapel representing his sepulchre, in which one of his relics was preserved, was here, as elsewhere, built upon the roof. Access to it was gained by a staircase leading up on the left side of the sanctuary: on the days of the passion and resurrection of Osiris solemn processions of priests and devotees slowly mounted its steps, to the chanting of funeral hymns, and above, on the terrace, away from the world of the living, and with no other witnesses than the stars of heaven, the faithful celebrated mysteriously the rites of the divine death and embalming. The "vassals of Osiris" flocked in crowds to these festivals, and took a delight in visiting, at least once during their lifetime, the city whither their souls would proceed after death, in order to present themselves at the "Mouth of the Cleft," there to embark in the "bari" of their divine master or in that of the Sun. They left behind them, "under the staircase of the great god," a sort of fictitious tomb, near the representation of the tomb of Osiris, in the shape of a stele, which immortalized the memory of their piety, and which served as a kind of hostelry for their soul, when the latter should, in course of time, repair to this rallying-place of all Osirian souls. The concourse of pilgrims was a source of wealth to the population, the priestly coffers were filled, and every year the original temple was felt to be more and more inadequate to meet the requirements of worship. Usirtasen I. desired to come to the rescue: he despatched Monthotpu, one of his great vassals, to superintend the works. The ground-plan of the portico of white limestone which preceded the entrance court may still be distinguished; this portico was supported by square pillars, and, standing against the remains of these, we see the colossi of rose granite, crowned with the Osirian head-dress, and with their feet planted on the "Nine Bows," the symbol of vanquished enemies. The best preserved of these figures represents the founder, but several others are likenesses of those of his successors who interested themselves in the temple. Monthotpu dug a well which was kept fully supplied by the infiltrations from the Nile. He enlarged and cleaned out the sacred lake upon which the priests launched the Holy Ark, on the nights of the great mysteries. The alluvial deposits of fifty centuries have not as yet wholly filled it up: it is still an irregularly shaped pond, which dries up in winter, but is again filled as soon as the inundation reaches the village of El-Kharbeh.
Drawn by Faucher-Gudin, from a photograph by M. de Banville.
A few stones, corroded with saltpetre, mark here and there the lines of the landing stages, a thick grove of palms fringes its northern and southern banks, but to the west the prospect is open, and extends as far as the entrance to the gorge, through which the souls set forth in search of Paradise and the solar bark. Buffaloes now come to drink and wallow at midday where once floated the gilded "bari" of Osiris, and the murmur of bees from the neighbouring orchards alone breaks the silence of the spot which of old resounded with the rhythmical lamentations of the pilgrims.
Heracleopolis the Great, the town preferred by the earlier Theban Pharaohs as their residence in times of peace, must have been one of those which they proceeded to decorate con amore with magnificent monuments.
Drawn by Boudier, from a photograph by Emil Brugsch-Bey, taken in 1884.
Unfortunately it has suffered more than any of the rest, and nothing of it is now to be seen but a few wretched remains of buildings of the Roman period, and the ruins of a barbaric colonnade on the site of a Byzantine basilica almost contemporary with the Arab conquest. Perhaps the enormous mounds which cover its site may still conceal the remains of its ancient temples. We can merely estimate their magnificence by casual allusions to them in the inscriptions.
Drawn by Boudier, from a photograph by Golenischeff
We know, for instance, that Usirtasen III. rebuilt the sanctuary of Harshafitu, and that he sent expeditions to the Wady Hammamat to quarry blocks of granite worthy of his god: but the work of this king and his successors has perished in the total ruin of the ancient town. Something at least has remained of what they did in that traditional dependency of Heracleopolis, the Fayum: the temple which they rebuilt to the god Sobku in Shodit retained its celebrity down to the time of the Caesars, not so much, perhaps, on account of the beauty of its architecture as for the unique character of the religious rites which took place there daily. The sacred lake contained a family of tame crocodiles, the image and incarnation of the god, whom the faithful fed with their offerings—cakes, fried fish, and drinks sweetened with honey. Advantage was taken of the moment when one of these creatures, wallowing on the bank, basked contentedly in the sun: two priests opened his jaws, and a third threw in the cakes, the fried morsels, and finally the liquid. The crocodile bore all this without even winking; he swallowed down his provender, plunged into the lake, and lazily reached the opposite bank, hoping to escape for a few moments from the oppressive liberality of his devotees.
Drawn by Faucher-Gudin, from a photograph by Emil Brugsch- Bey, taken in 1885. The original in black granite is now in the Berlin Museum. It represents one of the sacred crocodiles mentioned by Strabo; we read on the base a Greek inscription in honour of Ptolemy Neos Dionysos, in which the name of the divine reptile "Petesukhos, the great god," is mentioned.
As soon, however, as another of these approached, he was again beset at his new post and stuffed in a similar manner. These animals were in their own way great dandies: rings of gold or enamelled terra-cotta were hung from their ears, and bracelets were soldered on to their front paws. The monuments of Shodit, if any still exist, are buried under the mounds of Medinet el-Fayum, but in the neighbourhood we meet with more than one authentic relic of the XIIth dynasty. It was Usirtasen I. who erected that curious thin granite obelisk, with a circular top, whose fragments lie forgotten on the ground near the village of Begig: a sort of basin has been hollowed out around it, which fills during the inundation, so that the monument lies in a pool of muddy water during the greater part of the year. Owing to this treatment, most of the inscriptions on it have almost disappeared, though we can still make out a series of five scenes in which the king hands offerings to several divinities. Near to Biahmu there was an old temple which had become ruinous: Amenemhait III. repaired it, and erected in front of it two of those colossal statues which the Egyptians were wont to place like sentinels at their gates, to ward off baleful influences and evil spirits.
Drawn by Boudier, from a photograph by Golunischeff.
The colossi at Biahmu were of red sandstone, and were seated on high limestone pedestals, placed at the end of a rectangular court; the temple walls hid the lower part of the pedestals, so that the colossi appeared to tower above a great platform which sloped gently away from them on all sides. Herodotus, who saw them from a distance at the time of the inundation, believed that they crowned the summits of two pyramids rising out of the middle of a lake. Near Illahun, Queen Sovkunofriuri herself has left a few traces of her short reign.